The Boyne City Planning Commission was presented with drafts of the M-75 Corridor Plan at its Monday Jan. 15 meeting.
Included are highlights from the draft plan, history of the project, recommendations and implementation.
Chapter 1: Introduction
As a Redevelopment Ready certified community, Boyne City continually seeks opportunities to put its best foot forward and project a positive place to live, visit, and do business. In order to ensure one of its “front doors” matches the quality design exemplified elsewhere in the city, especially its downtown, Boyne City sought the cooperation of Wilson and Boyne Valley Townships for an M-75 Corridor plan through the support of the Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) technical assistance program. This document summarizes their common goals and recommendations to ensure the M-75 gateway is safe, attractive, and welcoming.
A. M-75 Corridor Vision
“M-75 is a beautiful, safe, prosperous, and environmentally-friendly corridor that respects the rural character of our community.”
B. Overarching Goals for the M-75 Corridor
C. Corridor Planning to Date
Preceding this plan, Boyne City took a number of steps to facilitate cooperation and promote safety along M-75:
Partnerships for Change
Boyne City, Wilson Township, and Boyne Valley Township agreed upon the common vision and strategies for the M-75 corridor during a process coordinated by Land Information Access Association (LIAA).
Safe Routes to School
Recently, Boyne City secured a Michigan Safe Routes to School grant to study the area surrounding the school complex. Sidewalks were added to connect the south side of M-75 to Beardsley St., Brockway St., and the elementary school. Continued safety for students is a priority for Boyne City.
Existing Access Management Regulations
Boyne City already has a robust section on access management principles in its zoning ordinance.
Recently, Wilson Township adopted a version of those standards. This plan provides recommendations to improve the Boyne City standards, which can then be adopted by the Townships.
In the past, the City and Townships have coordinated new development and access to utilities through 425 agreements where the sites in the Township utilize the City’s utilities and zoning and agree upon sharing of future tax revenue for a period of time. As sites along M-75 redevelop and may enter into 425 agreements, it will be critical that the zoning for both the City and Townships complement one another.
D. Why this Plan was Prepared
This access management plan was undertaken by Boyne City, Wilson Township, and Boyne Valley Township to coordinate access management improvements along the M-75 corridor by building upon previous and ongoing planning processes along the corridor and developing a mutually agreed upon process of coordination for future improvements to achieve the goals and vision for M-75 described above. The following sections of the plan give recommendations for site design (Chapter 2), street and access design (Chapter 3), a roadmap for implementation (Chapter 4), and a revised access management zoning ordinance article, specific to the needs of the corridor, that can be adopted by the three communities (Chapter 5). This would be amendments to Boyne City Zoning Ordinance, Article XXIV, Section 24.90 language for the two townships.
Chapter 2: Site Design
A. Physical Assessment
Overall, the district lacks cohesion and is home to a variety of ages and quality of buildings and inconsistent site design. Many of the buildings are dated and do not project the high quality design desired by the communities. Often, the relationship between the public realm ends and the private realm starts is ill-defined, with wide driveways, lack of sidewalks or pathways, and large parking lots that dominate front yards.
B. Design Opportunities
Many sites can be redeveloped with better design to maximize their potential for new businesses, circulation, and site design. In order to promote the best possible corridor aesthetics, the following site design principles are suggested:
Parking and Access
Landscape and Streetscape
Lighting and Signage
Recommended Site and Right-of-Way Design
C. Zoning Amendments
Suggested changes to Boyne City’s existing zoning ordinance are being provided to city staff for further evaluation by the planning commission based on the recommendations provided above.
Chapter 3: Street and Access Design
A. Principles of Access Management
Factors that influence the “front door” or gateway impression of entering a city include building and architectural design, landscaping, signage, and the travel experience, including traffic flows and ease of access. Traffic flow and ease of access are directly impacted by the number and location of driveways along a corridor. This section describes the principles of access management, a set of proven and beneficial techniques to manage the location, design, and type of access to property.
B. Benefits of Access Management
Access management practices provide multifold benefits to communities, motorists, businesses, land owners, developers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and the public. Based on research and studies on similar corridors, some of these benefits are as follows:
Optimum driveway spacing simplifies driving by reducing the amount of information to which a driver must process and react. Adequate spacing between driveways and un-signalized roadways (or other driveways) can reduce confusion that otherwise requires drivers to watch for ingress and egress traffic at several points simultaneously while controlling their vehicle and monitoring other traffic ahead and behind them. Reducing the amount of information related to selecting an access point and avoiding conflicting turns and traffic provides greater opportunity to see and safely react to automobiles in the street and pedestrians and bicyclists on pathways and sidewalks.
