After running on a platform centered on environmental issues, state Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) announced yesterday that he has been appointed to Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s bipartisan Land Use Leadership Council.

“I’m excited. I’m looking forward to getting the state to address this in a comprehensive manner,” Kolb said. “We have not done a good job of addressing (urban sprawl) in the past, and one of the major reasons is we’ve not had an executive whose made it one of their top priorities – and that changed when Granholm was elected.”

Kolb stressed the urgency of Michigan’s urban development problems, and how some people are not really aware of the issue at hand.

“What we call ‘urban sprawl’ is the inefficient use of land. … Our rate of development is increasing five times faster than the population,” he said. “We will use as much land to house the next one million people in Michigan as the first nine million.”

Sprawl has grave economic and environmental ramifications for the state, he added. Overhead for extending sewers, roads, schools, trash service and water lines cost the state on average 40 percent more than their tax revenues generate. He added that in spite of the state budget’s $1.7 billion deficit, there are several measures the committee can take to help this problem.

“There’s lots of things we can do right now to address the land-use issue that won’t cost the state money. A lot of what we’re trying to do is get local communities to address land use in their area,” Kolb said. But there are important measures that do require funds that are currently unavailable.

“One solution we need to fund is how to purchase development rights,” Kolb said, adding that the plans work mainly with rural plots that might be targets for developers. “You pay the farmer the difference between what the land would sell for as agricultural land and what a developer would pay them. They, in turn, agree to never develop the land.”

The committee intends to represent many diverse views, Kolb said.

“In the end, what the committee has to do is bring a bunch of interested groups together and agree on what to do,” he said.

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