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Re: E-M:/ High Density Developments to Preserve AgriculturalLand???

Enviro-Mich message from "Jennifer Acevedo" <ACEVEDOJ@michigan.gov>

These emails have been very interesting to read and it's obvious we are
all passionate about land use. Governor Granholm has formed the Michigan
Land Use Leadership Council and they have a web site that you can go to
and voice your concerns. It's www.michiganlanduse.org/comments.cfm. The
mission of this council is to address the trends, causes and
consequences of unmanaged growth and development in Michigan. 


>>> "Paul Hanly" <PNARH@bigpond.com> 04/23/03 07:33PM >>>
I agree with most of William Toblers observations but would like to add
a few:

1. Underlying all of these issues of sprawl and increased densities is
the politicians' and businesses (and community's) addiction to growth to
provide more jobs, greater power, more (relative) prestige, higher
material standards of living (surveys show happiness is not actually
significantly increased and appears more relative than linked to
absolute standard of material well being), more profits and supposedly a
more rewarding lifestyle - politicians in particular know that if there
is a recession and job losses they are unlikely to get re-elected.

2. Population growth which in an industrialised country provides more
customers for businesses leading to greater profits, in countries like
Germany, Japan and I think Italy provides young workers to help sustain
the higher and growing proportion of retired/unemployed over 55, it
provides competition for jobs keeping wages lower than they might
otherwise be, it generally allows less attractive jobs to be filled by
immigrants with insufficient language or education to compete for more
pleasant jobs, which otherwise might have to be done by the children of
the existing population, or not get done, or get done at higher cost.

3. Falling numbers of persons per dwelling, partly through nuclear
families being smaller, partly through more elderly persons living alone
as the population ages, and partly as a result of delayed marriage and
divorce - if population remains stable more dwellings are needed, if
population grows as well, even more dwellings are needed.

4. Those most affected by increased density by way of loss of existing
benefits are those who live close by whose land can't be redeveloped to
the higher density. they have more noise, traffic, people (often of a
different cultural background), burden on community facilities like
schools, libraries, parks, public transport. The people who are able to
sell for redevelopment generally get the compensation of being able to
get a higher price for their property, enabling them to move, often to a
better home but with some inconvenience and disruption. The people who
(think they) will benefit are those who move into the new developments,
generally they get these benefits, but sometimes they don't and
sometimes they discover that there are unforseen costs.

5. Those areas attracting increased population from internal (country
town and other states) and external sources (immigration) face the
greatest problems of combined sprawl and increased densities

6. Re development of decayed areas, particularly large former
industrial landholdings near city centres or in the inner ring of
suburbs,  is often a solution as the land for hundreds of dwellings is
owned by one entity, meaning rapid development on a large scale,
communities around such areas are often less educated and see the
redevelopment in a positive light given the current decay, the sites are
sometimes in need of expensive remediation which will mean that
redevelopment requires a high value end use otherwise the land is just
forfeited by the owner/polluter. Corporations often ensure that each
major parcel of land is owned by a special purpose company to enable
them to do just that (surrender a contaminated piece of land without
risk to the rest of the corporate group). In established areas, much of
the infrastructure already exists, even if part of it needs updating,
making the cost to the public of re-establishing less than the cost for
a greenfields site - no major developer ever pays the full cost of
infrastructure - it prohibits development - that is why higher densities
are almost always near existing infrastructure that can be leveraged,
not establishment of total new cities or towns.

7. As we live longer after retirement and become less able as we age,
the need for different housing styles becomes greater and high density
suits many people, particularly the older, the young homeleavers and the
single or divorced with no or only one or two children.

If most of the people are addicted to growth (and remember political
campaigns of all major parties other than the Greens are funded mainly
from the donations of profit maximizing corporations) then the
continuation of a mix of sprawl and increased density is inevitable -
rarely are new cities established and country towns are often dying, in
spite of their cheap housing. This outcome has been going on for
hundreds of years and is unlikely to change unless the fundamental
drivers change.

Governments also don't provide full additional infrastructure in
advance of gross unhappiness threatening loss of an election, because
90% of the time the money is already needed urgently elsewhere where
more votes are at stake in a more marginal electorate. To keep taxes as
low as possible, existing public infrastructure - an uncrowded road,
schools which have reduced in enrolments because of changing
demographics (aging of the population),a railway line with some unused
capacity, existing sewer and water reticulation, is fully utilised by
adding more people almost until there is a problem which requires huge
public infrastructure.

In summary, unless the drivers of economic growth are changed in your
area (by community agreement or natural factors like a shrinking
population, often in association with aging of the population) then
politicians know they are more likely to remain in power by dealing with
the problems of growth, than by creating a situation of no growth and
trying to deal with the problems that causes (less work, falling
material living standards - dramatic for some) and hundreds of years of
recorded experience all around the world support that view.

All this applies in Michigan and across the world. To understand
Michigan and your area you need to understand the current population
trends and what is driving them, and against the combined impacts of
federal and state governments driven to grow, no local community (other
than a major one in a swinging electorate where government is likely to
be lost on the issue), will ever really stop sprawl and increased

Sorry to be so pessimistic.

Paul Hanly

To see an example of the type of population analysis that shows the
population drivers for more development (sprawl and density) see:

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: William Tobler 
  To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net 
  Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 8:24 AM
  Subject: Re: E-M:/ High Density Developments to Preserve Agricultural

  I live in an area that is still relatively rural, or at least most
urban folks think so.  I actually would prefer to live in an area a heck
of lot more rural than is available.

  The problem for a rural township within a commuting distance of
employment is the clustering proposal will quickly transform it to
anything but rural.  The factors that keep urban and suburban people
away are:
  1)  Yuk, you live on a dirt road?
  2)  Echk, you drink water that comes out of the ground?
  3)  Ooh, where does this go when I flush?
  4)  Ach, you go how far to buy cheez doodles?

  Creating the cluster home situation takes away all of these
deterrents.  It would be one thing if we were building it for the
township's residents to live in at their choice.  But instead, you are
inviting every one else to move in and take away from you what you hold
dear.  If you build it, they will come, and in short order, they will
have the local votes to take away the rest, and they will.  I've spent
my entire life moving from one area or another that has become a place
that I wouldn't even want to visit.

  As far developers paying their way, forget it.  They don't and they
won't.  Not even close.  It is a real struggle to get the developers to
even build and pay for the amenities that they promised to put into
their developments in the first place.  Our legislators won't fix it
either.  How many years have they had the opportunity to fix the
inequity of MHP developments?

  The only solution is to address urban and suburban flight, and not
create yet more new urban and suburban sprawl.

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