Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (June 18, 2013): The desire to make a proposed Hampton Inn more accessible to pedestrians and bicycles resulted in a unanimous vote by planning commissioners to postpone the project, located on Jackson Avenue near Weber’s Inn.
Commissioners had been asked to recommend approval of a “planned project” site plan, amended development agreement and modifications to the city’s landscaping requirements. This kind of project requires a public benefit, and commissioner Bonnie Bona argued strongly that the benefit should be a site that’s pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented. It’s especially important given Ann Arbor’s standing as one of the top 10 cities in the country for bicycle use, she said, and given that demand for pedestrian amenities will only increase. But as designed, sidewalks are an afterthought and their configuration within the site doesn’t make sense, Bona said. “There has got to be a better way.”
Bona said she couldn’t support this project unless the site plan addressed that design deficit. She proposed postponing it so that modifications could be explored, and other commissioners agreed – despite urging from the design team to recommend approval.
The meeting’s other main agenda item entailed adopting a master plan resolution and list of resource documents used to support the master plan. This is part of an annual evaluation of the master plan that’s required by the commission’s bylaws. Commissioners had held a public hearing on suggestions related to the master plan at their May 21, 2013.
Bona again brought forward a pedestrian-oriented issue, proposing to amend the list of resource documents to include the Allen Creek Greenway task force report from 2007. Commissioners unanimously approved that addition, along with two others: (1) the Downtown Vision and Policy Framework (known as the Calthorpe study), adopted in 2006; and (2) the Huron River Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP), as adopted in 2009. [.pdf of resource document list]
In other action, commissioners approved a work plan for the fiscal year starting July 1, identifying short-term as well as long-range projects. [.pdf of FY 2013-14 work plan] One high-priority project is the review of A2D2 zoning as directed by the city council, with a deadline of Oct. 1 to deliver recommendations to the council. The primary focus of that directive is the downtown D1-D2 zoning – especially in light of the controversial 413 E. Huron development, which the council recently approved. The plan is to bring in a consultant to manage that zoning review.
June 18 was the last meeting for planning commissioners Tony Derezinski and Eric Mahler. Mahler has been appointed to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, and attended his first board meeting for that group on June 20, 2013. Commissioners praised the two attorneys, citing their combination of practicality and forward thinking. “I feel like our ballast is leaving,” Bona said.
Mahler will be replaced by Paras Parekh, who was confirmed by the city council at its May 20, 2013 meeting. Parekh attended the planning commission’s June 18 meeting as an observer, and will be joining the group after July 1. Jeremy Peters has been nominated to replace Derezinski, and is expected to be confirmed by the council on July 1. Peters works in creative licensing and business affairs with Ghostly Songs.