North Maple Low-Income Housing Gets OK

After being postponed at the Ann Arbor planning commission’s June 3, 2014 meeting, a proposal by the Ann Arbor housing commission to expand low-income housing on North Maple Road has been recommended for approval.

North Maple Estates, Ann Arbor housing commission, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of North Maple Estates site, outlined in green.

At its meeting on June 17, planning commissioners recommended rezoning a 4.8-acre site at 701 N. Maple Road from R1C (single-family dwelling district) to R4B (multi-family dwelling district). Commissioners also recommended a site plan and development agreement for the project – part of a major renovation effort by the Ann Arbor housing commission. The site is on the west side of North Maple, between Dexter Avenue and Hollywood Drive. [.pdf of staff report]

The plan calls for demolishing 20 existing single-family homes – the public housing complex known as North Maple Estates – and constructing an eight-building, 42-unit apartment complex with a total of 138 bedrooms. The units range in size from one bedroom to five bedrooms.

The project would include a playground, community building and 73 parking spaces. According to a staff memo, the buildings would be located along a T-shaped driveway that connects to North Maple Road and Dexter Avenue. The drive extends northward toward Vine Court but does not connect with that street. There would be a new connection to Dexter Avenue through the remaining, undeveloped length of Seybold Drive.

The project also requires the city to vacate a portion of the right-of-way for Seybold Drive. The surrounding land is owned by the housing commission, so if the right-of-way vacation is approved, the land would become part of the housing commission property. In a separate vote, the planning commission also recommended approving that request.

On June 3, several nearby residents had raised concerns about the project, including issues with security, impact on adjacent property, and traffic exiting onto Dexter Avenue. In addition, the planning staff had recommended postponement so that the housing commission staff could address some outstanding issues with the project. On June 17, the planning staff recommended approval and noted that housing commission staff and the project’s team had talked with residents after the June 3 meeting to address concerns. Five people spoke during the June 17 public hearing, either asking questions or expressing support.

Planning staff noted three issues that need to be resolved before the project gets approval from city council:

The parcel containing two duplex buildings also owned by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission in the northeast corner of the site must be combined with the subject site, forming a single parcel as a requirement for issuance of any permits.

The legal description and comparison chart data must be confirmed to include the duplex parcel.

The northern-most parking stall, nearest the connection to Vine Court, must be relocated outside of the minimum front setback area.

According to the staff memo, after June 3 the city’s traffic engineer reviewed the proposed new connection from Seybold Drive onto Dexter Avenue, and concluded that sight distances from all approaches are acceptable. He suggested that the pavement markings on Dexter should be refreshed.

The project will be forwarded to the city council for consideration.

The reconstruction of North Maple Estates is part of an ongoing effort by the housing commission to upgrade the city’s housing stock for low-income residents. At the planning commission’s May 6, 2014 meeting, AAHC executive director Jennifer Hall had made a presentation about the initiative, which includes seeking private investors through low-income housing tax credits.

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