FishPass Replace: A New Party in the Lawsuit and a Change from the City
The Fish Pass project in Traverse City is back before a judge – with a new defendant asking to join the lawsuit. And the latest update includes a change in the city’s strategy: whether the site is in the city park at all.
The Great Lakes Fisheries Commission plans to join the lawsuit brought by a Traverse City resident who is suing the city. Construction on the $ 20 million project was put on hold when the court heard arguments over whether FishPass should require city voters’ approval.
Attorney Scott Howard represents the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission. He says, “We are not asking for any new claims or extensions of time limits. We agree that the case should proceed as planned and would not ask for a delay or change in the court’s planning order.”
Howard says that as the project’s main financier, the Commission has a vested interest in Fish Pass moving forward. However, resident Rick Buckhalter (and the plaintiff in the lawsuit) is against the idea of them joining Traverse City to defend the case. “This process, and the hearings we have had, are about charter sections 126 and 128 [about requiring a vote of city residents] and I don’t know if they’re standing. You are not a voter. You are not a resident. “
However, the judge pointed out that the commission was already involved in the project – and the lawsuit. 13th District Court Judge Thomas Power said, “I will allow the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission to intervene. They are already here … they want to defend their interests. “
The city has also filed a motion arguing that the area known as Union Street Dam Park is not urban parkland at all – and they think the case should be dismissed. Says Judge Power, “This lawsuit was filed on the grounds that the City Charter sale of parking lots requires a public vote.” He later added, “The city has now filed an application to contest its parkland status. But I don’t come to that conclusion today. But at least for the purposes of this proceeding, it was previously considered a park. “
There have been numerous examples in the past where the city referred to this property as a park. And the prosecutor discussed the use of the park at a hearing in February. At the time, Traverse City attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht said, “The FishPass project will not change the use of the park. It will make it more accessible to the public, it will add amenities. ”
The city file argues that the property at Union Street Dam has never been designated as official parkland. And they point out that the city’s master plan doesn’t directly refer to a Union Street park. The city also argues that historical use as a park does not mean there is “dedicated parkland status”.
However, the city’s website shows a map of the city parks, including Union Street Dam Park. It is also listed under “TC Parks” in the city’s recreational guide.
Rick Buckhalter quotes the city in its legal response to his request for an injunction: “For the purposes of this response, the city is not denying This Union Street Dam Park is parkland. “And Buckhalter says other city parks have not received any formal dedications either. He believes this argument could have far-reaching implications for any parkland or park lot.
Judge Power says: “The city has now taken a position as this is not parkland after all. That will be one of the problems that needs to be resolved. “The decision on the city’s application is expected later this month – a trial is scheduled for May.