Voters crush West Maple charter amendment

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 8, 2016

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The majority of residents who voted today — and there were lots of them — cast ballots against a proposed charter amendment dictating the lane configuration of West Maple Road.

Failing by 61 percent  -- with 4,447 votes against --   the citizen-initiated proposal would’ve amended the Birmingham City Charter to prevent a reconfiguration of West Maple Road from anything besides four lanes.

Just short of 39 percent of the ballots, or 2,820, were cast in favor of the amendment.

The issue was placed on the ballot after resident Jim Mirro filed a petition of more than 1,000 signatures for the cause. The proposal was a response to the City Commission’s decision to restripe West Maple Road from four lanes to three with a center turn lane between Cranbrook and Southfield roads on a trial basis.

Despite interim reports that the new lane configuration had successfully reduced vehicle crashes without impacting travel speeds, according to civil engineer Mike Labadie, some residents remained unconvinced.

Residents like David Uchida, who said outside City Hall Tuesday afternoon that he voted in favor of the charter amendment that would keep the stretch at four lanes.

“I voted yes because I think anything less (than four lanes) diminishes traffic through Birmingham,” he said. “We should be creating easier access.”

Patricia McGoon wouldn’t say how she cast her ballot, but she said there was one thing most voters seemed to agree on: They just couldn’t grasp the wording of the proposal.

“It was very confusing,” she said. “A few residents were talking; we were having a conversation in the hall about the verbage.”

The heavy language might’ve confused more than a few voters. Asked how she would vote, P. Lindroth said on her way into the precinct that she would vote yes, even though she was in favor of the new three-lane configuration.

“I think all the data they collected shows it’s slowing down traffic and (there are fewer accidents),” she said.

Had the proposal passed, the charter would’ve been amended to require West Maple Road between Cranbrook and Southfield and Woodward and Eton roads to remain four lanes. If the city were to ever consider reconfiguring that lane arrangement, an additional citywide vote would have to be held to amend the charter again and allow for the change.

The proposal, or perhaps the presidential primary, seemed to engage Birmingham voters. More than 7,200 votes were counted Tuesday night — nearly double the nearly 4,000 ballots that were cast in the most recent general election, on Nov. 3, 2015, that elected four new members to the Birmingham City Commission.

Mirro could not be reached for comment by press time.

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