Michigan Land Use Institute

MLUI / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / Groundswells


October 8, 2003 | By Jim Dulzo
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

MLUI/Kimberli Bindschatel

Yes! Good news: In July the Grand Traverse region thrice said, “Yes!” to better transportation and zoning choices. Leelanau and Grand Traverse County voters approved both a millage renewal and an increase for its regional bus system that together will restore some services, expand routes, and allow the purchase of cleaner, quieter, more efficient hybrid buses, and, perhaps, a wind turbine to help power them. Also, Elmwood Township residents overturned sprawl-inducing zoning ordinances the township board had stubbornly refused to retire. Meanwhile, well-organized metropolitan Grand Rapids public transit boosters convinced their bus system’s board to put a small, service-enhancing millage increase on the November ballot. Six hundred people have made written promises to work for its passage.

Green for TEA!
Since 1991 the federal Transportation Enhancement Act has funded trails, sidewalks, and bicycle lanes, including about 1,000 projects in Michigan. But in August, a U.S. House committee instead redirected the funding toward more new roads, triggering a grassroots uproar that surprised even TEA’s advocates. The House reversed the committee in August with a 327 to 90 vote; among Michigan’s delegation, only Republican Nick Smith opposed restoring $600 million for TEA — less than one percent of the federal highway budget. Check www.americabikes.org for details.

Nothing to Roar About – Yet Michigan is almost as bad at investing its own dollars in innovative affordable housing as the Tigers are at winning baseball games: Per capita, it ranks 48th among 50 states in raising state funds to support developers and nonprofit organizations interested in building reasonably priced houses for people who can’t afford the suburbs. Now the state Legislature is considering bills (HB 4787-4789 and SB 522-524) that would offer businesses a tax deduction for voluntarily contributing to the fund. Backers hope to use the report from the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council, which supports the idea, as a catalyst for hearings on the proposals.

Big Stink

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Ottawa County officials are wrinkling noses with a brochure featuring a manure-scented scratch ‘n’ sniff strip. The message: If you move here, be ready to adjust to the ways of
agriculture and don’t even think about suing farmers over them. Area banks, realtors, and title companies are distri- buting the brochure. Ottawa County’s innovative track record in agriculture includes launching the state’s first Transfer of Development Rights program, which directs developers’ fees to farmers while redirecting the development itself to areas already zoned for new housing.

Dream Kitchens
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Think your secret salsa recipe is ready for store shelves? How about dehydrating vegetables for a brisk business in backpacker meals? Michigan entrepreneurs will soon be able to test and perfect their new food products at two kitchen business incubators opening next year, thanks to a major grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems, the nonprofit group that worked to bring the incubators to Huron and Oceana counties, says the kitchens will provide food and farm entrepreneurs with invaluable access to commercial equipment, food science professionals, and business development expertise.
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