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February 2003
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Michigan Land Use Institute Meeting

On January 23rd MLUI founder Keith Schneider and planner Jim Lively spoke with a group of Islanders, including several of its two dozen local members, Township officials, and interested residents. Keith described how he had quit his position as a NY Times correspondent in order to devote himself to fighting the urban sprawl he saw gobbling up the landscape, and how many people supported him as his work began to take effect. Jim talked about his many presentations to Planning Commissions in which he urged communities to identify their resources in detail in order to tailor means to protect them.

They were both inspiring and informative. Their citing of examples of what they had accomplished, from creating an alternative to the Petoskey by-pass to fighting the South Fox Island land swap to shedding light on the likely consequences of a planned new bridge across Traverse City’s Boardman River, held everyone’s interest. Those who fought the weather to attend were quickly convinced that the MLUI was one of the “good guys.”

The planned half-hour of questions that followed ran into an hour because members of the audience not only wanted to know more about how MLUI policy might help Beaver Island, but also wanted to tell them about our joys and difficulties, our satisfactions as well as our problems. Some of what was said was similar to what they heard elsewhere—how so much work falls on so few people, and how local attempts to protect a community can run up against overwhelming threats of litigation—but other statements were unique. In response they offered some specific suggestions, but at times could only listen and nod. It quickly became apparent that, to some extent, we were auditioning for a Beaver Island ombudsman—someone to whom we could address a variety, large and small, of comments and complaints.

All in all, the meeting was a wonderful exercise in expression that helped move the Island community closer, along with such enterprises as the Visioning Project, Leadership Retreats, Partnership Project, and the broad consultations aimed at creating a new Master Plan, to a unified vision of what we want to do and be.

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