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 $5,000 per acre.

Inside the city, the council postponed the $115,000 purchase of a roughly 0.357-acre piece of vacant land located at 1240 Orkney, with a current SEV (state equalized value) of $49,200. [SEV is based on 50% of market value.] The parcel is located immediately adjacent to the Bluffs Nature area – in the north part of the city, near the confluence of North Main, M-14 and Huron River Drive. The parcel is intended to provide an additional access point to the nature area, from the west. [.jpg of Orkney parcel adjacent to Bluffs Nature area]

The total proposed appropriation of $128,000 in open space millage funds for purchasing the Orkney parcel included $3,000 in closing costs and $10,000 in due diligence. An environmental assessment would be done before the closing.

The purchase was postponed, however, because councilmembers questioned the price of the parcel as well as the need for additional access to the Bluffs Nature Area. The postponement is until March 4.

The proposed Orkney parcel acquisition is similar to one made last year for a parcel on Hampstead Lane immediately adjacent to the Kuebler Langford Nature Area. Like the Bluffs, Kuebler Langford is located in the northern part of the city. [.jpg of area showing cluster of nature areas in the city's north side] [.jpg image of map showing city-acquired parcel adjoining Kuebler Langford Nature Area]

The roughly 0.91-acre Hampstead Lane parcel was determined to have a fair market value of $110,000, with an additional $13,000 accounted for through closing costs and due diligence.

The council authorized the acquisition of the Hampstead Lane parcel at its Oct. 15, 2012 meeting.

Another parallel between the Oct. 15, 2012 meeting and the Feb. 19, 2013 meeting was the consideration of development rights for the Drake Farm. In October, the council had given approval for the acquisition of development rights for the southern part of the farm. On that occasion, the requested expenditure from millage funds amounted to $483,450. Of that amount, $23,867 went to cover costs related to closing, due diligence and a contribution to the greenbelt endowment. The total purchase price of the land was $549,478, with the city of Ann Arbor’s share supplemented by $109,895 from Washtenaw County parks & recreation and $1,000 from Lodi Township.

What the council approved on Feb. 19 for the Drake Farm was an application to the USDA Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) for matching funds to acquire development rights to the northern part of the farm. When the city failed to win an FRPP award for the farm as a whole, it divided the property – because the northern part is very suitable for agricultural production, and the city felt its chances were very good for winning an FRPP grant for just that portion of the farm. The Drake property had been mentioned recently at the Feb. 7, 2013 meeting of the city’s greenbelt advisory commission.

If the city wins the FRPP matching grants, the item will likely come before the city council in June.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]