The Ann Arbor City Council unanimously voted Monday to regulate future building construction on the corner of Main Street and William Street, changing the zoning of the property from D1, core downtown area, to D2, or downtown interface area.
Because there were previously no lots zoned as D2 within the Main Street character district, which provides additional regulations for buildings in that area, a new rule was also created that limits the heights of buildings to 60 feet on the south side and 120 feet on the north side when they are both in the Main Street character district and zoned D2.
Property owners and investors, not the local government, determine the types, designs and quality of buildings built in downtown Ann Arbor. Residents of Ann Arbor, however, took to City Council Monday night to voice opinions for and against proposed regulations for the property at Main Street and William Street. The property is currently owned by DTE Energy, though there are no plans for construction on the site at this time.
Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) said she hopes this preventative measure, which came out of a two-year-long process of reviewing downtown zoning, ensures residents are pleased with new buildings downtown.
“We did not want to repeat the mistake of 413 East Huron, creating a massive building that overwhelms the residential neighborhoods next to it,” Lumm said. “This site, at 425 South Main is one that has the same potential, and fortunately we do have the opportunity to address that risk before it becomes a reality.”
The site at 425 Main St. currently includes a surface-level parking lot and the DTE Energy building.
Downtown development has been an ongoing conversation in the City Council, and when the proposed zoning changes to this area were presented to the council for its first reading on Dec. 1, three council members believed a D2 limitation was not strict enough. There was also some confusion among council members as to the meaning of D2 zoning, and the council went considered multiple amendments to the ordinance, all of which failed. The zoning proposal has been under consideration since June 2014.
Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) expressed concerns about enforcing strict height restraints on downtown buildings. He also referred to the risk of a repeat of the experience with the building on 413 E. Huron.
“Height limits create blocky buildings. I want to see something different, something more palatable to this community,” Kunselman said
Other discussions at Monday’s meeting surrounded the need for an amendment to the city’s chicken ordinance (which stipulates regulations for residents who wish to have chickens on their property) ultimately postponed until September, with multiple council members asking why they needed to worry about fixing something that is not broken.
City Council is scheduled to meet next on Jan. 12 for a Planning Commission working session at the Community Television Network building. The Council’s next regular meeting will be Jan. 20 in the normal council chambers in City Hall.