A new phase for New Designs

TRAVERSE CITY – New Designs For Growth isn't about what you'll see. It's about what you won't see.

That's how Doug Verellen, co-chair for NDFG, explains it.

"What's so cool about living in this area, is exactly what's in danger as the area grows," he said. "New Designs for Growth works on managing that growth and preserving and enhancing the area. Growth in the area should be things that don't stand out, that blend in with the beauty of our area."

The goal of NDFG, led by the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, is to foster collaboration between regional units of government and private sector developers so that planned growth and progressive land use planning can occur, said Donna Lea Wilson, vice president for NDFG, who was recently hired by the Chamber to front the project.

As part of a collaborative effort that began over 14 years ago, the primary objective is to provide concrete tools that can be used as part of a regional growth management initiative.

The first phase of NDFG, which was spearheaded by Marsha Smith, Keith Charters and Ralph Bergsma, produced the Grand Traverse Bay Regional Development Guidebook, as well as significant work in the following areas:

– Protection of the natural beauty of this region

– Assistance to public and elected officials in land use planning

– Education about land use issues and protection of natural resources

– Collaboration and involvement by 82 units of government

"It's now time to take New Designs for Growth to the next level," Wilson said. "Major work has begun. We are drawing together a diverse group of private and public sector entities to work in partnership to preserve the beauty and natural quality of this region, while at the same time planning for the population growth that is inevitable."

Population projections for the Grand Traverse region predict dramatic growth between 2000 and 2020. This growth phenomenon is expected to occur as an offshoot of the "baby boomer" retirement surge and the desire for more families who seek quality of life in their living and working environment.

"As I have been out and about talking to folks about New Designs for Growth, I have found a lot of enthusiasm for this initiative," Wilson said. "Because it grew out of a broad-based community visioning process with input from all sectors, it is a highly respected movement. It is an open forum that has brought together some of the best minds and visionary 'movers and shakers' of our community."

To date, 150 volunteers have signed up to work on NDFG and are working in subcommittees (see sidebar.) According to Wilson, the process for NDFG will include:

– Survey: A survey will be developed that will be sent to the 93 units of government The goal of the survey will be to determine how the Guidebook is currently being used and what new support materials would be helpful in proactive land use planning. Focus groups will gather input from private sector developers, real estate professionals, engineers, architects, and other groups involved in commercial and residential development.

– Education: Based upon the results of the survey, materials will be updated and enhanced. This will include revision of the educational video, development of an educational website, and planning for upgrading of the Guidebook. Educational forums will be held for private sector planning professionals to present updated information. Believing that reaching local and state leadership is a key component to making change, presentations will also be made for the 2004 Michigan Leadership Training session in Thompsonville this month and for Leadership Grand Traverse in January 2005.

– Advocacy: A concerted effort will be made to advocate on the state level on behalf of the welfare of the Grand Traverse region. A Governmental Liaison has been identified to take the agenda of prudent land use planning and protection of the natural resources to the state legislature.

To find out more about the work of New Designs for Growth, visit the Chamber's website at tcchamber.org.