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Traverse City Defines Rules For Homeless Shelters

In a split vote Monday, the Traverse City Commission gave final approval to new rules governing homeless shelters. The move paves the way for formal debate over a specific emergency shelter proposal. Safe Harbor, which is made up of a consortium of churches that take turns housing the homeless in the winter months, wants to open a 100-bed facility off Eighth Street on Wellington.

Leaders of Safe Harbor say they believe their plans will pass muster under these new rules, and they hope to open Traverse City’s first homeless shelter before the end of the year.

That proposal will be the subject of its own public hearings. But debate over it is already well underway. On Monday, a number of Eighth Street business owners spoke against the plan, which they say would be bad for business in an area the city has promised to revitalize.

“I’ve got several listings that people will not move on because of this ordinance. They’re waiting to see,” says Tom Krause, a real estate broker who says he has listings near Safe Harbor’s proposed site. “We’ve showed properties. They will not move because they’re afraid of what 100 beds will do.”

Several people said 100 beds would be too many for any city neighborhood, during a public comment period that lasted nearly an hour before the vote. Safe Harbor Board Member Christie Minervini responded to that concern.

“They want to know, ‘In what other community our size is there a 100-bed emergency shelter?’ Well, we need look no further than our own Goodwill Inn to find 117 beds, in our own community,” she says. “They’ve been operating successfully, and peacefully, in Garfield Township since 2006.”

“There’s two discussions going in and tonight we mostly heard about the second discussion that is yet to come yet,” said Commissioner Gary Howe.

He voted for the rule changes – which outline where and under which circumstances a shelter can be opened in the city. He says intense scrutiny is yet to come over the Wellington Street proposal.

Howe also says fears over safety and property values remain speculative, especially as the city continues plans for improving the corridor.

But Mayor Michael Estes voted against the proposal. He says he sympathizes with Eighth Street business owners and that efforts to revitalize the corridor will fall short if a 100-bed homeless shelter moves in.

Commissioner Barbara Budros also voted against the new zoning rules. They take effect July 17th.