Home > Uncategorized > Needed: Crowd Sourcing The Grand Vision

Needed: Crowd Sourcing The Grand Vision

Editor’s Note: I wanted to write about the Grand Vision this morning. Like many mornings before, I can’t find the focus point. I need your help. Comment to this post about your perception and/or experience with the Grand Vision and it’s future; let’s gather our voice. If you’re shy or in a position where voicing opinion is not customary, send me an email in confidence.


I’ve begun each of the last 8 weeks with the goal to write about the Grand Vision. I failed to do so each week. Despite moments of clarity, when I’m either up in angst about it or in full support of it, when I actually sit down to draft a post…I go blank.

What’s the point of praising the Grand Vision? There are other people getting paid to do that.

What’s the point of criticizing the Grand Vision? The anti-planners in our community already occupy that niche.

What’s left? I’m asking.

GV Seal of Approval: does the work on MyWHaT support the Grand Vision?

Lately, I’ve been asking friends and acquaintances their take on the Grand Vision. For the most part, if they work for one of the core organizations supporting the Grand Vision, they offer measured support and promises that it’s yet to reach its full potential. When I ask others, many of whom are very involved in supporting the principles of the Grand Vision (PDF), the response is gentle criticism and thoughtful questioning.

It’s not a Grand Action or Grand Plan,” is a common reply.

So, how do we harness it into something accessible? Useful? Democratic? The most valuable outcome of the Grand Vision that I’ve been able to use came out two years ago: the land use values research outcomes.

That document confirmed and clarified that my personal values have validation in the region. Namely, that there exists acceptance and support for more dense development & living patterns, preservation of open space, strong environmental policies and less focus on single use transportation infrastructure.

An astounding 90%, for example, support communities that are “convenient to walk or bike.”

(Page 28 of the Values Survey)

Questions remain:

How do we get there? What roles do we as individuals play? Does a vision describe an endpoint? Or, simply a process and some guiding principles to argue over?

Do we, excuse the sports analogy, swing for the fences or do we bunt our way around the bases?

I’ll try to be revisiting the Grand Vision in the coming weeks. The transportation land use study is in the final tweaking stages and will serve as an impetus. As well, TC-TALUS is holding onto nearly $2 million to be spent on projects that support the Grand Vision. How will those choices be made?

In the meantime, please send me a message, post a comment, ask neighbors. Where is the Grand Vision in your life?

  1. October 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    A MyWHaT reader sent this comment in:

    You asked: Do we, excuse the sports analogy, swing for the fences or do we bunt our way around the bases?

    Swing[ing] for the fences” is an attempt to hit a home-run and score with just one hit…we DON’T need a home-run and to score with one hit…but our ultimate goal is still the same: To score. In my playbook, singles and doubles are just fine, as long as the end goal of scoring (i.e., a successful implementation of a Grand Vision project/value) is realized overtime. Home runs are sexy and get a lot attention….but simply hitting to get on base and bring in scores is much more realistic….just like we’re doing with the Bayfront by implementing a few great visible components now, not trying to implement $28M worth of improvements at once…..

    Besides, home-run hitters are expensive…the Oakland A’s have shown that you can succeed with guys hitting doubles

    Point taken and mostly agreed with. However, what baseball team has ever won big that didn’t hit at least some home-runs? We need some home-run hitters swinging for the fences and occasionally, if not often, connecting on them, don’t we?

    And, is Oakland in the playoffs?

  2. October 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Gary, you sort of got it! It IS a GRAND Vision, but the focus and the follow through is soft and lacking. The community really got behind this one….but man, for those dollars spent, there are no answers, no consensus and the different units of government aren’t singing as a chorus yet. Other than the social bit….nothing has changed….I really wanted this study to “work”, but it’s beginning to look a lot like consultants have the GT area labeled as “suckerville”, knowing we are willing to spend big on study after study…..just think of how many physical improvements could have happened with those spent-out-of-town-consultant dollars. Stop planning and just do the list….need a list? I have one for free!

  3. October 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I’m wondering if people are feeling like me that while the vision may be grand is my feedback being heard? Just what impact can I have on my community? I want to know whats happening with the train.. cant find out.. from anyone.. They d…iscussed the tunnel last night at the city meeting.. and no one was there from the Grand Vision to say they had a plan to incorporate the tunnel in the plans.. and since I don’t know if those plans are already done or if its still being discussed where? how do I get involved.. somehow I’m missing the link of how to get in there.. is anyone else?

