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Posted on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

54 acres of Domino's Farms property eyed for land preservation, but price is high

By Juliana Keeping

This article was updated Tuesday morning to include comments from John Petz, the director of government and community relations for Domino’s Farms Corporation.

A 54-acre piece of Domino’s Farms property is the latest contender for preservation under Washtenaw County’s Natural Areas Preservation Program.

Tuesday, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission will decide whether to apply for a state grant would help offset the majority of the asking price estimated to be $1.9 million to $3.25 million. That move would put future county matching funds for the grant in the $474,000 to $812,500 range, while the state, ideally for the county’s purposes, would cough up the remainder.

“If that were acquired, it would result in a large interconnected nature preserve of nearly 300 acres within the Ann Arbor urban area,” said Tom Freeman, the deputy director of Parks and Recreation.


Photo courtesy of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation

The 54-acre, undeveloped wooded plot sits between Ford and Plymouth Roads in Ann Arbor Township.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund land acquisition grant application is due April 1, and the state typically announces awards in December. If plans move forward and the grant is approved, the county would expect funding to come through in 2012.

At roughly $35,000 to $60,000 per acre, the asking price is high, said Robert Tetens, director of the Parks and Recreation. On this piece, Tetens said a state grant as well as fiscal collaboration between Ann Arbor Township and the Ann Arbor Greenbelt - the city’s land preservation program - might all be necessary to close the deal.

“It’s very close within the urban area,” Freeman said. “It has a high value because of that location. Without the assistance of the trust fund, it would be very unlikely county parks would be able to afford it.”


Washtenaw County taxpayers have paid about $19 million to purchase 1,850 acres of land and preserve it from development.

File photo

Over the last decade, Washtenaw County taxpayers have paid about $19 million to purchase roughly 1,850 acres of land and preserve it from future development via the Natural Areas Preservation Program.

The cost has averaged about $10,000 an acre, Tetens said.

DF Land Development has discussed selling the missing link between the properties to the north, a five-acre sliver of land, to the county later at a cheaper price, Freeman said. A deal on that connection is contingent on the larger deal going through, Freeman said.

There is still a chance the land could be developed, said John Petz, the director of government and community relations for Domino’s Farms Corporation. The water and sewer hook-ups give the land a higher value and mean the property is development-ready, but it’s zoned for general agricultural use.

Domino’s filed a lawsuit after Ann Arbor Township officials refused in 2004 to rezone the property for the development called The Vistas, halting plans for the development of roughly 290 attached condominiums. If the Michigan Court of Appeals reverses an earlier decision that favored the township, the case will go to trial in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, Petz said.

But the company is also interested in selling to the county, Petz said. In either scenario, the process could be derailed at some point, he added.

If a sale to the county were to go through, “It potentially could alleviate a lot of concerns from a development standpoint, if that’s what some elected officials have. But it’s going to be a process, on both ends.”

Officials from Ann Arbor Township did not return calls to on Monday.

The commission meets 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission administrative offices, 2230 Platt Road in Ann Arbor.

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter


Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

Seriously people, read the article. This money, earned form oil and gas leases, is earmarked for public land purchase and recreation projects as voted by the people of Michigan. To change this, you have to change Michigan's constitution. Its not tax money, and it can't be moved without a state wide referendum.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

Nice piece of land but should we not be using some money to start saving and creating jobs?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:05 a.m.

We need an immediate freeze on these purchasses and lock put on the natural resource revenues used for at least some of the purchases! Get busy Mr Govenor before you're outfoxed by the land sellers making their last pitch to the omly remaining buyers dumb and rich enough to pay their outdated prices. There are NO BUYERS other than thsoe with public money who would pay the asking prices! Mobilize 75% of the legislature to overturn the public inititave with an emphasis on the need for funding schools, police and fire. Schools are closing and we are seriously considerng spending money to purchase land so it;s n ot taxed? Please!

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

The recreation commission voted to support this project tonight.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

Agree wholeheartedly with sentiments expressed by Lori and JJM. This land is exactly what was envisioned when this program was set up. It would be a tragedy to see condos built on it, but Tom Monahan is taking advantage in the high price he is requesting--especially in this market in these times.. He should be prevailed upon to set a lower price and benefit from writing off the difference on his tax return--assuming that an appraisal of the land validates that price.

