Letters

Letters 08-25-14

Save America

I read your paper because it’s free and I enjoy the ads. But I struggle through the left wing tripe that fills every page, from political cartoons to the vitriolic pen of Mr. Tuttle. What a shame this beautiful area of the state has such an abundance of Socialist/democrats. Or perhaps the silent majority chooses to stay silent...

Doom, Yet a Cup Half Full

In the news we are told of the civil unrest at Ferguson, Mo; ISIS war radicals in Iraq and Syria; the great corporate tax heist at home. You name it. Trouble, trouble, everywhere. It seems to me the U.S. Congress is partially to blame...

Uncomfortable Questions

defending the positions of the Israelis vs Hamas are far too narrow. Even Mr. Tuttle seems to have failed in looking deeply into the divide. American media is not biased against Israel, nor or are they pro Palestine or Hamas...

The Evolution of Man Revisited

As the expectations of manhood evolve, so too do the rules of love. In Mr. Holmes’s statement [from “Our Therapist Will See Us Now” in last week’s issue] he narrows the key to a successful relationship to the basic need to have your wants and needs understood, and it is on this point I expand...

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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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