Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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TC‘s West Side Parking Deck

Hans Voss - August 3rd, 2006
On Tuesday, August 8, Traverse City voters will decide whether they support a bond proposal that would finance a parking deck on West Front Street. Many people are asking whether the deck serves the public interest, and whether local officials negotiated a good proposal.
The Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI) supports the proposal. It will help downtown Traverse City thrive and discourage the kind of suburban development that harms our entire region. The choice really is this simple: More well-planned development in town, or more sprawling development in the countryside.
In fact, with our region’s population doubling in a generation, everyone is wondering: “Just where will we put all these people?”
One thing is certain: Our current path will not take us to an answer we like. The statistics are stark: In the last census period, for example, Long Lake Township grew 28 percent. East Bay Township grew 19 percent. Traverse City? Its population fell 4.1 percent.
We’re already seeing the consequences of this sprawling growth—worsening traffic congestion; farms lost to suburban development; wide-open views and pristine lakes and streams at risk.
The new deck will help reverse that trend. It encourages growth where it should occur—downtown. Stacking cars in an attractive complex that includes business, retail, and housing space will transform an unsightly, wasteful parking lot into a new center of social and economic activity. The ultimate goal of adding density in this manner is not to house more cars, but to stimulate more investment downtown—instead of in the surrounding countryside—and create a more walkable and pedestrian-friendly community.
One misconception I hear frequently is that the deck uses public funds inappropriately to benefit a private developer. It is important to understand that this is a public-private partnership, which is a common development tool, but that no public funds will go toward the private development.
However, as the public deck rises, so will private development: $45 million in brand-new shops, offices, and homes. Private dollars will transform an underutilized, unattractive property into a bustling one, expand the city’s tax base, and generate new property tax revenue that will be dedicated to the deck’s bond. Combined with nearly $7 million in existing state brownfield and economic development grants already targeted for cleaning up the site, that dedicated revenue will pay off the deck. After that, the new revenue goes to the city.
Complicated? Yes. A highly effective use of the city’s full faith and credit? Absolutely. In fact, Traverse City and many other cities around our state have repeatedly done exactly this sort of thing to revitalize and boost downtown development. The most important aspect of this financing arrangement is that no additional taxes are being raised on existing property—commercial or residential—to pay for the parking deck. In other words, this will not cost you or me any additional tax dollars.
Careful planning, a citizen-based master plan, and smart use of bonds, private investments, and state and federal cleanup money have made Traverse City’s downtown the envy of many cities. Our master plan specifically calls for parking decks to replace surface lots and encourages private developments that mix retail, office, and residential uses.
The MLUI has advanced Smart Growth through research, education, and advocacy for more than a decade. Everything we see and study reconfirms that there is no escaping growth, and that reinvesting in communities makes way more sense than building in the countryside.
Because the MLUI has long been on the frontline of the battle against sprawl, we know that advocating for Smart Growth isn’t always popular. Facing strong opposition in the past, we’ve stopped wasteful highway proposals, organized against mega-developments like the one proposed for Acme Township, and supported the new downtown Traverse City BATA transfer station. We’re also at the center of the most significant regional planning initiative in our region’s history, the Grand Traverse Area Land Use and Transportation Study.
Our support of the parking deck proposal is part of that tradition. The deck is a great opportunity for the Grand Traverse region to avoid a trap that harms so many other cities—one that drains a downtown and leaves residents to wonder what ever happened to the community they loved. The sad fact is that they failed to do what we must always do: think long term.

TC resident Hans Voss is executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute.
 
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