Emergency shelter, fluoride issues draw large crowd

An ordinance allowing emergency shelters in ten Traverse City zoning districts is moving forward.

Traverse City commissioners had a lot on their plates Monday night, including an ordinance allowing emergency shelters in ten Traverse City zoning districts.

More than a hundred people packed into the governmental center, many of whom had something to say regarding the proposed change.

The proposal, now moving forward, would amend zoning restrictions for emergency shelters.

Currently, emergencyâ??or homelessâ??shelters aren't allowed anywhere in the city based on zoning ordinances.

The issue came to light during the winter when the Safe Harbor coalition of churches asked to lease city owned property for a permanent shelter due to overcrowding at the churches currently providing shelter.

Some people voiced concerns that the city is rushing into a decision, but commissioners said they've been working on the issue for years, and that without a change in ordinance, the city has exclusionary zoning.

â??This is a gap in our ordinance and it needs to be corrected,â?? said Commissioner Jeanine Easterday.

Commissioners emphasized that this decision does not mean that Safe Harbor will move into the old Boys and Girls Club. They will still have to apply for a special permit.

Goodwill Street Outreach Coordinator Ryan Hannon says Safe Harbor will proceed with the process of leasing the property at 517 Wellington if the ordinance passes.

â??I'm really glad that the city decided to take action to put in to take a look at the zoning ordinance that excludes emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness,â?? said Ryan Hannon.

A final vote on the ordinance is expected at their meeting on June 30.

Commissioners delayed a decision to approve changes to the sidewalk cafe ordinance which would have allowed restaurants to put platform cafes in parking spaces.

Under the proposed ordinance, restaurants would need to maintain a four foot walkway near outdoor seating by using a physical barrier.

At the meeting, members of the disability network spoke out about the need for more sidewalk clearance.

â??The more we have width-wise the better, not only for us but for people with strollers and things like that,â?? said one concerned resident.

â??We really have to iron down the accessibility requirements as we have had a lot of complaints from those with disabilities currently,â?? echoed Commissioner Jim Carruthers.

Many people are asking for at least five foot clearance for walkways.

Commissioner Easterday expressed frustration with naysayers. She wanted to know why the committee hadnâ??t heard from the Disability Network until now. The ad hoc committee has been working on drafting the ordinance since August 2013.

The issue will now go back to the ad hoc committee for further review.

Commissioners also voted to continue fluoridating city water.

Nearly a dozen dentists addressed their concerns Monday night.

Many residents also weighed in with personal stories.

Last week in a joint study session, Traverse City commissioners and Garfield Township board members were presented the Hickory Hills Master Plan. Monday night, commissioners sent the master plan to the Parks and Recreation committee before giving their final approval.