Michigan Land Use Institute

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Sprawlbusters Update

Inside the Institute's Projects

March 17, 2004 |

Sprouting Those Seeds

MLUI/Johanna Miller

Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth Director David Hollister addresses the Seeds of Prosperity conference.
It’s hard to say what the best moment was among the many great ones during the Institute’s Seeds of Prosperity conference last November. One hundred eighty local and state leaders gathered to learn about saving farmland by growing entrepreneurial agriculture. A fine glow emerged among the economic developers, farm and food entrepreneurs, planners, and government officials, who were inspired by provocative speakers, engaging discussion panels, a backwoods “Tree to Table” bus tour of local growers and food processors, and an amazing buffet dinner of homegrown food. Even the Institute’s ever-modest Patty Cantrell, who produced the conference, had to admit it all went awfully well: From the standing ovation at the close, to the enthusiastic written evaluations, it’s clear Seeds of Prosperity found fertile ground.

Patty is already on to her next Big Idea: Building a step-by-step program to transform the Seeds of Prosperity vision into an economic reality in northwestern Michigan. She’s investigating ways to help food producers reach local markets in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties: Local food guides, farm-to-school food program trials, list-serves, Web sites, and more. Patty is tracking down foundation support for the idea, as well as for enabling the Institute to help grassroots food and farm voices strengthen their voice in Lansing. She also is seeking funding to connect the country’s best writers on entrepreneurial agriculture with a national audience via the Institute’s mean communications machine.

Little Finger, Big Handful

MLUI/Gary Howe

Jody Treter and Scuba pause at the overcrowded Leelanau Courthouse. Debate is intense over where to build its replacement
Leelanau County, the Michigan mitt’s little finger, punctuates its rolling meadows, cherry orchards, and forests with villages whose names reflect the region’s colorful history and ecology: Empire and Northport, Glen Arbor and Maple City. Leelanau’s 27 percent population jump between 1990 and 2000 inspired the Institute to launch the Leelanau Smart Growth Coalition last summer. It works with citizens to channel growth there in wiser directions. Organizers Johanna Miller and Jim Lively sure have their hands full: The aftermath of a bitter recall election in February over high-density zoning in an agricultural district; county commissioners who support a Purchase of Development Rights ordinance but not a vote on financing it; a drive to move the county seat to a greenfield. The Institute will transfer Johanna and Jim’s successful organizing techniques to other counties where citizens want better land use. Preview our new LSGC Web site, which we are building at www.mlui.org/leelanau.

One of Kelly Thayer’s first gigs as director of the Institute’s northwest Michigan land use and transportation projects is almost across the street from our Beulah office: Crystal Lake. A state Department of Natural Resources plan to build a large boat launch on the lake has anglers, lakefront property owners, and some Benzie County residents buzzing with concern. Kelly and Jim Lively led many community meetings about the controversies involved and then authored a three-part proposal: Downsize the DNR’s plan, upgrade Beulah’s beachfront facilities, and better manage lake recreation. Their ideas became a striking brochure that helped attract an amazing 250 people to a hearing in February. To download the brochure, 3 Steps to Improve Public Access, or catch up on the issue, visit www.mlui.org.

The Dynamic Duo

MLUI/Gary Howe

Youngsters at Grand Rapids’ Franklin Elementary School, one of the school building restoration success stories featured in the Institute’s recent report, Hard Lessons.
Inspired by a good relationship during their work on Governor Granholm’s Michigan Land Use Leadership Council, the Institute and Detroit Branch NAACP launched their first collaboration — Living for the City. Funded by People and Land and coordinated for the Institute by our own Charlene Crowell, the initiative will use a series of community meetings to gather Detroiters’ views on three under-discussed Smart Growth issues: Affordable housing, race relations, and public transportation. The NAACP and the Institute will communicate those views to the city’s African American community, city leaders, state legislators, and the Granholm administration and publish a special report about our findings and recommendations.

Neighborhood Schools Project Director Mac McClelland proposed a list of resolutions to the State Board of Education in March that are based on Hard Lessons, the Institute’s report about public school location decisions and sprawl. Mac is also working with state Representative Phil LaJoy on companion legislation. The Institute’s next step: Technical fact sheets that help school boards better understand what their communities want for and from their schools, and how renovating old schools rather than building new ones out of town produces savings and better facilities.

Charlene and Mac are also working with the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Environmental Council, and state Representative Jason Allen (R-Traverse City) on one of the Institute’s Top 10 picks from the land use council’s 160 recommendations: Commerce centers. All of our picks are at www.mlui.org; just click that snazzy “10 Ways” banner. While you’re there, check out Charlene’s Lansing Lowdown, interviews with capital leaders. She kicked it off in style — a Q&A with Governor Granholm.

Beyond the Summit

Last December’s historic Transit Summit in Lansing, hosted by the Michigan Department of Transportation, marked MDOT’s expanded commitment to including citizens in its reshaping of policies for the 21st century. Members of the Michigan Transit and Land Use Coalition (T-LUC), the statewide group formed five years ago by the Institute and the Michigan Environmental Council, worked at the event along with MDOT officials, industry lobbyists, and local officials. Several T-LUC members and allies agreed to assist the post-summit process by moderating further discussion, brainstorming, and fact gathering for MDOT. League of Michigan Bicyclists’ Lucinda Means is looking at ways to better inform people about everything from traffic-snarling road repairs to new MDOT policy pronouncements. United Cerebral Palsy Michigan’s Kevin Wisselink is studying how to increase transportation choices for people with disabilities. The Michigan Public Transit Association’s Clark Harder is considering ways to better coordinate public transit systems and more smoothly link plane, bus, train, auto, bicycle, and pedestrian use.

Kelly Thayer launched the Institute’s statewide transportation project in 1999; now he’s shifting focus from Lansing to Grand Traverse and Benzie counties, where he’s helping communities link public transportation to sound land use and leading the battle against the proposed bridge across the Boardman River valley. His latest gift as one of our transportation experts: People and Pavement, a primer on “context-sensitive design” — a new approach to making sure highways and other transportation systems respect communities. It could soon be the norm in Michigan. His report so impressed the Federal Highway Administration and Planetizen.com that both posted links to it on their Web sites. Download or read it at ours: www.mlui.org.

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