Northfield Township Establishes a Land Preservation Committee
Northfield Township residents like the rural feel of their community, and both the 1996 and 2010 township surveys revealed that agricultural and natural areas preservation are important to our community.
To address the desire on the part of many residents to keep our rural character, the Board of Trustees established a committee of seven to look at ways to preserve high value agricultural and natural lands in the township. They began to meet in February 2017 and thus far have explored several means to do just that. Purchase or transfer of development rights, conservation easements, and informational programs for landowners are on the top of their list to make a difference.
In the days ahead, they hope to work with the Planning Commission for some ordinance changes and collaborate with groups with similar missions, such as the Huron River Watershed Council and the Legacy Land Conservancy to get the word out about the importance of farmland and natural areas to our quality of life. See the links on the left side of this page for meeting information.
What is the Northfield Township Land Preservation Committee?
The Northfield Township Land Preservation Committee is a group of seven volunteer township residents of varying backgrounds who are appointed by the Board of Trustees to explore ways to protect township lands that are wild, scenic and/or agricultural. They have monthly meetings, open to the public, in the township hall.
Why protect land?
Northfield Township has forests, wetlands and fertile agricultural lands that provide scenic views as well as important green infrastructure that protects water, soil and wildlife natural resources. Protecting some of these prime lands as they are preserves and maintains the quality of life township residents enjoy and expect in the future.
Are there other communities in our vicinity that are involved in land preservation?
- Washtenaw County townships that have active land preservation programs include Ann Arbor Township, Webster Township, Scio Township and most recently, Augusta Township.
- The City of Ann Arbor has the Ann Arbor Greenbelt program
- Washtenaw County has a Natural Areas Preservation Program which includes wild lands and agricultural lands.
What makes some tracts of land more desirable for preservation than others?
- Prime farmland is worth preserving to feed the local population both now and even more so in the future, as farmland continues to be paved at an accelerating pace. Farms are important local businesses that play a large part in our economy.
- Wetlands play an important part in regulating water resources, mitigating floods, helping to keep rivers and lakes clean, and replenishing the underground aquifers that supply our drinking water.
- Forests contain plant and animal species that need a place to live if we want them to remain in our township in the future. Forests also prevent flooding, moderate the climate and serve as aquifer recharge areas.
The three land types above may all also have scenic and/or recreational potential.
Is the size and location of the land a factor?
- Land tracts of any size are eligible for preservation, but parcels are usually larger than 20 acres.
- In order to qualify for funding provided by specific programs, land must be within the specified area the program covers. For example, the southern portion of Northfield Township is within the area designated as part of the Ann Arbor Greenbelt program, and land there can be considered for inclusion. Land in the northern half of the the township is outside the scope of the Ann Arbor Greenbelt, and doesn't qualify.
- Although any desirable tract of land can be considered for protection, lands that border existing protected lands are even more desirable. Multiple parcels that are contiguous can collectively form a larger tract, which is always preferable.
How does land get preserved? Does the township have to buy it?
Land can be preserved in three basic ways:
- Owners can donate their land for preservation.
- An entity such as a Land Trust of Governmental body can purchase the land.
- Development Rights can be purchased. This is called a Conservation Easement. So what does that mean? The landowner keeps their land, but is paid to continue to use the land as used at present, either in a wild state or as farmland. The land continues to be economically active and on the tax rolls.
If there are already land preservation programs that cover parts of Northfield Township, why does the township need to have its own land preservation program?
Most land preservation projects are created using a combination of funding available for the location where the land is. For example, a property slated for preservation in Ann Arbor Township could combine funding from that township's program, the Ann Arbor Green Belt program and the Washtenaw County Natural Areas Preservation Program. In fact, preservation proposals have a greater chance of approval if funding is requested from multiple sources.
Other funding sources prefer projects that have local township funding. If Northfield Township had its own funding source, it would be better prepared to capture funding our taxpayers already pay into county programs, much of which currently escapes our township.
How are land preservation programs funded?
In Washtenaw county, land preservation programs have been funded with millages. Webster, Ann Arbor and Scio Townships all operate with millage funds, as do the Ann Arbor Greenbelt and Washtenaw County Natural Areas Preservation Program. Voters have consistently voiced support for these programs; millages have been approved when they came up for renewal, as the benefits are quite visible to residents. In Webster Township, the money raised by the millage has leveraged $5 for every dollar put in by the township!
What if I don't want my land to be preserved?
Participation in land preservation programs is strictly voluntary. Land owners must always chose to participate.
What would happen if there were no land preservation programs?
Although it is always difficult to predict the future, one need only look at development patterns in Southeast Michigan to imagine what the future of Northfield Township could be without efforts to preserve some of our open land. It would likely all be bulldozed, paved and built on. Over a century ago a visionary suggested protecting what became Central Park, the largest green space in New York City. Our national parks are another example of lands that were preserved at a time when it seemed there would never be a reason to believe they might be endangered. A land preservation program is an investment in the economy and health of our community. When the land is protected, it is protected forever.