Traverse City, MI

Traverse City’s rare combination of a beautiful natural setting and appealing urban amenities couldn’t escape attention for long. The micropolis has been discovered by a wider audience, and the new millennium has brought opportunities and challenges that didn’t exist in the previous four decades. As the Cherry Capital contemplates further change on the horizon, understanding messages that are embedded in the current landscape can inform the conversation about efforts to shape the future.

Traverse City’s incorporated area yields 18 times the tax revenue per acre as compared to the rest of Grand Traverse County’s land area. Further, the downtown value per acre is 4.6 times that of the rest of the City, meaning that the property tax revenue per acre of the Downtown is about 83 times that of other County land.

One aspect that significantly impacts the distribution of property tax assessments in Michigan counties is the Headlee Amendment. In 1978, Michigan voters supported a constitutional amendment to restrict annual increases in property value reassessments. Reassessment is limited so that the total taxable property yields the same gross revenue, adjusted for inflation, excepting new construction. In Traverse City’s case, many historic properties in the Downtown have more conservative assessed values than typical market value. Still, a close look reveals that historic structures in the Downtown reach potent values when compared with newer construction elsewhere in the City. Indeed, the impact of the Headlee Amendment is evident in the increased value per acre of land developed after 1985.


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Russell Soyring

Planning Director- City of Traverse
October 2016