The city of Ann Arbor announced today it will ask voters to approve a plan that would preserve farms and open space around the city. This long-overdue idea – using taxpayers’ money to buy the development rights to land that might otherwise end up as strip malls and the like – helps preserve open space, and a unique sense of place. Similar programs, some using privately raised money, is helping perserve family farms in New England, and prevent the ugly blight of sprawl that has forever ruined so much land in the U.S.
Aside from mayor Hieftje, a vocal supporter in the Ann Arbor News article is city councilperson Bob Johnson, D-1st Ward: “If we get surrounded by subdivisions and strip malls, a lot of the features that make this a special place to live will disappear.” Johnson, a democrat, will face two challengers in November, independent and U-M student Rick Lax, and Green Party Candidate Rob Haug, and I can’t help but think the timing of the announcement somehow related to the filing deadline that just passed for the city council elections.
While I like the idea, I do think something said by the local representative of the pro-sprawl Homebuilders Association, Jeff Fisher, who said that the organization would “vehemently oppose it”:
Fisher said the city should look at its own policies and practices if it wants to prevent sprawl. He said the city doesn’t like high-density projects or tall buildings, both of which fight sprawl by making use of urban land.
Think the Ann Arbor city council has students’ best interests in mind? Think again. In 2002, led by anti-student council members like Mike Reid (R – 2nd Ward), the city council unanimously struck down a very mild proposal that would allow homeowners in the city to create small apartments in outbuildings and above garages. Legal in many areas, these so-called “granny flats” relieve the pressure on the Ann Arbor rental market, providing students and couples looking for apartments more options and perhaps reducing rents. When it was announced, several neighborhood associations circulated a flyer alleging the apartments would cause all sorts of evils, most notably declining property values. This campaign of fear flooded the city planning commission and city council with letters opposing the initiative, and Mike Reid led the council in stopping the plan before even the planning commission had approved it. Read this article I wrote for the Michigan Daily about it in February 2002. In this case, I think the city council could have taken a cue from Jeff Fisher.
> See article: AANews – “City eyes townships’ land”
Student Ghetto Break-ins
… 1000 block of Vaughn Street, 4:15 p.m. Thursday. Unknown method of entry; CDs, cologne, sweaters, a CD player and calculator taken. Total value: $600.(source)