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Smart Talk

Ready, Set, Goals!

October 8, 2003 | By Hans Voss
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Photo: Brian Confer

After last year’s election, the Institute realized that a hopeful new consensus had emerged in Michigan: After years of discussing the problem, the state’s business, agricultural, environmental, and government leaders were finally ready to do something about sprawl.

In August the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council, on which I was privileged to serve during its five-month existence, confirmed what we said.

The 26-member bipartisan body published a far-reaching set of recommendations that seek to dismantle state government policies that for a half century have driven development out of city centers and into the countryside. Considering the diverse makeup of the council — homebuilders, environmentalists, farmers, business leaders, township officials, and others — you can imagine it wasn’t easy. But like any effective planning body, we started by crafting a vision.

We agreed on many things: Michigan needs thriving cities that attract talented workers and young families. People need more choices for where to live, where to shop and recreate, and how to get around. We need a farm, industrial, and tourism economy that can compete in the 21st century. And we need parks, clean beaches, and natural areas that make our lives more enjoyable. The council members swiftly came together around this vision for Michigan.

Many of the reforms the council proposes will take years, maybe decades, to establish. The first step, though, is clear: The state must adopt statewide land use goals to formalize a vision for Michigan. These goals, which drew nearly unanimous council support, would guide state agency decisions, direct spending on roads, sewers, water lines, and other public infrastructure, and ensure that new state legislation supports existing communities, not more sprawl.

As a reader of the Great Lakes Bulletin and someone who cares about Michigan’s future, you understand what’s at stake. You know that we can do better than sprawl in this great state. Let your elected officials know you want them to support statewide land use goals.

Hans Voss is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s executive director. Reach him at hans@mlui.org.

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