Land Preservation Committee
Northfield Township Land Preservation Committee
Northfield Township is a beautiful place to live, work, and play, so it is no surprise residents are proud of our lakes, forests, wetlands, and fertile agricultural grounds. We enjoy the rural character, scenic value, and the critical food security provided by our small family farms. Green spaces provide not only scenic views, locally grown produce, and field crops, but also the important ecological infrastructures that protect water, soil, and wildlife habitats. Over the years, resident surveys consistently show protecting lands and farms is a top priority.
In 2017, the Northfield Township Board of Trustees created the Land Preservation Committee (LPC) to explore ways to protect rural lands. The LPC consists of seven board appointed volunteers with varying experiences and backgrounds who share a love of natural beauty. The LPC hosts monthly meetings, which are open to the public. (Refer to the Land Preservation Meeting Schedule link on the left for more information.)
Our mission is to protect and sustain Northfield Township’s unique beauty and rural character for current residents and future generations through the preservation of farmlands, wetlands, and key natural areas, the continued support to our local farmers, and educational outreach for the entire township.
We recognize the value of family farms and open spaces, and we are committed to preserving a green future of our community.
Residents Approve Farmland Preservation Millage
On November 8th, residents gave the green light to the first-ever Farmland and Adjoining Natural Areas Preservation millage, passing the ballot proposal with a 56% majority.
Residents took advantage of the beautiful day and showed up at the polls with 63% of registered voters casting ballots between the Township’s two polling locations.
The .6 millage will cost each household about $0.18/day* and generate about $200,000/year in revenue. With matching county, state, federal, and private funds, officials hope to preserve one or two farms per year.
Farmland preservation is completely voluntary. A property owner offers their development rights for sale to the township, and the Board of Trustees processes the request. If an agreement can be reached, the parcel will be forever preserved in its current state. The farmer retains ownership of the property and is free to sell their property or pass it to heirs, but the new owners may not change the land use.
The Northfield Township Land Preservation Committee (LPC) was created in December, 2016, and tasked with “researching strategies that would benefit the township”. In early 2022, the Board of Trustees agreed with the LPC’s recommendation to place a millage on the ballot and “let the residents decide” whether they wanted to fund farmland preservation.
Now that they have, the LPC would like to thank those who supported this effort and have committed to preserving land in Northfield Township.
*Based on the median household assessed value of $218,700 (per U.S. census data).
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. Preserving prime lands maintains the quality of life current township residents expect and protects the same quality for future generations.
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 land desirable for preservation?
In addition to scenic and recreational qualities, the following land types offer exceptionally desirable traits.
- Prime farmlands feed the local population and provide food security for future generations.
- Wetlands regulate water resources, mitigate floods, help keep rivers and lakes clean, and replenish the underground aquifers that supply our drinking water.
- Forests prevent flooding, moderate the climate, and serve as aquifer recharge areas in addition to providing wildlife habitats to native species.
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 choose to participate.
What would happen if there were no land preservation programs?
Although it is impossible to predict the future, a look at development patterns in Southeast Michigan paints a picture of what might become of Northfield Township without efforts to preserve some of our open land.
Consider this: Over a century ago, a visionary suggested preserving the land which later became Central Park, the lush, green centerpiece of New York City. The park has captivated New Yorkers and visitors alike with its picturesque beauty and ability to transport you from the hustle and bustle of the city streets to a natural oasis.
Many of our national parks were also preserved before most realized these invaluable lands might become endangered.
Land preservation programs are an investment in the economy and health of our community, as well as a gift to future generations. When land is preserved, it is protected forever. Your support helps secure the future of our beautiful community.