The Detroit City Council has narrowly approved the controversial—and long-delayed—Hantz Farms project.
The proposed Hantz Farms project has been discussed for years. Detroit financier had originally proposed creating “the world’s largest urban farm” on some of Detroit’s more than 60,000 vacant, city-owned lots.
But the idea ran into a few obstacles—including the city’s lack of an urban agriculture ordinance, and some fierce citizen opposition.
The Council finally approved the sale of more than 140 vacant city-owned acres for a proposed commercial tree farm, known as Hantz Woodlands, in a heavily blighted portion of Detroit's east side.
The tree farm is widely perceived to be a placeholder as Detroit’s larger policies toward urban agriculture unfold.
It was a 5-4 vote, and passions still ran high in the vote’s aftermath.
Council member JoAnn Watson suggested the sale was illegal, since the Michigan constitution prohibits the sale of government-owned land for less than fair market value.
Council member Saunteel Jenkins disagreed. “This is not an illegal sale.”
“It’s a land grab,” retorted Council member Kwame Kenyatta.
Kenyatta and other Hantz opponents fear the move sets the table for cheap, large-scale sell-offs of city land.
They’ve also argued that many Detroit citizens have been denied the opportunity to purchase land for small-scale projects, or simply to maintain, in their own neighborhoods—or been asked to pay far more than the $300-per-lot price Hantz got.
Others simply object to the idea of “turning Detroit into a farm,” as Kenyatta has previously said.
But proponents argue Detroit has enough blighted, vacant land to warrant some experimental uses.. They point out that Hantz will be required to maintain and beautify the land, and it will now be returned to the tax rolls.