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Re: SG-W:/ Proposal B

I hope you'll be able to work through your issues, and support Proposal B. I fear you have some very bad information that you're using to make your decision.

First of all, Mayor Hieftje did meet with the Ann Arbor Planning Commission at a public meeting in August to discuss the Parks and Greenbelt Proposal. This was after you left the Planning Commission in July. The mayor had also sought input from the Park Advisory Commission in August -- also at a public meeting. The mayor also initiated a public forum on Proposal B at the Ann Arbor Planning Commission's October 21 business meeting. Further, the mayor called for and organized the town hall debate on Proposal B at the Michigan Theater, which nearly 1,000 citizens attended and participated in. What he said at the debate about public input was correct. To accuse him of lying is unfair and simply wrong.

Second, the mayor and Leah Gunn, chair of the Washtenaw County Commission, have spearheaded a regional planning effort the past several months. Several township leaders and planners, as well as the planning directors and chief executives from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the County planning director are participating. The meetings have been very good, and a lot of progress is being made on finding regional solutions to affordable housing, transportation and roads, and preservation of open space.

Third, although Mayor Hieftje is Proposal B's chief champion, and will rightly get a lot of credit for its success should voters approve it, the initiative is the work of dozens of people over many years. Greenbelts and PDR programs have been around for years, as I'm sure you know. This program borrows several successful ideas from places like Peninsula Township, Michigan, the Greenbelt Alliance Program in San Francisco, Boulder, Colorado, and Cleveland, to name but a few locales that have used similar approaches to smart growth.

Fourth, Ann Arbor Township, Pittsfield Township, Superior Township, and Scio Township have all been consulted in advance of the program going forward, and have been warm to it. The supervisors of each of these townships has officially endorsed Proposal B. Ann Arbor Township is going forward with its own program, as you point out. I predict others will follow soon if these two initiatives are successful.

I know from working with you on the Ann Arbor Planning Commission that you understand that affordable housing is a complex and challenging problem in our community. I think it's unfair to suggest that Proposal B should somehow address every problem we have in our community. Housing in Ann Arbor is expensive because people want to live here. Housing prices have continued to climb substantially in Ann Arbor with no greenbelt in place. It's wrong to blame the cost of housing on a plan that hasn't even been enacted. Mayor Hieftje and virtually every leader of the Proposal B campaign has expressed support for the idea of significantly increasing the number of residential units in the Downtown. Environmentalists have long said that they would support some more density in the City for preservation in the outlying areas. Proposal B is the first real opportunity to make that happen. It's why so many business leaders in our community support it.

Two of the most dense projects in recent history -- Lowertown and the private North Quad Dorm -- were approved by Planning Commission and City Council largely because of Mayor Hieftje's leadership.

If approved by voters, Proposal B will result in creation of a Greenbelt Advisory Committee, much like the County's Natural Areas Technical Advisory Committee. The technical advisory group will make recommendations to City Council, who will ultimately decide how funds are spent. The committee will be made up of citizens from a broad spectrum of professions -- and will likely include land-use planners, developers, architects, scientists, environmentalists, educators, and preservationists. If you decide to support Proposal B, I would certainly support your appointment to the Greenbelt Committee.

Kristen, I enjoyed working with you on the Ann Arbor Planning Commission, and I respect your opinion. I certainly acknowledge your right to disagree with Mayor Hieftje about his agenda and his ideas. I don't think it's fair to accuse him of lying, though. He values public input more than many leaders who have come and gone at City Hall, and he's put together a remarkably broad coalition to support Proposal B. I hope you'll join that coalition, and vote YES Tuesday.

Bill Hanson
Ann Arbor Planning Commissioner and Washtenaw Land Trust Executive Director