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Posted on Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor officials continue to face legal threats from attorneys for 413 E. Huron project

By Ryan J. Stanton

Faced with continued legal threats from the developer of a proposed student high-rise, Ann Arbor officials once again delayed action on a moratorium on new downtown development.

After a half-hour closed session with the city's legal staff Monday night, the City Council voted unanimously and without discussion to postpone the issue to its March 18 meeting.

"Certainly we've heard attorneys speak to us here who have raised legal issues," Mayor John Hieftje said in an interview afterward. "Council wants to be careful and carefully consider issues like this. I and other council members are considering it from all angles."


A north perspective for the 14-story high-rise proposed at 413 E. Huron St. in downtown Ann Arbor

Humphreys & Partners Architects

Attorneys representing the property owner and the developer behind a 14-story high-rise proposed at 413 E. Huron St. reiterated their concerns that a six-month moratorium on new site plan approvals in D1 zoning districts comes across as a thinly veiled attempt to stop their clients' project just as it was to come before council for final approval.

"The moratorium is clearly targeted at one project and one applicant — that's our client," said Pat Lennon, a Kalamazoo-based attorney representing the developer, Georgia-based Carter.

The attorneys said they don't oppose the idea of the city pausing to conduct a review of the downtown zoning, but they don't think it should stop the 413 E. Huron project.

Lennon said the moratorium should not apply to pending site plan applications, particularly for by-right projects that conform with the city's zoning regulations.

"There is no reason, need or basis for such extreme action in response to one project that is opposed essentially by a handful of influential citizens and leaders," he said. "Such political and legislative activism would undermine the city's credibility and chill development in your city."

The council now must weigh whether to include the 413 E. Huron project in the moratorium, knowing that if it does so it likely would result in a lawsuit against the city.

Lennon was joined by Susan Friedlaender, an attorney representing the property owner, Connecticut-based Greenfield Partners.

Friedlaender pointed out the moratorium resolution sponsored by Sabra Briere and Stephen Kunselman is worded to exclude projects recommended for approval by the Planning Commission.

That still leaves the 413 E. Huron project included since it didn't get the six votes needed last month from the Planning Commission — the vote was 5-3 in favor of the project, a technical denial.

"The line that was drawn, as far as who is included and who is excluded, is arbitrary," Friedlaender said. "There really isn't a legitimate distinction to make between a site plan that's been approved or recommended for approval by the Planning Commission and one that has been technically denied."

The project has been hugely controversial and is being opposed by the city's Historic District Commission and many residents who live in the adjacent historic neighborhoods. They packed the council chambers Monday night to watch the council's deliberations.


Norman Tyler's sketch showing how the development would look from his home on Division Street.

Norman Tyler

Susan Morrison, an attorney representing residents Ilene and Norman Tyler, whose property on Division Street sits in the would-be shadow of the proposed high-rise, urged council to adopt the moratorium. She argued the use of moratoria is a widely accepted tool for successful planning and she believes a court would uphold the council's action to include 413 E. Huron.

"For the city not to reexamine this D1 zoning designation would be a clear act of bad faith," said Peter Nagourney, one of several residents who showed up to lobby for the moratorium's passage.

The city's customized D1 zoning for the 400 block of East Huron limits new development to 150 feet, but some think D2 step-down zoning with a 60-foot cap would be a better fit for the property at the corner of Division and Huron since it backs up to a historic neighborhood.

Ray Detter, chairman of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, suggested the city's A2D2 zoning process resulted in the wrong zoning designation for the property in 2009.

"The city has a perfect right to change that zoning now, recognizing the dangers that exist with regard to not only that site but other sites," said Detter, who lives just north of the site on Division.

Bruce Thomson, the former longtime owner of the property at 413 E. Huron, pointed out the council in 2009 rejected the concept of downzoning the corner of Huron and Division.

"To do so would create a special little pocket surrounded by different zoning on three sides," he said. "It's not equitable, and frankly it would look strange to pick a small slice of the street to limit to 40 percent of the height and FAR (floor area ratio) allowed on the rest of the street."

Thomson said a great deal of time and energy was spent crafting a compromise for what he considers a unique and challenging site.


A rendering of the East Huron Street development shows the building, across the street from The Varsity and 411 Lofts, and next to homes on the north side.mphreys & Partners Architects

Humphreys & Partners Architects

"It borders residential homes on one side and the busiest road downtown on the other," he said. "The result of that work was a site with special limitations on height and setbacks that still allowed for the dense, tall construction that the land was entitled to and the neighboring properties had already achieved."

Carl Hueter, a lifelong Ann Arbor resident and architect representing the developer locally, said he's watched the city's site plan approval process grow more and more contentious and toxic over the past 10 to 15 years. He pointed to City Place as an example where neighborhood opposition and political intervention by city leaders led to a worse outcome in the end.

"When I first started out back in the '70s, we could process a site plan in six to 12 weeks and it didn't cost a lot of money," he said. "Now site-planned developments in the city of Ann Arbor take a minimum of six to nine months and they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"People don't recognize that these developers have to pay money to the city for housing, money to the city for street trees," he added. "There's all these little, small, what we call 'extortion fees' that go to the city, and on this project it's amounting to almost $200,000."

Hueter said he's been impressed by the development team behind the 413 E. Huron project, which also includes Oregon-based design consultant Ace Hotel.

"All of these are very professional, nationally recognized firms, and they're bringing a quality development to the city of Ann Arbor," he said. "I think the biggest problem is it doesn't look like all of the other buildings in town … and people somehow don't like that diversity."

Lennon said the developer invested in the site with the reasonable expectation that, if it followed the city's zoning rules, it could build the kind of by-right project allowed under D1 zoning.

"Stopping their process this late in the game with this much at stake, and possibly changing the rules applicable to them, is analogous to stopping a football game late in the fourth quarter when the offense is about to score and saying that a touchdown is no longer worth six points," he said. "We don't think that would be fair in a football game, and we don't think this would be fair to our client."

