Home > Cultural Movement, Design the Details, Economics > What would Fonzie do? Traverse City tackles street food & ADUs

What would Fonzie do? Traverse City tackles street food & ADUs



This coming Monday night City Commission meeting (April 15) is as good as any to see local government in action. There are two issues the City has struggled with on the agenda and both should attract interesting public & commissioner comment. The two topics I’m thinking of are the revamped street vending ordinance and an ordinance permitting accessory dwelling units in the signal family district of North Traverse Heights Neighborhood. Come for those topics and stick around for the public comment, because you never know when the cops might get called….Monday night at 7pm at Government Center…agenda will be posted here

Bring on the yum…


First up is something MyWHaT has advocated for more than enough: Street Food. This will be the first meeting the full commission will have a chance to either adopt or send back the ad hoc committee’s recommendations. The language won’t be available until Friday, but the Record Eagle covered the broad scope yesterday (RE).

Want to support street food? It isn’t too late to lend your name in support of street food.


Step into my ADU

Next up, and perhaps more controversial than food trucks, is an expansion of where Traverse City allows Accessory Dwelling Units (a.k.a., granny flats). The City already allows ADUs by right in numerous multi-use and multi-family districts and temporarily in single family districts by special land use permit–there are currently two permitted ADUs in the city. This is a follow-up attempt to create a regular, permanent policy within what’s called an R1 zoning district, or single-family dwelling district. If adopted it will allow ADUs by right, requiring only a regular building permit, if meeting the specific ADU rules.

ADUs are one way to increase affordable housing in the City. They do this by 1) creating more small scaled, less expensive rentals, and 2) providing a supplemental income to homeowners that helps pay the bills, often allowing older residents to stay in their homes as they get older. ADUs are also one of many recommendations continually raised by studies aimed at finding more affordable, workforce housing. The most recent being a study by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments looking at housing strategies for the County (gov).

ADUs are typically self-contained apartments built above a garage. They are often used to expand family quarters, particularly when parents or grand parents need family members living near-by. That’s one reason the AARP is a big supporter of communities creating policies to reduce the restrictions to ADUs (AARP).


Fonzie was always there for Mr. and Mrs. C, not to mention a mentoring force for young Richie and Joanie.


When I think of ADUs, I flash back to Happy Days and Arthur Fronzelli’s sweet pad above the Cunningham’s garage. The Fonz had his issues, but from what I recall he made one heck of a neighbor.

For an updated version of The Fonz character, an efficient ADU makes a great apartment for a young professional working at Hagerty Insurance, at Munson, or a teacher just starting out at TCAPS. Or, they perhaps are a student at NMC or a Coast Guard cadet in Traverse City for a 2-3 year stint. Or, perhaps they are the coolest barista in the City.

Workforce housing solutions, like ADUs, address the high cost of housing for people on limited incomes. In addition to potential lower housing costs, by providing more housing options closer to the core activity areas, transportation costs are reduced. When people can live closer to the core areas then driving becomes less of a necessity because they are closer to work, grocery stores, and other activities. This saves them and local governments money. 

ADUs, or Fonzie Flats, work really well in traditional neighborhood settings like we have in Traverse City. As a planning commissioner, I was happy to see that the planning commission was already working on this before I was appointed. The ordinance being considered was written to address the many concerns that have been raised during the years (e.g., cars, privacy, owner occupancy) and represents a safe step in the right direction.

The ordinance’s restrictions and the market barriers to a homeowner ensure the City won’t see a huge uptick in requests, but in the coming years, with an aging population, stagnant incomes for the young workforce, and increasing transportation costs, this is precisely the type of measure to embrace.

What do you think? Could we use more Fonzie Flats than two? 


If you have an opinion, of course send us a comment here at MyWHaT, but also consider sending a quick email to the City and check out NWMCOG’s new community participation site Letsdecidehow.org. They currently have a general poll question asking about ADUs.

A brief introduction to housing issues by the NWMCOG

Related Resources


Use the comment section below to send us a message.  Comments will be sent to author and potentially used in future posts. Please highlight whether you’d like you’re name published with your comment. 

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

  1. April 11, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Ayyyy! You’re right on with this Gary. We want to keep the character of Traverse City as much as we can and make it possible for young folks to stay here.

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