Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

828 Greene apartments meet heavy neighborhood resistance

16. November 2004 • Murph
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An item on tonight’s Planning Commission meeting is seeing a lot of neighborhood outcry,

Public Hearing and Action on 828 Greene Street Apartments Site Plan, 0.37 acre, 824 and 828 Greene Street. A proposal to remove the existing two houses and construct an 11,790-square foot, six-unit, three-story apartment building, and a ten-space parking lot – Staff Recommendation: Approval

The petitioner noted, during the public hearing before the Commission, that the site plan, including parking, has been reviewed by the city’s planning staff, and that the proposal is following the staff’s recommendations.

In response, a string of neighbors and neighborhood association representatives have decried the plan, citing every imaginable excuse for not wanting student apartments (the petitioner “actually admitted that this is student housing – this is not useful to other people!” exclaims one neighbor). The hearing reads like a tutorial in how to attack student housing, and the neighbors seem skilled in the practice.

Complaints include noise, parking, litter, floodplain considerations, and sewer capacity. One speaker cites a problem with 36 bedrooms attracting boyfriends, girlfriends, family – with 36 residents quickly becoming 72 – while another claims that 6-bedroom units are hard to rent, and fears the property will go unfilled, and thus unmaintained, and will become an eyesore. One implores the Commission to demand the proposal be scaled back to affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments that “can help lower-income families get started in Ann Arbor.” Another, an architect, shows his modifications to floor plans, showing how the apartments could be divided up into even more bedrooms once approved, with just a few illegal wall additions.

The South Main Neighborhood Association representative claims, “I genuinely like students,” but not in her backyard. She defends her concern with the plans by saying she fears for the tenants’ quality-of-life, calling the building “a mini-dorm, without food service and without benefit of rules.”

After an hour of discussion, Commissioner Jean Carlberg moved to table the application, after support for the proposal from Carlberg and Chair Jennifer Hall failed to win over enough commissioners to pass the propsal.

The council meeting will be replayed on CTN Channel 16 at 10am Wednesday, November 17 and at 10am Saturday, November 20. The hearing on the 828 Greene apartments starts approximately half an hour into the Commission meeting.



  1. This was the first planning commission meeting I’ve been to, and I noticed that no students came to speak about the project. It seems that as long as neighborhood associations have a monopoly over the discussion, the planning commission will largely continue to side with them.
       —Audrey    Nov. 17 '04 - 06:42AM    #
  2. I love neighborhood associations like they love students.
       —js    Nov. 17 '04 - 09:30AM    #
  3. I was in the area today and decided to check out the site. The two houses currently on the site would be razed. . .and they need it. I’d hardly describe the neighborhood as hardcore single-family; the apartments would face across the street to a small blue lot and the hulking, corrugated metal-sided Buhr building, the UM libraries off-site book warehouse.

    To the left of the proposed site is a single-story cinder-block commercial building; the only houses that would be affected are the one to the right of the proposed site and perhaps some to the rear of the site.

    In my opinion, there is no reason to try to preserve this site as single-family housing, or even to try preserve this block as single-family housing. There’s basically none there as it is. Putting a 36 bedroom student apartment complex there is probably better than 95% of the sites in town, if you’re interested in minimizing neighborhood impact.

    I think I need to watch for this to come off the table and prepare some scathing remarks about NIMBYs for the Commission.
       —Murph    Nov. 17 '04 - 12:20PM    #
  4. I wonder why MSA doesn’t have a designated representative(s) to speak on students behalf at all commission/council meetings?
       —Brandon    Nov. 17 '04 - 01:08PM    #
  5. Hence my endorsement of Rese Fox in response to Hollerbach’s post on the MSA elections. Her platform includes, “From the couch ban to the expansion of the Historical District, activity in the city council can disproportionately affect students. Student government should have a vocal presence at city council meetings.”
       —Murph    Nov. 17 '04 - 01:21PM    #
  6. MSA should set up a permanent student liason with rotating members and a constant presence at all of these meetings, but you MUP types might have to take the initiative
       —Matt    Nov. 17 '04 - 02:39PM    #
  7. So, since there are so few single-family homes on the block, who are these people who turned out at the meeting? Are they people who won’t be affected by the proposed building, but want to oppose any apartments that might house students? Seems strange.

    One thing that is so infuriating about this all is that these folks fail to appreciate that more housing stock will benefit everyone. Students won’t go away, and “1- and 2-bedroom apartments that will help families get started” will be found as the market loosens up. The only people who have anything to lose are slumlords.
       —Anna    Nov. 17 '04 - 04:09PM    #
  8. Here’s a traitorous viewpoint from a fellow student. The development as proposed pushes every limit of the site and its zoning. Density limits that allow for up to 6 units and 1.5 pkg spaces/unit on this site are made with studio to 3-bedroom units in mind, contemplating at most half the population the proposal would bring. This is technically a failure of zoning and not of the proposal, but if the proposal requires special review, review can take this issue into consideration. Second, it’s probably fair to say that students in households of 6 are likely to make more noise than students living in pairs and threes. I’m not sure neighborhoods should have to absorb every marketable living arrangement. Some are more impactful than others. And third, I think the self-selection process of students without cars is partial. There will be plenty of students who will take apartments there in the scramble of choosing housing, and will hope for the best in terms of parking.
    I wouldn’t call for rejecting multi-family housing here, but I don’t think neighbors have to absorb the project that will give the developer maximum return, which is what this is, at the expense of their q of l.
    That said, I haven’t seen the site. It does sound like a 95% kind of site.

    Peter
       —Peter Winch    Nov. 17 '04 - 04:28PM    #
  9. Anna, it sounds like, in most cases, “neighbor” meant “around the corner and two blocks down.” When a hearing comes before the Planning Commission, everybody within a certain radius gets a notice, and they round up their friends to come help them talk up or down the proposal. Usually down.
       —Murph    Nov. 17 '04 - 04:32PM    #
  10. I was at the planning commission covering another story and some of the neighbors were pretty unreasonable; a lot of broad generalizations going on. My personal favorite was that every student drives their own personal SUV that he or she uses to transport high tech equipment between Ann Arbor and home.
    Murph: yeah, you’re right, most of the neighbors that were there were from a block and a half or more away. They were all still really into it—one lady even broke into tears before she could finish her 3 minute statement
       —Mike    Nov. 18 '04 - 12:15AM    #
  11. I’d like to rescind some of my comments and say that, now that I know more about the proposal, I think it’s pretty lousy, and can’t support it. For a really long explanation, see http://www.commonmonkeyflower.net/cms/item/529/
       —Murph    Dec. 6 '04 - 11:24AM    #