Michigan Land Use Institute

MLUI / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / Sprawlbusters Update

Sprawlbusters Update

July 7, 2004 |


MLUI/Heidi Johnson

New Urbanist expert John Norquist (left) and Bryan Crough (center), director of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority.

Central Concerns
While the Institute favors revitalizing older cities, it also likes fostering brand new ones. The grassroots group Concerned Citizens of Acme Township has tried to prevent their township trustees from contorting a refreshing, New Urbanist vision for an Acme Town Center into a dispiriting, poorly disguised, twin-big-box mall. In May Institute staffers Jim Lively and Kelly Thayer solidified the Institute’s partnership with CCAT by bringing national New Urbanist expert John Norquist to Acme, just east of Traverse City, for consultation and inspiration.

  • Jim and Johanna Miller, who lead the Institute’s Leelanau Smart Growth Coalition, are working with Leelanau Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility on a campaign to stop that county from moving its courthouse, offices, and seat from historic Leland to an old farm field in a splendidly undeveloped area between two villages — a terrific example of sprawl-spawning land use. County residents vote on the question on August 3; the LSGC and LCFR are developing brochures and ads to educate voters about the value of keeping public facilities in community centers.




Bridge Going Nowhere
Given the state’s current stranglehold on public transit funding, statewide progress on the issue is slow. But there’s still plenty to do. Transportation specialist Kelly Thayer is coordinating the intense opposition to the Grand Traverse County Road Commission’s proposed sprawl-spreading bridge through the Boardman River valley, just south of Traverse City. At last report the road commission, which is risking millions of federal transportation dollars by refusing to cancel the project, has finally agreed to what has long been legally required: Surveying the county’s clogged traffic patterns and formally considering other ways to ease congestion besides a bridge. Kelly is forming local political and business partnerships that aim to spur the area’s state and federal officials to redirect the millions originally earmarked for that project toward a substantial upgrade of the region’s existing roads and public transportation. There’s much more about the Battle of the Boardman at www.mlui.org. Pull down the Transportation menu and click on Traverse City.

  • Kelly is also participating in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s effort to reform its highway, transit, bicycle route, and pedestrian walkway design and development process. MDOT launched the public process, whose goal is to develop a “context-sensitive design” program, earlier this month. CSD harmonizes transportation projects with community character by encouraging local citizens to take the lead in decision-making. You can read or download People and Pavement, Kelly’s authoritative report on CSD, by visiting the Special Reports section of our Web site, www.mlui.org and scrolling way, way down to the Transportation section.
  • The Institute continues to help the Grand Traverse region’s bus system develop. When in May it became evident that the Traverse City Commission might turn down the Bay Area Transportation Authority’s proposal to build a crucial bus transfer station downtown because of vehement, not-in-my-backyard opposition, the Institute rallied a large number of our local members to turn out for a hearing on the issue. Institute Executive Director Hans Voss, Kelly, other Institute staff, and many Institute members spoke eloquently in favor of the transfer station — and the proposal won in a four-to-three squeaker.




Bumper Crop
Just in time for the spring harvest the Institute has published Select a Taste of Traverse Bay, a handy, pocket-sized guide to farmers markets, roadside stands, and other straight-from-the-farm purchasing opportunities in the five-county Grand Traverse region. Ten thousand copies of the guide hit the region in early June; it’s also online, complete with an easy-to-use search engine, at www.mlui.org/foodguide. The guide is one of several demonstration projects that Patty Cantrell, director of the Institute’s Entrepreneurial Agriculture Project, is launching this spring. Another that is already underway connects Traverse City Area Public Schools cafeterias with local farms as a way to nourish students and the region’s food production and distribution economy. Many local businesspeople like what Patty’s doing: The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors the food guide and recently presented Patty at a gathering where she explained her regional food system inventory plan to local economic developers, land conservation interests, congressional aides, government staff, and food and farm entrepreneurs.

  • Much of this new activity is being funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which was a major sponsor of the successful Seeds of Prosperity conference that Patty produced for the Institute last November. After the conference Patty applied to Kellogg for a three-year, $450,000 grant to develop the systems essential to greatly expanding entrepreneurial agriculture in the Grand Traverse region, as well as the outreach and advocacy work to turn those efforts into a model for the rest of the state. The ultimate goal: Establishing state-based financial, tax, and policy support that helps small and medium-sized farms hop off the tricky global commodities treadmill and develop growing, processing, and marketing techniques that connect their own “value-added” products to much more profitable local, national, and world markets. Kellogg approved the grant and even increased the amount to make sure that there will be another Seeds of Prosperity conference in 2005.




Water Work
Andy Guy, the Institute’s water policy expert, has been awarded a one-year, $80,000 Joyce Foundation grant that could pay some big dividends for our Great Lakes and the people that depend on them. Andy has a compelling message about water: Michigan is surrounded by 20 percent of the planet’s supply of fresh surface water. That fact is the state’s primary competitive advantage and will only become more important as the world becomes ever more thirsty. So residents, civic and elected leaders, and business people should view new protections of our sky-blue waters not as obstacles but as opportunities to attract more investment, more business activity and, ultimately, more prosperity. Joyce liked Andy’s business-friendly analysis, so they are funding his proposal to build business leadership for improving Great Lakes protection. He will conduct
workshops, research and write educational publications, and report on the politics of water in Michigan, the Midwest, and the nation. Andy began this new work by attending two April conferences — one organized by business leaders and the other by government officials — exploring the concept of

  • Jim Lively is working with the Lake Leelanau Lake Association to stop the construction of a marina proposed for the narrows of Lake Leelanau, a particularly sensitive area due to the wetlands dredging the project would require. He led a public meeting for the association and helped members research and organize their testimony for a Department of Environmental Quality hearing on the issue. If the group convinces the DEQ to deny the wetlands permit needed for the project, the marina will go away.
Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org