Ann Arbor historic preservation, fights to save 7 historic homes from demolition

July 16, 2009

L1620877rbwclr by you.

L1620877rbwclr

Originally uploaded by jeff and leyla

Hello once again from historic Germantown, where the clock is ticking for
our neighborhood!

This Monday, there will be two opportunities for City Council to back up
their words about protecting the neighborhoods downtown. One will be a
final vote on site plan approval for City Place, a proposal that would
destroy 7 historic homes on South Fifth Avenue, and replace them with two
large dorm-type buildings and an inadequate surface parking lot. The second
will be a resolution to impose a temporary moratorium on demolitions and
developments in R4C/R2A districts while the City studies and makes
corrections to the zoning ordinances for these areas.

The Germantown Neighborhood Association has identified two obvious
violations of the zoning ordinances for City Place: building height
(exceeded by over 5 feet) and rear setback (violated by 16 feet). Staff has
presented some pretty stretched interpretations in order to overlook these
violations, but ordinances should be clear and precise on their face, as
read, and not subject to stretching and twisting by developers who will
always be looking to maximize space.

The moratorium, brought forward by Mike Anglin, is meant to coincide with
the R4C/R2A study brought forward by Tony Derezinski back in March and
unanimously approved by Council. The Planning Commission has been begging
for this study for years, but is has been back-burnered for the A2D2
process. The moratorium would put a hold on all developments that require
site plan review and rezonings. It will not affect single-family homes or
over-the-counter building permits for routine maintenance or minor additions
to existing properties.

Moratoria, have been upheld all the way to the Supreme Court as legitimate
methods of stopping inappropriate developments from occurring while a
municipality updates, studies or revises master plans and zoning
ordinances. Two recent cases in Michigan have further reinforced the case
law for moratoria. Council, with a properly worded moratorium, should have
no concerns about losing a lawsuit from a developer. We need to pressure
them to support this, because it is a legal, logical and practical solution
that gets everyone off the hot seat for a while–and what better timing than
during this economic/financial crisis, when almost no projects are being
financed anyway. The problems with our zoning are clear and obvious and
there are many statements on the public record from our Planning Commission
and Councilmembers that reinforce this. I only hope that politics do not
play a role in Council’s decision. Mike Anglin has taken some recent
positions that are contrary to the majority on Council, and there is some
concern that many will not support anything he brings forward, simply
because they may not want to hand him a perceived victory right before the
primary. I hope this is not the case, because a moratorium would be a
victory for the City, for our master plans, and for the property owners in
the R4C/R2A areas that have seen one abomination after another get built in
recent years. (FYI: a project already in the approval pipeline is not
entitled to be exempt from a moratorium. In Michigan, one does not have
vested rights in the zoning, site plan approval, or even a building permit
until substantial construction has occurred. Don’t let Council exempt City
Place or any other project simply because it is already in the pipeline.)

There are links to more information below, as well as some select quotes
from officials. Please contact the mayor and councilmembers now and express
your support for a moratorium and your disapproval for City Place. There
will be no public hearing on the moratorium (unless one signs up for time),
but there will be one final hearing on City Place. Please come to the
Council meeting Monday night and let’s work together to get Ann Arbor back
on track with its master plans.

Thanks!

Tom Whitaker, President
Germantown Neighborhood Association

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