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LandChoices, Realtor partner for conservation

From the Oakland Business Review
June 15-21, 2006


A Milford land conservation group is joining forces with an area Realtor to increase landowners' awareness of earth-friendly options when they look to develop land.

LandChoices founder Kirt Manecke hopes other residential real estate agents will follow in the steps of Rhett Reader of Hartland's ReMax Platinum in creating a conservation niche.

"I'd love to see more Realtors partner up with this effort because they are the first ones talking to a landowner before they sell their property to a developer," Manecke said. "A Realtor could show the owner how they could conserve more land and create a more-profitable subdivision."

LandChoices, founded last year, pushes the idea of conservation-friendly development. That's when 50 percent-70 percent of the buildable land is left untouched.

Manecke contends communities with hiking trails, community lake access and natural areas increases the value of homes build on the property. He compares it to living on a golf course, without the golfers.

Some developers, however, contend such perks don't make up for the value they lose due to smaller lots and perhaps half as many homes on the property. (NOTE: The following two sentences are an insert by LandChoices and not part of the original article but LandChoices feels it is important to clarify: Conservation subdivisions allow the SAME maximum number of home sites as conventional subdivision development. The lot size may not be as large, but still are very good size - normally 1/2 acre, 3/4 acre, or 1 acre, and 1-3 acres lot sizes in rural areas, and normally this is not an issue as homeowners have access to acres of open space to enjoy.)

LandChoices will work with Reader to provide him both general resources - and in some cases specific land protection information - for landowners. For example, Manecke recently viewed a 40-acre tract of land with Reader to assess if it could be a conservation-friendly subdivision.

"We'll be actively working with him to reach these land owners and developers," Manecke said.

Reader said land conservation and environmental protection have been passions of his for some time. A meeting with Manecke showed him how it could better apply to his business, he said.

In addition to conservation-friendly development, Reader also is marketing homes that use alternative energy and other means to reduce the unit's consumption of energy. His agency mainly works in Oakland, Livingston and Washtenaw counties.

The conservation-friendly development concept makes economic sense as well, Reader said. He's noticed a pattern where people residing longer in their homes and, therefore, the surroundings are becoming of higher importance.

"We have a lot of baby boomers in the market who are looking to downsize and want to be in an area with trails, open space and something nice to get out and use," he said. "Along with the normal housing options, I'd like to give them something more to consider."

Eric Morath covers nonprofits for Oakland Business Review

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