Friday, April 29, 2011

Brownstown Michigan. A downtown with no sidewalks..

Just a post to remind people that not all politics come from Lansing or Washington..

We live in Brownstown Township.  There are nine people on the Downtown Development Authority.  They seem like a decent bunch.  The DDA gets its budget from part of the property taxes paid by the people who live within the boundaries of the downtown area, which is a big chunk of the community actually.  It was set up that way years back.  The DDA legislation in Michigan was originally intended for blighted areas like Benton Harbor or Pontiac or Flint to direct some property taxes into a separate account that local officials could use at their discretion to eliminate blight and restore the downtown's viability.  As the area improved and tax rolls increased, the DDA's budget grew along with it.    

Then, completely undeveloped communities like Brownstown got on board and came up with their own DDA's even though its hard to see how vacant overgrown sections of woods and grass fields could be considered "blight".  Its all relative.  

Around here you can't actually tell when you're approaching or leaving our downtown near Telegraph Road.  There really isn't much here to distinguish it except a mix of new and old neighborhoods, apartment complexes, party stores, gas stations, bars, some light industry, graveled parking areas, strip malls, vacant land, prairie grass fields,  etc..  Three stories would qualify as a skyscraper. So there is no real downtown.  not yet anyway.   But if you read through the latest  DDA newsletter you will see they are working to turn this here hicktown into a genuine downtown through some really big initiatives like ...  the Facade Improvement Program.   Because more customers will stop in if the place doesn't look like a craphole. But sharpen your pencil before you come looking for cash ...
The applicant and architect will also be required to execute a “Façade Improvement Agreement” to access program funds. In addition to all required forms, architectural renderings and/or project descriptions must be presented in sufficient detail to demonstrate the exact scope of work.
Well, I'm no Facade Improvement subject matter expert.  But I do live within the Brownstown DDA,   the only downtown in the world where there aren't sidewalks and you have to walk in the ditch alongside the road whenever you leave your street.  Its common to see people walking or even pushing a stroller downtown in the gravel shoulder along Sibley or Telegraph Road while semi-trucks blast past them on their way to the I-75 entrance ramp.  When you take a stroll downtown here you should always wear hiking boots and an orange reflective safety vest.

But hey, we have some cool new bike trails through the woods and soon a splash park for the kids.  And some spiffy new facades on party stores and bars.   But we don't have nor are we even planning for sidewalks along the roads through our humble little downtown.  I say dump all the other projects until we have sidewalks downtown.    Or at least a bike trail...

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