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Posted on Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 8:03 a.m.

It's time to put an end to Ann Arbor's Greenbelt program

By Letters to the Editor

An open letter to all council persons:

It is high time to end the Greenbelt program and therefore stop taking $2,000,000 annually of taxpayer money. I think a very large majority of everyone can agree there has already been enough greenspace purchased in the last many years.

This program started when Ann Arbor was growing rapidly with lots of land being bought and developed for housing. There is NO more need for developing land and in fact many parcels that were bought for this purpose are now bankrupt and still sit as greenspace. The program has outlived its usefulness.

Now I read that the council voted 9 to 1 for expansion. A thank you to Jane Lumm, who is apparently the only council person with common sense enough to look out for the Ann Arbor taxpayers. This is an absolutely INSANE use of taxpayer money while members of the City Council and everyone else complains about having to lay off city employees, needing more funds for fixing streets, and other much more important uses. It’s time to learn fiscal responsibility, just as the state and federal governments must do.

David Singsank
Ann Arbor



Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

One of the ironic benefits of the Greenbelt Program is. It protects the township residents from the nut jobs in Ann Arbor. And the nut jobs are paying for it!


Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 7:44 a.m.

First of all, I would like to address this false, fear-mongering attitude of not having "enough" police & fire protection. It is a false presumption. If you are a resident of Ann Arbor, you get mailed a copy of The Observer, local monthly magazine. Lo & behold! This month in The Observer, it shows that crime in Ann Arbor, in the last 25 years "has dropped like a rock"! "The number of crimes reported has dropped by %70, from 2,670 in 1986 to 790 in 2010"! (Ann Arbor Observer, Dec. 2011, page 23) So, that leaves me wondering just WHERE you and the 67 people who voted for your comment get their information, or if you even bother to be informed. It appears to me that you have a certain, knee-jerk reaction to things you don't even fully understand. Thanks to Vivienne Armentrout for an even-handed and intelligent response to this opinion article; an article that is based on unfounded reasoning and vainly presents itself as speaking for the majority in thinking that "there has already been enough greenspace in the last many years (sic)." Ann Arbor has a record of it's citizens taking a healthy interest in their city and environment, not only for themselves, but for future generations; tomorrow's citizens. That is how we became "Tree Town" in the first place. Past citizens used city money to promote the planting of trees, many trees, to benefit future generations and make our town a pleasant place to live. It worked! Look at the surveys! Ann Arbor has the distinction of being one of the best towns of it's size to live in in the U.S.! Now, I cannot fathom the reasons why this person felt so moved to speak out against what THIS generation's thoughtful citizens are doing to ensure the vitality of our town and the surrounding areas, but I tire of the carping and complaining by those with the least information on what is actually happening and the fundamental reasons it is being done! You have NO valid reason to complain! You'

John Q

Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

As several people have pointed out, if you want to live in a community that's not interested in investing in the future and solely funds the basics for police and fire, there's dozens of suburban communities within 25 miles of Ann Arbor where you can live in that kind of community. Why would you move to Ann Arbor if you're not interested in living in a city where residents vote to invest their tax dollars this way? Vivienne already demolished the points of misinformation that have been spread. But I would add that you can't find any city program that has been as successful as the Greenbelt millage in leveraging public and private resources to accomplish its goals. What other city program funded by city tax dollars has been able to bring in tens of millions in local and federal funds and private contributions from land conservancies and property owners? What other city spending has been matched by as much outside funding and resources? It's a great example of a city program that works and that maximizes the tax dollars that city residents give to it.


Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 1:14 a.m.

The Greenbelt program has always been ridiculous and you can see the effects we are having now in Ann Arbor vis-a-vis zoning, high rises, etc.... People voted for the whole Greenbelt program without fulling understanding what it meant -- and polls taken over the past few years have overwhelming shown little support for it.... Yet our CIty Council proceeds oblivious to the all of that, since they only care about what the people in the 6-square blocks of downtown think... It's a town folding up upon itself...


Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 7:51 a.m.

