Ann Arbor Greenbelt: How You Can Involve Yourself
Are you interested in the future of land use in and around Ann Arbor? Do you think its is important to balance development with preservation of open space and undeveloped land? Do you think that fiscal oversight of local tax dollars is an important civic service? Then you might be interested in Ann Arbor's greenbelt program.
The Greenbelt Advisory Commission typically meets on the first Thursday of each month at 4:30 p.m., usually in the city council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron. Agendas are posted in advance of the meetings on the city's Legistar system. Meetings are broadcast live on Channel 16 of the Community Television Network, and are available for replay via CTN's Video on Demand.
Ann Arbor Greenbelt: Background Sketch
The Ann Arbor Greenbelt District is a designated area around Ann Arbor in which the City aims to preserve open spaces, including farmland, natural habitat, and the streams and wetlands that feed the Huron River. This protection is achieved through a purchase of development rights (PDR), funded by the City's 2003 Open Space and Parkland Preservation millage. Ann Arbor Township also passed a millage for this purpose in 2003, with Scio Township and Webster Township following suit.
The 2003 Open Space and Parkland Preservation millage Ann Arbor – known colloquially as the "greenbelt millage" – was approved at a rate of 0.5 mills for a period of 30 years. Two-thirds of millage proceeds are used for the city’s greenbelt program (protecting land outside the city), and one-third for parks land acquisition (inside the city). To generate money upfront for land acquisition, in fiscal year 2006 the city took out a $20 million bond. That bond is being paid back with revenue from the millage.
The Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Commission (GAC) was created to oversee the city's greenbelt acquisitions and management of acquired development rights. GAC serves as an advisory body to City Council. Most city boards and commission members are nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. However, members of GAC are nominated and confirmed by the Ann Arbor City Council. The Commission consists of nine members: one City Council representative, one farmer, one developer, two environmentalists, one biologist, and three at-large community members.
The millage and the programs that it supports are managed by staff of The Conservation Fund, Ginny Trocchio and Peg Kohring. The greenbelt’s strategic plan has focused on three areas: (1) preserving 1,000-acre blocks of land; (2) working with partners on land deals; and (3) protecting land connected to the Huron River. A focus in the plan on supporting local food production has evolved in the last few years, resulting in the prioritization of smaller farms in the 10-15 acre range. (Greenbelt_Strategic_Plan_2013.pdf)
Land acquisition inside the city is reviewed by the Land Acquisition Committee (LAC) of the Park Advisory Commission.
The area in and around Ann Arbor that’s eligible for land preservation under the greenbelt program is defined in Chapter 42 of the Ann Arbor city code.
This article includes the following sections:
- Apr-2015 Acquired ~78-acre DF Holdings property, using $385,312 in city funds and $1,155,938 in township or other funding (Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation). LINK
- Mar-2015 Acquired 91-acre Schumacher property, using $203,555 in city funds, $178,360 in federal funds and $37,072 in township or other funding. LINK
- Dec-2014 Acquired 91-acre Van Curler property, using $260,000 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $520,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- Dec-2014 Acquired 11-acre Novick property, using $20,000 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $40,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- Dec-2014 Confirmed councilmember Julie Grand as city council's representative to GAC on 12/1/2014.
- Nov-2014 Acquired 10-acre Polliey property, using $59,367 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $10,200 in township or other funding. LINK
- Feb-2014 Acquired 24-acre Moore property, using $25,200 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $58,800 in township or other funding. LINK
- Feb-2014 Acquired 70-acre White property, using $39,000 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $91,335 in township or other funding. LINK
- 12/2/2013 Confirmed Taylor to GAC on 12/2/2013
- Sep-2013 Acquired 20-acre Wolf and Sheldon property, using $82,067 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $4,300 in township or other funding. LINK
- 8/8/2013 Confirmed Ramsburgh to GAC on 8/8/2013
- 7/15/2013 Confirmed Cares to GAC on 7/15/2013
- 6/3/2013 Confirmed Fike to GAC on 6/3/2013
- 5/20/2013 Confirmed Buttrey to GAC on 5/20/2013
- 12/3/2012 Confirmed Taylor to GAC on 12/3/2012
- Oct-2012 Acquired 73-acre Hornback property, using $199,367 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $128,400 in township or other funding. LINK
- Oct-2012 Acquired 130-acre Drake (South) property, using $483,450 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $110,895 in township or other funding. LINK
- Sep-2012 Acquired 136-acre Schultz property, using $294,247 in city funds $229,320 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Sep-2012 Acquired 93-acre Alexander R property, using $226,837 in city funds $167,580 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- 7/2/2012 Confirmed Christian to GAC on 7/2/2012
- Jun-2012 Acquired 28-acre J A BLOCH and Company 2 property, using $61,312 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $183,936 in township or other funding. LINK
- 5/21/2012 Confirmed Allen, Riseng to GAC on 5/21/2012
- Mar-2012 Acquired 65-acre Newton property, using $85,726 in city funds $158,676 in federal funds, and $82,576 in township or other funding. LINK
