Scio Twp Observes Landmark Land Preservation Funded by Its Dedicated Millage
On Sunday, October 16, Scio Township’s Land Preservation program celebrated its landmark conservation easement project on the Renz farm, located on the west side of Wagner Rd. south of Liberty Rd. Over 20 members of the extended Renz family attended, covering four generations. Also attending were members of Scio’s Land Preservation Commission, project funders, friends and neighbors.
Scio Supervisor Will Hathaway welcomed the crowd and expressed his delight at helping to complete a complicated project which included a conservation easement on 101.361 acres and purchase of the northern 9.5 acres for a future fire station.
Program consultant Barry Lonik noted the land had been in the Renz family for 100 years in 2020, the same year Harold "Dick" Renz passed away. Dick was born in the house on the property and lived there his entire life. In addition to farming, Dick was an Ann Arbor firefighter for 23 years. Family members shared many wonderful memories of farm work, pumpkin patches and bonfires on the land.
Lonik thanked the unprecedented five funding partners for the easement, which was purchased for just under $3 million, the largest amount in his 31-year career. Those sources were the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program ($868,500), the State of Michigan Agricultural Preservation Fund ($760,200), the Washtenaw County Natural Area Preservation Program ($424,392), the City of Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt program ($432,334) and Scio’s dedicated land preservation millage ($509,524).
The crowd also heard from Mike Vestergaard, a local livestock producer, who purchased the land at reduced value after the conservation easement conveyance. Mike practices rotational grazing and told of his plans to host a community garden and educational activities on food production at the property. Mike was chosen through a public request for proposals, the first time such a process has been implemented. About 80 acres are currently planted in hay; Vestergaard will be moving cattle in the near future. The remainder of the property is woods, tree lines and farmstead.
Conservation easements are permanent deed restrictions on the use of a property. Purchasing easements costs less than buying the property, and keeps the property on the tax rolls and contributing to the local economy.
Scio Township’s dedicated land preservation millage was approved by voters in 2004 and renewed in 2012, by 75% and 70% respectively. Scio’s program has been involved in protecting 1,709 acres (one-third of which is publicly accessible) and leveraged over $12 million of outside funding, with staffing cost under 6% of total expenditures. The millage is up for renewal for another ten years on the November 8 ballot.