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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Michigan

Old Town
Success Breeds Competition Downtown
Meridian Township
Petty Policies Lead to Sprawl

Old Town
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 neighborhood.

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 November.

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.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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