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Posted on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 3 p.m.

City Place site plan coming back before Ann Arbor City Council for approval on Monday

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor officials say they're not sure why, but the developer behind the City Place project is bringing back a site plan for City Council approval on Monday.

That action comes despite an earlier agreement to revise the plans and come back in January with a new planned unit development proposal.

Fifth Avenue Limited Partnership is asking for approval of a development agreement to build an apartment complex on 1.23 acres of land at 407-437 S. Fifth Ave., where seven turn-of-the-century homes currently stand. Coming before City Council on Monday is a resolution requesting approval to construct two, three-story apartment buildings with a total of 24 units, 144 bedrooms, and 36 surface parking spaces.

"I'm a little confused and disappointed," said City Councilman Leigh Greden, D-3rd Ward. "I was looking forward to the developer pursuing a more neighborhood-friendly community instead of this proposal. But I believe the moratorium still applies to any demolition they would request."

The City Council last month approved a six-month moratorium on construction and demolition in a two-block area that includes the City Place site while a new historic district study committee evaluates whether to grant historic district status to that portion of the Germantown neighborhood.

Timothy Stoepker, an attorney representing the City Place developer, wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to city officials that the moratorium resolution was "in bad faith" and "unlawful." Stoepker requested the City Place site plan be placed on the City Council agenda for a vote within 35 days from the date of his letter.

Developer Alex de Parry of Fifth Avenue Limited Partnership could not be reached by today for comment.

Stoepker's letter makes several legal claims against the city. He said when the Planning Commission recommended approval of the site plan on April 21, the City Council was required to vote on it by May 22. Since the City Council didn't act by then, the site plan "would be deemed to have been approved by operation of law," Stoepker wrote.

The attorney for the developer also claims the city's planning staff conducted a thorough review of the site plan between April and June and found it was consistent with city codes and ordinances. Yet, "for reasons unrelated to the actual materials contained within the site plan," the City Council sent the site plan back to the Planning Commission on June 15 without "any valid and lawful reason," Stoepker wrote.

The City Place site plan failed to get the endorsement of the Planning Commission on July 7 with a 5-1 vote in favor, falling short of the six votes required for a recommendation. On July 20, the City Council granted a postponement of the site plan until Jan. 19, 2010, at the developer's request.

The resolution approved by the City Council on July 20 included permission for the developer to submit an application for a planned unit development, or PUD, on the site during the postponement. The developer also was given the option to submit a written request and have the site plan scheduled for immediate public hearing and consideration by City Council instead of the PUD.

City officials said today the developer has requested to go that route, though it's a move that leaves them baffled.

"I don't understand the developer's motives," said Councilman Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward. "I don't know anybody that is happy with this site plan. The developer himself on many occasions has indicated a preference for the initial PUD. I certainly know of no one who thinks this is a good project for the neighborhood or community." It's the "by right" site plan for City Place - not the PUD plan - the developer is bringing back to the City Council on Monday. Critics have described the site plan as two ugly buildings separated by a surface parking lot.

"The community's been pretty clear about the fact that we don't want that site plan," said Councilman Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward. "The moratorium that's connected to the historic district study would prevent it from moving forward, so I don't understand the logic behind them bringing this back, but I suppose they have the technical right to do that."

Council members said they'll be relying on the city attorney's advice when it comes time to vote on Monday. They acknowledge they can't reject a site plan - if it conforms with city code - just because they don't like its look.

Ryan Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 10:01 a.m.

Mr. de Parry has an excellent reputation as a builder and developer. He has been around for years, far longer than most of the NIMBYs who have shown up at council meetings. There are many who supported the Brownstone PUD and thought that was a great design and should have been approved. The picture that is posted is not of this previous PUD, but a compromise version that would incorporate the existing houses. The news media should get their facts straight.


Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 2:13 p.m.

And what did "city officials" expect the developer to do after they did not hold up their end of an agreement to let the developer go forward with the street scape proposal...a proposal which was well received by many people as a good compromise and a win win for all. Ah, but I don't have property rights in this town according to some who want to roll the clock back to the 19th century.


Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 1:55 p.m.

The original City Place Brownstone PUD should have been approved. The design was excellent and it was the right project in the right location. Now people complain because the developer is doing what is permitted under current zoning ordinances. I see why Ann Arbor has such a bad reputation when it comes to developing in this town. You never know what to expect and the rules keep changing. And then to use the pretext of a Germantown district to stop a development...sounds like a taking to me...shame on the city for its duplicity. We need growth in the city and need to encourage new affordable housing in locations close to downtown Ann Arbor where increased density is warranted.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 8:17 a.m.

