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Re: E-M:/ Criticism and replies about the Ann Arbor Greenway proposal

Roger Kuhlman <rokuhlman@yahoo.com> wrote:
Neutral, unbiased experts need to give us the facts
about development in downtown Ann Arbor not proponents
of building the greenway and opponents of medium-rise
housing in Ann Arbor.
Roger, you appear to misunderstand the position of the Sierra Club's Huron Valley Group.  We neither oppose medium-rise buildings nor housing. 
The Sierra Club web site has an interesting page that shows how human-scale development can improve urban areas.  Click on the photos of these real-world street scenes and you will see several stages of how they can be improved while being densely developed.  Here's the link:  http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/community/transformations/index.asp
We are an active proponent of policies that will increase the number of people living in downtown Ann Arbor.  We believe human-scale developments that don't damage the historic areas and most attractive pedestrian areas, and don't put buildings in the floodway and floodplain, are the way to achieve this.
Fortunately, there are over 100 under-utilized parcels that meet these criteria in the downtown Ann Arbor area, and more elsewhere, that will almost certainly be re-developed with much higher density in coming years.
The real open question is whether new development has to occupy every possible parcel, or whether three parcels that are already owned by the public and are located in the floodway and floodplain can be used as keystone Greenway parks.  These would be the only parks with greenspace in the downtown area, which is now devoid of them.  One of the many benefits of a real Greenway (not the token one supported by City Hall) is that it would attract more people to live downtown.  Without this improvement to the quality of life downtown, it will be difficult to attract more residents.
Consider the alternative of maximum development and no real Greenway that's supported by Ann Arbor's mayor and City Council.  The developers and their political cronies want both huge public subsidies for high-rise buildings and to build in the floodway and floodplain. If they get what they want, we'll end up with a massive increase in office space (not housing) that will suck offices (and their employees) from the area around Detroit.  This will speed the "hollowing out" of Detroit and the inner ring.  And it it will create demand for more McMansions in rural Washtenaw County.
This maximum development alternative will cause sprawl, not stop it.  It will also eliminate the chance of using Greenway space to reduce flooding and to filter polluted stormwater that's currently rushing directly into the Huron River.  It will eliminate the chance for a full-scale Greenway that will allow people to safely bike and walk instead of drive to schools, work, and downtown.  The radical maximum development plan will cause more sprawl, more cars, more pollution.
The Sierra Club supports the more practical alternative of a real Greenway, and human-scale development that stays out of the floodway and floodplain, and doesn't damage historic and pedestrian areas.  We believe this will curb sprawl, reduce the use of cars, and reduce pollution.
There's one other thing to consider.  Those of us who sincerely respect and appreciate the natural world are often frustrated that so many others don't share this feeling.  One benefit of an urban Greenway is that if you want people to learn to love nature, it might be a good idea to bring some of it closer to them, rather than simply to provide lectures on this point. Among it's many benefits, the Ann Arbor Greenway may be the best way to garner public support for future rural land preservation efforts. 
Doug Cowherd
Chair, Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group

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