Apparently you don't 'get' the idea of what 'urban density' means. I fully understood what the program was about when voting for it and I don't see how you can casually state that people voted for it without knowing what it meant. It wasn't a difficult concept. Preserve our countryside & commit to more urban density. Just what "polls" are you looking at? Name them, because I don't take your word that they even exist. Show me. This town is continuing to grow & thrive in the face of an economic downturn. What more do you wish to demand from it? I don't think you have much of a clue here.

John Q

Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

What polls are those?

David Paris

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 11:06 p.m.

Voting in favor of the greenbelt was the sensible thing to do. It still is!

charles mancherian

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 11:05 p.m.

I can't think of one benefit of us taxpayers spending our money to buy land in the townships. Maybe somebody could enlighten me on this. Just give me one example. What a waste of our taxes! A dumb idea to begin with. If land in the townships needs to be preserved, let the townships or the county do it.


Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 7:59 a.m.

uhm, look at Vivienne Armentrout's comment. Then do a little research for yourself, instead of waiting to be spoonfed what you should be looking up for yourself as a responsible citizen. Also, check out John Q's comment below, it further examines the point. This isn't an us & them issue. It is something important for ALL of us! And it is something that we can do together as a team, that couldn't be done by any one entity of government; a partnership resolved to looking out for future generations. It isn't about the townships involved; it is about ALL of us and our standard of living and future sustainability! Narrow minds and absurd comments on this thread really need to get informed on the issue. maybe then you'll begin to see the intrinsic value of the actions that are thoughtfully being played out here. This is for the benefit of everybody involved, from landowners to those that live & work here.

Peter Jameson

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

Great! I support the greenbelt because it keeps housing scarce and rent prices high. My houses are always leased and therefore business is good.

Anthony Clark

Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 5:21 a.m.

The greenbelt isn't keeping housing scarce. Housing is not scarce in Ann Arbor. Rent is high because this is a college town and landlords know they can take advantage of students and their rich parents.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

As municipalities everywhere experience greater financial challenges, dedicated millages like this will eventually get dragged, kicking and screaming, back to the ballot. I suspect many of them will fall by the wayside, as voters reconsider their priorities for spending. Things like this are expensive "wannas", not fundamental municipal needs.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

Despite the author getting a lot of things factually wrong in this post, I want to respond with a simple "I like the greenbelt program. Tax me for it. Tax me for cops and fire department too. I'm willing to be accountable for the benefits I get living here."

Dog Guy

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Detroit started its greenbelting with mayor Jerome Cavanagh buying into the Model Cities program. The process is now complete; Detroit is a wilderness area inhabited by coyote, raccoons, black bear, and other predators. Subsistence farming is its only growth industry. You may visit there to view the future of any city reliant on state and federal taxes. Pack heavy for your visit.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

Ever hear the term &quot;white flight&quot;? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Brian Kitchin

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

Save your breath David. The Libs in Ann Arbor never saw a tax they didn't like, a tree they wouldn't hug and a common sense Conservative they wouldn't vilify. Tax away our pothead brethren.


Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 8:04 a.m.

That's a clueless comment. Ann Arbor is known as &quot;Treetown&quot; because our past citizens of the early '60s had the sense and foresight to see that planting trees would make this town a more pleasant place to live. Learn a little about the history of the town you live in before you criticize it, please. You are speaking blatantly with contempt, from a position of even more blatant ignorance.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

I've never seen a &quot;common sense Conservative,&quot; personally.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

Is there enough public money to go around for all these special interest projects. Come On. We can't fund police and fire but this fly's. Wake Up.


Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 8:08 a.m.

Hey, read Vivienne Armentrout's informed comment before you carp about things you haven't the first clue about. We have a funded police department and our fire department operates exceptionally proficiently. I've seen them in action! Oh, and FYI, crime in Ann Arbor has been down %70 percent in the last 25 years &quot;hit rock bottom&quot; according to the figures and local police chiefs. (Ann Arbor Observer, Dec. 2011, page 23.) Get the facts straight before you complain, please.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

I just want to clarify this for myself; a significant portion of the money spent is to buy DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS, right? We're not actually acquiring land for potential park use, we're just giving people money in exchange for their agreement not to allow housing/retail development on the land. Is that correct?


