Scio Township completes property sale in unique land conservation project

Last July, Scio Township’s Land Preservation Program purchased a 160 acre historic farm property for $2.3 million to prevent it from becoming a residential development.  Being entirely agricultural, it was not a property the township wanted to own long-term.  Scio had been exploring ways to conserve the land, transfer it to a new owner and recoup a large amount of the funds expended in the original purchase.  On March 27, the next big step in that process was completed.

In an unprecedented and unique transaction, Scio sold the property to the Frederick G. Andres Trust for $600,000.  Coupled with the sale were mortgages totaling $1.7 million held by the township and purchase agreements to sell conservation easements as funding is assembled.  With the property in private ownership, it became eligible for federal grant programs to assist in easement purchases and applications were submitted by the March 31 deadline.  Grant awards will be announced in late Summer.

“We couldn’t find any examples of a municipality doing a ‘buy-protect-sell’ project, so we had a lot to figure out and fast to meet the federal deadline,” said township supervisor Jack Knowles.  “We were fortunate to have excellent support from legal counsel Joseph Fazio of Miller Canfield and our land preservation consultant Barry Lonik.  Credit the Board of Trustees which not only leaped to make the original purchase last July but also supported this complicated transaction.  It’s a gorgeous property with a long history.”

The property is located at the northwest corner of Scio Church Rd. and Zeeb Rd. on the township’s southern boundary.  It has a mile of paved road frontage two miles south of an Interstate 94 interchange two miles west of the City of Ann Arbor boundary.  The property features a high percentage of prime agricultural soils and one of the few long-distance views in the area, being situated atop a glacial moraine.  It is adjacent to a 66 acre farm property under different ownership protected by a Scio conservation easement.

The Trust will be employing organic practices and restoration agriculture to build soil health with native plants, creating habitat to attract pollinators and songbirds and planting berries for market.

Scio Township’s land preservation program is funded by a dedicated millage which voters passed

initially in 2004 and renewed in 2012, both by large margins.  The township has attracted over $8

million of matching funds from other sources.  Scio’s program has been involved in protecting 1,479 acres, with more projects set to close in the coming months.