Vote Will Be Taken On PDR

November 19, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County Commission Chairman Steven Heacock told board members at a special work session this morning that he plans to place the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) proposal on the commission’s agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting.

Heacock said he wants the full commission to vote on the proposal because the county’s Urban Sprawl Subcommittee and a PDR Task Force spent years working on the project, and he felt their work means that the proposal “deserves” a vote from all 19 commissioners.

“I am going to be bringing this issue forward,” said Heacock, who organized the urban sprawl group in January 2000.

The PDR proposal will be listed under “miscellaneous” on the agenda, and the motion from Heacock to bring the measure before the board will need to be seconded by a county commissioner.

Kent County Vice Chairman David Morren supported Heacock’s intended action, after the Finance and Human Resources Committee rejected the proposed ordinance by a 5-to-4 vote last week. Normally when an item doesn’t make it out of committee, it doesn’t reach the board’s agenda.

“I feel there is a higher level owed to the people who worked on this program,” he said.

The proposed PDR document could be altered by the time it reaches commissioners next week. The number of acres that could be preserved through the program could be reduced to as few as 20,000 acres, and an automatic five-year review of the program by the board could be added to it.

Funding the program and the financial implications of it for the county are key concerns of commissioners who oppose the PDR.

Assistant County Administrator Al Vanderberg told board members that turning the proposal into an ordinance would not commit any county funds to it. The plan is to use grant money from public and private sources to buy any development rights.

Vanderberg estimated that it would cost the county about $30,000 to administer the program for three years, money that commissioners committed to the Kent County-MSU Extension Service in July.

County Commissioner Michael Sak, one of five committee members to beat back the proposal, said he was concerned that the development rights fee given a landowner doesn’t have to be invested in the property or the agriculture business.

County Commissioner Jack Horton, who favors the proposal, reminded board members that they have the final say on every easement that comes before them.

“The buck stops with us,” said Horton. “We spend no more than we choose to spend.”

County Commissioner Tom Postmus, another PDR supporter, said the proposal gives power to the townships and not the county. A township has to buy into the program before a landowner within its boundaries can participate.

“Without this ordinance townships can’t act,” he said. “There are townships that would like this ordinance in place so they can proceed at their government level.” 

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