Ann Arbor officials debating whether A2D2 design guidelines should be made mandatory
Updated at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Tonight marked the first time Ann Arbor officials can recall the City Council, Planning Commission and Downtown Development Authority ever holding a joint working session of the three bodies.
The occasion: A review of the revised A2D2 guidelines for development in downtown Ann Arbor. The major question posed tonight was whether the guidelines should be mandatory or voluntary.
"How do you legislate design?" asked City Councilman Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, suggesting that the beauty of a design is in the eye of the beholder.
No clear consensus was reached, but the City Council ultimately will decide before it adopts the guidelines, possibly as early as next month.
Abe Barge, a planner with Colorado-based consultant Winter & Co., told city officials tonight the guidelines that his firm helped develop will provide a vision to enhance downtown Ann Arbor and promote sustainability and excellence in design. The guidelines -Â the work of several years of discussion and community input - are complementary to zoning amendments that will come before the City Council on Oct. 19.
Barge said he's helped other communities across the country implement design guidelines and he's convinced the A2D2 guidelines, in their current form, could be made mandatory. Concerns that voluntary guidelines may lack teeth and may not end up shaping the development process are legitimate, he said.
"Clearly, when they're voluntary, development is much less likely to acknowledge the principles that are in the guidelines," Barge said.
Ideas discussed tonight included establishing a design review board that would act in an advisory capacity to help the city determine how well projects comply with the intent of the A2D2 guidelines. City staff said they've considered creating a checklist of the design guidelines that developers would have to fill out with site plans and submit to city staff for review and feedback.
Barge said other communities where design guidelines have helped shaped downtowns include Athens, Ga., Boulder, Colo., and Helotes, Texas.
On a separate note, city officials announced today they are inviting the public to two meetings to discuss proposed amendments to city zoning and off-street parking ordinances. The changes pertain primarily to standards that regulate commercial density, height and setbacks.Â
Jayne Miller, the city's community services area administrator, said the two meetings are not part of the A2D2 process but instead are part of the Area, Height and Placement planning process, which is for areas across the city that are outside the downtown.
The first meeting will be held Tuesday Sept. 29 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Cobblestone Farm, 2781 Packard Road. The format will be roundtable discussions with opportunity to discuss topics in small groups.
The second meeting, in the format large group discussion, will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Cobblestone Farm, 2781 Packard Road.
A video of the presentation and other project information can be viewed prior to the meetings on the city's Web site.
Ryan Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.