AAA Project Gets Planning Group OK

A site plan and rezoning for two Main Street parcels owned by the Automobile Club of Michigan – where an AAA branch is currently located – were recommended for approval by the Ann Arbor planning commission at its March 6, 2012 meeting.

The requests relate to 1100 and 1200 S. Main, across from Michigan Stadium. An AAA branch built in the 1950s is located there. The owner wants to build a new branch on a different part of the site, tear down the existing building, and reconfigure parking spaces.

The two parcels are part of a 1.5-acre site containing four parcels owned by AAA and all zoned O (office). Located on the 1200 S. Main parcel is the current one-story branch building with walk-out basement and 36 parking spaces, with exits onto South Main, Berkley and Potter.

The 1100 S. Main site is a surface parking lot, which has 72 spaces and exits onto both Potter and Keech. The owner is requesting to build a one-story, 5,443-square-foot new branch building on the northeast corner of that site, with parking for 21 spaces. A second phase of the project would include an eventual 2,230-square-foot addition to the south side of that building. There are six landmark trees on the site, and the plan would require removal of two that are located along South Main, near Keech. Other trees would be added elsewhere on the site.

After the new structure is completed, the old building at 1200 S. Main would be torn down and a 14-space parking lot would be put on that parcel. To do that, the parcel would need to be rezoned from O (office) to P (parking), because parking would become the principal use for that site.

The owner’s overall plan called for a total of 35 spaces – a reduction from the current parking on the site, which was approved in the mid-1970s but is no longer conforming with existing zoning. The 35 spaces would be four more spaces than the 31 maximum number permitted under the O (office) zoning, based on the new building’s square footage in both phases. That’s why the owner requested that a portion of the overall site be rezoned for parking – in the P (parking) district, there is no maximum.

Planning staff had previously recommended postponing action on the request, so that the owner could include the possible future addition as part of the site plan, to reflect parking needs better. However, because the planning commission did not achieve a quorum for its Feb. 23 meeting, no action was taken. Revised plans were subsequently submitted, and the planning staff recommended approval.

Commissioners Bonnie Bona, Erica Briggs and Kirk Westphal expressed concerns about rezoning an area along Main Street for parking. They also wondered whether 35 spaces were necessary, especially when there are alternative parking options – at a park-and-ride at Pioneer High, and in the nearby neighborhood. Briggs noted that it ran counter to the city’s efforts to encourage alternative transportation.

Three separate votes were taken. The vote to recommend rezoning of 1200 S. Main to P (parking) passed on a 6-3 vote, with dissent from Bona, Briggs and Westphal. Those three commissioners also voted against the site plan for 1200 S. Main, but that resolution also passed on a 6-3 vote. The site plan for 1100 S. Main was unanimously approved.

The proposal will be considered for final approval by the city council.

This brief was filed from the second floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. A more detailed report will follow: [link]