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Posted on Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 5:49 a.m.

Moravian project denied approval by Ann Arbor City Council

By Ryan J. Stanton

The proposed Moravian apartment project failed to win the Ann Arbor City Council's approval on Monday, leaving the developer contemplating his next move.

Jeff Helminski, managing partner of The Moravian Co., said suing the city is a possibility after the project five years in the making was shot down.


Louise Giles was one of several Germantown neighborhood property owners who carried signs in opposition to the Moravian at Monday's meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"Legal action would be one of the avenues available to us, and we'll take a look at all of the options," Helminski said. "There are other avenues for us to pursue approval of development on this project, and we'll be looking at what those might include and moving in one direction or another based on what we think the best way is to achieve the goals that are important to us with this, which is affordable housing, green sustainable development, and more residents to support the downtown businesses that make this town great."

It was a battle of opposing viewpoints inside city hall Monday night as dozens of Ann Arbor residents — one by one — approached the podium and told the City Council what they thought of the proposed development.

Many were for it, and many were against it.

During a public comment period that stretched for more than three hours, council members heard from young professionals, business owners, University of Michigan students and community leaders who voiced strong support for the 62-unit complex proposed at 201 E. Madison St. There was a consensus that downtown Ann Arbor lacks affordable living opportunities for people in their 20s outside of the "student ghetto" and badly maintained apartment houses.

Opponents of the project — many of them residents of the Germantown neighborhood immediately to the north — cited concerns that the five-story project wouldn't fit the scale and character of its mostly two-story surroundings. Members of the Germantown Neighborhood Association brought in a scale model showing the conceptual 74,370-square-foot structure in relation to surrounding homes.

"I don't want my historic Greek Revival home next to the Great Wall of China," said Bob Giles, who has owned a home at 541 S. Fourth Ave. since the 1980s that he makes income from as a rental property. "I can imagine the potential for problems with an open-air roof deck 60 feet up in the air, looming over my property."

Nearly six hours into the meeting, just before 1 a.m., the council voted 6-4 in support of the rezoning for the Planned Unit Development. But even with a majority of the council in favor of the project, it still fell short of the eight votes that were required due to an opposition petition filed by residents. If not for the petition, the project would have been approved with six votes.

Those who came out in opposition included Mayor John Hieftje and Council Members Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere and Stephen Kunselman. Council Member Carsten Hohnke, who was absent from the meeting, relayed his opposition to the project in a written memo read aloud by Anglin.

Hieftje said he appreciated the speakers Monday who pointed out the Moravian was proposed for development in a very transitional area of Ann Arbor. Immediately to the north, it would have abutted much smaller residential properties. But across the street lies an industrial district and a lumber yard.

Hieftje said he thought the developer could have done a better job making the transition smoother between the two areas and could have offered more public benefits to help sway the council. The fact that the project came with favorable recommendations by the Planning Commission and the city's planning staff, who spoke in support of the project Monday night, didn't matter in the end.

"In my review, I've come to the conclusion that I do not agree with the findings stated in supplemental regulations. I don't believe that this project is offering enough in terms of a beneficial effect to the city."

Hieftje said the most significant benefit the developer included was 12 units of affordable housing, but he said that didn't make up for the project's downsides.

"The developer is proposing a relatively massive development that challenges the scale of the established neighborhood. I don't see this offering significant innovation in land use or other typical benefits," Hieftje said, adding the area inevitably will change in the next 10 to 20 years, and he didn't want the Moravian to "set the new standard" for what's to come.


Members of the Germantown Neighborhood Association hired a professional architect to construct this scale model showing the Moravian in relation to existing homes along Fourth and Fifth avenues.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"Our master plan for the area has provisions that specifically call for the city to protect the scale of residential development in the area and to make sure that the scale of new buildings is appropriate to the surrounding properties," he said. "I don't believe that this particular PUD provides adequate justification to depart from these master plan provisions."

Hieftje said the developer has many options to bring forward a by-right proposal that conforms with the city's plans and current zoning designated for the area. He said that could include a strip of town homes or a series of one- and two-bedroom apartments.

One of the criticisms of the Moravian was the assertion that it would be housing for young professionals. But because it was mostly apartment units with three or more bedrooms, some said it would be just another student dorm in disguise.

