Ann Arbor Area Parks and Greenbelt Proposal
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Lies, and the Lying Developers Who Tell Them


The sprawl developers have stated that they would spend a record-shattering $400,000 to kill the open space proposals on the fall ballots in Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor Township. They used the same tactics they used in 1998 to defeat that year's county land preservation proposal. First the developers re-awakened their phony green-sounding group, "Washtenaw Citizens for Responsible Growth" which is chaired by Craig Welch, a builder of homes starting at $1,000,000. Then they re-hired public relations consultants Marketing Resource Group (MRG) to spread disinformation and confusion. According to their own web site, when they're not working for the sprawl developer lobby, MRG works for the state's largest polluters, the tobacco industry, and the waste companies that dump foreign trash in our state. Are they are spending $400,000 to defeat Proposal B because of an interest in the community or is it to protect their enormous profits from sprawl developments that wreck the countryside?

Here's what the developers and their hired guns are saying, followed by the facts.

Lie # 1: Proposal B is "putting city parks at risk"

Fact:
The November issue of the Ann Arbor Observer (page 24) says that the developers claim this because it "slashes current funding for parks by 66 percent." The Observer goes on to say "It's a frightening claim--but it's also completely false. Proposal B deals only with how the city allocates money for buying new parks. As Mayor Hieftje noted in the debate with HBA representatives on October 15, "it doesn't take a single penny from parks operations," which is paid for  from the City General Fund. "It has been endorsed by parks advocates including the City of Ann Arbor Parks Advisory Commission, the Ecology Center, the Huron River Watershed Council, and recently retired Interim Parks Superintendent Gerry Clark and the Sierra Club."


Lie # 2:
Farming is dying

Fact: This statement, made by Craig Welch of Wexford Homes who builds $1,000,000+ houses, is insulting to farmers. Go to the Farmer's Market any Wednesday or Saturday and look at all the wonderful produce and goods that are to be had from local farmers. Much of the organic produce sold at the People's Food Co-op and some of the produce sold at Whole Foods and other stores comes from local farmers. The developers are doing their best to destroy this great community asset.
Articles to read: "Farmers Markets Bloom", "The New Entrepreneurial Agriculture"


Lie # 3: Housing prices would be increased by Proposal B

Fact: Read the truth here.


Lie # 4: Thirty years is too long a time to extend the existing millage

Fact: When open space is lost, it's lost forever. By renewing the Parks millage for 30 years, the City can sell bonds to buy land and easements over the next five to ten years, while open space is still available. As is typically the case with other long-term public investments such as schools and bridges, these bonds will be paid off by millage revenues over 30 years, so that people who benefit from parks and open space in decades to come will share the cost. Past generations made commitments to preserve the open space we now treasure. It's time for us to carry on that legacy.


Lie # 5: Proposal B is a tax increase

Fact:
Proposal B is a renewal of our current Parks millage at the same level it's been for years. The average homeowner will continue to pay less than 90 cents a week.


Lie # 6:
Proposal B will use Ann Arbor's money to save land outside the city when townships won't do it.

Fact:
It won't happen. City funds will be used to protect properties only where townships are willing to pay their fair share. The City would pay only about one-third of the cost of preserving land in surrounding areas, with the rest of the money coming from township, state, federal, and private sources. After years of discussion without action, Proposal B would trigger the first real regional partnerships to guide where to protect open space and where to encourage growth.
Four township boards have passed resolutions of support: Scio, Superior, Ann Arbor and Pittsfield.

Lie # 7: Proposal B will make housing unaffordable.

Fact:
This issue is being pushed by developers who want to distract voters and don't care a whit about affordable housing. For proof, consider this comment at a public meeting on September 21 from Jeff Fisher, who is leading their campaign against Proposal B: "We don't build affordable housing in the Ann Arbor greenbelt area." Craig Welch of Wexford homes, who raised this argument at a debate, is currently building houses that start at $1,000,000. Proposal B won't reduce the numbers of homes that are built but rather will shift development away from sprawl subdivisions and towards infill developments closer to existing infrastructure. House prices won't be bumped up by Proposal B since any effect on land values would be minimal -- and land values represent a small fraction of the cost of a home. In fact, the home of one of the country's most successful open space preservation programs -- Lancaster County, Pennsylvania -- has the most affordable housing in the state.


Lie # 8:
Proposal B will just push sprawl further out from Ann Arbor.

Fact:
Sprawl is already spreading far from Ann Arbor. The greenbelt will actually help guide development back inside Ann Arbor, where city officials are now looking to encourage greater density, and to neighboring Ypsilanti, which is promoting redevelopment. If Proposal B and Ann Arbor Township's Land Preservation Proposal are successful, townships farther way from Ann Arbor are likely to take action to preserve their open space as well. If these proposals fail, then sprawl will continue to spread both near and far from Ann Arbor.


Lie # 9
: We have a better plan

Fact: Developers promised a better plan when they defeated the proposal on the ballot 5 years ago. No plan ever came. And they haven't put forth any plan in response to Proposal B.


Lie # 10
: Since Proposal B doesn't solve all of our problems, it's a bad idea.

Fact:  Read the truth 
here.


Lie # 11: Rushed to ballot with no public debate.

Fact: There have been multiple studies over 10 years (particularly 1997 County open space study that preceded 1998 ballot proposal), and extensive dialogue between people and groups who care about open space preceded Proposal B being proposed for the ballot in August (90 days before election - just as required by state law). The thing that was "missing" in the process was that the sprawl developers who continually say they will oppose any plan to save farmland using conservation easements were not invited to join the dialogue to develop the concept that became Proposal B. Why invite a special interest which was certain to oppose the final result to join the process of developing it?

The issue of protecting land in Washtenaw County has been discussed and studied for more than 20 years. There was 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 1998 county-wide proposal that the developers worked hard to successfully defeat. The Washtenaw County Home Builders Association will NEVER support a land protection proposal that has the potential for real effect on the landscape.

Four township boards have passed resolutions of support: Scio, Superior, Ann Arbor and Pittsfield.
Consult the Washtenaw County Agricultural Land and Open Space Task Force report from December, 1998--the comprehensive study that everyone seems to want. It was produced five years ago!


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