By Lynne Beauchamp, firstname.lastname@example.org
A discussion on Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) consumed over two and a half hours during Dexter Township’s Board of Trustees meeting on May 15.
The topic comes after many citizens petitioned to have funding made available to local farmers who wish to protect their land from future development through the purchase of development rights.
Both the board members and those in attendance were given the opportunity to speak on the topic and whether it should be put on the November ballot to fund the PDR program.
Dexter Township has a PDR ordinance which was passed in 2005. As current board members reviewed the ordinance, questions about the document became apparent. In a synopsis of the discussion, board members offered insight and comments during the meeting.
“There are a lot of pros and cons to this” said Trustee Mike Compton.
Compton expressed concerns over land management being forever and it being managed “from the grave.” He said the current township PDR ordinance is not designed the way he would like to see it.
Trustee Mark Mesko said he would like to see a survey go out with tax bills to see if the taxpayers are willing to fund, by taxation, a PDR program.
Trustee Bill Gajewski agreed with Mesko but also expressed concerns over the township’s senior citizens who are on a fixed income.
“For those who want to age in place and can’t afford higher taxes, will they be forced to move,” questioned Gajewski.
Clerk Deb Ceo was more in favor of the program. “I can’t stop the growth, nor do I want to, but I would like to slow it down” said Ceo. “PDR is one way to manage the growth.”
Treasurer Libby Brushaber agreed with her constituents but added there was much needed work to be done on updating the 2005 PDR ordinance before presenting a millage proposal to the voters.
Supervisor Harley Rider said he was on the board at the time the 2005 PDR ordinance was approved but currently has issues with the ordinance and would like to see it updated prior to placing any initiative on the ballot.
Trustee Jim Drolett said he felt the township has plenty of open space currently with its parks and trails.
Several Dexter Township residents spoke up and while most stated they were in favor of a millage to fund the program, some voiced discontent over the taxation to fund it and government placing restrictions on land.
After hearing board comments and citizen comments, the Dexter Township Board of Trustees voted in favor of reviewing the 2005 PDR ordinance and bring back findings and recommendations to the June board meeting prior to placing a PDR millage initiative on the November ballot.
Webster Township currently has an active PDR Program funded by its taxpayers.
According to Webster Township Trustee and Webster Township Farmland and Open Space Member, John Westman, Webster Township’s PDR Program is funded by its taxpayers by a .5 mil for ten years. He added this millage generates approximately $195,000 per year.
In Webster Township, Westman said 1,870 acres are in the PDR Program with many properties under consideration. He said the Webster Township Board appointed a Farmland and Open Space Board to make recommendations to the township board on PDR issues with the township board overseeing the program.
Westman added should the Webster Township voters reject the PDR millage in the future, there would be no further money to purchase development rights, however the easements in place would remain.