Zoning changes would allow homeless shelters within city limits

Traverse City Planning Director Russ Soyring points out where emergency shelters could be placed under new zoning ordinance.

Traverse City Planning Commissioners are taking steps to address the growing issue of homelessness.

Tuesday night they passed a proposal that 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.

Commissioners emphasized that the discussion was not regarding the proposed shelter at 517 Wellington Street. They were asked by city commissioners to look at rules and regulations for any shelter.

Commissioner Jeanine Easterday said itâ??s an issue that needs to be addressed.

â??The special land-use process will place review, restrictions, and public input in each and every transitional or emergency option,â?? said Easterday. â??I think it's perfectly reasonable to go through this process. I think it's long overdue that our ordinance include housing options for all of our citizens.â??

Under the proposal, shelters could be placed in ten different zoning areas around the city. Downtown Traverse City would not be included.

Organizations wishing to create an emergency shelter would have to apply for a special use permit which would need to be approved by both the planning and city commissions following public hearings.

The proposal now heads to the city commission.

City commissioners will also have the final say regarding changes to Eighth Street.

Planning commissioners approved a proposal to re-stripe four blocks of Eighth Street from Lake Avenue to Woodmere.

A group of homeowners and businesses first brought forward the proposal to improve traffic flow and allow for safe walking areas.

City Planning Director Russ Soyring says the changes are necessary for economic development.

â??[Itâ??s a] pretty brutal street for most people,â?? said Soyring. â??Businesses I don't think are doing that well on the street and it's certainly not a street that you want to walk on and walking isn't very comfortable. So it's a street that weâ??re not really proud of. It's not performing that well.

If the city commission approves the changes, work could start late this summer or early fall.

Currently Eighth Street has four lanes. The plan involves dividing the street into three lanes, creating more space for bike lanes.

After a year, the commission would then judge the results and impact of the change to decide if the re-striping should be permanent.