City begins final push to complete Boardman River plan
A Traverse City planning process that began in 2018 to create a cohesive vision for the Lower Boardman River – the 1.6-mile urban stretch between Boardman Lake and Grand Traverse Bay – ends this year, with officials preparing to organize a last public engagement push this summer before unveiling the plan completed this fall.
The Lower Boardman leadership team, a stakeholder group that includes a variety of representatives from local government, the environment and residents, met remotely on Wednesday to discuss plans for upcoming public input sessions. . Officials plan to provide virtual and in-person commentary – with meetings tentatively scheduled for July 13 and 14 – on a series of storyboards outlining possible uses and opportunities along the Boardman River. The storyboards illustrate many ideas already provided by audiences in “solid” contribution sessions that took place before the pandemic, according to Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) chief operating officer Harry Burkholder. COVID-19 has put the river planning process on hold for months, but the management team has since met again and is ready to complete their work.
In recent presentations to the DDA and the Town Planning Commission, Burkholder reminded city officials that a “lack of a comprehensive and coherent vision for the river corridor” was behind the creation of a master plan (also called a unified plan) for the Lower Boardman. “The question continues to be, ‘What will the river corridor look like? ”He told town planning commissioners, referring to both the developed and undeveloped sections of the Urban Boardman. New infill buildings and a “number of well-meaning but disjointed public access projects” have impacted the Boardman waterfront with little coordination between projects or overall considerations for the river as a whole, said Burkholder. After “years of turning our backs on the river,” the goal of the unified plan is to “face and engage” the river, he said: to create detailed plans for the northern and southern sections of the river. downtown section as well as recommendations for land use and zoning policies, such as requirements for riparian buffer zones.
Initial public comments identified a number of priorities for the Lower Boardman. These include improving public access to the river (such as with boardwalks and pedestrian bridges), softening the shoreline, limiting / managing development, removing / limiting parking on the banks, l ” increase in building setbacks, improvement of stormwater management and maintenance of the possible. The SmithGroup consulting group is working to convert these priorities into visuals; for example, outlining possible options for new boardwalks and pedestrian bridges or reimagining some of the lanes behind Front Street to better showcase the waterfront.
The management team discussed giving attendees at upcoming meetings green and red dots to stick to visuals they like or dislike, as well as using online GIS-like maps to collect feedback. commentaries and commentaries on various sections of the river. In addition to mainstream meetings, the city is also planning to hold targeted feedback sessions this summer with stakeholders such as recreation groups, event planners, fisheries, sustainable / natural resource groups and landowners. businesses and goods. Officials discussed in particular the importance of getting input from the owners of the 100 and 200 block front street houses. Pop-up feedback events are also possible in the coming weeks, such as the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market. “We really have to make an effort to reach out to the people who may not be traditionally involved,” Burkholder said.
Any public input this summer will be used to refine the initial list of priorities and storyboard options into a final unified plan that will be presented to city councils for adoption this fall. “Ultimately, we hope to have a series of land use recommendations as well as physical recommendations that we hope to slowly… implement over time,” Burkholder told the planning commissioners. The draft document is already having an impact in the city center; City staff told planning commissioners that developers of a new mixed-use building along the Boardman River at 309 West Front Street have incorporated some of the recommended elements into their plans, such as setbacks. setbacks of buildings and public access to the river.
Members of the leadership team discussed on Wednesday the need to be realistic with the public about what is possible along the Lower Boardman as the city works towards a unified plan. The co-chair of the management team, Brett Fessell of the Ottawa Grand Traverse Band and the Chippewa Indians, noted that the river is not a “pristine pre-European environment” and cannot be returned to that state. realistically, highlighting current conditions like the tin walls, hardened riverbanks, development and infrastructure that exist along the urban waterfront. “It’s important that we explain this somehow on the ground,” he said, in order to “temper some of the ideas that might be unworkable”.
Former Planning Director Russ Soyring agreed, recommending that photos of current conditions along the river be presented alongside visionary sketches to help the public understand the constraints that exist at different sites. “It’s pretty brutal in places,” he said, describing piles of concrete rubble and hard-surfaced parking lots that dot sections of the river. While members of the management team agreed that there are many short- and long-term opportunities to improve the waterfront and improve public access and connectivity, the unified plan will also need to consider realistically meet the demands of an urban environment.
“We are working with a degraded environment for the most part,” Soyring said, adding that it would therefore be important to give the public “a context of what the river looks like (now) and what it might look like in the future. “