By BRIAN McGILLIVARY email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City officials may desire a walkable community, but its electric utility leaders don’t appear to share the same concern for neighboring Garfield Township.
Garfield Township planning officials pushed Traverse City Light & Power for a commitment to construct a sidewalk in front of its planned substation on LaFranier Road. But utility officials and their consultants didn’t give the township anything more than a “we want to work with you” answer during a planning commission meeting this week.
“You would think, with TCL&P being a municipally owned utility, they would want to work with a community to better it,” said John Nelson, planning commission vice chairman. “But no, we never did get a clear answer.”
Officials with the city-owned utility want to build next to an existing substation owned by Wolverine Power Cooperative just south of South Airport Road across from King’s Court, a large mobile home park.
Township officials said it’s extremely difficult for area residents to safely walk along LaFranier Road.
“We need a pedestrian way along that corridor,” Nelson said. “There are a lot of residents who live along there ... and right now it’s a dangerous street.”
The township instead received its second snub by a government agency. Grand Traverse County also declined to install sidewalks to make its new health department building on Lafranier Road a walkable destination
“It’s frustrating,” said Brian VanDenBrand, Garfield’s deputy planner. “It’s one of the worst pedestrian roads in the township with one of the highest (population) densities, and these governmental agencies won’t build sidewalks.”
TCL&P consultant Michael McGeehan said there are no sidewalks in the area now and the utility believes the township needs to first do some significant sidewalk planning. McGeehan said sidewalks were better suited on the other side of the road — across from the substation.
Rob Larrea, township planning director, said Garfield officials already have done significant planning and held public hearings on its trails and pathways systems. He said both commercial properties on either side of the substation will have sidewalks when developed, and at that point he hopes to convince the county to also install sidewalks.
The planning commission scheduled TCL&P’s zoning request for a public hearing on Aug. 14 and Nelson said they will see then if TCL&P changes its opinion about the sidewalk.
“I think it’s something they now understand we think is important,” Nelson said. “I think it will be an interesting public hearing.”