While it postponed action on the moratorium, the council did vote Monday night to reconvene the city's Design Guidelines Task Force to review and make recommendations to council by Sept. 30 regarding improvements to the city's design guidelines and design review process.

Members of the task force include Maria Higgins, Tamara Burns, Dick Mitchell, Bill Kinley, Norm Tyler, Kirk Westphal and Doug Kelbaugh.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

"Ray Detter, chairman of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, suggested the city's A2D2 zoning process resulted in the wrong zoning designation for the property in 2009". Doesn't the dot com have any fact checkers? Ray Detter's term expired last year, as did all of the members of the "Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Counci" He was neither a member or a chair of anything other, period. Until apparently a couple of weeks ago, several people were appointed en masse without a public discussion (see the City website) but we didn't hear anything in about it. Why not?

Odile Haber

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

Yes it seems that a moratorium would give every one time to think, to review the laws carefully. All this madness started when the mayor listened so carefully to out of town consultants speaking about population density in town, the dollars sign went up and basically since the citizens of Ann Arbor have no say so in the development plans of Ann Arbor, a vision for a more livable city. The development of the Library green into a sterile parking lot with not a little iota of concession to what citizens most wanted "a green park" was one was one of the first symptom of this disease. Now the city council is up against the wall. One of the comments said:"I agree with other posters that the majority of permanent residents of the city do not want this monster invading downtown. Why doesn't the city put these projects up for a vote when they are at the proposal stages before commitments are made?" The monster invaded downtown because the city council has not practice democracy in a very long time. Not listening to people, empowering DDA, the mayor 's control over city commissions, opened a door wide open for out of town contractors, that has been the plan all along. Why are we so shocked? It is time for citizens to get involved if they care...

Sam S Smith

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

Again, can someone, anyone please answer the question: When did city council first become aware of zoning issues for this area? Was it before or after the developer's plans? Before or after city council's illegal art fund and the great train station debacle, I mean "debate?" If the city is threatened with a lawsuit because the city council is playing games and pipe dreaming, we should then be allowed a new election for a new mayor and city council as soon as possible!

Jeff Crockett

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 1:24 a.m.

Look, the primary problem here is that the developer paid cash for this site, when it is not uncommon for a developer to purchase property on the contingency of getting city approval. Should we feel sorry for the developer because he didn't get sensible contingencies written into his purchase agreement and bears the entire risk? NO.

Jeff Crockett

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

These developers would have you believe that all they had to do was conform to the zoning ordinance to get a project approved. Wrong. A developer is obligated to follow all of the ordinances including citizen input and the historic district ordinance. In regards to a model of how citizen input should be considered, the developers would be well advised to consult with the University of Michigan in its development of North Quad. The initial plans for North Quad also met with considerable resistance from the community. U of M was threatening to demolish and waste the entire Frieze Building. In addition, the original footprint was too close to State. U of M listened to the community and ended up a superior design. Not only is there a setback that transitions nicely into the rest of the campus, but they also included historical elements from the original building into their design. It was a win-win for both gown and town. In contast, these developers have arrogantly refused to consider any input on the massing of their design, saying that they don't have to because they had a "by right" development. In regards to the historic question, it is unsettled law whether parts of landmark oak tree that extend into a development need to be offered protection. In this case, two landmark oaks will have a third of their root system removed. The developers don't really care if some of Ann's original oak trees die in five years as a result of chopping a significant portion of the root sytem. They don't care because, folks, they will be long gone in five years, no doubt reaping their profits from off shore accounts. But, the residents of Treetown will be left with a haunting question every time they walk by the Mordor like towers. Why didn't the City Council didn't have the courage to at least enact a 6 month moratorium to understand the full impact of what they would be voting for or against?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

Do you work for the developer Don?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

Mr Crockett - Are you saying the land in question is within the boundries of the historic district? If so, I could understand the need to follow the ordinance for historic districts. The long (close to 3 years) review of downtown zoning that resulted in the 2009 rezoning, had people who were supposed to be advocates for the historic district involved. I recall a drawing in the Ann Arbor News that showed the D1 areas with blocks in the various areas to show how tall the buildings could be. I recall a number of open public meetings, including people being asked to move blocks that represented possible building size downtown. I recall a lot of discussion to stop sprawl and make a dense walkable downtown. I see a tall dense building approved in the same council meeting this one did not get approval in. How do you think a judge or worse yet a jury will see this?

Sam S Smith

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

When was city council first made aware of the zoning issue for this area?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

I don't get it...Pizza House gets approved but not this?

Alice Ralph

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

I could start anywhere, so I will. The developers' image of the north-facing elevation seems to leave out Ann Street next to the historic house on the corner. Norm Tyler's sketch is not an idle doodle. It is a perspective that he is able to make through his skill as an architect. The developers' petition before Council is for site plan approval. The site plan appears to have sacrificed professional principle for rote compliance with flawed ordinances. Council owes duty not only to the city as an entity, but also to the residents who live in the neighborhoods the make up the city. A moratorium would allowed determination of a just and justifiable set of ordinances with which compliance would benefit the city, the residents and, in fact, developers. Developers will not stop coming to Ann Arbor. As a modest-sized community, there are few things diminish that attraction Ann Arbor has for them. A developer with creative capacity will guage the opportunities and respond with sensitive and welcomed projects. A capable developer will also help, rather than hinder our goals for a sustainable future of happiness.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 2:39 a.m.

the Tyler sketch is extrmely useful. He's got the height and the mass correct...the point is the "details" don't matter because of the overload. When you are walking and there's a hole in the path,one doesn't care to notice the details and characteristics of that spot where you might twist your ankle or fall or trip-a dark hole is something you get carefully beyond and hopefully don't encounter another one. Same thing-negative/dark/inhuman/......why would one care about the details-the details don't's just too much of the wrong stuff.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:05 p.m.

The Norm Tyler "sketch" is not a perspective. It is juvenile and inaccurate to bias the viewers opinion in his favor. It bares no semblance to the actual proposed design. The development team has provided much more accurate professional renditions of the proposed design, done to scale.