- Mar-2012 Acquired 132-acre Boike property, using $502,307 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Mar-2012 Acquired 195-acre VanNatter property, using $126,867 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jan-2012 Acquired 101-acre Pellerito property, using $172,858 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $172,858 in township or other funding. LINK
- 12/5/2011 Confirmed Hohnke to GAC on 12/5/2011
- 11/21/2011 Confirmed Brines to GAC on 11/21/2011
- Nov-2011 Acquired 30-acre Botero property, using $15,000 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Nov-2011 Acquired 23-acre Bloch JA property, using $495,00 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $49,500 in township or other funding. LINK
- Oct-2011 Acquired 31-acre Thomas-Lobato property, using $140,367 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- 7/5/2011 Confirmed Rother to GAC on 7/5/2011
- Jul-2011 Acquired 126-acre Maulbetsch property, using $521,642 in city funds $282,750 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jul-2011 Acquired 111-acre Lindemann-Weidmayer property, using $387,372 in city funds $312,620 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Mar-2011 Acquired 114-acre Geiger property, using $583,187 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jan-2011 Acquired 211-acre Geiger property, using $728,412 in city funds $611,030 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Dec-2010 Acquired 141-acre Whitney property, using $657,122 in city funds $418,470 in federal funds, and $50,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- 11/15/2010 Confirmed Hohnke to GAC on 11/15/2010
- Nov-2010 Acquired 747-acre Pardon property, using $141,979 in city funds $272,824 in federal funds, and $141,979 in township or other funding. LINK
- Nov-2010 Acquired 40-acre Clark property, using $182,939 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Nov-2010 Acquired 66-acre Ledwidge property, using $179,025 in city funds $182,535 in federal funds, and $59,676 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jul-2010 Acquired 289-acre Braun property, using $1,494,917 in city funds $1,053,750 in federal funds, and $1,412,416 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jul-2010 Acquired 205-acre Braun T property, using $350,752 in city funds $673,995 in federal funds, and $350,752 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jul-2010 Acquired 96-acre Honke property, using $457,357 in city funds $260,910 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jul-2010 Acquired 51-acre Gould property, using $290,167 in city funds $192,500 in federal funds, and $238,666 in township or other funding. LINK
- 5/3/2010 Confirmed Alllen, Rubin, Bloomer, Ezekiel to GAC on 5/3/2010
- Feb-2010 Acquired 83.41493-acre Zeeb property, using $160,140 in city funds $307,720 in federal funds, and $160,140 in township or other funding. LINK
- 12/21/2009 Confirmed Hohnke to GAC on 12/21/2009
- Dec-2009 Acquired 104-acre Girbach property, using $815,767 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $40,500 in township or other funding. LINK
- Oct-2009 Acquired 94-acre Webster UCC property, using $590,257 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $77,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- 9/21/2009 Confirmed Riseng, Garfield to GAC on 9/21/2009
- May-2009 Acquired 261-acre Nixon property, using $1,107,587 in city funds, $1,030,500 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Mar-2009 Acquired 148-acre Merkel property, using $627,867 in city funds $680,000 in federal funds, and $110,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- 11/17/2008 Confirmed Hohnke to GAC on 11/17/2008
- Oct-2008 Acquired 11-acre Botsford property, using $156,000 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $156,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- Sep-2008 Acquired 93-acre Hilton property, using $813,367 in city funds $350,000 in federal funds, and $255,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- Aug-2008 Acquired 90-acre Open Roads property, using $350,000 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $1,900,000 in township or other funding. LINK
- 6/16/2008 Confirmed Hall, Omenn to GAC on 6/16/2008
- Jun-2008 Acquired 140-acre Geddes East LLC property, using $626,625 in city funds $0 in federal funds, and $693,875 in township or other funding. LINK
- 4/7/2008 Confirmed Allen to GAC on 4/7/2008
- Mar-2008 Acquired 107-acre Smyth property, using $202,500 in city funds $305,000 in federal funds, and $202,500 in township or other funding. LINK
- 12/3/2007 Confirmed Easthope to GAC on 12/3/2007
- 7/2/2007 Confirmed Rubin, Bloomer, Ezekiel to GAC on 7/2/2007
- Feb-2007 Acquired 75-acre Alexander J property, using $680,000 in city funds, $335,000 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- 12/4/2006 Confirmed Bob Johnson to GAC on 12/4/2006
- Dec-2006 Acquired 146-acre Kapp property, using $757,000 in city funds, $698,500 in federal funds, and $757000 in township or other funding. LINK
- Sep-2006 Acquired 153-acre Bloomer property, using $1,782,534.67 in city funds, $182,332 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jun-2006 Acquired 180-acre Cares property, using $1,997,406.67 in city funds, $466,300 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Feb-2006 Acquired 43-acre Fishbeck property, using $658,666 in city funds, $207,200 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Feb-2006 Acquired 122-acre Fishbeck property, using $1,455,866 in city funds, $583,900 in federal funds, and $0 in township or other funding. LINK
- Jan-2006 Acquired 76-acre Fox property, using $192,750 in city funds, $0 in federal funds, and $578,250 in township or other funding. LINK
- 12/5/2005 Confirmed Bob Johnson to GAC on 12/5/2005
- 7/18/2005 Confirmed Gil Omenn to GAC on 7/18/2005
- 12/20/2004 Confirmed Bob Johnson to GAC on 12/20/2004
- 6/7/2004 Confirmed original members to GAC on 6/7/2004
The area in and around Ann Arbor that’s eligible for land preservation under the greenbelt program is defined in Chapter 42 of the Ann Arbor city code. The city council has expanded the boundaries twice – in 2007 and 2011.
