Judge calls approval of nine-story development 'hopelessly naive,' vacates permit

Mar 31, 2016

Plans for the River West development show a two-story parking deck, 162 residences and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.
Credit The Woda Group

 A judge has ruled that Traverse City commissioners should not have approved a Special Land Use Permit for a nine-story building development downtown. Grand Traverse County Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers vacated the permit on Thursday.

Rodgers said the city commission did not gather information legally required for the permit before they approved the development.

"In approving the special land use permit," Rodgers said, "the city commission has either been hopelessly naive and uninformed with respect to the source and use of TIF and Brownfield moneys or less than candid with the general public."

Rodgers said the commission needs go back to the drawing board and look closely at the cost of the development's infrastructure to the city and the taxpayer.

"Should the city commission actually review and intelligently discuss the millions of dollars of tax relief being provided to this project and why such funding is actually necessary and why local taxpayers should foot the bill for such city services," Rodgers said, "then the objections become political, not legal."

Grant Parsons, the Traverse City attorney leading the zoning appeal, said it was a perfect decision.

“I’m surprised how perfect this decision is," Parsons said. "Because what he did is he kept it entirely local. He kept it non-appealable. I’m so happy about this, I can hardly characterize it.” 

Parsons says Judge Rodgers’ decision will affect how future development projects are evaluated by the city.