A word on the language surrounding "sprawl": the intention is probably more aptly put as creating and implementing alternatives to sprawl. I'll see that this is corrected in next year's version.
As for mitigating the impacts of sprawl, it is important to realize that some places are already sprawled and that they have a very real potential to get worse. One mitigation might be implementing a program to encourage carpooling or using mass transit to get from sprawlville to work or from home to a business already located in sprawlville. These are not bad ideas. Furthermore, the environmental problems associated with sprawl have as much to do with personal habits as with bad planning -- driving vs. carpooling, a craving for "my three acres" vs. living in a city, etc. etc. I believe that programs that help people understand the impacts of their individual actions should have a prominent place in research and education about sprawl. While Steve's point that giving folk accomodation to sprawl is perhaps an incentive to continue sprawling is quite valid, I believe that the projects supported by the MEER/MEC small grant program are not typically of this type.
What is the link between our economy and our natural resources? Two of Michigan's three largest industries are resourced-based: agriculture and tourism. Sprawl clearly reduces the value and competitiveness of both. As Steve said, there are lots more examples.
Steve's closing comments, I must admit, raised my hackles a bit. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that that is probably because I know the kind of great work that these grants are supporting. At the end of this message, I included the projects selected from last year's pool of applicants. These are not ineffective programs, obviously. I heartily encourage anyone who thinks they are to develop a better proposal and get it into us by the deadline. If you can outdo these folk, you're gonna get funding.
Coordinated Township Planning for Montmorency County -- this program is helping incorporate smart growth principles into the local planning mechanisms. It is a partnership amongst the county's Coordinated Township Planning Committee, the conservation district and the Headwaters Land Conservancy.
Better Growth through Better Land Use Management -- Calhoun County Communit Development and the Battle Creek Association of Home Builders are working to educate the community about New Designs for Growth (keynoted by Keith Charters) and create a peer site review committee.
Convening the Community: Creating the Political Will for Creative Change -- Kalamazoo College is taking 52 community leaders from Kalamazoo to tour Dane County, WI focusing on its county-wide land use plan, tax base sharing, and open space preservation plan.
Redeveloping Detroit through "In-Place" Industrial Parks (IPIPs) -- the Eastside Industrial Council is bringing together Detroit area businessess and policy makers to relate New York City's success with IPIPs. This program is in conjuction with Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice among others.
Social Aspects of Sustainable Growth -- The Environmental Affairs Department of Bay County is hosting a national speaker and a forum to bring together educators, hospitals and other major social institutions to discuss sustainable growth.
A Sustainable Town Meeting in Kalamazoo -- did you read about
this in the papers? In conjuction with the President's Council on
Sustainable Development and built around the National Town Meeting held
in Detroit last May, the Forum for Kalamazoo County conducted a town meeting
to present national and international concepts of sustainable development.
Part of their follow-up work is an attempt to create a land use plan for
Steve Bean wrote:
I hope someone will humor me and help me build a discussion from this
item. See thoughts below. (Barry, see question below.) Thanks for sharing
>Contact: Natalia Petraszczuk
> (517) 487-9539
>MICHIGAN ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL AND BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE HAVE FUNDS TO
>DISTRIBUTE; SEEKING SMALL-GRANT APPLICANTS
>The Michigan Economic and Environmental Roundtable and the Michigan
>Environmental Council (MEC) are funding projects that advance land
>stewardship through collaboration and partnerships working on
>sustainable development/smart growth initiatives at local, regional and
>state levels. The C.S. Mott, Detroit Edison, and Dow Chemical
>Foundations have provided $22,000 to award as grants to eligible
>organizations working on land use issues. The small grants will range
>between $1,000-$4,000 and are to emphasize business/environmental
>Businesses and organizations eligible for small grants must:
>a) have 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status or be sponsored by a
>b) demonstrate a commitment to increasing public and policy maker
>awareness of sustainable land use practices.
>The program is intended to help businesses and environmental groups work
>together to reduce the impacts of low density development or
>sprawl--development that consumes important resource land and leads to
>the deterioration of older communities. Through education and
>cooperation, alternate avenues of sprawl can be created and implemented.
(I assume a word or two is missing from this sentence--perhaps
"addressing" or "dealing with" in front of "sprawl"?)
As for possibilities for reducing impacts of sprawl, short of stopping
it, I can think of a few: minimizing pavement, retaining storm water, and
using native plant landscaping to reduce runoff and pollution from lawn
maintenance; and provide and promote mass transit opportunities. Beyond
those, things like providing services locally to reduce driving distance
simply add to the problem. Come to think of it, who wants to work on a
program that accomodates or compensates for sprawl rather than tries to
eliminate it? (Maybe there isn't a word missing from that sentence after
all.) In particular, if your organization or business is committed "to
increasing public and policy maker awareness of sustainable land use
practices", how can you justify devoting resources to simply mitigating
the impacts of a clearly unsustainable phenomenon (for lack of a better
I suppose if your business involves construction of roads, houses, or
maybe cars, you could justify it. Reminds me once again how much I
dislike the term "smart growth".
>The Roundtable, a nonprofit organization comprised of representatives of
>business and environmental interests, seeks to develop new approaches to
>the challenges facing Michigan's economy and natural resources. MEC, a
>member of the Roundtable, is a nonprofit coalition of 55 environmental
>organizations working to promote a land stewardship ethic throughout the
>state. MEC and the Roundtable recognize that the state's economic and
>environmental communities have similar concerns relating to land use.
What challenges facing our economy relate to those facing natural
resources? The only ones that come to my mind are the low prices that
farmers recieve for their crops and the labor shortage in places like Ann
Arbor. Affordable housing in the city, especially downtown, would help
the latter and thereby, perhaps, slightly reduce. The free AATA bus
passes for downtown employees is a step in the right direction, too. The
former problem seems much more systemic.
I'm sure others have more examples. I think we would benefit from sharing
them, so we can have them in mind when discussing possible anti-sprawl
>Recipients will be selected on a competitive basis. Applications must
>be postmarked by December 15, 1999; decisions will be made by January
>15, 2000. For an application or more information, contact MEC at 119
>Pere Marquette, Ste. 2A, Lansing, MI 48912, or call (517) 487-9539.=20
>Applications can also be found online at: http//:www.mienv.org/lsi.htm
>"This program helps us protect our state's incomparable natural
>resources, which are vital to Michigan's public health, economy and
>quality of life", says Jerry Ring, Chair Person, Michigan Environmental
>and Economic Roundtable
But not as vital as allowing the development of open spaces and farmland,
Sorry to be so critical, but I'd love to see some more details on the
thinking behind this program. I thought there was ample evidence that
sprawl is economically damaging to existing communities (residential if
not business), not to mention the environmental costs. (Barry, could you
share the info on the AA Township study now?) So, my question is, why
participate in a program that promises to be ineffective in stopping or
even slowing sprawl, rather than one that at least attempts to be
I don't know anything about MEER, but might this be a greenscamming
effort from them that the MEC would be better off not being party to?
(Detroit Edison and Dow...hmmm.)
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