Scott Reed

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

This moratorium is a cynical bureaucratic measure to sabotage the 413 E. Huron project. The opposition to the project is clearly coming from incumbent landlords who own the dilapidated houses nearby. They know that residents will much prefer to live in modern apartment buildings, rather than their so-called "historic" houses, and so they will use any means to block competition. This moratorium would be a victory for privileged local slum lords, but not for the people of Ann Arbor. There should not be a moratorium, and the 413 E. Huron project should move forward. Let's give the local slum lords some competition.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:39 p.m.

City record show that the Old Fourth Ward is made up of 76% rental properties catering to a population with the median age of 22 years old. 36% of the population turns over every year. Only 8% of the property owners have been in residence for more than five years.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

Scott: The only property in this area I would consider even remotely "dilapidated" is the one at 110 N. Division which was just sold to the developers of 413 E. Huron for $1.5 million according to City records. So tell me, who is really profiting here? Two out of the next three houses going north are owner-occupied, and all three are well maintained. Also, a quick check of professional job listing websites shows many that list "historic neighborhoods" and "historic downtown" as draws for potential candidates, so while you may wish it to be true, the fact is that people are drawn to a variety of housing options, not just high rises. Those that choose to stay longer than a couple of years want to purchase their own home. They should be able to do this, and still be able to take advantage of all that downtown has to offer.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7 p.m.

I do enjoy all these armchair lawyers (anonymous or not) trying to analyze all the cases that have different parameters than 413. But I prefer to leave the lawyering up to the professional LAND USE Attorneys looking out for the WHOLE city, not the so-called neighbor 'activists' with access to Google and their own biased agenda. I dont want the 99.99% of the rest of us to suffer because of a minority agenda.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

Perhaps will post links to the letters from the lawyers and other experts who have provided substantial legal arguments and case citations in support of the City's ability to impose a moratorium and correct the zoning.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.



Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

What is everyone complaining about. This is downtown, let them build. increase the density and stop the whining by a couple of homeowners, as your houses are not that historic or special.

John Floyd

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:31 a.m.

Support for the moritorium is broad across town, and is not at all confined to "A couple of homeowners".

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:03 p.m.

Not only are there three locally designated historic districts withing sight of this proposal, but one of the houses is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the whining of the property owners at Huron and Division that led to a mistake in the zoning three years ago. Did you call them whiners or NIMBY's to?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

You're kidding right?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

The need for review of the D1 zoning for this site was clearly specified in City Council and Planning Commission documents in 2009; this review had been delayed because there were insufficient new developments to show whether the new zoning was successful. The Varsity student building and the proposed 413 E. Huron student building reveal shortcomings of the zoning, which is why the moratorium is now called for: to pause and review whether the 2009 D1 zoning for these two blocks works. The out-of-town developers and their local attorneys should have done their due diligence by reading readily available city documents to know a potential for reexamining this zoning was possible. The city is being responsible in studying this decision carefully, since the outcome will have long term consequences for what Ann Arbor looks like and whether it will protect its historic neighborhoods, as is guaranteed in city planning documents.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:33 p.m.

Preforming this review is necessary, but why not establish a date and move forward with it. But out of fairness one does not do this by negatively impacting someone already 90% into the process. At the February 12 Planning Commission working session they discussed setting a time and schedule for this review process to commence. Planning staff was given the task to establish this, yet three days later Sabre Briere (planning commission & council member representing the first ward opponents of this project)) moves this moratorium forward. It is purely being done as apolitical maneuver to stop the development of this one project. This is bad government. We need to call it for what it is.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

PJN, I agree with your points noting only that the re-examination of this zoning WAS MANDATED. The developer certainly should have been forewarned as at least one of the attorneys was involved in the process back in 2009. Again, I will say that the situation could be largely defused by getting the parties together for negotiation. Isn't that what happened for Sterling 411, The Varsity and 624 Church?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Could they make it any uglier? Every time I see a rendering of it, it seems to get worse.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

I find it rather attractive. How about that?

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

The fact is, the law is squarely on the side of the City in this manner. In this 2011 Washtenaw County Circuit Court decision, a notably conservative judge upheld Northfield Township's authority to plan and zone, even if it meant changing the zoning after a developer spent millions on the property and began pursuing approval: The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act requires zoning to be based on a comprehensive master plan. Ann Arbor's downtown plan calls for a transitional interface zone between the high-density, high-rise zoning of D1 and the low-scale residential neighborhoods. It was called for in all the plans, studies and recommendations leading to the final adoption of the zoning. Only after complaints from the parcel owners where 413 Huron is sited did the planning commission agree to go against the master plan, and all recommendations from the experts and citizen advisory boards, and change the zoning to D1. Due to many late changes prior to its adoption, council ordered a review of the zoning after one year. Market conditions delayed this review, but it's been three years now. The review has been publicly noted multiple times at both city council and planning commission meetings, and is in the meeting minutes of both bodies. It has been in the published work plan for the planning commission for the last three fiscal years and was most recently reaffirmed and included in the work plan adopted in June 2012. All this BEFORE this developer submitted a plan. No one can claim that an evaluation of the downtown zoning was not a matter of public record and any reliance on its permanence---not just in this case, but as a rule---was purely speculative. The City not only has the authority to study the zoning and work to correct its inconsistencies with the master plan, it has an obligation to do so.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

It appears at the February 12, 2013 Planning Commission working session it was brought up that a review of the D1/D2 zoning ordinance should be done by city planning staff to be brought forward to City Council. Staff said there had not been sufficient completed projects to date to do a review, but would move forward. They also indicated they needed to properly assign staff and it would take about six months to do. Staff was tasked with organizing this effort. YET THREE DAYS later Sabre Briere, a member of the Planning Commission and City Councilperson for the Ward 1 opponents of this project, places this moratorium on the City Council agenda for the meeting of Feb. 19. They then rewrite the moratorium so that the 624 Church high rise can move forward, but not the 413 project. This needs to be called for what it is, bad political maneuvering to halt the site plan approval process of a single project in the City of Ann Arbor. Is this the way we should behave?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

Tom Whitaker. are you a lawyer?

