Stories indexed with the term ‘residential development’

Downtown Zoning Review to Wrap Up Soon

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Nov. 19, 2013): The main agenda item for the commission’s most recent meeting was a list of draft recommendations that would complete the current phase of a months-long downtown zoning review.

Eleanore Adenekan, Ken Clein, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor planning commissioners Eleanore Adenekan and Ken Clein sign papers attesting that these high school students had attended the Nov. 19 meeting. The class assignment did not require that the students stay for the entire meeting, which adjourned at about 12:30 a.m. (Photos by the writer.)

Planning commissioners made decisions on the majority of recommendations for revising the city’s downtown zoning ordinance, but adjourned after midnight before completing their final resolution for city council. Though they did not formally vote to postpone action on the resolution, the item will be taken up again at the commission’s Dec. 3 meeting. [.pdf of revised draft recommendations to be considered on Dec. 3]

Generally, the changes reflect a downzoning in some locations in an attempt to lessen the impact of development on adjacent residential neighborhoods.

A public hearing on the downtown zoning review drew seven speakers, all of whom had previously addressed the commission on this topic. Andy Klein – one of the owners of a site at the southeast corner Main and William, which is being considered for downzoning – spoke against rezoning that property, calling himself the “lone dissenter.” Other speakers at the hearing were in favor of downzoning in general, including at that site. The recommendation for that property – possibly one of the most controversial – was not debated or acted on by commissioners at their Nov. 19 meeting.

Attached to the commission’s Dec. 3 agenda was a communication from Scott R. Bonney of Neumann/Smith Architecture, written on behalf of KRG Investments, the owners of the Main and William property. It suggests a third option to consider as a compromise, and indicates that Bonney will attend the Dec. 3 meeting to make a presentation about this proposal in person. [.pdf of Bonney's letter]

After the planning commission finalizes and approves its resolution regarding these downtown zoning recommendations, the resolution will be forwarded to the city council for consideration. The intent is for the council to review the recommendations and give direction to the commission about which recommendations to implement.

At that point, the commission’s ordinance revisions committee would work with city planning staff to craft actual ordinance language. Any specific ordinance changes would be reviewed by the full commission and ultimately would require city council approval before taking effect. That process would include additional opportunities for public input.

In addition to downtown zoning, three other projects were on the Nov. 19 agenda. Commissioners recommended approval of a proposal to build two restaurants adjacent to Macy’s at Briarwood Mall. They also recommended approval of a four-story addition to the existing two-story building at 210-216 S. Fourth Ave., between East Liberty and East Washington in downtown Ann Arbor, known as the Montgomery Building. The expansion will create 32 new housing units, including four studios, 14 one-bedroom, and 14 two-bedroom units.

One project that didn’t move forward was a proposed expansion of Germain Motors – the former Howard Cooper dealership on South State Street. Owner Steve Germain and his daughter Jessica Germain attended the meeting and described the growth of their business, with a 55% increase in combined sales compared to last year. They indicated that expanded showrooms and additional parking and vehicle display areas are needed to accommodate future growth. However, planning staff recommended postponement to address several outstanding issues, and commissioners acted on that advice. [Full Story]

Downtown Apartment Project Gets Planning OK

The Ann Arbor planning commission has recommended approval of a four-story addition to the existing two-story building at 210-216 S. Fourth Ave., between East Liberty and East Washington in downtown Ann Arbor. The plan calls for creating 32 new housing units, including four studios, 14 one-bedroom, and 14 two-bedroom units. Planning commissioners took action on the project’s site plan at their Nov. 19, 2013 meeting. It will now be forwarded to city council for consideration.

Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of the Montgomery building (indicated with crosshatches) at 210 S. Fourth Ave. in downtown Ann Arbor.

The estimated $3.8 million project would expand the existing 17,273-square-foot … [Full Story]

Revised 624 Church St. Gets Parking OK

A revision to a proposed residential development at 624 Church St. in downtown Ann Arbor has resulted in approval by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board for the purchase of additional monthly parking permits – up to 48 such permits. The action was taken at the DDA board’s Nov. 6, 2013 meeting. The spaces will be provided in the Forest Avenue parking structure.

The original proposal for 624 Church, which received site plan approval from the city council at its March 4, 2013 meeting, was for a 13-story, 83-unit apartment building with approximately 181 beds. And for that version, the Ann Arbor DDA had authorized the project to purchase up to 42 monthly permits through the city’s contribution-in-lieu (CIL) … [Full Story]

Feedback on Downtown Zoning Continues

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Oct. 15, 2013): Planning commissioners continued a discussion that began at their Oct. 8 working session over proposed changes to downtown zoning. But they took no action and will pick up the topic at their next meeting, on Nov. 6.

Running Fit, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Running Fit building at East Liberty and Fourth Avenue. A proposal calls for building three additional floors for apartments or condos. The adjacent building owner is concerned about blocking the three windows – barely visible in this photo – that are in apartments facing over the current one-story building. (Photos by the writer.)

Questions and comments covered a range of issues, including potential conflict of interest over a lot next to city hall that’s owned by the University of Michigan Credit Union. Five commissioners are UMCU members, and the credit union president objects to a proposed rezoning of the site. Other discussion points included affordable housing premiums, the use of diagonals as a tool for influencing the shape of tall buildings, and concerns over rezoning public land.

Ten people spoke during a public hearing on the zoning review. Before the hearing began, planning commission chair Kirk Westphal stated that the hearing would likely continue at a future meeting, but that speakers would be allowed only one turn during the entire hearing – either that night, or at a subsequent meeting. Midway through the hearing, Sabra Briere raised an objection to Westphal’s ruling, and commissioners spent about 20 minutes debating the issue. The commission ultimately voted to allow for people to speak more than once when the public hearing is continued, over the objection of Westphal, Diane Giannola and Wendy Woods.

