County Forms Advisory Group for Platt Road Site

After postponing action at its Sept. 4, 2013 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted on Sept. 18 to create a 13-member advisory group to look at options for the county-owned Platt Road site in Ann Arbor, where the old juvenile center was located. The vote was 6-0, with three commissioners absent: Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6).

The original resolution brought forward on Sept. 4 was developed with guidance from commissioner Andy LaBarre (D-District 7), who represents the district where the property is located. It 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]

During deliberations on Sept. 4, the committee structure was amended to include four additional Washtenaw County residents, including at least one with real estate experience.

The idea of an advisory committee to help with the dispensation of this property – at 2260 and 2270 Platt Road – was first discussed at the board’s July 10, 2013 meeting. It was included in an overall strategic space plan for county facilities, which proposed demolishing the former juvenile center and exploring redevelopment of the site 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.

On Sept. 4, a debate on the advisory committee proposal lasted about an hour, with concerns raised about the resolution’s focus on affordable housing. 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 that 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).

On Sept. 4, several commissioners expressed interest in exploring a broader set of options, beyond affordable housing – including the possible sale of the property. Ultimately, the item was postponed. Board chair Yousef Rabhi had directed Greg Dill, the county’s infrastructure management director, to work with commissioners and staff to bring forward an alternative resolution on Sept. 18.

However, when the Sept. 18 agenda was posted online, the resolution remained unchanged, aside from the amendment made on Sept. 4.

A couple of hours prior to the start of the Sept. 18 meeting, LaBarre emailed commissioners and The Chronicle with a substitute resolution that he brought forward during the meeting. It was much more general in its direction, stripping out most of the details related to the affordable housing focus. In addition to the composition of the community advisory committee (CAC), the new resolution’s main directive was stated this way:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Commissioners directs the CAC to provide recommendations to the Board of Commissioners relative to disposition, including an alternatives analysis; and preferred methods of community engagement for the Board of Commissioners to undertake during the disposition process;

The resolution also set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2013 for the committee to deliver its analysis and recommendations to the board. [.pdf of substitute resolution]

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