John Q

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:14 a.m.

As the math has eluded some commenters, if the Trust Fund approves a grant for this project, the County's projected share of the cost is $8,000 - $15,000 acre and that's if there was no contribution from the Township or Ann Arbor city, which owns the adjoining park property. That's a reasonable price and as an added benefit, would end the litigation between Monaghan and the Township. Why spend money on lawyers when it can be spent on parkland?


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

I'm a long-time, almost daily user of Marshall Park. It happens to be only 10 min. from my home on the NE side of Ann Arbor, and it is one of the few truly natural areas owned by the city with hills, valleys, and a variety of plants and trees. In spring, it's a great place to look for Jack-in-the-Pulpit and trillium. As one of the other commentators mentioned, it is equal in quality to Bird Hills. There are a series of concentric paths that take from 20, 45, 60, to 75 minutes to walk. Unfortunately, all the walks longer than 20 minutes go through this DF Land property. As one of the replies mentioned, DF Land is owned by Tom Monaghan and not Domino's Pizza. I agree that the price is high, and I'm sure that Monaghan has no great feelings for Ann Arbor. Even so, I would hope that City could convince him to set a more reasonable price. Some of you have complained that we shouldn't be paying this much money for land when there are so many other needs. One of the great things about living in Ann Arbor is that we have shown, by passing repeated millage requests, that we value our parkland. This is money that voters have approved for the acquisition of vacant land near the city. I'm sometimes puzzled by the greenbelt acquisitions because they seem so far away. This is an opportunity to buy land adjacent to a park. Land that is already being used by hikers, dog walkers, bikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers. Volunteers have been maintaining the paths for years. This past weekend, a couple that I often see at the park and I met to clear some downed trees that were blocking paths. Last summer, DF Land put up "No Trespassing" signs on some paths. Within a day, someone had removed those signs. I can't say I agree with that, but I also wasn't going to stop using the paths through that area. At the time, I called the Parks Dept to find out if something like this acquisition could ever happen. I, for one, am thrilled at the prospect of this property being preserve

T. Kinks

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

Why are they looking @ commercial property, at least that's what it sounds like w/ that kind of price tag? There are plenty of other areas in the county they could look into for way less money. Sounds fishy to me.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

Let me get this correct. Back in the 1800's, the government sold off this land in the form of plots to risk taking settler's of Washtenaw County. Now the government wants it back and some think the price is too high. Why are we not assessing blame on the county officials of the 1800's who did have the vision to avoid the exact situation this artilce is writing about?


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

Wouldn't it be better to use the tax revenue from this property and use it for the public good, as opposed to spending money that could otherwise be used for the public good? Is there any real threat that this property will be developed? I tend to doubt it.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

It would certainly be nice to preserve this property. If I am not mistaken Dominos is in a pretty good financial position. Perhaps they would consider donating the land for a tax write off.

Jim Knight

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

Domino's doesn't actually own the property, Jaime. Domino's is a tenant at Domino's Farms.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:15 p.m.

This is too much for us to swallow...the same funds can surely acquire much more land for our/future generations' enjoyment. Dominoes has been good for the area and we have been good for them. We think they should be of a mind to share back (a smidgen of ) their blessings with the community...i.e., make a gift of the land to the community. This would be good for: 1) the company's reputation; 2) its corporate conscience; 3) its tax return, with such a generous outright contribution to the community; 4) company employees' morale.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:55 p.m.

Paul See reply to Oldtimer3 above. Ditto here.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

Is not about 30% of the State un-touchable as it now strands, meaning zero new developments? Parks, state and federal ownership, wetlands, public lands, etc. Does any one know the exact percentage?

Edward Vielmetti

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

@Happy Fun Ball - That's a very good question. I didn't come up with a source for an answer, but I'd give these caveats to any state-wide numbers: 1. Results will vary county by county. Vast parts of the Upper Peninsula are in commercial or federal forest lands, or are cedar swamps with no roads and no electricity and no phone service. 2. There are many subtle variations on "no new development", including land that has easements that prohibit certain kinds of development, zoning rules, and historic districts. You'd get different results depending on whether you were looking to build a one-family house, an outbuilding, or your next Wal-Mart. 3. Some locations which are zoned for commercial development are effectively unbuildable now for economic reasons, including availability of credit, brownfield cleanup costs, and availability of nearby land more suited to the same purpose.

