If you've ever tried crossing Division Street as a pedestrian, or have endured its half-mile-long traffic jams during rush hour, you know that this is a highway in need of re-invention.
TC Proposition 1 offers a solution 'down the road,' but would involve giving up a strip of parkland along Division. The proposal has aroused passions both for and against. Following are the thoughts of four noteworthy citizens:
Vote Yes for a safer street
By Raymond Minervini II
Traverse City has many qualities and features that make it a wonderful place to live, work and visit. Division Street is not one of them.
The street has some of the area’s highest traffic counts, it is noisy, its traffic is often too fast or too slow, people find it very difficult to travel along or cross on foot or bike, and its intersections have the most crashes of any street in the city. In short, the dominant characteristics of the street divide and devalue the adjoining neighborhoods and parks. We need a Division Street that is better and safer for all users.
Continuing a multi-year community process, Traverse City commissioners made a commitment last spring to make Division safer, starting with short-term, lower-cost solutions like speed radar signs and better sidewalks. They also pledged to start the long-term planning and design process with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the agency that manages the street as part of US31 / M37.
The first part of Division Street under consideration for redesign is between 14th and 8th Streets, which is hemmed in by houses on the east and park land on the west. To begin the long-term process of environmental study and redesign of the street, Traverse City voters must first assure MDOT that they are not wasting time and money if they initiate studies and plans for improvements that may require more space than the existing right of way. That is the reason for Traverse City Proposal 1.
Because the potential wider right-of-way includes a strip of city park land up to 30 feet wide, with some additional property at the corner of 11th Street (about 1.65 acres total), a vote of the people is required for the possible future “disposition” of park land.
Note: no park land will be transferred with approval of this proposal. No city tax dollars will be spent. No additional through lanes will be permitted.
What a yes vote will do is start several years of public input and review and collaboration with the city and MDOT toward the goal of a better, safer street. The state recently adopted a “complete streets” policy that directs MDOT to include citizen input and community values in their designs. We will need to stay involved and engaged as a community, so our voices are heard and our values represented. The current street right-of-way will change only if a future city commission, within the next 10 years, accepts a street redesign plan from MDOT.
I believe Traverse City is much better than the Division Street we have today. If we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy a better street that provides safer connections to our neighbors, we need to start the MDOT process now. I encourage Traverse City residents to vote “Yes” on City Proposal 1 to take the next step toward a better, safer Division Street.
Raymond Minervini II is a member of the Minervini Group responsible for the redevelopment of Building 50 and the Grand Traverse Commons.
Don't Trust MDOT
By Jim Tompkins
Please vote “no” on City Proposal 1 on November 6. Proposal 1 is a request by the T.C. City Commission to approve using 30 feet of parkland on the west side of Division Street from 8th to 14th Street for future use by the MDOT for highway improvements (read: more asphalt and possible roundabouts), If approved, this blank check would be for a 10-year period. We would
then have to rely on MDOT and a future city commission to approve a plan which is endorsed by a majority of city residents. I don’t think that entrusting MDOT and a city commission of the future is very good business on our part. A blank check to a city commission with some members that may not even live in T.C. presently, might even be considered a form of community suicide.
We must have at least a conceptual plan before we vote and approve a blank check for use of city parkland for 10 years into the future.
A recent mailer from supporters of Proposal 1 says only, “vote for a safer Division Street.” There's no mention of giving up 30 feet of parkland; no mention of a probable widening of Division Street by at least one additional lane for turning; no mention that one roundabout is included in the recent study of Division Street and no mention that the approval of using parkland for highway purposes will be in effect for 10 years.
The supporters know that if we understand these provisions, most people would vote “no.”
In the 1990s residents crushed a similar proposal for Front Street from Garfield to the Holiday Inn. Until we see a conceptual plan, please vote “no” on City Proposal 1, to retain control of our community.
Jim Tompkins is a former TC Clerk, City Commissioner, and three-time Mayor.
