A Laundry List of Significant Public Projects on TC’s Horizon
Thursday’s Slightly Cranky
It is a good time to take note of what is coming before the Traverse City City Commission as there are several projects brewing that deserve a quick MyWHaT
touch crank to ring in the new year. I originally intended to keep each to Twitter sized commentary, but the task proved too difficult. I’ve made them as brief as possible. If you see something missing, you’re welcome to add it in the comments. And, as always, readers comments that are supportive or critical are fully encouraged. Note, I have 3 weeks left on my annual motto for 2011: “I could be wrong.” After that, who knows.
* The following could use informed & supportive input–Don’t hesitate to send a quick email.
* Bayfront Plan: Phase I at Clinch Park
The City Commission has two basic tasks to address this coming Monday night (12/12) and then ultimately to decide at their January 3rd regular meeting. 1) Do the commissioners believe that a revitalized Clinch Park must include a train ride? It was removed during the planning from 2010, which they passed unanimously at least twice. 2) Commissioners need to achieve informed-consent on the planned 2012 design and construction in the north-east corner. The current construction plan (Flickr) was approved by both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Planning Commission. It does not include the train.
The support for the train ride has been grossly over-blown, parts of it fabricated by one individual posing as two dozen different people and not
substantial convincing enough to over-turn previous decisions by several City boards, including the City Commission. Removing the train was, among many things, mainly due to safety concerns, long-term plans, and constrictions it placed on the park’s potential over 30 years. In addition, speaking as a life-time resident, the train stinks up the place and drives many people away from Clinch Park because of the nauseous fumes. If it stays, it will continue to do so.
West Boardman Lake Avenue (a.k.a. The Blah)
This project has been a relentless ambition by city staff and is also on the agenda for this Monday night’s study session. They will review a recently conducted origin and destination study, that is now available online -PDF (TC). The purpose of the study was to better understand possible traffic volumes after the proposed bypass is built. In an email announcing the completion of the study, it is reported that the preliminary estimate by URS Corporation is that approximately one-third of the motorized traffic now on Cass and Union Streets would use The Blah. Somewhere in the neighborhood of around 6,000 vehicles per day (VPD). To be clear, the report is predicting a 30% decrease in traffic spread out over two streets.
If The Blah is built, 10 years from now it is quite rationale to believe that vpd levels on Cass and Union will simply return to their current levels of 12,000 & 8,000 vpd respectively. The sole purpose of this project was to reduce the vpd on those streets (a fundamental flaw from the start) and it doesn’t do so to any substantial impact. The accommodation for easy driving through the City simply rewards the very behavior that neighborhoods consistently complain about: motorized traffic.
The short of it: 30 years ago there was a plan that expanded the grid and added value to the City; it was more than a bypass. Over the years, circumstance and opportunity have changed and we are left with The Blah–an attempt at a mid-town urban bypass.
We also have a City Commission desperate to repair the infrastructure we already have and a public that wants that done right, which includes more safe and convenient options for all modes, thoughtful protection of the natural environment and public investment aimed at more than a road. It isn’t the time to be laying additional asphalt with significant consequences like creating another financial & social burden on future generations. The City needs a reset button for The Blah to really re-explore the opportunities this area holds.
Boardman Lake Trail
Separately, realizing the completion of the trail network being completed around Boardman Lake (on the east side of the railroad tracks from The BLAh) is certainly close at hand. Yesterday, the City received $210,000 via a Michigan Natural Trust Fund Grant (RE) that already has a local match via TIF dollars from the property. Now it is time to move to final design and ultimate construction. It is an excellent time to involve dedicated citizens to be certain that we get a design that is the best it can be. There are some property issues as well as real topographic challenges that deserve the eyes of those who will be using the trail. This project is getting close to something special as it will connect the community to the lake and create a unique recreational & transportation opportunity.
* Dog Park
At the regular meeting this December 19th (in two weeks), the Parks and Recreation Commission will be requesting for the City Commission to approve the establishment of a dog park in the lawn space at the NW corner of Cypress and Division Streets, at what is now named Veteran’s Park. P&R has worked with community partners for almost a year to develop a plan of implementation (Scribd).
There were numerous public meetings to ask for feedback, with the latest being a special meeting dedicated to this site. We are emphasizing that this is a park for all people, pet owners and non-owners alike. I encourage you to read the proposal and contact commissioners with your support.
* CVS Pharmacy
This week, the Planning Commission found the proposal by CVS Pharmacy for conditional re-zoning at the Front and Division St. location ready for a public hearing. That meeting is set for January 4th, 2012. As the discussion on MyWHaT suggests, this is a difficult position for the City representatives. On the one side, there is a potential developer willing to invest in what has been a blighted piece of property for at least 15 years. It is another commercial property placed on the tax roles. On the other side, the site-plan being floated is better suited for suburbia than for what the Master Plan calls for in this location–pedestrian focused higher-density land use. The fundamental question the Planning Commission is asked to eventually consider is whether this project adequately moves the City closer to fulfilling the vision expressed in the master plan. Expect this one to take a few turns before it is resolved.
The People Tunnel
Here’s another project that simply won’t go away despite questionable need and effectiveness. City Staff continue to double down on this project which was left over from a 20-30 year old dream. I am convinced a tunnel will get some use, but there is no reason that it will be a preferred route for the majority of people making their way to West Bay unless they are on Garland St.
A more cost-effective and value added solution to providing access across Grandview Parkway is to alter the design of major highway running through our City. Plans to do so came out of the 2010 Bayfront Plan and the tunnel is simply a distraction from the inevitable tackling of that beast head-on. Chasing federal money (.Gov) in attempt to make more palatable a project that has already more than doubled in projected costs is simply a distraction and delay of a more direct amelioration of the problem–motorized traffic going 35-50mph through an urban community next to a park–Meh, what to do…Expect this to be back on the agenda at the beginning of the year once TIGER Grant winners are announced. Perhaps next year we can apply for TIGER Grants to do something really helpful like redesigning the entire trunkline.
The community needs a hero on this one. And, it needs to be someone who has authority to keep it on the City Commission’s agenda until it is recognized as a priority. Too many citizens invested too many hours working with staff, transportation agencies and consultants to see the plans from 2010 and citizen recommendations from 2011 (GV) simply sit on the shelf because a few people in the community have a mental disconnect with a basic transportation tool: the modern roundabout.
As long as we are tying to move cars and people around efficiently, safely and without breaking the bank, roundabouts are a part of the future. The sooner leadership grasps this reality and forgets personal ideology the better our community will be. There are severe problems at the intersections from 14th to Grandview Parkway–we need continued energy from the decision makers to see some progress.
Not widely reported on, but the City was a recipient of $100,000 HUD Sustainable Communities Grant last year. A subcommittee of the Planning Commission is working with consultants to complete revitalization plans for 8th St. (btw Union and Fair Streets), E. Front St. (btw Railroad & Fair), W. Front St. (btw river and City limits), 14th St. and Garfield Ave. This isn’t a transportation study; it is an economic vitalization project that focuses on the impact the built environment has on business opportunities & residential quality of life issues. These corridors all struggle to maintain property values and thriving businesses. Place makes a difference and this is a project that needs support and needs to succeed if we are ever to achieve projects like this. There will be a public meeting on January 12th at 7pm at the Traverse City Area District Library.
That’s all I have; there is certainly more, but I trust this is enough to keep you busy. If not, throw something else on the table in the comments section below.
What is going on in your world?
Specifically, what are some projects outside of the City that MyWHaT readers might be interested in?