Both changes to the ordinance were sought by County Chairman Steven Heacock, who brought the proposal to the floor at the morning meeting that lasted three hours.
Board members did not allocate any county money to the program for development-rights payments, which are the difference a landowner receives for selling property to a developer above the land’s farming value.
“We believe this benefits the county as a whole and not just the farmer,” said Commissioner Jack Horton.
“Does it make sense to create a vehicle for land-use planning? Yes, it does,” added Commissioner Katherine Kuhn.
“To me, it’s an issue of allowing local government to operate,” said Commissioner Elaine Buege.
The PDR program is voluntary. Townships boards must adopt it before a landowner can take part in the program.
Commissioners Marvin Hiddema, Ken Kuipers, Michael Sak and Fritz Wahfield voted against the ordinance, which was opposed by Realtors, builders, and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
By a 12-7 vote, commissioners also beat back an amendment offered by Sak. It would have limited the PDR program to 15,000 acres, added a five-year sunset to the proposal, restricted the use of county money for the program, and prohibited commissioners from participating in the program while in office and for up to two years after leaving office.
County Vice Chairman David Morren said board members were under pressure from many sources to reject the ordinance. He said even state lawmakers, who gave counties the authority to administer the program, lobbied commissioners to vote down the proposal.
“I find that a true irony in life,” said Morren.