Barn for Sale
A local landmark is on the block
by James Leonard
For travelers on Ann Arbor’s west side, the big red barn with “M GO BLUE” boldly emblazoned across its roof marks the spot where the city ends and the townships of Lodi, Scio, and Pittsfield meet. Standing on twelve bucolic acres at Scio Church Road and Oak Valley Drive, the circa-
1890 dairy barn comes complete with a lovingly rebuilt circa-1840 farmhouse plus gardens, orchards, and fields. And Bill and Katie Parker are willing to let it go for just $1.5 million.
Bill Parker, a vigorous man in his early sixties, says their land was originally part of the Allmendinger family’s farm: “They got the property for about $1.10 an acre as part of a purchase of hundreds of acres out here around 1829.” The Parkers bought the house, the barn, and seven acres in 1992 for $220,000. “We bought the other five acres to the corner in ’95—and we put in at least as much in repairs and rebuilding,” says Bill. They also put a new roof on the barn. “The old roof was leaking,” he explains, “and we had to replace it or we’d lose it. Sherriff Goslin [the roofing contractor] told us they could put words on the barn roof for free. Our older son, who was hoping to go to the U of M, suggested ‘M GO BLUE.’ We thought about it for five seconds and said, ‘Yeah, that would be pretty cool.’ The colors are not quite maize and blue, but in the morning, if you catch it in the right light with just the right amount of dew, it does look maize and blue.”
Though they never really farmed the property, the Parkers are selling it for the same reasons farmers have always sold the family farm: “It takes a fair amount of work, and we’re not as young as we used to be. Plus it’s getting increasingly expensive. The taxes have gone way up, and it cost sixty-five hundred dollars to repaint
the barn in June. I’m semiretired [from American Dental Laser, a company that developed lasers to replace drills in dentists’ offices], and my wife is expecting to retire in three or four years. What we’d like to do is get a house up north and a condo in town.
“We’re not desperate to sell,” he adds. “We figure nothing is going to shake loose right away—that it’ll still be two, three years before we find anybody, and probably about the same before they would be able to do anything.” Though Parker says he would like to see the house and barn preserved, he suspects they’ll be torn down: “In the [Lodi Township] master plan, this area is designated to be zoned light commercial and residential, and we figure that eventually somebody will want to develop it.”
That may take a while, though, because the property has no sewer or water hookup. “Lodi doesn’t like development,” says Parker, “and they have no idea when they would put in sewer and water utilities.” In the site’s clay soil, he says, building a septic field just for the house “took literally hundreds of truckloads of sand and gravel.” Before the property could be developed, the field would have to be greatly enlarged—and that would both increase costs and decrease the amount of land that could be used for building.
Still, Parker’s twelve-acre property may sell before the one-acre site across the street. When Doug Gale, a vice-president of Destiny 98, bought woodworker Peter Beal’s distressed property in 2007, he paid $5,987 for the deed—but estimated he could sell it for $200,000 (see “The Taxing Tragedy of Peter Beal,” October 2007). Since then, Gale says, Scio has changed its septic rules—and lowered the value of the land. “Now you can’t transfer the property unless you clean it up and put in a new septic system,” he says, “so we’ve sold our interest in the property to somebody else.” Gale estimates that the land, barn workshop and home, which has no central heat and no finished kitchen or bathroom, are now worth $125,000—exactly the same per acre as the Parkers’
[Originally published in October, 2008.]