At a recent forum hosted by the Ann Arbor city Democratic party for candidates of the 52nd and 53rd District state House races, the topic of the state’s constitution arose in the form of an audience question. Did the candidates favor holding a convention to rework the state’s document of basic law?
The state’s constitution also came up in a recent letter conveyed to the city of Ann Arbor by an attorney for Alex de Parry, the developer of a proposed project called Heritage Row along Fifth Avenue south of William Street. The project was voted down at the Ann Arbor city council’s June 21 meeting on a 7-4 vote in favor, thus failing to meet the eight-vote majority required. [Chronicle coverage of that meeting is forthcoming.]
The main focus of the letter, sent to the city by de Parry’s legal counsel the same day as the council met to vote on Heritage Row, is not that project per se, but rather the historic district that the council may decide to establish at its next meeting on July 6. The recommended historic district, which includes the parcels that were to be used to build Heritage Row, received its initial consideration by the council at their June 21 meeting.
While its more customary for councilmembers to vote for a proposal at its first reading, even if they’re against it, three councilmembers at the June 21 meeting chose to oppose the establishment of the district already at its first reading. Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 2 Ward 4) all voted against the historic district.
None of the three cited the specific issues raised in the letter from de Parry’s legal counsel as reasons for voting against the district – Derezinski had voted at the council’s Aug. 6, 2009 meeting against establishing a committee to study the question. And Rapundalo had supported a postponement of that vote.
But for the final vote on July 6, the points raised in the letter from de Parry’s legal counsel may well factor explicitly into the council’s deliberations. The legal reasoning in the letter leads to the conclusion that the way local historic districts are set up in Michigan potentially violates the state’s constitution. And if the reasoning in the letter stands legal scrutiny, it could change the way any future historic districts in the state of Michigan are established.