Controversial urban farm gets approved despite noisy opposition from Detroiters

Over the loud protests of residents, the Detroit City Council this afternoon gave the green light to a controversial project to transform 140 acres of abandoned houses and lots into a large tree farm.

The 5-4 vote gives Hantz Woodlands permission to buy nearly 2,000 lots for the dirt-cheap price of $520,000, or less than $300 per lot. The idea is to generate new taxes on 140 acres of neglected property in an east-side district bordered by Van Dyke on the west, St. Jean on the east, Mack on the north and Jefferson on the south.

City officials said the deal slows the hemorrhaging tax base that is depriving residents of adequate services.

Residents turned out in large numbers and decried the deal as a “land grab” that gives too much control to one person, namely John Hantz, a Detroit resident and investor who.

Some likened the deal, which would replace vacant property with 70,000 trees, to rape and slavery.

“We have enough trees,” one resident added.

The council also approved measures that were required to avoid an emergency manager. But it might be too late, state officials said.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.