Traverse City

Aaron Selbig

Traverse City just elected a new mayor and three new commissioners. Voter turnout in this year’s election was about 28 percent.

If this year is anything like years past, older voters are likely having the most influence in Traverse City. In the 2013 city election, nearly 70 percent of voters were 50 years old or older – even though that age group made up only 45 percent of the electorate.

It’s the same story for all recent elections. Older voters are turning out to the polls at a much higher rate than younger voters.

Jim Carruthers is Traverse City’s new mayor. Carruthers won the seat in yesterday’s election, defeating Ian Winklemann and city commissioner Jeanine Easterday.

Carruthers says he became involved in city issues shortly after moving to Traverse City in 1989.

“I got involved mainly because I don’t own a TV," he says. "And I went down to city commission meetings and sat in the audience and watched and listened and made public comment because I was raised to be involved and care about my community and I was.”

Which Way to Paradise: Traverse City grows up

Oct 6, 2015
Aaron Selbig

It wasn’t that long ago when downtown Traverse City rolled up the sidewalks once it got dark. But now the place is booming pretty much year-round.

All that growth has spurred a debate about over what the city should look like 10 or 20 years from now.

One area that city planners are focusing on is West Front Street, where a construction project this summer created new bike lanes and crosswalks – and lots of new signage meant to slow traffic down.



The WODA Group

A voter petition to ban tall buildings in downtown Traverse City could soon be hitting the streets. A group opposed to tall buildings expects to submit its petition language to the city clerk by the end of this week.

Attorney Grant Parsons is leading the effort.

“We are not against large developments elsewhere that might work better but in the downtown area, it’s just too congested," says Parsons. "It’s a three-story town … at max.”

The WODA Group

A proposal to build two nine-story mixed-use buildings in downtown Traverse City ran into a buzzsaw of opposition last night. Residents warned the city commission the buildings would change the character of downtown.

But supporters say the extra housing is desperately needed for the city’s growing workforce.

The WODA Group

A plan to build two nine-story buildings in downtown Traverse City will go before the city commission tonight. The buildings would provide 162 residences and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

Opponents of the project say it will change the character of the downtown area. But Commissioner Gary Howe says having more people downtown has been part of the city’s plan for a long time.

Morgan Springer


Behind the bright colors and dizzying rides at the National Cherry Festival is a group of people who work long hours and love their jobs. Carnies are a community, and Matt Cunningham says they wear the carny title proudly.

"I love being a carny, you know," says Cunningham. "It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle."

The carnival at the Cherry Festival looks like a Kodachrome picture - bright primary colors and signs with old fonts. It has that classic fried food smell, and children on rides are squealing the requisite amount.

Planners see new 'Markets District' near downtown TC

Jul 10, 2015
Google Maps

Officials in Traverse City envision a new “Markets District” along west Front Street, west of downtown. The city will use grant money to hire a consultant to help re-design the area.

City Planning Director Russ Soyring says business owners want the area to have its own identity.

“And they don’t want to become just a pass-through – like a strip development – area that people just have to get through on their way from point A to point B," says Soyring. "They want to become a destination and they want to become the gateway for downtown.”

Peter Payette

Grand Traverse Academy officials says school founder Steven Ingersoll owes the school $1.6 million dollars. Ingersoll was convicted of tax fraud in March but the federal government did not charge him with taking the money.

Harlan Coben

Novelist Harlan Coben has thrilled readers for 25 years and sold more than 50 million books, including mysteries, crime novels and books for young adults. Earlier this year, he published The Stranger, a book that one New York Times reviewer says "takes a happy suburban family and destroys it."

Coben will be in Traverse City for an event with the National Writers Series on Thursday, and IPR caught up with him earlier this week.

As he tells IPR's David Cassleman, Coben didn't initially set out to become a writer. But he says it was his love for stories that eventually moved him to become a novelist:

City pledges funds for Hickory Hills expansion

Jun 2, 2015
Grand Traverse Ski Club

Advocates for the Hickory Hills Ski Area in Traverse City can move forward with plans to expand the city-owned park. The city commission voted last night to pledge $1.5 million toward the project, which would include a new lodge and parking lot. The money would come out of the Brown Bridge Trust Fund.

Commissioner Jim Carruthers said the expansion will draw visitors to the ski area year-round.

Aaron Selbig

Local governments are turning to social media to reach citizens where they are. 

The Grand Traverse County 911 dispatch center has probably the most-"liked" Facebook page in northern Michigan. Deputy Director Jason Torrey says the idea for the page came in the spring of 2012, when a huge snowstorm caused chaos all over the county.

“It dumped two and a half feet of snow – wet, heavy snow," says Torrey. "It took power out in the whole county.”

Traverse City Whiskey Company

Small distillers in northern Michigan would get a big tax break under a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).

