The Chesterfield Township Board is moving forward with a possible sale of the property it owns.
A letter of intent approved by a 5-2 at an April 12 meeting is the first step in negotiations with the Six Rivers Conservancy to pay the township to convert 64 acres north of the Air National Guard base ( BLOOD) from Selfridge near I-94. into a conservation easement.
The property bordered by the highway to the north and west and residential neighborhoods to the east and south and is known as the North Lagoons as it once functioned as a retention basin until the sale and drainage began in the early 1990s.
Conservation will work with Macomb County and the Department of Defense to maintain the property in its natural state rather than moving forward with any future development of the land.
“The Selfridge Air National Guard Base Commission Board supports the preservation of the conservation effort,” said SANG Community Council Chairman Drema Isaac. “This will preserve the continued viability of the base.”
Six Rivers must first secure an Environmental Preparedness and Protection Integration Program (REPI) grant through the Department of Defense.
Conservatory executive director Chris Bunch said the grant would cover half the cost of the sale, while Six Rivers would generate the rest through private donations.
An environmental assessment must also be completed and Macomb County has agreed to cover the cost of a final assessment of the parcel.
The sticking point for some residents and administrators is that the agreement would turn the property into a conservation easement in perpetuity.
“Another way to look at this is that it cuffs future generations,” Administrator David Joseph said of the proposed deal. “If you take the money now, anything that could potentially be done with this land decades from now is no longer a possibility.”
The financial figures mentioned by council and the public as a potential price for the property ranged between $600,000 and $675,000, but township attorney Bob Seibert tried to temper those expectations.
“I guess if you sent a professional property appraiser to appraise a property next to Selfridge Air Force Base which was a former lagoon, it’s probably worth a lot less than everyone here thinks it’s worth,” a- he declared.
Seibert also summarized what the end result of the deal between Six Rivers and the township would look like.
“We’re going to give them an interest in this property, in this case forever, who’s going to tell them ‘we as a township are giving up our rights to use this property forever and in return you give us a check,’ Seibert mentioned.
Supervisor Brad Kersten said there has been little to no interest from developers in the property over the past three decades and just agreeing to speak with Six Rivers is a harmless proposition.
“We’re going to have to sit down with the reserves and see what we can and can’t do,” he said. “We don’t have to do anything if we don’t want to and we can just leave it as it is if we want to.”
“This (letter of intent) is not binding. It’s just to get more information and take another step in the process and I don’t see any harm in that,” Clerk Cindy Berry said.
Joseph, who along with administrator Hank Anderson voted against moving forward, said, “I feel like this conservation easement is a liquidation sale.”
There is a preliminary 45-day deadline for the two sides to begin talks, but Seibert said the process could continue beyond that window.
Kersten said any action taken by the township would be reported at a public meeting in the future.