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Here’s How

Michigan can keep its water clean with Smart Growth

August 1, 2001 | By Patty Cantrell
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Michigan’s water — its value and vulnerability — is already a central theme of the 2002 election season.

But making sure candidates actually take Smart Growth action to protect water — safeguarding natural assets while growing local economies — is a matter of public pressure. Voters need to specify the land use reforms they want to protect the water they love.

The Michigan Land Use Institute offers the growth management and water protection agenda below for citizens, local officials, and the media to use as they evaluate campaign promises.

Make a high-level commitment to growth management. Michigan’s next governor must personally instill a Smart Growth ethic throughout state government and across township, county, and municipal lines.

Invest state funds the Smart Growth way. State financing for schools, government buildings, and public works projects should go only to areas already outfitted with infrastructure — water, sewer, and roads — or where communities plan to grow.

Encourage communities to work together. State government should create incentives to reward local governments that work with neighboring communities when planning for growth. Rivers and watersheds do not obey political boundaries. Communities must collaborate to protect their common natural assets.

Make room for innovation. The Legislature should remove bureaucratic obstacles to local and regional innovations. Laws behind traditional planning and zoning, for example, have promoted sprawling development across the state.

Lansing must help not hinder. The state should cooperate with local, citizen-based planning efforts and assist them by upholding environmental laws.

State agencies often work at cross-purposes with local governments by allowing damaging development and by building new roads through farmland and wetlands that communities aim to keep free of pavement.

Provide resources for coordinated planning. State government should support communities across Michigan that are eager to plan for Smart Growth but do not have adequate financial or technical resources. PC

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