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Scoff At 6,813 Signatures

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Arise, ye golden arches and save the downtown-State Street área. So procláimed Council Republicans, who voted to approve the bitterly-contested McDonald's site plan Feb. 19. Despite a spontaneous petition drive which gathered 6,813 signatures against the proposal, Republicans applauded the plan which will replane the Nickel's home on Maynard with the "Taj Mahal" of the plastic food business. And this is only the beginning of the fast-food takeover of the área. A Burger King proposed for the same block, in a vacant lot at the corner of Maynard and Liberty, seems likely to get Planning Commission support, despite large numbers of opponents at a public hearing last week. THE HAMBURGER CONSPIRACY The burger battle got off toa dramatic beginning, as Ronald McColburn (a take off on McD's own Ronald McDonald) presented Lord Jim with the stack of signed petitions. David Fenton, representing the Ad Hoc Committee to Stop McDonald's, told City Council members that the 6,813 signatures on the petition represented only a small portion of those opposed to the construction. With a more organized effort, the committee could have gathered two to three times that number of signatures. The petition drive, which lasted only two weeks, gathered twice as many signatures as required to get an issue put on the ballot. Fenton pointed out that people were so eager to sign that some petitions were signed all the way down the front and back, and then names were added to separate sheets of paper. Others photocopied or even typed their own copies of the petition when no blank ones were available Ms. Sherman, a 23-year resident of the city, attacked Council Republicans for lack of interest in the Nickel's house just because it was a few years short of being officially historie. "Look at Washtenaw and the mess that is," she told the Council majority. "That's only a token of the mess you are making of Ann Arbor. What are you doing to keep this city beautiful? We don't have to have 300,000 people in this city!" But Council Republicans scoffed at the proposal that people didn't want "this significant development" in their own backyards. Council member Clyde William Colburn claimed that all 6,813 people who had signed the petitions were duped. According to him the petition was filled with "misleading, untrue information." "There is not an ounce of truth throughout this petition," he declared. Colburn accused the Michigan Daily of biased reporting on the issue, and commended the Ann Arbor News for carrying an accurate picture of the proposed building (Of course, he did not mention that the picture in the A2 News showed three illegally parked cars in front of the sketch of McDonald's). Councilmember Lloyd Fairbanks summed up the Republicans development philosophy, stating, "The Landowner has a right to develop property as he chooses so long as he complies with all local ordinances." He accused Council Democrats of indulging in "politica! luxury because their votes were not needed to pass it." "We oppose it because people in the area don't want it," answered Council Democrat, Norris Thomas. "We believe in following the wishes of the people who live there." HRP Council member Jerry DeGrieck called the plan a massive outrage. Most people who live and work in the área are against it, he said. "The experience from other McDonald's shows that trafile and litter increase when a McDonald 's moves into a neighborhood." Democrat Carol Jones pointed out that Republicans were approving it because a small number of iness people wanted it. And approve it they did, seven to four. BURGER BLIGHT The new McDonald's will bring a three-level structure with seating for 285 people. In addition, it is likely to bring congested traffic to the neighborhood, as well as tons of paper garbage. According to a University of Illinois computer scientist. Bruce Hannon, each McDonald's Corporation wastes 174 million pounds of paper annually, roughly the sustainedyield of 315 square miles of forest. The McDonald's operation also uses 12.7 million tons of coal per year, or for each hamburger eater who drops by the golden arenes, the energy equivalent ot 2.1 pounds of coal is expended. "They're probably no worse than Burger Chef, Big Boy, Dairy Queen and all the others," states Hannon. "They are a symbol of nationwide waste of material and energy resources." And where does all the litter go? Mostly around the neighborhood. As the McDonald's Corporation pointed out in a letter to City Planners, "Regarding the trash problem, we of course can't guarantee that customers will not carry paper out of our restaurant and litter the surrounding area." Akhough McDonald's Corporation has assured the City that they will send out a crew at least once a day to piek up burgerlitter in the surrouding neighborhood. Ms. Anna Schnitzer who lives behind the Stadium McD has evidence against any clean-up by the company. She has complained that litter is a continual problem, and no one has ever come around to up. But McDonald's (like the oil companies these days) is concerned about its image. Thomas Dentise, Michigan district manager has promised the city one of McD's latest innovations, the "Litter Gitter." This is a little three-wheeled gasoline powered vehicle which drives around the city picking up all the trash, not just McDonald's. With this kind of public spirit, McD's hopes people won't notice the thousands of bags, boxes and cups around the shop. The traffic problem in the neighborhood has been passed off by the city as negligible. According to the Planning Department brief on the site plan, the pedestrian-orientation of the plastic-place means only increased pedestrians and bicycles. "Some problems may arise with persons parking cars for short periods of time on Maynard to piek up food orders. But effective enforcement of the prohibition on parking should obvíate this problem if it does arise." And of course bring in more revenue for the city. But as Carol Jones pointed oyt, "If it brings a lot of people, as Republicans claim, its logically going to bring a lot of traffic." i DOUBLÉ YOUR MONEY DOUBLÉ YOUR FUN Litter and traffic will doublé if the planned development of a Burger King around the corner is allowed to proceed. Being pushed by Ann Arbor Tomorrow, a local business group, the three story "Liberty Commercial Center" which will house the burger joint, is being opposed for the same reasons as McDonald's: litter, traffic. horrid food, extraction of profits from the community, low-paying jobs and harm to local food business. At a public hearing on February 1 2, opposition was almost unanimous. But Planning Commission has argued that they have little legal right to stop such a development. But the legal argument used in the past was overturned last week in a landmark decisión by the Washtenaw County Circuit Court. Judge Ross Campbell upheld the city's power to refuse site plan approval to developments which meet all the technical requirements, but which endanger the public health, safety or welfare. Thus, the City has broad discretion to deny approval to developments. But this decisión did not stop the McDonald's and may not stop the Burger King. For those interested in further developments, the Planning Commission will be voting on the Burger King on Tuesday, February 26 at the Council Chambers in City Hall at 7:30 p.m. People should' come and let the City know that we do not these nutritional garbage pits. For those who might feel disillusioned by these developments, it's rewarding to check the progress made in stopping these plastic restaurants from being built. Last year, a Gino's was put up at State and Huron, destroying an historie house. At that time, no one made much attempt to stop it. But the eyesore has created a new consciousness of the problems of booming development without , citizen controls. When the McD's went to Planning mission, no one showed up at the public hearing. Now with the Burger King, more and more people are taking an interest (and 6,813 people signed a petition against the McD.) If this energy continúes and can be used to drive the Republicans from any control of City government, perhaps real citizen trol can be instituted to keep Ann Arbor from urban sprawl. ,.