"I'm saddened to hear that the petitioner has deluded several young professionals into thinking this is going to be a great place for them to live," said Beverly Strassmann, president of the Germantown Neighborhood Association. "The truth is there's only going to be nine one-bedroom apartments, three efficiencies, eight two-bedroom apartments. Most of the units in the Moravian are three- and four-bedroom apartments. These apartments will be too expensive to rent."

Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, spoke in support of the project Monday night. She said the Moravian would provide a cheaper alternative to current downtown apartment options.

"I think that's significant," she said. "As far as I can tell, the rooms that would be rented here, which I had understood would be between $900 and $3,000 — $3,000 being for a three-bedroom plus a flex room — are far cheaper than any other downtown apartment you're going to find. Those run from $1,400 a month for a one-bedroom at Zaragon to $2,700 a month for two-bedrooms. I think what they're trying to achieve here is significant for the city."

Ann Arbor Realtor Newcombe Clark, a partner in the development project, had choice words for council members prior to the vote. He asked them to set aside politics and make the right decision.


Newcombe Clark addresses the City Council.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"We ask of you the courage of leadership," Clark said. "We ask that you not act in fear of the relative small percentage of citizens that currently show up at the polls in August. We ask that you trust in the vast majority of citizens that you represent.

"We have been forthright and honest about our goals and intentions with this project from day one," he said. "Before we spent a dime, before we spent a minute of your valuable time, we met with you and asked what you want. Two years ago, we asked what you'd like to see on this site. Remember? And through all of it, nothing has really been presented in a way that was infeasible."

Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, addressed the tension surrounding the project in his comments before voting.

"I don't think opponents of the project are reactionary NIMBYs ... nor do I believe properly that its proponents are philistines intent on gutting Ann Arbor, and I regret that the discourse has sunk to that level," he said.

Taylor ultimately supported the project.

"I understand that this conclusion is at odds with many of the residents who have spoken here today, and so it is not a position that I take lightly," he said. "But in the end I believe that the petitioner has made its case that the project will offer substantial public benefits in a manner consistent with the master plan and to the ultimate betterment of the city."

Ann Arbor resident Rebecca Lopez Kriss, one of many young professionals who spoke in support of the project Monday night, addressed the opposition's viewpoint that the Moravian was out of character with the surrounding neighborhood.

"Frankly, it's next door to a very tall three-story building, it's also down the block from multi-story Perry School, it is across the street from a light industrial zone, and if anything this development — the Moravian — is a buffer between the neighborhood north of there and the very busy retail area on Main Street, and the zoning that's south of there," she said.

Peter Schork, president of Ann Arbor State Bank, said he thought the project was feasible and represented a good use of land.

"Very clever people put together these parcels of land at the bottom of a hill across from a lumber yard, across from a University of Michigan building, and have done a nice job of creating an environment that's very suitable for housing for 20- to 30-year-olds, some of which might be students," he said.

Stewart Beal, president of Beal Properties, said he employs up to 130 construction professionals in the area at any given time and they could use the kind of work that comes from projects like the Moravian. He said his job includes scheduling people to work and the jobs aren't in Ann Arbor.

"Today I scheduled 62 people to work in Flint, Owosso, Detroit, Ypsilanti, Whitmore Lake, East Lansing and Toledo, Ohio. We even drove two and a half hours away to Grand Haven, Mich.," he said. "Today I scheduled only one person to work in Ann Arbor and that was at Pioneer High School. I urge council to support development, support an opportunity for construction jobs in our community, and to support this project in particular."

Helminski said the Moravian would represent an investment of $10 million to $12 million in Ann Arbor. He said people from other communities have called asking him to bring that investment to their city instead if Ann Arbor doesn't want it.

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



Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

Just looking at the scale model and realized that, gee, they left out Perry School in the same block, and one more block away South and West Quad. Yes this development looked like it was going to be a private dorm, but how many of the houses in that area do not rent to students. The thing that really galls me is the No Moravian sign way out on Packard past Platt. This person must own rentals in the area and is afraid that when something new goes up, it will be harder to rent out his run down dump.

Drake Hollander

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Jon Saalberg

Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 7:52 p.m.

