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Resort Township’s Program to Preserve Farmland and Open Space

Resort Township is working to preserve our rural character, scenic views, and active farming through a Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program. This program was created in 2010 in response to overwhelming support from Township residents interested in keeping farms, undeveloped, and wooded property an essential part of our community and local economy.

Photo courtesy of Todd Parker

Purchasing Development Rights

Through the Farmland and Open Space Preservation program Resort Township and its partners, purchases the rights to develop all or a portion of properties. This program is also known as a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. The rights purchased are voluntarily offered and agreed upon by landowners. This restricts certain types of development on the property forever, while allowing landowners to receive income from their properties now. Landowners continue to own and use the property for activities not specifically prohibited, such as farming, hunting, or forestry. In the case of active farmland, this can be an ideal way for farmers to access a portion of their land equity while maintaining ownership and agricultural use of their land.

The Farmland and Open Space Preservation program operates by purchasing what is called a “conservation easement” on a property. Each easement is unique and is written in consultation with the landowner to determine what development rights will be prohibited on what parts of the property. To learn more about conservation easements interested individuals can contact Little Traverse Conservancy or Walloon Lake Association and Conservancy. The value of the rights purchased is calculated based on a professional appraisal. Funding for the purchase of these easements comes from Resort Township and partners like Little Traverse Conservancy and the Walloon Lake Association and Conservancy.

Application Process

Landowners interested in participating in the Farmland and Open Space Preservation program should apply to the Township for consideration. The short application includes the legal description of the property, the number of acres the landowner wants to protect, current uses on this land, and other characteristics of current ownership and management of the property. A 1-page certification is also required. The application and certification forms can be obtained from the Resort Township Supervisor, Zoning Administrator, or online at the following link, PDR Certification and Application.

The Township Planning Commission serves as the review committee for all applications under the program. It prioritizes applications based on the following factors:

  • Agricultural potential (parcel size, amount of prime farmland, obstacles to productivity)
  • Scenic value
  • Proximity to other preserved property
  • Natural features (wetland or forested habitat, stream, creek, or lake frontage)
  • Historical significance of the property
  • Development pressures
  • Proximity to public water and/or sewer
  • Availability of partner interest and funding to accompany Township resources

A Community Driven Program

Resort Township residents again expressed strong support for the Farmland and Open Space Preservation program in their responses to the citizen survey concluded in January 2021. Eighty-four acres have been protected through this program to date and the Township is actively seeking additional applications from interested landowners. Little Traverse Conservancy and the Walloon Lake Association and Conservancy are available to provide information about conservation easements and help with the application and appraisal process. If you are interested in learning more about the program or receiving an application, please contact the Resort Township office.