Michigan State Rep. Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (D-Detroit) responded to release of the Detroit Future City framework Wednesday with an appeal to city and state officials to respect current residents when considering land use policy and the distribution of city services.
The book-length Detroit Future City strategic document was created by the Bing administration's Detroit Works think tank with participation from business leaders, community groups, foundations and residents. It is intended to guide decision-making on change and development in Detroit for the next 50 years.
While Tinsley-Talabi acknowledged that the framework offered a new vision that could help bring resources and opportunities to urban areas like Detroit, she urged state and local leaders not to overlook the needs of current property owners while moving forward with the plan.
"Although the proposal offers our community a plan to address the issues of blight, there must be additional consideration given to recognize certain needs within urban communities, including responsible property ownership and the allocation of taxpayer-based city services," Tinsley-Talabi said in a release.
To protect residents she recommends that the sale of land allocated for innovative productive or ecological uses should be prioritized so that the first areas available for purchase would be located on blocks where no one is living. Further land purchases should be then be made in areas with higher amounts of vacant parcels. She added that residents should be given the first option to purchase the properties and that negotiated prices should affect their ability to afford the land.
"We must be careful to not minimize or trivialize the time, money and energy our neighbors and friends have invested in either maintaining property or community gardens," said Tinsley-Talabi.
The city's policy regarding the sale of vacant land became an issue during the recent debate over the sale of roughly 140 acres the land on Detroit's east side to financial services magnate John Hantz through his Hantz Woodlands company. Though the deal was eventually approved many critics claimed the city's land sale process favored wealthy investors over ordinary city residents.
At a Tuesday press briefing on Detroit Future City, Detroit Works consultant Alan Mallach, said those involved with the framework were calling for a single set of property disposition policies that would apply to all the agencies involved with purchasing land in Detroit.
"This should be something official that all the different groups have signed on to," he said. "Something that's clear so that … anybody that's interested in city land can pick this up and see what are the ground rules."
Tinsley-Talabi also called on elected leaders to provide fair and equitable levels of city services to residents in the new land use areas in accordance with the state constitution's fairness doctrine. Concerns about shut-offs initially created vocal community resistance to the effort, which had originally been portrayed as a downsizing of city services and infrastructure.
In her statement the state lawmaker said it would be unfair for taxpayers to receive city services disproportionate to their assessed taxes.