Stories indexed with the term ‘blight’

Rezoning Process for N. Main Site on Agenda

Several additions to the Ann Arbor city council’s Aug. 20 meeting agenda came on Friday, after the initial Wednesday publication.

St. Nicholas Church foreclosure

Former St. Nicholas Church at 414 N. Main in downtown Ann Arbor. It will be offered at public auction on Sept. 6.

And two of those items involve city ownership of land parcels – at opposite edges of downtown Ann Arbor. One of the properties is already owned by the city of  Ann Arbor – the parcel at 350 S. Fifth. Situated on the southern edge of downtown, it’s also known as the Fifth and William parking lot (because it’s currently used as a surface parking lot in the city’s public parking system) or the Old Y Lot (because it’s the location of the former YMCA building).

The resolution would direct the city administrator to evaluate the parcel for possible public or corporate use; and if none is found, to report back to the city council with a timeline for the disposition of the property – based on state and city laws and policies. The resolution, sponsored by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), is somewhat unlikely to gain much traction with the council. That’s because it explicitly indicates that the city administrator’s efforts are to be independent of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s Connecting William Street planning effort, which includes the 350 S. Fifth parcel.

The Connecting William Street project was undertaken by the DDA based on a directive from the city council, on a unanimous vote, given at its April 4, 2011 meeting. Kunselman voted for that planning effort to take place – but was also vocal at the time, as well as before, about his view that the Old Y lot should simply be put up for sale one way or another.

A second piece of property on the council’s Aug. 20 agenda is located on the northern edge of downtown at 414 N. Main St., near Beakes Street – the site of the old St. Nicholas Church. In 2006, owners of the site received approval for a planned unit development (PUD) zoning designation from the city council. The PUD would allow construction of The Gallery, an 11-story building (158 feet tall) that would include 224 parking spaces and 123 units of residential housing, 18 of which would meet the definition of affordable housing derived by a formula based on area median incomes.

That 414 N. Main property does not belong to the city. But the result of a foreclosure process has put it in the hands of another public entity – the Washtenaw County treasurer’s office. It’s being offered at public auction (on starting Sept. 6 through Sept. 11, at a price of $365,051. County treasurer Catherine McClary told The Chronicle in a phone interview that the price includes the demolition costs – and that she’s selected a demolition firm to start the work. Asbestos abatement is already underway, and the demolition itself is expected to begin before the auction, though it will likely not be complete by then, as it will take 15 days.

What would the council’s resolution on the 414 N. Main property actually do? It would start the process to change the PUD zoning to that of the surrounding property, which is D2 (downtown interface) – allowing a maximum building height of 60 feet. The resolution, also sponsored by Kunselman, gives as part of its rationale the fact that the original developer is no longer pursuing the project.

If the property doesn’t sell at the Sept. 6 auction, it will be offered at a second auction. If it doesn’t sell at the second auction, the property would revert to the city. The city could exercise a right of first refusal and acquire the property for the minimum $365,051 bid – but that would require the city to make the purchase for a “public purpose.”

After the jump, we provide a bit more detail on the 414 N. Main property. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Delays Budget Vote

Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 16, 2011): Ann Arbor’s city charter requires that the city council amend and adopt a city budget by its second meeting in May. If it fails to act, by default the unamended budget proposed in April by the city administrator is adopted.


During public commentary, Sue Maguire addressed the council on the topic of proposed reductions to the fire department. (Photos by the writer.)

But Monday, at its second meeting in May this year, the city council did not act, choosing instead to recess and continue the meeting the following week, on May 23. The decision to delay was prompted by uncertainty about revenue from the public parking system. The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the city were poised to ratify a new agreement on parking revenue on May 2, but that agreement was put off when questions were raised about the DDA tax increment finance (TIF) capture. The DDA later called a special meeting on Friday, May 20 to address that issue.

Even though the council did not act on the budget, most of the evening’s discussion was dominated by budget talk, including extensive public commentary on the proposed cuts in the police and fire departments. The council also got a briefing from its chief of police and interim fire chief, Barnett Jones, who responded to an article published in about fire department response times, calling the calculations presented in the piece inaccurate.

In addition to putting off action on the FY 2012 budget, the council also tabled decisions on human services funding, funding for a water system study, and fee increases for next year.

However, the council did transact some business. It authorized an increase in taxicab fares in light of rising gas prices. The council also approved neighborhood stabilization funds for demolition of three houses on North Main Street to prepare the site for construction of the Near North affordable housing project. Two large vehicle purchases – a street sweeper and a sewer truck – that had been postponed from the previous meeting were authorized.

The council also revised its administrative policy on how the 2006 parks millage is to be spent. Funds outside the general fund can count as general fund money for the purpose of the policy, as long as those funds are not drawn from the parks millage. The council also gave initial approval to an ordinance on design guidelines for new buildings downtown. [Full Story]