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E-M:/ All My Communities: The Green Monster Awakes

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Enviro-Mich subscribers and soap opera fans:

Here is a story that has enough plot for several soap operas!

Top story in the Lansing State Journal today: "MSU development part of new
land-sharing deal".  Yes, folks, Michigan State University, the Godzilla of
land ownership in central Michigan, big, green and out of control, has raised
its ugly head to further complicate the already astonishingly messy Governor's
Club/425 Agreement/annexation plot lines your faithful correspondent has
attempted to untangled for you. 

MSU has been, until this moment, a quiet presence on the sidelines of the
fight among the central Michigan communities all vying for control and
position in the All My Communities saga.  Now it appears that far from being
passive observers who have little interest in the dealings even though their
land is involved, MSU has had its own plot line in development for quite some
time.  According to the Lansing State Journal, MSU is proposing to convert 150
acres of its farmlands and woodlands into a $50 million research and
development laboratories complex near the corner of Hagadorn and Bennett Roads
in Meridian Twp. Such a proposal is totally beyond the review and control of
any local unit of government because MSU is exempt from local control, and it
also pays no local taxes.  

However, the deal weaves its way into the All My Communities saga because the
question of who would offer up utilities to this massive new development is
intimately tied to the now evolving issues around the 425 Agreement or
Agreements between Meridian Twp. and Lansing.  Also, though the threat has
already dissolved this time, Meridian Twp. officials are claiming that a 425
Agreement involving this 150 acres and an additional 407 acres would provide a
"buffer" against the evil empire to the north, also known as East Lansing.
If the Lansing/Meridian deal puts the MSU lands in the never-never land status
of a 425 Agreement, the Meridian folks contend it protects them against an
invasion of the land snatchers, via annexation by East Lansing. 

Meanwhile, a second 425 Agreement will be hatched to specifically cover the
orignal Governor's Club (remember, that was the starting point for this mess).
Details on that are still sketchy, and there will be hearings in Meridian and
Lansing on the as yet undefined agreement (where have we heard that before?)
the week of September 20.  The MSU 425 will actually be submitted for voter
approval at the Nov. 2 general election, though again it is not clear how that
will work.  Oh, and just so we don't think that this was responsive to the
efforts of the MSU student/sheep herder whose lawsuit threw the original
scheme into a tailspin, the new 425 Agreements carefully excise his living
quarters from either land area.

To me the most troubling aspect of this new announcement is not the already
over the top conniving and collusion on the 425 Agreements by the two local
units of government.  While its announcement could have come entirely
separately from the 425 Agreements, MSU's plans to convert even MORE of it
agricultural lands into buildings is truly troubling.  Here we have the
state's agricultural college doing at a rapid rate exactly what many people
concerned about the future of agriculture in Michigan condemn -- converting
productive farm lands into buildings, parking lots, etc.   It seems like the
first place we ought to spend the state's money for acquisition of
agricultural development rights is ON THE MSU CAMPUS!!!  

If nothing else, think of the unmistakable message to the farmers of this
state, already scraping to get by who find that their primary asset is their
land, but to stay in farming they need to keep their land undeveloped.  MSU,
your alma mater, the employer of your Agricultural Extension Agent, the
research institution you turn to for the information you need to farm smarter,
puts SO LITTLE VALUE on its OWN farm lands that it is continually converting
those lands into buildings.  When we talk about clustering into already
developed areas and protecting agricultural lands, it is hard to explain why a
private farmer should do that when MSU builds more and more massive, sprawling
complexes eating up its own land.  Hypocrites abound.  MSU's spokesperson, by
the way, made it clear that what Godzilla wants, Godzilla gets -- '"Any
development on that site would occur regardless of an agreement," said Steve
Webster, MSU vice president for government affairs. "It's been planned for
some time and will take some time to unfold."'  That's funny.  I used to think
that this was a public institution, owned and run by and for the people of
Michigan.  Evidently I was wrong.

Anne Woiwode

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