Planning Commission: 5-2 for Near North

Potts finishes second term on planning commission

A little more than four hours after the Ann Arbor city planning commission meeting had started, planning commissioners voted – to extend their deliberations past 11 p.m.  And a bit before midnight, the body voted on the Near North planned unit development project proposed for North Main Street. Although the vote was 5-2 to recommend approval to the city council, that outcome counted as a “technical denial.” At least six votes are required in order for planning commission to make a recommendation to council.

After the meeting, developer Bill Godfrey told The Chronicle that he intended to bring the project forward to the city council despite the technical denial, pointing out that two of the commission’s members had been absent for that evening’s vote – Craig Borum and Tony Derezinski. Derezinski (Ward 2) is the city council’s representative on the planning commission.

The meeting marked the final planning commission meeting for Ethel Potts, who has served two 3-year terms on the body. 

[Previous Chronicle coverage of Near North] The project, which is a collaboration between Avalon Housing and Three Oaks Group, proposes 40 units (44 bedrooms total) to be built in a five-story apartment building with 2,950 square feet of commercial space and 1,645 square feet of  office space attached to the building. Forty parking spaces would be provided below the building, with an additional 10 spaces not under the building.

All of the units are proposed to be affordable under Michigan State Housing Development Authority standards, which targets rents for income levels at or below 50% of annual median income. In addition, 14 of the units are designated as “supportive housing” for individuals having no more than 30% of AMI.

The project would require demolition of  eight existing single-family houses, two of which stand in the floodway. The removal of the houses in the floodway is counted by the city as a benefit.

Consideration of Near North had been postponed from the commission’s May 5, 2009 meeting. Although a public hearing was conducted at that meeting, a new public hearing was held last night, because the developer had made revisions to the plans, based on city planning staff feedback. Chief among the revisions were (i) the modification of the building shape from a U-shape to an L-shape to increase the setback of the structure from Fourth Avenue houses, and (ii) removal of the two houses at the north end of the parcel – they’d been previously proposed to be left in place.

At  both public hearings there was thorough and voluminous participation on the part of the public. Supporters of the project typically focused on the benefit of the affordable housing component. Detractors focused on the large scale of the building that is proposed.

After they had voted on the Near North project, as the hour drew near to midnight, planning commissioners went around the table expressing their appreciation for Ethel Potts’ service on the body. Jean Carlberg called her friend, with whom she’d disagreed on many planning issues over the years, a “faithful warrior” for protection of neighborhood character. Carlberg concluded: “I will miss you greatly.”


  1. By Dave Askins
    June 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm | permalink

    I neglected to include in this report the name of Potts’ replacement on the planning commission: Erica Briggs. That name will be familiar to some readers as the former director of the getDowntown program. She preceded Nancy Shore, and followed Brandt Coultas in that position.

  2. June 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm | permalink

    Glad this proposal did not get approval.

    Sorry to say, but not unexpected by this developer leaning planning commission and city government, that they failed to even hear cautions of there own staff who recommended denial of this proposal.

    The city was warned in writing by the MDEQ, a few years ago, for dealing ‘willy nilly’ with floodplain and floodway regulations which put all homeowners in the floodplain and floodway in jeopardy of losing home loans as their federal flood insurance could be withdrawn, not to mention the dangers of life, health and property.

    The developer has proposed unjustified changes and obstructions in the floodway which is highly regulated and will cause more flooding upstream of their unsuspected neighbors. Who will pay the real costs of this development?

    This is not to mention the fact that the city really has little knowledge of the location of the real floodway and floodplain. This could be easily remedied if the city wanted. With the latest Federal study on June 16, that global warming is now causing more intense rain events in the Midwest, it becomes more critical.

    These are not just my comments, read the online staff report.

    This proposal should ALSO be rejected by council.

  3. June 18, 2009 at 6:09 pm | permalink

    The many citizens of Ann Arbor who know and admire “Eppie” Potts throughout her many, many years of standing up for neighborhoods will also greatly miss her presence on Planning Commission! All the best, Eppie!

  4. By susan wineberg
    June 22, 2009 at 5:28 pm | permalink

    I too will miss Eppie’s voice and passion on the Planning Commission..Let’s hope we can find another place for her to apply her talents.