Commercial Zoning for Biercamp: Initial OK

Zoning of two properties on South State Street – 1643 and 1645 S. State – as C1 (local business district) has received initial approval from the Ann Arbor city council. One of those properties houses Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky.

The currently unzoned parcels – located in Ward 4 just south of Stimson and the Produce Station – are owned by Stefan Hofmann. The site at 1645 S. State is used for storage. In addition to housing Biercamp, the parcel at 1643 S. State also includes an auto repair shop and furniture manufacturer, which is primarily a woodworking shop.

Action to give initial approval of the zoning came at the city council’s Jan. 21, 2014 meeting. A second vote by the council after a public hearing at a future meeting is required for final approval.

The zoning for these parcels, which were annexed into the city from Ann Arbor township in 2011, has previously been considered by the planning commission and the city council. That was when Biercamp owners Walt Hansen and Hannah Cheadle wanted to zone the property C3 (fringe commercial district), so their business could sell a wider variety of merchandise, including products not made on site.

When the property was annexed into the city from the township, the site had been zoned by the township for light industrial. The closest equivalent in the city’s zoning code was M-1 (limited industrial zoning). The city’s master plan – prior to the adoption of the South State Street corridor plan – called for light industrial zoning in that area, but M-1 zoning would only allow for retail space to occupy 20% of the building’s floor area, to sell products made on-site.

At its Sept. 8, 2011 meeting, the planning commission unanimously recommended denial of that C3 zoning request, based on the proposed zoning being inconsistent with the city’s master plan. The request was then made directly to the city council, which also denied the request at a meeting on Feb. 21, 2012.

At the time, planning commissioners also were advocating for a broader study of the State Street corridor. That study was subsequently completed, and on July 15, 2013, the city council adopted the South State Street corridor plan as an amendment to the master plan’s land use element.

According to a staff memo, the adoption of the corridor plan into the city’s master plan prompted city planning staff to initiate the current zoning request. The C1 zoning is consistent with recommendations in the master plan, which calls for a mixed-use neighborhood retail center in that area to serve the Yost and Burns Park neighborhoods.

C1 is a more restrictive type of zoning than C3, primarily related to limits on the size of a business. No drive-thru restaurants are allowed in C1 districts, and there’s an 8,000-square-foot limit on the size of a business, for example. There is no restriction in either C1 or C3 that limits the products sold to those that are made on-site.

The city’s planning commission recommended C1 zoning for these parcels at its Dec. 17, 2013 meeting.

During deliberations on Jan. 21, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) noted that the staff memo gave the historical perspective, but he hadn’t been sure if the proposal met Biercamp’s needs. So he had visited the business to get some jerky and to get a growler so that Sally Petersen (Ward 2) was clear about what a growler is. He then lifted a growler onto the table. [At a previous meeting – on Dec. 17, 2012 – Petersen had asked what a growler was. Typically it's a half-gallon jug for holding draft beer.]

Warpehoski told councilmembers that the Biercamp owners are supportive of the C-1 zoning.

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]