Action on Germain Expansion Postponed

A proposal to expand two buildings and the parking area for Germain Motors – the former Howard Cooper dealership on South State Street – was postponed by Ann Arbor planning commissioners at their Nov. 19, 2013 meeting. Planning staff had recommended postponement, to allow the owners to address staff feedback on the project.

Germain Motors, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of Germain Motors site, outlined in green. South State Street is on the left (west) side of this property. Expansion is proposed for the two smaller buildings on the north and center of the site that fronts South State.

The proposal calls for a 4,877-square-foot addition to the Volkswagen building on the northern portion of the State Street frontage, bringing the total square footage to 18,722 for that structure. A 6,429-square-foot addition is proposed for the Porsche/Audi building, in the center of the site, which would create a total building size of 31,097 square feet. The site’s third building, housing the Honda dealership on the southern part of the property, would remain at 36,101 square feet.

Also, the owner – Steve Germain, who attended the Nov. 19 meeting with several members of the project team – would like to add 248 parking spaces, bringing the total number of spaces to 1,039. The new spaces would be in three locations: (1) along the southern half of the South State Street frontage; (2) along the Oakbrook Drive frontage; and (3) in the rear car storage lots. The proposal would require three variances from Chapter 59 (off-street parking) in order to allow tandem parking, to reduce the aisle widths, and to exceed the maximum percentage (30%) of allowable small car parking spaces.

The owner also wants a variance from Chapter 62 (landscaping) to eliminate the requirement for interior landscape islands in the car inventory and display areas.

The total expansion is estimated to cost $5.5 million. In a staff memo, city planners called the project an upgrade to the appearance of the site, but also cited several concerns.

The work would result in the loss of three out of four landmark trees on the property, to be mitigated by planting 11 additional trees. City staff were concerned by that reduction in landmark trees, as well as by the proposed request for planting fewer interior landscaping trees. Another concern was the additional amount of impervious surface that would be created by this expansion.

That was also an issue cited by the Malletts Creek coordinating committee, a group that includes representatives from the city, the office of the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner, the Huron River Watershed Council, and Pittsfield Township. That committee, which is focused on improving the condition of the Malletts Creek watershed, felt that a variance might be justified or mitigated only if the project included offsetting stormwater management on the site – such as green roofs, sand filters, or other low-impact development techniques.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, where the planning commission holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]