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Traverse City Recreational (TART) Trails expand further

Commissioners Tab Boardman Lake Trail

June 9, 2015
Commissioners Tab Boardman Lake Trail

Traverse City commissioners identified the completion of a five-mile trail loop around Boardman Lake as a top priority in a Monday night study session devoted to public projects in the lake district.

Jean Derenzy, Grand Traverse County Deputy Director of Planning and Development, outlined three public projects from a 2000 Boardman Lake Brownfield Plan that have yet to be completed. Derenzy asked for input about which projects should be prioritized and whether the city wanted to bond or borrow money to complete them -- or wait for tax increment financing (TIF) dollars to be captured to cover the costs.

The projects include a new $2.2 million street – commonly referred to as Boardman Lake Avenue – that would hug the lake from Fourteenth Street to Eighth Street, alleviating traffic on those roads as well as Cass and Union Streets. The plan also calls for the $3.6 million extension of the Boardman Lake Trail between Fourteenth Street and Logan’s Landing, which would complete the lake’s trail loop, as well as a $1.7-$2.5 million relocation of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) railroad wye at Fourteenth Street. Moving the wye would free up the “largest piece of undeveloped land in the city,” according to Mayor Michael Estes.

A majority of commissioners expressed support for finishing the Boardman Lake Trail first. “The trail completion is the first priority for me,” said Commissioner Gary Howe. “There is a fundamental rule if you build more trails, you’re going to get a more active public.” Commissioner Tim Werner agreed. “All of these (projects)….I see as investments for the city and evaluate them as such. Economic activity follows with the trails.”

Several commissioners, however, proposed approaching Garfield Township about helping cover costs for the last segment of the trail, which would primarily fall within township boundaries. “Isn’t there also an economic value to Garfield Township to build this trail?” asked Commissioner Jim Carruthers. “Shouldn’t they participate a little bit more than they are?”

Derenzy indicated township trustees had expressed a willingness to consider covering maintenance costs for the trail, which Estes pointed out could total $1.5 million over the next two decades, and were also open to discussing construction costs. Commissioners expressed support for continuing negotiations with the township, and also asked to revisit the trail design – which Derenzy said was challenged by steep slopes and missing property easements – to see if costs could be further reduced.

“I’m very much in favor of…figuring out if there’s a way to back it off the lake and steep slopes a little bit and reduce the costs somewhat, so maybe we can get it done this century,” said Commissioner Barbara Budros. City Engineer Tim Lodge affirmed that the last trail stretch would overlap “more difficult areas to construct in” that were also more environmentally sensitive. Staff agreed to research more design options and present those to commissioners at a future meeting.

Commission enthusiasm was more muted for the proposed Boardman Lake Avenue. While a 2011 study showed the new corridor would reduce traffic on surrounding streets by 30-35 percent, its proposed design and location has gone through numerous iterations that left commissioners confused over whether the road would function as a neighborhood street or a high-speed bypass. “We’ve been talking about this road for close to 30 years, and it changes as the wind blows,” said Carruthers. “Every time we talk about it, I get more confused about what we need to do.” Commissioners supported a request by Budros to “see what the latest plan is for Boardman Lake Avenue” before deciding how to proceed with that project.

Finally, Derenzy said her department was researching options for possible sites to relocate the railroad wye at Fourteenth Street. Derenzy said MDOT has tentatively agreed to an “equal play” deal, meaning if the city pays for the relocation and a new site for the wye, the city can take ownership of the land the wye sits on now. Estes said the city could explore housing opportunities on the Fourteenth Street property, which he called “a possible boon” for new development. Identified relocation sites for the wye include a city-owned parcel on south Cass Street, which would require wetland mitigation, or other possible properties east of city limits, said Derenzy.

Commissioners held off making any financing decisions – including whether they want to borrow funds for projects and pay the loans back with brownfield reimbursements, or wait until TIF dollars to come in – until they decide how to proceed with all three projects. The board is expected to revisit the project list once staff research is completed by the end of this summer.

Posted: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 10:59 AM by Jon Becker


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