Updated December 2, 2012:
On Monday, December 10, 2012 at 6pm, the Detroit City Council will hold a public hearing regarding the Hantz Woodlands project. It is very important for Council to hear from all of you who support this project. We encourage you to come out and demonstrate your support.
Public Hearing on Hantz Woodlands
Monday, December 10
Eastlake Baptist Church
12400 E. Jefferson (at Conner)
Detroit, Michigan 48215
Hantz Woodlands, a subsidiary of Hantz Farms, is a locally owned LLC funded by The Hantz Group. The mission of Hantz Farms is to help people achieve their life dreams, and to build more sustainable communities. It is important that the City of Detroit support this mission and approve Hantz Farms.
Hantz Woodlands is a forestry based investment that is designed to repurpose vacant, blighted properties through the planting of trees and ornamental plants. Placing city owned properties back in the marketplace will provide the city with revenue from the sale of surplus property, improve quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods, and reduce city operating costs by transferring maintenance costs to a private sector company.
Hantz Farms has changed and modified its original proposal in response to community feedback. Since John Hantz also lives in Detroit, directly adjacent to where his company’s investment will be, he will be more accessible and responsive. A pending agreement between Hantz Farms and the city of Detroit was developed during four years of negotiations where community concerns were taken into account.
The choice of producing mixed hardwoods and ornamental plants takes into account resident concerns about potential impacts of more intense types of land management. Part of the agreement will provide community gardeners, property owners and neighborhood associations with a first option to purchase parcels that they manage as part of neighborhood improvement efforts.
Hantz Woodlands’ choice to grow trees and ornamentals expands local efforts to improve water quality and reduce pressure on storm water systems. Hantz Woodlands specifically chose not to grow fruits and vegetables so that local gardening programs will not be negatively affected by this neighborhood improvement investment.
In negotiating a purchase price Hantz Woodlands has agreed to pay above market prices for vacant, publicly owned parcels. In purchasing land from the city Hantz Woodlands will be required to comply with local zoning ordinances.
The Hantz Woodlands’ investment will include a commitment to remove city-owned blighted structures. Brush that has grown in alleyways and fence rows will be removed to improve neighborhood beauty and safety. Illegally dumped debris will be cleaned up as part of the process of repurposing land. Costs of cleanup work will be recovered over several years through tax credit agreements. In effect, Hantz Woodlands will be prepaying property taxes for the land they would purchase, with the investment being focused on addressing long-standing neighborhood needs.
The ultimate trigger for Detroit’s reinvention is when the private sector—nonprofits and for profits alike— begin to reinvest in our land. For too long we have witnessed economic decline in our neighborhood and been largely ignored by private investment. Hantz Farms presents an opportunity to change that. Thousands of city-owned vacant lots could be repurposed by the private sector to produce jobs and other economic, social and environmental impacts. The Hantz Farms proposal is one means toward this end. Investments by organizations such as Eastern Market Corporation, The Greening of Detroit, the Black Food Security Network and others groups are also important private sector investments. There is room for all.
Hantz Woodlands has reached a working agreement with local organizations through the Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP), and is committed to investing in ongoing neighborhood beautification that will make neighborhoods more beautiful and livable. Mechanisms have been developed—a Community Agreement and a Community Advisory Council—to continue this dialogue between Hantz Farms and local stakeholders.
Because of Hantz Woodlands’ close collaboration with neighborhood leaders and their commitment to improve the livability of Detroit neighborhoods I support a vote by City Council to sell surplus property for the development of Hantz Woodlands.
For more information, like Hantz Farms LLC on Facebook or visit their website (www.hantzfarmsdetroit.com).
Updated August 23, 2012:
Because Hantz Farms is part of the Detroit community they have agreed to present their agreement to City Council after the city completes the development of an agricultural zoning ordinance and streamlined policies for selling surplus land. This work is projected to be completed in Fall of 2012. If the policies are not in place before the end of 2012, Hantz Farms will revisit the issue of timing for presentation of their agreement for deliberation.