Michigan Land Use Institute

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Smart Growth Movement News

June 16, 2003 |

New! Tastes Great!

Heidi Johnson
  Traverse City’s farmers market
With summer comes the full blooming of the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s "Select a Taste of Michigan" pilot program. The department persuaded 68 grocery stores in metro Grand Rapids to stock local crops on their shelves, a first step in what will become a statewide program. But the rest of Michigan doesn’t have to wait; fans of local produce can go to www.michigan.gov/mda or call 800-292-3939 for two handy buy-local guides to fresh, homegrown farm products statewide — "Michigan Marketplace" and "U-Pick Directory."

Fix It Later

Gary Howe
As governor, John Engler pronounced road repair a priority. But he and the Republican-led Legislature always poured a big share of the state’s road money into new pavement rather than repairs, at one point borrowing $800 million to do so. Then, Democrat Jennifer Granholm campaigned on a fix-it-first road plan that delays some road building in favor of repairs, as the Institute and its allies had long sought. Now that the governor has made good on her promise, Republican lawmakers are defying her by trying to restore $400 million in new projects that she postponed. Given how bad the state’s deficit is, this smacks of a partisan attempt to bleed away Ms. Granholm’s suburban support by forcing her to veto local construction projects. By the way, the state’s road conditions still rank among the worst in the nation. Read more about the state’s bumpy transportation politicking at www.mlui.org.

Thinking Outside of the Box

Acme Township, that northern Michigan hotbed of anti-sprawl activity, wants to build a "new urbanist" Town Center where now only green grass grows. One of the state’s first, it would slow sprawl and preserve farmland around Traverse City. But in April the shopping center developer leading the project claimed, without presenting any evidence, that for the center to succeed it needed two 200,000-square-foot "big box" stores, complete with acres of parking, to succeed. He offered no assurances that this would not ruin the center’s defining "small town" ambiance. This forced the township board to take a position on the controversial suggestion. They stood by their vision, at least for the time being, and voted the big box out of the little village. Now the Institute is gathering examples of boxless town centers for a neighborly show-and-tell at an upcoming trustees’ meeting.

There is Only So Much Water in the Ground

There are people out of luck but, even worse, there is People Out of Water - a group of Saginaw County citizens facing severe problems pumping water from their household wells. The problem first appeared in 1998; since then the number of homeowners left high and dry, apparently from heavy summertime agricultural groundwater pumping, reportedly has grown from 20 to more than 200. Saginaw is one of several Michigan regions enduring water shortages because no laws exist to balance the rising demand for water with the amount actually available. Despite public support for state management of high-volume groundwater withdrawals, the state Legislature recently delayed any meaningful action for at least two more years. For more information or to contribute to the group’s legal fund, contact Carolyn Allen at 989-643-5139 or carolyn.allen@worldnet.att.net. The Institute’s coverage of water withdrawal legislation is at www.mlui.org.

Go to the Head of the Class

Courtesy Jackson High School(left)
MLUI/Mac McClelland(right)
  Jackson High School: 1937 (left) and 2003 (right)
While many school boards exacerbate sprawl by building new facilities on the outskirts of town, some districts realize the value in renovating historic, in-town schools. Three happy examples: Renovation of the Escanaba Middle School, built in the mid-1930s, is nearing completion. Harbor Springs is now building a new middle school next to an existing, downtown elementary school and renovating its mid-1930s high school. And the citizens of Jackson recently celebrated the renovation of their downtown high school, built in 1927.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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