Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · The Gaylord Renaissance Plan
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The Gaylord Renaissance Plan

Kristi Kates - March 24th, 2014  

Gaylord’s downtown area has long relied on the friendliness of its people and quaint “Alpine Village” theme to draw visitors to the downtown area, while providing locals with a neighborly place to shop and do business.

But over the past several years, downtown Gaylord has been suffering, both economically and aesthetically. So the Gaylord Renaissance Plan was formulated, an idea that’s actually been in the works since the late 1990s, but is only now starting to gain a foothold.

Two advocates of the plan, Gaylord Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Justin Burchett and Executive Director for the Otsego County Economic Alliance Jeff Ratcliffe, outline what’s next for the Alpine Village.

KRISTI KATES FOR EXPRESS: When was the idea for the Gaylord Renaissance Plan first formulated, what was the impetus behind the decision to begin developing the plan, and what is your agency’s role in the project?

JUSTIN BURCHETT: While the Gaylord Renaissance Committee was formed only around two to three years ago to seriously delve into creating a solution to our problem of a struggling downtown, in reality this project has been in waiting for much longer.

The City of Gaylord Master Plan from 1996 has an objective that reads, “Encourage the creative design and re-design of neighborhoods both within and beyond City boundaries that enhance desirability by including sidewalks, bike paths, pedestrian ways, open spaces, parks, and playgrounds, and street design, that results in more even distribution of traffic on public streets.”

The Gaylord DDA approved the creation of the Gaylord Renaissance Committee to investigate the problem in our downtown and develop a solution.

JEFF RATCLIFFE: The idea of creating a pedestrian-oriented downtown dates to probably around 2006. The city manager, Joe Duff, proposed using a “road diet” to accomplish the goal of slowing traffic. We realized that we still needed to move a portion of the commercial traffic out of downtown and onto a previously planned alternate route south of Gaylord that was still to be funded and constructed.

By 2009 we had completed the raising of I-75 and reconnecting of Milbocker and Mc- Coy roads. With closeout of the I-75 crossing project at the beginning of 2011, we began to plan and package the funding needed to complete the alternate commercial route.

With leadership from Jack Thompson at the University Center, we started the process to plan the improvements to the downtown. By March of 2012 we had put together the Renaissance Committee, raised the money necessary to prepare a concept plan and began the public input process. The Alliance facilitated the process and served to chair the Renaissance Committee.

EXPRESS: What are some of the ways you hope the GRP will help the growth of the Gaylord downtown community and the surrounding areas?

BURCHETT: Downtown Gaylord is the heart of our community. Those involved with the project recognize the importance of vibrant downtowns for continued economic growth. Highly educated and skilled youth today have the opportunity to work just about anywhere, so providing a high quality of life is paramount to talent attraction.

Plenty of research shows the trend of people moving to downtowns that have the urban amenities people enjoy. Companies have to consider the quality of life they will offer employees before deciding to open up shop in an area.

Everything points towards the need for a vibrant downtown to maintaining growth and that is what this project will help create. It is just a piece of the puzzle, but a necessary piece nonetheless.

There are huge possibilities in Gaylord as we are the best geographically situated area for new business in northern Michigan in terms of equidistant travel.

RATCLIFFE: The goal of the Renaissance Committee is to change the dynamic of the downtown from one that is oriented to vehicles to one that is oriented to people. By creating a slower, quieter downtown with places for people to linger, we will be able to create a healthy, vibrant downtown district that will be conducive to restaurants, cafes, pubs, and specialty retail shops, creating a destination for both locals and visitors.

EXPRESS: Would you please describe to us some of the specific elements that are part of the plan? What are some of the features you think will be the most striking for visitors, and the most welcome for residents?

BURCHETT: The most important element of the plan is probably the least flashy: a move from five lanes of traffic to three lanes for two blocks on M-32 in the heart of our central business district. This element (the aforementioned “road diet”) is primarily a means of providing a more pedestrian-friendly area with wider sidewalks, a grace lane, and safety islands to give pedestrians a safe haven halfway across the street, and a general calming effect.

