Council Meeting Highlights: LARA Trail Public Hearing Hot Topic on the Agenda

Council Chambers were filled with more than two dozen residents and interested parties during last night’s City Council meeting.  The item for which the majority of those in attendance came to gain more information or speak about was the proposed trail the Lowell Area Recreation Authority has brought before council.

The Connector Trail
The trail project has recently become a topic of discussion as the Lowell Area Recreation Authority (LARA) and the City of Lowell look to find grants to fund the project, which is estimated to cost $4.9 million dollars.  Submitting an application for a grant is the initial step. Including a proposed route with an application shows due diligence in planning for a project. The proposed route, while deemed the most logical, is not automatically the final destination of the trail.  LARA has prepared a frequently asked questions document to address some questions and concerns.   Dave Austin, a Lowell resident and representative from Williams & Works provided a brief summary of the project prior to listening to public comment.  He is also on the LARA board.

During the public discussion on the proposed route, several residents along Bowes Road spoke against having the trail pass by their home. One section of the trail will require easements from homeowners for completion. LARA experienced a similar need for approval when planning the first phase of their trail, which goes along Gee Drive then north on Alden Nash to the high school.  

A common concern with the five residents, who spoke during the meeting and will be affected by the trail, is a lack of communication from members of the LARA Board or the City.  The addition of a light at Hudson and Bowes Road is also an item of contention, with those living on Bowes Road concerned about increased vehicle traffic. The installation of this light is part of the S. Broadway project beginning later this month, but allows for an easier way for trail users to cross a busy street.  Other concerns which were noted include safety of children playing along a public trail, litter left behind by trail users, invasion of privacy, and loss of private property through easements.

Long-time residents Jim Pfaller and Mark Mundt both commented against the trail.  Pfaller stated he didn’t feel spending money on trails when city streets are in need of repair is the way to prioritize.  Mundt referred to residents along Bowes Road as “recipients of bad experiments” referring to the removal of trees and putting up poles for electrical lines along the road.  

Cliff Yankovich, a Lowell resident and local business owner spoke in favor of the trail, encouraging council to continue with the process and work with residents to find some common ground.  He noted, once completed, the 125 mile trail will be the fifth largest rail trail in the country with Lowell right in the middle. The manager of the Main Street Inn also wrote a letter, which was read into record, in support of the proposed trail.

City Council did not make any decisions regarding the trail after hearing public comments.  They will be asked at their next meeting to approve a resolution allowing the city to apply for a grant which will help secure some of the needed funds.  LARA is expected to vote upon a similar resolution for their group to submit a grant application on their behalf.

Other Agenda Items
Rebuilding the Showboat continues to move forward.  Councilmembers approved using C Fly Marine Services as the company to come up with an engineering design for the new boat.  The money to pay this company will come from the $1 million dollar grant received from the State of Michigan.

A LARA trail maintenance memorandum of understanding was also approved during the meeting.  This agreement lays out which governmental entity or the LARA group is responsible for specific sections of trail.  The document also describes routine maintenance the responsible party will maintain including snow removal, tree and brush trimming, mowing, replacing defective sections, and more.  

Finally, a Hazardous Mitigation Plan was adopted in order for the City to be eligible for “future funding for mitigation projects under multiple FEMA pre- and post- mitigation grant programs” as written in a memo from Mike Burns to councilmembers.  This plan should be adopted every five years. When dealing with the recent flooding in the city, it was discovered it was time for the plan to be adopted once again, as the last approval was more than five years ago.

City Manager Report

During his report, City Manager Mike Burns again thanked city staff, the Lowell Police Department, the Lowell Area Fire Department, and Suez for their work during the flood.  At the beginning of the meeting he also thanked each agency, naming specific people from each group who worked throughout the event.

Burns also introduced Amy Brown as the new Deputy Clerk.  She comes from Grattan Township and will begin on March 19, taking over for Theresa Mundt, who is retiring at the end of the month.  

After receiving questions regarding the construction on S. Broadway, Bridan Vilmont of Prein & Newhoff, will attend the next council meeting to answer questions and provide an update.  Construction is set to begin on March 12.

The wayfinding project, which will be completed by the end of this summer, continues to move forward.  A concept design for signs is anticipated to come before council shortly.

Meeting Information
The next City Council meeting will take place in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall on Monday, March 19 at 7pm.  Meeting minutes and agendas can be found on the city’s website.  And meetings can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.  Or check in with Lowell’s First Look after each meeting for a recap of what happened.

You can also listen to meetings live at WRWW the, Lowell High School’s radio station.  Tune in at 92.3 or listen on their webpage during meetings.  

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