Council on S. University Rezoning: No

At its April 16, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted unanimously to reject a request to conditionally rezone 1320 S. University – from D2 (downtown interface) to D1 (downtown core).

The conditions on the D1 designation would have included restrictions on height and floor area that are less than what’s allowed in “unconditioned” D1. For example, the by-right height limit in D1 is 180 feet, but one condition the owner of the property – Philip Sotiroff – wanted to place on the property was a 145-foot height limit.

That 145-foot limit, however, is more than twice the limit of the parcel’s current D2 zoning, which allows buildings only as tall as 60 feet. Currently at the site – on the south side of South University, between Forest and Washtenaw avenues – is the three-story Park Plaza apartment building.

The site is adjacent to a D1 parcel to the east, where the Landmark apartment building is being constructed, at 601 S. Forest. But the 1320 S. University property also abuts lower-density residential zoning. Single-family homes are located to the south of the site, and a fraternity is located to the west.

The South University area was an intensely debated part of the A2D2 downtown rezoning initiative, which the city council finally ratified on Nov. 16, 2009 after more than two years of planning work. As part of that process, the city planning commission had initially recommended a zoning map that assigned D1 zoning to the 1320 S. University parcel. The city council subsequently drew the lines differently, which resulted in a D2 designation for the parcel, and sent the map back to the planning commission. The planning commission then revised some parts of its map, including the designation for 1320 S. University.

More recently, at its Feb. 7, 2012 meeting, planning commissioners voted unanimously not to recommend that 1320 S. University be rezoned from D2 to D1.

The city council’s vote was just its initial consideration of the request – a “first reading.” A rezoning request, like any ordinance change, requires initial approval, followed by a public hearing and a final approval at a subsequent meeting. But often, councilmembers will advance an ordinance change to a second reading, if they have not settled on a position and are interested in hearing the sentiments that might be expressed at a public hearing. So the fact that the council rejected the proposal on first reading can be taken as a measure of the council’s strong opposition to changing the zoning that was agreed on as part of the A2D2 process.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]