Munson's new tower might not get ahead of Prop 3, says city planner

Nov 4, 2016

Credit Munson Healthcare

Munson Medical Center in Traverse City hopes to get city approval for a tall building before voters decide Proposal 3 Tuesday. Prop 3 would subject any building over 60 feet tall to a public vote.

Munson’s plans have become an issue in the public debate over Prop 3. Opponents of the proposal have pointed out that the proposal, which started with a dispute over a tall building in the downtown area, could impact the ability of the region’s medical center to develop.

At Interlochen Public Radio’s debate on the proposal last week, restaurateur Paul Danielson brought the issue up in his opening remarks.

“Munson is working really hard right now, trying to push through a 10-story pediatric and natal unit,” he said. “And they’re trying really hard to get it done by the city commission meeting on November 7th, the night before the ballot. Because if it doesn’t pass by then - and [Prop 3] passes - it’s going to be in limbo for a long time.”

Munson Vice-President Steve Tongue told the Traverse City Record-Eagle the hospital’s goal was to get a land use permit before the election. Munson officials declined to comment when reached by IPR.

So far, their proposal for a 110-foot tall building has met with little resistance and the city commission will vote on Munson’s permit Monday night, the eve of the election.

But one city official thinks it won’t matter much. Traverse City Planner Russ Soyring says that, even if the special land use permit is approved Monday – which he thinks it will be – Prop 3 would still apply to Munson.

“There are still many other permits that would have to be applied for,” says Soyring. “The city would have to approve… a right-of-way permit and eventually, a building permit. And so, to me, that means the city would still have to approve the project.”

The exact wording of Prop 3 says any building over 60 feet – quote – “shall not be approved by the City or City Commission” until a public vote.

Brenda Quick, spokeswoman for the Save Our Downtown campaign committee, disagrees with Soyring’s interpretation. Quick says the land use permit, which will be decided Monday, is the only approval that has to do with building height.

“If they get it before the election, they’d have an argument that that issue has already been resolved,” says Quick.

The city commission meets Monday night at 7 p.m.