Michigan Land Use Institute

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Growth Booming in Northwest Michigan

Institute works to make it Smart Growth

June 27, 2005 |

  Transportation Choices: One key to making Michigans cities, towns, and villages family-friendly, affordable places to live is providing more and better transportation choices. Click here to view the Institute’s Transportation Archives.

Research confirms what everyday observation indicates: Northwest Michigan is growing at an unprecedented rate. According to statistics assembled by the Michigan Land Use Institute, the counties stretching between Manistee and the Mackinac Bridge collectively added 25,000 more people in a recent five-year period; the new residents brought with them 43,500 more cars. And in that same time period, the region saw 35 percent of its medium-sized farms disappear.

Much of the land use triggered by this large and continuing spurt in residential and commercial growth is sprawling across the local countryside. But Institute research confirms that the problem is not the fact that there is such rapid growth; the problem is a lack of good design and planning. The region badly needs a new set of design, development, and economic principles that favor more compact development, walkable communities, and more transportation choices.

The Institute calls these solutions Smart Growth.

  Thriving Cities: Preserving, rebuilding, or building highly attractive, walkable new downtowns is a proven strategy for slowing sprawl, revitalizing local economies, and protecting open land from rapid development. Click here to view the Institute’s Growth Management Archives.

Taken together, these principles provide citizens, elected officials, business people, and developers a way to preserve Michigan’s natural resources and great beauty while, at the same time, that also strongly encourage the kind of stable economic growth best suited for the emerging 21st-century economy.

These proven principles, which have led to much healthier economic development in other parts of the country that are now employing them, accomplish a number of Smart Growth goals. They curb air and water pollution by curbing the sprawl that creates traffic gridlock, acres of asphalt parking lots, and a total dependence on automobiles to get to everyday destinations like the grocery story, schools, entertainment, shopping, and essential services.

  Prosperous Farms: Farms in economic trouble are easy prey for developers seeking cheap land development opportunities. To read about the Institute’s reporting and projects promoting New Entrepreneurial Agriculture, click here.

These new and increasingly popular designs preserve, revive, and build new town centers, help farmers hold onto their land by building more profitable local markets for their products, and keep taxes low and property values high by requiring less government-provided roads, sewers, and public safety services and preserving the beauty and attractiveness of homeowners’ and businesses’ settings and surroundings.

The Institute has been working for those goals in a variety of ways since its founding in 1995. Currently, it maintains three local offices in northwest Michigan, plus additional offices in Lansing and Grand Rapids. From these offices Institute staff collaborate with citizens, officials, businesses, and developers. They also advocate for Smart Growth through researching, community organizing, and a powerful, statewide, Web-based communications system.

  Refreshing Spaces: Protecting the Great Lakes water supply, defending streams and wetlands from unwise development and lakeshores from oil and gas drilling, and preserving public land are all important Smart Growth goals. Click here to find out more.

Our success depends on neighbors like you! Join the Michigan Land Use Institute and help work for responsible growth and a prosperous future. We’ll inform you of developments in your own backyard and across the state with email alerts, special publications containing groundbreaking research and reports, frequent news articles, and access to our 17 dedicated, helpful staff members.

For more information about the Institute’s programs in northwest Michigan, reach us at nwmi@mlui.org. Please send an email to nwmi@mlui.org. To receive weekly updates, enter your address in the box marked “Sign up for email alerts” on our home page.

And to peruse a sampling of recent Institute articles about northwest Michigan, click here.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
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