Stories indexed with the term ‘townhomes’

Two More Residential Projects Move Forward

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Jan. 3, 2013): In action that somewhat paralleled their last meeting of 2012, planning commissioners approved two more residential projects – one relatively small building near downtown, and one larger townhome development on the city’s outskirts. Both projects had been previously postponed by the commission.

515 N. Fifth, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

This current house at 515 N. Fifth, just south of Beakes, will be demolished to make way for a new four-unit residential development. (Photos by the writer.)

The site plan for 515 N. Fifth calls for demolishing the current house – which has three apartments – and building a three-story structure with four two-bedroom units. Two of those units will be condos, with the other two rented out as apartments. Although the building’s design had previously received harsh criticism from Christine Crockett, president of the Old Fourth Ward Association, and Ray Detter of the downtown citizens advisory council, no one spoke against the project on Jan. 3 and the commission’s discussion was brief.

Also moving forward was a site plan for Summit Townhomes, a residential project at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road, between Stone School and Platt roads. That project proposes 24 attached residential units in four separate buildings. The planning commission and city council have already approved annexation of the site from Pittsfield Township, although that process still awaits authorization at the state level.

In other action, commissioners took steps on two major planning projects that have been years in the making. They recommended that the city council distribute a draft of the South State Street corridor plan to neighboring jurisdictions and other stakeholders, including the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. It’s the next step toward adopting the corridor plan’s recommendations into the city’s master plan.

Commissioners also voted to adopt a sustainability framework as an element of city’s master plan, and recommended that the city council take the same action. The sustainability framework will become the seventh element in the master plan, which is used to guide decision-making in a variety of ways. Other elements are: (1) land use; (2) downtown plan; (3) transportation plan; (4) non-motorized plan; (5) parks and recreation open space (PROS) plan; and (6) natural features master plan.

Related to that effort, planning manager Wendy Rampson highlighted a series of sustainability forums hosted by the city. The first one is on Wednesday, Jan. 9 and focuses on “sustainable systems,” looking at how weather changes might impact the community and the city’s infrastructure. All forums, held monthly through April, begin at 7 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.

The hour-long Jan. 3 meeting was relatively short, but commissioners are anticipating a much longer session on Jan. 15. That’s when two major residential projects will be on the agenda: a 14-story building on the northeast corner of Huron and Division, with 216 apartments; and a 13-story addition to the Pizza House building on Church Street, with 76 apartments. Both projects, especially the controversial proposal at 413 E. Huron, are expected to draw significant public commentary. [Full Story]

Summit Townhomes Wins Planning OK

Ann Arbor planning commissioners have recommended approval of a site plan for Summit Townhomes, a residential project at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road. The decision occurred at the commission’s Jan. 3, 2013 meeting.

Similar versions of the site plan had been previously postponed by commissioners in June of 2012 and again on Nov. 20, 2012.

At the June meeting, commissioners had approved annexation of the 2.95-acre site, just east of Stone School Road, from Pittsfield Township into the city of Ann Arbor. The annexation was subsequently authorized by the city council, but still awaits authorization at the state level. And at the commission’s Nov. 20 meeting, the zoning for the property – R3 (townhouse dwelling district) – had been recommended for … [Full Story]

Climate Action Plan Moves to City Council

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Nov. 20, 2012): An ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025 – with the goal of a 90% reduction by 2050 – was recommended for approval by the city’s planning commission at its most recent meeting.

Evan Pratt, Wendy Woods, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Former Ann Arbor planning commissioner Evan Pratt hugs Wendy Woods, the commission’s vice chair, after receiving recognition for his service at the group’s Nov. 20 meeting. On Nov. 6, Pratt was elected Washtenaw County water resources commissioner, and resigned from the city’s planning commission because of obligations for his new job. (Photos by the writer.)

The climate action plan includes about 80 recommended actions to help achieve those goals, ranging from possible changes in city code to actions that individuals or organizations can take voluntarily, like weatherizing buildings. [.pdf list of recommendations]

In his presentation of the plan, Nate Geisler of the city’s energy office told commissioners that the plan doesn’t tie the city to making firm commitments about these actions, but “it sets us on the path to doing this.” He indicated an urgency in taking action, highlighting the negative impact of global warming and the risks associated with doing nothing. The plan – which is coordinated with the city’s sustainability framework and with a similar effort by the University of Michigan – has already been recommended by the city’s energy and environmental commissions, and will be forwarded to the city council for its consideration.

Bonnie Bona, a planning commissioner who served on the task force that developed this plan, praised Geisler and Wayne Appleyard, chair of the city’s energy commission, for their role in leading the initiative. She offered the planning commission’s help in implementing the recommended actions. More information about the overall effort is online at

Also on the Nov. 20 agenda was a site plan and zoning request for a residential project at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road – called the Summit Townhomes. A similar version of the project had been previously postponed by commissioners in June of 2012. The current plan calls for building 24 attached residential units in four separate buildings, with each building between 80 to 160 feet in length. Each of the 24 units would have a floor area of about 1,300 square feet, and an attached one-car garage. The plan includes two surface parking areas on the east and west sides of the site, each with 12 spaces.

On Nov. 20, the commission recommended approval of zoning the property R3 (townhouse dwelling district). That zoning proposal will be forwarded to the city council. But because of outstanding issues – including questions related to regrading the site’s steep slope – commissioners followed planning staff’s advice and voted to postpone a recommendation on the site plan.

