Stories indexed with the term ‘group housing’

Rezoning for Delta Gamma Moves to Council

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Jan. 23, 2014): Only one project was on the agenda for consideration by the planning commission on Jan. 23: rezoning and an area plan for a house that the Delta Gamma sorority wants to convert into a residential annex.

Delta Gamma, Robb Bourroughs, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Members of the project team for 515 Oxford, which will be an annex to the Delta Gamma sorority. (Photos by the writer.)

The 515 Oxford property is near the main sorority house at 626 Oxford, and is currently split into three apartment units. Planning commissioners recommended approval of the request to rezone the parcel from R4A (multi-family dwelling) to R2B (two-family dwelling and student housing).

Additional approvals for the project itself will be required before the project’s construction work can begin.

The proposal for a renovation would accommodate a maximum of 20 residents, including a required resident manager. A special exception use will also be required to allow for a sorority use. That request will be made to the planning commission at a later date, along with a more detailed site plan.

The house was designed by architect George Brigham and built in 1940 as his home and studio. He designed over 40 houses in Ann Arbor, including many in Arbor Hills and Barton Hills. Planning staff reported that they were contacted about this site by a2modern, a group created to highlight mid-century modern architecture in Ann Arbor. On Jan. 23, the group posted a “statement of concern” about the proposal on its website.

At the planning commission meeting, Robb Burroughs, the project’s architect, said that until they were alerted by a2modern, the design team hadn’t been aware of the site’s history. They’ve now done research at the Bentley Historical Library and have met with a representative from a2modern, and are working on the site plan to preserve to the greatest extent possible the exterior view of the house.

The rezoning request and area plan, which commissioners also recommended for approval, will now be considered by the city council.

In other action on Jan. 23, commissioners voted to recommend that the city council reappoint Kirk Westphal as the planning commission’s representative to the environmental commission. Westphal, who chairs the planning commission, did not participate in the vote, and vice chair Wendy Woods led the meeting as the commission acted on that item.

During communications time, planning manager Wendy Rampson noted that the city council had passed a resolution at its Jan. 21, 2014 meeting regarding the downtown zoning review. The council has directed the planning commission to develop ordinance language that would enact the commission’s recommendations for zoning revisions, with a deadline of Oct. 20, 2014. The commission’s ordinance revisions committee will meet on Feb. 4, before the regular planning commission meeting, to start figuring out how to implement these council directions.

In other communications, Bonnie Bona reported that the energy commission plans to propose a commercial energy disclosure ordinance for the city council’s consideration. They’d like the planning commission to consider a resolution in support of that. An energy disclosure ordinance would require owners of certain properties to report how much energy their buildings use. [Full Story]

Rezoning Recommended for Delta Gamma Annex

At its Jan. 23, 2014 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission recommended approval of a rezoning request and area plan for 515 Oxford, to convert a house for use as an annex to the Delta Gamma sorority. The main sorority house is located nearby at 626 Oxford.

Delta Gamma, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing the location of 515 Oxford, south of Geddes.

The request, supported by the city’s planning staff, is to rezone the parcel from R4A (multi-family dwelling) to R2B (two-family dwelling and student housing). Most of the surrounding parcels are also zoned R2B. The building is currently a rental property with three … [Full Story]

R4C/R2A Committee Focuses Its Work

Ann Arbor R4C/R2A advisory committee meeting (Aug. 28, 2013): At its second of four meetings since being reconstituted by the city council this summer, the committee tasked with giving advice on possible changes to the R4C/R2A residential zoning districts moved closer to prioritizing final recommendations to deliver to the planning commission and city council.

Julie Weatherbee, R4C, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Julie Weatherbee is chair of the R4C/R2A advisory committee, which met most recently on Aug. 28, 2013. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 11. (Photos by the writer.)

Two main priorities have emerged as areas of concern: lot combinations, and a proposed “group housing” overlay district. Parking is also a concern, but several committee members noted that there isn’t time to reach consensus about parking recommendations. Only two more two-hour meetings are scheduled – on Sept. 11 and Sept. 25.

The committee’s original report had recommended imposing a maximum lot size of 6,525 square feet. This would limit the ability of a developer to combine lots in order to build larger structures. It would be a way to limit the size of developments within R4C districts.

The planning commission’s ordinance revisions committee made a different recommendation, however, which was adopted by the full commission. Rather than requiring a specific lot size limit, lot combinations would be approved on a case-by-case basis. Review standards would be developed, as well as standards for design and massing, to ensure that new development is compatible with the neighborhood. The planning commission has not yet developed details of how what standards would be used. Advisory committee members didn’t like this approach, saying that it seemed too arbitrary.

There are even fewer details at this point about a proposed group housing district, which planning commissioners envision as a future phase of R4C ordinance revisions. The planning commission recommendations call for a new zoning overlay district, located south and west of the University of Michigan’s central campus. It would be roughly an area outlined in the city’s Central Area Plan, but with final boundaries to be determined. [.pdf of Central Area Plan] The idea is to address issues that are somewhat unique to neighborhoods with a large amount of student housing.

In general, the new district would be intended to allow for flexibility by putting limits on density, but with premiums provided in exchange for community benefits such as pedestrian-friendly character and conformance with architectural design standards. For example, parking might be based on a building’s total floor-area ratio (FAR), independent of the number of units in a structure. The commission’s recommendations call for details of this new district to be fleshed out in a second phase, after other ordinance changes are made that are seen as more straightforward.

Advisory committee members were extremely skeptical of this approach, which one member characterized as “redlining.” Targeting housing for a particular type of resident – in this case, students – made many members uncomfortable. There was also uncertainty about the exact intention behind the recommendation.

Committee members have invited planning commissioner Bonnie Bona, who also serves on the commission’s ordinance revisions committee, to attend their Sept. 11 meeting. Their hope is to get clarity about the commission’s recommendations, as well as the intent behind those recommendations.

Several committee members stated that their overarching goal is to protect the character and integrity of existing neighborhoods, and to prevent older houses from being demolished. That’s the scenario that unfolded when seven houses were torn down along South Fifth Avenue to make way for the City Place apartments – a controversial development that was part of the impetus for the R4C/R2A review. [Full Story]