Juliana Keeping

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

I have updated the story with comments from John Petz, the director of community and government relations for Domino's Farms. There is a chance the land could be developed for condominiums, but that hinges on an ongoing zoning court battle between the township and Domino's coming down in the corporation's favor. Also, he added that the water and sewer hook-ups on the property make it more valuable than a typical piece of agriculturally-zoned land.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

It seems as though Domino Farms is such a community minded business that they could cut the price in two ( donate the whole thing)and save the land preservation people/ government some money and have themselves a tax write off.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

Oldtimer3 Take off the rose colored glasses for a moment, stop tip-toeing through the tulips, pies are not longer to be found in the sky! AA has treated Dominoes Farms like crap from day one. They are probably the most ecologically responsible company within miles, yet they get no credit. How many local businesses do you know that recycle cow poop back into sunflower fields?

Jay Thomas

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

Considering how Tom Monaghan has always been treated by the liberals in this town I don't see that happening. Remember that he wanted to build Ave Maria here but the townies were against it because of his politics.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

I often see individuals offer up that businesses should be prompted to do a thing because they get a tax "write-off", as if that alone should be enough. If tax write-offs are the be all and end all for individuals, donate all your spare money to charity, give it all away, after all you will get a tax write-off.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

John Q: The Trust Fund was not voted upon by the electorate. It was legislation created in 1976 and amended in 1994. This requires matching local funds. Where are the local funds coming from and how much is required from the locals?

John Q

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.

"John Q: The Trust Fund was not voted upon by the electorate. It was legislation created in 1976 and amended in 1994." Wrong. It was the voters that protected the Trust Fund through a constitutional amendment. That was a clear endorsement of the Trust Fund and its purpose.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

We should use the land for it's intended purpose, namely, the leaning tower of Pizza!


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

The price seems high by past purchases which were farmland. This land is ripe for development and would have sold for 100,000+ per acre in good times. At one time a development was being considered by Monaghan on this land. The development included townhouses and other homes. This property is ideal for what the various land trusts need. Open space near the urban areas. It is next to Marshall Nature Area. This would expand a beautiful treed area with historic sized oaks for all to enjoy.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

This is may be the best remaining piece of natural area and woods close to Ann Arbor. It would be a shame for these beautiful woods to not be preserved. I remember well when DF prosposed to purchase the Marshall Nature Center and turn it into Condos. The same could happen to this 54 acre piece of property, which is comparable in beauty Bird Hills Park, to become another set of Multi family housing which has been proposed for it in the past. This is a wonderful use for preservation funds and it be a great addition to the Ann Arbor Green Belt where much of the property is so far from the City that most folks probably would never see some of the pieces.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

In a time of budget shortfalls, the State, County and City are suppose to buy an expensive piece of real estate to prevent developement and not generate property taxes, sales taxes or income taxes. What a great idea! :)


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

"asking price estimated to be $1.9 million to $3.25 million." Is this the best estimate these geniuses at the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission can come up with? Is that what most households do? I want a new car and it should cost between $20,000 and $40,000. Oh but the difference is most households are spending their OWN money!

Rork Kuick

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

That's a pretty sweet piece of land. I am open to suggestions of where else to create park that is that good, extends current park, and is that close to town. I wish it were cheaper, sure. There's cheaper land in the western part of the county that I could propose that would personally benefit me much more, but I doubt it's better for folks actually living in Ann Arbor.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

Too expensive. Use the money to purchase more land elsewhere or negotiate harder.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

I think the natural areas out by DF are gorgeous and I like Marshall... but the price is too steep. I'd rather see that kind of money invested elsewhere where it can go a lot farther.

John Q

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was created by the voters of the state of Michigan. Its funds come from gas and oil royalties paid by those who extract gas and oil from around the state. The voters are the ones who said the money should be spent on purchasing land to protect it from development and for public access. Would it kill some of you to actually know what you're talking about before shouting off your uninformed denunciations of the proposal?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:35 a.m.