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

The Greenbelt purchases are from a special tax approved by the voters - it does not come from the general fund. My experience with Michigan is that we invest far too little in public planning initiatives like this and rail type mass transit, then those do elsewhere in the country. If you want to kill something, ban any discussion of the &quot;Green Way&quot;, one of the stupidest ideas ever uttered by a Council famous for stupid ideas. Green ways in other cities remove abandoned rail tracks and create linear parks that, in the imaginations of liberals, become a new means for bunnies and Bambi's mom take &quot;short cuts&quot; to the rainbow they see on the other side of the city. Otherwise, sniff, they are &quot;blocked&quot; by civilization, sob, whimper. AA has no such tracks so naturally some nit wits decided the City should buy blocks of privately owned, very expensive, tax generating land in a contiguous ribbon of nonsense through the City for the bunnies. There are actually &quot;adults&quot; on Council who think this is a great idea!!! END all discussion of the Green Way and vote out any Council member who supports it or the cross walk ordinance.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

I love the greenbelt program. I look at it as a sort of moat to protect me from the craziness of Ann Arbor.

Ron Granger

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

The greenspace is critical to keeping Ann Arbor free from strip malls, seas of concrete, and failed &quot;developments&quot;. I think we like it, and we vote accordingly. It also helps keep us from combining with the Detroit-Ypsi sprawl corridor. However, there are plenty of concrete utopias that do not share this view - that would be most of the cities in Michigan. Have you considered Dearborn?

Mike D.

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

1. A &quot;very large majority&quot; of people disagree with you. That's why we voted for the Greenbelt. 2. A down economy is the best time to buy green space. Taxpayers are getting a better deal now that we will during the next building boom. 3. While I am not in favor of large short-term elective expenditures during a down economy (such as a new county workout facility), the Greenbelt is a long-term initiative that will pay off for generations to come. 4. Green space doesn't come back once it's gone, so it's now or never. 5. You might want to consider moving to Novi. The lack of green space and lower taxes sound right up your alley.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

We may not have police security or fire security, but at least we'll have &quot;local food security&quot;. And it will be run by the same people that have dropped the ball on the first two. Perfect.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

&quot;I think a very large majority of everyone can agree there has already been enough greenspace purchased in the last many years.&quot; Well, there's your first problem.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

Buy the land while it's cheap.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

A good recent review of greenbelt finances is in a recent article from the Ann Arbor Chronicle. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

This calls for a number of corrections. First, the Greenbelt millage (which is also the parks acquisition millage) is a dedicated millage and the funds raised cannot be used for other purposes like streets or retaining police and fire personnel, etc. Second, even if it could be canceled (which I think would take a vote of the people), there is a problem with bonds that were issued early in the program. We are still paying off those bonds with the proceeds of the millage. It is true that we are no longer in a building boom, but the program continues to assure that we have good farmland (not just &quot;greenspace&quot;) that will be retained in agriculture in our area. I see this as a valuable long-term investment in local food security. If a &quot;very large majority&quot; of people think that we have enough &quot;greenspace&quot;, I doubt that the county natural areas millage would have been renewed in this last election, which it was. The expansion of the greenbelt was very small on a percentage basis and enabled the program to take on a couple of significant properties (&quot;significant&quot; means &quot;good soil, productive, continguous with other greenbelt areas&quot;). As this program has matured, it has entered into beneficial relationships with townships who have contributed funds and also with land conservancies like the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy so that we get more land and better administration than we would on our own.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

Everything changes. Just because housing isn't selling now doesn't mean it won't later on and the greenbelt will help things from getting out of hand. I just came back from Phoenix where my dad lives. When he first moved there his suburb was next to the open desert. Now, it's nothing but housing complexes next to strip malls and the dirt road up his street is a six lane road with bumper to bumper traffic. No open space anywhere around- unless you count the parking lots. This is what a greenbelt prevents and you have to do it when there is open space to preserve not when it's too late.