C. Existing Transportation-related Conditions
Within this section, discussion of existing conditions is broken down into three sections focused on Traffic and Roadway Characteristics, Pedestrian and Non-Motorized Transportation, Existing and Future Land Use, and Current Access Characteristics along the corridor.
Traffic & Roadway Characteristics
The corridor addressed in this plan is an approximately 1-mile stretch of M-75 that extends from the eastern part of Boyne City, Wilson, and Boyne Valley Townships (See map). M-75 is a two-lane undivided highway without curbs for the majority of the corridor. The most recent available data from MDOT is that traffic volumes average 3600 ADT along the corridor, which is about 1/3 of the capacity. However, seasonal volumes can be much higher on peak summer days. No plans by MDOT to widen M-75 within the study corridor have been announced.
Pedestrian & Non-motorized Transportation
Transportation use along M-75 is primarily vehicular. There are no sidewalks along the majority of the corridor. One exception is a sidewalk within the study corridor added to the south side of M-75 to connect the south side of M-75 to Beardsley St., Brockway St., and the elementary school. This sidewalk was completed by Boyne City through a Safe Routes to School grant. Under current conditions with no sidewalks, limited curbs, and no designated bicycle infrastructure, experienced bicyclists may feel comfortable riding along the shoulder of the road, but less experienced riders may feel less comfortable riding along the corridor.
Existing & Future Land Use
Land use along the corridor is a mixture of commercial, service, retail, residential, and light industrial uses typical to a rural northern Michigan community corridor.
Current Access Characteristics
Currently, there are 50 commercial access driveways along the 1-mile corridor. The eastern portion of the corridor has a posted speed limit of 55 MPH, while the western half of the corridor has a posted speed limit of 45 MPH. Seventeen of the commercial drives fall into the 55 MPH zone, with the remaining 33 commercial drives located in the 45 MPH stretch nearing downtown Boyne City. The drives exhibit a variety of geometries with some paved and some not. Few have curbs, but most do not so the access is not well defined. Many commercial businesses along the corridor have multiple driveways within close proximity to one another. Many are not well spaced from driveways across the street.
D. Access Management Standards
Access management is a shared responsibility of MDOT and the municipalities. MDOT has standards that must be met for a permit to be issued, mostly related to access design and safety. MDOT does have does have guidelines for the number and spacing of driveways, but looks to the municipalities to help regulate those through the zoning ordinance and site plan review. Boyne City has a robust section on
access management principles in its zoning ordinance. Recently, Wilson Township adopted a version of those standards. This plan provides recommendations to improve the Boyne City and Wilson Township standards by bringing them closer to MDOT recommendations, which can then be adopted by the City and Townships.
Current commercial driveway spacing along the M-75 corridor compared with MDOT’s preferred standard for un-signalized driveways is summarized in the table below. These standards apply to commercial driveways and not existing single-family residential drives along the corridor. However, formerly residential properties that have been converted to commercial business uses may be regulated by the access management standards.
If this corridor were developed today, under current MDOT access management standards, there would be over 30 fewer driveways. Given existing lot sizes, topography, and the development on many of the sites, full compliance with those standards as new development or redevelopment occurs is not practical. The goal then is to try to strike a balance to gradually move closer to the MDOT spacing standards. In particular, to:
E. Access Management Recommendations
The M-75 Access Management Plan was developed based on the analysis of existing conditions and constraints, and consideration of MDOT access guidelines, and review of the city’s current zoning code.
Much of the corridor is already developed, so application of preferred standards for driveway spacing and design will be gradual as sites develop. Strict adherence to MDOT standards will often be impractical. Even in cases of larger scale development and redevelopment, the site and area transportation conditions may require flexibility in the application of standards, so they are effective and equitable while meeting the intent of this plan. The following section discusses the key access design criteria that were used during the analysis of the M-75 Access Management Plan area.
In areas where service drives are desired, implementation may be gradual as individual sites develop or redevelop. When adjacent properties have not yet developed, the site should be designed to accommodate a future service drive, with access easements provided. The Townships, City, or MDOT may temporarily grant individual properties a direct connection until the frontage road or service drive is constructed. The direct access point to the main roadway should be closed when the frontage road or service drive is constructed.
Service drives are usually constructed and maintained by the property owner or an association of adjacent owners. The service drive itself should be constructed to public roadway standards regarding cross section, materials, design, and alignment.
Chapter 4: Implementation
A. How to Use the Access Management Plan
The preceding chapters and accompanying figures outline how the recommended access management recommendations are applied within the overall plan area. The average speed of traffic along a given corridor is one of several design parameters used to develop driveway spacing standards; others include sight distance (the ability to see traffic approaching from the east and west) that is affected by physical conditions such as road curves, topography, and poles or signs that may inhibit views.
