City Place and the Vision Thing

Good news for those of us who care about the Germantown neighborhood, historic preservation, and neighborhoods in general.  The City Place site plan for a significant part of South Fifth Avenue that was on Council’s June 15 agenda has been sent back to the Planning Commission for re-review.  According to the Ann Arbor News report, the reconsideration by the commission will be on July 7, and there will also be a new public hearing at that time.  The City Council could receive the new recommendation as early as July 20, and again according to the News, a fresh public hearing will be held.  That is an important detail, because when the vote at council was postponed previously, the public hearing was held over, so that speakers would not be able to appear a second time.

This project has been around in some form for a couple of years now and was rejected by Council as a Planned Unit Development for the second time in January (2009).  The developer was unable to carry the day on convincing Council that the public benefit from the plan met the requirements for rezoning to a PUD.  At the time, the developer, Alex de Parry,  displayed an overtly unattractive conceptual sketch for a “by right” alternative plan – one that would supposedly meet the standards for its current zoning of R4C. The implication was “here is what you’ll get if you don’t approve the PUD”.

A by-right site plan was indeed promptly produced and recommended for approval by the Planning Commission on April 21 as reported earlier.  It was consideration of that site plan that has been postponed once by Council, then sent back to the Planning Commission.

The City Place project in all its configurations has proved to be a capsule lesson in the development issues facing Ann Arbor.  So many of the technical details, legal considerations, and most of all, the hopes and aspirations of different members of our community are embodied in this one project.  Of course, there are several other pressing projects and policy decisions in process, including a couple of major plan revisions and zoning changes.  But City Place draws the thumbnail.

Future posts will explore the rapidly moving history of this project further, and the underlying issues and perceptions that it embodies.

Explore posts in the same categories: Neighborhoods

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3 Comments on “City Place and the Vision Thing”

  1. Tom Whitaker Says:

    “At the time, the developer, Alex de Parry, displayed an overtly unattractive sketch for a “by right” alternative plan – one that met the standards for its current zoning of R4C.”

    Mr. de Parry only CLAIMED that this plan met the standards for R4C. The Germantown Association’s expert analysis found at least six overt violations of R4C ordinances in various aspects of the plan including; building height, setbacks, number of dwelling units, and required open space.

    Councilmembers and planning commissioners are fond of saying that they “must follow the law” when it comes to site plan reviews. This is their opportunity to do just that–by turning down this proposal.

    Just because a developer labels his project “by right” does not mean that the project is exempt from a thorough review of zoning compliance. In fact, the Hesse Realty vs City of Ann Arbor case set a high standard for these reviews, whether they be for approval or denial. The court said that they were to be based on “competent and material evidence,” not merely the City Attorney’s fear of a developer’s lawsuit.

    • varmentrout Says:

      Yes, I was using abbreviated language to define what a “by right” plan is, not to indicate that de Parry’s conceptual sketch (which had no plan attached at the time) actually met the standards. Thanks for pointing out the possible confusion. I’ll edit the post.

  2. Glenn Thompson Says:

    I reviewed the plan of the proposed development presented to the planning commission and the zoning ordinance with respect to building height. I concur with Mr. Whitaker, it requires a very convoluted and illogical interpretation of the zoning ordinance to conclude the the proposal is “by rights”. It does not meet a logical reading of the ordinance.


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