Heritage Row Has Glimmer of Hope

At its Oct. 3, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council reconsidered the Heritage Row planned unit development (PUD) for South Fifth Avenue, after declining to do so almost a year ago – on Dec. 6, 2010. This time around the council successfully suspended the council rules to allow for the reconsideration, and voted unanimously to reconsider the project and then to postone it until the council’s Oct. 17 meeting.

At that Oct. 17 meeting, the city staff will have worked with the developer to incorporate the developer’s various requests into the site plan and zoning for the project. The last version of Heritage Row considered by the council would preserve the seven houses and construct three new apartment buildings behind them. The developers’ current requests include eliminating any on-site parking requirement, increasing the number of residents, relaxing the energy standards, and not making a commitment to the historical preservation of the existing seven houses. [.pdf of letter from developer]

If councilmembers give initial approval of Heritage Row at the Oct. 17 meeting, the council would then hold a public hearing and take a second and final vote at an additional meeting on Oct. 24. The council, as part of the set of resolutions passed on Monday in connection with the project, modified its calendar to add the extra meeting, calling it a “regular” meeting. The city charter requires that second and final approval of any ordinance be voted at a “regular meeting” of the council. Later in the Oct. 3 meeting, the council voted to suspend its rule on the scheduling of regular meetings, which specifies the first and third Monday of the month.

The most recent last-ditch effort to reconsider the Heritage Row project, after it was rejected multiple times in multiple versions, failed at the council’s Dec. 6, 2010 meeting. At that meeting, councilmembers seemed poised to suspend council rules to allow another reconsideration, but the vote to suspend council rules failed.

As of mid-September, the developer – previously Alex de Parry’s Fifth Avenue Limited Partnership, but now City Place Ann Arbor, LLC – was proceeding with pre-construction meetings for a different development that has already been approved by the council: City Place. City Place calls for the demolition of seven houses and the construction of two apartment buildings separated by a parking lot, with 24 total dwelling units – each with six bedrooms.

In other action by the council at its Oct. 3 meeting, councilmembers modified the original development agreement for City Place to relieve the timeline pressure on the developer to start utilities work immediately. The original agreement was standard for the city of Ann Arbor. It called for utilities work on water mains and storm sewers to be completed before construction could start.

The revised agreement on City Place doesn’t require the utilities work to be completed until later – before a certificate of occupancy is issued. So the revision gives the developer added flexibility to enter into negotiations with the city on the re-submittal of Heritage Row, which would require different utilities work.

This brief was filed shortly after the city council’s meeting concluded. A more detailed report will follow: [link]