Jack Eaton

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

Northfield Township has a copy of the Circuit Court's opinion in the Grand-Sakwa dispute posted on their web page: In the opinion the Court notes that "In Michigan, in order to demonstrate a 'distinct investment-based expectation' a party needs to show that a building permit for construction was secured, and that a substantial investment was made in performing the construction necessary under the zoning regulation." Citing cases going back to 1929 (ie: not a new concept). Without a "distinct investment-based expectation" a developer impacted by zoning changes cannot claim any reliance on the previous zoning. Moreover, because they did not have any reasonable expectation upon which they could rely, there can be no claim of bad faith by the City. I encourage you to read the Northfield Township case because it so clearly expresses the great deference court give governmental bodies in the exercise of their zoning powers.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

"Only after complaints from the parcel owners where 413 Huron is sited did the planning commission agree to go against the master plan, and all recommendations from the experts and citizen advisory boards, and change the zoning to D1." So you're saying that the City knew full well what the intention was for the use of the property and effectively supported it?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

Zoning needs periodic re-evaluation. Ann Arbor is a very attractive market for development. There are a limited number of financially viable sites for development downtown. The 413 E. Huron site has been one of the most-discussed sites by all parties addressing downtown development. A moratorium is a common municipal tool, only delays production and should not treat various projects differently by its terms. See where I'm going with this?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

Well, there are a number of points of contention here, and it would be very interesting, from an academic standpoint, to see which way the legal wind would blow. Personally, I would hate to see a building of that height so close to people's homes. Objectively, I think the city is rolling the dice with quite a bit at risk and no clear legal advantage. I think it could easily go either way. The city of Novi thought it had precedent on its side, too.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

@Solitude: Reading the actual decision.... "For the reasons stated by the Plaintiff, the Court is persuaded that, as the purchaser by assignment, Plaintiff has sufficient legal and equitable interest in the Property to support standing....Therefore, based on the mutual obligations...and the parties' further agreements to alter the price and the time period, the Court finds that Plaintiff's interest cannot be deemed a mere option."


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

Mr. Whitaker, the Parkview case is also interesting, but again, I believe this fact, taken from the Motion to Dismiss, "Parkview has not filed any application for formal approval of its most recent plan to develop the property...," also makes that case different from this one. As noted in the lawyer letters attached to this article, but for two objections not supported by Michigan statute, this project has "approval" from the Ann Arbor Zoning Board. This project, again, is much farther along in the process than either of the two projects you cite.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

Completing the purchase has no bearing on the rights being granted. Most developers get options and don't complete the purchase until and if the approvals are granted. If one developer purchases the property outright, it still doesn't matter. It is still a speculative investment. No rights are gained by that.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

Mr. Whitaker, with all due respect, in the case you cite, the potential developer, Grand Sakwa, had never even actually completed purchase of the land in question. How is that situation even remotely applicable to this one?

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

Here's another case for all you anonymous armchair lawyers to read: Parkview Homes, Incorporated v. Rockwood, City of et al, 2:05-cv-72708, No. Order-4 (E.D.Mich. Feb. 28, 2006),d.aWc&cad=rja

Widow Wadman

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 4:40 p.m.

It's very interesting that Ms. Briere and Mr. Kunselman proposed a moratorium on building. What if that library bond had been approved. Would they still have proposed a moratorium on building downtown? I agree with Mr. Lennon that this is a thinly veiled attempt to block his client's proposed development at 413 E. Huron. The parcel has been zoned for a high-rise for a long time. The neighbors are upset because one may now actually go up. That was the gamble that they took when they purchased their properties and continued to hold onto them. The entire city is not against this building going up. I think that the project should be approved. It fits the zoning parameters that were in place at the time of application.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:35 p.m.

That is not how the law works.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

I own a major business. There is no way I am expanding in Ann Arbor. I have already found several suitable locations outside of the A2 limits where I do not have to deal with this ridiculous City Council and their very business-unfriendly atmosphere that is slowly driving the city into even worse economic states. Its sad, since I live in Ann Arbor. I employ only Ann Arbor workers. But I am moving my physical business outside of Ann Arbor. Enough was enough.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

Their lawyers are right this is a squeaky wheel gets the grease. They have no basis to delay based on the zoning. And love the hand drawn sketch added. Lol can I submit some of my drawings? Maybe leave out some guys doodles, it detracts from your story. Makes it seem less legitimate.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

It was the property owners' squeaking (using at least one of the same attorneys as now) that goaded the planning commission into recommending zoning that was inconsistent with the master plan, i.e.--greasing their wheel. There was significant opposition voiced to this change at the time, which led to council calling for a review after one year. This pending review was clearly a part of the public record long before this developer submitted plans, including its most recent inclusion on the planning commissions work plan in June 2012. caveat emptor


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Actually, the developers lawyers are quite wrong. they are just squeaking.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

How about we lock a city planner, a representative of the developer, a member of ZBA, a member of HDC and a member of Council in a room until they work out a compromise?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

The same tactic was said to have been used for closed door Nuclear Arms talks with the Soviet Union. The U.S. made sure the coffee urn was full and plenty of bottled drinks were set up around the table. Neither party could leave the locked room unless the current agreement being negotiated was signed. The political announcements soon followed.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

Solitude: on what legal doctrine, local or state law, or even case law are you basing your statement that "municipalities have a legal obligation to behave in ways consistent with their published zoning and development guidelines?" Why did the attorneys for the developer not cite any such law or case?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

My2bits, this developer's involvement goes beyond the mere purchase of land and "speculation," and municipalities have a legal obligation to behave in ways consistent with their published zoning and development guidelines.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

Alas, the developer does NOT have case law on its side. And spending money to speculate doesn't give you rights, even if its millions.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

If you had already spent millions, followed every rule, complied with every request and had case law on your side, would you compromise?