The 2011 expansion was essentially to square-off the area by adding a mile to the southwest in Lodi Township, and one mile to the northeast in Salem Township. Also in 2011, the council changed Chapter 42 to allow a parcel of land adjacent to the greenbelt boundary to be eligible for protection, if it is also adjacent to a parcel under the same ownership within the greenbelt boundary. The expansions of the boundary are shown in the map below:
The map below shows parcels that have been protected under the greenbelt program since 2003. Click on a parcel for information on ownership and funding for the acquisition.
Map generated from file: aa_greenbelt_properties_FINANCIAL-filtered-Nov-7-2014.csv
Chart 1 below shows the breakdown of funding sources for the greenbelt acquisitions the city has made under the greenbelt program:
The data displayed in the map and chart are presented in the form of a table below:
|SITE_OWNER||Type||YR Approved||ACRES||Info Source||AppIDNum||Funds_City||Funds_Federal||
|Geddes East LLC||Partnership||Jun-2008||140.41||LINK||2007_18||$626,625||$693,875|
|J A BLOCH and Company 2||Partnership||Jun-2012||28.00||LINK||2007_06||$61,312||$183,936|
|Wolf and Sheldon||Partnership||Sep-2013||19.95||LINK||2012_12||$82,067||$4,300|
|Van Curler||Partnership||Dec-2014||91||LINK||?? App#||$260,000||$520,000|
As of November 2014, acquisitions of property inside the city of Ann Arbor, using greenbelt millage funds totals 99.29 acres, using $7,986,937 in millage funding.
|Acquired Property||Acres||Use||Amount from Millage||Fiscal Year||Acquisition Notes|
|Dolph Nature Area - South Addition||18.2||Natural Area||$601,252||2005||Fee purchase|
|Evergreen lots||0.6||Natural Area||$146,215||2005||Fee purchase|
|Brookside||0.7||Neighborhood Park||$150,000||2006||Fee purchase|
|Onder||4.75||Natural Area||$489,985||2007||Fee purchase|
|Andres (Evergreen addition)||0.5||Neighborhood Park||$158,435||2007||Fee purchase|
|Girl Scouts (Hilltop Nature Area)||7.75||Natural Area||$2,239,249||2007||Fee purchase|
|Zion Lutheran (Eberwhite Nature Area)||2.25||Natural Area||$597,664||2008||Fee purchase|
|Narrow Gauge Way (Narrow Gauge Nature Area)||-||Natural Area||$1,844,376||2008||Fee purchase|
|Crary (Crary Park)||1.3||Neighborhood Park||$12,032||2008||Donation|
|Botsford (Conservation Easement)||10||Natural Area||$158,900||2009||Development Rights|
|219 Chapin (West Park Addition)||0.2||Neighborhood Park||$277,506||2010||Fee purchase|
|Linkner (Scheffler Park Addition)||0.3||Natural Area/Linkage||$10,063||2010||Donation|
|Elks (220 N. Sunset-Bluffs Addition)||0.58||Access / Natural Area||$376,969||2011||Fee purchase|
|Wes Vivian (South Pond Addition)||2||Access / Natural Area||$599,656||2011||Fee purchase|
|Riverview Nursing (Bluffs Addition)||1.1||Access / Natural Area||$5,755||2011||Donation|
|Bryant Community Center (Addition)||0.3||Linkage||$76,262||2012||Fee purchase|
|Braun Park||10||Natural Area||$0||2013||Donation|
|C. Clare North (Hampstead Lane-Kuebler Addition)||-||Natural Area /Linkage||$118,944||2013||Fee purchase|
|1240 Orkney (Bluffs Addition)||0.35||Access / Natural Area||$123,674||2013||Fee purchase|
The goals of the greenbelt, as set forth in the 2006 Greenbelt Strategic Plan, were:
- Preserve large blocks of farmland in five target areas,
- Preserve land alongside the Huron River and major tributaries, and
- Obtain maximum leverage of taxpayer money through use of grant funds, partnerships, and landowner donations.
