County Board Postpones Action on Platt Road Site

Washtenaw County commissioners have postponed a resolution that would have created an advisory group to look at options for the county-owned Platt Road site in Ann Arbor, where the old juvenile center was located. The action occurred after more than an hour of debate at their Sept. 4, 2013 meeting, which adjourned at 11:30 p.m.

The idea of an advisory committee to help with the dispensation of this property was first floated at the board’s July 10, 2013 meeting, as part of a final vote on an overall strategic space plan for county facilities. The space plan proposed demolishing the former juvenile center and exploring redevelopment of the site at 2260 and 2270 Platt Road for affordable housing, alternative energy solutions, and county offices. Details of how the advisory committee would be appointed, as well as the committee’s formal mission, was an item to be worked out for a board vote at a later date.

Those details were brought forward on Sept. 4. The original resolution called for a nine-member committee with the following composition:

  • 2 county commissioners
  • 1 Ann Arbor city councilmember
  • 2 residents from the adjacent neighborhood
  • The executive director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission [Jennifer L. Hall]
  • The director of Washtenaw County parks & recreation [Bob Tetens]
  • The director of the Washtenaw County office of community and economic development [Mary Jo Callan]
  • The Washtenaw County infrastructure management director [Greg Dill]

The timeline called for at least three committee meetings with a consultant later this year to develop the community design process, followed by public workshops in January of 2014. A final plan with recommendations would be completed and presented to the county board by May of 2014.

The proposal was heavily oriented toward the option of putting affordable housing on that site, which raised concerns for several commissioners. A staff memo listed several elements that would be explored, including: (1) affordable rental housing by the Ann Arbor housing commission; (2) an affordable housing green demonstration pilot project; (3) connection to the adjacent County Farm Park; (4) ReImagine Washtenaw Avenue design principles; and (5) other identified community priorities, such as geothermal, solar panels or community gardens.

According to the staff memo, this visioning work will be funded by $100,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, with funds to support the development of affordable housing. The money was part of a $3 million federal grant awarded to the county in 2011 and administered by the county’s office of community & economic development (OCED).

Brett Lenart, OCED’s housing and infrastructure manager, was on hand to field questions, and told commissioners that the Platt Road site seemed like a good opportunity to marry a county asset with the affordable housing goals supported by the grant. However, Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) spoke at length about his concerns regarding the amount of money being used for this process, when there were other needs in the community. He also felt that the option of selling the property – which he said might bring in $2 million – should be explored. Other commissioners also expressed interest in exploring a broader set of options, beyond affordable housing.

An amendment that added four slots to the committee for Washtenaw County residents, including at least one with experience in real estate, passed on a 6-3 vote, over dissent from Peterson, Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) and Andy LaBarre (D-District 7). LaBarre had been instrumental in crafting the original resolution. The site is located in his district.

After further debate, board chair Yousef Rabhi suggested tabling the item until the board’s Sept. 18 meeting. Dan Smith (R-District 2) moved to postpone the resolution, and that motion was passed unanimously. Rabhi directed Greg Dill, the county’s infrastructure management director, to work with commissioners and staff to bring forward an alternative resolution on Sept. 18.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main. A more detailed report will follow: [link]