Game-Day condos spur conversation

Thursday, June 14, 2018 - 9:47pm

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Evan Aaron/Daily

At the June 4 City Council meeting, the council voted on and approved (8-3) the construction project for game-day condos on South Main Street and Berkeley Avenue. The project has also been approved by the Planning Commission.

Wick 1300 LLC, affiliated with Wickfield Properties, proposed the project. According to the game-day condos site plan, the condominiums are proposed to be four-story, owner-occupied, and contain four units for multiple families. The condos will include eight garage parking spaces.

The game-day condos project is in line with current zoning laws. From comments from the Planning Division, the site is considered zone O — office district — and allows multiple-family buildings.

The development is said to be an owner-occupied building, but there is concern that it may be used during sporting weekends only.

Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, said while she doesn’t strongly favor the project, she voted for it.

“I’m not enamored with projects that are intended for short term use,” Grand said. “We have a capacity issue with housing in our city, and I think short term housing doesn’t help our affordability goals. But at the same time I respect that we have rules to help developers present projects that meet the rules. We have a fiduciary duty as council.”

City Administrator Howard Lazarus said there has been some discussion regarding short-term rentals in the city.

“I don’t think it’s (short-term rentals) at a problematic stage,” Lazarus said. “I know other cities are having issues with rentals when they’re not owner-occupied and as we look to the future we should probably see what others are doing and adopt some reasonable approach to making sure they’re not a degradation to life in the neighborhood.”

Brad Hayosh, managing member of Wickfield Properties, said he’s heard the concern of the condos not being occupied year-round.

“That’s another concern that I hear but I don’t understand that much,” Hayosh said. “Isn’t it great if people are sort of paying taxes and not using the resources of the city? If people are coming in anyway, one way or another they're in a hotel room or they’re there.”

Concerns of partying have come up, but considering the population the property is targeted at, it shouldn’t be an issue, Hayosh said.

Grand also said not approving projects that meet the zoning codes could be worse for the city.

“If we didn’t (approve the project) what would happen is that we would get sued,” Grand said. “And sometimes you can end up with a project that is worse than the one presented in the first place because there’s really no incentive to modify the project at all to the concerns of the Planning Commission.”

During a public hearing in the June 4 City Council meeting, Ann Arbor resident Martin Vloet, who lives near the planned construction site, said the building’s size is not fit for the neighborhood.

“I don’t oppose the development of the site in principle,” Vloet said. “But I and several of my neighbors feel the project is taking advantage of the Main Street address in the office zoning district to build a structure that is out of scale of the neighborhood. At four floors, the condos will dominate a neighborhood of one- and two-story homes and the game-day condos won’t even face the stadium, with a better view of my house than the Big House.”

Lazarus said this issue of the design of these condos is not something the city can necessary control, as the zoning codes permit construction.

“The project meets all the city’s zoning requirements, so those requirements ensure that the development is compatible with the neighborhood uses,” Lazarus said. “Most of what you heard had to do with architectural style, which is not something that the city regulates.”

Hayosh said City Council has brought up the issue that the doors don’t open onto Main Street.

“There were a couple members concerned about not having a front door on Main Street but given the layout constraints and the size of the building there’s really no other way to lay out the property,” Hayosh said.

The game-day condos meet the current zoning requirements, but the code is being updated.

“We are moving to a unified development code, that staff has been working with for the past year,” Grand said. “I think projects like this just speak to why our codes need to be living breathing documents (and) that we’re learning from projects we don’t like and having that informed change in our zoning codes going forward.”