[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Board of Trustees of the Charter Township of Pittsfield 2-25-2015 by Ord. No. 317 as Ch. 39 of the 2015 Pittsfield Charter Township Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Subdivision — See Ch. 12.
The Board of Trustees finds that:
The Township is a desirable place to live, work and visit in large part because of the availability of farmland and open space and the relief that wetlands, woods and agricultural fields bring. Scenic views, agriculture, open spaces and wildlife habitat are all considered invaluable natural and aesthetic resources and should be protected.
The climate, variety of soils and terrain make the Township well suited to the production of a great number of row crops, specialty crops and livestock, including many foods available for direct human consumption. These resources include a significant amount of land currently in agricultural production, and other woodland, wetland and open lands adjacent to these farmlands. Such lands provide unique, aesthetic and economic benefits to the citizens of the Township and are an important part of the Township's natural and agricultural heritage. The Township is experiencing substantial residential development, however, because of its location to the highly urbanized areas of southeast Michigan, its attractive landscapes and its excellent public schools. The same characteristics which have made this area so desirable for agricultural production and recreation also make it attractive for development.
The agricultural industry in the Township provides the opportunity to harvest locally grown foods to sell at roadside stands, farmers' markets, local retail food stores and other local outlets in the area. Land suitable for farming is an irreplaceable natural resource with soil and topographic characteristics that have been enhanced by generations of agricultural use. When such land is converted to residential or other more developed uses which do not require those special characteristics, a critical community resource is permanently lost to the citizens of the Township.
It is the policy of the state and the Township to protect, preserve and enhance agricultural and open space lands as evidenced by the Township Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, MCL 125.3101 et seq., and other state and local statutes and policies. Ordinances regulating land use by zoning and subdivision control enacted by the Township also serve these purposes. These measures by themselves, however, have not been effective in providing long-term protection of farmland, natural areas and open space under the pressure of increasing development.
Agriculture in the Township produces a notable array of products, from corn and soybeans to vegetables, fruit and livestock. The Township's agricultural acreage contributes to the local economy in direct sales of agricultural products at the farm gate.
Generally, farmland and open space lands which are close to urban centers have a greater market value for future development than their market value for farming or open space. Prime agricultural land often has the same features that are considered valuable components of developable areas. This fact encourages the speculative purchase of these lands at high prices for future residential development, regardless of the current zoning of such lands. Farmland which has a market value greater than its agricultural value does not attract sustained agricultural investment and eventually this land is sold by farmers and removed from agricultural uses.
The permanent acquisition by the Township, state, or other qualified organization, of voluntarily offered interests in farmland and open space lands within the Township, as provided in this chapter and as authorized by the Constitution and statutes of the state, will permit these lands to remain in farmland and open space near developing urban areas and provide long-term protection for the public interests which are served by farmland and open space lands in the Township.
Properties on which the development rights have been purchased must remain substantially undeveloped in order to protect their agricultural use or open space character.
Michigan Public Act 262 of 2000 (MCL 324.36201 et seq.) created an Agricultural Preservation Fund within the State Treasury. Money in this fund may be used to provide grants to local units of government to assist in the acquisition of agricultural conservation easements, provided that the local unit has adopted an ordinance for the purchase of development rights and that the local unit has a comprehensive land use plan that includes a plan for agricultural preservation. Acceptable plans for agricultural preservation can include provisions for primary agricultural districts, rural uses that allow agriculture, and open space designations that allow agriculture.
The acquisition of interests in farmland and open space lands as provided in this chapter is a public purpose of the Township.
This chapter is authorized by Sections 507 to 509 of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, MCL 125.3507 to 125.3509.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- AGRICULTURAL RIGHTS
- An interest in and the right to use and possess land for purposes and activities related to open space, natural habitat, horticultural and other agricultural uses.
- AGRICULTURAL USE
- Substantially undeveloped land devoted to the production of plants and animals useful to humans, including but not limited to fruits, nuts, vegetables, greenhouse plants, Christmas trees and lumber, forages and sod crops, herbs, grains and feed crops, dairy and dairy products, traditional and specialty livestock (including breeding and grazing), poultry and other similar uses and activities.
- BOARD OF TRUSTEES
- The Pittsfield Charter Township Board of Trustees.
