Ann Arbor Area Community News
Tomorrow night’s Ann Arbor City Planning Commission meeting (7pm, City Council chambers) has an extensive agenda (pdf), with 14 public hearings. Most are tame: single lot annexations that probably won’t have any public comment or Commission discussion. Others merit mention:
i. Action on Glen Ann Affordable Housing Recommendation – Staff Recommendation: Approval
The “action” in question is to approve on-site provision of affordable units (15% of total units); the project was approved two weeks ago with the affordable issue outstanding.
j. Public Hearing and Action on North Sky Site Plan, 26.82 acres, west side of Pontiac Trail, south of Dhu Varren Road. A proposal to construct, in six phases, 182 residential units in single-family, duplex and townhome buildings – Staff Recommendation: Approval
The site plan uses the label “Traditional Neighborhood Development” (complete with a note at the entrance reading, “proposed AATA bus stop to promote a healthy walkable community with a decreased dependency on automobiles”), and the developer, Blue Hill, has included a number of features to back this label up.
The project has a density of about 7 units/acre, with a mix of detached, duplex, and townhome structures, clustered densely around two central “community open spaces”, with a few multi-acre natural areas along two sides of the site, including a “trail easement” for a regional pedestrian trail called for in the city’s Draft Non-Motorized Transportation plan. The developer has also applied for variances to provide narrower street right-of-ways than required by code. The main criticism in the Staff Recommendation is that “private community open space tends to discourage anyone but residents of North Sky from using them.”
l. Public Hearing and Action on Upland Green Annexation, Zoning and Site Plan, 2.64 acres, 1771 Plymouth Road. A request to annex this site into the City, zone it C3 (Fringe Commercial District), and a proposal to construct a 6,142-square foot, one-story building for restaurant use and a 23,844-square foot, two-story building for office and retail uses and 146 parking spaces (some underground) – Staff Recommendation: Annexation – Approval, Zoning and Site Plan – Table
This one is almost In My BackYard, across Plymouth from the west end of Northwood Family Housing, and just west of Willowtree Apartments. My reaction: “Not!” The proposed development appears to reinforce the ex-urban character of Plymouth Road, with the single-story restaurants (between the BP station and Willowtree) set back 124’ from Plymouth, and the office and retail uses 89’ from Upland Drive, in the furthest corner from the road. The retail uses proposed will have zero visibility from the street, and almost no visibility from the sidewalk. The development is completely auto-dependant, with even the parking lots set 40’ to 50’ back from the sidewalk.
The Staff Recommendation recommends tabling the site plan until outstanding issues are resolved, but completely fails to act on the proposal’s obvious disregard for the Northeast Area Plan, which the petition cites at length. On this site, the NEAP recommends ground-floor retail, with office uses above, close to the Plymouth Road lot line and sidewalk accessible, states that parking should not front Plymouth, and recommends a neighborhood-oriented commercial zoning and not an “auto-oriented C3 zone”. The petition claims that it “attempts to address a number of the goals and objectives of the plan,” yet it appears to have been transplanted from Canton Township into northeast Ann Arbor.
Expect me to speak against it, on the grounds of being not dense enough and too pedestrian-hostile. The proposed uses could easily be combined into one 2-3 story building close to the Plymouth Road lot line, with parking accessible from Upland behind the buildings. This would both better meet the NEAP and leave the developer with the back 80% of the site open (parking or unused) for future development.
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