Germain Motors Project Gets Planning OK

A proposed expansion for Germain Motors – an auto dealership on South State Street, formerly Howard Cooper Imports – was recommended for approval by Ann Arbor planning commissioners at their Dec. 17, 2013 meeting. The item had previously been postponed by commissioners on Nov. 19, 2013.

Commissioners recommended approval of the project’s site plan, subject to variances for modifications related to parking lot and landscaping requirements. Those variances will be considered by the city’s zoning board of appeals. Commissioners also approved landscape modifications that would reduce the requirement – outlined in Chapter 62 of the city code – for depressed landscape islands within the site.

The planning staff had supported a recommendation of approval on Dec. 17, noting that the owner had addressed several issues that had previously raised concerns. Changes from the plan presented on Nov. 19 include:

  • Adding 5,027 square feet of porous pavers to be installed in the expanded vehicle display areas along State Street and Oakbrook Drive.
  • Adding eight new depressed landscape islands to the parking storage areas in the back of the site. The changes means a loss of about 24 parking spaces.
  • Changing the landscape modification request. The original request had included reducing the number of required trees to be planted on site by eight. The owner now plans to plant all of the required trees.

The project’s architect also explored the possibility of adding a “green” (vegetated) roof, but ultimately determined that it wasn’t feasible without making significant changes to the existing buildings. The question of whether the architect had considered a green roof to help with stormwater management was raised on Nov. 19.

Other parts of the proposed project, which is located in Ward 4, are unchanged. It 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 total expansion is estimated to cost $5.5 million. It will now be forwarded to the city council for consideration.

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