G. Orwell

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

I hate to say it but the people opposing it are crying over spilt milk. The developers are following the zoning rules established by the city and have every right to build. If this goes to court, not only will it cost the city money but further erode their credibility. The city can make changes to future developments but they have to allow this development to go forward. It is the right thing to do.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

This is flat out wrong. Courts have long held the power of municipalities to plan, zone, and modify plans and zoning right up until the point an owner/developer acquires vested rights. In Michigan, this occurs when the developer has spent a substantial sum on actual construction of a project on the basis of a valid building permit.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

Time and again my theory is proven correct. The Mayor and the City Council are a bunch of visionless, small-minded ne'er-do-wells who couldn't survive in the private sector and now impose their petty banality on the right of us. The only quality any of the city council members have is the ability to put campaign signs on peoples lawns and knock on a few doors. Case in point; YOU CAN'T STOP PROGRESS! We may all idealize and wish Ann Arbor to remain a Normal Rockwell painting, but it's not going to happen!


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

"The result of that work was a site with special limitations on height and setbacks that still allowed for the dense, tall construction that the land was entitled to and the neighboring properties had already achieved." The LAND was ENTITLED to? Since when does land have entitlements? What a ridiculous statement. If the city doesn't want the project, then they should be able to stop it. It's a monster mega student warehouse built by out of town "developers" who have no regard or concern for anything other than their fatter wallets $$$$$$. They don't live with the negative consequences of their project. I agree with other posters that the majority of permanent residents of the city do not want this monster invading downtown. Why doesn't the city put these projects up for a vote when they are at the proposal stages before commitments are made?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

JRW - "If the city doesn't want the project, then they should be able to stop it." That doesn't sound like a very democratic position. If the city doesn't want me to watch TV on Tuesday nights, does the city get to stop me from doing so? The city made up the zoning laws and the developer is following what has been put in place.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

In land development, the ENTITLEMENT process is the legal method of obtaining the necessary approvals for the right to develop property for a desired use. This process is highly dependent on the desired use, if the desired use conforms with the current zoning for the property, the particular jurisdiction(s) the property is subject to and the size of the property.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

The truth was told last night by Mr. Thompson. This site has always been zoned for intense development. The previous zoning allowed it to be developed to a building area 6.6 times the site area with UNLIMITED height. The new zoning modified this zoning which had been in place for decades. It restricted the height to 150 feet and allowed the building to be 7 times the site area in size. The development proposed is 6.8 times. So any informed neighbor to this parcel for the past forty to fifty years should have been aware of this development potential, especially once the Campus Inn and then Sloan Plaza were built. As Claude Raines said looking a Bogart in the movie Casablanca," I'am shocked, just shocked (there is development going on here) there is gambling going on here!!" Remember the drafters (some of them the very opponents of this project) of the Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines wrote into the description of the character overlay district for this site, "There is (will be) a significant contrast between the massing of the structures with in the character district and the adjacent historic neighborhoods." And so by there hand it is.

Jeff Crockett

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 1:06 a.m.

Not true on many counts. First of all, this site "has not always been zoned for intense development." I think the founders of Ann Arbor, Allen and Rumsey, are rolling in their graves with that comment. Second, a review of all the minutes of zoning considerations in 2009 reveals that the initial consideration for this site at the time was D1/D2. It was only after intense, last minute lobbying by the former landowners that the zoning designation of D1 was determined. Let's be clear, the primary beneficiaries of this designation are the former landowners, who obviously have little regard for the quality of life of their former neighbors or a respect for the natural features on the adjacent properties.

Alice Ralph

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

Zoning does not require exceptional maximum building density. Maximum land use is counterproductive to attracting taxable businesses a residents. The zoning is inconsistent with adopted planning documents, and should have been amended even before the D1/D2 upzoning. Even the marketing groups promoting "Smart Growth" are touting green infrastructure, open spaces, shared living rooms, transitions between existing and new building development, "complete streets" and context-sensitive design, etc. Going massively up is not necessarily going forward.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Ann Arbor residents who urge the Council to thwart this development better start digging under the couch cushions for all the spare change they can find. If the city fails to approve this project now, the courts will ultimately award the developers millions that city taxpayers will have to pay. While it appears to be all but certain that this situation will end up in court either way, only the developers have existing statutes and case law on their side. The adjacent homeowners, having failed to cause a change in the adjacent parcel zoning before now, can sue all they want, but they don't have a legal leg on which to stand. This project meets all the zoning and other requirements currently in place and, as outlined in the letters from the lawyers, the developers have gone over and above to accommodate requests from the city that the city could not have otherwise enforced. These facts are inescapable and I don't see where the city has even tried to refute them. It does not matter legally how much some people hate how it looks or resent the D1 zoning or don't like "out of town" developers. Anything the city does at this point to block this project will cost taxpayers millions.

Alice Ralph

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

A person knowledgeable about the making of the D1 zoning would have to admit that the public had little opportunity even to be aware of the impending effects on their neighborhoods, much less to 'fight' it. Even so, neighbors have been working together for a and economically and socially sustainable future that does not destroy the assets that we need to achieve our goals. The lawyers are professionally adversarial, developers are naturally opportunistic, officials may find themselves constrained and the public is pushed to the margins. None of these unappealing positions are necessary.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

The Novi case bears no relation to what is currently happening in Ann Arbor. In the Novi case, it was found that Novi had agreed to perform certain actions (like building a road) and that they failed to live up to the agreement.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Read about the $40 million judgement a developer (Sandstone Associates) won against the city of Novi, if you think this can't/won't end up costing Ann Arbor taxpayers millions. Ultimately, Novi ended up owing $72 million to the developer, after waging a baseless and ill-advised legal challenge to the original $40 mil settlement. All because the city dangled the development carrot, encouraged Sandstone to spend millions to acquire property and make plans based on existing zoning, etc., then threw obstruction after obstruction into the developer's path. The city ended up paying several million and giving the developer around 10 percent of the public park land in Novi, in exchange for the property the city deprived Sandstone the use of, to settle. There's a blurb about the case here,, as part of a broader discussion of public/private land exchanges.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.



Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

the only real benefit these student housing structures provide to Ann Arbor is a large supply of used Asian vehicles to buy at the end of every school term.Maybe the "units" inside will someday be leased out as storage facilities when this bubble bursts. Might be handy as people will likely have to live together in larger numbers to survive,thus needing places to store heirlooms and possessions from previous generations......hopefully in some far off time young people will again have a better chance[get a real a home..educate their kids] at building communities they'll be proud of.

sojourner truth

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

This project is way out of scale, and I don't blame the residents one iota for protesting strongly. I do not live close to this proposed project, but I also protest strongly. It has no respect for the city and the developers have only one object for building: making money and getting out of town. We will live with the results for years to come. Do we want that? Don't sell our city for short term gains, and don't be blackmailed by the developers threats. Make sure that they have a legal leg to stand on.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

Scott Reed: There are several owner-occupied houses affected by this proposal and the owners have invested heavily in their upkeep, putting large amounts of money into the local economy when factored together. Most of those who own and occupy houses surrounding the downtown and campus are early-adopters of what your textbook calls "new urbansim" and are not "rich" as you often like to say. They bought their houses when they were less expensive, because they were close to downtown (where no one wanted to live) and surrounded by rental properties. Others, like the residents of Sloan Plaza could probably have lived anywhere they chose, but made a conscious decision to move downtown instead, to live in a building that was sensitively designed to fit into its context. We need these people to continue to live and work downtown just as much, if not more, than we need students living downtown. These high rises provide everything students need, leaving little or nothing for them to purchase locally. Further, it is the home/condo buyers who choose to buy inside the city limits, instead of the townships, that are having an impact on urban sprawl, not students who rent near campus temporarily before moving on. Your constant angry comments have no basis in fact, but instead presuppose what is in the hearts and minds of long-time Ann Arbor residents who have been working to make Ann Arbor a more walkable, livable city since before you were born. A sustainable city is not one that is uniformly built to the highest possible density, but rather is made up of a variety of housing options that appeal to all ages and economic classes, is walkable and aesthetically pleasing, and provides a sense of history. Just look at job listing web sites for medical professionals and others. Many try to lure these professionals to their locations by touting the great historical downtowns and neighborhoods in their cities.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

The opposaition is city council approved the zoning a piece of property is sold the new owners try to develop based on the zoning city council had approved in 09 and city council doesn't want to follow THEIR own rules. We told council back then their zoning was wrong they retorted to calling us anti's city council is totally at fault for this

Scott Reed

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

The opposition to this project is all about incumbent landlords keeping away competition from their dilapidated old houses. They will cynically use any means, especially claims of "historical preservation" and "preserving character" to continue their city-protected rent extraction scheme at everyone else's expense. I think people are starting to wake up to this.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

It's not a legal threat until it is filed with the county clerk. Until then, it is all hot air. This thing is a joke of a building, there is nothing redeeming about its design. We want less sprawl, but we don't have to offset it all at once, in one square block, do we?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Let them sue. Drag it out in the courts until it becomes economically unfeasible to continue. We have a city attorney. Let him earn some of his salary.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:40 p.m.

OK, lets spend all our hard earned tax dollars defending the perceived righteousness of a few politically influential neighbors decrying Not In My Backyard, even though this property has always been zoned for this type of intense development. Shouldn't they have done their homework before purchasing their homes in a multi-family and commercial development zoned area to understand the intensity to which their neighborhood can be built out to? They need to learn how to live with their neighbors. Be an adult! show some maturity Ann Arbor is growing up and there will be more intense development along the fringe residential areas around the urban core. If you do not want to be around this relocate. I would rather have our tax dollars spent towards more positive advancements to this community.

Basic Bob

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

The city attorney will farm it out to specialists charging enormous fees. We might win, but it's not worth closing a few fire stations to pay for it. The price of being right is far too high.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

If the developers paid 4.5 million for the property, my guess is they'll stick it out and we'll be the ones holding the empty bag.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Council, and by extension we citizens, is caught in a quagmire of its own making. Instead of taking proper care to assure balanced and proper development, it has fooled around with zoning, too often leaning towards the blind short-term financial interest of developers, without taking the long-term interests of the city into consideration. It is possible to construct buildings that do not destroy neighborhoods, that are not eyesores, and that add to the well-being of the town, and it is possible to find architects who have pride in their art. The issue is not weather to build or not, but how to build, but developers and council have only had their eyes on making money and on narrow legal matters. Council must make up for its own mistakes and block this towering monster, but also move quickly to reverse its own past mistakes. Get some proper zoning in place now.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

They say these are student housing structures. What student can afford $800-1200/room? Oh, the ones that will just tack it onto their student debt, which they will fail to pay and then pass it onto Joe Taxpayer, or the ones that have daddy pay for everything. You're college students, not successful professionals, live in college housing! When you actually make a salary then you can live in a place with marble countertops and stainless steel appliances, until then suck it up. Goes to this generation's entitlement / silver-spoon mentality. Good Grief.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

According the City of Ann Arbor housing statistics the current average cost of a rental bedroom in Ann Arbor is $829.00 per month. It is obvious that these developments are targeting the more financially able end of the student population. According to development statistics approximately 4% of a campus student population can afford this higher end housing. If that is the case then one doing the math would say Ann Arbor can have easily handle 1600 to 2000 bedrooms of this type housing.

Geoff Larcom

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

However you feel about this issue, note how thoroughly reported this story is, touching on the various perspectives surrounding this situation. It is sophisticated stuff.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Make the developer provide parking.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

You're using the assumption that residents are going to bring their automobiles under any circumstance. If the residents are required to incur the cost of their own parking, maybe they'll think twice about bringing a car.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.

So you feel the cost should be borne by taxpayers instead?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

A development's fate should never revolve around parking; Existing minimum parking requirements are ridiculous. It's much more economically feasible, and much better for all of the stakeholders involved, for the developer to purchase existing parking spaces in lieu of constructing a new structure. As the new downtown underground structure has shown, a parking space in a downtown garage can run up to $90,000 per space. This cost will only be transferred to the building's residents.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

I'm with you Alis! Provide at least one parking space for each unit onsite!


