City Council convenes at Larcom City Hall Monday evening. Dominick Sokotoff/Daily. Buy this photo.

Ann Arbor City Council voted to approve two rezoning proposals Monday night. The first proposal was C-1, which rezoned 0.8 acres at 350 S 5th Avenue from D1 (Downtown Core) to PUD (Planned Unit Development). The second rezoning ordinance was C-2, which rezoned 68 parcels in the South State Street and East/West Eisenhower Parkway Area to TC1 (Transit Corridor District).

The proposed rezoning at 350 S 5th Avenue, known as the “Y lot,” came after years of planning and discussion. After the city attempted to create affordable housing on the lot by selling it to a private developer in 2014, it bought the property back in 2018. The Ann Arbor Housing Commission conducted a financial feasibility analysis with a target of 60% Area Median Income (AMI), which means that housing would be affordable for people making up to 60% of AMI. The analysis suggested the project would be competitive for Low Income Housing Tax Credit, a federal tax credit to incentivize affordable housing development. 

The Ann Arbor affordable housing tax, which was passed in 2020, provided additional funds for affordable housing projects. However, in order to build this project, the plot has to be completely rezoned. After community engagement and unanimous approval by the city planning commission, the rezoning ordinance was brought to the council for its first reading. According to the ordinance’s supplemental regulation, any new development must consist of at least 40% affordable units.

D1 zoning has several limitations that would preclude the new affordable housing the city wants to see on the Y lot. PUD zoning allows for flexibility for new development.

Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, said as this rezoning ordinance came before a complete site plan and prospective developer. However, she said the efficacy of the ordinance should not be underestimated.

“Don’t think that this is a blank canvas,” Disch said. “Approving the terms of the PUD at second reading in April means that whoever agrees to develop the project agrees to have two distinct towers that together must provide a minimum of 100 affordable units.”

Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, opposed the ordinance and said the city could do more to enforce community benefits on municipal land.

“We’re talking about having a PUD with an area plan and no site plan here before us,” Hayner said. “We waived the ability for the city to chime in on site plans in the future … It doesn’t go far enough as far as I’m concerned.”

City Planning Manager Brett Lenart said there was leeway in the regulation; the affordability requirement could be satisfied by in-lieu fees, which are intended to provide some flexibility for affordable housing developers and doesn’t require all affordable units to be on site. However, Lenart said this could be changed.

“If the council was desirous to eliminate that (building off site) as an option there would be modifications to the affordable housing provisions to just require all units to be provided on site,”  Lenart said.

Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, said he was comforted by Lenart’s assurances.

“That gives me a little bit of comfort in supporting this here tonight,” Ramlawi said. “I do plan on bringing an amendment to strike (the in-lieu fees provision) in second reading. … I’d like to see those affordable units there and nothing less than 100. ”

The motion passed 10 to 1 with only Hayner voting against.

C-2 was the second rezoning proposal, which would rezone 68 parcels near Briarwood Mall to TC1, a new zoning category proposed by the city planning commission to encourage mixed-use development along the proposed transit corridor in this suburban area. The council members had previously debated on the TC1 zoning in the Feb. 7 City Council meeting at which they rejected a resolution to report on ownership in this proposed zoning area, paving the way for voting for the rezoning proposal. Monday’s meeting was City Council’s first vote on the resolution.

Hayner criticized the plan, pointing out that the zoning lacked enforcement to push for the city’s sustainability and affordability goals. 

“The real concern is that this isn’t really doing that much for us except saying ‘Hey, go ahead and build more and bigger (buildings) and maybe don’t put quite as many cars there,’” Hayner said. “Letting the market provide (affordable housing) has not worked for us and that’s what we’re doing here.”

The city planning commission previously recommended against setting requirements for developers to create affordable and sustainable housing, raising concerns about cost.

Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, said she supported the plan and development should be a top priority.

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” Briggs said. “We have 30,000 people who are commuting into Ann Arbor every day for jobs. The reality is if we don’t build more housing, the current housing stock is just going to get more and more expensive, and it’s already expensive enough.”

Hayner said Briarwood Mall itself needed redevelopment the most, but the zoning excluded the mall.

“This (zoning) specifically excludes Briarwood Mall which is ripe for redevelopment,” Hayner said. “Cities all over the country are redeveloping their stagnant malls and envisioning a secondary or tertiary downtown space … that (Briarwood Mall is excluded) is one of the concerns I’ve heard from constituents. ”

Lenart agreed Briarwood is ready for redevelopment, however, he said the location of the mall makes it hard to install high frequency transit that would benefit the workforce.

“The transit system will not install a higher level of service than is economically viable,” Lenart said. “There are bus services to the mall, but they are not provided with the same frequency as the corridors near our zoning district, but I agree the community could benefit from some sort of re-envisioning the Briarwood Mall.”

The motion passed 8-3, with Hayner, Ramlawi and Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, voting against.

Business sophomore Abdulrahman Ateya, who gave a public comment at the meeting, said the obsession with affordability enforcement could impede middle-class housing development.

“I want you to think of a teacher who is married to a firefighter, and they have a child,” Ateya said. “This standard family would be ineligible for affordable housing. The idea that we make everything affordable precludes middle class people like this, and we need to give these people options too.”

Daily Staff Reporter Chen Lyu can be reached at