So, What’s Shaking in 2011?
Co-founder Dick Hitchingham (left) at his fabled kitchen table.
When Keith Schneider, Florence Barone, Dick Hitchingham, and other citizens founded the Michigan Communities Land Use Coalition in 1994 at Dick’s kitchen table, they hoped to tame an aggressive
gas-drilling plan that threatened Manistee and Benzie Counties’ beauty, tourism, and quality of life. Little did they know how successful they would be, or that their determined group would grow into the Michigan Land Use Institute, a national Smart Growth leader with a statewide focus, five offices, and 17 staff members.
Today, with Keith as deputy director, Dick as accountant, and 15 others at their sides, we’ve helped citizens groups, officials, and businesses from Detroit to Grand Rapids to the Jordan River. But we’ve never forgotten our deep roots in northwest Michigan.
This fall we drew up a new, five-year plan for our home region. The mission is urgent: Help corral the region’s stampede of new development with a coherent, environmentally and economically sustainable growth strategy. Between now and 2011, we will work with an alliance of like-minded groups and individuals to:
- Adopt a formal regional growth plan in the six-county Grand Traverse area that defines areas to develop, areas to conserve, new transit lines, highway improvements, and other smart strategies.
- Formulate a land use and transportation plan for Emmet County that provides new economic incentives for building housing and businesses
- Write agricultural zoning ordinances that eliminate sprawl-spreading minimum lot sizes and keep large land parcels in farming or forestry, and convince townships to adopt them.
- Win approval of ordinances limiting big-box store sizes in
- Facilitate the construction of nine new, traditionally styled, “town center” neighborhoods across the region.
- Enact and fund local farmland conservation programs that permanently set aside at least 5,000 acres of farmland in three counties.
- Establish a quality bus system in Benzie County that offers express service to Traverse City and Manistee.
- Persuade the Legislature to direct the bulk of state economic development funds meant for the 10-county region to its core communities, not green fields.
Thanks to our communications machine and our presence in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and eventually, Detroit, these and other projects will serve as models for the Institute’s statewide work. We will also continue our work with groups in other parts of Michigan who are tackling growth issues that have statewide implications.