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Acting As a Region to Tame Sprawl

Grand Rapids leads the way in Michigan

April 1, 1999 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

  • Creston and other urban neighborhoods are experiencing a growing surge of reinvestment.

  • Suburban townships are preserving farmland and protecting natural resources.

  • Local governments are cooperating on zoning plans that cross jurisdictions.

  • New developments are reviving traditional town and neighborhood design principles, such as mixing residential and commercial uses.

Considering Michigan's political climate, such accomplishments have come against very long odds. Michael Julien, supervisor of Cascade Township, speaks of the "paradox of Metro Council." On the one hand, he said, it must be influential enough to convince people of its legitimacy, but not so large and powerful to scare away constituents and many of its own members concerned about fostering big government.

Gerald L. Felix, the Council's executive director, is frank about the limits on his organization. "Government is about process, and we are trying to develop the process to reach very significant goals," he said.

It is for this reason that Metro Council has achieved the most success in popular programs to protect natural resources, and the least in the much touchier realm of transportation, especially in finding alternatives to expensive new highways that promote sprawl. (See the article on page 13.)

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