Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt Proposal

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One way to preserve land is through purchase of development rights. Development rights are the rights of landowners to use their land for any purpose, such as farming, building homes or businesses, etc. Development rights can be bought and sold independently of land. If the development rights of a piece of land are purchased, the landowner can sell the land, but the owner of the development rights still decides how the land may be used. The cost of development rights of farmland is the difference between the overall market value and the agricultural value.

The reasons for buying development rights, a form of conservation easement, of farms and open land are:

• prevent unchecked sprawl
• keep the price of agricultural land at a level farmers can afford - helping keep local farmers in business
• preserve some of the remaining open space in and around Ann Arbor
• reduce capital gains and MI income tax (click here)

Land preservation in Michigan
At a public forum at WCC in the summer of 2003 several farmers told very eloquent and heartening stories about their experiences with Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. It immediately put money into their pockets allowing them to pay debts, continue farming and even expand operations, made their future more secure and even lowered their taxes since participation in the program made part of the land value deductible. Although farmland is most often involved in these programs, PDR programs are available to any landowner--not just farmers.

Gordon Hayward, Peninsula Township planner, spoke very articulately and thoroughly about the success of creating a PDR program in Peninsula Township on Grand Traverse Bay which has protected over 4000 acres. When this plan was recently on the ballot for increased funding it passed by a wide margin. This program is now 10 years old. Details of the current program are here.

Now Ann Arbor has, by a landslide, passed a land preservation program and neighboring Ann Arbor Township overwhelmingly passed their own township land preservation proposal.

Many groups and individuals supported the Ann Arbor initiative, including the Michigan Farm Bureau, as well as both Democrat and Republican politicians.

About PDR programs
The loss of farmland and open space throughout the country has become a very important issue in recent years. As more and more land becomes developed, an increasing number of tools have been created to preserve the land that remains. One of the tools that has captured the imagination of planners, elected officials, and others is the purchase of development rights (PDR). Currently 18 states have active PDR programs. Click here to read a fact sheet on PDR programs.

Successful PDR and other land preservation programs around the country
(all open in a new window)
(this list is a small sample of active PDR programs)
Arizona: McDowell Sonoran Land Trust
California: Greenbelt Alliance
Colorado: The Nature Conservancy
Connecticut: Farmland Preservation Program, American Farmland Trust, Working Land's Alliance
Maryland: Maryland Land Conservation Center
Montana: The Trust for Public Land
New Jersey: New Jersey Conservation FoundationNew Jersey Future

Pennsylvania: Greenspace Alliance,  County of Erie, PA, Intelligencer-Record
Virginia: Loudoun.County PDR, Journal of Loudoun County
other states: The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, American Farmland Trust

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