Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: It Takes a Village (Corner)

7. August 2008 • Juliew
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Thursday, August 7 at 7:00 pm.
Ann Arbor City HallAgenda


  • Maple Cove mixed-use Office/Residential Complex Site Plan
  • 601 Forest (Village Corner) Site Plan and Development Agreement
  • Revisions to the Citizen Participation Ordinance
  • Resolution to order election and determine ballot question for charter amendment requiring voter approval of the sale of park land

  1. Because of the election, the City Council Meeting normally scheduled for Monday was moved to Thursday of this week. It is a big agenda. The star of the show is most likely going to be the 601 Forest proposal. Attached to the agenda are more than fifty pages of letters written to object to the project and I imagine a lot of people are going to show up to the meeting.

    The Maple Cove project is a mixed use office/residential project being built outside of downtown. Nice to see mixed use buildings expanding in the city, hopefully this project makes good use of it.

    The revisions to the Citizen Participation Ordinance are a long time coming and should at least begin to address the problems with residents being the last to know about a big project. Unfortunately, it is hard to read what the actual revisions are because of an issue with the document. This could also be a contentious issue, depending on the mood of the crowd after 601 Forest.

    The resolution regarding the sale of park land is another one that was raised in Council some time ago. With the sound defeat of the Ask Voters First/Progressives/Greenway candidates, the votes on this one could be telling.

    Not in the highlights because it will be a short part of the meeting, but there is a note in the agenda about a partnership between the City and the Ann Arbor District Library to digitize all City Council meeting minutes from 1891-1930! If you are interested in seeing minutes after 1930 digitized, I’m sure the AADL would be happy to take donations for the cause.

       —Juliew    Aug. 7 '08 - 05:33AM    #
  2. I’d be interested to see if folks show up to say their piece on the Metro 202 project during public commentary … although I doubt it will be added to the already published agenda.

    Brief history: Council voted it down; Rapundalo brought it back for reconsideration; Council then approved it; developer submitted different project at the site (hotel); Council voted down the hotel; developer has now reverted to the approved project. There are revisions to the approved project that are currently undergoing an administrative approval process (as opposed to coming back to Planning Commission and/or Council).

    At last caucus, Eppie Potts questioned whether the revisions qualified for the administrative review. At Planning Commission on Tuesday of this week, there were several speakers, mostly associated in some way with the historic properties immediately adjacent to the Metro 202, who argued for a full reconsideration of the project based on the proposed revisions.

    7 August (tomorrow) was a pressing deadline for action [not sure what the nature of that deadline was] but by the time Council meets, I can’t imagine that Council could undertake anything that would meet that deadline.

       —HD    Aug. 7 '08 - 06:29AM    #
  3. I’m doing research in Austin, TX, where all the city council minutes for the 20th century are digitized and searchable. Totally amazing — it’s tremendously helpful for research and education.

       —Dale    Aug. 7 '08 - 08:01AM    #
  4. Well, this is your record right here, I suppose. Unless someone wants to start Arborwiki logs of city council meetings.

       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 7 '08 - 08:44AM    #
  5. I’ve worked with some of the early paper Council minutes available at the Library and they are fascinating, but would be infinitely better if they were searchable so this is a great thing. The AADL is looking for a funding source to do the 1930-current minutes (those that aren’t in computer form already), but good digitization and OCR is expensive. The funny thing about looking at the old minutes is how little the issues have actually changed over the years.

       —Juliew    Aug. 7 '08 - 09:32PM    #
  6. It’s just that the numbers change. In 1891, the Council was debating whether to limit chicken ownership to 40 on a residential lot, and wondering whether new 4 story buildings would create wind tunnels and overwhelm the two- to three-story, human-oriented scale of the city.

       —Murph    Aug. 7 '08 - 09:52PM    #
  7. Who can forget the Broadway Village Haiku:

    Ann Arbor has trees
    Buildings four stories or less
    Let us see the sky

       —David Cahill    Aug. 8 '08 - 01:35AM    #
  8. Speakers against the 601 Forest project included some recognizable names: Christopher Taylor, Stewart Nelson, and Dave DeVarti.

    Based on speakers’ comments, it sounds like part of the frustration is that the proposed project conforms with zoning, so that its 21 stories still counts as ‘by right’ development.

    Nelson’s comments concluded by summarizing the view of many 2nd Ward citizens he’d talked to in the course of his Council bid: that if the developer wanted to pursue this project, then he should spend ‘his own money’.

    And DeVarti asked that Council not offer any public subsidy (e.g., DDA grants etc.) because—rough paraphrase here—citizens should at the very least not have to pay to have their own community destroyed.

    So there’s perhaps an implicit recognition that the project will probably move forward, but that Council could decide to ‘punish’ the developer for building such a tall building by withholding assistance it could otherwise choose to provide … and we have people encouraging that punishment. Or, I suppose one could fairly claim that the withholding of a reward doesn’t count as punishment.

    In any case, the plan seems to be that the public hearing on 601 Forest project will not be closed, but rather will be continued to a future Council meeting (in September?).

       —HD    Aug. 8 '08 - 04:20AM    #
  9. Look, I’m a preservationist. If it were up to me, Ann Arbor’s historic districts would be expanded. But I don’t quite get how one apartment building would “destroy the community”.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 8 '08 - 06:04PM    #
  10. Larry Kestenbaum wrote: “But I don’t quite get how one apartment building would ‘destroy the community’.”

    Oh, c’mon, wouldn’t you be willing to chalk that up to rhetorical flourish? Besides, as noted that was a rough paraphrase. My new fancy-ass digital TV apparently doesn’t have an Output for recording (or I’m too stupid to find it, which is always a possibility), so I’d have to wait and watch it back when CTN does.

    Larry Kestenbaum also wrote: “If it were up to me, Ann Arbor’s historic districts would be expanded.”

    O. M. G. I’m voting for Kestenbaum for County Clerk for life, so that he’ll have something to occupy his time besides thinking about expanding the historic districts! ;-)

    But more seriously, Larry, do you mean that as a rhetorical flourish to establish your position as a preservationist, or do you have like a map of the city with lines drawn in where you’d like the expansions to occur?

       —HD    Aug. 8 '08 - 06:18PM    #
  11. I didn’t mean to alarm you, HD. Remember that I’m a former chair of the Historic District Commission, so I have a lot of experience with the process. I think it works pretty well.

    Specifics? I’d redesignate all of the former individual historic properties that were left unprotected after that bad court decision on 9/11/2001. And I think the area immediately south of William Street, along 5th and Hamilton for example, should be a district. And the west side of Broadway just past the bridge should have been included in the Lower Town district.

    Not vast areas, no, but important architectural resources in dire need of protection.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 8 '08 - 06:39PM    #
  12. Larry,

    So, roughly like this? GoogleMap

       —HD    Aug. 8 '08 - 07:13PM    #
  13. Well, crap. That link worked before, WTF. Apologies. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I found where you mean, Larry.

       —HD    Aug. 8 '08 - 07:15PM    #
  14. Yeah, Michael Shils has pointed out there’s a textpattern bug that causes it to try to escape ampersands in url’s. The workaround for now is just to email us (arborupdate at and someone can fix it up by hand. I’ve fixed the above link.

       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 8 '08 - 07:44PM    #
  15. Thanks for the extra effort, Michael and Bruce.

       —HD    Aug. 8 '08 - 08:40PM    #