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E-M:/ Ann Arbor Greenbelt: Still SLOW!

More disappointing news from Ann Arbor city commission. They are still moving very slowly on the Greenbelt. See AA News story below.
--Fred Mercer

No takers yet in greenbelt program

Ann Arbor has Feb. 18 land purchase application deadline to qualify for federal matching funds
Tuesday, February 01, 2005BY TOM GANTERT
News Staff Reporter

No landowners have yet applied to sell land or development rights to Ann Arbor under the city's fledgling greenbelt program, said Jayne Miller, the Community Services administrator.

But greenbelt officials said they expect it to take a while for word to spread about the new program, which started accepting applications Jan. 24 and will continue through Feb. 18.

The Feb. 18 deadline will help the greenbelt program meet a deadline of its own for qualifying for federal matching funds, said Mike Kelly, program manager for The Conservation Fund, the agency hired to coordinate sales and reach out to prospective applicants.

Kelly said the Federal Farmland Preservation Fund has about $2 million available statewide to give for land purchases that meet certain qualifications. He said the greenbelt program's deadline to apply for the federal money is April 5, which necessitates the Feb. 18 deadline for landowners.

Kelly said he's been in contact with two landowners who said they want to sell their land. In addition, The Conservation Fund mailed 350 applications about 10 days ago to landowners within the greenbelt district.

Two or three community open houses will be held before the Feb. 18 deadline; the dates will be set later this week.

Since it was a new program, Kelly said it was hard to determine how much initial interest there will be in the greenbelt.

Mike Garfield, the Greenbelt Advisory Commission chairman, said he wasn't expecting any applications so early in the process and said there is no rush to make a purchase.

"It's possible we'll get 10 applications that we are not interested in and we turn them all down," Garfield said. "We are only going to make deals on land we are interested in."

Barry Lonik, a land-protection consultant working for the city, said he expects there could be a few good agricultural properties applying by the deadline that will be eligible for matching funds.

The program has a balance of more than $4 million, including the first property taxes collected last July under the half-mill, 30-year levy and leftover money from the parks acquisition tax it replaced.

Garfield said the goal is for the first land purchase to happen in late spring, early summer.

The city will take more applications from landowners at a later, undetermined date after the program sees how this first group is sorted out.

Tom Gantert can be reached at tgantert@annarbornews.com or (734) 994-6701.

© 2005 Ann Arbor News. Used with permission

Copyright 2005 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.

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