DETROIT-Prompted by economic, cultural, and demographic trends that are causing rising costs and declining conditions in urban and suburban parishes, the influential Detroit Archdiocese this month is launching a multi-year campaign to curb Michigan’s sprawling patterns of development, says Arlin Wasserman, policy director at the Michigan Land Use Institute. At the top of the Archdiocese’s priorities is changing state polices to encourage new urban development and slow runaway growth at the suburban fringe.

The Archdiocese has 1.5 million members in southeast Michigan.

These and other ideas were on the agenda of the church’s recent fifth annual Salt & Light conference, attracting public policy experts, smart growth advocates, and active clergy and laity.

Each year the Salt & Light conference brings together community leaders who seek to bridge religious, racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic boundaries.

Cardinal Adam J. Maida, the Archbishop of the Detroit Archdiocese, has embraced halting sprawl as a top church priority.

Among the specific changes in public policy that will be put before lawmakers in Lansing is coordinating land use planning across government boundaries to stop sprawl and encourage new development in city centers and older suburbs.

The church also wants the next governor and Detroit’s next mayor to use their bully pulpits to lead a statewide effort to stop sprawl.

The church’s new focus on sprawl and urban reinvestment is likely to tip the balance of power on both issues in Lansing, where debate has been stifled by groups representing home builders and Realtors, Wasserman says.

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