Lake Erie initiative planned
Input sought on idea to protect water by curbing sprawl
By Tom Henry
Suburbia's impact on water quality can be immense: When
land gets paved over, there's less grass or soil to filter
out pollutants such as motor oil drippings and farm fertilizers
that run off the land and head downstream after each rain.
It's one of the drawbacks of urban sprawl.
Government planners don't have much power to stop sprawl.
But through an incentive-laden program called the balanced
growth initiative, officials feel they now can be creative
in their efforts to mitigate the effects on Lake Erie.
Compiled by a 30-member task force from many walks of
life, the initiative has a nonbinding theme they feel
is nonthreatening to developers.
It doesn't attempt to undo past mistakes. It doesn't
propose new laws.
Rather, it tries to get everyone to recognize the benefits
of managing future growth in a more eco-friendly way,
"Nobody's evil. Nobody's the bad person. It's a
quality-of-life issue," John Hull, task force chairman,
Mr. Hull, president of Hull & Associates, Inc., a
Toledo-based consulting firm, said it's essential to bring
all parties together.
"This is not a bleeding-heart Sierra Club perspective.
This is an important component to our quality of life,"
Lake Erie is one of the world's largest bodies of fresh
water. Together, it and the other Great Lakes hold a fifth
of the planet's fresh surface water. Those lakes are expected
to become even more coveted as water shortages become
more acute throughout the world later this century because
of global warming and the Earth's growing population.
"Lake Erie is Ohio's greatest natural resource and
provides tremendous natural and economic benefits to all
Ohioans. It is truly a resource of global significance,"
according to the two-volume Balanced Growth Initiative
draft, now up for public review.
Task force member Ed Hammett said he likes the initiative
because it takes a bottom-up approach. Despite oodles
of after-the-fact pollution research, he acknowledged
that precious little has been done to unify planners with
a more forward-thinking way to see the Lake Erie basin
in a big picture.
"This kind of fills a gap that's not being addressed
at this point," Mr. Hammett, chief of the Ohio Environmental
Protection Agency's northwest district office in Bowling
Green, said. "Many reports deal with existing problems.
This is more forward-looking."
The task force that wrote the proposed initiative was
formed by the Toledo-based Ohio Lake Erie Office, an arm
of the governor's office. Developers, environmentalists,
businessmen, scientists, college professors, and government
officials are among those represented.
A number of financial incentives eventually could be
offered, with the help of various agencies.
Officials were admittedly thin on examples. But they
said one of the biggest incentives could be writing rules
so that projects eyed for so-called priority development
areas score the highest for grant money.
Land designated as priority conservation areas, on the
other hand, would score lowest because it would be more
Those kind of planning mechanisms don't make it impossible
to develop green land, but veer developers to other areas
The initiative also could ultimately make life simpler
for developers by showing them where common principles
lie before they invest too much time and money in their
projects, officials said.
"It's as much of an education process as anything
else - trying to get people to learn there are consequences
in terms of where to put things and not to put things,"
David Goss, senior director of transportation and infrastructure
for the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, said.
The association is the nation's second-largest chamber
of commerce behind Detroit's.
In March, the initiative is expected to be presented
to the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, a panel of state agency
department heads, for approval.
Comments are now being taken on two draft documents,
which are to be discussed at public forums on Jan. 28
in Bay Village, Ohio, west of Cleveland, as well as the
Ohio Lake Erie Office in downtown Toledo on Feb. 3. Both
meetings start at 7 p.m.
The Bay Village meeting will be at the Lake Erie Nature
& Science Center, 28728 Wolf Rd. The Ohio Lake Erie
Office is at 1 Maritime Plaza. That office reports to
the Ohio Lake Erie Commission.