Following a raucous public hearing Monday night and more invective Tuesday morning in city hall, Detroit City Council voted 5-4 to approve the sale of up to 190 acres of vacant, city-owned eastside land to developer John Hantz this afternoon. Hantz plans to turn the property into a timber farm.
Some Detroit activists criticized the project, in the works for several years, as a “land grab.” Proponents said the venture will put dormant land back on the tax rolls and potentially create jobs.
Steve Pardo of the Detroit News noted that on a day when the council discussed layoffs, furloughs and the possibility of an emergency manager coming into the city, Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. found it interesting the majority of those who packed council chambers were more interested in vacant lots.
"You've got the city facing its own fiscal cliff and yet we've had more people coming down in the past 24 hours complaining about somebody wanting to come in and buy vacant lots to plant trees," Cockrel said. "It's kind of crazy when you think about it."
In other business, the city council also voted 5-4 to approve a controversial contract with the Miller Canfield law firm, a key requirement by the state to release millions in state bond funding. Read that Detroit New story here.