City Place: ZBA Appeal Filed

This past week, the block of Fifth Avenue south of William Street received renewed attention from city of Ann Arbor planning and development officials.

On Friday, Nov. 4, the developer of the City Place residential project filed demolition permit applications for seven addresses: 407, 411, 415, 419, 427, 433 and 437 S. Fifth Ave. The demolition permit applications will undergo flood plain review, grading review, historic review, plan review, and zoning review.

Submission of those seven demolition permit applications came after a filing with the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals earlier in the week (on Nov. 1) by owners of nearby properties. The three-point appeal challenges two decisions made by the city council and one made by the city planning manager in connection with the City Place project. The residential project would construct two apartment buildings separated by a parking lot, offering a total of 24 units and 144 bedrooms.

The council decisions challenged in the appeal were made at the Oct. 17, 2011 meeting and were subsequently reconsidered with the same outcome at the Oct. 24, 2011 meeting. One council decision involved the waiver of a landscaping buffer requirement. The other decision involved approval of revised site-plan elevation drawings.

Also the subject of the appeal is a decision by the city planning manager to consider revisions of the City Place site plan as “minor revisions,” which can be handled administratively.

The site of City Place has a long and contentious history. An alternative project called Heritage Row had been proposed – but twice rejected – by the city council in the summer of 2010. Heritage Row would have retained the seven houses in some form and constructed three apartment buildings behind them. The city council also rejected a recommendation from a historic district study committee that a historic district be established for the area. A recent attempt to revive a version of the Heritage Row project failed, when the new owner of the City Place project concluded it was not financially viable.

The zoning board of appeals (ZBA) is provided with broad powers by state statute. From the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act 110 of 2006: “It [the ZBA] shall hear and decide appeals from and review any administrative order, requirement, decision, or determination made by an administrative official or body charged with enforcement of a zoning ordinance adopted under this act.”

Under the rules of the ZBA, the most likely date on which the appeal would be heard is Dec. 14. (The next regular meeting of the ZBA is scheduled for Nov. 16, 2011.) The nine-member body consists of Candice Briere, Wendy Carman, David Gregorka, Carol A. Kuhnke, Sabra Briere, Erica Briggs, Alex Milshteyn, Jason Boggs and Perry Zielak.

The ZBA is chaired by Kuhnke, an attorney with the firm Davis & Kuhke, P.C.

Candice Briere (no relation to Sabra Briere) works for Atwell-Hicks Atwell, a real estate consulting firm. Wendy Carman serves on a city committee that has been reviewing zoning regulations for the R4C districts. David Gregorka is vice president of operations at HealthMedia Inc. Sabra Briere is one of a maximum of two city councilmembers who can serve on the board. Erica Briggs also serves on the city planning commission. Alex Milshteyn is a real estate broker, as is Jason Boggs. Perry Zielak works at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy.


  1. November 5, 2011 at 9:46 am | permalink

    The Zoning Board of Appeals is ten feet tall and covered with hair.

    It has essentially unlimited power to overturn any decision made by anyone involving zoning. It exercises this authority rarely, but the state statute the Chronicle quotes makes it clear that the ZBA must decide appeals like the one the neighbors have filed. The issue cannot be dodged.

    The ZBA is a body set up under state law, and is in this respect like the Historic District Commission.

    It also is not bound to accept the advice of the City Attorney’s office.

  2. By Alan Goldsmith
    November 8, 2011 at 8:27 am | permalink

    “It also is not bound to accept the advice of the City Attorney’s office.”

    That’s certainly a positive thing.