Letters

Letters 12-05-2016

Trump going back on promises I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve been conned by our new president. He’s backpedaling on nearly every campaign promise he made to us...

This Christmas, think before you speak Now that Trump has won the election, a lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to believe they have a mandate to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Think about doing this before you start yelling about people saying “happy holidays,” whining about Starbucks coffee cup image(s), complaining about other’s lifestyles…

First Amendment protects prayer (Re: Atheist Gary Singer’s contribution to the Crossed column titled “What will it take to make America great again?” in the Nov. 21 edition of Northern Express.) Mr. Singer, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Evidence of global warming Two basic facts underlay climate science: first, carbon dioxide was known to be a heat-trapping gas as early as 1850; and second, humans are significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We are in fact well on our way to doubling the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere...

Other community backpack programs I just read your article in the Nov. 28 issue titled “Beneficial backpacks: Two local programs help children.” It is a good article, but there are at least two other such programs in the Traverse City area that I am aware of...

A ‘fox’ in the schoolhouse Trump’s proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos (“the fox” in Dutch), is a right-wing billionaire; relentless promoter of unlimited, unregulated charter schools and vouchers; and enemy of public schooling...

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Vote ‘yes‘ in Acme to control big-box stores and chart our future

William G. Milliken - July 28th, 2005
Residents of Acme Township will head to the polls August 2 to decide whether to allow the township board nine months to develop new rules for managing big-box stores. The elected board already approved a nine-month moratorium on such stores while it studies the matter, but a petition drive put the action to a vote.
I urge Acme residents to cast a “yes” vote and place the township’s, and indeed the region’s, interest ahead of an impatient few.
I’ll confess to a personal interest in the outcome. I spent a memorable part of my childhood in Acme, exploring its natural places with my family and friends. Many of those places still exist and afford new generations of children the same joy I’ve known. Nine months strikes me as a very small investment to protect something so priceless as Acme’s rural character and quality of life.
What’s behind this concern over big-box stores? For many like me, the fear is the hidden costs that underpin the behemoth retailers – costs borne not by the stores, but forced onto the communities they inhabit. These outlets promise low prices but can drive up local taxes to pay for the big problems that don’t show up on their products’ price tags. Problems such as heavy traffic congestion, lost farmland, shuttered local shops, and weakened downtowns.
At their worst, big-box stores are little more than windowless warehouses with gaudy signs out front that cost communities more than they save them. We do not accept such negative impacts and shabby design with our homes, schools, or places of worship. So why when we go shopping, should we be expected to forfeit tax dollars and community character as the price of admission?
Of course, we should not.
The big-box lesson from across the nation is this: Communities attract quality growth when they and their residents help develop a vision for their future and the laws to make it so. By doing so, they welcome creative entrepreneurs who provide the goods and services that people need and desire.
Acme Township is already halfway there. It has a vision for a compact town center akin to that in nearby Elk Rapids, but lacks a zoning ordinance to foster it. The nine-month moratorium would allow the township board and residents to figure out the best way to manage the size, design, and location of large-scale commercial growth.
The threat to Acme Township is growing. Today, only one store there, Kmart, truly merits the “big-box” label. Meijer, however, is proposing to build a store in Acme more than two-and-a-half times larger than Kmart, and mega-retailer Wal-Mart has long eyed the township too. Right now, Acme has no way to control such development because its current zoning allows big-box stores of unlimited size in many locations.
I think a “yes” vote on August 2 is a vote for true local control. The harm big-box stores do to communities is significant and long-term. Even if you find yourself shopping at such stores, I hope you would agree that acting to eliminate or lessen their negative effects is reasonable. To me, it’s the difference between growing by choice or by chance.
Charlevoix and Charlevoix Township recently passed local laws controlling big-box development. Many places across the United States have done the same, and the major retailers now are designing smaller, smarter stores to be able to compete in those places.
Acme Township now faces that challenge, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Garfield Township, just south of Traverse City, has boomed big-box growth for a decade. And Blair Township, the next ring outward from the city, is experiencing the same pressures.
Acme can and should get a handle on this spiraling sprawl. The entire Grand Traverse region, in fact, sorely needs to coordinate its growth plans and laws before reckless development mars the last remnants of rural character.
Indeed, I draw hope from and endorse the fledgling Grand Traverse land use and transportation study, which aims to involve citizens and officials in charting a regional growth strategy. I continue to believe, like the study participants do, that engaging and empowering the public yields lasting results.
The debate in Acme is not about gaining this store or that. Rather, it’s about what the township could lose forever if shortsightedness prevails and big-box stores are allowed to trample Acme’s rural heritage.
As someone who has had the honor to steward all of Michigan’s 37 million acres of land, I say without hesitation that Acme’s acres are as worthy of protection and wise planning as any. I believe we must meet today’s challenges eagerly – but patiently – if we are to keep our promise to our children and grandchildren of a better tomorrow.

William G. Milliken, a Republican, was governor of Michigan from 1969 to 1982 — the longest serving governor in the state’s history. In 2003 he was appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to co-chair the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council, which recommended steps the state needs to take to slow sprawl, rebuild cities, conserve natural resources, and improve the state’s economic competitiveness.


 
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