You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 9 a.m.

Greek church rezoning process halted by Ann Arbor City Council

By Ryan J. Stanton

The former Greek church property on the 400 block of North Main Street will go up for auction in two weeks without a rezoning by the Ann Arbor City Council.

Council Member Stephen Kunselman's proposal to rezone the Planned Unit Development site to the city's D2 downtown zoning — with new height limits — failed to win support Monday night.

The D2 zoning has a height limit of 60 feet, but the current PUD zoning would allow construction of a proposed development called The Gallery, an 11-story building rising 158 feet with 123 housing units and 224 parking spaces.


The Greek church on Main Street has seen better days.

Melanie Maxwel |

Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, wanted to rezone the property since it's being auctioned in two weeks following a tax foreclosure and is no longer owned by the original petitioners of The Gallery.

"It says to the community and to the Kerrytown neighborhood that we care that the D2 zoning is what we had instructed and voted on for that neighborhood, and that a 158-foot-tall building is no longer a community value," Kunselman said before his proposal was defeated on a voice vote.

North Main/Fourth Ventures LLC proposed The Gallery PUD and won approval in August 2006, but the county treasurer is now the owner of record for the land following a tax foreclosure. Kunselman said it only makes sense to make the zoning consistent with the surrounding area in Kerrytown.

The former St. Nicholas Church, which is blighted and has a hole in its roof, will be up for auction Sept. 6 through Sept. 11. The minimum bid, equal to the back taxes owed plus demolition costs, is $365,051.

If the property doesn't sell next month, it'll go to a second auction in October. And if it doesn't sell at the second auction, it'll fall into the city's possession.

The addresses for the four parcels in question, located in downtown Ann Arbor's Kerrytown district, are 402, 408 and 414 N. Main Street and 401 N. Fourth Ave.

Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, said the timing on Kunselman's resolution was off. She said she wants to see the process unfold through the auctions without any extra hurdles.

"I think it's in the city's best interest for somebody to purchase the property," she said, adding the city should get out of the way. "Let it happen, and if it comes to us, then we have something to figure out what to do."

One of the challenges to redeveloping the property is that it has an easement held by its neighbor to the south for 57 parking spaces. The easement was part of the agreement hammered out for the proposed Gallery development. It came up multiple times Monday night.

"I think right now our best bet is to get out of the way and let the private sector decide whether or not there's value in going forward and dealing with the underlying issue of these 57 spaces," Smith said.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, pressed the city's legal staff on whether the city could even complete the rezoning before the property goes up for auction. The answer she got from Senior Assistant City Attorney Kevin McDonald was no — there wasn't enough time to go through the process.

"Since that's the case, if the council were to go forward with this tonight, what would the effect be on the ability of the treasurer to sell this land? Would there be a benefit or no effect at all?" Briere asked.

McDonald said it's hard to say.

"Any answer I give you is certainly speculation," he said.

"I'm concerned if we were to go forward whether some prospective buyer could feel that we had changed the rules by discussing rezoning," Briere said at one point.

"What's really important is that we simply give notice to any buyer that this process is in place, so it can be clear," McDonald said.

Kunselman thinks the city will end up owning the land anyway.

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.


Dog Guy

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

Stephen Kunselman is pivotal in this; he should get council together to pull the PUD.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 11:18 a.m.

The current zoning doesn't fit with the area and makes no sense. So if someone buys the property and wants to build a monstrosity the city will have to live with it. Sounds like City Place all over again. The only rationale for keeping the PUD zoning will make the property easier to sell.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

This PUD should have never been granted in the first place, as it would have wrecked havoc with the Kerrytown area. Now it is a threat again because Council cannot bring itself to manage change in a creative and selective manner. Never again should we allow real estate people on Council; they simply cannot be objective about their part of the woods. This whole sad affair could be a disaster for a very nice part of town.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.

We might all like this property to NOT be developed per the approved PUD, but it seems like council did the right thing by not initiating a last minute zoning change that couldn't even be completed in time. This would have just made the future of the property more in doubt and more likely to linger as is.

mike gatti

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

Heck with it build it. Bigger and bigger. Maybe in 50 years A2 will be the commercial center of Michigan.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

Another NYC perhaps?

