Rezoning for 2271 S. State Denied

Following advice from city staff, the Ann Arbor planning commission voted to recommend denial of a rezoning request for 2271 S. State St., where owners would like to locate an auto dealership. The vote was 1-8, drawing support only from Eric Mahler. However, the commission did waive an area plan requirement for the site, an action that will allow for a certain amount of auto sales at that location. The waiver was approved on a 7-2 vote, with dissent from Kirk Westphal and Wendy Woods.

The project had previously been on the commission’s Dec. 18, 2012 agenda, when action was postponed.

The 2.24-acre site is located on the east side of South State, across the street from a University of Michigan tennis facility. Most recently, Pilar’s Tamales restaurant was located there, though that building is now vacant. The owner, Capital Investment Co., requested rezoning from M1 (limited industrial) to M1A (limited light industrial) so that an auto dealership could be located there. The plan calls for renovating an existing 1,868-square-foot building that fronts South State, to use as a sales office, while using the rear warehouse as an auto repair shop. Repaired cars would be stored and sold in the front parking lot.

The city’s master plan discourages commercial uses along South State, except for the sites adjacent to the Stimson and South Industrial commercial area. And a new corridor plan for South State recommends a mix of office and residential uses for that area. Earlier in the May 21, 2013 meeting, commissioners had voted to recommend adding the South State Street Corridor plan to the city’s master plan, as an amendment to the plan’s land use element.

The only speaker during a public hearing was local attorney Scott Munzel, representing the owner. Among other things, he noted that the intent is for a small, non-conventional auto dealership. The site isn’t conducive to a traditional dealership – it’s long and narrow, and difficult to develop, especially in the current market. He indicated that it would likely be a short-term use until the site is developed for a different purpose.

Some commissioners leaned toward approval, saying it would be good to have some kind of use on the long-vacant site. But others expressed concern that it didn’t fit with the goals of the corridor, and that it could set a precedent for other rezoning requests.

According to a staff memo, regardless of the outcome of the rezoning request, the owner still needs to resolve several compliance issues related to the existing site plan, including lack of required landscaping, an unfinished building foundation, deteriorated driveways, and stormwater drainage problems. Owners also need to submit a re-occupancy permit that would require approval by the city’s building department, and the site would need to be brought into compliance before a new business could open there. The property is located in Ward 4.

It would be possible for the owner to bring the rezoning request to city council, even though it received a recommendation of denial by the planning commission.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 N. Main. A more detailed report will follow: [link]