Amid the ongoing discussion of zoning issues in Ann Arbor’s public sphere, city residents voiced concerns and opinions at workshop Thursday night on future zoning options.

The public workshop, held by the City Planning Commission’s Ordinance Revisions Committee, was one of eight public meetings held over the past two weeks to discuss alternate options to the current D1/D2 zoning amendments.

These workshops and meetings were called due to fears that the recently passed zoning amendments allow for developmental projects that may be inconsistent with the Downtown Plan, an initiative created in May 2009.

Currently, if developers include premiums in their construction — aspects helpful to the city like additional residential space — they are allowed to increase the floor-to-area ratio of a building. The floor-to-area ratio constricts developers to using a certain total area of flooring. In short, the ratio says that when added together, the total area of each story’s flooring must equal a certain total. Both this ratio and premiums are pertinent issues in the zoning debate.

An online survey held by the City Planning Commission’s Ordinance Revisions Committee showed many of the citizen respondents wanted the city to look at other premiums like affordable housing, “green” awareness, historic building preservation, public parking and pedestrian convenience.

The first area focused on was the Ann Street site, which is adjacent to the Ann Arbor City Council building. While the entire block is currently in the D1 zone with a max building height of 180 feet, there are three proposed alternatives.

The first alternative for current Ann Street-site zoning would be a rezoning the site to D2 with a maximum building height of 60 feet, which would reduce the potential for development in the area.

The second option for Ann Street would keep the site in the D1 zone, and it would keep the max building height at 180 feet, although buildings would require modifications in the diagonals as the height increases. However, this option would eliminate premiums. The second option would leave more potential for development.

A third option would be to rezone it as an office site, which would limit building height to that of residential sizes and greatly reduce the floor-to-area ratio of potential developments.

The second site discussed was the north side of Huron Street between Division and State streets. As of now, the site is in the D1 zone with a maximum building height of 150 feet and a maximum 150-foot setback from the Huron Street property line.

The first proposed alternative for Huron would leave the site in D1 territory but change the code for developing larger buildings to also include modifications as the buildings increase in height. This plan would allow for more potential development of the area.

Like the Ann Street site, a second alternative was proposed to the public where the site, however, would rezone to a hybrid “D1.5” district. The maximum building height would be between 60 and 150 feet. While this would be a compromise to keep development potential at a medium level, it would also create a small, isolated zone in itself and intensify the complexity of the ordinance.

Similar to the first option, the third alternative would be to leave the district in D1 but eliminate premiums. This would reduce the probability of having a building above 50 feet, but may result in a taller building on a smaller base.

Finally, the meeting also concentrated on the William Street site, which is the south side of William between Main and Fourth streets. Currently the site is within D1 zoning.

Like the other two sites’ alternatives, the options for the William site include leaving the site in D1 with tall buildings or changing the site to D2 to eliminate the development of tall buildings. The third option would leave the site in D1 and eliminate premiums.

Councilmember Jane Lumm (I-Ward 2) said she believes the scope of the review should have been larger.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve only limited it to these three sites,” Lumm said. “That’s a shortcoming. The mandate should have been to look at the entire D1/D2 area zoning, and to make the necessary refinements.”

Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager, said she believes the process of gathering public opinion is going relatively well despite the lack of participation.

“I think it’s going well for the short timeframe we have to put this together,” Rampson said. “The entire process to do the zoning in the first place took three years … but it is very targeted. It’s not a broad-based evaluation. I did hear some people disappointed (about this).”

Ann Arbor resident Peter Nagourney said he and many other residents are tired of the high rises and developers not putting residents first, citing specifically the hotly-debated 413 E. Huron project.

“A lot of citizens would like smaller buildings and would like more quality developments,” Nagourney said. “Whereas a lot of developers recently are just looking to maximize profits as represented by the 413 Huron building.”

Lumm also mentioned the 413 East Huron project as an example of a potential issue, noting further that she was not on council when this downtown plan was passed.

“Now we have a bunch of high-rise buildings going up — mostly student high-rises,” Lumm said. “People are saying (this is not what they want).”

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