Home > Uncategorized > To Be Realized, The Grand Vision May Need To Lose Itself

To Be Realized, The Grand Vision May Need To Lose Itself

Last week I asked, where is the Grand Vision in your life? There was a mixed response. Depending on your perspective it is either an exercise in futility or accomplishing what it set out to do, suggested as articulating a community vision.

However, it was always more than simply a vision. There were wide expectations that the public process and subsequent study would result in enough common ground for implementation of Grand Vision Goals and ObjectivesI understand now, that will not be the outcome. Rehashing the past will get the community and region nowhere fast; history is always selective and filtered.

Moving On

The next question is, how will the community move forward? The answer apparently is, “the same as it ever did.” That will mean different things to different people, but one way to describe past community development is disjointed, opaque and myopic.

We simply haven’t had the leadership, from luminaries, neighborhood groups, government units, agencies and organizations  to apply community wide vision and strategies outside narrow interests. When I’ve been to Grand Vision working group meetings, and I look around the table, I typically see representatives from organizations and agencies paid to represent their interests. Some are more pro-active and others are more defensive; all of them are well intentioned and good people, however, the result is often inaction. One could argue, it’s a success that at least they are at the same table. I agree with that.

Luckily, Times Change.

Across the country people are expressing a desire to live in more walkable neighborhoods, focused around plenty of creative parkland, vibrant public spaces and with a hyper-local focus–the 20-minute neighborhood is a clear example. The future cultural and economic engine isn’t suburbia, but rather the re-emergence of neighborhood life.

An article in the latest Washington Monthly titled, The Next Real Estate Boom, sums up the situation well:

“The baby boomers and their children, the millennial generation, are looking for places to live and work that reflect their current desires and life needs. Boomers are downsizing as their children leave home while the millennials, or generation Y, are setting out on their careers with far different housing needs and preferences. Both of these huge demographic groups want something that the U.S. housing market is not currently providing: small one- to three-bedroom homes in walkable, transit-oriented, economically dynamic, and job-rich neighborhoods.” (Article written by Patrick C. Doherty and Christopher B. Leinberger.)

I would also add, that it’s not just the housing market that’s lagging. Looking at the Grand Traverse region, our planning and infrastructure are simply not laying the ground work for the needs of the next 30-years.

Recall $4-per gallon? (Credit: Simon Davison)

The city, despite good intentions with its infrastructure policy of spending $1-million/year on streets and sidewalks, continues to prefer status-quo maintenance over building what we will need in 30 years. It’s important that we get it right the first time, because once completed, we won’t return to a street for another 30-40 years. To achieve this, in the city and the region, demands applying what we know about the current situation:

  1. Gas prices will increase. 2008 wasn’t a fluke.
  2. Our current infrastructure model is not economically/ecologically sustainable.
  3. Collaboration across agencies and interests is vital.
  4. What motivates new, innovative, entrepreneurial people is not suburbia and streets built solely for cars.

The Grand Vision Realized

The several year process of the Grand Vision has raised awareness of the need for planning and, to some degree, is improving the planning literacy of the public. The breakdown of the Grand Vision into interconnected networks has made clear that when we talk about transportation, we are primarily talking about land use issues and how those policies impact, and are impacted by, economics, agriculture, energy, housing and natural resources–loosely, including transportation, the six working groups regional networks of the Grand Vision.

At times I’m ready to call The Grand Vision dead. But, that’s not how visions work. Visions live and breathe. They change and become reflective. Often, they are forgotten only to be remembered in a flash of clarity when we stop, look around and notice that our paths have taken us to exactly the place we had hoped. Visions are realized by embodying them and making them a part of our daily choices.


Next week, I hope to will have a short list of actionable items that I’d like to see come out of the brand/organization/money attached to The Grand Vision.

  1. John Robert Williams
    October 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Let’s see, fifty-five townships, five counties, 20 towns and villages plus state and federal governments….and you wonder if the Grand Vision is dead? It never had a chance. Now, take the anti-vision faction out, townships, and we could get a “vision” – a peek at the future. The roadblock to the future is township government. We have counties and a few incorporated villages and cities…what else do we need? The path of least resistance to the future is without unnecessary government. Townships take, they don’t give….doubt it? Go to your favorite township hall and look for the road plows, engineers or “street” department. Not there? They take your taxes, thank you. They have no reason to exist. Counties are on the map for a reason. Want a GRAND VISION for the future? Simplify and reduce redundant, 19th century “granges”.

  2. John Robert Williams
    October 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Let’s use the Michigan Township Association website information for a typical local township….then answer “Just what DO they do”?

    General Township Information
    Minor Civil Division Name: Long Lake Twp Area Name or Description: 35.634
    Jurisdiction Type: Twp Functional Status Code: 22805.399
    County Census FIPS Code + MCD FIPS Code: 05549240 Census Summary Level: 060
    Jurisdiction Name + County Name: Long Lake Twp, Grand Traverse County State Number: 26
    First 3 digits of LINK: 055 County Number: 055
    Water Area (square miles): 92.291 County Subdivision (MCD) FIPS Code: 49240
    Land Area in Square Miles: 30.1124
    Water Area in Square Miles: 5.527 Jurisdiction Name: Long Lake township
    MTA Survey Data
    Number of Township Parcels: 4889 Township Provides Water Service: No
    Type of Fire Service: Jointly operates with another unit of government Number of Water Connections: 0
    Type of Police Protection: Contracts from other unit of government or authori Township Provides Sewer Service: No
    Type of Ambulance Service: Does not provide ambulance service Number of Sewer Connections: 0
    Downtown Development Authority: No Master/Land Use Plan: Yes
    Economic Development Corporation: No Zoning Ordinance: Has own zoning

  3. October 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Gary – when I read the many passionate posts on My Wheels Are Turning, and the equally passionate responses, it is obvious that the Grand Vision is NOT dead, and that we are developing new leadership prepared to make the change that people identified in their Vision. Thanks for the great commentary!

    John, you give ‘townships’ too much credit. The Grand Vision is not about townships – it is about cities and villages. Let’s not focus on how to get townships to stop sprawling. I’m tired of complaining about townships. They get entirely too much attention and resources. Instead, let’s focus on what we can do to make our cities and villages more attractive and vibrant so that they become magnets for growth. As the Leinberger article points out, people are looking for walkable communities. Let’s work to build them into great places. I’ll bet if we do, townships will become much less attractive for growth, and consume much less resources and attention… My new motto about townships: ignore them and maybe they’ll go away!

  4. October 29, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I appreciate you’re input here, Jim. You’re involvement with the GV from its inception is also greatly appreciated. I agree that there are a lot of discussions that do, and could, take place that are simply distractions (the townships dilemma is a great example). And, to be honest, that is one reason why I have been hesitant to even write about the GV. What’s the point? A lot of work that could be called “GV work” is already happening in the community and doesn’t really require the GV brand. The organizations (like MLUI, GRTLC, the COG, Watershed Center…) are already in place and doing good work.

    Individual citizens are the ones who could utilize a strong GV, for information, tools and resources. Currently, that’s not what we have. I’m trying to imagine an organization that is able to embrace and support a diverse array of citizen led energy without attempting to control it, and still assisting those people to shape “their vision” and actualize a plan.

  5. October 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Hey Gary, what kind of information and what kind of tools would you see as useful for citizens?

  6. October 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I said “I’m trying to imagine” it and hope to find that clarity of thought for a follow-up post next week.

  7. October 29, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Seems to me like some kind of map based tool would be a good thing, allowing folks to dream and think and see what their neighbors are envisioning.

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