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Conservation Easement Overview

Conservation Easement Overview


A Protected Area


Earhart Village residents in the 1000’s along our northern boundary have long cherished the scenic woodland strip just north of the property line.  This woodland area provides a natural habitat for many birds and small animals, and maintains a natural wooded screening from the Glacier Hills property.  Over the years, deer and even a fox have been spotted along the woods.  The earthen berm and evergreen trees north of the woodland strip provide additional screening of Glacier Hills buildings and lights. 


The woodland strip, the berm and many of the evergreen trees are included in a 3.37 acre area that is protected by a Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions.  The protected area is a continuous strip of land along the southern Glacier Hills boundary that is 160 feet wide at Earhart Road, and tapers down to 100 feet wide as it continues all the way to U.S. 23.  The Conservation Easement was granted by Glacier Hills in 1984 to both the City of Ann Arbor and to Earhart Village Homes Association.  The Conservation Easement provides permanent protection to the woods and natural environment with the following provisions:


q   No structure or improvements shall be built on the property without approval by the City and the approval of Earhart Village.



q   No activity shall be permitted upon the property which shall threaten the protection of the natural environmental system thereof or which shall interfere with or prevent the scenic enjoyment of the property.


The Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions are recorded documents that attach to the property in perpetuity.  The Building and Use Restrictions also states that the provisions shall run to the benefit of the owners of Earhart Village condominium units 1014 through 1096 inclusive. 



We have to go back 50 years to understand the genesis of the Conservation Easement.  In 1971, the original 5-story Glacier Hills building was approved by the City of Ann Arbor, after much debate in City Council.  Because the developers wanted to build a 5-story building in a residential neighborhood, the City required that Glacier Hills grant a Scenic Easement to the City of Ann Arbor to maintain open space. The Scenic Easement covered an extensive area 300-350 feet north of the Earhart Village property line.  The Scenic Easement prohibited all structures in that open area.


In 1983, Glacier Hills proposed a substantial expansion of new single-story buildings into the protected Scenic Easement area.  Development would have occurred as close as 12 feet from the Earhart Village property line and would have eliminated much of the woods along our northern boundary.  Earhart Village vigorously protested this proposal to the City, and a compromise was eventually reached.  A revised Glacier Hills development proposal was approved for six single-story building clusters, new roads and parking for 54 additional living units.  The original 300-350 feet Scenic Easement was eliminated, and a new 100-160 feet Conservation Easement was granted by Glacier Hills in 1984 to both the City of Ann Arbor and to Earhart Village.  New Building and Use Restrictions were also executed by Glacier Hills.


Although smaller in area, the Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions provided much stronger protection to Earhart Village than the original Scenic Easement, which the City Council could have vacated at any time.  All structures are prohibited and specific landscaping of berms and evergreen trees was designated.  Glacier Hills agreed that it shall neither consent to nor request any relinquishment of the Easement under any applicable law.  Glacier Hills did not proceed with the 1983 development project, but the Conservation Easement is still in effect.


In 1999, Glacier Hills proposed their new Meadows development with a large 3 story building, thirteen single-story buildings, new roads and parking for 96 additional living units.  Earhart Village representatives had several meetings with Glacier Hills representatives and City Planners.  Earhart Village emphasized the need to maintain the Conservation Easement, preserve the natural woodlands, and screen vehicle headlights and structures.  The approved site plan reflected those needs.  The City required a 17.5 foot setback of buildings from the Conservation Easement.  


In 2013,  the City of Ann Arbor Planning Department made a comprehensive review of the history of the Conservation Easement and Building and Use Restrictions.  Upon review of this history, City staff determined that in order to comply with the restrictions on its property, Glacier Hills will need to seek and receive approval from Earhart Village Homes Association of any amendments or revisions to the amended Glacier Hills Planned Project Site Plan prior to obtaining final City approval.  This is documented in the CityLetter to Glacier Hills, dated October 25, 2013.


A few years later, Glacier Hills challenged the legality of the Conservation Easement.  Earhart Village and Glacier Hills were in disagreement as to whether the Conservation Easement and/or Use Restrictions require Glacier Hills to seek approval from Earhart Village for any future development of Glacier Hills property.


After several years of negotiation, the parties including the City of Ann Arbor reached a new Settlement Agreement to adopt terms and conditions that would apply to any exterior development of the Glacier Hills property.  A summary of key provisions is shownbelow. 


  1. Each party reserves its rights regarding the issue whether Glacier Hills needs approval of Earhart Village for any future development.

  2. Glacier Hills will not build any structures or make any improvements on the 3.37 acres of land which is subject to the Conservation Easement.

  3. Any expansion or addition to Glacier Hills Villas A, B, C, or D will maintain a distance from the northern boundary of the Conservation Easement of at least 9 feet, excluding existing decks and patios.  This setback is to be treated consistent with requirements of Ann Arbor City Code.

  4. For any future development on Glacier Hills property requiring a building permit, Glacier Hills agrees to submit development plans to Earhart Village simultaneously with its submission to the City.  Earhart Village will have 30 days to review the plans, submit comments to Glacier Hills and request a meeting with Earhart Village residents.  Glacier Hills will then meet with EarhartVillage to answer questions and address concerns.

  5. Individual Earhart Village citizens retain the right to participate in the in the public application and approval process for any new development on Glacier Hills Property.


LegalRecorded Documents

Copies of the Conservation Easement, Building and Use Restrictions and Settlement Agreement are available on the Earhart Village website and on the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds Website.   



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