At last night’s Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown (A2D2) public comment session, City Council gave the public a chance to voice their opinions about proposed changes to simplify current zoning ordinances to help foster increased population density in downtown Ann Arbor.

A2D2, which was established in Sept. 2006, would condense about 12 current downtown zoning areas into two, known as D1 and D2.

D1 is designated as the denser zoning designation, covering most of the downtown area, while D2 applies to the transition area between the downtown core and surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Property included in the D1 zoning districts would be about twice as large in floor area ratios as those designated in D2 districts. Properties that include beneficial features like public parking or affordable public housing would be permitted to increase the floor area ratio.

Both zoning districts have a minimum height of two stories. D2 designated properties would have a maximum height of four to six stories.

The only maximum height restriction in D1 zoning districts exists in the South University Avenue area at 170 feet.

Before the meeting, Councilmember Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5) said he thought the majority of the meeting’s discussion would focus on building height limitations and which parts of downtown are designated D1 and D2.

At the meeting, Hohnke’s predictions came true as most Ann Arbor residents raised concern over whether or not the areas near South University Avenue and East Huron Street should be designated D1 or D2.

D1 zoning designations that are currently under debate by most residents and business owners pertain to the areas along South University Avenue between East University Avenue and Washtenaw Avenue and East and West Huron Street.

Some residents feared that if these areas are designated D1, as they currently are under the A2D2 amendments, they will lose their historic charm.

Christine Crockett, president of the Old Fourth Ward Association, said she believes that zoning the Huron St. area as D1 will ruin the quality of life of surrounding residents by allowing tall buildings and high-rises to block natural sunlight from smaller residences.

“It’s truly unfair to ask people to live in a constant state of darkness and lack of air and sunshine,” Crockett said. “Currently there’s about a 50 foot setback, which still preserves a lifestyle and quality of life of the people living on Ann Street.”

Ann Arbor resident Betsy Price said that she thinks University Towers is an unattractive building and worried that similar buildings will be constructed in the South University Avenue area if it remains designated as D1 zoning.

Still, others worried that if these areas aren’t designated D1, the potential for an increase in population density and financial growth will be severely impaired.

Bruce Thompson, who owns the property at 413 E. Huron St., said he believes the area should remain as D1 zoning and feels that if it were to become designated as D2, his property along with other businesses in the area would suffer drastic financial consequences.

“It’s already zoned as commercial,” Thompson said. “We’re not asking for anything new, we simply want to continue our earned entitlements.”

Business senior Adam Blanck said most people his age want to live in dense cities, like Chicago and New York, after they graduate, and that A2D2 has the ability to make Ann Arbor an up-and-coming metropolis.

“I believe these proposals can bring Ann Arbor to become a vibrant city and make people like me not have to look to Chicago and New York to live,” Blanck said.

Regardless of citizens’ differences over zoning designations, the majority thanked the Planning Commission for its efforts in designing A2D2 thus far.

The first reading of the A2D2 zoning and parking amendments will take place on April 6. The public will have another chance to express its opinion at the first public hearing on April 20.

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