Stories indexed with the term ‘AHP’

City Council Mulls Zoning: Marijuana, Height

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 18, 2010): On Monday night, the council gave an initial approval to a set of zoning laws that are intended to regulate medical marijuana use in the city. It also gave the city attorney direction to pursue the development of a license for medical marijuana facilities. All ordinances require an initial approval – a first reading – followed by a second and final reading at a later meeting.


Before the meeting, Marcia (spelling corrected) Higgins (Ward 4) chats with Sue McCormick (seated), the city's public services area administrator. McCormick is filling in for city administrator Roger Fraser, who is ill. (Photos by the writer.)

Also related to zoning was the council’s second-reading consideration of changes in the city’s zoning code for areas outside the downtown, across most of the city’s zoning classifications. The changes affect area, height and placement (AHP). The final approval of the AHP zoning overhaul had been postponed from council’s first meeting of the month, on Oct. 5, at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).

At Monday’s meeting, Higgins brought forth amendments that confined a height cap on buildings to areas adjacent to residential areas. The amendments would allow taller buildings in some non-residential areas, like Briarwood Mall. After some deliberation on the merits of the amendments, Higgins withdrew them, and the council elected to postpone the measure. With Higgins’ amendments, the proposal would be substantively different from the proposal that had already received council approval at first reading, and would thus require an additional reading before final adoption.

In other matters before the council, it was also Higgins who provided much of the impetus for conversation. Two items involved modification to the city’s budget by drawing upon the general fund reserve. One involved a $153,116 expenditure for the city’s planning department to fund corridor planning, and the other was a $160,000 item to purchase furniture for the 15th District Court, which will soon take up residence in the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron. The planning department money was approved over Higgins’ dissent, while the court’s expenditure was postponed, pending the production of an itemized list of what’s being purchased. The two items prompted discussion of the projected budget deficit for FY 2012, which the city’s CFO had estimated in May to be $5 million.

In other business, the council took the final step to enact a special assessment of property owners along Washtenaw Avenue to fund a portion of a new non-motorized path. The council also approved its part of a two-year extension to the consent agreement with Glen Ann Place, which gave site-plan approval for a project at the corner of Glen and Ann streets. Council also gave initial approval to stricter stormwater management rules for impervious surfaces in residential zoning districts.

Council chambers were filled at the start of the meeting with many members of the community who came to hear a proclamation and watch councilmembers vote on a resolution giving council’s support to a similar Michigan Civil Rights Commission resolution. The MCRC condemned the conduct of assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, who has written blog posts targeting Chris Armstrong, an openly gay University of Michigan student leader. The Ann Arbor city council’s resolution also calls upon the state legislature to pass a proposed comprehensive hate crime bill and a school anti-bullying law currently before the state Senate. [Full Story]

Streetlights Back On; Bonds for Deck OK’d

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 4, 2010): While the city council postponed two major pieces of business, it did take action on two others.

Jim Kosteva and Mike Anglin read the Record

Jim Kosteva (left), University of Michigan's director of community relations, and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) peruse the University Record before the meeting. This week's edition of the Record includes an article on the founding of the Peace Corps. On Monday, the council approved a street closing on Oct. 14 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps founding. (Photos by the writer.)

First, the council voted to discontinue a pilot program to turn off selected streetlights. The program was designed to save $120,000 for the current fiscal year’s budget [FY 2011]. No additional streetlights will be turned off, and those that were switched off as part of the pilot program will be turned back on.

And the council voted to authorize the issuance of $9 million in general obligation bonds in connection with the parking deck to be built as part of Village Green’s City Apartments project at First and Washington. The bonds could take the form of conventional tax-exempt bonds, or other bonds, depending on which are legally available and most advantageous to the city when they’re issued. The bonds won’t be needed until the construction of Village Green’s project is completed.

In 2008 the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority passed a resolution authorizing that the bond payments be made from revenues generated by the city’s public parking system, which is managed by the DDA. The city council approved an extension to the purchase option agreement for the land at its Aug. 5 meeting.

Two expected votes did not take place. Revisions to the city’s zoning code that would change the specifications for area, height and placement in most zoning districts of the city outside the downtown were postponed at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who said that she had questions she’d been unable to submit in time to get answers.

