The Greenbelt policy approved by Ann Arbor
voters is a reflection of the community’s commitment to
open-space preservation — a laudable effort by the city to
combat the effects of urban sprawl. However, in order for the
Greenbelt to be truly successful in achieving this end, it is
important that other communities locally and across the state
follow suit and adopt similar measures.

Kate Green

Monday, E. Spaulding Clark, the supervisor of nearby Scio Twp.,
announced his intention to introduce a new proposal to the
township’s Board of Trustees asking for a $500,000 tax on the
township’s residents to buy the development rights to a
number of areas in the township. This measure is worthy of support
and promises to not only save a number of open spaces in Scio
Township, but also to help protect the region as a whole from the
effects of urban sprawl.

When considering the broad implications this program will
entail, the people of Scio Township should remember that the
benefits dwarf the costs. The plan, which is only in its early
stages, will ask for an extra $50 every year in property-tax
payments from the average resident with a $200,000 home. This is a
small price to pay to help prevent cities from expanding out of
control.

While Scio Township was one of the eight surrounding communities
that were included in the original Greenbelt proposal passed by Ann
Arbor voters last November, more could be done within these
communities to bolster the Greenbelt. According to the Ann Arbor
News, the city is expecting to pay anywhere from 30 to 50 percent
of the cost of targeted land, with the rest being taken care of by
private individuals or other governmental sources. It will become
necessary, as Ann Arbor begins implementing the Greenbelt proposal,
that surrounding communities have the funds necessary to back these
efforts. Otherwise, the effectiveness of Ann Arbor in curbing the
outward sprawl on the city’s outskirts will be greatly
reduced.

The Homebuilders Association of Washtenaw County has voiced
opposition to the proposal, disagreeing with the notion that
government should use public money to buy the development rights to
land. They believe such rights should be left in the private
sector. However, their arguments do not take into account that
urban sprawl is too big a problem for average land owners to
prevent on their own. Such issues makeup one of the areas in which
government is most able to effect the necessary changes, by going
around the collective action problem in which it is difficult to
organize people’s land use patterns. In this case, the local
governments in Ann Arbor and perhaps Scio will have been
instrumental in laying the foundation for a beautiful Washtenaw
County.

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