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PAL Update – November 2003





Mi Casa May Not Be Su Casa

The MEC’s research revealed that the terms used to describe different types of development are not well understood. According to the study, as the state moves into a more widespread practice of community planning, there can be communications problems between planners and homebuyers:

Mi Casa May Not Be Su Casa Continued on Page 4

At the center of land use issues are the homebuyers, whose values and preferences should be the driving force behind how land use decisions are made. Here, we turn the spotlight on two organizations that are focusing on homebuyers’ opinions and attempting to educate them about alternatives.

The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) worked in partnership with the Michigan Association of Realtors to conduct a survey of prospective homebuyers and what they look for when buying a home. Four focus groups conducted by an independent firm found a core set of values motivating Michigan homebuyers:

When Planners Say…

They Mean…

And Homebuyers Hear….

Livable Communities

Neighborhoods with a mix of businesses and residences, as well as open spaces and transportation options.

Something vague, like
they are settling for less than optimal living
conditions. According to one Grand Rapids man, “livable is a weasel word
it’s something you say when you don’t want to say anything bad.”

Freedom, which is expressed as the desire for privacy, quiet, and a choice of where and how to live;

Security, expressed as keeping one’s family safe from crime;

Desire to secure a high quality of life for one’s family, expressed as convenience, diversity, and knowing one’s neighbors; and

Aesthetics, described as a desire to be near nature, parks, rivers, and lakes, as well as a dislike of “cookie-cutter” housing developments.

“For the most part, we all want good-looking, safe neighborhoods where our kids can play,” said Brad Ward, director of legal affairs at the Michigan Association of Realtors. “Our biggest challenge is finding ways to talk to each other about how our communities should be growing.”

High Density Development

Compact, walkable community design that reduces strains on public infrastructure like sewer, water, and roads.

Overcrowded neighborhoods
with buildings and houses crammed together. One Detroit woman felt it meant “too many people
per square mile.”

Protecting Green Space

Clustering development to reduce fragmentation of open spaces.

Widely spaced housing avoiding dense development
that paves over open space.

Walkable Communities

Places where homes, workplaces, and amenities are in close proximity.

Good news! Places where homes, workplaces, and
amenities are in close
proximity. It also
symbolized safety.







Project Spotlight
Michigan’s Future Still Hangs in the Balance
Leadership Council Report Needs Your Support

In Kent County, the United Growth for Kent County project is distributing a Directory of Kent County Land Use Organizations in an effort to promote media coverage of the important issues addressed by the Council’s report and the work already being done by Kent County organizations.

United Growth for Kent County also hosted a panel of five Michigan Land Use Leadership Council members at its September 30 Project Partners Meeting to discuss the recommendations, process, and next steps. A diverse group of 60 Project Partners attended the luncheon,
which was held at the Calvin College Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids. Panel members were Jim Brooks, Dan Gilmartin, Mick McGraw, Larry Merrill, and Hans Voss. The meeting, called “The Road to Effective Land Use,” was videotaped and aired on GRTV Channel 24.

As your own efforts continue, consider reading the 100-page report in full. Organized around the four major categories of land use urban revitalization, land resource based industries, planning and development regulation, and infrastructure and community services it contains 160 recommendations designed to address the long-term consequences of unplanned, unmanaged growth and its impact on both the environment and the economy of Michigan. Several members of the PAL Advisory Group who served on the council played key roles in shaping the council’s recommendations: Jim Barrett, Jim Brooks, Keith Charters, Gordon Guyer, Lana Pollack, Hans Voss, Heaster Wheeler, and Gil White.

During its deliberations, the council formed broad agreement on more than 100 of the recommendations, which are highlighted in a summary of the report prepared by the Council of Michigan Foundations. To receive a copy of the summary, call Jennifer Wolfin at (517) 267-9800. Both the complete report and the summary of highlights are available on-line at www.michiganlanduse.org.


Grantee Updates Coming Soon!
The latest round of PAL grant applications was received
in October. Watch for an update on new grantees at

Now that the report of the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council has been submitted to the governor and legislature, the real
work begins. PAL encourages grantees to build awareness about the report and continue the statewide conversation about its recommendations. People in your community who understand the issues need to continue the work to translate the Council’s recommendations into action at the state and local level. Here’s just a sample of some ongoing activities supporting the Council’s report:

The West Michigan Strategic Alliance held a meeting on November 3 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens to review the Council’s recommendations and develop concrete action steps for the region with regard to implementation or legislative advocacy. Governor Jennifer Granholm made her first announcement about action steps she and the legislature will take as a result of the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council report, noting that West Michigan sets a great example for the rest of the state in terms of thinking regionally about building a sustainable future.

The Michigan Farmland Community Alliance (MFCA) has been conducting an on-line Visual Preference Survey (see “Mi Casa May Not Be Su Casa”). In addition, MFCA conducted five regional forums in late October to explain the Leadership Council’s report, and help MFCA prioritize issues in promoting policy change. The agenda of the forums included:

Review of the Leadership Council’s recommendations that promise to impact farmland preservation

Explain the “What Michigan Wants” Visual Preference Survey and how to use it to support local efforts

Discuss current policy efforts and assess support for
specific recommendations







PAL Profile

Dennis Koons
President and CEO of
the Michigan Bankers
Association, PAL
Advisory Group

When Dennis Koons began to serve on the PAL Advisory Group, he was CEO of the Michigan Association of Realtors, and had actively served with a number of organizations concerned with land use and development.

“On my way in the door of the Michigan Bankers Association, I asked if my work in land use would be consistent with this industry,” says Koons. “I received an emphatic yes.”

Banking is at the heart of development, and Koons believes that Smart Growth should be a guiding principle in the financial backing of every kind of development. “It’s very important that the investments we make as a society are lasting investments and wise investments,” says Koons.

He firmly believes in private property rights. “The right to
own and use private property has played an incredibly
important role in the development of the world’s mos

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