Greenbelt around Ann Arbor grows by 173 acres after latest purchases in two townships
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The city of Ann Arbor will spend $507,000 from its Greenbelt millage proceeds to preserve another 173 acres of farmland in townships surrounding the city.
The Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously Monday night on separate agreements for the purchase of development rights to three properties.
The city will spend $145,155 for the development rights to the 74.17-acre farm belonging to Edward and Muriel Pardon in Ann Arbor Township. The city is leveraging $272,824 in federal grant funds, plus $141,980 from Ann Arbor Township.
The city will spend another $179,025 for the development rights to the 65.17-acre farm belonging to Norman Ledwidge in Webster Township. The city is leveraging $182,535 in federal grant funds, plus $59,676 from Webster Township.
The city also will spend $182,939 for the development rights to the 33.7-acre farm belonging to Bradley and Mary Clark on Farrell Road in Webster Township. The property is located adjacent to the Webster Church property that was protected by the city in 2009.
Due to the property's smaller acreage, it did not qualify for grant funds, city officials said. But the landowners were willing to donate 20 percent of the fair market value, or $34,800, and the city will be paying 80 percent of the appraised value for the development rights.
"All of these purchases are contiguous to other preserved land, and that's been a strategic goal of the greenbelt," said Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, who also serves on the city's Greenbelt Advisory Commission.
"The first property, the Ledwidge Farm, completes our first 1,000-acre block in Webster Township," he said. "And the Pardon property completes a 400-acre block right on US-23 in Ann Arbor Township, an area that saw a lot of development pressure."
The purchase of development rights keeps the property in the hands of the owner but ensures the land can't be developed and will remain forever preserved as open space. One of the main goals of the program is to counter urban sprawl and preserve sustainable farming.
Mayor John Hieftje said Monday night this is one of the most productive periods ever for the Greenbelt Program, which has preserved about 2,200 acres of land surrounding the city. The program is funded by a citywide tax officially called the Open Space and Parkland Preservation Millage, which brings in more than $2 million annually in revenue from city taxpayers.
The Greenbelt Program was approved by Ann Arbor voters in November 2003, at a time when a significant amount of development activity was occurring around Washtenaw County, and farmland was being sold for development.
Voters authorized a 0.5-mill tax for 30 years, which provides funds for parkland acquisition within the city and the preservation of open space, agricultural land, and other natural habitats outside the city in a designated greenbelt district.
"The map that is emerging is really inspirational," said Hieftje, who was the public leader of the campaign seven years ago to start the program.
He said there aren't that many programs where people will look back in 100 years and say, "I'm really happy that they did that," but the greenbelt is one of them.