Detroit City Council tables sale of east side land for farm
Proposed sale of about 177 acres to Hantz for $520,000
By Chad Halcom and Dustin Walsh
Nov 21, 2012
The Detroit City Council tabled for now the proposed sale of 1,956 city-owned lots to Hantz Woodlands LLC, and will hold a public hearing on John Hantz’s plan to develop a tree farm on Detroit’s east side.
The council, after hearing citizen feedback on the purchase, agreed to reschedule the proposed sale of about 177 acres to Hantz for $520,000. The lots are on the near east side between Van Dyke and St. Jean Street and Jefferson and Mack Avenue.
The council expects to take the issue up again at its meeting Dec. 11.
Hantz first proposed the commercial urban farm in 2009. But political and policy challenges dogged the project for years. Hantz originally planned to plant orchards and vegetable patches dotting Detroit’s east side.
Today’s council meeting was met with outcries over Hantz’s intentions — which many citizens believe is a land grab, and that he’ll then sit on the land until property values increase.
Councilwoman Joann Watson said she was concerned that the sale at an average of 8 cents per square foot might be below market value and a violation of the city charter.
Much of the public comment session of Tuesday’s meeting was devoted to calling for council to delay the vote, and asking for a community benefits agreement between Hantz and the community surrounding the lots.
Detroit’s urban farming community showed in force at the meeting, arguing that Hantz was given preferential treatment in bidding on the land.
Shane Bernardo, public outreach coordinator for Earthworks Urban Farm on Meldrum Street in Detroit and program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, told council members the people of Detroit were neglected in this deal.
“This circumvents the process others in our city have to follow,” he said. “I’m concerned about how long this land can be held and I’m concerned about the lack of public input. Even though Michigan has voted down the (emergency manager) law, our assets are still at risk.”