(Lansing) Success Breeds Competition Downtown
The Sierra Club works hard to educate the public about suburban sprawl.
But the Mackinac Chapter is doing a little more. In June of 2000, the chapter became the
first tenant to occupy a restored two-story townhouse in a newly redeveloped area of
Lansing called Old Town.
As its name would suggest, Old Town is the oldest part of the community. And like many
central neighborhoods, the area had become run-down. But redevelopment is slowly bringing
life back to this historic neighborhood. In addition to the Sierra Club, the convention
bureau has moved in, condominiums are being built next door and a run-down club was
recently demolished to make room for a new park.
A linchpin of Old Town is the Otherwise Gallery, which gives local artists a place to
show their work. Though the gallery has long had Old Town to itself, success has bred
competition and over a half-dozen other galleries have opened in the area. Restaurants,
cafes and shops are starting to crop up, too. Old Town also hosts two large festivals each
year, the Lansing JazzFest and Octoberfest.
Though the redevelopment of Old Town is a work in progress, local residents and town
officials are excited about the changes. When completed, Old Town will offer art, food and
shops along with housing and office space in a walkable and centrally located
Meridian Township Petty Policies Lead to Sprawl
Many elected officials talk movingly about the need for cooperation. But the reality is
that in many areas, competition for development is the name of the game. Unfortunately
this competition often results in poor land-use decisions and lots of suburban sprawl.
The saga of the Governor's Club, a proposed development in southwest Meridian Township,
perfectly illustrates how a lack of regional coordination and planning leads to poorly
planned growth. The project, a massive development involving hundreds of homes and a golf
course, was approved by the township over stiff local opposition. Residents of the area
then embarked on a successful petition drive to place the rezoning on the ballot in
To counter the citizen petition drive, the developer asked the neighboring community of
East Lansing to annex the area of the proposed Governor's Club development, setting off a
high profile turf battle between the two communities. Because of the state law, the only
people who can vote on an annexation petition are those living within the area proposed
for annexation and those in the community to which they seek to be annexed. In a move to
block the annexation, Meridian Township, with the backing of developers, enticed a third
community, the city Lansing to enter the squabble with a tax-sharing agreement. This
effort paid off, blocking the annexation and silencing the citizen petition drive by
changing the borders of the development to exclude residents.
By playing one community off against another, common-sense approaches to planning and
zoning and respect for citizen involvement are tossed aside. The only winners in this are
the developers, who will use the lack of coordination between neighboring towns to push a
poorly planned development through.