Petoskey railroad purchase is close

From the Petoskey News-Review

Petoskey officials have tentatively closed on their long-sought acquisition of a rail corridor running through the city’s downtown area.

The 1.17-mile route, which was owned by the state of Michigan, extends from Emmet Street to the Petoskey city limit near Bay View.

City officials have conceptual plans for developing the route into a linear park. It would include sidewalks along the entire length that would link surrounding neighborhoods with the business district. In addition, the city owns a trolley which could operate along part of the corridor to shuttle visitors to and from remote parking lots.

In the downtown area, the corridor includes railroad tracks and surrounding property. Tracks have been removed from the segment between Winter Park Lane and Bay View.

Following last week’s tentative closing, city parks and recreation director Al Hansen noted that a formality remains to be completed in the purchase process. An administrative board within the Michigan Department of Transportation still must approve the release of deed and title documents. If any complications block the way, Hansen said the state would be obligated to return the payment for the corridor.

To assist with the city’s $895,000 corridor acquisition, some $577,000 in funding was provided through the Transportation Enhancement Activities Surface Transportation Program administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation and the United States Federal Highway Administration.

A year or so ago, city officials were figuring on an acquisition cost of about $670,000. But based on discrepancies between maps used for the city’s property appraisal and those used by MDOT, Hansen said the purchase ended up including more square footage along the route than earlier anticipated.

MDOT was able to boost the transportation grant amount by more than $200,000 to offset the additional land value.

“They were willing to work with us on that,” Hansen said.

An $80,000 allocation of parking reserve funds overseen by Petoskey’s Downtown Management Board was among the local funding sources applied to the purchase.

With the corridor acquisition largely complete, city officials have begun considering funding sources to help with development of the linear park features. Staff are preparing an application to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for grant funding to help pay for the first phase of corridor development between Bay Street and MacDonald Drive. Hansen anticipates that Petoskey’s parks and recreation commission and the city council will review the proposed application in the near future.