Preserving some of Scio Township's historical and agricultural past

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The Wild-Frey Farm in Scio Township, photo credit Melissa Milton-Pung

Historic resources give us a sense of place, community identity and connection to the past, and even though Scio Township is a growing and vibrant place, there are still various spots in the community with a connection to the past.

Scio Township has an opportunity before it that could help preserve and protect a piece of its cultural and historical landscape in the form of a possible designation of the historical farm property at 7079 W. Liberty, also known as the Wild-Frey Farm.

This property is owned by Scio Township

A presentation was given at the June 22 Scio Township Board meeting in an effort to put before the board some potential options for the property.

In introducing the presentation, Scio Township Board Trustee Alec Jerome said one of the main goals would be to protect this valuable historical asset for the community.

According to the township, it came into possession of the property years ago, as part of a larger parcel of land, after the resolution of a tax dispute involving the prior owner.

In his report to the board, township supervisor Will Hathaway said the township has designated the surrounding property as the Liberty Pond Nature Preserve. In 2020, he said the township board discussed whether to retain or sell the farm portion of the property. There was informal agreement to sell, but no action was taken.

Hathaway’s report said before the current Board of Trustees considers selling the farm portion of the property, there is the option to seek designation of the site as a historic district.

The presentation was meant to explain the process that would occur if the township board chooses to go in that direction of designation.

Melissa Milton-Pung, a consultant and township resident, gave the presentation during the virtual June 22 meeting. 

The words, “Historic resources give us a sense of place, community identity and connection to the past,” come from her presentation.

She listed off some reasons why historic resources are important, which include: helping to distinguish unique landscapes, retaining historic character and sense of place; serving as a legacy human impact on the landscape over time; using embodied energy of resources and labor already expended and stabilizing and increasing property values.

The potential next step options the township board will consider include: listing it on the National Register of Historic Places or State Register of Historic Places; a Historic Preservation Easement or a Local Historic Designation.

Milton-Pung said any of the options presented would set the property up for eligibility for the recently renewed Michigan Historic Tax Credit for the rehab of historic properties, which offers credits for 25 percent of qualified rehab costs.

Her recommendation to the board is to seek a Local Historic Designation. She noted the reasons as including that Scio Township has a great resource in that it is served by the Washtenaw County Historic District Commission, which is the only county-wide HDC in Michigan. With the designation, there can be local control of it by ordinance with ongoing monitoring provided by the county HDC.

She said this could help ensure a durable protection to prevent demolition.

There is also existing precedent in Scio Township of designating historical properties. From the Delhi Bridge to Gordon Hall, protecting historical resources has been a priority in Scio.

No decision was made by the township board at the June 22 meeting, but it's expected they will revisit this topic at a meeting in July.

The Wild-Frey Farm in Scio Township, photo credit Melissa Milton-Pung
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