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Great Lakes Article:

6,000-acre deal expected to be announced
By Bill Echlin
The Traverse City Record-Eagle
10/13/03


TRAVERSE CITY - The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy is expected to announce today the acquisition of 6,000 acres in Benzie and Manistee counties, including a sprawling, scenic stretch of Lake Michigan high bluffs.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm was to announce the multi-million dollar deal today in Lansing with conservancy officials and representatives of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and CMS Energy Corp.

CMS owned the property near Arcadia and the deal will allow the conservancy to put all shore lands and forested areas into a nature area while permanently preserving the rest as farmland.

About 3,500 acres are leased as farmland and orchards.

Developers, including the Bay Harbor Co. of Petoskey, have been eyeing parts of the land for years. CMS earlier this year announced it was putting it up for sale as part of a plan to shed unneeded assets.
Today's announcement will also detail the conservancy's purchase of two other Benzie County properties along the Lake Michigan coast in the area of the Green Point dunes and Point Betsie. The three properties total 6,320 acres.

The land conservancy has a fund-raising goal of $30 million to fund all of the deals with the Mott Foundation providing grants and loans to cover a significant part of that expense, said Mary Detloff, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Officials declined to offer many details before the 10 a.m. press conference in Lansing.

"We're really excited here at the conservancy and honored to be working with the governor in making this announcement," said Glen Chown, the nonprofit's executive director. "Bay Harbor and others were interested in it so there was some urgency."

Granholm helped broker the deal, Chown said. Meeting earlier this year with CMS chairman and chief executive officer Ken Whipple on another matter, Granholm mentioned the Conservancy wanted to make a cash offer for the properties but couldn't get a response from CMS. She urged Whipple to talk to the conservancy, Chown said.
In January, CMS Land Co., the real estate arm of CMS Energy, signed an agreement giving Bay Harbor Co. and its affiliated Bay Harbor Village Co. a first right to purchase in the event that CMS received an offer if the price was $12 million or less. Because the conservancy is paying "substantially more than" $12 million, the agreement doesn't apply, said CMS spokesman Jeff Holyfield.

He declined to say exactly what the conservancy will pay until after the press conference today.

The CMS Arcadia lands straddle the border between Benzie and Manistee counties, include two miles of Lake Michigan high-bluff shoreline and run east from the lake to about 5½ miles at its widest point. It is one of the largest blocks of undeveloped privately held land along the lake.

Much of it is rolling hill highlands. The property made CMS Land Co. the largest land owner in both counties.

CMS Energy started assembling the properties in 1967 with the original aim of building a massive pump-storage reservoir and energy generation facility similar what the company built in the Ludington area in 1969. The bulk of the purchases were made in 1970 and 1971 and the last was in 1989.

When CMS, then known as Consumers Power Co., abandoned its effort to build a nuclear power plant in Midland in 1984, there was no need for additional pump-storage capacity and the Arcadia lands became surplus real estate, Holyfield said.

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