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ANN ARBOR, MI-Builders, realtors and developers have lined up against a proposed tax initiative here.

The plan calls for the city’s park land acquisition millage to be expanded and used in part to buy development rights from farmers in townships surrounding the city.

If the city were to purchase the development rights, the farmer would retain ownership of the property and be allowed to use it for agricultural purposes, but would not be allowed to develop it. The plan is to develop a greenbelt around the city and to preserve the city’s water table, says Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje.

In order to pay for the development rights, city residents will be asked in November to extend the existing park acquisition millage, now slated to expire in 2004, by 20 years.

The Homebuilders Association of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors are opposed to the plan.

Jeff Fisher, public relations director for the Homebuilders group says in 1998 a group the Homebuilders helped bankroll spent $400,000 to defeat a similar proposal. He adds the group is willing to spend that again, if needed.

The millage would generate about $30 million over 20 years, the mayor estimated, probably enough to buy up development rights on about 10,000 acres. A third of the millage would still be earmarked for park acquisition in the city.

In 1998, a county-wide development rights acquisition fund proposal was defeated at the ballot, though it passed in the city.

The city is home to the University of Michigan and a wide variety of cultural and artistic venues.

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