- An activity which materially alters or affects the existing conditions or use of any land.
- DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS
- An interest in and the right to use and subdivide land for any and all residential, commercial and industrial purposes and activities which are not incidental to agriculture and open space.
- DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS EASEMENT
- A grant by an instrument whereby the owner relinquishes to the public in perpetuity the right to develop the land as may be expressly reserved in the instrument, and which contains a covenant running with the land not to develop, except as this right is expressly reserved in the instrument.
- ELIGIBLE LAND
- Farmland and open space land for which the purchase of development rights easements with tax funds and other monetary sources are authorized pursuant to this chapter.
- FARMLAND AND OPEN SPACE LAND
- Those lands shown in the Township comprehensive land use plan, or the Official Zoning Map, as being planned or zoned for agricultural or open space uses, as adopted and amended from time to time by the Township Planning Commission and Board.
- FULL OWNERSHIP
- Fee simple ownership.
- GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY
- The United States or any agency thereof, the state or any agency thereof or any township, city or municipal corporation.
- OFFICIAL LARGE-SCALE MAPS
- Official Large-Scale Maps describing such areas in detail are available through the Washtenaw County Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Washtenaw County Conservation District, and other government agencies, and are incorporated herein by reference.
- OPEN SPACE CHARACTER
- Substantially undeveloped land devoted to the maintenance or enhancement of natural processes (e.g., water quality, plant and wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge) and/or the scenic enjoyment of the public.
- The party or parties having the fee simple interest in land.
- All property under a single ownership that is included in the application.
- PERMITTED USE
- Any use contained within a development rights easement essential to the farming operation or which does not alter the open space character of the land.
- RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS
- The right to sell portions of a property, or to construct houses on a property, for residential uses not related to the agricultural use or open space character of the property.
- SUBSTANTIALLY UNDEVELOPED LAND
- Land on which there is no more than one residential dwelling unit (exclusive of housing units directly associated with the farming operation) for each 40 acres of land.
- The Pittsfield Charter Township Supervisor.
- VALUE OF DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS
- The difference between the fair market value of full ownership of the land (excluding the buildings thereon) and the fair market value of the agricultural rights plus any residential development rights to be retained by the owner.
The Board of Trustees is hereby authorized to expend revenues to acquire property interests in the farmland and open space lands described and prioritized in § 39-5 of this chapter. The property interest acquired may either be the development rights, or any lesser interest, easement, covenant or other contractual right. Such acquisition may be accomplished by purchase, gift, grant, bequest, devise, covenant or contract, but only at a price which is equal to or less than the appraised value determined as provided in this chapter. The revenues shall be used to acquire such property interests only upon application of the owner and in a strictly voluntary manner.
The Township is authorized to enter into cash purchase and/or installment purchase contracts, and agreements for the receipt of tax deductible donations of easements, consistent with applicable law. When installment purchases are made, the Township is authorized to pay interest on the declining unpaid principal balance at a legal rate of interest consistent with prevailing market conditions at the time of execution of the installment contract for the tax-exempt status of such interest.
The Board of Trustees is further authorized to contract with recognized and legally established nonprofit land trusts or other experienced and qualified nonprofit groups or government agencies to participate jointly in the acquisition of interests in eligible lands.
The Township may contract with recognized and legally established nonprofit land trusts or other experienced and qualified nonprofit groups or government agencies that would share in the process of negotiating easements and establishing both the baseline studies and the procedures for monitoring of any conservation easements acquired under this chapter.
To promote agricultural use of properties on which the Township has purchased the development rights, it has been determined that such properties should remain substantially undeveloped.
It may be in the best interest of property owners and of the program to purchase development rights, that property owners retain some residential development rights so long as the land remains substantially undeveloped. When property owners retain some development rights their land value remains higher than it would be if they sold all their development rights and the value of the development rights to be purchased is correspondingly reduced.
Applications for the sale of development rights may include a provision to retain the right to build residential dwellings (residential development rights), provided that no retained residential development rights would result in more than one dwelling unit per 40 acres of land (exclusive of housing units directly associated with the farming operation). This is not to preclude the sale of all the remaining dwelling units in excess of one dwelling unit per 40 acres of land.
