Ann Arbor City Council met at Larcom City Hall on Monday night to vote on two rezoning agendas. The first rezoning ordinance was B-1, which rezoned 0.8 acres (known as the “Y-Lot”) 350 S 5th Ave. from D1 (downtown core) to PUD (planned unit development). Planned unit developments are forms of land design that focus on integration of natural features of a site with the new development. The second rezoning ordinance was B-2, which rezoned the 68 parcels in the South State Street and East/West Eisenhower Parkway Area to TC1 (Transit Corridor District). Both agendas had been debated and were passed for the first reading during the March 7 City Council meeting.
The B-1 rezoning, which aimed to create a framework for future housing development on the site, has been revised since the March 7 meeting. During the first reading, Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, requested the council bar the developers from accepting payment in lieu of affordable housing units. The latest version of the rezoning ordinance added an amendment to remove the payment-in-lieu clause.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Jennifer Hall, the director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, explained some technical details of the proposed rezoning. She said the change in maximum building height could allow more units to be developed on site.
“Since we included enough affordable housing, we get a 900% floor area ratio (under D1), and we are under that in our PUD proposal,” Hall said. “The change in (permitted) building height is something we requested. The maximum building height allowed under D1 is 180 feet; we are proposing 248 (feet).”
Hall said the rezoning proposal codifies the affordability requirement early in the process, which increases the chance of bringing in affordable housing development.
“What happens historically with this site and other sites in the city of Ann Arbor is that the city sells it to the highest bidder and then negotiations would happen with the developer with extra layers of requirements,” Hall said. “That is what caused development to fail. We are doing the PUD process with supplemental regulations, so that the developers would know in advance what could be built here.”
During the City Council meeting, Hall said the city staff made another amendment to the ordinance to meet the city’s carbon neutrality goals.
“We also worked with the sustainability department to come up with the exact language that you see and hear about,” Hall said. “Targeting energy use intensity for each building type that is consistent with the 2013 zero-carbon goals of the city and meeting the International Energy Conservation Code; we don’t know yet what (new development) is gonna look like, but we are working in lockstep with those exact goals.”
The B-1 proposal received universal praise from City Council members. Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, who opposed the rezoning proposal during the March 7 meeting, expressed his support for the latest version of the ordinance.
“I’m gonna have to support it tonight because it’s the city’s property, and we need to do the best with it,” Hayner said. “What I really want to point out is how much I appreciate (Hall). Even though we didn’t formally make the request for the city properties to be considered carbon neutral, you are understanding that it is best for (the Housing Commission) in the long run to keep the operating costs down to have carbon neutral buildings in the Housing Commission’s portfolio.”
B-1 passed unanimously.
B-2 was the second rezoning ordinance, which proposed shifting 68 parcels surrounding Briarwood Mall to TC1. The city planning commission proposed this rezoning to encourage mixed-use development — development that combines multiple land uses (e.g. residential and commercial) in the same building — and public transit use.
Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide), the primary public transit provider in the Ann Arbor area, is partnering with the city to create the transit district. Matthew Carpenter, CEO of TheRide, spoke with The Daily about his experience working through the TC1 zoning process.
“(TC1) zoning was an idea that came up a couple of years ago when the city reached out to us to collaborate on it (zoning site choice),” Carpenter said. “We were very excited, and we helped them identify some of the best places to begin implementing this. The first place (the South State Street and East/West Eisenhower Parkway Area) to see that zoning, as I understand the logic of it, is a primarily commercial area and there aren’t a lot of existing neighborhoods that might oppose the changes.”
Hayner and Ramlawi cited a lack of environmental sustainability requirements as their rationale for opposing the ordinance.
“All we’re doing is rezoning a bunch of properties and putting our wishful thinking hat on and saying, ‘Maybe they’ll cost less in 50 years,’ like in (the) Hidden Valley apartments,” Hayner said. “We’re choosing to do this in the face of a climate catastrophe. We’re choosing to let development go unabashed in these areas.”
Ramlawi said the city is using double standards for sustainability requirements. He referenced the Class C liquor license application form which requires restaurant owners looking to sell alcohol to attest to their sustainability efforts.
“The city is requiring (restaurant liquor license) applicants to explain what they’re going to do for our sustainability efforts,” Rawlawi said. “Here (with TC1), we’re just completely ignoring (them). Not even lifting a finger.”
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said he believes the sustainability goal is ingrained in the zoning ordinance by virtue of its location near transit corridors.
“Because (the 68 parcels for rezoning) are on transit corridors, folks will be able to come in and out of the downtown without a car. … It also advances sustainability goals because it will bring people who presently live outside of the city into the city, thereby reducing the carbon cost of their commutes,” Taylor said. “It’s not a panacea … the advance of TC1 zoning will not solve these issues overnight. Everything we do in government is incremental and it’s yet another one of those steps.”
The ordinance passed 8-3, with Hayner, Ramlawi, and Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, voting against.
Daily Staff Reporter Chen Lyu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.