  4. October 19, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Michelle, to be directly involved with Grand Vision meetings isn’t too difficult. They are all open to anyone. The trick is 1) walking away with a sense of accomplishment 2) finding the time to make meetings. You can view the calendar of meetings at the Grand Vision Google Calendar. There is a rail committee, but I don’t see an upcoming meeting.

    You can discuss the tunnel going under Grandview at the Downtown Development Authority and the Parks and Recreation Commission, the latter of which I serve on as a citizen volunteer.

    JRW, I don’t have a issue with spending money on consultants but the results are typically only as good as the questions asked and willingness to follow them through to implementation. I’m afraid too much gets “negotiated” as opposed to “adopted” and moved forward. There was a lot of positive energy when we met around those tables with big maps of the region…trust was there and now…well, that’s the question.

  5. Mike Grant
    October 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    The Grand Vision is unfortunately doomed to fall far short of its advertised goal of altering the way that the Grand Traverse Region plans, zones, and builds. It, like several of its predecessors (eg, McDonough), will do little to change the status quo, because the GV neither got the buy-in from the decision makers nor does it address the central issue. The central issue being how to do regional planning and zoning without any regional legal structure to make that happen.

    The GV, like all the planning efforts that have come before it, calls for substantially increasing density in established areas and discouraging building in outlying areas. However, those established areas (like TC and Interlochen) don’t want substantially increased density and those outlying areas (like Long Lake and Elmwood) don’t want substantially decreased density. And there are no carrots and no sticks in the GV to make these jurisdictions change their zoning. As far as I am aware, neither does the GV itself even mention this fact.

    Why did the consultants, the elected officials, and the organizations promoting and, in some cases, profiting from the GV not mention this obvious roadblock? And what will be gained from the $1M+ spent?

  6. October 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Gary – thanks for raising this. It’s a good question. My hope – as someone who gets paid to work on these issues – is that we can use the Vision we created as a community to help us get more quickly to action on issues that we agree on. Remember that democracy is not designed for fast action – debate and process is part of the deal. But the Grand Vision gave all of us an opportunity to recognize that we agree on a lot more than we disagree on, and if we work together on those issues we agree on we can get a lot done.

    It’s also important to remember that there is not a Grand Vision organization full of people responsible to get this done. It is a Vision created by citizens, and the process for making change is the same as it always was – show up at meetings, get involved, make your voice heard.

    I am really quite encouraged by the new enthusiasm I see in the community for collaborating on a whole host of issues that weren’t being discussed before. But nothing will happen if people don’t get involved and stay involved. I think impatience with slow progress is a much more useful emotion than cynicism that ‘nothing will change’. We should demand more from our government and community leaders. That is the only way we will see any results.

  7. October 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Mike – everything you say about what needs to happen is true. But I disagree that “the Grand Vision is doomed to fall short of it’s goal”. It’s goal was to be a vision. We have met that goal. If we want to make that Vision reality, we need to work as a community to create the carrots and sticks to incentivize higher density, etc. Let’s not throw this good work under the bus for not having done more. Let’s instead use it as our own incentive to get busy on those things we know need to change.

  8. Mike Grant
    October 20, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Jim – I don’t think it is accurate to say that the goal of the GV was solely that it was to be a vision with no practical means of being implemented. I believe that the participants were led to believe that there was some feasible way that the GV would become reality.

  9. Mike Grant
    October 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    And there is no feasible way for the GV to become a reality any more than there was with New Designs for Growth, or Mcdonough’s work, or the Vision 2020 (?) study that GTC did back in the day. None of these address the central issue.

    Namely, you cannot expect local jurisdictions with divergent interests to adopt regional planning and zoning. Not without a stick or some carrots. There is no stick here, nobody has even breathed a word about going to Lansing and taking local zoning away and replacing it with regional zoning. And there is no carrot. All the money has been, or will be, spent on the consultants.

    These facts about the political and legal reality were obvious going into the GV and they’re only more obvious now. We didn’t need to pay $1M+ to find out that people will take a pay cut to live in TC, and that people need to move more to cities and towns to avoid sprawl. But we did, and instead of investing in bike paths, sidewalks, or other transportation infrastructure that could have made a real difference.

