One of the most confusing local proposals to circulate in recent years is the Hantz Farm plan, which aims to make a commercial for-profit farm within the city limits. What we can't wrap our head around is not the idea, it is the local reaction. On the surface it sounds like an easy win: Detroit has tons of empty land, Detroiters like locally grown products... therefore we should farm on said empty land. Not to mention the press loves the Urban Farming headlines and is eager to make the project a darling of Detroit. Where things seem to get tied up, at least initially, is the sale of such a large swath of land to John Hantz. Some call it a "land grab." Is anger with other landowners coming down unfairly on Hantz? Why do Detroiters hate Hantz so much?
A new blog post suggests that Hantz is all about back-door dealings and it attaches a letter that the author claims documents the Detroit City Planning Commission’s challenge to the possible sale of 1900 parcels of land to Hantz. What this letter really seems to do, if you read it, is once again raise the concern that the city does not have mechanisms in place to regulate farming and that the proposal might not comply with the current zoning. Which is nothing new. The letter amounts to a request for more information, and some annoyance that the Planning Commission people did not get their say earlier. But here is how the Detroit Evolution blog is spinning it:
With the City Planning Commission bringing to light Hantz’s potential back-room dealings with the Bing Administration, it becomes even more apparent that the Planning 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.
Our take? City zoning policies tend to block a lot of good things from happening because they are ancient and need to be changed anyhow. Let's not stick to just approving things we are used to (parking lots and highways). Furthermore, what the hell is the city doing with the 1900 parcels of land that is so great? Nothing? Right. Listen Hantz has clearly ruffled some feathers (chicken ones, perhaps?) but clearly the City has the opportunity to slap come conditions on the sale before this thing moves forward. We're not sure what they are waiting for. · Detroit City Planning Commission preemptively challenges land sale to Hantz Farms [Detroit Evolution]
· Hantz Farms Detroit [official]
· Hantz Farms: Two Weeks From Buying 200 Vacant Acres [Curbed Detroit]