During a three-hour discussion at last night’s City Council Meeting, members reviewed in great detail more changes to the Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown (A2D2) initiative.
The discussion marked the first reading of the A2D2 zoning ordinance amendments, designed to increase the population density in the city’s core downtown zones.
The issue of height limitations for the core downtown zones — one of the more controversial amendments to the original A2D2 zoning ordinance changes — was dissected by council members during the meeting.
As it currently stands, most of the Main Street, State Street and South University Avenue areas are considered part of the core downtown zones, or D1. In the first draft of A2D2, D1 zones had no height limitation except for the South University Avenue area, which was limited to 170 feet.
Council members consider the South University Avenue area to be more sensitive to high-rise construction because it is closer to residential areas.
Last night, Councilmember Leigh Greden (D- Ward 3) submitted Amendment 8 to the proposal, which would establish a maximum building height limit of 120 feet in the South University Avenue area and 180 feet in the rest of the D1 designated zones.
Mayor John Hiefjte proposed that Greden’s amendment limit the building height in the principal D1 zone to 160 feet instead of 180 feet, which is approximately 14 stories instead of 16.
“We don’t live in a large city, we live in a medium city,” Hieftje said. “The needs of density can be established with a 14 story building.”
Councilmember Tony Derezinski (D-Ward 2) proposed another amendment to the height limitations of A2D2. Derezinski argued to increase the height limit in the South University Avenue area from 120 feet to 150 feet.
Councilmember Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5) supported Derezinski’s change, warning that a height cap of 120 feet would limit downtown development and send development beyond core downtown zones.
After a long debate members compromised to amend the height limitations of A2D2 to 150 feet in the South University Avenue area and 180 feet in the remainder of the D1 zone.
Other controversial amendments included the height limit of the buildings in the D1 area of East Huron and the amount of setback space between the buildings in that area.
The next step of the approval process for the A2D2 zoning changes is a second reading and a public hearing.
Originally scheduled to take place on May 4, council members decided to push back the second reading and second public hearing to June 1, in order to allow time for the Planning Commission to review last night’s changes.
City staff is planning to update the official A2D2 website as soon as possible to inform the public of last night’s changes before the next public hearing.