Chalmers Place Parking Plan Rejected

At its May 1, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission recommended denial of three resolutions related to a  proposal for Chalmers Place, at 2090 Chalmers Drive near the intersection with Washtenaw Avenue: (1) rezoning a vacant lot from R1B (single-family residential) to P (parking); (2) authorizing the disturbance of a 25-foot natural features open space; and (3) a site plan for the parking lot. The site is west of Arborland Mall. All votes were 1-7, with support only from commission chair Eric Mahler. Bonnie Bona was absent.

The city’s planning staff had also recommended denial of the proposal because it did not conform to the city’s master plan for that area, and because a parking lot would cause greater disturbance to the site’s natural features than a single-family residential development would. The city received seven letters from nearby residents – including one from the Woodcreek Homeowners Association – opposing the proposal, citing safety and other concerns. Eighteen people spoke during a public hearing on the proposal, including the owner, Len Nadolski of Howell; two managers of stores in the complex; and 11 residents who opposed the project.

The plan called for building a 43-space parking lot on the .92-acre site, which is now vacant. Most of the parking would be used by employees of the Chalmers Place Retail Center at 3365 Washtenaw Ave., located south of this site. Nadolski and his representatives argued that they can’t fully lease the stores at the retail center without additional parking. Ten to twelve spots would be set aside for park-and-ride commuters using the AATA bus stop on Washtenaw Avenue.

Several commissioners expressed sympathy for the owner, but did not feel that the situation warranted overriding the master plan, and that it wasn’t in the best long-term interests of the neighborhood. Erica Briggs said the situation highlighted the need for the city to partner with businesses and find a better solution to this problem. She said it added urgency to plans to make the Washtenaw Avenue corridor more safe and amenable to walking and biking.

Mahler said that he normally wouldn’t support a proposal that was essentially spot zoning, but in this case he supported the plan because he didn’t see any viable alternatives for the owner.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St., where the planning commission holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]