Last year Michigan's Huron Valley Group (Ann Arbor and surrounding areas)
organized a 'Tour de Sprawl' -- a bicycle and bus tour of good and bad development in the
area, with speakers who discussed such issues as farmland preservation, watershed quality,
local zoning laws & master plans, etc. It was a grand success, with about 150
participants. This year, we plan to do another Tour, centered in the neighboring city of
Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti is much more "urban" than Ann Arbor and is facing many of
the problems that accompany sprawl, such as urban decay and loss of downtown vitality. We
hope to highlight the importance of preserving vital cities in order to maintain open
spaces and prevent sprawl.
Sierra Club Kicks off Michigan Tour de Sprawl, Release Report
Showing Suburban Sprawl Costs All in Michigan
by Brett Hulsey
Ann Arbor, MI: The Sierra Club Council released a report today showing
that suburban sprawl costs us all in Michigan and the Midwest. The group made southeast
Michigan the next site of the Midwest Tour de Sprawl to highlight the costs of sprawl in
the Detroit area.
"Suburban sprawl costs us all with higher property taxes and more
traffic gridlock," said Judy Thompson, Michigan Chapter Conservation Chair. "On
average, Midwest residential sprawl costs taxpayers 120% more to service with roads and
schools, than it pays in taxes. This is why many Washtenaw County residents are calling
for purchasing development rights program from farmers rather than paying higher taxes for
The groups released a report, Suburban Sprawl Costs Us All in the Midwest,
that shows that suburban sprawl and unplanned development in Michigan causes more traffic
gridlock, increases property taxes, destroys natural habitat and farm land, and threatens
drinking water. The report points out that sprawl increases taxes by one-eighth for some
Michigan communities, according to a recent study by the Southeast Michigan Council of
"Suburban sprawl costs Michigan taxpayers billions of dollars,"
said Julien Stoneman, Director of Land Programs for Michigan Environmental Council.
"Paying for the new schools, roads,
sewers, police protection for sprawl costs existing taxpayers more money than building
homes closer together."
Traffic gridlock and poor land use planning costs Detroit area drivers
$2.3 billion each year for wasted time and fuel. Sprawl also creates air pollution since
more people have to drive to work due to sprawl.
"We have to look at the total costs of sprawl before we allow our
cornfields to be converted to new sprawl malls and highways," said Alison Horton,
Sierra Club Michigan State Director "We can control suburban sprawl by asking
Governor Engler to stop subsidizing sprawl by stopping unneeded highway projects and to
fix the Subdivision Act that make sprawl worse."
The Sierra Club is taking its Midwest Tour de Sprawl to Washtenaw County
on Saturday to highlight the positive and negative aspects of sprawl.
"Michigan and the Detroit area have some of the worst sprawl in the
Midwest and the nation," said Judy Thompson. "We will tour some of the sprawl
sites and discuss plans to stop the sprawl that is eating up Southeastern Michigan and
costing us all."
Between 1982 and 1992, Michigan allowed 10 acres of farm land an hour to
be destroyed by sprawl due to weak land use laws.
"Sprawling subdivisions, unneeded highways, and malls mean that the
water runs off the land and causes worse flooding and more water pollution," said
Brett Hulsey, report author and Director of the Sierra Club Sprawl Costs Us All Project.
"Places like southeast Michigan and Washtenaw County are getting hit hard by sprawl
and traffic congestion."
Suburban Sprawl Costs Us All in the Midwest calls on people to stop sprawl
Shopping in compact shopping areas, don't support sprawling malls and
developers with your business or shopping. Carpool, bike, walk, or take public
transportation whenever possible.
Asking elected officials to support Property Tax Impact Studies on new
sprawl developments to find out the real costs of sprawl, support Sprawl Growth Boundaries
to promote compact development in areas like southeast Michigan, and support Purchase of
Development Rights and other incentives to protect farms, parks, and open land.
Asking Governor Engler to support effective land conservation laws to
allow local communities to plan growth, fix the Subdivision Act, stop state-sponsored
sprawl such as tax breaks for sprawl companies, and support balanced transportation
funding that does more than just build more sprawl-causing highways.
Asking President Clinton and Vice-President Gore to stop permitting
sprawl in places that flood like wetlands with a moratorium on new sprawl building in
floodplains and wetlands, and thank them for phasing out some easy wetland destruction
permits and making air pollution standards protect human health.
The Sierra Club has 65 local groups working to educate the public about
protecting our families, our environment, and our future.
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