Vote Yes for a better road
By Carol Hale
In 1980, this community rescued three buildings which were to be demolished on the State of Michigan hospital grounds. This started a long process which involved the community in a concerted effort to maintain the historic buildings and grounds for many years. The process has not been easy or for the faint-hearted.
Part of this future-looking solution was to give most of the open space at the grounds to the City of Traverse City and Garfield Township.
Today, we have conflicts with traffic, pedestrian access and alternative transportation in crossing Division. These problems are undeniable for all who travel Division or on 11th Street west of Division. The success of the redevelopment of the Commons by the Minervini Group, TBA, the Green Spire School, various commercial endeavors, and the expansion of our largest employer, Munson Health Care are evident in this traffic corridor and state highway.
Now we are asked to allow minor acreage at the corner of 11th and Division to allow a solution to the problem.
Plans for the future are dependant upon knowing that this small acreage will be available to the City and to the State to plan for the best future for this intersection.
Without a yes vote on this possibility, there will be no future solution to this dangerous intersection.
Carol Hale is a former TC mayor who, along with several like-minded citizens, is credited with having saved Building 50 and its cottages from the wrecking ball during her tenure as a city commissioner in the 1980s.
Vote 'Hell No' on a bad plan
By Grant Parsons
A City ballot proposal asks whether Traverse City voters will donate parkland to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to widen Division Street. The answer should be “no” – preferably “hell no.” Paving parkland to widen a street is akin to killing trout to provide habitat for zebra mussels.
MDOT wants to pave parkland to widen a short stretch of Division between 14th and 8th streets, but MDOT won’t disclose any actual plan. It’s the “trust me” model of big government.
City voters deserve clear answers to tough questions. How will the widening affect the neighborhoods bordering Division? Will cars cut through? How will neighborhood walkers cross a wider Division? What happens to the traffic when Division narrows again at 8th Street? More cars make more noise; what’s the solution to the noise issue?
The City administration supports this pig-in-a-poke scheme because they say Division Street is a mess. No surprise there; City planners made it that way. Expansion at Munson, and the new CVS big box store at Division and Front, for example, just recently added more traffic. You shouldn’t “plan” a mess and then ask residents to sell their park to solve the mess.
With no plan, how can MDOT be trusted? Consider other MDOT engineering 'successes' – South Airport, Acme, Chum’s Corner, Division and Grandview, Front St. at the Holiday Inn – where none but the foolhardy dare cross.
Dangerous roadways don’t just “happen” -- they’re designed by MDOT.
Traverse City parkland enjoys a special, historical status. The City Charter (sec. 126) protects all parklands by requiring a 3/5 vote before parkland can be sold.
Parkland has profound, practical value.
It slows things down, gives you a place to sit or your dog a place to run, encourages reflection, promotes wildlife, promotes kids getting outside to play, and ultimately, demands the best effort from City planners to preserve what is best about the City – the outdoors “Up North” identity.
Division Street is the entry to the City.
Should it look like an extension of Garfield Township’s commercial blight, or should it announce the cool City with a tree canopy and greenery?
In 1986 voters said “no” when the City administration tried to give away Clinch Park parkland to a mall developer. That land is now home to the Farmers Market. A few years later, City voters plunked almost 80% – what I call a “hell no” vote – when the City tried to give away part of Sunset Park and Senior Center Park to widen Front Street.
Conversely, when the City asked voters to add parkland, they approved: The Open Space (the cornerstone of downtown culture), the old C&O spur (comprising most of the West End beachfront), Hull Park (Boardman Lake’s gorgeous reincarnation) as well as others.
Neighbors live in neighborhoods; transient drivers don’t. Neighbors pay high taxes for high quality. Transient drivers’ ease should not take priority over residents.
Donate parkland? No plan, no answers, so please vote “no” – preferably “hell no.”
Grant Parsons is a TC attorney with an interest in local issues.