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Ann Arbor's Future: A Detroit Suburb?

Ann Arbor's Future: A Detroit Suburb? image
Parent Issue
Day
18
Month
March
Year
1973
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Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
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Ann Arbor is known for - and fosters an image of - it's uniqueness. But less certain policy decisions are made by citizens and city government, that uniqueness may disappear. This is one of the many conclusión arrived at in a mammoth study of the city's growth formally released today by the city planning staff. The 435-member study o u 1 1 i n e s changes in Ann Arbor f ro m an intermediate-size university town toward a "bedroom" satellite community of Detroit. It shows a great need for more moderate and low income housing, depicts a rising crime rate, and describes a pricing policy for city services which "invites sprawling developments" and fails to encourage orderly development. The year-long study was commissi ned by City Council shortly after council declared a one week halt in the issuance of building permits. That temporary stöppage came amid fears that the city was Iphysically over-extending i t s sewage treatment facilities. After considerable review by the Planning Commission and City Council, the planning staff is expected to prepare the second phase of the growth study - a report on policies the city can establish to control its growth. Planning Director Michael Prochaska describes the study as "a gerbil that turned into an elephant." Despite the conclusions noted above, Prochaska says the report is neither optimstic nor pessimistic. Instead, he calis it "cömprehensive." He saysthe study buries any remaining thoughts of Ann Arbor as "the old college town," and statistically places it as a metropolitan area which is becoming less and less isolated from the region, including Detroit. "The report is optimstic in that it identifies areas to look into in which I think we can .really pull it all together," Prochaska says. He added, "But I wouldn't want to be doing this report 10 years from now. If we keep going along the way we have been going we'll be in a pretty serious state of affairs." One of the more notable facts the report brings out is the increasing number of persons using Ann Arbor as a home, but working elsewhere. Presently these "out-commuters" account for only about 22 per cent of the population. But that could change. The report says in the past Ann Arbor operated as a small central city with its own in-commuters. "However," the report says, "the out-commuters have incrcased far more rapidly than the work forcé as a whole." In 1960 15.9 per cent of the work force was composed of outcommuters, jumping to 22 per cent in 1970, accounting for a third-of the population growth over those 10 years. Most of these commuters are professionals, "thus adding to the increasingly professional character of the community," the report adds. Concerning employment, the study discovered what many suspected, that Ann Arbor is dominated by the University. ! According to the report, "the conclusión that the University has been the principal cause of economie growth in the city seems inescapable. Taken together, new out-commuters and direct and indirect consequences of University growth account for nearly all recent growth in the city." But a recent change in state policy has already resulted in a stabilization of the U-M's growth, the study points out. And since Ann Arbor's growth has been tied . to the University's growth, this stablization will have a great impact on the city. The concurrent slowing down of University growth and the increasing growth of out-commuters lead to the realization that Ann Arbor will become even more of a "bedroom" community, with people moving here to enjoy the benefits of the city, but working outside the city. Completion of the M-14 expressway linking Ann Arbor and Detroit is expected to heighten this change. The report also attempts to pinpoint the "quality of life" in Ann Arbor, coneïuding that it has improved in terms of economics and educational attainment, but by other standards "the quality of life has declined or remains at unacceptable levéis." One of the most glaring findings in the study pertained to increases in crime. Between 1962 and 1971, crime in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County increased 19.4 per cent, while the national average was 10.8 per cent. Detroit, which is vying for the "crime capítol of the country" title, ranks behind Ann Arbor in crime rate growth. Ann Arbor exceeded Detroit's crime growth rate in four categories - rape, robbery, assault, and burglary. Two of the main reasons for the city and county's high crime rating can be attributed to larcenies and burglaries, the report says. Other "qualify of life" findings showed irrcreases in median family income, educational level, prices, suicide rate, and t r a f f i c congestions. Decreases were found in the number of families living in poverty, park land per capita, air pollution, and traffic deaths. __ The report also says "Ann Arbor is 1 one of the least racially segregated cities in the country." However, it adds, I "Income and educational attainment of I black families continue to lag behind those of white families . . ." The study also took a look into the pricing of the city's public services. Included in the findings concerning sewer I and water systems, the report said city I prices encourage expansión beyond the I system's o p t i m a 1 size ; subsidizes I popuia tion diffusion and urban sprawl; L and encourages premature development I of land at the urban-rural fringe. I Concerning the pricing of Ann Arbor ■ roads, the report said the "failure to ■ levy a tax to equalize the marginal 1 vate and social costs of road use causes j an excessive level of congestión in the I short run and an excessive investment in 1 roads in the long run." Regarding property tax, "apartments I and townhouses pay considerably more I in city property taxes than they receive I back in the form of property-benefiting I expenditures." Single family residences I pay about as much as they receive in I benefits, the study showed. In its look at the housing situation, the I planners concluded 't h a t "despite the I relative affluence of Ann Arbor as a I whole, a significant portion of the ] lation is poorly housed" - namely I families with low and moderate incomes. I The report recommends the city establish community housing goals for the types of housing it should have. Prochaska points out this has a direct effect on whether the city becomes a commuter outpost, or seeks to preserve sufficiency. For a city to remain selfsufficient, it must provide the low and moderate income residences, he says, since the commuting public tends to want high priced homes. In looking at the impact of city growth on schools, the study shows a need for multiple family and commercial growth, even though no one wants it near where they live. The planners determined that single family homes supply 85 per cent of the school' children, but only 43 per cent of taxes. Multiple family homes provide 15 j per cent of school children, and 20 per cent of the taxes. And non-residential uses genérate no children and provide 37 per cent of the taxes. Thus, without increases in multiple family and nonresidential uses, home owners will have to shoulder higher taxes. The report says some important factors affecting Ann Arbor' s growth cannot be controlled by the city. This includes a non-growth policy for the University, and the regional sewage system which will allow developments in townships without the need for annexation into the city. This latter situation was also pointed to as a major Ímpetus for increased cooperation between Ann Arbor and its neighbors, both countywide and regionI- wide. 'The study buries any remaining thoughts of Ann Arbor as 'the old college town' and sees it becoming less , and less isolated from Detroit.

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