Competition Stokes Land Prices

February 14, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — The value of farmland across 21 townships in the county should rise by an average of 11.67 percent this year, a healthy leap but not nearly the jump recorded last year.

In fact, the latest assessment increase is roughly a third of the previous rise.

“It’s a lot lower than last year,” said David Jager, Kent County equalization director. “Last year, we increased our agricultural class by 34.36 percent.”

Jager explained that assessments rise because competing interests want ag property, and because the state requires the county to assess farmland at its highest use.

“In Kent County, a lot of times that is not for farm purposes. It is for developmental purposes. So you have competing interests from the farmer who is trying to farm it and the developer who wants to develop it,” said Jager.

“We seldom see a sale that goes to a farm person who wants to farm it. It’s usually for a residential site.”

Jager said 94 new residential sub-divisions and site-condos sprang up across the county last year, meaning 2,139 new lots were registered in 2002 with the county.

“That is nearly two plats a week recorded in Kent County. That is a lot,” said Jager. “I’ve been here for 15 years and it’s like that nearly every year.”

The county filed its preliminary assessments with the state in late December, and the average value of homes in the county should rise by about 5 percent.

Jager expects growth to continue, as will the competition for property. He said the new South Beltline, a 20-mile expressway that will connect I-196 with I-96 in a few years, would keep the rivalry for land alive as developers of residential, commercial and industrial projects make offers on ag land near the highway in Caledonia, Gaines and Byron townships.

“My sense is those will not sell for agricultural purposes from this day forward,” said Jager. “So there is a tremendous amount of growth. There is a tremendous amount of competition for land, especially where sewer and water are available.”           

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