Stories indexed with the term ‘farmland preservation’

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]

Land Added to County Preservation Efforts

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Aug. 13, 2013): After skipping the July meeting for a summer break, WCPARC tackled a full agenda at its August session. Commissioners took action related to land preservation and the east county recreation center in Ypsilanti, and were briefed about a proposed corridor improvement authority along State Road in Pittsfield Township.

East County recreation center, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing proposed location of a county recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti, in the city-owned Water Street property next to the Huron River and south of Michigan Avenue. (Image from the WCPARC Aug. 13, 2013 meeting packet.)

Commissioners approved expenses totaling $1,760,780 to acquire complete or partial interests in 140 acres for the natural areas preservation program (NAPP), and took the first step to approve acquisition of conservation easements on 170 acres of farmland for $258,500.

The NAPP purchases include 71 acres in Ann Arbor Township presently owned by DF [Domino's Farms] Land Development, west and north of the intersection of Plymouth and Dixboro Roads. The purchase includes 54 acres – known as Arbor Vistas – on the south side of Ford Road. WCPARC will contribute $928,780 of the total price of $2.167 million, with the remainder of funding coming from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Trust Fund ($1.088 million) and Ann Arbor Township ($150,000).

Two other parcels – 5 acres and 12 acres – are located near the larger site. In total, these three acquisitions will enhance access to existing preserves, according to staff, and will benefit from the parking areas and trails already built in those preserves.

The WCPARC also gave final approval to purchase the 66-acre Primeau property in Freedom Township for $420,000, and to buy the 3-acre Holley property in Pittsfield Township for $90,000. The Holley property – on the south side of Textile Road, north of Michigan Avenue – is important because of its woods and its adjacency to three other heavily wooded parcels that WCPARC has given tentative approval to purchase. The 8-1 vote for the Holley purchase came over dissent by commissioner Fred Veigel, who questioned paying $30,000 an acre for property that could be developed.

The WCPARC also administers the agricultural land preservation program, which protects farmland by purchasing development rights (conservation easements) rather than title to the land. At the Aug. 13 meeting, commissioners gave preliminary approval for two such purchases: (1) the 101-acre Cort property in Salem Township, for $100,000; and (2) the 69-acre Schneider property in Lodi Township at the southeast corner of Scio Church and Parker Roads, for $158,500.

The commission was briefed on one ongoing project: the proposed recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti‘s Water Street area. The presentation included a summary of a survey about how such a new facility might be used. The survey had been commissioned by the Ann Arbor YMCA with some funding from WCPARC, and showed that there is sufficient demand and willingness to pay for the center. The results also provided details to guide decisions about fees and the size and nature of facilities in the building.

In action related to the center, commissioners approved extending for six months a letter of intent to reach a development agreement between WCPARC and the city of Ypsilanti. The plan is to use that time to negotiate a full development agreement so that the city can transfer the property – up to 8 of the 38 acres on Michigan Avenue east of downtown Ypsilanti – before Jan. 4, 2014.

Commissioners were briefed about a proposed Pittsfield Township corridor improvement authority along State Road. It would use tax increment financing (TIF) to provide funding for upgrading South State between Ellsworth Road and Michigan Avenue.

The commission also approved several financial reports for June and July, and received updates on various projects and activities. Director Bob Tetens distributed a draft of the WCPARC budget for 2014-2017, but there was neither description nor discussion of the document, which will be on the September agenda. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor OKs Receipt of Greenbelt Money

An award of $202,370 from the Federal Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) has been accepted by the city of Ann Arbor in action taken by the city council at its Aug. 8, 2013 meeting.

Ann Arbor greenbelt properties. Data from the city of Ann Arbor mapped by The Chronicle on Aug. 3, 2013 with Ann Arbor greenbelt properties. The map shows properties currently protected through Ann Arbor’s greenbelt program (smaller green areas) in the context of the greenbelt boundary (larger squarish region). Lodi Township covers the … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Commission Elects New Leaders

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (July 11, 2013): GAC’s first meeting of the fiscal year was relatively brief, lasting less than an hour – including about 35 minutes in closed session to discuss possible land acquisition.