"- Everytime the "public" (state,county,city) removes property from the tax base, you & I have to 'pick up the slack' in taxes" Actually you make up for it with the value of your property. The land is limited. If there is less ina desirable location that brings the price higher for those taxpayers that own the land. NOBODY from the private sector can now purchase that land. This means less supply. That alone makes tax payers property more valuable. I recommend Econ 101. It really will teach you some things.

John Q

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

"Everytime the "public" (state,county,city) removes property from the tax base, you & I have to 'pick up the slack' in taxes." Do we? Not every land acquisition by a public entity results in a net loss in property taxes. Studies have documented that the presence of public parks increases the value of surrounding properties. On the Trust Fund being "fiscally responsible", demonstrate where it has not been. It has a decades long track record to put up against your baseless speculation. "And would it kill you to admit that a significant portion of the funds MUST come from taxpayers?" The funds that voters approved for this very purpose? Yes, I'll admit that.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

And would it kill you to admit that a significant portion of the funds MUST come from taxpayers? Washtenaw County citizens have already spent about 19M of their own money on land preservation. Ain't nothin free, my friend.

average joe

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

JohnQ- Even this trust fund needs to be 'fiscally responsible', regardless of the fact that it is funded from another source.

average joe

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

Again- Everytime the "public" (state,county,city) removes property from the tax base, you & I have to 'pick up the slack' in taxes. With the high value on this property, A2 township(?) will be losing quite a sum if it is removed permanently from the tax rolls.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.

That road "whitehall" is mislabeled in the map. It's that FLW?

Michigan Reader

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:29 p.m.

The "Whitehall" name is correct. It runs between Plymouth and Earhart. FLW is within the boundries of Domino's Farms, and is a private road.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

I think that is Whitehall. FLW is the little road to the lower left. They both intersect with Plymouth, but the nature area shown is between Whitehall and Dixboro, not FLW and Whitehall...


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

While I don't agree with the other commentators so far - I believe a greenbelt and strategic land purchases are appropriate voter-approved programs - the price here is too high and at a time when real estate prices are low. It also seems like a bit of a give-a-way TO the Ave Maria Foundation via their ownership of Dominoes Farms, I think it is appropriate to set a price that would be more appropriate to pay. Much more like the 10K per acre mentioned above. Sometimes things are too expensive.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

If you don't like the price then don't buy it. Setting your own price and forcing someone to sell is theft. The owner would make a lot more by going ahead with the condominiums.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

@MiGiver The madness may never end because this may be a part of the global Agenda 21. Google it.

average joe

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund land acquisition program might be another area that Gov. Snyder should look at to trim the budget, at least temporarily until the state can stand on it's own. Everyone has to tighten their belt- Federal, state, city, county.... Maybe they should pass on this property.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:32 a.m.

Other than that whole constitution thing.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Will the madness never end?


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:22 a.m.

A trillion dollar deficit and the Feds are handing out money for projects like this? Talk of massive cutbacks in State support for higher education and the State is handing out money for this ? Ann Arbor has a massive deficit and they are going to kick money in too? What the heck is going on? Can no one set a priority?


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

Spend. Spend like there is no tomorrow. Spend to the cows come home. Spend till there is nothing left to spend. Seems like our local govt is headed down that highway, barreling along in 6th gear at well over 100 mph. Go county commissioners, go. Drain that well till it is dry. That's why we voted you into office. I don't think they will ever get it.

Rod in Chelsea

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

I could not agree more! This is pure madness!


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

We've got ourselves to blame for this mess. We voted and approved this additional 'bucket', and now the commission is simply doing what it was tasked with. There will be some who will argue that the time to buy is when prices are depressed, and the purchasing dollar will go farther. But at 35 to 60k per acre that really bring the lie to that argument. Don't like it? Vote, vote, vote.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

No. No one can. That's the nature of bureaucracies. This program exists as an independent bureaucratic group that focuses only on its mission. It's doing what it was created to do. So-called (self-professed) "leaders" divest themselves of responsibility by creating groups and programs that then run as automatons. Once in a while, when the public's rancor demands it, the elected councils, boards or mayors will then convene study groups or other methods of purported investigation into wastefulness. But, what they'll conclude is the agency is doing its job. Then the case is closed because our collective memories are shortened as we divert our interest in Charlie Sheen's shenanigans.