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

How is ti that the 624 Church Street project approved last night has no on site parking for its 200 plus tenants, with only 40 spaces being"purchased" off site in a City public parking garage? that's OK?And the 413 site with its 500 plus tenants is providing 140+ parking spaces on site. The project without parking is approved, the site with parking is condemned?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Lot of threats in those letters, not a single case cited to support them. Often a tell-tale sign of hot air.

Thomas Jones

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

I really would like to see this project happen!!!!!!!! I am in favor!


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

So............. If our city leaders face legal threats for supposed bone headed decisions, then they could spend a life time in court defending their decisions on most city matters. Go figure!

Alice Ralph

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:37 p.m.

Legal threats are made against the city as an entity. Individual official are not individually liable for reasoned actions in the course of duty. The city attorney's office defends the city as an entity. It can be argued whether a moratorium is reasoned or not. I believe it is justifiable.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

The green belt is tightening around the neck of our citty palnners and their only answer is a development moratorium? They should be embracing this with open arms.............this should be the crown jewel of the central planners that the city is filling up with vertical human warehouses.

Alice Ralph

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

The Greenbelt is opening up around the heart of the city. We should bring its threads inward to follow the creeks and the river. We are small enough to have only one central area and it should be filled with a diverse variety of housing choices. Or were you joking?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

AKA Hive Housing

David Cahill

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 1:26 p.m., there is no such thing as a "technical denial" of a site plan by the Planning Commission. The rules require a 6-vote supermajority for approval, and this project was afflicted by vote-deficiency anemia. It only got 5 votes. So that vote was a denial, plain and simple. Don't fall for developer propaganda on this.

John Floyd

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:18 a.m.

Mr. Reed, no doubt there are landlords who fear competition, but that's not where most of the opposition is coming from. Opposition is coming from residents of the community.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 2:28 a.m.

Mr. Cahill - I can't find any case law that supports the requirement for a super majority for a "by-rights" development. What I can find in talking to two different real estate lawyers is that they would take this case for the developer, and feel they would win easily. They both said that the court would look at the 5-3 as approval, regardless of the super majority requirement that the city put in place. I am not a lawyer and do not play one on TV. I only have the input that I got from these conversations, someone else may know better, but I don't think the 5-3 fails will win in court based on these conversations.

Scott Reed

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Don't fall for the incumbent, rent-extracting landlord propaganda on this. The opposition to the project is all about keeping out competition.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

When Bruce & Linda Thomson sold the Huron Street property for a reported $4.5M last year that was a stroke of investor genius - get out before angry residents close and lock the DDA cement barn door. Now there he is in front of City Council. Proposing not his neighborhood-friendly mixed use center but Greenfield's "blockbuster" . Why? Maybe a zoning change negates the terms of sale or the developer will default and the family estate will return to a more neighborhood-welcomed development. Whole Foods leaseback? Perhaps those ward 1 lawyers wish to provide free terms of sale contract analysis for Mr. Thomson? You know, help the thomsons back out of their sale and into a more profitable construction making most everyone happy? Otherwise Alan Haber's public question posed to City Council was right-on. Talk about cutting embarassing silence with a knife. He asked why Council was continuing to discuss other developments alonside a moratorium. Much of the legal argument for zone re-evaluation is that it is not directed at any one project - until Haber revealed how self-defeating Council was acting. Stay tuned, the truth shall be revealed in the next (two weeks hence) exciting episode.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

The developer is following legal guidelines its " council remorse " that is the root of the problem ..hope they get the crap sued out of can't fix stupid.....

Jon Saalberg

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

So on the same day this story appears, the city approves a giant addition on top of Pizza House. What's the difference? One is in a student area and the other is in an allegedly "historic" area. I'm sure the fact that the large building to the east, with expensive residences that are going to lose their hallowed views, has nothing to do with this delay.

Jeff Crockett

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

One big difference is that the developers of this project responded to citizen input and revised the project. The developers of the 413 Huron project have demonstrated disdain for citizen input and have done nothing to reconsider the mass of the building. There were plenty of suggestions as to how they could more sensibly reduce the mass. But, they would have none of it. Arrogance led to resistance against this project.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 11:11 p.m.

No one has ever sought to block any conceivable development on the site. People from the community and the city were all willing to work with the developer to make improvements, but they slammed the door in their faces. I don't buy the notion that just because it is a busy road that both sides of the street need to be built to the maximum height. Sloan Plaza could have been built much taller, but the developer chose instead to create something that fit the community and the result has been very successful. It has attracted a number of older adults and families who enjoy the amenities of downtown just like the younger crowd. The north side of Huron would be perfect for more such projects, where working adults, retirees and families can buy a condo and enjoy the excitement of city living, but also have a great neighborhood to walk the dog in, or go to Kerrytown, Zingerman's and Farmer's Market.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:31 p.m.

Tom, While I agree with your assessment of a sustainable city, we have to look at the facts of the site. Huron Street is, unfortunately, a fairly high speed arterial which calls for larger development. If we truly want to protect the historic district that borders the street, we need to convince the federal government to give Huron Street a road diet. Unfortunately, because Huron Street is an interstate connector road, this is very unlikely to happen. The transportation-land use connection is very obvious in this scenario, and low-density zoning/development doesn't make much sense here. I will say, however, that the building's form and bulk could be improved upon; To completely block development, however, is asinine.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

Scott, you really need to get some balance in your knowledge of urban planning, sustainability, and historic preservation. A sustainable city is a city with variety, diversity and walkability, not just maximum density on every square inch. Urban renewal in the Fifties and Sixties turned out to be a miserable failure, as did the Soviet apartment block model. People need variety, green space, a sense of history, and diversity of population in order to maintain a successful urban center. They like neighborhoods where they can come together, forging relationships and a sense of common purpose. Your unfounded rants are not only inaccurate, but they do nothing to further any of these goals. Perhaps instead you should work with other students to develop and promote a first-time home buyer program in Ann Arbor where young people can purchase some of the "dilapited" rental houses that you like to rave about and fix them up?

