6,000-acre deal expected to be
By Bill Echlin
The Traverse City Record-Eagle
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
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