In addition to the safety aspects, the most visually striking updates will be the gateways that welcome visitors into downtown, as well as updates to the courthouse lawn. The lawn has up to now been little more than grass and trees. Current plans call for an interactive fountain, recirculating stream, and a natural gas fire pit for use during special events.

There will also be landscaping, creating more of a park-like atmosphere. Combined with the decreased noise levels, the lawn will be able to function as a hang out destination for residents and visitors.

EXPRESS: How will the plan affect downtown businesses? Will they be expected to revitalize their storefronts, as well? What kind of reception are you getting from local business on the project?

BURCHETT: Our research shows that downtowns that have undergone similar redevelopments have noticed a 30 percent increase in retail sales. Initially, construction poses a concern for area businesses, but if we learn from other areas that have carried out redevelopment projects we should be able to minimize the impacts of construction.

Combined with the four previous years of façade grants that have impacted over 20 buildings in downtown, and the approximately eight more projects in the hopper for 2014, downtown Gaylord will look stunning to anyone that hasn’t peered on it for some time.

The vast majority of feedback received from downtown businesses has been favorable towards the project. Even most of those that question the project realize that something has to be done to improve the business climate downtown. When it comes right down to it, change can be a difficult pill to swallow, but most store owners are willing to give it a try as they have seen their sales slump year after year.

RATCLIFFE: The plan is designed to improve the viability of existing businesses and attract new ones. We have and will continue to work with building owners to make façade improvements. We have completed 25 so far and have another seven lined up.

Overall we have had a good reception from local businesses towards the project.

EXPRESS: What have some of the challenges been as far as coordinating both funding and community support for the GRP?

BURCHETT: The most difficult part of building community support has been educating the public and getting them to ask the questions they need answered. There have been instances of people on the Renaissance Committee running into someone that says they are adamantly against the plan. When asked, you find out that person may have never attended one of our open houses, haven’t seen the plan, and have been subject to misinformation. Once those people see the plan they realize that they actually like most of what they see in it.

The biggest concern is generally money, but when people learn that there are no intentions to request a millage or tax increases, that fear dissipates as well. After anticipated grant revenues we forecast a $1 million gap that is going to have to be made up by organizational and individual contributions.

Some people think that is an impossible feat, but we’re optimistic that more people are willing to invest in their community than these people realize. The Renaissance Plan is the most exciting project to take place in Gaylord since the adoption of the Alpine theme in the mid-60’s, which revitalized downtown at that time. In many ways, this is phase two of the project that began way back then.

RATCLIFFE: We have an approximate $4.5 million project cost. We will be seeking to tap a number of state grant programs that are designed for this type of project as well as raising money locally.

EXPRESS: And finally, what is the timeline? When will work begin, when will results of the project be visible, and how soon do you think locals will reap the benefits of increased interest in downtown Gaylord?

BURCHETT: The goal is to have all the funding in place by the end of 2014 and then complete construction over a period of four to six months in 2015. This could potentially be extended to 2016, but for now the Renaissance Committee is keeping their eyes set on 2015.

I believe that the results of the project will become visible prior to the completion of construction. There are two public hearings coming up on the project in March which will either give the green light to go forward once we secure funding or send us back to the drawing board. Assuming the green light is granted, a smart investor is going to realize that the best time to get in on the action is now. The first person that opens up a brewpub that offers live music in our downtown is more than likely going to see huge dividends in the coming years.

There is plenty of room for more diverse restaurants and interesting boutiques.

Those that wait run the risk of fighting for a limited number of prized properties in the crossroads of northern Michigan, an area surrounded by countless recreational opportunities. If you look back pre-recession, Otsego County had the second fastest rate of development in Michigan. This project could help to get things rolling again.

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