- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A judge on Monday tossed out a voter-initiated effort to strike down a portion of the Traverse City zoning code that allows downtown buildings to reach 100 feet tall.

Grand Traverse County Circuit Judge Philip Rodgers ruled that city residents don’t have the right to initiate, amend or delete zoning ordinances, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1TvVrXW ). State law, he said, only gives residents of townships the right to referendum on zoning.

The ruling means a public hearing and possible city commission action can take place Monday night on a proposal from Pine Street Development One LLC to build a pair of nine-story buildings. The mixed-use project has sparked debate about how it might affect the character of the popular northern Michigan tourist destination.

Rodgers said, however, that city officials erred when they denied petitions calling for a March referendum on technical issues. He said the petitions were valid and the city clerk should have accepted them.

Attorneys representing two residents and a local environmental group asked Rodgers to order city officials to accept petition signatures and wanted to temporarily bar commissioners from acting on the zoning permit until after the election. No appeal is planned, they said.

Last month, planning commissioners recommended the city commission approve the project along the Boardman River, which would include parking, housing and commercial space. Developers have said it fits with the neighborhood and noted there is a natural buffer created by the river.

Project opponents argue that the look of the city is a factor in the area’s tourism industry.

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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