The building locations for retained residential development rights may be restricted in the negotiated conservation easement in order to protect other important features of the property. Building locations and lot sizes must also conform to existing zoning in the Township where the property is located.
Revenues shall be used to purchase property interests in the following lands in the following order of their priority subject to the provisions of § 39-7.
Primary criteria that all properties must meet: Voluntary application by the property owner and those lands shown in the Township comprehensive land use plan, or the Official Zoning Map, as planned or zoned for agricultural, open space or rural uses.
Criteria for selection. The following criteria shall be used in determining the order in which applications will be prioritized in any selection round to purchase development rights on all eligible lands for which complete applications have been received by the Township.
This numerical ranking system has been developed to prioritize farm and open space sites for the purchase of conservation easements. It is the intention of the users of this system to direct efforts toward high quality farmland and open space.
Appropriateness is determined by favorable natural conditions and location factors which make farming a viable undertaking both currently and in the future, or which can support viable natural habitat or scenic views. Areas targeted for preservation are those lands shown in the Township comprehensive land use plan or Official Zoning Map as planned or zoned for agricultural, open space, or rural uses.
Description of the system. The farmland ranking system consists of four sections as follows. The maximum point value is 100, with additional points possible in the event of a tie.
Priorities. The point value arrived at through the use of this system will be used to prioritize farm sites for purchase of conservation easements. Higher point values indicate higher priority for purchase. In the case of a tie using the one-hundred-point scale, the tiebreaking categories may be used. All property in a single ownership may be included in one application. Contiguous properties under the same ownership will be treated as a single entity.
Note: An explanation of terms and parameters used in the system appears in the Appendix.
Editor's Note: The Appendix is included as an attachment to this chapter.
The Board of Trustees shall determine the selection of eligible lands on which development rights are offered for acquisition by their owners. Selection of eligible lands shall be made by a two-thirds majority of the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees shall conduct a voluntary property selection process (herein called the "selection round") generally as follows:
In each selection round the development rights on all eligible applicant properties shall be evaluated for purchase. In all selection rounds, properties of higher priority shall be purchased with available funds before properties of lower priority are purchased, provided:
The Board of Trustees may negotiate for a lower price and/or seek outside funding for the purchase of development rights on any parcel offered.
In the interest of protecting a significant amount of agricultural land, the Board of Trustees may determine not to buy all or any of the development rights on a particular parcel if the Board of Trustees makes a finding that it is in the best interest of the program to protect a larger number of acres rather than a smaller number of acres of higher valued development rights.
The Board of Trustees may receive and act on appeals of any factual nature by affected property owners.
The Board of Trustees shall begin each selection round by giving notice in one newspaper of general circulation in the Township or by any manner of publication of notices authorized by statute. The notice shall describe the properties eligible for purchase in the selection round; the general procedure to be followed in the selection process (including an estimated time schedule for the steps in the process); and shall invite the owners of such properties to make application for purchase of development rights by the Township and to describe the property interest which the owner is willing to sell, including any residential development rights to be retained by the owner. Applications shall be submitted to a location to be specified by the Board of Trustees and stamped with the date of receipt.
Upon closing of the application period, the Board of Trustees shall review each application which has been received to determine the eligibility and priority classification of each property interest and to verify ownership by tax records.
For those properties which meet the requirements of § 39-5, the Board of Trustees shall cause an appraisal of the applicant's property interest to be made. A "before and after" appraisal shall be made to determine the value of development rights. One appraisal shall determine the fair market value of full ownership of the land (excluding buildings thereon), and one shall determine the fair market value of the agricultural rights plus any specifically retained residential development rights.
Appraisals shall be made by state certified appraisers selected by the Board of Trustees. The selected appraiser shall not have a property interest, personal interest or financial interest in eligible lands. The same appraiser shall conduct the before and after appraisals.
Appraisals shall be in writing and shall be furnished to the respective owners for review. Errors of fact in any appraisal may be called to the attention of the appraiser by the Board of Trustees or by owners of the property appraised, but corrections of the appraisal may be made only by the appraiser. If an owner of property believes it has not been adequately appraised, such owner may, within the time allowed on the selection schedule, have a review appraisal be made at the owner's expense by a state certified appraiser. The appraisal shall then be filed with the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees shall use both appraisals to reach an agreement as to the appropriate value of the development rights.
