At their meeting Tuesday, City Council voted 8-3 to approve the proposed and long-delayed Woodbury Club Apartment project three years after it was first brought before the council for approval.
The Woodbury project, slated to be built on the southeast corner of Nixon Road and M-14 near North Campus, was introduced in 2013. However, approval has been consistently delayed due to pushback from neighboring residents concerned about the potential ecological damage to nearby wetlands and increased flooding risk.
Dozens of city residents living in neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed development attended Tuesday’s City Council meeting to advocate against the project — a regular occurrence whenever a vote to approve the project has been brought before the council for debate in the past.
Along with ecological concerns, opponents to the project expressed frustration with a perceived lack of effort by the project’s developer in engaging neighboring residents and the potential for overcrowding schools. They also pointed to a lack of accessibility to public transportation from the proposed apartments, which they said could lead to increased traffic congestion.
Ann Arbor resident Jane Kingston reiterated concerns expressed by many of her neighbors, saying the proposed project will damage the nearby wetlands and increase the risk of flooding.
“I’m really sad, and kind of mad and kind of frustrated that I’m here again to try and argue the case for this issue,” Kingston said. “We’ve been told by consultants and the people in the area that the parkland that’s there, as well as the properties nearby will be negatively damaged in a manner that is dramatic and severe. We’re not talking about just a little bit of development impact, we’re talking about damage in a manner that is not reversible.”
As council discussed the issue for the final time, City Councilmembers Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) and Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) — who typically dissent against the approval of large construction projects — all made clear they would vote in opposition to approving the Woodbury project.
Eaton argued the fundamental environmental and infrastructural issues surrounding the project have not been adequately addressed in explaining his vote in opposition.
“We can pretend this development isn’t going to impact traffic on the roads,” Eaton said. “We can pretend this project isn’t going to impact flooding in the surrounding areas, we can pretend this project isn’t going to impact nearby natural features. I don’t believe we should rezone this property and I don’t believe we should approve the site plan.”
Eaton’s sentiments were echoed by Lumm, who also made clear she believes the project would fundamentally hurt surrounding residents and the environment.
“In the city’s desire to add density citywide, we allow these projects to proceed without their own infrastructure support,” Lumm said. “Both these projects will exacerbate traffic problems in already problematic areas … our job is to accept that reality.”
Kailasapathy was also outspoken against approving the project. She argued the Woodbury apartment project is emblematic of a broader issue of City Council pushing for development projects without adequate concern for existing residents.
“I like to face facts, I prefer to live in reality … a couple of weeks ago after rain we got photographs from neighbors (of flooding),” Kailasapathy said. “This project is going to add 500 parking spaces — imagine the runoff; there’s a big disconnect between the projects we’re approving and the people who are living there.”
Despite the opposition, all eight remaining members of the council — including Mayor Christopher Taylor — voted in favor of rezoning the Nixon Road land parcel to residential and approving the Woodbury construction plan.
City Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D–Ward 3) — who voted in favor of the project — argued the development is necessary to increase the local housing supply to meet growing demand. Ackerman’s points were echoed by the other council members voting in favor.
“This piece of land is fewer than two miles from (North Campus Research Complex) and Googleplex,” Ackerman said, referring to the site of the proposed apartments. “We are in need of more diverse housing in more diverse locations.”