Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Dec. 20, 2011): With four of the city’s nine planning commissioners absent, the last meeting of the year was brief, with only one action item: site plan approval for changes at Traver Village.
The owner, First Martin Corp., plans to reconfigure retail space that the Blockbuster video store previously occupied, at the southern part of the complex near Plymouth Road, converting it into three smaller retail spaces.
Plans call for adding a new 25-space parking lot to serve that location, between the south side of the building and Plymouth. Elsewhere within the complex, 128 parking spaces will be removed – primarily in the northwest area behind the Kroger grocery. More bike spaces and landscaping are part of the plan as well, which was approved unanimously by commissioners after brief discussion.
It will now be forwarded to the city council for consideration.
Communications during the 30-minute meeting included a reminder of a series of public forums on sustainability starting early next year. The first one, on Thursday, Jan. 12, will feature a panel of city staff on the topic of resource management. All forums will be held at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building, 343 S. Fifth Ave., beginning at 7 p.m. It’s part of a broader sustainability initiative that began earlier this year, funded by a Home Depot Foundation grant.
Traver Village Site Plan
The only action item on Tuesday’s agenda was a site plan for changes at Traver Village, a shopping center owned by First Martin Corp. at 2601 Plymouth Road, on the northwest corner of Plymouth and Nixon.
The southern-most store in the complex, nearest to Plymouth Road, formerly housed a Blockbuster video outlet but has been vacant for more than a year. The owners plan to convert it into three smaller retail spaces, with entrances from the south side of the building. As part of that change, they want to build a new 25-space parking lot between the south side of the building and Plymouth.
In addition, the plan calls for removing 128 parking spaces in other parts of the site, mostly in the northwest area behind the Kroger grocery, where a shallow bio-retention area will be built instead. Other parking spots will be removed and replaced with landscaped islands. Overall, the number of parking spots will be reduced from 609 to 506 – closer to the city’s maximum parking requirement of 492 spots for that development, according to a staff report.
The new parking area will cover 9,530 square feet, but 16,334 square feet of impervious surface elsewhere in the complex will be eliminated. The result is a net reduction in impervious surface of 6,804 square feet. To build the new parking lot, 13 evergreen trees will be removed. The plan calls for planting 46 new trees, and adding new landscaping between the edge of the new parking lot and Plymouth Road.
More bike spaces will also be added. Currently there are 38 uncovered bike spaces throughout the complex. The plan calls for adding 22 covered bike spaces and 26 more uncovered spaces.
The staff report on this proposal notes that the developer is required to pay $3,075.15 into a street tree escrow account, to conform with Chapter 57 Attachment C of Ann Arbor’s city code. The escrow fund is for the planting and maintenance of trees on the public street right-of-way abutting a development. The fee must be paid before the city issues building permits.
Eric Ophoff of Midwestern Consulting and Chris Grant of First Martin Corp. attended the Dec. 20 meeting. No one spoke at a public hearing on the plan.
Traver Village Site Plan: Commissioner Discussion
Bonnie Bona clarified with city planner Jeff Kahan that new trees would be located on the northern side of the sidewalk – Kahan indicated that the city’s forester preferred that location so that the trees wouldn’t interfere with utility lines. Bona noted that from a pedestrian’s perspective, it’s preferable to have trees between the sidewalk and the street. Placing trees so that there’s no conflict with utility lines does not comply with the concept of “complete streets,” she said.
By way of background, at its March 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council adopted a resolution expressing its commitment to the concept of “complete streets” – the idea that streets should be constructed to accommodate a full range of users, from pedestrians, to bicyclists, to public transit vehicles, to privately owned automobiles. The impetus for the city’s proclamation came from the state of Michigan’s enactment in 2010 of Public Acts 134 and 135, which amended the state’s planning enabling statute and the transportation funding law. The city’s resolution was meant to ensure that Ann Arbor continued to qualify for state transportation funding.
Bona said she hoped that in the future, the city can head in the direction of the “complete streets” approach.
Tony Derezinski noted that the staff report mentioned the owner had mailed out 786 postcards to nearby residents, but that no one had responded. “That says a lot,” Derezinski said, adding that the complex is located in Ward 2, which Derezinski represents on city council.
Ophoff said most of the residents live in multi-family complexes, and getting no response is not uncommon.
Derezinski also wondered whether the Traver Village entrance onto Nixon Road was near the roundabout there. It is, Ophoff said, but the reconfiguration and new parking in the complex isn’t expected to change the traffic patterns there. The entrances off Plymouth Road are used the most.
Diane Giannola asked where the new bike spots will be located. The bike spaces will be spread along the eastern and southeastern frontage of the shopping center, Ophoff said.
Outcome: Planning commissioners voted unanimously to recommend approval of the Traver Village site plan.
It will now be forwarded to city council for approval. No further approval is required.
There are several opportunities for public commentary and communications from staff and planning commissioners during any meeting. On Tuesday, no one spoke during public commentary.
Misc. Communications: Sustainability Forums
Jeff Kahan of the city’s planning staff reminded commissioners of the upcoming series of public forums on the topic of sustainability. All will be held at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library building, 343 S. Fifth Ave. starting at 7 p.m.
- Jan. 12, 2012: Resource Management – including natural areas, waste reduction, recycling, compost, local food systems, water and air quality. Panelists will include Matt Naud, the city’s environmental coordinator; Kerry Gray, the city’s urban forest & natural resource planning coordinator; Tom McMurtrie, Ann Arbor’s solid waste coordinator; and Dave Borneman, manager of the city’s natural area preservation program.
- Feb. 9, 2012: Land Use and Access – including transportation designs, infrastructure, land uses, built environment, and public spaces.
- March 8, 2012: Climate and Energy – including an overview of Ann Arbor’s climate action plan, climate impacts, renewable and alternative energy, energy efficiency and conservation.
- April 12, 2012: Community – including housing, public safety, public art, recreation, outreach, civic engagement, and stewardship of community resources.
The four forums reflect categories in a framework that the city is developing to organize its existing goals as they relate to sustainability. The project, which began earlier this year, is being led by Jamie Kidwell and funded by a $95,000 grant the city received from the Home Depot Foundation. Four city commissions – park, planning, energy and environmental – participated in a Sept. 27, 2011 joint working session focused on prioritizing existing goals for the city that touch on sustainability issues. [For additional background, see Chronicle coverage of Kidwell's briefing at the Nov. 15 park advisory commission meeting.]
Misc. Communications: Public Notice of Land Division
As an item of information, planning commission chair Eric Mahler read a public notice of a request to divide a 2.8-acre parcel at 500 Huron Parkway into two parcels. Access to both parcels is to be provided via a shared driveway from Huron Parkway. Public input on the land division can be made by calling the planning staff at 734-794-6265, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for feedback is Jan. 11, 2012.
Land division requests are handled administratively by the city planning staff, and do not require planning commission action.
Present: Bonnie Bona, Tony Derezinski, Diane Giannola, Eric Mahler, Evan Pratt.
Absent: Eleanore Adenekan, Erica Briggs, Kirk Westphal, Wendy Woods.
Next regular meeting: The planning commission next meets on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]
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