He visited Traverse City Whiskey Company on Tuesday to promote the legislation, which would lower the federal excise tax on liquor from $13.50 per gallon to $2.70.

Traverse City chooses new manager

May 14, 2015
Traverse City Ticker

The Traverse City Commission has chosen a new city manager. At a meeting yesterday, commissioners voted 4-to-3 to offer the job to Martin Colburn. Colburn is currently city administrator in Mason, Michigan – a small town near Lansing.

Commissioners said Colburn’s experience with budgeting and city planning put him ahead of two other finalists. Commissioner Jeanine Easterday said she liked what Colburn had to say about homelessness.

The Traverse City Human Rights Commission thinks homeless people in Traverse City are being treated unfairly. The commission passed a non-binding “Bill of Rights” for homeless people at its meeting last night.

The document lists ten rights, including being able to move freely “without harassment or intimidation.” Commissioner Patricia Nugent says the idea came after the commission heard about some of the abuses suffered by homeless people.

Plans for 500-foot public pier will move forward

May 5, 2015
Aaron Selbig

Traverse City commissioners voted last night to advance plans for a public pier near downtown. Phase Three of the project will include a final design and a study of fundraising options. The 500-foot pier is estimated to cost almost $9 million dollars.

Commissioner Tim Werner voted against the project, saying the public doesn’t seem to be behind it.

Friends, family remember 'problem-solver' Robert Griffin

Apr 21, 2015
Aaron Selbig

Former U.S. Senator Robert Griffin passed away Friday in Traverse City. He was 91. Griffin served Michigan for 17 years in the House of Representatives and the U.S Senate. He was also a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court.

His funeral was held Tuesday afternoon in Traverse City. IPR’s Aaron Selbig attended the funeral and spoke with Linda Stephan about the man behind the public face.

Aaron Selbig

The robotics team from Traverse City Central High School is headed to St. Louis this week to compete in the world championship of robotics. The Raptors earned their ticket with a surprise victory in the state championship.

Megan Kral is still processing that moment when the final scores were revealed and the Raptors robotics team knew it had won the state championship.

'Granny flats' law proves popular

Apr 20, 2015

Traverse City planners say nine homeowners have already applied to build “granny flats” on their property. A new law allowing the small apartments went into effect Thursday.

Planning Director Russ Soyring says the first step for all of them is a review process from the city planning department.

“And then we just process it like … you’re applying for an addition to your garage or your house," says Soyring. "Then, eventually, you’d take all your paperwork and go to the county construction code office and make an application for a building permit.”

Housing task force wraps up work

Apr 15, 2015

Six months after its creation, the Grand Traverse County Joint Housing Task Force has finished its work.

The task force was formed last October to bring together county, township and Traverse City leaders on housing issues. It will hold its final meeting today.

County Planning Director John Sych says the task force was never supposed to last long-term.

“This was really just intended to … bring some of our elected leaders up to speed (and) identify some key actions that they can continue onwards, after the task force has concluded,” said Sych.

Aaron Selbig

A new development in Traverse City hopes to put a dent in the area’s affordable housing problem. When it’s finished, Carson Square will provide 36 new low-cost apartments. 

Carson Square has been nearly three years in development but Wednesday morning, it was time to break out the ceremonial shovels. 

The project is meant for people who can’t otherwise find a place to live but Goodwill Executive Director Cecil McNally says that group includes people you might not think of when you hear the word “homeless.”

Mitchell Creek to be tested for E. coli

Apr 8, 2015

Researchers in Traverse City will check a small stream for E. coli this summer.

Mitchell Creek tested positive for high levels of the bacteria in 2009, when scientists with Michigan State University monitored eight sites along the waterway.

TC commission OKs 'granny flats'

Apr 7, 2015

The Traverse City Commission has cleared the way for “granny flats” to be built throughout the city. Ten homeowners per year will be allowed to build the small apartments attached to their house or garage.

The commission’s decision last night came after months of debate. Many homeowners argue the plan will harm the character of Traverse City’s historic single-family neighborhoods.

“With every bit of heart I can offer, please don’t do this," said Christine Maxbauer. "You’re changing the character of our city. Please don’t.”

Investigators with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department recommend criminal charges against a Traverse City police captain. A report released Thursday says Captain Mike Ayling mishandled a police call to the home of then-City Manager Jered Ottenwess.

Ottenwess was not arrested during the February incident but later pleaded “no contest” to charges of domestic violence and resisting police. The investigators asked County Prosecutor Bob Cooney charge Ayling with “willful neglect of public duty.”

Cooney says the request is not an actual criminal charge.

MDOT to present options on Division Street redesign

Apr 2, 2015
Aaron Selbig

Division Street in Traverse City has long been considered one of the most dangerous roadways in the area. State transportation planners are working on a fix for the street. After collecting input from the public last year, the Michigan Department of Transportation plans to unveil several alternatives next month.