Land Bank project may result in new jobs

March 3, 2012
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The first reclamation project undertaken by the Kent County Land Bank Authority seems to be moving along nicely, and when it’s finished, the effort will likely add new jobs to the area.

County Commissioner Stan Ponstein, a member of the authority’s board, said demolition work at the four-acre site of the former Sparta Foundry, 252 Gardner St., was underway, and the land bank had secured the funding for the site’s clean-up.

Ponstein said the land bank was in the process of selling the property to an “established” but unidentified company, and the sale would bring new jobs to the village of Sparta and to the county.

The land bank took possession of the site in January and is working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on the remediation project, which qualifies as a brownfield effort under state law. The Right Place Inc. is assisting with the project and is helping the land bank find a user for the site.

On another land matter, commissioners recently agreed to buy the development rights to 300 acres on four farms in the county at a price tag of $468,000, or $1,560 per acre. The farms are in Grattan, Courtland and Sparta townships. The per-farm price ranges from $56,000 to $220,000, and the per-acre cost for each farm ranges from $1,120 to $1,913. Closings still have to take place.

A $210,000 grant from the USDA Farmland Protection Program and $257,000 from the Kent County Agricultural Preservation Board will pay for the transactions. The county established its Purchase of Development Rights ordinance in late 2002. Since its inception, the program has protected 1,544 farmland acres from commercial development.

On yet another land matter, commissioners accepted a $37,500 grant from the state for a collaborative parks study. The state money comes from Gov. Rick Snyder’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program, initiated last year to encourage cooperative efforts among local governments.

The county is heading the study and has established a citizens committee to oversee how park systems throughout the county can coordinate operations. The EVIP money brings the funding total for the effort to $120,740. The Grand Rapids Community, Dyer-Ives and Frey foundations also made contributions, as have the county and the cities of Grand Rapids and Wyoming.

The county hired Laycock Consulting to conduct the study; the firm is expected to file its findings and recommendations with the citizens committee this month.

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