City to sell Cass Street land, explore housing fund

·2 min read

Sep. 10—TRAVERSE CITY — A Garfield Township property will be sold after officials decided its zoning, distance from the city and lack of utilities make it an undesirable place to call home.

The city purchased the parcel at 1383 Cass St. for $320,423 just a year ago, although officials had made initial arrangements with the Grand Traverse County Land Bank a decade prior.

The plan for the site originally was to relocate a train wye there from its current location on 14th Street. Those intentions, however, stalled out when further investigations found extensive wetlands on the parcel.

Meanwhile, the city has been working with third-party contractor Mission North since October to identify housing development opportunities. In March, the 35-acre Cass Street site was one of three city-owned sites identified for development or to be sold and have that transaction, in some way, ease the ongoing need for housing in the area.

At the commission meeting Tuesday, City Manager Marty Colburn recommended declaring the land as surplus and selling it, noting in agenda materials that the parcel's zoning, distance from the city, and lack of utilities, rendered it of little current value to the city.

His suggestion was to funnel the money into a new "housing fund," to be used to encourage future developments.

City officials declined to immediately approve the creation of such a fund, with Mayor Richard Lewis noting he didn't "know how a housing fund was supposed to work."

Commissioner Amy Shamroe suggested returning to the issue at a later date, after Colburn was able to provide them with more information.

The city officials agreed, for now, to return the money from the sale to the city's economic development fund, the same part of the budget that was used to purchase the property in the first place.

The future property owner will still have to contend with the same wetland-associated challenges the city faced, although it could still be an attractive amenity for the county or the townships, said Commissioner Mitch Treadwell.

"But it serves us absolutely no purpose at this point," added Lewis.

The train wye that originally would have been relocated to the Garfield Township site is currently on the western shore of Boardman Lake near 14th Street. The train track arrangement allows engines to turn themselves around, and was originally slated to be replaced to make space for the Boardman Lake Trail project, according to past reporting.

The Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the rail, more recently determined the replacement is no longer necessary.

Report for America corps member and data journalist William T. Perkins' reporting is made possible by a partnership between the Record-Eagle and Report for America, a journalism service project founded by the nonprofit Ground Truth Project. Generous community support helps fund a local share of the Record-Eagle/RFA partnership. To support RFA reporters in Traverse City, go to