Jennifer Fike, Archer Christian, Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commissioners Jennifer Fike and Archer Christian. Fike was attending her first meeting as a GAC member. (Photos by the writer.)

It was the first meeting for the newest commissioner, Jennifer Fike, who replaced Laura Rubin. The last meeting for long-time commissioners Rubin, Dan Ezekiel and Tom Bloomer was on June 6, 2013. Jean Cares, owner of the Dexter Mill, was nominated at the Ann Arbor city council’s July 1 meeting to replace Bloomer, with a confirmation vote expected by the council on July 15.

Also on July 15, John Ramsburgh’s name is expected to be put forward to replace Ezekiel, with a confirmation vote on Aug. 8. If those two appointments go through, all seats on the greenbelt advisory commission would be filled.

Commissioners elected new officers on July 11, unanimously voting for Catherine Riseng as chair and Shannon Brines as vice chair. Both work at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment. Riseng, an aquatic ecologist, is a research program manager at SNRE, while Brines is manager of SNRE’s environmental spatial analysis (ESA) lab. Brines also runs Brines Farm near Dexter.

At their July 11 meeting, commissioners also received news about the city’s 2013 application to the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP). The city is receiving grants totaling about $220,000 for land preservation of two properties in Lodi Township: (1) a portion of the Donald Drake farm along Waters Road; and (2) the Carol Schumacher farm along Pleasant Lake Road. [Full Story]

County Preps to Buy More Natural Areas

Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission meeting (April 9, 2013): The April meeting, which director Bob Tetens forecast would be “the long-promised very short meeting between our busy seasons,” saw WCPARC take the first step to acquire more properties in two locations for the county’s natural areas preservation program (NAPP). The group also heard a report from the Legacy Land Conservancy about a second round of farmland preservation through a NAPP program that the conservancy helps administer.

Fox Science Preserve, Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission, natural areas preservation program, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

The entrance to Fox Science Preserve in Scio Township. An additional four acres might be added to the county preserve, which is frequently used for environmental education and field study. (Photos by the writer.)

The first proposed acquisition for NAPP was the four-acre Jarskey property in Scio Township, which would become part of the Fox Science Preserve. That preserve lies east of Peters Road and north of Miller. Tom Freeman, retired deputy director of WCPARC and consultant on NAPP matters, briefed commissioners on the proposal. He highlighted two ponds on the property, and the popularity of the former gravel pit for educational purposes. Commissioners ultimately authorized preparation of a purchase offer at $14,285 an acre – or a total of $57,140.

The other NAPP proposal was for four wooded parcels totaling about 18 acres in Pittsfield Township, on the north side of Michigan Avenue roughly across from the Pittsfield Township offices. The value of this property, according to Freeman, is in the quality of the woods and the adjacency to the 535-acre Pittsfield Preserve. Commissioners authorized preparation of purchase offers of $390,000 for two of the properties, and $150,000 for the two other parcels – a total of $540,000.

Also at the April 9 meeting, Robin Burke – land protection coordinator for the Legacy Land Conservancy – briefed commissioners on the process used by the agricultural lands preservation advisory committee (ALPAC) to prioritize possible farmland preservation through the purchase of development rights. There were 72 applications for consideration, totaling 6,500 acres. This is the second round of potential deals that the county is weighing. The initial round was closed in March of 2013, protecting a total of 206 areas of farmland in the Bailo Family Partnership and Trust.

The commission also received reports on its finances, use of its facilities, and ongoing maintenance and improvement of WCPARC buildings and land. [Full Story]

Apps for Farms OK’d; Other Parcel Delayed

The Ann Arbor city council had two items on its Feb. 19, 2013 agenda related to spending proceeds from the city’s open space and parkland preservation millage. The council took action to approve application for federal funds to help acquire development rights on two pieces of farmland outside the city. But councilmembers postponed a purchase of a parcel inside the city near the Bluffs Nature Area.

For the two parcels outside the city, the council approved applications for matching federal funds to purchase development rights – for the 72-acre Donald Drake Farm on Waters Road in Lodi Township, and for a 100-acre property owned by Carol Schumacher on Pleasant Lake Road in Lodi Township. The federal match is only up to … [Full Story]