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SG-W:/ Re: County Land Preservation Proposal



Wow!  This is great news, Mike.  Congratulations to all those who have helped
create this unprecedented area of agreement between land preservation activists
and homebuilder interests.  

As the official representative of the local environmental community on the Proposal
1 steering committee, I fully support this effort.  We've always argued that
open space preservation was compatible with a healthy construction industry,
and I'm delighted to see that the homebuilders are beginning to recognize this
fact.  This proposal is a great step forward.  I think everyone can agree that
it makes sense to preserve critical natural areas.

Is this proposal perfect?  No.  No proposal (including 1998's Proposal 1) is
perfect.  But I don't think that the fact that it's not perfect means that we
shouldn't support it.  Heck,  if we always held out for perfect, we wouldn't
have Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks, the Endangered Species Act, or
any of the important local environmental victories we've achieved.

Instead, I hope we can build on the stunning coup of getting the homebuilders
and environmentalists to agree on this initiative.  I think this is what the
broader public wants, and I think this proposal is one the broader public can
and will support in November.  Congratulations to all those who have made it
possible!  Now, it's up to the rest of us on this list, among others, to signal
their support to their County Commissioners . . .

==============

<fontfamily><param>Geneva</param>Many of you will remember that, two
years ago, the county home builders and their allies waged the most
expensive campaign in county history to defeat Proposal 1, a
comprehensive land preservation ballot proposal.  The homebuilders said
then that they agreed with us that sprawl was bad, but that there was a
"better way" to deal with it.  One plank of their "better way" used
public funds to acquire open space.  And since then, leaders of the
builders' and realtors' "Smart Growth Initiative" have continued to say
publicly that they support the use of public funds to buy natural
areas.


Well, that's all along sounded pretty good to me.


Last night, four environmental organizations -- the Ecology Center,
Sierra Club, Huron River Watershed Council, and Washtenaw-Potawatomi
Land Trust -- formally requested that the Washtenaw County Board of
Commissioners put a natural areas millage proposal on the November
ballot.  We proposed a 10-year 0.25-mill levy which would raise over
$20 million, leverage additional matching funds, and save thousands of
acres of the most environmentally sensitive lands in the county.


And the builders and realtors?  


Yesterday, the boards of directors of the Home Builders Association and
the Board of Realtors endorsed our proposal, in concept, without taking
any position on the millage level.  This follows a series of meetings
between the environmental groups, home builders, and realtors.  


(If you read the Ann Arbor News article about this issue, you might be
confused about the homebuilders' position.  The newspaper neglected to
mention that a homebuilders' spokesperson read a statement at the
meeting endorsing the proposal in concept.  Instead, they repeated a
three-week-old out-of-context quote by the group's executive officer
which made the homebuilders appear unsupportive.)


Two specifics of our proposal deserve special mention.  First, we are
explicitly excluding farmland from the types of land that could be
protected under the program.  Instead, the plan would protect wetlands,
wildlife habitats, and other critical natural areas.  Second, we would
house the program within the County Parks and Recreation Commission. 
We figure that the Parks Commission already acquires and manages land
for recreational purposes, so most of the infrastructure for a natural
areas program is already in place there.  A technical advisory
committee would be appointed by the Board of Commissioners to advise
the Parks Commission on acquisitions.


It's hard to predict how this proposal will play out.  The County Board
has until August to approve language to place the proposal before
voters this fall.  The Board is currently dealing with a number of
unrelated controversial issues, so commissioners need to hear from
environmentalists that land preservation is an important issue, and
that the ballot language should be approved.  


So please contact your County Commissioner and urge their support for
the proposal.  And, if you'd like to get more actively involved in the
campaign, please let me know.


It's exciting to consider that, only two years after a sound election
defeat, Washtenaw County might be in a position to pass a major open
space acquisition proposal.  To succeed, it will require lots of hard
work by many, many people -- both to get it on the ballot, and to win a
millage election.  But, if any county can do it, it's this one. 


Mike Garfield



</fontfamily>
__________________

Mike Garfield

Ecology Center

117 N. Division

Ann Arbor, MI  48104

(734) 761-3186 ext. 104

(734) 663-2414 (fax)

michaelg@ecocenter.org

www.ecocenter.org




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smartgrowth-washtenaw:  Internet List and Forum for issues relating to
sprawl, smart growth, and preservation of the quality of life in Washtenaw
County.

Postings to:  smartgrowth-washtenaw@great-lakes.net      For info, send
email to majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info
smartgrowth-washtenaw"
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