ANN ARBOR – The city's Greenbelt Advisory Commission will be holding a series of public meetings as part of its review of its strategic plan.
The GAC is a group of citizens appointed by the Ann Arbor City Council to make recommendations to the council on Greenbelt matters. The commission's strategic plan focuses on farmland and open space protection, as well as the protection of the Huron River.
The Greenbelt is currently celebrating 15 years, which also represents the halfway mark of the 30-year Open Space and Parkland Preservation Program millage.
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"There weren’t many programs like it back when it was being voted on," Ann Arbor Greenbelt program manager Remy Long said. "It’s a pioneering vision to talk about regional open space surrounding an urban landscape. Since then, the program has preserved about 6.1 percent of the Greenbelt district. But when you look at the actual farmland that’s available within the district, we’ve protected 20.5 percent."
Protecting land means that the development rights of the landowners have been removed from the property. The land remains private and closed to the public.
"(The farmers) get to continue to own it, farm it, use it and enjoy it peacefully," said Long. "The only relationship that continues thereafter is whoever has protected the property is responsible for checking these properties once a year, the terms of the agreement have been upheld and there’s no strip mining and new construction that wasn’t permitted in the agreement."
Long said the program is unique for a city and is more commonly seen in rural areas on the county or state level.
The commission felt the halfway mark of the millage was a good time to involve the public again in Greenbelt matters.
"In 2003, when the millage was being discussed ahead of time and then voted on, there was some public discourse around the whole program, but once it passed we needed time to actually get projects done," said Long.
"We thought it was a really important time to do some public engagement and look back at the last 15 years and what’s been done and look forward to 15 years ahead," he said. "If people feel like the strategy that we have on the books is strong and sound, we’ll move forward with that. But we want to make sure that we're focusing on the priorities that the public shares. We want them to feel that what they want is reflected in the Greenbelt’s work."
The following meetings are open to the public and will allow attendees and stakeholders to review the strategic plan.
- Monday, July 29, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. - Ann Arbor District Library, Westgate Branch, 2503 Jackson Ave.
- Thursday, Aug. 15, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. - Ann Arbor District Library, Traverwood Branch, 3333 Traverwood Drive
- Thursday, Sept. 5, 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. - Larcom City Hall, second floor City Council chambers, 301 E. Huron St.
- Monday, Sept. 23, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. - Ann Arbor District Library, Pittsfield Branch, 2359 Oak Valley Drive
- Monday, Sept. 30, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. - Ann Arbor District Library, Westgate Branch, 2503 Jackson Ave.
- Thursday, Oct. 3, 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. - Larcom City Hall, second floor City Council chambers, 301 E. Huron St.
For more information and to see the current strategic plan, visit the program's website at www.a2gov.org/greenbelt. Comments or suggestions may be sent to email@example.com before the final session on Oct. 3.
According to the city of Ann Arbor:
"Since 2003, the Greenbelt program has spent $23,184,601 on the purchase of conservation easements on privately owned land, as well as the outright purchase of natural areas that have been turned into publicly accessible parks and natural areas. In addition, the program has leveraged an additional $25,965,135 from federal grants and other funding partners.
"Surrounding townships alone have provided $5,564,917 in matching funds, primarily from townships with dedicated conservation millage funds. To date, the program has preserved over 5,491 acres of farms and natural areas within an 8-mile radius of Ann Arbor's city center, including 50 working farms."
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