Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Open Land In Southwest Michigan

Everyone yearns to get away from it all and to commune with Mother Nature. Southwest Michigan has offered such diversion for generations.

Vineyards, orchards, and rich fertile farms dotted the landscape like postage stamps, safe from the bastions of tourists who preferred the shores of Lake Michigan and would only visit these sprawling enclaves during the harvest.

Slowly, as the shore line filled in and the lakefront population increased, so too did the courtship of the speculative investor and the gentleman farmer as these large tracts of land beckoned.

This created a volatility in the market as developers and investors would suddenly offer a windfall to a fifth generation farmer who found the offer irresistible and opted for an early retirement. The fallout was the loss of the large open tract and the advent of medium to high density development of single family homes, planned unit developments ( PUD's ), and site condominiums.

Ownership of land and its encompassing "bundle of rights" bestows these gifts of ownership and it is certainly what was intended by the allodial system. The unfortunate casualty continues to be the loss of the open spaces.

My passion lies in the preservation of these big, beautiful, open spaces yet I am appointed to administer land divisions and other such functions of land use and land use controls for my township.

This presents and intriguing duality as I am both a licensed Realtor and a Township Zoning Administrator yet it is actually at this confluence that my two realities peacefully coexist.

Our Zoning Ordinance is currently being revised and by adopting language to support Purchase of Development Rights ( PDR's ) and Transfer of Development Rights ( TDR's ) we are potentially able to encourage our local framers to continue plying their generational trade while securing their financial security into the future.

A PDR allows for the purchase of the rights to develop and allows for compensation of fair and current market value. They may be offered and funds made available at the local, state, or national government level.

My platform for sharing this information is my alternate existence as a Realtor and the response has been quite encouraging.

The long term results of such a program's success will not be known for some time as we are at the mercy of budgetary funding and the political process, but if nothing else, there is hope and a new level of awareness.

Save the land, they are not making any more!

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