Consultant Erin Perdu of ENP & Associates attended the Oct. 15 meeting and answered questions from commissioners, but her contract for this project has now expired. Planning manager Wendy Rampson indicated that any additional work from Perdu would require city council approval.

In addition to the downtown zoning review, two development projects were on the Oct. 15 agenda. Commissioners recommended approval of an three-floor addition to the Running Fit building at East Liberty and South Fourth. The expansion will create six residential units.

During a public hearing on the project, Ali Almiri – who owns the adjacent building to the west at 119 E. Liberty – raised concerns that three bedroom windows in his building’s residential rental units would be blocked by this new structure. He and his attorney urged that the new project be required to accommodate those existing windows. The issue will continue to be investigated by planning staff, building staff and possibly the city attorney’s office prior to the project’s consideration by the city council.

Another proposal – related to plans for two new restaurants at Briarwood Mall, on the east side of Macy’s – was postponed, because of several outstanding issues that still need to be resolved.

During public commentary, Alex Perlman, a co-owner of the food carts The Beet Box and Cheese Dream, highlighted a project at 1215 S. University – the former location of Pinball Pete’s, which burned down in 2009. The project, called Eat the Hub, would repurpose the space as a temporary food cart yard that would accommodate between three to six carts. Perlman noted that current city ordinances “don’t reflect the ever-changing landscape that mobile food businesses require.” He said he’d appreciate any help to move this project forward. [Full Story]

Action Postponed on Traverwood Apartments

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Sept. 17, 2013): A major new apartment project in northeast Ann Arbor was discussed but ultimately postponed by planning commissioners, pending unresolved issues that the planning staff did not have sufficient time to review.

Wendy Rampson, Mike Martin, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

City planning manager Wendy Rampson talks with developer Mike Martin of First Martin Corp. prior to the Ann Arbor planning commission’s Sept. 17, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Traverwood Apartments is a proposed complex of 16 two-story buildings and 216 one- and two-bedroom units on nearly 22 acres off of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. It’s one of the first large residential developments in the last few years that’s come forward outside of downtown Ann Arbor. For part of the site, a rezoning would be required – from ORL (office, research and light industrial) to R4D (multi-family residential).

Developer First Martin Corp. is making the proposal. In response to a query from commissioner Bonnie Bona, Mike Martin explained that although the site would allow for denser development – taller buildings and more units – the cost of construction would have been high, and they didn’t think they’d be able to charge the amount of rent necessary to make a larger project feasible.

The site is east of the city’s Leslie Park golf course, and south of Stapp Nature Area – created on land that First Martin sold to the city in 2003. Some of the discussion on Sept. 17 centered on pedestrian connections between those parks and the apartment complex, which will include a path running along the west side of the site, next to Leslie Park.

During a public hearing on the project, resident Paul Bruss supported the concept of that kind of public trail. He described a vision he shares with others, of a trail that would start at Stapp and loop south then west around the Leslie Park golf course, going north all the way to the Dhu Varren Woods Nature Area. “If we could figure out a way to connect all that as a necklace around Leslie golf course, this would be one of the premium trails in Ann Arbor,” Bruss said.

Commissioners Bona and Ken Clein advocated for more of a pedestrian focus within the complex. Calling First Martin and the architect firm Hobbes + Black “kind of the dream team for developing in Ann Arbor,” Clein – a principal with Quinn Evans Architects – expressed disappointment at the “cookie cutter” site design.

Depending the outcome of a staff review, the apartment project might be on the planning commission’s agenda for consideration as early as Oct. 1.

The other action item on Sept. 17 was authorizing two planning commissioners – Paras Parekh and Sabra Briere, who also serves on city council – to attend the Michigan Association of Planning annual conference, held this year from Oct. 2-4 in Kalamazoo. Their expenses will be paid for out of the city’s training budget for planning staff and related commissions.

Also during the meeting, planning manager Wendy Rampson gave a brief update on the work of consultants who are developing recommendations as part of a downtown zoning review. The consultants – Erin Perdu and Megan Masson-Minock – plan to present their report at the planning commission’s Oct. 8 working session, with commissioners considering the recommendations at their Oct. 15 regular meeting. [Full Story]

Traverwood Apartment Project Postponed

Ann Arbor planning commissioners postponed action on the proposed Traverwood Apartments, a complex of 16 two-story buildings on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. The project – being developed by Ann Arbor-based First Martin Corp. – requires site plan approval and rezoning, as well as approval of a wetland use permit. The postponement took place at the commission’s Sept. 17, 2013 meeting.

Traverwood Apartments, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of proposed Traverwood Apartments at 2225 Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road.

The total 21.8-acre site, which is currently vacant, is made up of two parcels: a 17.96-acre lot that’s zoned R4D (multi-family … [Full Story]

Planning Group: No Duplex on Packard

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Aug. 7, 2013): A light agenda for the planning commission led to two straightforward decisions on rezoning requests for parcels outside the downtown, well away from the area that has generated ongoing controversy. The decisions were both unanimous, with opposite outcomes.

Zoning Map City of Ann Arbor

The red circles indicate the general locations of the parcels that the Ann Arbor planning commission was asked to consider for rezoning at its Aug. 7, 2013 meeting. Other colors designate various zoning categories. (Data from the city of Ann Arbor mapped in Google Earth.)

The planning commission heard a request to rezone 3325 Packard from R1C (single-family dwelling) to R2A (two-family dwelling) – and voted unanimously to deny that request. A house had burned on the lot, which sits at the corner of Fernwood and Packard. The economics of rebuilding a single-family house and trying to sell or rent it out weren’t realistic, owner Steve Weaver told the commission.

A duplex, Weaver argued, could help stem the commercial creep coming from the west at Packard and Platt, and provide a “thumb in the dike” to preserve the residential character of that stretch.

But planning commissioner Bonnie Bona reflected the view of commissioners and planning staff that the decision was a “no-brainer” in the context of the city’s master plan, which clearly designates the area for single-family houses. They were reluctant to engage in “spot zoning.”

In voting unanimously to deny the rezoning request, commissioners encouraged Weaver to work with neighboring property owners with the idea of bringing forward a request to rezone an entire blockface.

Weaver has said he will exercise his option to make his rezoning request directly to the city council, even without the planning commission’s support.

The other rezoning request on the commission’s Aug. 7 agenda was to designate some city-owned property on 3875 E. Huron River Drive as PL (public land). The move was characterized as a housekeeping step for the planning commission. During the public hearing on the question, one person addressed the commission indicating support, but with some concern about the range of activities that would be promoted there.

One idea mentioned at the meeting was the possibility that the parcel – sold to the city in 2010 by former U.S. Congressman Wes Vivian – could become the headquarters for the city’s natural area preservation program (NAP). Commissioners encouraged nearby residents to work with the park advisory commission (PAC) as that group helps decide the parcel’s eventual use within the park system.

The commission also heard remarks from the representative of a neighbor opposed to a requested land division on Traver Street. But the decision on that item will be made by planning staff, not the planning commission or the city council. [Full Story]

Kerrytown Place Sails Through Council OK

The Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development by Tom Fitzsimmons, proposed for the location of the former Greek Orthodox Church on North Main Street – has received approval from the Ann Arbor city council. The council’s action, taken at its Aug. 8, 2013 meeting, included final approval of two rezoning requests and two site plans associated with the project.

3D rendering from site plan submitted for Kerrytown Place, View from Main Street

3D rendering from site plan submitted for Kerrytown Place – the view from Main Street.

The council had given initial approval to the … [Full Story]

Rezoning Request Denied for 3325 Packard

Ann Arbor planning commissioners have recommended denial of a request to rezone 3325 Packard from R1C (single-family dwelling) to R2A (two-family dwelling). The vote was unanimous among the six commissioners present on the nine-member body.

3325 Packard, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of 3325 Packard, at the intersection of Fernwood.

The owner had requested the rezoning in order to build a duplex on the property, which is currently vacant.

The site is located at the northwest corner of Packard and Fernwood, in the Darlington subdivision.

A fire destroyed the single-family house there in April of 2012.

According to city assessor records, the property is owned by Philip Weaver of Bradenton, Florida.

Planning … [Full Story]

Concerns Raised Over Glendale Condos

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (July 16, 2013): More than 40 residents living near the proposed Glendale Condominiums showed up to voice concerns about the project, slated for a former orchard south of Jackson Avenue next to the Hillside Terrace retirement community.

Glendale Condominiums, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Residents attended the July 16, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor planning commission to express concerns about the proposed Glendale Condominiums project. A public hearing on the project lasted about an hour. (Photos by the writer.)

In a public hearing that lasted about an hour, neighbors cited a range of issues, including concerns about increased flooding, the lack of pedestrian access, increased traffic and the loss of landmark trees. One resident told commissioners that she already has a sump pump “that could probably pump pudding to Ypsilanti, it’s so powerful.” She’s concerned it will need to run continuously if the project gets built.

The proposal for the 2.54-acre site at 312 Glendale Drive includes demolishing two single-family homes on the south end of the property and building eight two-bedroom duplexes. Each unit would include a one-car garage, with eight additional surface parking spaces on the site.

The project is located in Ward 5, and both city councilmembers representing that ward – Mike Anglin and Chuck Warpehoski – attended the July 16 meeting. Warpehoski was among the speakers at the public hearing, but was cut off by commissioner Diane Giannola, who cited the commission’s bylaws. The bylaws state: “A member of the City Council shall not be heard before the Commission as a petitioner, representative of a petitioner or as a party interested in a petition during the Council member’s term of office.” Warpehoski, who had been unaware of that rule, stepped away from the podium but stayed for the remainder of the public hearing and the commission’s deliberations on this item.

After discussing the proposal, commissioners followed a staff recommendation and postponed action on the project, to allow for time to address unresolved issues related to the site plan.

In other action, commissioners recommended approval of a drive-thru addition for the Tim Hortons at the northeast corner of Ann Arbor-Saline and Eisenhower, near the I-94 interchange. As a “public amenity,” the owner proposes putting in a 140-square-foot brick-paved area near the intersection, with two park benches and shrubbery. Some commissioners questioned whether anyone would use that spot, given its location next to heavy traffic. Wendy Woods, saying she had family nearby, indicated that there is a fair amount of pedestrian and bike traffic in that area. She also floated the idea of putting public art on that corner, given that it’s a “gateway” to the city. Sabra Briere indicated that the city wouldn’t fund public art on the privately owned site, but would “applaud” the owner if he chose to put artwork there.

Also gaining unanimous approval was a request by the Glacier Hills retirement community for adding 31 parking spaces to its property, near US-23 on the city’s east side. A representative from the nearby Earhart Village spoke against the project, saying that the parking is primarily for commercial uses, even though the area is residential. He argued that Glacier Hills is drawing customers to the property, who use the cafe there and other services, and that it negatively impacts the adjoining neighborhoods. He also complained about changes to the site that can be approved via administrative amendments, with no oversight by the planning commission. One such change – an addition to one of the Glacier Hills “villas” – is currently pending with the planning staff.

Commissioners also approved minor changes to their bylaws, and got updates on the R4C citizens advisory committee and the review of A2D2 zoning. Just prior to the July 16 regular commission meeting, the commission’s ordinance revisions committee (ORC) had met with Erin Perdu of ENP & Associates, the Ann Arbor consultant that’s been hired to handle the city council-mandated review of downtown zoning. The work includes a series of events aimed at seeking public input. Upcoming events include Thursday morning coffee hours with consultants that are open to the public from 8-10 a.m. at the new Zingerman’s Deli building, starting on July 25. And two focus groups are scheduled for next week: on Monday, July 29, 8-9:30 a.m. at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave.; and on Tuesday, July 30, 7-8:30 p.m. at the lower level conference room in city hall, 301 E. Huron St. More events are listed on the city’s website. [Full Story]

Glendale Condo Development Postponed

Ann Arbor planning commissioners postponed action on the proposed Glendale Condominiums at 312 Glendale Drive, following the advice of planning staff. The decision came at the commission’s July 16, 2013 meeting.

Glendale Condominiums, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of proposedGlendale Condominiums site, south of Jackson Avenue.

The project is located south of Jackson Avenue and east of Hillside Terrace on the city’s west side. The proposal calls for tearing down two single-family homes on the 2.54-acre site and building eight two-bedroom duplexes. Each unit would include a one-car garage, with eight additional surface parking spaces on the site.

Eighteen of the 23 landmark trees in a former … [Full Story]

Work Progresses on Public Housing Overhaul

The Ann Arbor housing commission board was updated recently about efforts to renovate and redevelop the city’s public housing properties, a massive undertaking that’s been in the works for more than a year.

Lori Harris, Norstar Development, Ann Arbor housing commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Lori Harris, Norstar Development senior project manager, describes a potential site plan for redeveloping the Ann Arbor housing commission’s North Maple complex. Harris and Norstar president Rick Higgins attended the AAHC board’s June 19, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Norstar Development president Rick Higgins and Lori Harris, the firm’s senior project manager, briefed commissioners at the board’s June 19, 2013 meeting. The board had selected Norstar as a co-developer for this overhaul in January.

Norstar’s presentation included a review of the two low-income housing tax credit applications that the AAHC plans to make in August to the state of Michigan. The applications will cover a total of five public housing properties: Miller Manor, South Maple, Baker Commons, Hikone and Green/Baxter complexes. These properties make up the bulk of public housing units in the AAHC portfolio – 248 out of a total 326 units.

If approved, the tax credits would provide a large funding source for renovating those properties. It’s part of Norstar’s effort to help AAHC convert Ann Arbor’s public housing units into public/private partnerships through a new rental assistance demonstration program, known as RAD, offered by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). AAHC was accepted into the program late last year. The goal is to allow AAHC to use private financing for capital improvements in its existing housing stock, which is decades-old and in need of major upgrades.

The Ann Arbor city council signed off on this process by unanimously passing a slate of resolutions at its June 3, 2013 meeting. One of the most crucial actions was approval of an ownership transfer for public housing properties – from the city of Ann Arbor to the housing commission. AAHC has managed, but does not own the properties.

As part of the tax credit application review process, Norstar representatives described the financing and legal structure to be used in renovating these first five properties. Among the challenges is the potential need for significant asbestos abatement at most of the locations, as well as major HVAC infrastructure upgrades at Miller Manor. Higgins indicated that he’s somewhat worried about the budget for these renovations, and thought it might be necessary to seek additional funding from the city and other sources.

In addition to the five initial properties that will be renovated, Norstar also is developing site plans – working with AAHC and the city’s planning staff – for four AAHC complexes that will likely be demolished and, with some exceptions, rebuilt: North Maple Estates, Platt Road, White/State/Henry, and Broadway Terrace. Redevelopment of these sites, particularly at North Maple Estates and on Platt Road, is expected to add 26 new units to the city’s low-income housing stock.

Related to this conversion process, no action was taken by the AAHC board on June 19 . Jennifer Hall, AAHC executive director, told commissioners that she plans to bring forward a voting item for them at their July 17 meeting – related to amending the city’s RAD application. The original application covered only about 80% of AAHC properties, but now the goal is to include all properties in the RAD conversion. Hall noted that because Norstar representatives were in town on the date of the June 19 board meeting, she’d asked them to brief commissioners on the redevelopment efforts so far. [Full Story]

Kerrytown Place Gets Initial Rezoning OK

Kerrytown Place – a proposed development on North Main Street – has received an initial approval from the Ann Arbor city council for its requested rezoning. The initial action came at the council’s July 1, 2013 meeting.

Kerrytown Place is a project that Tom Fitzsimmons is planning to build on the site of the former Greek Orthodox church on Main Street. The rezoning would be from PUD (planned unit development district) to D2 (downtown interface base district). The 18-unit townhouse development that Fitzsimmons is planning to build is much smaller than The Gallery, for which the PUD zoning had originally been approved at the request of a different owner.

The city planning commission gave a unanimous recommendation of approval at its … [Full Story]

DDA: Varsity Gets 7 Parking Spaces

The Varsity, a residential high-rise building at 425 E. Washington St. in downtown Ann Arbor, has been granted the right to purchase five additional monthly parking permits in the public parking system, bringing its total to seven.

The right to purchase monthly parking permits – under the city’s “contribution in lieu” program – is administered by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The action came at the DDA board’s June 5, 2013 meeting.

The DDA had previously approved two permits for The Varsity, which is a 13-story, 173-unit, 178,380-square-foot apartment building for approximately 418 people. Construction is nearing completion, with plans to open by the fall.

The project needs to provide a total of 76 parking spaces. That parking is required in … [Full Story]

Kerrytown Place Praised, Despite Parking

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (May 21, 2013): A proposed condominium project on North Main and North Fourth Avenue – called Kerrytown Place – won planning commission approval, though some commissioners expressed disappointment with the amount of surface parking on the site.

Kerrytown Place, McKinley, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A reserved parking spot on the site of the future Kerrytown Place development. The view is looking north toward an empty lot where the St. Nicholas Church was formerly located. Cars along Main Street are seen on the left. (Photos by the writer.)

The development covers four parcels – at 402, 408 and 414 N. Main and 401 N. Fourth, with the Main Street parcels separated from the North Fourth site by a public alley, which runs north-south. The vacant St. Nicholas Church had been located on the North Main property, but was demolished last year.

McKinley Inc.’s headquarters is south of the site on North Main, and the firm holds a permanent easement for 57 parking spaces on the Kerrytown Place land. Those spaces will be provided on the development’s surface parking lots. Developer Tom Fitzsimmons told commissioners that finding a way to accommodate those parking requirements into the design had been “challenging.”

The North Main site will include 16 townhouse units in a building with a central courtyard. A 3-story structure with 8 units will front Main Street, and a 4-story structure on the east side of the parcel will have 8 additional units facing the courtyard. There will be an underground garage, and additional parking in 12 carport spots and 24 surface spaces.

On the North Fourth site – now a surface parking lot, with an entrance across from the Ann Arbor farmers market – the plan calls for constructing a duplex with a 2-car garage for each unit and a 21-space parking lot behind the building, accessed from the alley. Each unit of the duplex would face North Fourth.

The project includes a rezoning request and modifications to the city’s landscaping and setback requirements. Commissioners praised the development, but Bonnie Bona in particular was critical of the surface parking. She was reluctant to compromise on the developer’s request to decrease a 15-foot minimum setback, saying that “when I’m giving up front yard for more asphalt, I’m just not as happy.”

City planning staff pointed out that the parking easement “runs with the land,” meaning that any development would need to accommodate those parking spaces. Ultimately, commissioners unanimously approved all requests related to the project, which will now be forwarded to the city council for consideration.

In other action at the May 21 meeting, commissioners held a public hearing on suggestions related to the city’s master plan, but postponed action until their June 18 meeting. A review is required by the planning commission’s bylaws to be done annually. The hearing drew six speakers on a range of topics, including development in Lowertown, a park in downtown Ann Arbor, and adequate sidewalks, cleared of vegetation, so that kids can walk to school safely.

There is also a list of resource documents that are used to support the master plan. [.pdf of resource document list] Commissioners spent a fair amount of time discussing why the Calthorpe report isn’t included on the list. The commission appeared to reach consensus that it would be worth reviewing the entire list of resource documents.

Also on May 21, the commission held a public hearing to get input on the South State Street corridor plan, as a possible addition to the city’s master plan. Commissioners and staff have been working on this project for more than two years. No one spoke at the hearing, and commissioners voted to add the South State Street corridor plan to the city’s master plan, as an amendment to the plan’s land use element. The city council will also need to vote on this item.

One request that commissioners rejected was rezoning for 2271 S. State St., where owners would like to sell cars. The vote was 1-8, drawing support only from Eric Mahler. Some commissioners had leaned toward approval, saying it would be good to have some kind of use on the long-vacant site, where Pilar’s restaurant had once been located. But others expressed concern that it didn’t fit with the goals of the South State corridor, and that it could set a precedent for other rezoning requests. It would be possible for the owner, Capital Investments, to bring the rezoning request to the city council, even though it did not receive a recommendation of approval by the planning commission.

During public commentary, commissioners heard from three people expressing concerns about development and city services in southeast Ann Arbor, along the Ellsworth corridor. They asked for a moratorium on any zoning changes or high-density housing there, until the area can be further studied. Residents have formed a task force to pursue the issue. [Full Story]

Kerrytown Place Project Moves Ahead

A proposed residential development spanning North Main to North Fourth – on the site of the former St. Nicholas Church – is moving ahead, following action by the Ann Arbor planning commission at its May 21, 2013 meeting.

Kerrytown Place, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing location of Kerrytown Place development, located between North Main and North Fourth Avenue.

Commissioners recommended approval of several items for the Kerrytown Place project: (1) rezoning the sites at 414 N. Main and 401 N. Fourth Ave. to D2 (downtown interface), with a “secondary street” building frontage designation; (2) modifying the city’s … [Full Story]

413 E. Huron: Approved on 6-5 Vote

The site plan application for 413 E. Huron – a proposed 14-story, 216-apartment building at the northeast corner of Huron and Division streets – has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council. The vote was 6-5 with dissenting votes coming from Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Voting for the project were Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Margie Teall (Ward 4), Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) and mayor John Hieftje.

[Full Story]

Hideaway Lane Gets Council OK

A proposal to build 19 single-family houses on a 4.6-acre site on Hideaway Lane off Traver Road – near the city’s Leslie Park Golf Course – has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council. The planning commission had recommended approval of the plan at its March 19, 2013 meeting. The council’s action came on May 13 at a meeting that had started on May 6.

Hideaway Lane, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial map showing the location of the Hideaway Lane project.

Action on the planned project’s site plan and development agreement had been postponed at the planning commission’s … [Full Story]

490 Huron Parkway Rezoning: Initial OK

A rezoning request for 490 Huron Parkway from R3 (townhouse district) to R1B (single-family dwelling) has received initial approval from the Ann Arbor city council. The action came on May 13, 2103 at a meeting that had started on May 6.

490 Huron Parkway, Johnson Building Group, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of 490 Huron Parkway, outlined in black. The major road running west of the site is Huron Parkway. The land on the far west of this image is the site of Huron High School.

If given final approval at a subsequent council meeting, following a public hearing, the … [Full Story]

City Council Sets Up for 413 E. Huron

Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 6, 2013 – May 6 session): Although the council did not take final action on many agenda items, it did complete eight public hearings and postponed some significant questions – before deciding to recess the meeting for a week. When the same meeting resumes on May 13, the first item to be confronted by the council is the site plan approval for the 413 E. Huron apartment project.

Fourth Avenue between Huron and Washington streets.

Recess of the Ann Arbor city council’s May 6 meeting around 11:30 p.m.  – after eight public hearings and action on a few business items – paved the way for the council to resume the same meeting on May 13, with the 413 E. Huron project as the first item to be considered at that time. This photo shows Fourth Avenue between Huron and Washington streets, which will be repaired in the summer of 2013 as the result of a contract approved at the council’s May 6 session. (Photos by the writer.)

The council decided to suspend the proceedings around 11:30 p.m. – a different strategy than the one taken at the council’s April 15 meeting. On that occasion, councilmembers let the meeting continue until about 3 a.m. before deciding to end the session, postponing all remaining items until the next regular meeting on May 6.

At its May 6 meeting, the council voted unanimously to postpone until Sept. 3 one of the most controversial items on the agenda – revisions to the ordinance governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The most significant revision would clarify language from the original 1982 ordinance, which caps tax increment finance (TIF) revenue to the DDA. The clarifications would not allow for the kind of interpretation the DDA has given the ordinance for the last two years, which has resulted in no return of excess TIF to jurisdictions that have their taxes captured by the DDA.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) led off communications time early in the meeting by describing some further changes he was prepared to make to the DDA ordinance – which would earmark money to support affordable housing. During the public hearing on the ordinance changes, the council heard from speakers on both sides, including five members of the DDA board. A highlight was the apparent initial indication of a slightly moderated position by some opponents of the ordinance changes. The council’s relatively brief deliberations on postponement revealed only grudging support from some councilmembers for putting off the vote for four months. Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) made clear they did not support the proposed changes to the ordinance.

The council also postponed action on a revision to the city’s sign ordinance, which would allow only certain types of digital signs. The ordinance amendments would cap the total number of billboards in the city at 28 and allow them to remain in place as non-conforming signs. It would not allow for retrofitting any existing billboards with digital technology. The council has already given the ordinance initial approval, and will take up the issue again on June 17.

Another item postponed by the council was consideration of a video privacy ordinance, which has not yet been given initial approval. That will come back to the council’s May 20 meeting.

Receiving approval from the council was the site plan for Summit Townhomes, located on Ellsworth Road. The project has been working through the city’s review and approval process for more than a year.

The downtown section of Fourth Avenue was somewhat of a geographic highlight for the May 6 meeting. The council approved a $741,900 contract with E.T. MacKenzie Co. to make improvements on Fourth Avenue between Huron and Liberty streets this summer. And the council formally withdrew its objection to renewal of the liquor license for The Arena, a bar located at Washington and Fourth. The Arena finally paid back taxes, which led to the council’s vote – but not without complaint from some councilmembers.

Another highlight of the meeting was the general topic of appointments to city boards and commissions. A brief discussion of how appointments work was prompted by the observation during public commentary that none of the appointments are current for members of the downtown citizens advisory council. The city council put off voting to confirm Stephanie Buttrey’s appointment to the greenbelt advisory commission. And not reached on the agenda were nominations to replace Jesse Bernstein on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and Eric Mahler on the city planning commission – with Susan Baskett and Paras Parekh, respectively. [Full Story]

413 E. Huron: 9-Point Booklet

When the Ann Arbor city council recessed its May 6, 2013 meeting around 11:30 p.m., to resume on May 13, the council was poised to deliberate on the site plan approval for 413 E. Huron St. – a proposed 14-story, 216-apartment building at the northeast corner of Huron and Division streets.

During the lengthy public hearing at the city council’s May 6 session, some opponents of the 413 E. Huron project presented their case against the project in terms of a nine-point booklet they’d distributed to councilmembers.

On May 10, Ann Arbor city planning staff provided responses to the nine points. The nine points presented in the booklet  – titled “The Facts” – are summarized as follows, with a brief synopsis … [Full Story]

413 E. Huron First Item on May 13 Agenda

The first item on the Ann Arbor city council’s agenda, when it resumes its May 6, 2013 meeting next week on May 13, will be consideration of the site plan for the 413 E. Huron project. The project is a roughly 500-bedroom apartment building proposed for the northeast corner of Division and Huron streets.

The council suspended its May 6 meeting at around 11:30 p.m. after completing eight public hearings – including one on 413 E. Huron – and voting on a number of other business items. The same meeting will resume at 7 p.m. on May 13.

This brief was filed shortly after the May 6 meeting concluded. A more complete report of the meeting will follow: [link]

Planning Commission Signs Off on R4C Draft

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (April 16, 2013): Moving ahead on a project that’s been years in the works, planning commissioners took action at its meeting to adopt a set of changes to the city’s R4C/R2A residential zoning districts.

Commissioners unanimously recommended that the city council adopt the draft changes, and that the council direct the planning staff and commissioners to develop ordinance language that would implement these recommendations.

Wendy Woods, Matt Kowalski, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Wendy Woods consults with city planner Matt Kowalski prior to the April 16 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting, which Woods chaired. The commission’s chair, Kirk Westphal, was absent. (Photos by the writer.)

Eight people spoke during a public hearing on the recommendations, including several who’d served on an R4C/R2A advisory committee. They raised a variety of concerns primarily related to lot combinations, parking requirements, and a proposed “group housing” district.

Related to lot combinations, several speakers urged commissioners to institute a maximum lot size of 6,525 square feet, equal to an allowable density of three units. This had been a recommendation of the advisory committee, in an effort to prevent future projects like the large City Place apartment buildings on South Fifth Avenue.

In contrast, the planning commission’s recommendations call for more flexibility in combining lots, but don’t yet provide much detail about how that approach would work. The approach would require planning commission approval of lot combinations as part of a project’s site plan review. Review standards would still need to be developed, as well as standards for design and massing – to ensure that any new development is compatible with the neighborhood.

The proposed group housing district was another point of concern for speakers during the public hearing, and was the focus for much of the commission’s deliberations. The recommendations designate a new zoning district, located south and west of the University of Michigan’s central campus. It would be roughly an area outlined in the city’s Central Area Plan, but with final boundaries to be determined. [.pdf of Central Area Plan] The idea is to address issues that are somewhat unique to neighborhoods with a large amount of student housing.

In general, the new district is intended to allow for flexibility by putting limits on density, but with premiums provided in exchange for community benefits such as pedestrian-friendly and architectural design standards. For example, parking might be based on a building’s total floor-area ratio (FAR), independent of the number of units in a structure. The recommendations call for details of this new district to be fleshed out in a second phase, after other ordinance changes are made that are seen as more straightforward.

Commissioners discussed the terminology for this proposed district, with some preferring the term “flexible housing” rather than “group housing,” which was the phrase used in the Central Area Plan. Commissioners appeared to reach consensus in directing Matt Kowalski – the city planner who’s taken the lead on this project – to clarify the group housing term as one that’s based on the Central Area Plan. Kowalski intends to make some other minor revisions to the draft report, based on feedback from commissioners, before forwarding it to the city council for consideration.

If the recommendations meet with council approval, the planning staff would then work with the city attorney’s office to develop specific ordinance revisions to implement the recommendations. Those ordinance changes would also be reviewed by the planning commission’s ordinance revisions committee before being voted on again by the full planning commission and then the city council.

Related to this R4C ordinance process, some commissioners are concerned about how that work flow would fit in with the ongoing ZORO (zoning ordinance reorganization) project. At a five-hour retreat on April 23, several commissioners expressed frustration that ZORO seems to be languishing in the city attorney’s office. The ZORO project, which started in 2009, is a comprehensive zoning code review aimed at streamlining the development-related city code, clarifying terminology, and eliminating inconsistencies and outdated material. The commission intends to convey its concerns to the city council, hoping to push the project toward completion.

In other action at their April 16 regular meeting, commissioners recommended approval of two residential annexations on the city’s northwest side, and moved forward a project to replace outdated electrical equipment at the Barton Pump Station. The station pumps raw water from Barton Pond to the city’s water treatment plant about two miles away.

Commissioners also recommended that the city council approve distribution of the city of Ann Arbor’s draft non-motorized plan for feedback from neighboring jurisdictions. [.pdf of staff report and draft non-motorized plan] This is an update of a plan that was initially approved in 2007. It makes policy recommendations as well as specific project proposals, primarily related to pedestrian and bicycle travel. [Full Story]

Two Township Lots Set for Annexation

The Ann Arbor planning commission recommended annexing two adjacent parcels into the city from Ann Arbor Township, and zoning them for residential use. The action took place in two separate votes at the commission’s April 16, 2013 meeting. Both properties would be located in Ward 1.

The 21,888-square-foot lot owned by Derek & Anna Weller is located at 2119 Victoria Circle, between Springwood Court and Alexandra Boulevard and west of Newport Road. Currently vacant, it would be zoned R1A (single-family residential). The owner plans to build a house on the site. [.pdf of aerial map showing lot location]

The second property at 2121 Victoria Circle, owned by William & Maura Higgins, is a 22,256-square-foot parcel located north of the other lot. … [Full Story]

Council Postpones 413 E. Huron Again

The site plan application for 413 E. Huron – a proposed 14-story, 216-apartment building at the northeast corner of Huron and Division streets – has been postponed again by the Ann Arbor city council. The postponement on April 1, 2013 – until the council’s April 15 session – came at the request of the project’s developer.

A new public hearing on the project was started at the April 1 meeting, and held open so that it can resume on April 15. The council first considered the 413 E. Huron site plan at its March 18, 2013 meeting.

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 … [Full Story]

413 E. Huron, Zoning Review: They’re Back

Ann Arbor city council meeting (March 18, 2013) Part 2: In a session that lasted until nearly 2 a.m., lengthy public commentary and council deliberations focused on two related items at the council’s last regular meeting: (1) a possible moratorium on D1 (downtown core) site plans; and (2) the site plan for 413 E. Huron, located in a D1 district. Both items resulted in some unfinished business that will need to be addressed at the council’s April 1 meeting.

413 E. Huron project. Left is the original rendering considered by the planning commission. Right is an updated version presented to the city council on March 18, 2013

Images for the proposed 413 E. Huron project, at the northeast corner of Huron and Division. On the left is the original rendering considered by the planning commission. On the right is an updated version presented to the city council on March 18, 2013. Even more revisions could be presented at the April 1 council meeting.

The council decided to conduct a review of D1 zoning, without imposing a moratorium. But councilmembers left some work on that issue until April 1, when the review’s clear scope of work and timeline are expected to be set.

The lack of any moratorium cleared the way to consider the 413 E. Huron project. Even though councilmembers deliberated in a fair amount of detail on the project, they still had a number of questions they wanted to pursue with the developer. So the council decided to postpone the item until April 1.

The council’s discussion of the 413 E. Huron project included a fine-grained examination of the project’s compliance with zoning code regarding the disturbance of natural features – trees in particular. It was punctuated by a resident shouting “You lie!” as the developer’s representative – Conor McNally of Atlanta-based Carter – responded to questions from councilmembers.

According to a letter sent by the developer to the council on March 29, councilmembers continued to submit additional questions in writing through March 28. That led to a request from the developer to remove the item from the April 1 agenda in favor of April 15, to allow for time to respond to questions. The developer is also hoping to revise 3D renderings to show changes in the building that have been made since March 18.

The developer’s request to pull the item from the agenda can’t be accommodated – because the council voted to postpone until a date certain, which means the item will need to appear on that April 1 agenda. To remove it would require a decision of the council, and that can’t be done administratively at the direction of the planning staff or on the initiative of the city clerk.

So the item will appear on the agenda, although the council may be inclined to make their deliberations brief, if their intent is to postpone it until April 15 – which would be consistent with the developer’s expressed preference. The public hearing on the site plan appears on the April 1 agenda as well, although it was declared closed by mayor John Hieftje on March 18.

This report includes a summary of public commentary and council deliberations on the moratorium and the 413 E. Huron site plan from March 18. A write-up of other agenda items is included in Part 1 of the March 18, 2013 meeting report. [Full Story]

Planning, DDA: City Council to Set Course?

Ann Arbor city council meeting (March 18, 2013) Part 1: The two main events of the council’s meeting centered around planning in the downtown area: (1) consideration of a possible moratorium on D1 (downtown core) site plans; and (2) consideration of the site plan for 413 E. Huron, located in a D1 district.

The March 18, 2013 city council meeting did not adjourn until nearly 2 a.m. From left: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and city administrator Steve Powers.

The March 18, 2013 city council meeting did not adjourn until nearly 2 a.m. From left: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and city administrator Steve Powers. (Photos by the writer.)

The council decided to conduct a review of D1 zoning, without imposing a moratorium. That cleared the way to consider the 413 E. Huron project, which the council eventually voted to postpone – at roughly 1:30 a.m. Because of the amount of time spent on just those items, they’ll be included in a separate Chronicle report.

Apart from those two items, the council’s agenda still included a planning and land use focus, as well as a downtown theme. An additional theme was the city council’s relationship to two other public bodies – the city planning commission and the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

In the case of the planning commission, the council for a second time balked at the commission’s recommendation of R3 (townhouse) zoning for a recently annexed parcel on Ellsworth near Stone School Road – planned as the site of Summit Townhomes, which would be a 24-unit development. The council postponed consideration of the Summit Townhomes site plan and the zoning, having previously postponed the zoning. The council also had previously referred the zoning recommendation back to the planning commission for re-review. The council’s second postponement on March 18 came after the commission’s re-affirmation of its original recommended R3 zoning. The council sent no explicit communication to the planning commission requesting action, beyond the implicit message of postponing the vote.

In the case of the DDA board, the council is weighing changes to the city ordinance governing the composition of that body, but postponed those changes for a second time at its March 18 meeting. The more significant of the ordinance changes involves clarifying how the Ann Arbor DDA’s tax increment finance capture is calculated, which has implications for millions of dollars for the DDA, the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Community College and the Ann Arbor District Library.

Also related to the DDA, early in the council’s meeting an oral report was given on a session of the council’s audit committee – held the previous week to review the DDA’s FY 2012 audit. In the middle portion of the council meeting, councilmembers postponed the ordinance changes. And in the early morning hours of March 19, after the voting agenda was concluded, a member of the audit committee – Sally Petersen (Ward 2) – announced her intention to propose a task force on the DDA.

Related to other boards and commissions, the council confirmed the appointment of a chair for the zoning board of appeals (ZBA): Alex Milshteyn. He replaces Carol Kuhnke, who resigned in December 2012 after being elected judge of the 22nd Circuit Court.

In other business, the council gave approval for the zoning and site plan of The Shoppes at 3600, a proposed retail development on Plymouth Road.

The council also voted to object to the renewal of a liquor license for The Arena, a downtown bar located at Division and Washington streets. The basis for the objection – which will be forwarded to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for final action – was non-payment of taxes.

The council also gave initial approval to a revision to the city’s sign ordinance. It would essentially maintain current conditions, but provide for certain limited digital signs with a restricted range of changeable elements.

Council communications included a briefing on upcoming changes the council will be asked to consider for the city’s public art ordinance. In other communications, the council will be giving a fire station reconfiguration plan some additional explicit discussion at a future working session – although it appears that the idea has insufficient traction to move forward.

Public commentary at the meeting covered a range of topics, including a call for the council to waive privilege on legal advice that councilmembers had received on the D1 moratorium issue – because they’ve now voted not to enact the moratorium. [Full Story]

New Residential Project Moves to Council

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (March 19, 2013): Planning commissioners reviewed two projects at their most recent meeting: a commercial project near South State and Ellsworth; and a residential development off Traver Road near the Leslie Park golf course.

Eleanore Adenekan, Tony Derezinski, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor planning commissioners Eleanore Adenekan and Tony Derezinski at the commission’s March 19, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The commission discussed, but then postponed action on a proposed site plan for State Street Center, just north of Ellsworth near the new Tim Hortons. The project calls for a drive-thru restaurant and separate retail building, with an entrance off of South State.

The planning staff had recommended postponement after discovering that the city’s official zoning map had been incorrectly labeled. It showed the site as zoned C3 (fringe commercial), and the developer had made plans based on that erroneous labeling. But during background research for this proposal, planning staff discovered that the site actually had been zoned as O (office) in 2003. The postponement is intended to allow the developer to submit a rezoning request.

A project that had previously been postponed by commissioners – called Hideaway Lane – was discussed and ultimately recommended for approval on March 19. The proposal is a residential development of 19 single-family houses on a 4.6-acre site off Traver Road, near the city’s Leslie Park golf course and on the edge of Traver Creek. Much of the discussion focused on issues related to the project’s impact on natural features, and how the developer plans to mitigate that impact.

The commission also authorized the reimbursement of expenses for Kirk Westphal – the commission’s chair – to attend the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in Chicago from April 13-17. He’ll appear on a panel with city staff to talk about Ann Arbor’s recently adopted sustainability framework. Westphal, a Democrat, recently announced his intent to run for Ann Arbor city council in Ward 2, for the seat currently held by Jane Lumm. [Full Story]