And in the absence of Sandi Smith (Ward 1) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) – who arrived late to the meeting – Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) asked for postponement of a five-year extension of the 2007 consent judgment the city reached with Joseph Freed and Associates LLC, developer of the Glen Ann Place project.

Glen Ann Place was a planned unit development (PUD) approved by the council in July 2005, but that did not win subsequent approval from the city’s historic district commission. Freed then filed suit against the city, the outcome of which was a consent judgment. Per the consent judgment, the height of the building was reduced from 10 to 9 stories. Glen Ann Place is planned to include retail and office uses on its first two floors, with residential on upper stories.

In other business, the council approved a handful of recommendations for liquor licenses, approved a rezoning for the land where the University of Michigan’s new soccer facility has been built, and approved an overhauling of the ordinance that governs how false alarms to fire and police are penalized.

The council also received a variety of updates from staff, including one on the traffic control plan for the East Stadium bridges when they are reconstructed next year, as well as a response from the city’s CFO to recent community discussion of significant unpaid taxes that might be owed to the city.

The city council also accepted a gift on behalf of the city from the Ann Arbor Summer Festival – a giant print of a photograph by Myra Klarman. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Planning Priorities Take Shape

Ann Arbor Planning Commission retreat (March 30, 2010): In a 3.5-hour retreat that covered topics from accessory dwellings to zoning, Ann Arbor’s planning commissioners started mapping out priorities for the coming year and beyond. The city’s planning staff also attended the informal session, giving background, updates and feedback for the discussion.

Kirk Westphal

Kirk Westphal, an Ann Arbor planning commissioner, adds a topic to the whiteboard filled with possible projects. Read this article to find out what word he's writing. (Photos by the writer.)

After reviewing ongoing efforts like the A2D2 design guidelines and sign ordinance revisions, commissioners brainstormed ideas that filled a whiteboard with potential projects, and spent much of their session trying to prioritize those ideas.

There was much overlap among the ideas and projects discussed, which included issues of sustainability, affordable housing, transportation, commercial corridor areas and the need for better citizen participation – or, as one commissioner suggested, citizen education.

The retreat, held at the Michigan Information Technology Center on South State, included a bit of a history lesson, too. Commissioners heard about previous efforts to allow more accessory dwellings in residential neighborhoods. In the late 1990s, a prior planning commission had seen accessory dwellings as a relatively non-controversial change. But backlash by some residents was harsh, with the mayor ultimately refusing to bring the recommended changes to council. Jean Carlberg, who was on city council at the time, recalled that period: “It was ugly.” [Full Story]

Zoning 101: Area, Height, Placement

contrast between pedestrian-oriented development and sprawl Ann Arbor public meeting

City planner Jeff Kahan shows a slide demonstrating the contrast between sprawl and pedestrian-oriented development – the top and bottom images are of the same corridor. (Photo by the writer.)

At Cobblestone Farm on Thursday evening, planning staff from the city of Ann Arbor presented proposed changes in the area, height, and placement specifications for various zoning districts throughout Ann Arbor.

The proposal is not a “rezoning” of all the area outside of Ann Arbor’s downtown – it’s a proposal to adjust the density, height, and setback requirements of existing zoning districts. There are no parcels designated for rezoning as a part of the AHP project. The project is thus different in character from the A2D2 project, which will result in a rezoning of the downtown.

The AHP proposal was actually intended to come before city council for approval in the fall of 2008, but on direction from the council, city planning staff were asked to get more community input.

About two dozen people attended Thursday’s meeting, the fifth in a series of at least seven public meetings to be held over the summer months – one meeting for each of five wards, bookended by community-wide meetings. Though divided by ward, anyone from any ward can attend any of the meetings, including the Ward 5 meeting to be held from 6:30-8 p.m. on July 30 at Forsythe Middle School Media Center.

So what is the AHP proposal? It’s not simply meant to clean up ordinance language in a way that has no material impact on future development. The proposal is meant to have an impact on how land gets used throughout Ann Arbor. What specifically is being proposed? What’s the zoning for where you live and work? What is zoning, anyhow? More after the break. [Full Story]