The Gallagher family recently protected 172 acres of its more than 400-acre holdings near Traverse City through a conservation easement with the nonprofit Leelanau Conservancy. Those 172 acres — on a ridge that overlooks Grand Traverse Bay from the west side of East Cherry Bend Road — will never be converted from farmland into a subdivision.

The family’s move will help the Grand Traverse area maintain its historic agricultural character.

This is a great region to call home, and that’s no secret. Development is a given in Traverse City and in the townships and counties that surround it. New residents are moving in every day. Traverse City’s profile in the national public eye is rising, and the influx likely will accelerate through the next few years.

No one can stop that trend, though some might like to put on the brakes. But we can work together to shape local growth in a way that helps our community become better rather than worse.

The Gallaghers’ move to protect a visible ridge from future development will help the area retain its farmland character. The land remains privately owned and on the tax roll, so is not open the public. But we all can see it as we drive by.

Undeveloped ridgelines with views of the bay are prime territory for upscale developments. Housing developments that feature bay views will continue to pop up across the region. Property owners have the right to do what they want with their land as long as they follow established rules. We live in a free society and in a capitalist economy.

And we need housing — single-family dwellings, apartment buildings, condos, subdivisions, planned unit developments — so our new neighbors can buy or rent places to live.

We can argue about where that housing should be built, what types of structures they should occupy, how much each unit should cost. But those questions mostly will be answered by the rule of supply and demand. Our current shortage of affordable housing is a real problem. The free market — possibly with some assistance from governmental offsets and/or tax incentives — eventually will solve that problem.

In the meantime, we’re heartened by direct actions — like the Gallagher family’s move — that permanently preserve valuable parts of our geography.

We’re as selfish as anyone who delights in the pastoral views that define the area: We feel a sting of regret when a hillside of greenery is replaced by rooftops.

We feel a pang of local pride when landowners like the Gallagher family act unselfishly and forego profit to ensure the visual enjoyment of future generations.

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