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DETROIT-From 1970 to 2000, the amount of developed land in Michigan increased asmuch as 10 times as the population, according to a recent report byAmerigis, a research and geographic information systems firm based inMinneapolis.

In the Detroit region, development is eating up land four times faster thanother urban areas in the country, said Myron Orfield, president of Amerigis.He told GlobeSt.com that instead of harboring programs and tax relief torebuild in current cities, the population in Southeast Michigan isabandoning the built-up areas and seeding new construction and sprawl ingiant rings around the city.

The report was created to document trends in Michigan metropolitan areasthat threaten their economies, environment and quality of life, and tofoster open dialogue about potential solutions. The report was produced withthe support of more than 20 representatives of government, academia,non-profit and public-interest organizations, including the W.K. KelloggFoundation, the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Michigan Municipal LeagueFoundation.

“Growth is good, don’t get me wrong,” Orfield told GlobeSt.com. “But notwhen it’s eating its own lunch.”

He said low-density development is threatening farmland at the fringe edgesto the north and west suburbs of Detroit, whereas the central cities areseverely troubled.

He said widespread disparities, such as social separation and fiscalinequality, are causing a chasm in coherent land use in the Detroit area. Onesuch problem, he said, is that low-growth communities in the Detroit areatypically lack affordable multi-housing opportunities; whereas multifamilyis plentiful in poorer, developed areas.

“Older communities are feeling the pressures of growing social strain andthe bite of state fiscal policies that favor growing places over establishedones,” Orfield said.

The only solution, he said, is regional land-use planning, metropolitanpartnerships and tax reforms. For example, better land-use planning would eliminate the need to createmore infrastructure in newly developed areas, while older infrastructure isignored.

Orfield pointed at Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s newly created Michigan Land UseLeadership Council as an example of the right step in the smart growthdirection.

“There are any number of worthy policies this group might consider, includingdeveloping a series of statewide goals that support sustainable developmentand requiring state agencies to follow them,” Orfield said.

He said Michigan’s industrial history means a significant supply of formerindustrial sites are available for redevelopment.

“Cleaning up these brownfield sites can encourage businesses to build onland already served by infrastructure, rather than undeveloped ‘greenfields,’” Orfield said.

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