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Posted on Mon, Oct 5, 2009 : 10:21 p.m.

A2D2 guidelines likely to be revised to include mandatory review process

By Ryan J. Stanton

Several residents spoke out at tonight's public hearing on the proposed A2D2 design guidelines for downtown Ann Arbor, telling the City Council the guidelines lack teeth if they aren't mandatory.

"If these will be meaningful at all, there should be a real review process," said Ann Arbor resident Peter Nagourney, who lives at 914 Lincoln Ave.


Ann Arbor City Council members listen to public comments Monday night on the A2D2 design guidelines.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Nagourney said he's been impressed with the work the city has put into the A2D2 process. But he questioned the evolution of the guidelines that have led them to become voluntary at this point.

"Saying that you're going to have guidelines and making them voluntary makes this just a waste of everyone's time," he said. "I hope you will go back to the original intention and institute the guidelines that everyone would like to see and make sure that there is some teeth to them."

Mayor John Hieftje said tonight it sounds like residents and city officials are in agreement.

Hieftje said he has been in discussions with several council members who agree the legislation to adopt the design guidelines should be revised. The revisions would include a provision for a panel of experts and residents that serve as a review board with a mandatory review process, he said.

Hieftje said that was the original intention of city officials when they decided to create the guidelines.

"We had always envisioned a mandatory process and a review board that would review developments," he said.

Tonight's public hearing was not required, but city officials said they wanted more public input. Eleven residents spoke at the hearing, which will continue on Oct. 19.

The A2D2 downtown design guidelines, as well as new zoning and parking amendments, are currently set to be adopted on Oct. 19.

City officials say final adoption of new historic district design guidelines will soon follow after adoption of the downtown design guidelines.

Hieftje said there's no hurry to approve the A2D2 guidelines, so the issue could even carry over into the City Council's first meeting in November if needed.

The City Council established the Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown initiative in 2006 to implement the high-priority recommendations of the Downtown Development Strategies Project. After years of work and dozens of public meetings, many components of the initiative are nearing fruition.

According to the city's Web site, the A2D2 design guidelines are intended to "encourage high-quality building design, prioritize the pedestrian experience, complement the recommended overlay zones, clearly illustrate the goals and standards for each requirement while being as objective as possible and promote green building technologies."

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



Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 4 p.m.

No problem : )... it's about arbitrary rules vs sound zoning ordinance language and master planning.... Most development should occur with simple staff review and recommendation, if it meets code. If the code is antiquated, contradictory, inefficient, cumbersome, and no longer beneficial, as it is in a2, change it.... Save the politics and wrangling for PUDs. It is appropriate ONLY in that circumstance.


Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 3:47 p.m.

Sorry if I interrupted your soliloquy...Yes, the economy is tough, but in 3-10 years, it will be back. A building will last 30-50 years. Why throw away standards for short term gain at the expense of the long-term? That doesn't make sense...Also, mandating pedestrian walkways through blocks, breaking up massive buildings with different heights/modules, and paying attention to energy efficient designs are not onerous, they're sound public policy.


Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 12:54 p.m.

... Additionally, in an environment of shrinking tax and state sharing revenues, the City of a2 needs to decrease barriers to economic renewal, encourage economic development, and shed ridiculous rules that turn into costly, and often losing, litigation. It needs to streamline language and process, not add meaningless layer after layer of micro-control babble.


Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 11:32 a.m.

Guidelines guide. Laws define rule. There is phenomenal difference between architectural guideline and architectural law. The spirit that led to development of these standards is that of being voluntary.... You'd likely be appalled at the architecture designed for, and dictated to, private developers, by a2 City government with public input. The design process would likely take years (although, in numerous cases, it already does). If mandatory, instead of calling them guidelines, call them arbitrary rules of construction moratoria.

Chuck Warpehoski

Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 9:04 a.m.

At the AHP work session last week, I spoke with a developer on the advisory committee. He talked about doing a building in Troy where the city made it hard on him by saying he couldn't use the cultured stone he wanted but had to do something that would hold up better. He hated the restriction at the time, but at the AHP meeting he acknowledged that he built a better building because of it. This is different than the way that Ann Arbor makes things hard on developers. The Troy process was hard because it was stringent, but it was clear and predictable. Ann Arbor is hard on developers by NOT making things predictable. I think we'd get better buildings if we held developers to high standards that are clear and transparent. I hope these guidelines move us in that direction.


Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 8:25 a.m.

Just imagine the farcical quagmire: a2 City Council, numerous committees, and of course the "(un)informed public voice" as architectural fashion police. Laugh, or cry, out loud at this possibility. Fashion is fickle and ever changing. a2 government wishes to "guide" this?... If I were designing and building a substantial structure in Ann Arbor, I would certainly NOT want this collective Gladys Kravitz lending their "input" to any architectural design. Their pompous senses of grandeur, vision, and aesthetic ego should be redirected to providing excellent essential city services.... As the City devises yet another way to halt and micromanage private development, who is thinking about fixing bridges, and plowing and repairing roads? Where is the City plan for providing competent police, and fire protection, and enforcement of existing ordinances? What is the plan for balancing the budget? Where is the plan for 10-, 15-, and 20-year growth in the City, and what are the benchmark goals?... How is it that whenever tough problems confront us, City Council seems to divert its attention to controlling minute elements outside of reasonable and typical realms of influence or responsibility?... It has been stated that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If one beholds beauty, they are free to admire it. If not, they are free to look away. This simple premise renders a2d2 obsolete and ridiculous.... a2d2 guidelines could be renamed d2a2: Death to Architectural Artistry (or replace the second A with Ability, Activity, Aesthetic, Allure, Alternatives, Amazement, Amusement, Appeal, Approach, or Autonomy).... The last parenthetical word has to do with freedom... freedom of expression... freedom of art... freedom of speech... Does anyone sense impending lawsuits over this? I do not support a2d2 mandatory guidelines. If mandatory, they are no longer guidelines. They are, however, a form of censorship by a2 City government.