Stories indexed with the term ‘conservation easement’

Greenbelt Commission Gets Financial Update

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Sept. 5, 2013): This month’s GAC meeting marked the first session for two new commissioners – Jean Cares and John Ramsburgh – and the first meeting led by the group’s new chair, Catherine Riseng.

Christopher Taylor, Jean Cares, Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission

Christopher Taylor and Jean Cares at the Sept. 5, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission. (Photos by the writer.)

Cares had been confirmed by the city council on July 15 to replace Tom Bloomer, filling the slot designated for a farmer. She co-owns the Dexter Mill, and serves with Bloomer on the Webster Township farmland and open space board. Ramsburgh, who was confirmed on Aug. 8, is a development officer with the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science & the Arts. He also is the son of Ellen Ramsburgh, a long-time member of the Ann Arbor historic district commission, and its former chair. He replaces Dan Ezekiel, who was term limited.

The Sept. 5 meeting was in some ways a tutorial on the greenbelt program. It began with introductions of all the members, and included a presentation on conservation easements.

Ginny Trocchio, who provides staff support for the program, also reviewed the draft activity report and financial statements for fiscal 2013, which ended June 30. During the year, the greenbelt program completed 5 deals covering 448 acres of farmland in Webster, Salem, Superior and Lodi townships.

Total revenues for the open space and parkland preservation program – which includes the greenbelt as well as park acquisitions – were $2.626 million. Of that, $2.141 million came from proceeds of the program’s 30-year millage, which voters approved in 2003. Total expenses for the year were $3.357 million. In addition to $1.227 million for debt service, expenses include $1.757 million in greenbelt projects and $242,867 for parkland acquisition.

During her staff report, Trocchio highlighted upcoming on-the-road events, including a Sept. 21 bus tour of greenbelt properties that’s open to the public, and a driving tour of greenbelt land as part of the commission’s Oct. 3 meeting. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Greenbelt Group Marks Transition

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (June 6, 2013): Three long-time commissioners attended their final GAC meeting this month, marking a pivotal point in the history of the greenbelt program.

Laura Rubin, Archer Christian, Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory board, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commissioners Laura Rubin and Archer Christian came to city hall by bike. This was the last meeting for Rubin, who is term limited. She and other outgoing commissioners Dan Ezekiel and Tom Bloomer were honored during GAC’s June 6 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Tom Bloomer, Dan Ezekiel and Laura Rubin, whose terms end this month, are term-limited. Ezekiel and Rubin are the only remaining members of the original commission, which was formed in 2004. “I’m just really, really proud of what we’ve accomplished, and of what you all will continue to accomplish,” Ezekiel, GAC’s chair, told commissioners at the end of the meeting. “I’m done being on the commission, but I’m not done with land preservation – and I’m sure Tom and Laura feel the same way.”

It was the first meeting for GAC’s newest commissioner, Stephanie Buttrey, who replaced Liz Rother. Jennifer Fike will join GAC next month to replace Rubin, but there are still two remaining vacancies. Anyone who’s interested in applying should contact their city council representative. [.pdf of application form for city boards and commissions]

An ongoing concern emerged during the June 6 meeting related to Civil War Days – a reenactment event being held this weekend at Gordon Hall in the Dexter area. A dispute over spectator parking on the land has prompted Scio Township trustees to move toward rescinding an existing conservation easement and replacing it with a new easement. The new easement would allow for parking, without a requirement to seek permission for parking each year. The property is owned by the Dexter Area Historical Society, a group that was sharply criticized by Bloomer. “Quite frankly, the Dexter Area Historical Society has been an untrustworthy partner from the very beginning,” he said, “and I don’t know why [the township board] thinks they’ll honor a new easement any more than they honored the old one.”

Although the land in question is outside of the greenbelt boundaries, it’s of interest to GAC because of the underlying issue of easement enforcement.

Commissioners were also briefed on a proposed greenbelt registry that’s being developed. The intent is create a way to formalize relationships with landowners who aren’t yet part of the greenbelt program, but who are committed to the program’s principles of land preservation. [Full Story]

Webster Gives Ground for Civil War Days

At a special meeting held on April 24, 2012, the Webster Township board of trustees voted unanimously to approve a festival permit for the Dexter Area Historical Society’s Civil Wars Days to be held this year at historic Gordon Hall on June 8-10.

Webster greenbelt properties

The pink arrow marks the location of the Gordon Hall property, where Civil War Days will be held on June 8-10, 2012. Green blocks are properties protected in part through the city of Ann Arbor’s greenbelt program. The green line with red dots is the Ann Arbor greenbelt program boundary for eligible properties. As the map shows, several protected properties lie within Webster Township. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Host for the re-enactor units will be the 4th Michigan Regiment, Company A, led by captain Russ Paul. Also expected at Gordon Hall for Civil War Days this year are the following units: 17th Michigan, Company E; 21st Michigan, Company H; U.S.S. Michigan Marine Guard Battery B; 1st Michigan Light Artillery; and the Confederate Bledsoe’s Battery.

The decision to grant a festival permit came after the board had turned down the permit at its previous meeting on April 17 by a 4-3 vote. The resolutions considered by the board at its two recent meetings differed in a significant way. The resolution rejected at the April 17 meeting stated that the festival would be granted “… with egress and ingress over Webster Township grounds and conservation easement with no parking on Webster Township grounds only Scio Township.”

The resolution ultimately approved by the board stepped back from trying to describe how parking on and crossing of the property would be handled, and instead simply stipulated that the DAHS had to comply with the conservation easement on the property.

Dan Ezekiel, chair of Ann Arbor’s greenbelt advisory commission, attended the April 24 meeting and addressed the township board on the commission’s behalf. Although the Gordon Hall property lies outside the Ann Arbor greenbelt boundaries, the city of Ann Arbor and Webster Township have partnered on a number of other conservation easements in their collaborative effort to preserve open space. He wanted to encourage the board to defend the easement on the Gordon Hall property and not set a precedent that violating a conservation easement is acceptable.

After the meeting, Ezekiel indicated in conversation that he was, in fact, a history buff and was hoping to attend the Civil War Days – he hoped not as a picketer.  [Full Story]