A Protected Woodlands: The Conservation Easement
A Protected Area
Earhart Village residents in the 1000’s along our northern boundary have long cherished the scenic woodland strip just north of the property line. This woodland area provides a natural habitat for many birds and small animals, and maintains a natural wooded screening from the new Glacier Hills development. Over the years, an occasional deer and even a fox have been spotted along the woods. You have probably noticed that an earthen berm and new evergreen trees have been established just to the north of the woodland strip.
The woodland strip, the new berm and many of the evergreen trees are included in an area that is protected by a Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions. The protected area is a continuous strip of land along the southern Glacier Hills boundary that is 160 feet wide at Earhart Road, and tapers down to 100 feet wide as it continues all the way to U.S. 23. The Conservation Easement was granted by Glacier Hills in 1984 to both the City of Ann Arbor and to Earhart Village Homes Association. The Conservation Easement provides permanent protection to the woods and natural environment with the following provisions:
q No structure or improvements shall be built on the property without approval by the City and the approval of Earhart Village.
q No activity shall be permitted upon the property which shall threaten the protection of the natural environmental system thereof or which shall interfere with or prevent the scenic enjoyment of the property.
The Building and Use Restrictions also states that the provisions shall run to the benefit of the owners of Earhart Village condominium units 1014 through 1096 inclusive. Both Earhart Village and these individual units have property rights with respect to the Conservation Easement.
The Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions are recorded documents that attach to the property in perpetuity. Any exceptions to the provisions of the documents would need to be approved by the City of Ann Arbor, by Earhart Village Homes Association, and by the residents of 1014-1096 Greenhills Drive.
We have to go back over 30 years to understand the genesis of the Conservation Easement. In 1971, the original 5-story Glacier Hills building was approved by the City of Ann Arbor, after much debate in City Council. Because the developers wanted to build a 5-story building in a residential neighborhood, the City required that Glacier Hills grant a Scenic Easement to the City of Ann Arbor to maintain open space. The Scenic Easement covered an extensive area 300-350 feet north of the Earhart Village property line. The Scenic Easement prohibited all structures in that open area.
In 1983, Glacier Hills proposed a substantial expansion of new single-story buildings into the protected Scenic Easement area. Development would have occurred as close as 12 feet from the property line and would have eliminated much of the woods along our northern boundary. Earhart Village vigorously protested this proposal to the City, and a compromise was eventually reached. A revised Glacier Hills development proposal was approved for six single-story building clusters, new roads and parking for 54 additional living units. The original 300-350 feet Scenic Easement was eliminated, and a new 100-160 feet Conservation Easement was granted by Glacier Hills in 1984 to both the City of Ann Arbor and to Earhart Village. New Building and Use Restrictions were also executed by Glacier Hills, with specific property rights granted to Earhart Village homeowners from 1014 to 1096 Greenhills Drive.
Although smaller in area, the Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions provided much stronger protection to Earhart Village than the original Scenic Easement, which the City Council could have vacated at any time. All structures are prohibited and specific landscaping of berms and evergreen trees was designated. Glacier Hills did not proceed with the 1983 development project, but the Conservation Easement is still in effect.
In 1999, Glacier Hills proposed their new Meadows development with a large 3 story building, thirteen single-story buildings, new roads and parking for 96 additional living units. Earhart Village representatives had several meetings with Glacier Hills representatives and City Planners. Earhart Village emphasized the need to maintain the Conservation Easement, preserve the natural woodlands, and screen vehicle headlights and structures. The approved site plan reflected those needs. The City required a 17.6 foot setback of buildings from the Conservation Easement.
Any activity in the Conservation Easement area that violates the protective provisions, such as the removal of trees and shrubs or the installation of any structure, should be reported directly to City Building Department at 994-2678.
Copies of the Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions are now included in the New Residents Handbook. If you wish to obtain copies of these documents, please contact Paul Duemler at 996-5717.