  10. October 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Folks on the planning commission in Acme are currently involved in an intensive alignment project. We are identifying the linkages between the Acme Township Master Plan, Grand Vision Principles, New Designs for Growth and our local zoning ordinances. Each governing body within the Grand Vision region must determine their level of acceptance of the GV concepts and take action to implement in accordance with their legal tools – zoning. As we move forward with required review of Master Plan, we will be able to undertake the process of incorporating GV principles as the appointed/elected board responds to public input in our township.

  11. October 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Mike – sure, regional zoning would be convenient, but isn’t the only way. The Vision should guide local plans. Plans should guide local zoning. Elections and public comment should guide local officials. It’s slow and tedious – but in my opinion a better bet than waiting for regional zoning.

  12. chrisbzdok
    October 21, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I’m a proponent of the Grand Vision, for a lot of reasons. I would suggest to my fellow proponents of the Grand Vision that we need to face the reality that the Grand Vision has accumulated a severe credibility deficit with the large portion of the public who are not actively involved in promoting the Grand Vision. Part of this is TC-Study-Fatigue, part is the long delay in completion, part is mission creep (see, e.g., energy), part is the argument Mike Grant articulates about the panoply of better uses for $1.6 million in the regional transportation network.

    My suggestion is that denying there is a credibility deficit is not a viable strategy. Saying “we had a process and a lot of people responded so now this has the force of a mandate whether you like it or not” is not a viable strategy. Re-writing history and saying the GV was always about articulating values and inspiring the public to action is probably the worst possible strategy, because the record is clear that this was justified on the basis that it could and would be implemented in real actions that would improve transportation.

    My suggestion for what would be a viable strategy is picking a few viable completeable GV projects and going full force to get them done. What Virginia Tegel mentions is an example. Show the public outcomes. TC and Garfield Twp, with the support of the TC Chamber of Commerce, are currently pressing for wayfinding and eventual upgrade to a regional arterial along the Beitner-Keystone-Hammond-Three mile corridor – details are on my website in posts from a couple weeks ago, and I will post Garfield’s letter when I get it. The Bayfront could be an outcome. Others are out there.

    We can still turn this into a success, but only if we acknowledge the problem and work hard to get some things done. I think if that happens, it will rebuild public acceptance of the GV and create momentum to get more things done. I remain optimistic. Chris

  13. Mike Grant
    October 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Jim – I agree with you completely that there is almost no likelihood that there will ever be regional zoning in Michigan. Where I obviously don’t agree with you is on the political calculus of implementing the GV. For example, I see no reason why a Green Lake Township trustee is going to vote to dramatically down-zone her ag zone and dramatically up-zone the Interlochen area in order to be consistent with the GV. There is no critical mass of GV adherents in Green Lake to support or lobby this elected official. And the fact that somebody in TC and somebody else in Peninsula wanted a dense village center in Interlochen as part of the GV isn’t going to mean squat to this Green Lake official. Any more than the fact that somebody in Green Lake Township wanted three-story buildings along the Parkway or a village center in Mapleton as part of the GV is going to influence the elected officials in the City or Peninsula.

    The GV by itself has neither the political, financial, or legal power to independently force local officials in any of these jurisdictions to dramatically change their zoning ordinances, any more than any of the prior visioning efforts I’ve mentioned (NDfG, McDonough, Vision 2020) ever did.

    We didn’t need yet another study. If I’d had my way, money that was left over from Hartman Hammond would have been put towards pedestrian, trail, and other improvements along the Keystone-Beitner corridor and the Boardman valley. That would have been consistent with the Smart Roads alternative that we promoted and would likely have also been palatable to the Road Commission and the powers that be.

  14. October 22, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Mike – Where I disagree is in your assertion that “there is no critical mass of GV adherents… to support or lobby elected officials”. There was a scientific random sample survey across all six county jurisdictions that demonstrated in fact very strong (80%+) support for the final Grand Vision. What we need is leaders like yourself to help mobilize that support into action.

    Bemoaning that there are no tools to “force local officials to dramatically change their zoning ordinances” makes it sound like we have no control over our local governments. Again – elections and public comment can be very effective tools. Yes, recent history has not been real good with local government following citizen goals for good planning. But THAT is exactly what we need to change. Let’s use this public consensus around a vision to “force” the change we want – rather than complain that somehow the money was wasted.

    We may not have needed another study, but this is the first regional public vision we have ever created. Let’s not criticize our vision for not implementing itself. We don’t need top-down “political, financial, or legal power” to implement a citizen vision. We need to build a critical mass of citizen support for action. Let’s get busy!

  1. January 3, 2011 at 6:02 pm

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