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Re: SG-W:/ Proposal B

Kristin:  I've heard the mayor say numerous times that there will be more affordable housing units built in Ann Arbor in the first four years of this decade than in all of the 1990s, totalling over 1,000.  Is that enough?  Who knows?

The issue of protecting land in Washtenaw County has been discussed and studied for more than 20 years.  I participated in an exhaustive process culminating in a comprehensive report to the county board of commissioners in 1997, recommending that farmland and natural areas be protected with millage funds.  That led to the failed 1998 county-wide proposal which was doomed, in part, by the BOC's endeavor to address all of the report's recommendations--including urban redevelopment and township planning assistance--in one fell swoop.  The message:  comprehensive approaches may be good public policy but they make lousy proposals.  You may recall that advocates came back with the natural areas piece in 2000 and won with 64% of the vote county-wide, with nearly 70% approval in Ann Arbor for a program that wasn't going to protect land within the city boundary.

There's been enough study; the time for action is quickly evaporating.  I see this as the mayor taking initiative, being a leader, and offering the citizens of Ann Arbor a choice:  to have some green space around them while that potential still exists, to be consumed by sprawl like a Plymouth or Birmingham.  Moreover, another great lesson from 1998 was that by the time the BOC had voted to place that proposal on the ballot, the opposition had a campaign director and a couple hundred thou in the bank.  The Washtenaw County Home Builders Association will NEVER support a land protection proposal that has the potential for real effect on the landscape.  Why give them any more time to plan and raise money?  You see the disgusting campaign of lies and deception they're running. 

My rule of thumb is, if a self-interested group is willing to run that type of campaign, it must the right thing to do to support the proposal they so adamantly oppose.

As for the townships, I see this proposal as the carrot for them to put up some money of their own.  They can't do it on their own, and lord knows there's no support from the state these days (home builders are calling the shots there).  If B passes, the city will be able to say "You folks want to protect your rural character, your agricultural lands, your quality of life.  Your master plans say so, and so do your citizens.  We have some money to put on the table, and we can leverage federal and state and private sources, but you need to materially participate as well.  Otherwise, we'll take our money elsewhere."  Ann Arbor Township is the first to put a proposal on the ballot, and Pittsfield has a dedicated park millage already.  Don't be surprised to see others follow suit.

You'll also note that four township boards--Ann Arbor, Scio, Superior and Pittsfield--have passed resolutions of support for Proposal B.  All are part of the mayor's regional planning endeavor and were informed of his interest in funding before city council took action.  The others were not consulted, and if the proposal passes some bridge-building will need to be done.  Some of those folks are hell-bent on development and need to be replaced.

Finally, the mayor called me in to this discussion in July to provide some indication of how the program will run if approved by voters.  I drafted a set of scoring criteria including elements from the county PDR ordinance and the county natural areas program--both of which I was responsible for drafting--as well as other factors particular to this proposal including protection of the watershed.  That outline made its way into the council resolution providing direction if voters approve the measure; from there the expert Greenbelt Advisory Commission will be charged with developing the program.  That was accomplished quickly and with great success in the natural areas program; I expect nothing different with the greenbelt.

In conclusion, if you like the idea of sprawl overtaking Ann Arbor, vote no or stay home on Tuesday.  If you think it's wise to have an additional tool to protect farmland, natural areas, the drinking water supply, scenic views, wildlife habitat and the quality of life in Ann Arbor, a YES vote will accomplish that.

Barry Lonik