Knight’s Market Project Moves to Council

An expansion plan for Knight’s Market – which includes converting a single-family home into a bakery – won a recommendation of approval from the Ann Arbor planning commission at its June 19, 2012 meeting. The vote was 6-1, with Erica Briggs dissenting. Commissioners Eric Mahler and Wendy Woods were absent. The rezoning and site plan requests will be considered next by city council.

The project had first been discussed, but ultimately postponed, at the commission’s May 15, 2012 meeting. The market is located at the northeast corner of Spring and Miller. The market’s owner, Ray Knight, also owns two separate, adjacent parcels. (Knight is perhaps best known for his family’s restaurant, Knight’s Steakhouse, located at 2324 Dexter Ave.) The grocery store is on land zoned C1 (local business) and M1 (light industrial). Another parcel at 306-308 Spring St. is zoned R2A (two-family dwelling) and M1, and contains two single-family homes and part of a parking lot. The third parcel at 310 Spring St. is zoned R2A and MI, and contains the other half of the store’s parking lot. All three parcels are currently non-conforming in some way, according to a staff report, and are located in the 100-year Allen Creek floodplain.

The proposal from Knight’s involves several steps. The request calls for 306, 308 and 310 Spring to be rezoned to C1. That rezoning would allow the building at 306 Spring to be converted into a bakery, although the intent is to leave the exterior of the house intact. The rezoning would also allow for approval of a site plan to build a 1,200-square-foot addition to the existing grocery store and to expand, reconfigure, and improve the existing parking lot. In addition, the plan requests that 418 Miller Ave. – the site of the existing grocery – also be rezoned to C1.

The proposed work to the parking lot includes providing three additional spaces (for a total of 17 parking spaces), a designated snow pile storage area, solid waste and recycling container storage enclosure, right-of-way screening, conflicting land use buffer, and rain gardens for storm water management. An unused curbcut on Miller Avenue would be removed and the curb and lawn extension would be restored there. A temporary storage building at 418 Miller would be removed. The house at 310 Spring would remain a single-family dwelling.

The staff report notes that a neighborhood meeting in September 2011 drew about 10 people, who raised concerns about the proposed bakery at 306 Spring, as well as possible future uses for adjacent land also owned by Knight at 314 and 422 Spring, which are not part of the current proposal. A public hearing held at the May 15 meeting drew 10 speakers, including several neighbors who praised the Knight family and their business, but expressed concerns about “commercial creep” and increased traffic. Commissioners echoed those concerns, including fears about what might happen if the ownership of the property changes hands.

Responding to those concerns, a planning staff memo states: “Commercial creep is not a desirable situation, but when it has occurred, it can be hard to argue that improvements should be taken out and everything should be undone … for the past 30 years, 306-308 and 310 Spring Street have been operating as a single mixed use site containing both residential uses and local commercial. Staff considers the proposed rezoning to be improving the site conditions of an existing situation, supporting the continued success of an established neighborhood, and striking a balance between varied land use goals. Further, any future expansion of commercial in this area would require the type of debate that characterizes this request.”

Several commissioners still expressed concerns, but felt comfortable enough to approve the rezoning and site plan. Only Briggs said the potential for future commercial expansion and other issues made it impossible for her to support the project.

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