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A free-market utopia in the Detroit River?

Jan. 12, 2013 at 5:31 PM   |   Comments

DETROIT, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- A Detroit-area developer says he wants to turn Belle Isle, a 982-acre park in the Detroit River, into a free market commonwealth with its own laws and currency.

Rodney Lockwood visualizes the Commonwealth of Belle Isle as an semi-autonomous city-state of 35,000 people, The Detroit News reported. There would be no income tax, with revenue coming from a property tax based on land value, and its political status would be similar to that of Puerto Rico.

The Commonwealth would pay Detroit $1 billion for the island, Lockwood said.

Most would-be residents would have to pay $300,000 up front for the privilege. About 7,000 people would be granted exemptions, going to entrepreneurs, immigrants and artists.

Lockwood suggests the Commonwealth could serve as a laboratory for the urban future. But he acknowledges the idea is unlikely to win approval.

The cash-strapped city has more mundane plans for Belle Isle -- transferring the park to the state. Polls show more than half the residents approve of the idea of a state park and very few disapprove.

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