Armed with pamphlets and fired up with protest songs, constituents of Ann Arbor rallied together to express discontent with the City Place housing site plan and development agreement on South Fifth Avenue at Monday’s city council meeting.
“You have no voice, council’s made the choice,” sang audience members, despite Mayor Hieftje’s pleas for order.
“Development goes marching on,” the crowd continued.
Other manifestations of public dissatisfaction included resident Mozhagn Savabieasfahani’s emotion-laden speech about the demolition of seven historic homes that would result from the development plans.
The proposed development plans, projected to cost $20 to $22 million by developer Alex de Parry, will consist of two apartment buildings with a total of 144 bedrooms that will take the place of the historic houses currently located between 407-433 South Fifth Avenue.
“You take out seven magnificent, beautiful buildings, ripping them out from the heart of our town … it’s despicable,” Savabieasfahani said.
Savabieasfahani, along with other residents, came to the meeting to call for a moratorium on the development plans.
“We don’t want these buildings taken out,” Savabieasfahani said. “It’s a part of the history of this town. It’s a part of something the young people should know about.”
Supporters of the moratorium resolution have made strides to broadcast their views. Resident Hugh Sonk suggested turning to social networking sites to urge fellow Ann Arbor residents and University alumni in preserving the historic houses on South Fifth Avenue.
“Using the Obama model of social-networking sites, we can inexpensively reach mass numbers of Michigan alumni to support our cause,” Sonk said. “This broad community concern of the character of this town is in jeopardy and we must take steps to prevent irreversible damage to the town we love.”
Ann Arbor City Councilmember Sandi Smith (D–Ward 2) voiced her approval to delay the site plan proposal because of dissent from both concerned citizens and frustrated site planners. Smith believed that more time would create a plan that could accommodate both sides.
“There have been a lot of hurt feelings — people have been very upset by this proposal and going forward — I think this gives them an opportunity to see if there’s some way to making something good out of it,” Smith said. “There’s an opportunity here to come up with something that is palatable for both sides.”
City Council voted unanimously to postpone consideration on the site plan until the second monthly meeting in January 2010.
The City Place project was first introduced at a Planning Commission meeting in August 2007. Since then, the plan has been reshaped by developers and the Planning Commission numerous times, but has yet to be approved by City Council.