City To Boost Tree-Planting Efforts, Seek Outside Support In Marijuana Lawsuit

City To Boost Tree-Planting Efforts, Seek Outside Support In Marijuana Lawsuit

Traverse City will significantly boost its tree-planting efforts over the next year thanks to a $32,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which will pay for 360 larger trees – averaging 10-14 feet tall – to be planted on city property along the Boardman River, Kids Creek, and city streets to improve stormwater management. City commissioners approved accepting the grant funds at their Monday meeting, where they also voted to seek outside support in a marijuana lawsuit headed to the Michigan Court of Appeals and received a staff update warning the community about the risk of increased Russian cyberattacks.

Tree plantings
A $32,000 grant will be distributed to the city from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation via the Conservation Resource Alliance to cover three city planting efforts this spring, this fall, and next spring. Each of the three plantings will consist of 120 larger trees with a caliper – or trunk diameter – of 1.5-2 inches, which typically equates to 10-14 feet in height, depending on species.

“The larger trees were chosen for their immediate and increased capacity to capture stormwater runoff,” according to the grant application. “As an added benefit, this size tree is not as fragile as seedlings and will only require one or two years of monitoring and maintenance before they are established enough to thrive on their own. After that, the city will prune them as necessary as part of their regular city maintenance plan.”

According to the application, the project will help expand the city’s stormwater capturing system along waterways, shoreline, and city streets. “Installing more urban tree cover and vegetated buffer strips is crucial to restoration efforts and keeping these Great Lakes tributes healthy and thriving,” the application states. City Director of Public Services Frank Dituri said the grant funds are in addition to another $10,000 already allocated in the city budget this year for tree planting, allowing the city to hire outside contractors to plant even more trees beyond those covered by the grant.

City Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michelle Hunt said she’s been in conversations with The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay about locations along Kids Creek to plant trees, possibly following the waterway all the way north into Grand Traverse Commons to “refocus” protective planting efforts along the fragile watershed. City Commissioner Tim Werner noted that in recent strategic planning sessions, city commissioners have discussed the possibility of setting a 10,000-tree planting goal – likely to be tackled in increments, such as 1,000 trees per year. While that goal has yet to be formalized, Werner said he’d personally support concentrating efforts at Meijer’s Silverbrook Acres between Meijer and Silver Lake Road, with the goal of “slowly starting to regrow a forest” in that area.

So at Monday’s meeting…
> Commissioners agreed to seek support from the Michigan Municipal League (MML) Legal Defense Fund for a lawsuit headed to the Michigan Court of Appeals from marijuana companies challenging the city’s recreational marijuana permitting plan. Judge Thomas Power recently ruled in the city’s favor on part of the plan, agreeing that the city has the right to limit the number of recreational marijuana permits it issues. Several companies are appealing Power’s decision, arguing that any existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Traverse City should have access to a recreational permit – or be able to “co-locate” their medical and recreational businesses – and not be constrained by a cap.

According to City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht, the city can get help from the MML in the form of an amicus brief, or a “friend of the court” brief. Such a brief is filed when someone who is not a direct party to a case has expertise or insight that could affect the case. Trible-Laucht told commissioners Monday that to her knowledge, “This is the first lawsuit that’s gone up to the Court of Appeals on the…co-location issue,” meaning the case could be of statewide importance and thus a likely fit for MML support .

> Also related to the MML, City Manager Marty Colburn told commissioners that he received a report Friday from the organization – which represents municipalities across Michigan – stating that the league had documented over 5,000 attacks on its network in the last week originating from Russia. “This is very real,” he said of the possibility of increased Russian cyberattacks against the US following the country’s invasion of Ukraine and US sanctions against Russia. Colburn said he was in talks with Grand Traverse County as well as city department heads about “protecting our IT systems and the grid within the city,” including electric, water, and sanitary sewer systems. “These are critical elements to the health and safety of the community,” he said. Colburn encouraged staff as well as community members to ensure they have proper anti-malware software in place and to report any suspicious activity on their IT systems to authorities.

Commissioners kicked off Monday’s meeting by acknowledging the Russian invasion and expressing solidarity with Ukraine. “As one democratically elected body up here, to our struggling friends in Ukraine fighting for their own democracy, I just wanted to send our thoughts and our support as a body up here,” said Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe. She added that the city wished for the “speediest and quickest resolution for safety and sovereignty for Ukraine.”