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
# 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
Articles to read: "Farmers
Markets Bloom", "The
New Entrepreneurial Agriculture"
Lie # 3: Housing prices would be increased
by Proposal B
Read the truth here.
# 4: Thirty years is too long a time to extend the existing millage
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
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
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.
# 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
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.
Since Proposal B doesn't solve all of our problems, it's a bad idea.
Read the truth here.
# 11: Rushed to ballot with no public debate.
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!