For several years, Commerce Township officials have been working to secure over 500 acres of the Proud Lake Recreation Area from the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) to keep the land in public ownership. Now it seems that officials are getting closer to purchasing the land — which is located along either side of Wise Road west of Union Lake Road and non-contiguous to the main portion of the recreation area — as the DNRE has appraised the property at $2.8 million, considerably lower than it had been appraised. Township officials are on the right path and we urge them to put their best foot forward to purchase the property and seal the deal as long as the results of a survey don’t reveal any major issues that would need to be resolved.
The land was originally purchased by the state in 1945 for hunting and fishing purposes. However, under the DNRE’s land consolidation process, the parcel of land was slated for disposal because of circumstances that prevented the DNRE from providing hunting and other recreational opportunities on the property. The DNRE had then considered selling the land on the open market, a possibility that drew criticism from local citizen groups and others concerned about the potential loss of open space.
In March 2007, township officials reached a tentative lease agreement with the DNRE to keep 564 acres of the recreation area in public hands. Commerce would have leased the property from the state for 25 years following an initial down payment of $1 million. The township would then have had the option to purchase the property at the end of the lease.
However, due to complications and restrictions, the agreement never came to fruition.
Now, the DNRE has had the land appraised at $2.8 million — a drastically lower price than the DNRE asked for a few years ago — and the Board of Trustees has directed township attorneys to enter into negotiations to purchase the land. The township is also conducting a survey of the land. After the survey is complete, legal counsel will come back to the Board of Trustees with a final proposal.
This effort is exactly the kind of thing township voters endorsed in 2004 when they passed an open spaces millage at 0.4 mills over 10 years. At $2.8 million, township officials would be hard-pressed to find a better buy for such a large swatch of property. And with the township being a commercial hub that it wasn’t just a few decades ago, chances like this won’t be coming around again any time soon. Barring any significant issues being raised by the land survey, township officials should move forward with the purchase and secure the property for current and future lakes area residents to enjoy.