The following was originally published in my Jan 30, 2021 Newsletter in the "Additional Thoughts" section.
The Consent Agenda this week includes three significant purchases of park land for a total cost to the City of $2.8 million - one purchase outside of the city (CA-7) and two purchases within the City limits (CA-10 and CA-11). All purchases will use Open Space and Parkland Preservation Millage funds that are designated for this purpose.
CA-7 (21-0041) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of a Conservation Easement on the Hamilton Family Living Trust Property in Salem Township, Approve a Participation Agreement with Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, and Appropriate $2,871,667.00 (8 Votes Required)
CA-10 (21-0044) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Park Land at Cardinal Avenue and Appropriate $1,507,500.00 (8 Votes Required)
CA-11 (21-0045) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Park Land at 2570 Dexter Road and Appropriate $211,500.00 (8 Votes Required)
Agenda item CA-7 would purchase 375 acres in Salem Township, ultimately costing the City $1,122,367 (30% of the purchase price). This would be the largest Greenbelt purchase in the history of the program. Cost-sharing terms with the County and use of grant funds (to reimburse the City) make up a total purchase price of $3,570,000.
The two proposed purchases within the City limits in agenda items CA-10 and CA-11 are remarkable in terms of context. In my written questions to the agenda (Legistar Link) I asked about recent parkland purchases within the last five years: how much money has been spent on such purchases within the City? Staff’s response include this chart on page 7 of "parkland acquisitions funded in whole or part by the Open Space & Parkland Preservation millage within the city limits since 2015." (note that "FMV Price" = Fair Market Value of the property, and "Total Parks cost" = amount the City actually paid)
Summing the columns, the total Fair Market Value of the 8 properties purchased since 2015 is $1,246,172, but the City only paid a total of $562,661 (averaging 45% of market value). On this week's agenda, items CA-10 and CA-11 total over $1.7 million in spending on parkland within City limits. This will be paid to private developers who have offered no price discounts in their terms of sale.
Agenda item CA-10 would spend $1,507,500 on a woodland parcel of 3.77 acres adjacent to Mary Beth Doyle Park, with frontage on Cardinal Avenue. This purchase would marginally extend a park that is already quite large (80+ acres), for the benefit of “improved access.” This parcel is currently zoned as a PUD, which would permit the construction of nineteen homes. In response to questions this week, Council received the following explanation: “The City has negotiated a discounted sale price on some parkland acquisitions, but in this particular case the applicant was unwilling to entertain a discount.” Presumably, the developer has abandoned a plan to build homes there and now asks the City to pay the full value of the investment.
Map of the proposed park purchase in CA-10 (Legistar Link)
Agenda item CA-11 would purchase 0.6 acres of land at 2570 Dexter Road for $211,500. The intended use of this property is very specific: park amenities that don’t exist at nearby Veterans Park (e.g. basketball courts) can be constructed there to serve the needs of residents at West Arbor affordable housing development. Like CA-10, this purchase fully compensates an individual developer with no negotiated discount on price. City staff explains that the developer “would not be interested in a discount on the sale price.”
Map of the proposed park purchase in CA-11 (Legistar Link)
I look forward to conversation at Council regarding these three purchases - they are a good example of how our Consent Agenda often contains issues worth discussing further.