Metro Council Conference Next Week

    GRAND RAPIDS — A noted author and lecturer, James Howard Kuntsler, is the featured speaker for the 10th Growing Communities Conference, an annual event put together by the Grand Valley Metro Council.

    This year’s conference is set for June 12 at Frederik Meijer Gardens and it has a theme of building a better metro region.

    Kuntsler, a New York City native and former journalist, is best known for writing “The Geography of Nowhere.”

    In that book, he called the nation’s landscape “tragic,” an endless array of highways, strips, parking lots, housing tracts, junked cities, ravaged countryside and mega-malls. He said America was “a land full of places that are not worth caring about” and would “soon be a nation and a way of life that is not worth defending.”

    Kuntsler followed that book with “Home from Nowhere,” which provided remedies for the sad condition he saw the country in. His latest book is “The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition.” In it, he compares cities here and abroad, detailing what makes each one great or miserable.

    Kuntsler is also a novelist. His ninth and first in a decade, “Maggie Darling,” will hit the bookstores in September. He is also a regular contributor to the New York Times Sunday Magazine, writing on environmental and economic issues.

    Kuntsler is calling his address for the Growing Communities Conference, “Parking Lot Nation: The Coming End of Suburbia.” He will speak for 90 minutes, beginning at 8:15 a.m.

    Other topics and presenters for the daylong conference are:

    • Key issues in metropolitan planning and smart growth — Robert Cervero, University of California at Berkeley
    • New ways to build relationships between urban and rural settings — Ann Daigle, PlaceMakers Inc.
    • New technologies for handling real-time data in the field and how to use GIS — Dan Vaaler, Martin Marietta
    • How greenways and natural corridors connect communities — John Cleveland, IRN
    • How the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council works — Tom Cary, West Michigan Environmental Action Council
    • Which high-speed telecommunications services are planned for West Michigan — Tom Asp, Virshow Krause & Co.
    • How to use GIS planning software in urban areas — Eliot Allen, Criterion Planners/Engineers.

    Cervero, Daigle and Vaaler will make their presentations twice, the others once.

    A special feature of this year’s conference is an afternoon panel discussion with members of the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council, created earlier this year by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to manage development in Michigan.

    Members will talk about what role the council will play in the state’s land-use scheme and what processes will be used.

    Slated to take part in the one-hour session are Jim Brooks, managing partner of Alpha Genesis in Holland; Mick McGraw, president of Eastbrook Homes; Larry Merrill, executive director of the Michigan Townships Association; Lana Pollack, president of the Michigan Environmental Council,and Hans Voss, executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute.

    Winners of the Metropolitan Development Blueprint Awards will be named following the luncheon in the Grand Room.

    It’s the fourth consecutive year for the awards, which honor projects, organizations and people that reflect the values contained in the Metro Council’s long-range planning document known as the Blueprint.

    David C. Bos Homes won the Blueprint design award last year for Wildwood Springs, a residential development just north of Grand Haven.

    Program-policy award winners were the Kent County Model Stormwater Ordinance and United Growth of Kent County.

    The conference will run from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. next week Thursday. Tickets are $60 each and include a continental breakfast, lunch, and access to all the seminars. Call Priscilla Babcock at 776-7608 for tickets and more information.

    Frederik Meijer Gardens is located at 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE between Bradford and Leonard Streets.           

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