by CYNTHIA KMETT
There’s been an outcry in recent years that the city should stop builders from using the city’s few remaining parcels – that they are destroying what little is left of Troy’s open spaces.
The city took the first step when it crafted a new tree ordinance that basically said that if you’re building on a property and clear cut certain landmark trees, you have to plant new trees to replace them. Under the cluster ordinance, if the developer saves trees and provides additional open spaces, they can build a few more homes on the development.
However, the city cannot enact a moratorium and tell the owner of private property they cannot build on it or sell it. That’s not how the law works. And, much of the land now being sold was inherited from family members who bought it decades ago. These new owners have no intention of building on it themselves.
Land in Troy today is very expensive. Troy City Assessor Nino Licaro observes that 10 years ago an acre of land went for about $65,000. Today the going price is about $250,000 an acre, which was good news for the Troy School District when it recently sold land to Mondrian Properties.
The Parks and Recreation Board was particularly interested in preserving open spaces and green spaces, and got the city’s permission to explore how to do that in a subcommittee, which was chaired by Tim McKee and had about 15 serious volunteers explore the open and green spaces in the city.
The committee made its report and compiled a “wish list” presented at the Troy City Council
Study Session last Monday. They were tasked with analyzing the current city inventory of developed and undeveloped parks; identify open land parcels not owned by the city, and research surrounding communities as to what different ordinances are used to protect these types of parcels.
The committee defined open space as any open piece of land that is undeveloped in that it has no commercial buildings or other built structures upon it and is accessible to the public. Open space can include green space (parks, community gardens, and cemeteries), schoolyards, play- grounds, public seating areas, and vacant lots.
The committee originally included boulevard medians, and they are loaded with trees. But a road’s right of way was excluded, as it was not necessarily safe for residents’ use.
McKee noted that “Open/Green Space provides many advantages for the residents with opportunities for sport and recreation, preservation of the natural environment, storm water management and thus, must be a key consideration for the future planning and health of the city.”
The committee estimated that the total amount of recreational Open Green space includes 1106.63-acres owned by the city, 621.5-acres owned by the school district, and 709.5-acres are privately owned.
Minimally, the total available acreage of Open Green Space as defined by our definition is 2,437.63 acres or 11.33% of the total acreage of the city, which is 21,520 acres, McKee told council. This is a good amount of space for a city of Troy’s size.
In surveying other cities, the committee ran into vastly different things – even plantings done by businesses – in their definitions of green space. Most, however, did include walkable paths and bike paths in their goals. In addition, they found several cities that wanted their businesses to plant trees and add flowers to their facilities. Troy did not include business in its count of green space as it is not easily accessible to the public for recreational activities.
The committee took a close look at the recommendations of the National Recreation and Park Association. They would like to see some of those standards in Troy’s own Master Land Use Plan, including providing opportunities for healthy activity in nature, protecting and managing wildlife and wildlife habitats, and natural land management.
Now, the question is how to accomplish these goals.
The committee has a “wish list” they hope the city will consider in a future Open Space ordinance and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
“We are aware of the budgetary concerns in implement any or all of our listed items,” McKee acknowledged. Therefore, he recommended as an immediate priority three plans of action. The top things the committee would like to see include promoting a 30-year dedicated millage not to exceed .05 mills for future Park Open Green space enhancement; implementing the proposed pathways plan in its entirety as it was originally approved; and developing Sylvan Lake as the premier park of the city with recreational activities like fishing, swimming, ice skating, and picnicking.
Any future development of the Troy Civic Center property should consider recreational opportunities and facilities.
Council probably won’t make any decisions on these ideas until after it takes the planned survey of residents later this spring.