Ann Arbor and some of its neighboring townships are combatting a recent plan to rezone up to 200 acres of pastoral and agricultural land in Lodi Township into R-3, or residential, land. The land, which borders I-94 to the east, Scio Church Road to the north, and Wagner and Waters Roads to the west, is currently does not have an adequate water treatment and sewage pipeline system. However, Ann Arbor, Pittsfield and Scio townships refuse to allow Lodi to link up their sewage systems to the future neighborhood’s sewage system. While this roadblock might make it harder to transform the land into residential sprawl, it will not stop it. If local communities are truly dedicated to curbing sprawl, they must work toward implementing the Greenbelt initiative.
As it stands, the developer will probably not be deterred from continuing with plans to build residential units on this land. Instead of giving up and moving on, there is a good chance that the developer will simply plan an alternative system of sewage removal, involving the city of Ypsilanti. Instead of moving sewage through Ann Arbor’s treatment system, the effluent waste would be handled by the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority. While this may be more expensive than routing sewage through Ann Arbor, the developer will most likely pass the costs onto the residents of Lodi.
The developers claim this recent rezoning is unique, in that they are constructing the project around natural features and trees. The planned community will involve clustered houses, as many as 3 to 4 per acre, while leaving about 50 percent, or 100 acres, of the zoned area as open space. However, this attention to green space, while refreshing on the part of developers, is not sufficient to ensure land preservation. Tracts of agricultural and pastoral land must be protected from development, not merely developed in a less disruptive manner.
The Greenbelt initiative, which Ann Arbor voters passed by significant margins, raises and puts forth money to buy tracts of undeveloped land — such as this 200 acre tract — in the townships surrounding Ann Arbor. By buying land and development rights around Ann Arbor, Greenbelt advocates hope to curb sprawl and encourage better urban planning. Unfortunately, little action has been taken, and land is being snapped up by developers eager to place subdivisions in the rapidly growing, well-to-do areas around the city. As time goes on, delay by those directing the Greenbelt only ensures that undeveloped land becomes scarcer and more expensive. The delays must end so the Greenbelt millage funds can be put to good use.
Sprawl will not be curbed by making developers crawl through red tape. By choosing not to connect Ann Arbor’s sewage system with that of Lodi Township, officials have merely delayed an inevitable development. The Greenbelt, which was passed almost two years ago, must be brought to fruition.