County’s Natural Areas Ordinance Tweaked

An amendment to the ordinance governing the county’s natural areas preservation program received initial approval from the Washtenaw County commissioners at their Sept. 5, 2012 meeting.

The change would remove the current restriction that only 7% of millage funds can be used for management or stewardship. The Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission had been briefed on the proposal at its May 8, 2012 meeting. At that time, the proposal would have raised the limit from 7% to 25%. Now, however, the proposed ordinance amendment would eliminate all percentage restrictions on set-asides for management and stewardship.

According to a staff memo that was part of the county board’s Sept. 5 meeting packet, the goal would be to use $600,000 per year for management and stewardship. Of that, roughly $240,000 would be used for ongoing stewardship activities, and $360,000 would remain to be invested in a dedicated reserve for long-term land stewardship. By 2020, when the current millage expires, that annual investment is expected to have built a dedicated reserve of $6 million.

Though no percentages are identified in the proposed amendment, $600,000 would work out to about 25% of annual millage revenues.

Yousef Rabhi, who represents District 11 in Ann Arbor, proposed an amendment that would set a minimum of 25% to be spent on stewardship. Other commissioners were reluctant to include any percentages in the ordinance, and his amendment failed on a 1-9 vote. Ronnie Peterson was absent.

Voters first approved NAPP funding in 2000 and renewed it in 2010, each time for 10 ten years. The current millage – at 0.2409 mills – will expire in 2020.  It generates about $3 million annually.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]