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Issues Of The Environment: A2’s Greenbelt Program -15 Years, 5700 Acres, 54 Farms, And Counting

Nov 13, 2019

3rd Ward Ann Arbor City Councilwoman Julie Grand
Credit City of Ann Arbor / a2gov.org

Back in 2003, the City of Ann Arbor initiated its "greenbelt program," which was designed to preserve and expand local farmland and nature areas.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks about the program's current status and future plans with Ann Arbor city council member Julie Grand.


Overview

  • Since 2003, Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt Program has acquired and preserved over 5700 acres of farmland and natural areas surrounding the city of Ann Arbor.  The program celebrated 15 years in 2019 and is working to update the strategic plan last drafted in 2013.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Not without controversy, more than $40 million has been spent on the greenbelt.  Funds come from a 30-year city millage, various grants, donations, and funds from the neighboring townships.  The current millage expires in 2034, at which time Ann Arbor voters would decide if it should continue.  Many city and county residents praise the greenbelt for the purpose of quelling sprawl, supporting locally sourced produce, and concentrating density in the city core.  Detractors argue that buying land outside the city limits is outside the scope of what city tax dollars are intended for and that preventing development in areas close to the city simply pushes more Ann Arbor employees to commute farther.

 

  • In November 2019, Ann Arbor City Council voted not to make a greenbelt purchase that would stop a subdivision development on an 8-acre tree-filled site with large, “landmark” trees.  In the same month, a 114 acre farm north of the city and adjacent to parkland was acquired.  

 

  • Julie Grand, Ann Arbor City Council Representative to the Greenbelt Advisory Commission, is the lone city council appointee to the 9-member Greenbelt Advisory Commission.  Ann Arbor City Council votes to accept or reject applications from landowners wishing to join the greenbelt.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu