Stories indexed with the term ‘site plan approval’

Planning Agenda: Art, Eats, Drive-Thrus

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (April 1, 2014): Ordinance revisions, site plan approval and a look at proposed artwork for the East Stadium bridge filled the planning commission’s first meeting in April.

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An image by artist Catherine Widgery for artwork on the East Stadium bridge. This night view shows how the structures would be lit from below, illuminating the images of trees that are etched into louvered glass panels.

John Kotarski and Bob Miller of the city’s public art commission presented images of a revised design for public art on the East Stadium bridge, a $400,000 project that includes columns of louvered glass panels on the bridge as well as underneath it, along South State Street. The artist – Catherine Widgery, who’s based in Massachusetts – had changed her original proposal at the request of a selection committee. The public art commission is seeking feedback on this new design, including at a public forum on Monday, April 21 at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library.

The public art commission likely will vote on a recommendation at its April 23 meeting. The proposal would then be forwarded to the city council for approval.

Also heading to city council is the site plan for a new Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which planning commissioners voted to recommend on April 1. The plan involves major renovations to the existing building at 314 S. Fourth Ave., which most recently housed the Dream Nite Club that closed in 2012. The renovations include adding a second-floor mezzanine level to the front of the building.

Part of the planning commission’s discussion focused on whether there might be outdoor dining in front of the restaurant. The project’s architect, Stephen Fry, indicated that at this point, outdoor seating wouldn’t be appropriate, in part because of bus traffic. The building is located near the Blake Transit Center, a hub for public transportation. “Ruth’s Chris is about a known and consistent dining experience,” Fry said, “and we just don’t feel we can control it out there.”

Fry also reported that the restaurant will likely be using valet parking, with valets positioned in front of the building. “So we’re going to activate the street with humans that are dressed up and looking good,” he said.

Commissioners also reviewed proposed ordinance revisions related to drive-thrus, and recommended that the city council approve the changes. The amendments would add a definition of a “drive-thru facility” to Chapter 55 of the city code. Currently, the term used throughout the code is “drive-in,” which is not explicitly defined in the code.

In addition, the changes would require that drive-thru projects obtain a special exception use from the planning commission, and would be allowed only in the O (office), C2B (business service) and C3 (fringe commercial) zoning districts. Basic layout requirements would also be added to the ordinance. Currently, drive-thrus are allowed in C3 districts without a special exception use. They are allowed as special exception uses in the C2B district.

The changes will give planning commissioners more discretion in approving drive-thru businesses, including restaurants, banks, pharmacies and other types of drive-thrus. [Full Story]

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]

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]

515 N. Fifth Ave. OK’d by Council

A residential building at 515 N. Fifth Ave., between Kingsley and Beakes on the west side of North Fifth, has received approval for its site plan from the Ann Arbor city council. The project is a three-story, 8,404-square-foot building with four two-bedroom units: two condominiums and two apartments. The unanimous vote came at the council’s March 4, 2013 meeting. The project had received a unanimous recommendation for approval from the city planning commission at that body’s Jan. 3, 2013 meeting.

515 N. Fifth, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle Aerial view showing the location of 515 N. Fifth, outlined … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council OKs 624 Church St.

A 14-story apartment building at 624 Church St. will be built now that the Ann Arbor city council has given the site plan unanimous approval. The site plan approval for the project came at the council’s March 4, 2013 meeting. The planning commission had given the project a unanimous recommendation of approval at its Jan. 15, 2013 meeting.

624 Church, Pizza House, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Image from the planning commission’s meeting packet shows the front facade of the 624 Church proposal, in relation to an adjacent house.

The action came … [Full Story]