Greek church rezoning process halted by Ann Arbor City Council
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.
Melanie Maxwel | AnnArbor.com
"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 AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.