Downtown Zoning Changes Postponed

Final approval to changes in two parts of the Ann Arbor city zoning code affecting the parcel at 425 S. Main, on the southeast corner of Main and William streets, has been postponed by the Ann Arbor city council. The council will take up the zoning question again at its second meeting in September – on Sept. 15.

425 South Main, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of 425 S. Main – outlined in green – between William and Packard. An alley separates the site from a residential neighborhood along South Fourth Avenue.

Postponement by the council came after about a half hour of deliberations that included back-and-forth between councilmembers and the owners of the parcel.

Initial approval by the council had come at its June 16, 2014 meeting.

The council’s initial approval came only after two votes on each of the parts of the zoning, as councilmembers had first decided to refer the height limit issue back to the planning commission, but ultimately decided to amend the height limit to 60 feet. A summary of the deliberations is provided in The Chronicle’s live updates from the June 16 meeting.

By way of background, currently a two-story 63,150-square-foot office building – where DTE offices are located – stands on the southern part of that site, with a surface parking lot on the north portion. [.pdf of staff memo on 425 S. Main rezoning]

Considered separately by the council on July 21 were two separate votes that would have: (1) changed zoning of the parcel from D1 (downtown core base district) to D2 (downtown interface base district); and (2) changed the character overlay district, of which the parcel is a part, to specify the height limit at 60 feet, not the 100 feet that the planning commission had recommended. [.pdf of staff memo on overlay district]

Upper-story setbacks, specified in the character district overlay along with the height limits, had been specified based on the 100-foot limit.

The planning commission recommended both the zoning changes at its May 6, 2014 meeting. The planning commission’s vote on the basic zoning change was unanimous – 9-0. But the vote on the 100-foot height limit was only 6-3, with dissent coming from Sabra Briere, Ken Clein and Jeremy Peters. Briere also serves on city council, representing Ward 1. Both recommendations had been brought forward by the commission’s ordinance revisions committee (ORC). Members are Bonnie Bona, Diane Giannola, Kirk Westphal and Wendy Woods.

The planning commission’s recommendations came in response to a city council directive given at its Jan. 21, 2014 meeting, which had been based on previous work the planning commission had done. The commission had studied and developed a broader set of eight recommendations for zoning changes in specific parts of the downtown. The overall intent was in large part to buffer near-downtown residential neighborhoods. The commission had unanimously approved those original recommendations at its Dec. 3, 2013 meeting.

Those initial Dec. 3, 2013 recommendations from the planning commission had come in response to a previous direction from the city council, given at the council’s April 1, 2013 meeting. The council’s action in early 2013 came in response to the controversial 413 E. Huron development.

The zoning change affecting 425 S. Main, which the council delayed at its July 21 meeting, is just the first of what are expected to be several other changes recommended by the planning commission.

The current D1 zoning for 425 S. Main allows for a maximum height of 180 feet. The previous zoning, prior to 2009, set no limits on height. At this time, no new development has been proposed for the 425 S. Main site.

For more details on the July 21 council discussion, see The Chronicle’s live updates from that meeting.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall located at 301 E. Huron.