Group To Cover Farmland Preservation

May 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — A workshop later this month will focus on options for accommodating growth while perpetuating the agricultural use of farmland.

Among the sponsors of the program are the City of Grand Rapids, the Grand Valley Metro Council, Michigan State extension services from Kent, Ionia and Newaygo counties, Farm Bureaus of Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa, Allegan and Newaygo counties and the Rural Development Council.

The program, called the 2001 Farmland Preservation Workshop, is scheduled for Feb. 27 and 28 at the English Hills Terrace and the Kent Career Technical Center. The program features morning and evening sessions.

Attendance is free.

The workshop is open to any interested person but is directed especially at farmers, planners and elected officials. It will give an overview of Michigan’s new law (Public Act 262), which provides a framework for local farmland preservation programs.

Other sponsors are Progressive AE, the Secretariat for Social Justice of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids and United Growth for Kent County.

According to Scott Everett, director of the Central Great Lakes Regional Office for American Farmland Trust, the new law provides a roadmap that local communities can employ to protect farmland if they want to.

“With the passage of PA 262,” he said, “communities need to ask some tough questions, including what are the economies of preserving farmland, what’s at risk and what value does the community place on farmland?” He said the session will feature talks by a number of farmland preservation experts.

Among other matters, the workshop will cover Purchase of Development Rights and Transfer of Development Rights programs as well as agricultural districts and zoning.

David Guikema, director of MSU Extension’s West Central Region, said the program gives area residents an opportunity to look at what policies worked in eastern states and what policies didn't. “This will assist local leaders and citizens in creating a program that is right for our community.”

Sharon Steffens, Alpine Township trustee, terms the workshop important for any government or citizen interested in preserving open space.

“We are the highest risk area in the state,” she said. “Therefore, it is important that we educate ourselves on the options and tools that are available to make better decisions concerning the best use of our land.”

Residents seeking further information about the program are urged to call Kendra Gunter, (616) 458-6805.

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