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LOCAL COMMENT: Land-use plan right for state
By Frank Kelley and William Milliken
Detroit Free Press

As cochairs of the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council, we salute Gov. Jennifer Granholm for her determined, bipartisan vision that defined the roads Michigan must travel to secure a strong economic future.

At the heart of this vision is a commitment to create a Michigan where businesses want to locate and talented people want to live. To make this vision a reality, Michigan must contain exciting creative cities as well as beautiful, productive rural landscapes. It must be surrounded by clean air and water. And it must be infused with an everyday quality of life that extends from workplaces and schools to shopping and recreation opportunities and to our neighborhoods and our homes.

Arching across all of these priorities are the issues of wise land-use that Granholm entrusted to the 26 members of the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council early in her administration. Our bipartisan work group brought forth a list of recommendations, many of which have already been incorporated into legislation and executive orders that are helping our state plan a productive and sustainable future for the 37 million acres that are Michigan.

"Cool Cities" is one key component of the governor's plans for Michigan that rests on many recommendations brought forward by the Council. Cool Cities requires making our urban centers attractive to developers, residents and entrepreneurs. With these recommendations as a guide, the Legislature and municipal governments have a map to support public and private efforts to develop city spaces now empty, address urban blight and take advantage of urban infrastructure to create mixed-use housing, walkable neighborhoods and new business opportunities.

A healthy economy also means, as the governor stressed, that we have productive farmland and timberland, and a thriving tourism economy. All of these industries depend on our ability to preserve productive land, maintain our most scenic views and protect our rivers and Great Lakes. Again, these goals and the methods to achieve them were another focus of the council's recommendations.

Granholm also discussed how an efficient government is central to a leaner budget and a more competitive state outlook. She urged local units of government to tighten their budgets -- to "tear up the turf" and work together, to think regionally and work collaboratively.

The council recognized that one of the best places to begin this work is in areas of planning, infrastructure and development. There are millions of dollars and thousands of government staff hours to be saved if governmental units could view land in the way that people see it and use it rather than along narrow jurisdictional boundaries.

If cities, townships and counties work together to share planning resources and technology, and even actual planning documents, we will together have marked a huge milestone in making our state a more appealing place to live. Roads, bridges, waterways and scenic views all cross jurisdictional borders. Local leaders should work together across borders as well.

The governor's call for collaboration that puts aside partisanship and politics was the guiding spirit of the council. The council gathered the best minds in Michigan business, tourism, government, agriculture and environmentalism. Together, they reached agreement on land-use issues crucially important to Michigan's economic vitality and quality of life. The council demonstrated that the governor's vision of cooperation is indeed possible and served as a model for how Michigan can move forward.

We are grateful to Granholm for recognizing the value of the council's recommendations and its spirit of cooperation, and for helping our state begin the journey to a place where commerce, our citizens and our environment thrive.

Together, we can build a Michigan that all of our children will want to come home to.

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