TRAVERSE CITY — Fern Spence watches joggers and neighbors traverse a historic farm trail across wooded, scenic private property on the city’s west side.
She wants to find a way to turn a private stretch into a public recreation area, and plans to test the wind to determine how much, if any, resentment lingers from a bitter, six-year-old lawsuit that pitted neighbors, developers and city officials against each other.
Spence and some supporters want to obtain a private lot on Wayne Street for TART Trails Inc. to create a dedicated pedestrian walkway that leads to the city’s Hickory Meadows park.
But that lot was the focal point of an acrimonious lawsuit between Incochee Woods developers, neighborhood residents, and the city when it was used as a private road access to the development. The city settled the suit in 2007.
”Everybody tiptoes around this when I bring this up,” Spence said. “They tell me it can’t be used as a pedestrian access because of the settlement. I think they are all wrong.”
The controversy began in 2006 when the city planner granted a permit to Incochee Woods developers Bob Brick and Ted Lockwood to build an access road at 1430 Wayne Street. The then-new, high-end housing development sprouted on a farm previously owned by the Olseon family. All but the lot at 1430 Wayne was in Garfield Township. Access was from Wayne and Ramsdell streets, as well as from M-72.
Neighbors complained about their residential street being used to access a township development. Former Traverse City Manager Richard Lewis issued an executive order and revoked the road permit while residents on Ramsdell Street clamored for the city to dead-end their street at the city limit. Lawsuits followed.
The parties settled in 2007 at the urging of the city’s insurance company. The developers received $75,000 and were reimbursed for utility easements they’d granted the city. Developers then put a gate across the Ramsdell Street entrance, and the developers and city purchased 1430 Wayne Street for $127,000.