R4C Advisory Committee Re-Established

A citizens committee to provide input on changes to zoning in the R4C (multi-family) zoning category in the city of Ann Arbor has been reconstituted. The city council took the action at its July 1, 2013 meeting.

The re-establishment of the group comes after the planning commission had voted at its April 16, 2013 meeting to send recommendations to the city council for revisions to the R4C zoning areas – but without the actual wording of the ordinance changes.

The recommendations are described in two phases. The changes in the first phase are seen as somewhat less controversial, but still diverge in places from those of the advisory committee. For the first phase, the planning commission recommended:

  • Graduated parking requirements: Recommendations adopted by the planning commission are to change the parking requirements compared to the existing requirement of 1.5 spaces per unit. The planning commission recommendation is for 1.5 spaces per unit for 0-4 bedrooms, and 2 spaces per unit for 5-6 bedrooms.
  • Lot combinations need approval: Planning commission approval would be required for lot combinations in R4C districts, as part of a project’s site plan review. Review standards would be developed, as well as standards for design and massing, to ensure that new development is compatible with the neighborhood. [The advisory committee had recommended instituting a maximum lot size of 6,525 square feet, equal to an allowable density of three units. The consensus on the ordinance revisions committee (ORC) of the planning commission was that this maximum lot size would be too restrictive.]
  • Conflicting land use buffer for vehicle areas only: The only areas that would require screening would be those used for vehicles – such as areas used for parking. This recommendation essentially reverts to the requirements used prior to 2011, when the city instituted changes to its landscape ordinance. Those changes expanded the conflicting land use buffer requirement in R4C districts to apply to the screening of buildings, in addition to vehicular use areas. The change resulted in an increase in variance requests for redevelopment in R4C districts, given the small size of the lots. [The issue was not part of the advisory committee's recommendations.]
  • Further study of R2A district: Further study is called for to determine if the R2A lot size should be reduced to 6,000 square feet, allowing opportunities for duplex conversions. This number is based on the lot size requirement that was in place prior to 1984, when the requirement was raised to 8,500 square feet. [The advisory committee did not recommend zoning changes in the R2A district.]

Based on discussions among staff and the ORC at previous meetings attended by The Chronicle, these first-phase recommendations are seen as somewhat easier to implement, because it’s felt there’s general consensus on them.

A second phase would focus on creating a “group housing” zoning district, but that is recognized as controversial.

Any affirmative action by the council on the planning commission’s recommendations at this point would be to direct the planning commission to develop the ordinance language reflecting the recommendations. At that point, the planning commission would need to approve the proposed ordinance language, with final action still required by the council.

Membership on the reconstituted citizens advisory committee will include 12 people. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) will represent the planning commission. Chuck Carver will represent rental property owners. From the wards: Ilene Tyler and Ray Detter (Ward 1); Wendy Carman and Carl Luckenbach (Ward 2); Ellen Rambo and Michelle Derr (Ward 3); Julie Weatherbee and Nancy Leff (Ward 4); Eppie Potts and Anya Dale (Ward 5). Weatherbee will chair the group.

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]