Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Green Machine Abandoning Hieftje?

29. October 2004 • Murph
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An Ann Arbor News article, Is mayor changing his environmental stance? notes that Doug Cowherd, co-chair of the Huron Valley Sierra Club, and Bill Hanson, a former director of the Washtenaw Land Trust, are withdrawing their support from Mayor Hieftje. The two were key players in last year’s Greenbelt measure, and Cowherd was seen at the time to be the hand behind Hieftje’s throne, but now the pair accuse him of abandoning environmentalists and neighborhood associations, and of playing to big developers.

Other local environmental groups, such as the Huron River Watershed Council and The Ecology Center, however, still support Hieftje. HRWC’s Laura Rubin noted that the Sierra Club is on the side of discouraging growth, while the Watershed Council supports increased density within the city. At a public hearing earlier this year for the Draft Northeast Area Plan, an HRWC representative went on record in support of the plan, saying that increased density within Ann Arbor would reduce development in other parts of the watershed, have a net positive environmental effect. At that hearing, the Sierra Club’s sole contribution was to say they had not looked closely enough at the plan to make comment.

Ecology Center Director Mike Garfield, who was appointed to the greenbelt commission by the City Council, said what has changed is the political dynamic, with developers making the argument that there are environmental benefits to downtown high-rises.

“My thing about Hieftje is he may not be as green as Doug (Cowherd) and he may not be as green as me,” Garfield said. “But he has championed some pretty big environmental programs, and I don’t think he has to apologize for his environmental record.”

Hanson is also quoted in the article criticizing Hieftje for encouraging more people to get involved in the City’s planning discussions, claiming that Hieftje “used to view neighborhood groups as his base . . . Regrettably, it appears he now views them as the opposition.”

  1. In case the tone of the article didn’t come through, I’m leaning back towards Hieftje. From what he’s been noted as saying in various forums earlier this week and articles like this, he’s looking more like someone who’s willing to stand up to NIMBY pressure and do the right thing.

    We’ll see how tonight’s forum with planning students goes.
       —Murph    Oct. 29 '04 - 02:28PM    #
  2. hey, anyone who views neighborhood groups as the enemy is worthy of my serious consideration.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 29 '04 - 02:48PM    #
  3. I’m leaning Hieftje at the moment, too… I think I’ll know after tonight.
       —Brandon    Oct. 29 '04 - 03:24PM    #
  4. Yeah. The article quotes Cowherd saying that he’s for density—paraphrased: “four to five stories in hundreds of places”—knowing well that it’d be a practical impossibility to redevelop hundreds of sites in town and that even if they did, it wouldn’t create the necessary density to keep up with anticipated population growth in the area.
       —Scott T.    Nov. 1 '04 - 05:12PM    #