Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Oct. 15, 2013): Planning commissioners continued a discussion that began at their Oct. 8 working session over proposed changes to downtown zoning. But they took no action and will pick up the topic at their next meeting, on Nov. 6.
Running Fit building at East Liberty and Fourth Avenue. A proposal calls for building three additional floors for apartments or condos. The adjacent building owner is concerned about blocking the three windows – barely visible in this photo – that are in apartments facing over the current one-story building. (Photos by the writer.)
Questions and comments covered a range of issues, including potential conflict of interest over a lot next to city hall that’s owned by the University of Michigan Credit Union. Five commissioners are UMCU members, and the credit union president objects to a proposed rezoning of the site. Other discussion points included affordable housing premiums, the use of diagonals as a tool for influencing the shape of tall buildings, and concerns over rezoning public land.
Ten people spoke during a public hearing on the zoning review. Before the hearing began, planning commission chair Kirk Westphal stated that the hearing would likely continue at a future meeting, but that speakers would be allowed only one turn during the entire hearing – either that night, or at a subsequent meeting. Midway through the hearing, Sabra Briere raised an objection to Westphal’s ruling, and commissioners spent about 20 minutes debating the issue. The commission ultimately voted to allow for people to speak more than once when the public hearing is continued, over the objection of Westphal, Diane Giannola and Wendy Woods.
Consultant Erin Perdu of ENP & Associates attended the Oct. 15 meeting and answered questions from commissioners, but her contract for this project has now expired. Planning manager Wendy Rampson indicated that any additional work from Perdu would require city council approval.
In addition to the downtown zoning review, two development projects were on the Oct. 15 agenda. Commissioners recommended approval of an three-floor addition to the Running Fit building at East Liberty and South Fourth. The expansion will create six residential units.
During a public hearing on the project, Ali Almiri – who owns the adjacent building to the west at 119 E. Liberty – raised concerns that three bedroom windows in his building’s residential rental units would be blocked by this new structure. He and his attorney urged that the new project be required to accommodate those existing windows. The issue will continue to be investigated by planning staff, building staff and possibly the city attorney’s office prior to the project’s consideration by the city council.
Another proposal – related to plans for two new restaurants at Briarwood Mall, on the east side of Macy’s – was postponed, because of several outstanding issues that still need to be resolved.
During public commentary, Alex Perlman, a co-owner of the food carts The Beet Box and Cheese Dream, highlighted a project at 1215 S. University – the former location of Pinball Pete’s, which burned down in 2009. The project, called Eat the Hub, would repurpose the space as a temporary food cart yard that would accommodate between three to six carts. Perlman noted that current city ordinances “don’t reflect the ever-changing landscape that mobile food businesses require.” He said he’d appreciate any help to move this project forward. [Full Story]