Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 18, 2013

Forum: Parkland change requires public vote

By Grant Parsons

I love the Traverse City Film Festival but I love Traverse City parkland more.

In the last five months, the Festival signed an agreement to “manage” the Con Foster building, now renovated as the Bijou by the Bay. Then the Festival asked the City Commission to add a lighted sign, then a 180-square-foot marquee with flashing lights.

Next, the flashing lights were deleted by popular demand, but a “vestibule” was added. Then the vestibule was deleted and the marquee became a free-standing “box.” On Monday night, the City Commission struggled to figure out the basics of the Fest’s proposal — lights, size, hours of operation?

The Commission got one key fact right: The Bijou is located on City parkland.

It’s hard to stand on principle when you’re dealing with friends. Here’s the principle: The City Charter requires a three-fifths vote for disposition of parkland. Bay parkland is being exploited by many interests. As much as I want to give the Film Festival a free pass for being truly great people, I am afraid others will misuse the precedent.

The parkland issue became heated in 1986 when I represented my friend, Bob Russell, and sued for the right to vote on another parkland give-away. We won the case and the vote, and the Farmer’s Market now stands where the Bayview Mall developer planned a six-story parking ramp.

Since that 1986 vote, there have been others: 1) the Kilwin’s Fudge handicap ramp needed a vote to take a slice of the Jay Smith Walkway; 2) the Chamber of Commerce remodeling needed a vote; 3) there was a vote whether to give the state of Michigan a small strip of Sunset Park to widen Front Street; 4) there was the recent Division Street vote. They’re all about Charter Section 126 and parkland.

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