Beverly Hills seeks grant to purchase vacant land

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 9, 2022

 Beverly Hills received grant services from Six Rivers Land Conservancy.

Beverly Hills received grant services from Six Rivers Land Conservancy.

Photo by Ryan O’Gorman


BEVERLY HILLS — For over 20 years, a piece of land in Beverly Hills has remained mostly vacant. Now, the village of Beverly Hills is working with Six Rivers Land Conservancy to acquire the land.

The property at 30815 Wendbrook Lane was bought by a developer who planned to use the land to build high-end houses. However, neighbors objected, and the property was purchased by residents Mike and Martha White to keep it from being developed.

“The neighborhood felt that the property should really stay natural, because there’s just so much wildlife on it and it’s a beautiful piece of property,” Mike White said. “It is really an important part of the whole water system in this part of the community.”

White said his goal is to get the property, located south of 13 Mile on the Rouge River, from being privately owned to owned by the village of Beverly Hills. Once they own the property, it is up to the village to decide what to do with it.

The property is about 8 acres.

The Whites held an open house on Sunday, Oct. 9, and White said it was received well by the community.

The village is now in the process of working with the owners and Six Rivers Land Conservancy to turn the land into a park and potentially repurpose a house there as a nature center.

Six Rivers Land Conservancy informed the village about a Department of Natural Resources trust fund that could pay for 75% of the property acquisition. The Whites are donating the 25% match that is required if they are awarded the grant.

At a Feb. 1 Village Council meeting, the council approved the agreement between the village and Six Rivers for grant services. The grant services cost the village $10,000.

“The reason we chose to seek assistance from Six Rivers Land Conservancy rather than writing the grant application internally is that they have a proven track record of successful advocacy for other municipalities,” said John George, who is a member of the Beverly Hills Village Council. “They are skilled at highlighting key attributes of the project, advocating for the project and facilitating the transaction.”

Grant funds vary annually, but at least 25% of the available grant funds must be awarded. There were 117 projects funded in 2021, totaling $22.3 million in acquisition grants and $23.3 million in recreation development grants.

Since the cost to acquire the property was $2 million, they have requested a $1.5 million acquisition grant from the DNR trust fund.

“The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund’s website lists the criteria for evaluation as including, among others, natural resource access and conservation, proximity to population clusters, an applicant’s committed matching funds, public access to lakes and water, and wildlife habitat. This project checks those boxes,” George said.

Brian Marzolf, the land protection manager at Six Rivers Land Conservancy, has been leading the effort on behalf of the village to prepare the grant application and manage the review process.

“It has a park-like feel already, and you don’t see that too often. It is just a unique opportunity in a really developed area of Oakland County to preserve some green space,” Marzolf said.

George emphasizes that before they decide on plans for the park, they first need to be successful with the grant.

“We will then have a great opportunity for community engagement to discuss the many possibilities for the land and, hopefully, for repurposing the building,” George said.

Luckily, George said, there are several available grant sources to help with the work needed to restore the shoreline, the land and the building.

“We’re lucky to have very engaged residents, many of whom have backgrounds and skills that would be helpful to the project,” George said.

To name a few, George said they have residents who volunteer with the Friends of the Rouge, a council member with a degree in forestry and an architect who has expressed interest in donating time to prepare plans, as well as many others who have expressed a willingness to donate.

The grant application was submitted in April, and a final decision is expected in December.