Scott Reed

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

This is exactly it. This is all about incumbent owners and landlords doing everything in their power to keep out competition, under the guise of "historic preservation" and "preserving character". People are starting to catch on to this.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

It's not alleged, man. The houses behind (north) of this site are some of the first in Ann Arbor. Very historic and beautiful... but also perilously close to the densest part of downtown. They can't keep taller buildings away forever.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

The gang that can't shoot straight is going to land the city in court.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

Here is my prediction. No matter what happens now this will end up in court. Either the current area residents will sue or the developers will sue. While Technically denied, a 5-3 vote is in the favor of the developers, and so is the existing zoning. There were recommendations a year ago to stop and review the zoning, and the City Council ignored them. Most citizens ignored the new zoning when it was in draft, because "nothing would happen". But it has and will. At this point, like City Place, this one will probably get built. The only leverage the Council has is to make the developers tow the line of the zoning and meet the letter of the parking and other issues. But, they have to look carefully at what they offered in the way of exceptions for other similar projects and not end up in a "tried to block us" which could end up in Federal Court as a "Takings" suit. If the developers withdraw their plan, then and only then would a moratorium work in the city's favor legally. Mr Rock meet Mr Hardplace


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Very well put

Silly Sally

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

It is so wrong and unfair to developers to have zoning that allows such buildings, they design a building and then get city roadblocks. This is wrong. But.. Why did the city ever change the zoning laws in the first place to allow such an awful mix next to nice residential homes? THis is most unfair, wrong, unmoral an so on? Were they smoking something back in the 60s when they did this? The zoning never should allow this sort of monstrosity in the first place. I certainly would not want it anywhere near my home. If the zoning were change to allow it, I should be compensated for the loss in value. Were these homeowners? I doubt it. The city is in a box and will make a wrong decision no matter what they decide. Oh, what fools we have for city leaders.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

This is a scenario in which a Transfer of Development Rights program would actually benefit most of the stakeholders.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 10:59 p.m.

The only ones showing contempt here are the developers.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.

@Tom Whitaker, while I have a personal distaste for this proposed building, I don't understand how anyone can criticize any developer, local or otherwise, for failing to exhibit more concern for a particular area than the people elected to do what's best for that area. Whose fault is the current D1 zoning of this parcel...the people who want to build something that conforms to D1 guidelines, or the people who made it D1 to begin with? Companies are in business to make money. Contempt for those who attempt to make money in communities by following the rules established by those communities is misplaced.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

A much smaller building could be the solution, based on zoning that is consistent with the master plan, but there would be no need to compensate anyone. The developers were approached multiple times by various parties urging them to work to make the project less harmful, but they slammed the door in their faces. The national real estate investors that build these projects have no interest in long-term community effects. Most simply want to get the project built and sell it as quickly as possible. Just look at the Landmark and Varsity--sold before they were even 100% completed.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Indeed, council has itself to blame. For too many years too many members of this group kowtowed to the financial interests of developers and this is the result.

Silly Sally

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

One solution - Allow a much smaller building and then pay the developer for his loss in time or property value to a zoning change. Better than money for a train station. Still, higher taxes for us all due to the folly of the city council. But


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

"I think the biggest problem is it doesn't look like all of the other buildings in town … and people somehow don't like that diversity." Yep. Ann Arbor Curmudgeons unite against progress.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

This should have been fixed (the zoning) in 2009. The fact Council failed to take care of this at the time is now putting the City in a dangerous legal situation. Everyone on Council then is guilty of letting this situation happen. But it's poetic irony to see Ray Detter, the man who was part of the 'citizen' subcommittee that brought us the $750K plus City Building German Water Fountain, is now singing the blues about lack of public input in this project's process. Or the millionaire living next door who previously owned the industrial polluter on Wagner Road complaining the new building will block his view. This project should never be built but if it is, there will have been dozens of local elected officials asleep at the wheel who allowed it to happen.

Jeff Crockett

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

I am not sure you mean by poetic irony. There is nothing ironic about Ray Detter. He is simply a citizen who has spent countless hours in volunteer service to his city, overseeing the development of the fantastic historic street exhibit program and countless other projects. His volunteer commitment to the city, in my opinion, is unparalleled. I think you mischaracterize what Ray has actually said. There has been public input to the developers. It's just that there's been no public consideration demonstrated by developers. They expect "good faith" from the city at the same time they show considerably less enthusiasm for providing good faith to the community.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

Only a handful of citizens oppose this? Try the majority of citizens!! Make them have one parking spot per bedroom. This will ruin parking in downtown... But wait! Maybe that's just another opportunity for the major and city council to get another feather-in-their-cap parking garage!

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

You are conflating democracy with majority-rule. What makes America great is that we are guided by higher standards of what is best for society as a whole, not mob mentality or the influence of wealthy special interests. Thank God for the vocal minority in this country when it came to matters such as civil rights and votes for women. And hopefully we can soon add marriage equality to the list.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

Mark Twain wrote; "Politicians need to understand volume (audio and submissions) does not make a majority. A bullfrog makes an unusually loud commotion, but in the end it is a slimy green toad of an animal living in a swamp." The vocal minority should not prevail as being the majority in a democratic society. You do not speak for me Bcar. We went through an extended re-evaluation of our zoning ordinances and then changed them to allow this type density to occur, because the majority consensus saw the benefits to this community in doing so.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

Who elected you to speak for the "majority" of the citizens of Ann Arbor?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

Same here (I don't care). If these historic district people want a "moat" around them they need to start buying up some property. I'm already paying for the green moat around the city.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

I agree with SonnyDog09 - how do you know that the majority opposes this? Certainly there is a vocal portion of the city against this, but I'm not sure that vocal portion translates into a silent majority. Second, no building in this city has one parking space per unit. None. There's plenty of parking, everywhere. I live downtown and I slap my forehead when I read about people's complaints regarding parking. Usually the complaint is "I couldn't find a space right across the street from XYZ. I had to pay for the space I did find! Boooohoooo." Parking costs, but there's plenty of it.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

How do you know that the majority of citizens oppose this? I don't doubt that a lot of citizens within a two block radius of the project are opposed, but there are an awful lot of us that do not live downtown and do not care. You do not speak for me.