Peninsula Township Supervisor Isaiah Wunsh and Trustees Maura Sanders and Armen Shanafelt meet with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission on Jan. 17, 2024, regarding the Bluff Road closure | Jane Boursaw Photo
Peninsula Township Supervisor Isaiah Wunsh and Trustees Maura Sanders and Armen Shanafelt meet with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission on Jan. 17, 2024, regarding the Bluff Road closure | Jane Boursaw Photo
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At the request of the Peninsula Township Board, a discussion to re-open the closed part of Bluff Road has taken place with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission. The road was closed in January of 2020 due to erosion, and decertification by the Road Commission took place last fall.

On Jan. 17, 2024, Township Supervisor Isaiah Wunsch and Trustees Maura Sanders and Armen Shanafelt, along with Mission Hills resident Jim Raphael, met with members of the Road Commission at their office in Traverse City.

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The group agreed to move forward with a scaled-back plan, using the plan originally presented in May 2022 as a basis, but making it less extensive and less costly than the initial cost of $3 million or more – which the Road Commission has said it cannot justify spending for a stretch of road with little traffic. As Township Supervisor, Wunsch has the authority to approve a cost of $10,000 or less for this plan, with the Township’s Engineering Firm, Gourdie Fraser, doing the work.

As discussed at the meeting, funding for the road reconstruction may come from a low-cost loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with other possible funds from Peninsula Township, the Road Commission and/or Mission Hills, the subdivision most affected by the road closure. The upcoming application window for the FEMA loan is Feb. 1 through April 30.

Northern section of Bluff Road permanently closed due to erosion | Jane Boursaw Photo
Northern section of Bluff Road permanently closed due to erosion | Jane Boursaw Photo

Mission Hills Developer Files Lawsuit Against Road Commission

In related news, Mission Hills developer Josephine Roek filed a Complaint suing the Road Commission for damages. As noted in the Complaint, which you can read in full here:

“This action involves an eroding stretch of Bluff Road located approximately between Boursaw Road and Blue Water Road on the Old Mission Peninsula. The erosion occurred during a time of high water on East Bay approximately three years ago. Only recently has the Grand Traverse County Road Commission acted to decertify the closed section of Bluff Road. The decertification officially indicates that Bluff Road is no longer being actively maintained. The further inaction in fixing the deteriorating road will further worse the condition of the roadway.

“The inaction of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission has dramatically worsened the condition of Bluff Road and decertification without a realistic actionable solution poses a real financial harm to the residents of the roadway. Further, the road closure provides risky delays for emergency vehicles, be it for fires or medical emergencies.”

The Complaint goes on to say that due to the closing and decertification of the roadway, the value of Roek’s property has been significantly impacted. Also, that the Road Commission has failed to maintain Bluff Road in reasonable repair so that it’s “reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.”

The Complaint notes that by engaging in the lack of action, the Road Commission has caused significant financial damage to Roek, “estimated to be in excess of $4 million.”

In conclusion, Roek requests that, in part, the Court:

  • Issue findings of fact and conclusions of law that the Road Commission has violated its duty to Roek and the community;
  • Issue a Judgment sufficient to compensate Roek for the loss of value to her property;
  • Compel the Road Commission to “do its duty to certify Bluff Road and repair it such that it’s reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.”

Read all Bluff Road news and opinions here.

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A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

Bay View Insurance of Traverse City Michigan

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