While some of the recommendations can be directly implemented, many are long-term initiatives that will require an ongoing partnership and commitment between MDOT and Boyne City, Boyne Valley Township, and Wilson Township. This requires the township planning commissions, boards, and zoning boards of appeals to be aware of the benefits of access management and their role in the Plan’s implementation.
Benefits also need to be explained to property owners, so they can understand the important public purpose behind the regulations, and that they are assured reasonable access. This collaborative approach has been successful in many other northern Michigan communities.
B. Implementation of the Plan Standards and Recommendations
One technique to help implement the Plan is to amend the local zoning ordinance to acknowledge the special standards and review procedures for the corridor. Amendments to the communities’ zoning ordinance access management articles were prepared and revised to meet the needs of the communities and support MDOT’s roadway goals.
As noted at the beginning of this document, access management is a set of proven techniques that can help reduce traffic congestion, preserve the flow of traffic, improve traffic safety, minimize crash frequencies, preserve existing roadway capacity and preserve investment in roads by managing the location, design and type of access to property. More than one technique is usually required to effectively address existing or anticipated traffic problems.
The adopted zoning ordinance amendment is included in Chapter 5. As many of the existing sites along the corridor will not be able to meet the access management standards, the ordinances provide the authority to modify the standards on a case-by-case basis, with the guidance of the plan
recommendations where applicable. The ordinance provides the City and Township Planning Commissions with the authority to modify the standards and plan recommendations during site plan review, based on input from MDOT staff prior to the communities’ approval of the site plan.
A coordinated and comprehensive access management approach is essential if future development and redevelopment in the plan area is to be accommodated and traffic safety and flow in the area is to be improved. Development decisions along the plan corridor are under the purview of several agencies.
The City and Townships have jurisdiction over land use planning, zoning, site plan and subdivision review outside of the M-75 corridor right-of-way. The Charlevoix County Road Commission has jurisdiction over all the public roads, except MDOT has control over improvements within the M-75 right-of-way. The existence of multiple governing agencies makes a formal, mutually agreed upon approval process an essential element to the future success and implementation of this plan. The following section establishes a formal access review procedure.
C. Access Review and Approval Procedure
The flow chart illustrated below outlines the process to be followed in reviewing any development proposal or any project or situation that triggers access review along the plan corridor. It provides for a coordinated review by the City, Townships, and MDOT. The intent of the process is to ensure that the City’s and Townships’ review of the access design and the Charlevoix County Road Commission and/or MDOT’s access permit processes are coordinated to implement the recommendations of this plan. The process provides feedback loops between the planning commissions and MDOT as modifications are made to access and circulation.
D. Implementation Opportunities
To continue the implementation of the M-75 Access Management Plan, a Steering Committee should continue to meet on a regular basis; this plan recommends a quarterly or bi-annual meeting. These meetings will provide a forum to discuss and coordinate major development proposals, traffic impact studies, right-of-way preservation and roadway cross-section designs, rezoning proposals, ordinance text amendments, master plan updates, roadway improvements or reconstruction, non-motorized transportation, streetscape enhancement, and other issues along the corridor.
There are several situations that may arise that each offer opportunities to implement recommendations of this plan, including:
It should be noted that the recommendations outlined in this plan can be used on other roadways or corridors with existing or expected future access management issues. The underlying benefits obtained by maintaining good control of the number and location of commercial access points can be realized on all major roads.
Typical Driveway Closure Costs
Funding Possibilities – confirm language with MDOT
Projects that are a partnership between MDOT and two or more cities tend to be prioritized for grants.
Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) is a process used by MDOT to evaluate transportation conditions along a corridor or in a particular district. Typically MDOT PEL projects are larger scale
(recently used on the Division Street project in Traverse City). A PEL might be eligible if the study area were extended further into Boyne City. While PEL is a program to fund study and design, Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is an MDOT program to provide funding for design and construction of right-of-way projects to improve safety with an emphasis to improve pedestrian and bicycle conditions.
In order to facilitate streetscape improvements and revitalization, the three communities could pursue a Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) as a financing tool. A CIA, through a Tax Increment Financing Authority (TIFA), would capture state, county, and local tax increases resulting from the redevelopment of sites within the district. A CIA helps fund qualifying public infrastructure improvements, marketing initiatives, and economic growth projects.
Chapter 5: Amendments to the Current Ordinance – Forthcoming
Closure Type Estimated Cost*
Close/Remove Existing Commercial Driveway $5,750 – $11,500
Close/Remove Two Driveways and Construct a Shared Driveway
$17,250 – $28,750
*Costs typically borne by site owner if/when site redevelops/improves, unless planned MDOT roadway improvement project provides funds and/or local incentives are provided. Costs based on 2017 dollars.