A small creek surrounded by woods and ferns.

Town of Clay Banks Objects to Door County Land Trust Purchase

When prompted to review the project due to a Knowles-Nelson grant, Town officials passed a resolution objecting to it.

In October 2023, Door County Land Trust purchased 75 acres of a former dairy farm in Clay Banks, WI. The property includes a half-mile of Bear Creek that flows into Lake Michigan, open fields, wetlands, forests, bluffs, and 50-foot stream banks that are ideal habitats for birds and native pollinators. To defray some of the $615,000 purchase cost, Door County Land Trust sought a $314,372 Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant.

State law requires the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to notify counties and municipalities when Knowles-Nelson grants get preliminary approval, allowing local governments the opportunity to show their support or disapproval for the project. Door County Pulse reports that this notice prompted the Town of Clay Banks to pass a resolution 2-1 objecting to the project, stating that the land was already protected by county zoning and state wetlands zoning, that the purchase price was above market value, and that Door County Land Trust didn’t consider the impact of the purchase on the community.

“We pay the appraised value; period,” said Door County Land Trust Executive Director Emily Wood. “There were offers [for the property] that were higher than ours, but the seller chose to sell to us so the land could be protected.”

Because the request for Knowles-Nelson Stewardship funding exceeds $250,000, the project will go to the state’s Joint Finance Committee for approval, where any member can anonymously object to it and potentially stall the approval process. While Clay Banks’ resolution is non-binding, the state must consider it when deciding whether to ultimately award the grant.

“Opening [the property] for hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing – we don’t believe this conflicts with a peaceful vision of the town, or the rural agricultural landscape,” added Wood.

Wood and her team approached the County’s Administrative committee for a resolution to counter-balance the town’s opposition, but no action was taken. The Door County Board of Supervisors have put forward resolutions in support of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program but have not taken a position on an individual project.

Featured image by Joshua Mayer, 2015.

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