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

Ms. Smith surely understands that the PUD will go with title to the property, and will then be an asset to the buyer of the land. How can Council "figure out what to do" with a new owner? It will be the owner's right to exercise the PUD. Council should never have granted this PUD in the first place (2006) and certainly the PUD should not have been renewed after the project failed. The argument to let the marketplace decide is to say that the elaborate downtown planning process we went through is unimportant. (The D2 zoning recognizes that this is a downtown fringe.) Not mentioned in this story is the county treasurer's announced intention to demolish the property and add the cost to the cost of the property. Does that mean the city will assume the cost when the property falls to the city?

Larry Baird

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

Yes, I am a bit confused too. In regards to the Y lot discussion last night the council majority says, respect the DDA and planning process underway. However, in regards to the failed PUD on Main St./Kerrytown, the council majority says, let's ignore the planning process that now calls for D2 zoning in this area.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

"Greek church rezoning process halted by Ann Arbor City Council" What is the headline writer smoking? The rezoning process could not be halted because it was never started. The actual story is that Kunselman proposed that a rezoning be considered and the Council shot it down by a voice vote. Much less exciting than the headline, I grant you. Even online, some journalistic standards are warranted.

C Steve Kime

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

Just one question, if the County Tax Sale is supposed to wipe out all previous ownership interests, then why is the 57 parking space easement granted by a previous owner a impediment to the sale? Could it be that the benefactor of that easement is none other than McKinley Properties a/k/a Albert Berriz? McKinley or Berriz has had the opportunity to pay the property taxes and protect the parking easement, how is it that McKinley wouldn't lose their rights to that easement in the foreclosure process?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

What can you people be thinking? Sixteen stories? That's such a huge change for downtown in exchange for a few dollars in back taxes or whatever. That's a change for the whole city. Yeccccchhhhh!

Stephen Landes

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

I believe Council's inability to act is one of the causes for higher than necessary development costs for Ann Arbor property. Anyone even thinking about buying this property now knows that there is a serious issue with what can be built on the site -- a nearly 100 foot difference in acceptable building height. If the parcel should really be zoned for 60 foot height limit then get on with it and make sure prospective buyers know what they can and cannot do with the property. Put some certainty into this murky picture.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

If the information in this story is complete, then it would seem obvious the city hopes to recoup a one-time windfall with the tax sale, since the property presumably is worth far more as a future site of a 160 foot building than for a 60 foot building. There's simply more future square feet to sell. Everything else is folderol, so it would seem to come down to the city cashing a one-time big check. Meanwhile, neighboring residents will be saddled forever with an out-of-scale megaproject that may not even have enough parking to support its own future tenants. This is a poster child of private profit at public cost.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 3:26 a.m.

And wouldn't there be property taxes for the city, new residents with disposable and taxable incomes and spending, etc.?


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

"may not even have enough parking to support its own future tenants." Who decides what the appropriate amount of parking is?

Ron Granger

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

"a proposed development called The Gallery, an 11-story building rising 158 feet with 123 housing units and 224 parking spaces." That would be horrible, and completely out of character for that part of town. 158 feet is more like 16 stories. The council needs to rezone that land to limit development to 60 feet.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

High rises in Ann Arbor really diminishes the charm Ann Arbor has. Isn't that building across from Cottage Inn suppose to be the limit to how hi anything can be built in that area? I really hope something charming goes into the church spot instead of another hi rise condo or student ville living unit. Can't wait to see what is built there. Just demolish the building and then rezone.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

I think Ann Arbor strives to mimmick New York so why not a skyline? Build it and we increase the tax base. Kunselman needs to stop throwing wrenches in the development of Ann Arbor. The guy is way out in left field and seems to cater to his cronies at the U of M.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

11 stories could certainly be 158 feet. Depending on the type of construction,ceiling height etc. But I do agree a building that high would not be best for the neighborhood.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

There are some pretty compelling arguments for permitting higher density near downtown. Subjective aesthetics are not the only criteria on which you could (or should) base zoning policy.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Someone needs to take care of this site... The trash from the homeless is starting to pile up and in case the city cannot see there is a 4x8 sheet of ply blocking site of an access many are using for shelter...