Housing on Catherine St. Gets Planning OK

The rezoning and site plan for a three-story townhouse with five housing units at 922-926 Catherine St. was recommended for approval at the July 17, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor planning commission. The two vacant parcels are on the south side of Catherine between Ingalls and Glen, across from the University of Michigan School of Nursing building. The lots are located in the Old Fourth Ward historic district.

The development – which according to the owner, Tom Fitzsimmons, will be marketed to students, UM employees, young homebuyers, and empty nesters – entails rezoning the parcels from PUD (planned unit development) to R4C (multi-family residential). The PUD zoning is tied to a previous development that was approved but never built. The current site plan is contingent on approval from the city’s zoning board of appeals for variances from the conflicting land use buffer requirement. The two lots must also be combined as a condition before the city issues building permits.

Five garages would be part of the development, with nine parking spaces and bike storage located below the townhouses. A 24-foot-wide curb cut is proposed off Catherine Street for a driveway, which would run along the east side of the site leading to the garages.

The proposed building and site layout plans were approved by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission on April 12, 2012. The planning commission also recommended approval of the variance from the city’s zoning board of appeals related to the conflicting land use buffer requirement.

During public commentary, several neighbors – including residents of the nearby Catherine Commons condominiums – spoke in support of the project. However, some of them raised concerns about backups in the stormwater system, which is already a problem along Catherine Street. Staff indicated that those issues are likely tied to design flaws on the site of Catherine Commons. Members of the development team told commissioners that an underground stormwater detention system on the site could improve the situation, and at the least would not make it worse.

The project will next be considered for approval by the city council .

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall at 301 E. Huron, where the planning commission meetings are held. A more detailed report will follow.