|Looking north up Division from Eleventh Street.
Traverse City officials are expected to vote tonight on the wording of a ballot proposal that would pave the way for changes along the heavily-traveled, heavily-debated Division Street.
Drafted by City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht, here’s the proposed ballot wording: “Should the City Commission of the City of Traverse City be authorized to dispose of City parkland for the purpose of right of way and intersection improvements, but not to be used to construct additional thru traffic lanes, provided that such authorization shall expire on November 6, 2022 if no plan for such improvements is in place on that date?
The proposed City parkland includes an up to 30-foot-wide strip along and adjacent to the west side of Division between Fourteenth and Eight streets and two approximately 0.25-acre triangle parcels located west of and adjacent to Division Street, one parcel located north of and adjacent to Eleventh Street and one parcel located south of and adjacent to Eleventh Street.”
Because the property is city-owned park land, the city charter requires that disposing of it requires voter approval at the Nov. 6 general election. Voters will be asked to cast a simple yes or no vote on the measure.
However, the proposal has raised concerns among an informal group of residents who feel the ballot language ignores recommendations by a joint planning commission of city staff, officials, property owners, and interested stakeholders who spent many months discussing potential improvements for Division Street.
That group’s goals: to alter the overall character of Division to create a street that is safer, that better fits the context of the neighborhoods, that unites the east and west sides of the busy thoroughfare and creates an environment to reduce speeds to 30 mph. The commission issued a detailed two-page list of suggestions, ranging from changes in lighting, additional signage, enhancing sidewalks, more visible police enforcement, and to pursue the study of installing roundabouts at busy intersections.
Because Division Street is a state road, Michigan Department of Transportation officials – and not city officials – have jurisdiction over all aspects of signage and changes on the road.
In an Aug. 1, 2012 letter to City Manager Ben Bifoss, MDOT Director Kirk T. Steudle noted that his agency supports putting a proposal on the ballot. But even if the proposal is approved by voters, there may be additional roadblocks.
If the proposal is approved, the first step would be to seek funding, according to Steudle.
“MDOT’s current Five-Year Road and Bridge Program is fiscally constrained to those projects which have been previously approved by the State Transportation Commission,” he wrote. “Currently there is no MDOT funding identified to finance improvements on US-31/M-37 (Division Street).”
Want to voice your concerns about Division Street and what changes the proposed ballot might bring or exclude? Tonight’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the Commission Chambers at the Governmental Center, 400 Boardman Ave.