Ann Arbor Area Parks and Greenbelt Proposal
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• The Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt Program will extend the current Parks Acquisition millage to fund both parkland acquisition within the City and land preservation within a greenbelt around the City.

• The Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt program help fight sprawl -- Ann Arbor's biggest problem. Sprawl:
.makes Ann Arbor a much less desirable place to live
.raises taxes due to construction of new schools, roads, and utility extensions
.increases traffic congestion
.causes water and air pollution
.causes school overcrowding

• The Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt Program will fund both parkland acquisition within the City and land preservation within a greenbelt around the City.


The tax rate will not increase. The 0.5 millage level overwhelmingly approved in 1999 will continue unchanged. The Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt Proposal will raise $35 million - plus ...

$30 to $50 million in matching funds from townships and other sources will preserve as much as 7,000 acres of the best open space in and around Ann Arbor.

• Proposal B will continue Ann Arbor's highly successful Parkland Acquisition Program. Its scope will be expanded so that we can buy new parks and natural areas in the city, and acquire agricultural and open-space conservation easements outside the city.

• Most of the money spent outside the City will be used to acquire conservation easements. This is less costly than outright acquisition of land, and will keep land on the tax rolls and allow farms to continue operating.

• With activities such as the largest single development proposal in state history, a 5,000-unit development, being planned just three miles away in Northfield Township, now is the time to act. On average, Michigan develops land eight times faster than its population grows. Between 1982 and 1997, farmland acreage decreased by 13.3% - 1.5 million acres! By comparison, Washtenaw Co. is less than 0.5 million acres.


Complete text below:

The biggest problem facing the City of Ann Arbor is sprawl - uncontrolled development outside the City. The Ann Arbor area is one of the fastest growing regions in the entire state of Michigan. Rapid uncoordinated development is converting hundreds of acres of open space around Ann Arbor into subdivisions each year. For example, the rural northern gateway to the City is now threatened by the largest single development proposal in state history, a 5,000-unit development just three miles away in Northfield Township.

Sprawl threatens to undermine Ann Arbor's high quality of life, by destroying water quality, open spaces, woodlands, and farms; by increasing traffic congestion, commuting times, school overcrowding, and air pollution. Sprawl costs Ann Arbor residents millions of dollars each year because it requires the construction of new schools, roads, and utility extensions.

Big problems require bold solutions. The Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt Program will fund both parkland acquisition within the City and land preservation within a greenbelt around the City. The Program will be funded through a 30-year 0.5 mill levy. The millage will generate about $35 million (2003 dollars), assuming bonds backed by the millage are sold over the first 10 years. This will leverage an additional $30 to 50 million in matching funds. Of the total, one-third will be targeted for in-City acquisitions and two-thirds outside City borders. The Program will forever protect as much as 7,000 acres of the best open space in our area, and thus play a vital role in helping our community combat sprawl and protect our watersheds.

The current City parks acquisition millage, will be amended. The 0.5 millage level overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1999 will continue unchanged, so the tax rate will not increase. The millage, which is otherwise scheduled to continue one additional year, is nowextended to 30 years. The in-City funds will be spent in the same manner as the current City parks acquisition millage, through City Council decisions based on recommendations by the City Parks staff and the Parks Advisory Commission.

The out-City money will be spent to protect a greenbelt near the City. The greenbelt boundary will create a square, shifted a little to the north, that extends around the City's borders from one to six miles away at various points. The Greenbelt funds will be used to acquire property interests (including outright acquisition, conservation easement, access easements, or other contractual rights) in open space and farmland in the greenbelt area.
Most of the money spent outside the City will be used to acquire conservation easements. This is less costly than outright acquisition of land, and will keep land on the tax rolls and allow it to continue to be farmed.

All Greenbelt acquisitions will be made through voluntary agreements with property owners. Purchases will be strongly favored when a significant amount of matching funds were provided by the landowner, townships, County, State and federal governments, or other sources. The City's portion of the costs will be expected to be average about one-third of the total appraised value of the land being protected. City Council will appoint a Greenbelt Advisory Commission, representing diverse interests, to advise Council on out-City land preservation expenditures. Greenbelt funds could only be spent by City Council.

The Greenbelt Advisory Commission will establish selection criteria to guide its recommendations for land preservation. The criteria could include botanical quality, quality of farmland, quality of woodland, distance from the city border, size of property, proximity to other protected land, road frontage, adjacent zoning, adjacent use, proximity to water and sewer, groundwater recharge, perennial stream frontage, and presence of wetlands. When purchasing conservation easements, the City will hold and monitor the easement on the protected property.

The Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt Proposal builds upon recent discussions of regional land use cooperation among neighboring cities and townships in eastern Washtenaw County. The Program embraces a regional approach to land preservation, encouraging neighboring townships to dedicate their own funds for land and easement acquisitions in order to obtain Greenbelt money. It provides a critical tool for the region to use in bringing sense to the area's growth, and will help the Ann Arbor region protect its vital watersheds.

City of Ann Arbor voters have consistently recognized the value of open space preservation and regional approaches to land use planning. City voters favored the 1998 county land preservation proposal more than voters in any other municipality, giving it 54% support. City voters strongly supported the 2000 county natural areas preservation plan, giving it 75% support. They have also strongly supported City parkland acquisition proposals, giving them greater than 60% support each time.

Big problems require bold solutions. The countryside surrounding Ann Arbor is disappearing fast, and very little will be left unless we act soon. The Ann Arbor Area Parks and Greenbelt Proposal will provide our community with its most effective tool to date in addressing this serious threat to the character of our community.

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