The focus to date on working farms has been driven in part by the availability of federal matching funds through the Farm and Ranchlands Preservation Program.
The City made its first purchases of development rights (PDR) in 2005. While the greenbelt millage was ostensibly a "parks" millage, most of the money will not be used for parkland in the traditional sense. The first several purchases made have been of the development rights on working farmland, with the assistance of Federal grants for farmland preservation; that land will remain with the current owners rather than becoming part of the public domain.
The mechanism of a PDR is to separate out the right to develop (build upon) land from the "bundle" of rights that go with that land - the owners retain other rights, such as the right to forbid access and the right to sell the land. With the development rights separated, however, and locked into a conversation easement, the land can never be turned into a subdivision or a strip mall. This provides benefit for Ann Arborites by limiting suburban sprawl, maintaining habitat and working farms (and therefore the City's ability to host a Farmer's Market), and protecting the Huron River watershed from the increased runoff of contaminated stormwater that low-density development creates. On the landowner's side, the PDR reduces land value drastically, removing the investment value of agricultural land, but provides a large quantity of cash in exchange, which the landowner can use as an alternate investment. The reduced value of the land additionally reduces the property tax burden on the landowner.
Mike Garfield, of the Ecology Center and a member of the Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Committee from 2004 through 2012 has suggested that the greenbelt fund provides the opportunity for Ann Arbor to approximate a transfer of development rights (TDR) program, in which development rights are separated from one parcel - preserving that land from development - and adding it to another parcel, generally within an already built-up area. Developers desiring to create denser projects than the existing zoning allows, in this model, could pay a predefined amount of cash into the greenbelt fund in exchange for the extra density, making the additional density not actually additional, but simply a movement of that use from low-density development to high-density development. Running a TDR program via the greenbelt fund would have the added benefit of allowing land preservation experts to use the money to buy development rights as part of a coordinated regional strategy, rather than having haphazard purchases made by individual developers.
The ballot language considered by voters on Nov. 4, 2003 was approved by the Ann Arbor city council at its Aug. 18, 2003 meeting. Text of the ballot language:
ANN ARBOR CITY CHARTER AMENDMENT PROPOSAL
Shall Section 8.23 of the City Charter be amended to authorize a one-half mill tax for 30 years, to replace the existing Land Acquisition Millage of .5 mill that expires in 2004, which will raise in the first year of the levy the estimated revenue of $1,917,500, to provide funds for preservation and protection of parkland, open space, natural habitats and City sourcewaters by the acquisition and management of land and land rights both within and outside the City of Ann Arbor?
On Nov. 4, 2003, Ann Arbor voters decided a ballot question on whether to pay a 0.5 mill tax for 30 years, proceeds of which would be used to protect open space both inside and outside the city. The millage was approved, with 14,525 (67.36%) voting in favor and 7,037 (32.64%) voting against it citywide A majority in every precinct voted for the proposal.
Map generated from file: November 2003 Greenbelt Ballot Referendum.csv
- Greenbelt Advisory Commission stories on AnnArbor.com
- Greenbelt Advisory Commission stories on Ann Arbor Chronicle
- Greenbelt Advisory Commission stories on Ann Arbor Observer
- Greenbelt Advisory Commission stories in Heritage Media newspapers
- Greenbelt Advisory Commission stories in the Google News archives
- Ann Arbor News, 8/7/08, Ann Arbor park proposal postponed, greenbelt buy ok'd
- Lands of America.com, 7/24/08, Farmland rights to be bought Ann Arbor, Pittsfield agree on PDR purchase
- Concentrate Media, 6/18/08, Ann Arbor's greenbelt grows with latest 139 acre purchase
- Metromode Media, 1/24/08, Ann Arbor greenbelt expands, buys Narrow Gauge Woods
- Metromode Media, 7/26/07, Ann Arbor greenbelt program makes sixth purchase, controls 700 acres
- Arbor Update, 11/8/05, Ann Arbor makes first greenbelt purchase