We need growth. People that live in these apartments will be paying taxes and spending there money in and around this town. If you want your own personal agenda then buy the property and pay taxes on it or shut up

Matt Van Auker

Sun, Sep 20, 2009 : 4:23 p.m.

Bring 'em down, what a mess of a neighborhood. Some improvement is needed, one can envision it now. Sam is right. Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to do some repaving. My back is killing me. Enough with the Motrin, already.


Sun, Sep 20, 2009 : 10:17 a.m.

Scrap city place plans for that site all together.

Tom Whitaker

Sat, Sep 19, 2009 : 8 a.m.

a2grateful is correct that the ordinance language needs revision. Badly. The current zoning for this area is not based on the Central Area Plan. Zoning must be based on the master plan according to State law (MZEA 2006), yet the Council only passed a resolution to study it this past March. Nine months has gone by and the R4C/R2A study committee has yet to meet once (unless they've done so in the past week). Not exactly a sense of urgency. Meanwhile, disastrous projects like this one and the Moravian continue to be pushed forward. A moratorium would have allowed for a time-out for the study to proceed but that was also turned down by Council. I wonder how far along that study could have been and how many ordinances revised in the last nine months, had this committee been appointed sooner and allowed to start their work? That said, the City Place "matter of right" project violates the ordinances that are on the books already in terms of height and rear setbacks, so Council is entitled to vote it down as a "matter of right."


Sat, Sep 19, 2009 : 5:49 a.m.

Likely future headlines... "Lawsuit filed"... "Developer Prevails"... "Shoddy City Ordinance Language Continues"... "Council (micro management) Trivia Preoccupation Prevails"... Fix the ordinance language, fix the problem. Otherwise, expect to see many more such demos and projects.

Alice Ralph

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 5:18 p.m.

In contrast to some proposal claims, there really is no such thing as a by-right project. (Another term for the reference is matter of right.) Zoning language states what kind of project has the right to be *considered* in a specific zoning district *without any approved variance*. Other zoning language says that any use that is not stated in the ordinance for that zoning district is *prohibited*. The proposed use or type of project must meet the definitions applicable to the zoning district. Recent projects designed around per-bed leases dont meet applicable definitions and therefore are prohibiteddespite recent trends. Even if the definitions and other ordinance requirements are met, no project is guaranteed approval simply on the basis of quantitative compliance. Courts broadly support communities in setting standards that apply to health, safety and welfare. Simply, Council has a duty to protect our community with our support. It is the duty of City Council to evaluate not only quantitative compliance, but also whether or not harm is caused to adjacent areas, i.e. neighborhoods and other community assets. Their evaluation is seldom quantifiable, but interpretation is not only legal, but legally necessary.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 3:50 p.m.

I'm sure that will be part of the discussion on Monday. Here's a link to the letter the Germantown Neighborhood Association sent to the developer on Aug. 12.

Karen Sidney

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 3:32 p.m.

There is disagreement about whether the current proposal is a "by right" development. The Germantown neighborhood claims that the project violates both the setback limits and the height limits.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 3:16 p.m.

I've added a couple images in the "more info" section that should help out. Yes, we used the PUD drawing when we first broke news of this story on our Web site this morning. Alex de Parry, when I was in his office earlier this week, showed me only the PUD drawing when we were discussing what City Place would look like if built, so I'll admit I'm a bit surprised to see the by-right site plan coming forward now.


Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 2:19 p.m.

Mr. Stanton-- You might have added to your Comment that the reason Mr. Dokas linked to the PUD plan is that you had done so in your original article. It was YOUR error, not his.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 1:59 p.m.

Phil, I have been told by city sources that the plan you have linked to is actually the PUD plan, not the "by right" site plan for City Place. The by right site plan, which is to be voted on Monday, is essentially two buildings with a surface lot in between, according to city officials.


Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 1:26 p.m.

This plan is clearly worse than the initial plan which would have created workforce housing within walking distance of downtown and campus. Since this is not a goal of the NIMBYs, we are saddled with yet another student housing project permissible within the zoning. Mr. DeParry should be scolded for following the law rather than actually trying to provide for workforce housing - which, allegedly, was a goal of the City - that easily fits in anyone's non-motorized transportation plan.

Phil Dokas

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 12:40 p.m.

I'm personally so incredibly sick of Alex de Parry and his litany of terrible plans. Just look at how preposterous this ridiculous condo will look: Completely ludicrous. He should go to Royal Oak if he wants to build hideous condos (on top of the homes of the city's early mayors no less).