Terms and conditions of sale and information on the effect of the sale may be discussed by the Board of Trustees with owners prior to the submission of written applications.
Written applications by owners who desire to have their development rights purchased by the Township shall be submitted on forms provided by the Township. These written offers shall include any development options desired to be retained by the owners.
After reviewing the applications, the Board of Trustees shall take final action on such applications.
Once selection of a property for the purchase of development rights has been completed by the Board of Trustees, the Township shall draft a baseline documentation report describing, through photos, graphics, and narrative, the condition of the property at the time of the purchase and recording of the development rights easement. The baseline report shall contain a signature page for the owner and the Supervisor to sign attesting that the report is an accurate description of the property. The actual easement shall feature a similar page for the notarized signatures of the owner and Supervisor, and shall be recorded with the county register of deeds.
Upon the completion of a purchase of development rights transaction, the Township Assessor will be notified of the development rights purchase.
Development rights acquired pursuant to this chapter shall be held in trust by the Township for the benefit of its citizens in perpetuity, provided that, if the Board of Trustees shall find that, after 25 years having passed since the acquisition of development rights on a property, farmland and open space land described in this chapter can no longer reasonably be used for agricultural use or has lost its open space character as to any interest in land acquired, by virtue of a stringent procedure that shall be developed by the Township, those development rights may be returned to the owner, subject to conditions set forth in Subsection B. The owner shall pay the fair market value of those rights at the time of their return, as determined by a state certified appraiser. Proceeds of such disposition shall only be used for the acquisition of interests in eligible lands as provided in this chapter. A before and after appraisal shall be made to determine the value of development rights, and the Board of Trustees shall not sell the development rights for an amount less than the appraised value of the development rights as follows:
One appraisal shall determine the fair market value of full ownership of the land (excluding buildings thereon), and one shall determine the fair market value of the agricultural rights plus any retained development rights.
Appraisals of the fair market value of full ownership or of a property interest other than development rights shall be made by state certified appraisers selected by the Township.
The selected appraiser shall not have a property interest, personal interest or financial interest in eligible lands.
The Board of Trustees shall take final action on such appraisals.
If the Board of Trustees approves a request that farmland and open space land described in this chapter can no longer reasonably be used for agricultural use or has lost its open space character, the Township shall have a right of first refusal to purchase the remaining rights at the fair market value of the agricultural rights plus any retained development rights, as determined by a state certified appraiser, for the purposes of a Township park or other publicly accessible property. Acquisition of lands for public purposes shall be made with funds designated for such purchases and not with funds authorized for development rights acquisition pursuant to this chapter.
The Township may convey development rights acquired pursuant to this chapter to a conservation, open space preservation, historic preservation or similar organization under terms ensuring that the public benefits for which the Township purchased the development rights will be maintained.
The costs of appraisal, engineering, surveying, planning, and financial, legal and other services lawfully incurred incident to the acquisition of interests in eligible lands by the Township shall be paid by the Township. The Township shall not be responsible for expenses incurred by the owner incident to this transaction.
Supplemental or matching funds from other governmental agencies or private sources may become available to pay a portion of the cost of acquiring development rights, or some lesser interest in eligible lands or to supplement or enlarge such acquisition. The Board of Trustees is hereby authorized to utilize such funds to purchase interests in eligible lands or to otherwise supplement Township funds in the manner provided by this chapter and in accordance with the applicable laws or terms governing such grant.
The Board of Trustees finds and declares that the use of Township funds for the purpose of paying in whole or in part the cost of acquisition of interests in eligible lands as set forth herein, including any costs necessarily incident to such acquisition, and the monitoring and enforcement of development rights easements, or to participation with any party for such purposes will promote the public health, safety and general welfare of the people of the Township.
The revenues for purchasing development rights on farmland and open space land shall be placed in a designated development rights acquisition fund to be hereafter created in the office of the Treasurer of the Township (hereinafter "acquisition fund"). Money in such acquisition fund may be temporarily deposited in such institutions or invested in such obligations as may be lawful for the investment of Township money.
The revenues and any interest received from the deposit or investment of such revenues shall be applied and used solely for the purposes set forth in this chapter.