Ann Arbor city planning commissioners met earlier this month in a work session focused on two main issues: (1) evaluating the city’s planning manager, Wendy Rampson, and planning staff, and (2) laying out the work plan for both staff and the commission in the coming fiscal year.
The evaluation was positive, with most of the discussion focused on increasing collaboration with the city council and other city boards and commissions. The possibility of holding a joint session with members of the city council was raised, though some commissioners expressed skepticism about it. Ken Clein noted the challenge would be to avoid posturing by councilmembers, saying it might be difficult to have a productive discussion in a public forum. Wendy Woods observed that sometimes the planning commission is used for political cover. If a joint session is “just for show,” she said, then planning commissioners have better ways to spend their time.
Sabra Briere, a Ward 1 councilmember who serves on the planning commission, cited some benefits for a joint session: “If you want to work with council, sitting in the same room and at least getting a sense of where this year’s crop of councilpeople are can’t hurt – and it can help the council.”
Regarding the work plan, commissioners identified projects and issues to tackle in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, as well as longer-range goals.
The most pressing of those short-term projects is the review of A2D2 zoning as directed by the city council, with a deadline of Oct. 1 to deliver recommendations to council. The primary focus of that is the downtown D1-D2 zoning, especially in light of the controversial 413 E. Huron development, which the council recently approved. Rampson said the plan is to bring in a consultant to manage that zoning review, because the planning staff right now doesn’t have the capacity to take it on. It also helps to have someone look at the issue from a fresh perspective, she said.
Other projects for the coming fiscal year include: (1) developing an action plan for the city’s sustainability framework; (2) completing the Zoning Ordinance Reorganization (ZORO) effort; (3) recommending amendments to the R4C/R2A zoning districts; (4) working on certification for the state’s “Redevelopment Ready Communities” program; and (5) making amendments to the city’s master plan for two corridors plans – Washtenaw Avenue and North Main/Huron River.
Several longer-term efforts are on the commission’s work plan too, including amendments to the city’s accessory dwelling unit ordinance and neighborhood outreach.
Commissioners voted to approve the work plan at their regular meeting on June 18.