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Land acquisition puts Wixom in control.

Communities of all sizes are deluged by the onslaught of growth and development management. For small cities, the issues can be particularly difficult. In our city of Wixom, Michigan, population 8,500, a land acquisition program helps us remain in control of growth. The program does not shut out development but rather promotes the finest in developers who are willing to work with the city. All become beneficiaries of an innovative plan designed to deal with the complex challenges of growth management.

As in many communities, Wixom has sought to protect natural qualities of land areas through zoning and ordinance restrictions. Wixom has also suffered from negative results in court battles with developers.

Bounded within its nine square miles, Wixom has an abundance of woodlands and wetlands. Equally relevant is the number of pencil farms or "bowling alley" parcels often found in rural areas. These two factors made planning difficult at best. The city found itself in the position of seeing properties zoned and planned for a specific use, knocked down in court to a lesser or undesirable use.

Development of a

Land Acquisition Plan

The Wixom Economic Development Task Force (EDTF) was established to develop new planning and development ideas, and then pass them on to the city administration for further action. The EDTF represents a cross-section of citizens from industrial and residential sectors along with members from the city council and planning commission.

Cognizant of the need for the city to honor its economic development master plan while controlling growth, the committee devised the idea of purchasing lands that were either environmentally sensitive or economically attractive. Under city ownership, certain areas, such as woodlands and wetlands, could be maintained in perpetuity, while upland sections could be consolidated, repackaged and sold for quality development. Ultimately, city imposed deed restrictions placed on parcels scheduled for resale would respect the master plan while providing the vital protection needed to preserve the city's character.

The land acquisition proposal was put before the council. It included a ballot referendum to residents requesting a one mill levy for ten years dedicated to the purpose of land acquisition. The proposal was put before the voters as a single item on a primary ballot in August 1988. The strong success of the initiative is likely due to the excellent coverage and praise by the local press coupled by the fact that the proposal was not hindered by a complex ballot. In 1990 the actual levy raised $254,000. Funds raised by the levy in 1991 and projected for 1992 are $294,00 and $298,000 respectively.

Following the public vote, the city council established the Land Acquisition Committee. An outside agent was commissioned to acquire approved property on behalf of the city. In November 1990, the city adopted an ordinance that specified the procedures for sale of those parcels that were worthy of development. Through purchase, parcels are combined and packed for resale. Revenue earned from the resale is folded back into the acquisition fund for further investment. The program will eventually become self-supporting.

How The Plab Actually Works

In one notable example, an environmentally sensitive 47.5 acre parcel was selected for purchase. It contained 36.79 acres of wetlands and 10.8 acres of uplands. The total purchase price was $220,000. An adjoining property owner was interested in purchasing the upland area for development of a residential subdivision using an open space plan. The 10.8 acre upland area was resold to the developer for $200,000. In the end, the city acquired the wetlands for $20,000, or approximately $543 per acre, and will preserve it in its natural state for residents to enjoy.

To date, the city has acquired a total of 117 acres--94 acres will remain protected lands, 14 acres have been resold for development, and 9 acres that are considered economic assets will be resold in the future. Approximately $215,000 that was generated from the resales has been reinvested back into the acquisition fund. Copies of the ordinance and ballot referendum are available from the City of Wixom or the National League of Cities.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Small Cities & Towns; Wixom, Michigan
Author:Dingeley, Nancy L.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 4, 1992
Words:686
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