County Is Looking For PDR Money

September 14, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County commissioners will decide next week whether to submit a grant request to the Urban Cooperation Board (UCB) to cover half the cost of having five farms appraised next spring as part of the county’s farmland preservation program.

The Finance and Physical Resources Committee approved the request last week with only Commissioner Harold Voorhees voting against it.

Voorhees called the grant application an “end run” to fund the county’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. The county hasn’t committed any taxpayer dollars to the preservation effort. He also characterized the UCB as a “water-sewer” board that was unelected and unaccountable.

The townships of Ada, Grand Rapids and Tallmadge, along with the cities of East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Walker, formed the UCB and fund it. The board hands out grants each year to projects it feels promote common, regional purposes.

Assistant County Administrator Mary Swanson said the county would solicit appraisal bids when the time is right. County Purchasing Manager Jon Denhof told the committee that bids would be requested for each parcel selected for preservation.

The grant request to the UCB would be for $5,000. Funds from the Frey and Steelcase foundations would pay for the rest of the appraisal fees.

“I think we should treat this as any other grant request,” said Commission Vice Chairman Roger Morgan, who also chairs the Finance Committee.

Kent approved its PDR ordinance in late 2002 and recently announced it would buy the development rights from three farms. Property owners interested in applying to the PDR program have until Nov. 30 to do so. The Kent County Agricultural Preservation Board administers the program.    

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