City Council and City Place

Two items appeared on Monday’s Council agenda that related in some way to City Place.  One was the resolution to approve the site plan.  The other was the moratorium on site plans under the current R4C zoning. (See the two previous posts for more discussion.)  Neither one passed.  Neither was defeated.  The story continues.

As expected, consideration of the City Place “by right” site plan was postponed, as requested by the developer.  Council retired into a closed session for attorney-client communications immediately after public comment.  When the City Place resolution came up on the agenda, CM Derezinski was prepared.  He moved to postpone until the second meeting in January (2010).  His postponement motion included a direction to staff to assist with delivery of yet another PUD application by the developer, Alex de Parry.

The actual text of the amendment:

“Based on a written request from the developer, dated July 17, 2009, I move that Council postpone consideration of the City Place site plan until the 2nd meeting in January, 2010, that Council direct Planning and Development Services to accept and process a PUD application for this site following its established procedures, and that if the developer wishes to withdraw the PUD application, that the City Place site plan be scheduled for public hearing and consideration within 35 days of receipt of a written request of the withdrawal from the developer.”

He also stated that there seemed to be a way open to satisfy both the needs of the petitioner and of the city (the neighborhood association was not mentioned).  CM Smith commented further that it must be a good compromise if no one is happy at the end.  That must have been an interesting closed session.  There was also discussion of appearance of the project on the agenda at any time with 35 days notice.

The moratorium in R4C/R2A zoned areas was postponed to August 6.  CM Derezinski made a strong pre-emptive statement that appeared to be laying out an argument that a moratorium was too difficult, too perilous to consider.  He called it “the nuclear option” – “don’t drop the bomb without serious consideration”.  Though CM Anglin’s comments in support of his motion were mostly directed toward the City Place development (somewhat moot at this point because of the expected postponement and possible withdrawal altogether of the “by right” R4C-based site plan), others made points about the broader impact of a moratorium.  But they don’t seem to have read the resolution very carefully. CM Taylor, CM Rapundalo, and CM Derezinski all emphasized the notion that it affected 1300 separate properties, and they were pursuing an argument that this would affect the owners of each property equally, with obligations for notification and other complications requiring much more staff work.  CM Hohnke even compared this moratorium to the proposals for the Library Lot in a need for public input.  Yet the moratorium resolution clearly and specifically excludes most development proposals on these parcels:

RESOLVED, That City Council hereby imposes a moratorium on all new development that requires site plan approval, expansion of existing development that requires site plan approval, zoning changes, special exception uses, or other comparable zoning items, in the R4C and R2A zoning districts, and that any petitions or permits for such items be deferred for a period of 180 days from the date of this resolution in conjunction with the study and revision of the zoning ordinances pertaining to these districts, with the following exceptions:

· Approval of development, redevelopment, or the issuance of building permits for projects that do not require an approved site plan, including but not limited to construction of or addition to one single or two-family dwelling or accessory structure on a parcel

· Applications or permits which involve routine repair and maintenance for an existing permitted use

Clearly the only parcels that would be affected would be those for which a major development was proposed, and most of those parcel owners would not have a concern.  (Recall that the moratorium is proposed for only 180 days, and that there is also an appeals process.)  CM Briere very nicely stated that she personally favored the resolution, but that the constituents of the First Ward needed to have a chance to weigh in.  With some support from the Mayor, she was able to pull back the reconsideration date to August 6 (from August 17).

You had to be there department: Political theater may be one of the most underappreciated art forms.  I admit it, I’m a political junkie and love nothing more than a long meeting crackling with suspense over the amendment to the amendment.  But this meeting included lots of mixed media.  In addition to cleverly designed models designed to show how roofline relates to height, a speech with picket signs that somehow combined a boycott against Israel, support for Iranian democracy, and outrage over the demolition of historic houses,  public comment included Libby Hunter’s lovely soprano voice in a song to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (I include only one of three verses):

Developers are coming to your neighborhood real soon

They will tear down all the houses and build apartments cheap and huge

More sewer backups, traffic jams and LEDs real cool

Development goes marching on

Council sat patiently until the audience then joined in (text had been passed out):

Glory, Glory Hallelujah

Density is coming to ya

You have no voice, council’s made the choice

Your neighborhood will succumb

Development goes marching on.

At this point the Mayor bestirred himself and protested that “only one person may speak at a time”, but the song went on to its conclusion without a gavel strike.

Update: Per request, I’ve attached the complete text of the song here.  I’ll fill in details about authorship as I am able to obtain them.

Second Update: I’ve pasted in the actual text of CM Derezinski’s amendment, which our city clerk, Jacqueline Beaudry, graciously provided.

Third Update: The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s account of the meeting includes a useful chronology of the City Place project.

Fourth Update: The Development Hymn now on YouTube for your listening enjoyment.

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6 Comments on “City Council and City Place”

  1. David Cahill Says:

    Hey, what about the other two verses? Let’s have a complete record. Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. susan Says:

    I still have my copy from last night. Here it is….

    Developers are coming to your neighborhood real soon
    They will tear down all the houses and build apartments cheap and huge
    More sewer backups, traffic jams and LED’s real cool
    Development goes marching on

    Density is coming to you
    Mayor Highrise says it’s better for you
    Council’s made the choice, you have no voice
    Your neighborhood will succumb
    To development marching on

    They twist our zoning ordinance and clamim they can build high
    Mayor Highrise packed the planning commission so they say aye-aye
    Your government has deserted you, your neighborhood’s by-by
    Development marches on

    (all together now!)
    Glory Glory Hallelujah
    Density is coming to ya
    You have no voice, council’s made the choice
    Your neighborhood will succumb
    Development goes marching on

  3. varmentrout Says:

    Thanks, Susan. I also typed in my copy and corrected a couple of typos. It is available as a document from an update I’ve added to the post.

    I’m not sure of the authorship yet (Libby Hunter performed it, but I suspect a group effort.) I’ll fill that in when I get it.

  4. Thanks for providing this inside view – it’s very useful.

  5. Adrienne Kaplan Says:

    Grateful for this information. Sorry I wasn’t there for the entertainment.

  6. Katherine Scott Says:

    I want this issue to GO AWAY without having yet another vote before city council.
    Kathy Scott

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