In other action, the commission granted a special exception use that will allow the Memorial Christian Church to use a building at 1900 Manchester Road, off of Washtenaw Avenue. The building has been owned by and used as the Ann Arbor regional headquarters for the Girl Scouts Council. And six parcels in the northeast Ann Arbor Hills neighborhood – on Geddes, Seneca and Onondaga – were recommended for rezoning from R1B to R1C. Both are types of single-family dwelling districts. The rezoning would allow some of the larger lots to be divided.

During the Nov. 20 meeting, commissioner Eric Mahler gave a brief update from the commission’s ordinance revisions committee (ORC), which is reviewing recommendations on changes to the city’s R4C/R2A zoning district, including a report from a study advisory committee. He said ORC is still working on the project and hopes to have a report ready for city council in the spring of 2013. [For an overview of the R4C/R2A initiative, see Chronicle coverage: "Planning Group Weighs R4C/R2A Report."]

The meeting included a formal commendation for former planning commissioner Evan Pratt, who recently stepped down from the group after winning election on Nov. 6 as Washtenaw County water resources commissioner. Pratt had served on the planning commission since 2004, and had been its most senior current member. [Full Story]

Summit Townhomes Postponed Again

The site plan for a residential project at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road – called the Summit Townhomes – was postponed at the Ann Arbor planning commission’s Nov. 20, 2012 meeting. A similar version of the project had been previously postponed by commissioners in June of 2012.

However, on Nov. 20 the commission did recommend approval of zoning the property R3 (townhouse dwelling district). That zoning proposal will be forwarded to city council.

At the June meeting, commissioners had approved annexation of the 2.95-acre site, just east of Stone School Road, from Pittsfield Township into the city of Ann Arbor. The annexation was subsequently authorized by the city council and is awaiting state approval.

The developer, Shawn Barrow of Orlando, Fla., had withdrawn … [Full Story]

Review of New Blake Transit Center Continues

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (July 17, 2012): Two projects – one public, one private – dominated discussion at the most recent planning commission meeting.

Kirk Westphal

Kirk Westphal oversees a vote at the July 17, 2012 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting. He was elected chair at the start of the meeting. In the foreground is commissioner Eleanore Adenekan. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners reviewed a site plan for the new Blake Transit Center (BTC), the main downtown hub for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. A new two-story transit center will be constructed on the same parcel as the existing center, midblock between Fourth and Fifth avenues, north of William and south of the federal building. But the new building will be located on the east side of that site – near Fifth Avenue, opposite its current location – and the direction of the current bus lane will be reversed. Buses will enter Fourth Avenue into an eastbound lane that exits onto Fifth.

Commissioners voiced a variety of concerns and feedback, centered on improving the pedestrian experience and the appearance of the building and landscaping. They elicited the fact that although zoning would allow for a structure up to 180 feet tall – about 16 stories – the foundation for the new BTC is planned to accommodate only four stories, with a two-story structure to be built initially.

Kirk Westphal said he’d been a bit surprised by news that the AATA is interested in buying the adjacent Fifth & William lot from the city. That possibility was mentioned as part of a design review committee report. He urged AATA’s CEO, Michael Ford, to talk with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority about the AATA’s plans for Fifth & William, and to see if the DDA might be interested in collaborating to increase the footings and allow for a taller structure in the future. He noted that the DDA’s Connecting William Street effort, focused on plans to possibly develop certain city-owned sites, includes the Fifth & William lot.

As a public entity, the AATA does not have to follow the process for site plan approval that is required of private-sector property owners. The process is being conducted for review and input only. However, the planning commission did take a vote, unanimously affirming that the project does meet city requirements for private development, except for interior landscaping and driveway width. It will next be reviewed by the city council.

Another project that drew discussion is a private development proposed by Tom Fitzsimmons, for a three-story townhouse with five housing units at 922-926 Catherine St. During public commentary, several neighbors – including residents of the adjacent Catherine Commons condominiums – spoke in support of the project. However, some of them raised concerns about backups in the stormwater system, which is already a problem along Catherine Street. Staff indicated that those issues are likely tied to design flaws on the site of Catherine Commons. Members of the development team for the new project told commissioners that an underground stormwater detention system on their site could improve the situation along the street, and at the least would not make it worse.

Also at the July 17 meeting, three projects that had previously been considered by commissioners were back for various reasons. A site plan for a Speedway gas station at the northeast corner of North Maple and Miller had been postponed at the commission’s June 5 meeting, but was approved on July 17. Also approved by commissioners was a revised site plan for 2161 W. Stadium Blvd., where a Noodles & Co. restaurant is planned. Commissioners had signed off on the original project at their March 6, 2012 meeting – the revision involves shifting the building’s location 21 feet to the north. The former Sze-Chuan West restaurant there has already been demolished.

And parking for the Chalmers Place retail center on Washtenaw Avenue emerged again at the July 17 meeting. Commissioners approved a plan to increase the number of parking spaces on the center’s site from 88 to 112. A different parking plan had been rejected by the planning commission on May 1, after several neighbors spoke against it. There was no opposition to the new proposal. [Full Story]

Summit Townhomes Project Postponed

An annexation request for the site of the Summit Townhomes project was recommended for approval by the Ann Arbor planning commission on a 6-1 vote, with dissent from Erica Briggs. But the group unanimously voted to follow staff advice by postponing action on a related zoning and area plan. The votes came during the commission’s June 19, 2012 meeting.

The 2.95-acre site at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road, just east of Stone School Road, is currently located in Pittsfield Township. The developer wants to remove an existing single-family home and detached garage, and build 24 townhomes in four, two-story buildings, with attached single-car garages for each unit. The plan calls for R3 (townhouse dwelling district) zoning. The developer is Shawn Barrow of Orlando, Fla.

The development … [Full Story]