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Detroit City Planning Commission preemptively challenges land sale to Hantz Farms

Please see the attached letter documenting the Detroit City Planning Commission’s preemptive challenge to the Bing Administration over the possible sale of 1900 parcels of land to Hantz Farms. I came across this yesterday and wanted to get it out to as many people as possible. I’ve been attempting to respectfully share with communities and grow relationships here in Detroit for almost six years now and will admit that I’ve been watching Hantz Farms for quite some time. Below are a few of my immediate observations. I know there are many other concerns around this issue.

Hantz Farms has been attempting to “land” for a couple-three years now and, while not even existing outside of the internet or off paper, has been heavily featured in stories about Detroit from around the globe. A few years back I sat drop-jawed and witnessed John Hantz himself declare the project a “land grab” at a public forum where he was also praised as the new Henry Ford! This virtual “farm” has mutated so many times in it’s attempt to get at land, shifting from food production to u-pick berries, christmas trees and now hardwoods, that, if the spin wasn’t so damn sickening, it’d be laughable.

The sale of land to Hantz and other proposed large-scale agricultural projects has been on hold while the City Planning Commission drafts regulations around urban agriculture that strive to respect both the farmers and the communities that they are growing in. These regulations also serve to protect the city from potential legal implications and set guidelines for land use that can prevent the farm from being developed in ways that threaten existent communities and the environment. Based on the letter below, it appears that the Bing Administration is considering this sale of land to Hantz without any of these concerns.

It is my understanding that representatives from Hantz have been active in the development of this policy and in reaching out to communities. I suppose it is considered good business sense to work the community and help shape policy while at the same time working old-boy networks and looking for back doors as a means to your ends, but from the perspective of someone attempting to build lasting relationships with existing communities in Detroit, is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst. Seriously, how does this impact the ability of communities and organizations to trust Hantz and how does this effect the people that Hantz has been sending into our communities to represent the project?

Specific to my concerns, how does this unethical way of going about this impact other organizations and individuals. like myself, who are attempting to mindfully share in Detroit?

It actually reminds me of what we’ve recently seen coming out of the massive community distraction called Detroit Works. I truly believe that the Detroit Works folks thought they were doing something meaningful to create change and I feel for them. I suppose the good news is that, through trial and error, they actually got out there and connected with Detroiters. I personally consider that a really big deal. The bad new is, it seems Detroit Works was/is a part of a bigger game designed to displace some of the very people they connected with.

Actually, I have to apologize for my “game” reference, for many folks this isn’t a game, it’s their family homes, their children’s education, or for many of our elders, whether or not they’ll make it through the heat this summer. The plan is already being implemented, emergency management, consent decrees, bus cuts, lights cut, this is disaster capitalism in full effect.

Speaking of distractions, while the sale of 1900 lots at $300 each would be of some financial benefit to Detroit, it is really just a drop in the bucket compared to the cities massive financial concerns. Using the broken budget to justify this oversight is an insult. We must weigh heavily the possible implications of cutting deals with Hantz or any other development proposals in the areas of the city that are being decommissioned through the removal of city services. Really, if the Mayor’s Office is willing to go back-door with this supposedly innocent agricultural project, then how is it going to process other potential projects?

With the City Planning Commission bringing to light Hantz’s potential back-room dealings with the Bing Administration, it becomes even more apparent that this “farm” is being concocted to get some cheap land, just like Detroit Works was/is a scam to conceal and distract from a plan. We need some honesty, some transparency and some respect to get through these changes. I look forward to seeing how the Mayor’s Office and Hantz move forward from here. I hope that they will reconsider this potential deal.

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1 Matthew B { 06.27.12 at 11:16 am }

Well done, Gregg!!!

2 Gregg Newsom { 06.27.12 at 11:27 am }

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