A Circuit Court Judge says Traverse City has the right to decide how big swim areas should be at public beaches. Judge Thomas Power says the city can decide what happens in Grand Traverse Bay as a far as a mile out.
"Jurisdiction" over those waters is granted to the city in its charter dating back to 1885. That allows the city to essentially police the waters of the bay near shore and control uses for things like docks, boats and sanitation.
The city can't do anything that conflicts with state law, however. And the state argues that it alone has the power to regulate navigation and roped-off swim areas amount to regulating navigation. Judge Power sided with the city.
The state and Traverse City have been in a dispute for more than a year about the size of public swim areas. The city wants them to be more than twice as large as they are now. The state says the only reason to restrict boats is safety and there is no evidence public beaches in Traverse City are unsafe.
The city's attorney says under this ruling the city may have other powers, such as limiting the length of time a boat can be moored near the city.