The Webster Township Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program recently closed on a conservation easement purchase from the Carol Smith Trust.
The property is over 145 acres in size with about 1,600 feet of frontage on the west side of Zeeb Rd. It features over 2,000 feet of frontage on the west branch of Arms Creek near its headwaters and 3,000 feet of frontage on an unnamed tributary, 90 acres of woods and wetlands and 50 acres of idle farmland. The property is adjacent to another protected property and within a mile of four others. The conservation easement ensures that the land will never be developed but it remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.
Paul and Carol Smith purchased this property in 1983. Paul grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and wished to raise his family on a farm and raise cattle, chickens, turkeys, pigs and crops including hay, grains, fruit and a large garden. For a time the barn and farm served as a wedding and event venue. Now in retirement they concentrate on maintaining the beauty of the farm buildings and grounds. They have wanted to find a way to preserve the property in its beauty and are very pleased to have it permanently protected from development, hoping some future farmer will work it as an organic farm.
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.
In addition to Webster Township, funding support was supplied by the Washtenaw County Natural Area Preservation Program and the City of Ann Arbor Greenbelt Program. The property owners also discounted the sale price from the appraised value.
Webster Township’s land preservation program is funded by a dedicated millage which voters passed initially in 2005 and renewed twice, all by large margins. The Township has attracted over $11.4 million of matching funds from other sources, a rate of over $5 to $1 of its own. With this project the Township program has been involved in protecting 2,016 acres, with more projects set to close in the coming months.