Stories indexed with the term ‘dangerous buildings’

Former Near North Demolition Nears

An additional $96,000 has been received by the city of Ann Arbor through federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocations, which the city will put toward demolishing six houses on North Main Street.

The houses are on the site of the former Near North affordable housing project. That project, on which the nonprofit Avalon Housing had partnered, ultimately did not go forward. The city must complete the demolition by March 15, 2013.

The vote on the funding came at the council’s Feb. 19, 2013 meeting. The additional $96,000 can only be used for the demolition of structures at 700-724 North Main.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A … [Full Story]

Round One of Building Demolition Hearings

Ann Arbor building board of appeals meeting (Sept. 13, 2012): At its Feb. 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council established a $250,000 fund to pay upfront costs – if necessary – to undertake demolitions of dangerous buildings. And at its Aug. 9, 2012 meeting, the council authorized signing contracts with four different demolition companies to do the work on an as-needed basis.

Dangerous Buildings Sign

Sign posted at the old Chinese restaurant in the Maple Village Shopping Center. (Photos by the writer.)

That set the stage for the building board of appeals to hold a first set of four show-cause hearings earlier this month.

If the board finds that the property in question is a dangerous building under the city’s ordinance and Michigan’s building code, and orders the property demolished, then a property owner has 20 days to undertake the demolition or appeal the board’s ruling to the circuit court.

Because the city now has demolition companies under contract and the funds set aside to pay for upfront costs, it can back up the demolition order if a property owner fails to comply with it – by going ahead and taking the building down. Although the city would pay the initial cost, the property owner would be assessed and invoiced for the cost of the demolition, which includes an administrative fee.

So it’s more cost-effective for property owners to demolish buildings themselves, compared to having the city do the work. When the owner of one of the four condemned properties arrived late a few minutes after the Sept. 13 hearings had concluded, Ann Arbor’s chief building official Ralph Welton told him: “We’d much rather you knock it down.”

That property was a residential garage, located at 2415 Dorchester Road in the southeastern quadrant of the city. The garage has apparently become a home to chicken hawks, which roost in the open roof.

The other three properties on the board’s agenda included two houses – one at 3123 Cherry Tree Lane, off Packard near US-23, which had additional construction done on the property in a non-compliant way, resulting in conditions the city found to be dangerous. The other house on the board’s agenda was 3010 Dexter Road, on the city’s west side.

In fairly straightforward fashion, the board found all three residential properties to be dangerous buildings under the local and state code, and called for their demolition.

The one property for which a representative of the owner was on hand was 175 N. Maple, where a former Chinese restaurant is located inside the Maple Village shopping center. That hearing took the longest of the four. The back-and-forth between the owner’s representative and the board resulted in a 30-day timeframe set by the board for a plan to be submitted to rectify the conditions, and subsequent to that plan approval, a 60-day window to effect the remedy. The owner’s representative came from Brixmor Property Group, a portfolio company of the Blackstone Group real estate fund.

It was evident that the board was handling the first round of show-cause hearings for the city’s recent efforts. To craft the wording of the board’s first motion of the meeting required a group effort, including much consultation with city attorney staff and Welton. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council: Land, Water, Buildings

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Feb. 21, 2012): Land use was one common theme that trickled through the city council’s relatively short meeting.

Amtrak Station

The Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps at its Feb. 21 meeting. The council briefly touched on the topic of the current location of the Amtrak train station, which is in the floodplain (green area). The dark red is a building (Gandy Dancer) that was previously not analyzed as within the floodplain, but now is analyzed as such – similarly for parcels colored bright red. (Image links to higher resolution file with legend.)

The council denied a rezoning request from the owners of Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky, located on South State Street near the Produce Station, that would have allowed them to use the property for a retail operation larger than what currently exists. But the council did give initial approval to a rezoning request from the Society of Les Voyageurs that will allow the group to make an addition to their house, which is located near the Argo Dam.

At the other end of the spectrum from development, the council also took action that will allow the city to move quickly to demolish buildings that are derelict, posing a safety risk to the community. The council authorized the allocation of $250,000 from the general fund to pay upfront costs for the demolition of such structures. The city expects to be able to replenish the money out of a lawsuit settlement it won previously against the owner of the former Michigan Inn. The city will also eventually be able to recover its costs from property owners whose buildings require demolition.

Also related to possible future construction on land throughout the city, as well as the insurance for existing buildings, was the council’s initial approval of new federal flood maps. The most recent maps date from 1992. The new maps being considered for approval by the city were created out of a process begun by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Throughout the city, 452 structures are no longer analyzed as lying within a floodplain, while 88 buildings are newly analyzed as in a floodplain, according to the new maps.

Floods are one of the natural disasters that the city’s new emergency management director, Rick Norman, will be responsible for preparing the city to handle. The council formally authorized Norman’s appointment at their meeting.

In resolutions that required expenditures of funds, the council authorized additional outside accounting and legal expenses, as well as the painting and repair of equipment at the city’s water treatment plant.

In other business, the council passed a resolution in support of a clean air campaign, and authorized the closing of city streets for eight different upcoming events.

Two significant appointments were discussed at the meeting. The first was a mayoral nomination on which the council will be asked to take action at its next meeting – appointing Sue Gott, planner for the University of Michigan, to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. The other was an appointment that has already been made by Gov. Rick Snyder – Joe Burke as judge to the 15th District Court. Burke was on hand to be introduced to the council. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to Abate Unsafe Buildings

At its Feb. 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a $250,000 allocation for the demolition of buildings that the city deems dangerous under Chapter 101 of the city code. The city would like to target buildings that are diminishing the quality of neighborhoods, dragging down property values and attracting nuisances. The appropriation is from the city’s general fund, changing the budget, and thus requires an 8-vote majority. The city expects to be able to reimburse the general fund from the proceeds of a lawsuit settlement related to the old Michigan Inn property on Jackson Avenue.

Mayor John Hiefjte described the possibility of establishing such a fund at city council’s Dec. 19, 2011 meeting. He portrayed the idea as arising out of a conversation he’d had with Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

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] [Full Story]