@townie: Development has NOT been stymied in this town. Only a couple of INAPPROPRIATE, BAD developments have been stopped. Most developments, good and bad, in the past 10 years have been approved and in fairly rapid order. Forgive me, but this doesn't make sense - only a couple of bad developments were stopped but most bad ones were approved? Anyway, please tell me why: What was going to be built where the Greek church was, is worse than the current crumbling structure, or why new development along North Main is worse than the row of dilapidated houses that currently greet visitors to our fair city, or why a row of run-down houses along North Fifth, among near commercial buildings, and a lumber yard, is better than a row of new structures. It's a fact that often, renovating old houses is much more expensive than building new houses, and sometimes those old homes are nothing special.


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 4:08 p.m.

Development has NOT been stymied in this town. Only a couple of INAPPROPRIATE, BAD developments have been stopped. Most developments, good and bad, in the past 10 years have been approved and in fairly rapid order. Those not built have been due to the inabilility to finance them or with the developers' going bankrupt, or both. We'll never get anywhere with this discussion until people stop perpetuating myths.

Jon Saalberg

Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

"We ask of you the courage of leadership," Clark said. "We ask that you not act in fear of the relative small percentage of citizens that currently show up at the polls in August. We ask that you trust in the vast majority of citizens that you represent. No courage here. We live in a city in which the desire to revitalize run-down housing is not valued, but adding 700 unnecessary parking spaces is. So, it's a foregone conclusion that development will continue to be stymied in our fair city.


Thu, Apr 8, 2010 : 5:12 p.m.

All you Moravian supporters who are crying out your hangovers from the free drinks have only yourselves to blame. You don't even resemble the hard-working young professionals I know. Those folks would have nothing to do with that embarrassing scene at Council or the Moravian for that matter. Where were you Moravian supporters when this project was working its way through the process? I watched the planning commission meetings and only one or two of you (probably recruited by the developers) showed up to speak FOR the project. Even Newcombe Clark himself didn't bother to show up. (Maybe his partner forgot to text him.) Sorry folks, but flash mobs, tweets and free drinks do not make for good politics and do nothing to shape policy. If you don't like the way things are going, then get out and attend meetings. Vote. Write to your representatives. Do a little research. The opposition did all of the above and they won. Learn from it, sober up, and get to work if you want anyone to take you seriously. Many of the folks who fought this are also professionals in their own right, young and old and inbetween, many with families to raise in addition to their demanding careers. They have no more time to waste on this than any of you--probably far less. Yet there they were, meeting after meeting. There they were writing to their representatives. There they were doing research and bringing in professional consultants to analyze the issues. Guess what? They found a LOT wrong with the process, the interpretation of policies, and several just plain mistakes made by staff and planning commission. Mostly they found a lot wrong with the Moravian proposal itself--things the City should have found on its own instead of forcing private parties to do it. Yes, the opposition won because they did the work and proved the Moravian was the wrong project in the wrong place. You lost because you did nothing but show up for a free party at the last minute and/or post angry, mis-informed messages in the blogosphere. Next time, first make sure your cause is just, then get out and do the work.

The Picker

Thu, Apr 8, 2010 : 4:46 p.m.

All this talk of young professionals, young this and that smacks of age discrimination. That is illegal! Hasen't anyone in hyper- sensitive Ann Arbor noticed? Knock off these references!

local guy

Thu, Apr 8, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

This is yet another disaster for us in the long run. Why would anyone want to develope anything in this town. The Moravian is not a perfect concept, but they patiently did everything they were asked to do in order to get approval, plus more. The Germantown nay sayers were outrageuous in their "not in my backyard" attitude. This project was on the fringe of a generally run-down area, though I know there are nice homes there, as well. All projects are new when they are developed -- even the homes in the so-called, recently marketed "Germantown". We can't be anti-development and pro-density, pro-let's attract young professionals, etc., at the same time. The negative impact of this project was minimal compared to the gains. Yet, we have a small minority in the community, and also a MINORITY on the City Council trumping the developer's patient, careful, and creative plan. Frankly, my only issue with the plan was the number of units greater than 2 bedrooms. But that was not enough of a reason to say no when so many other factors are considered. Those on Council who supported this articulated their reasons well, plus the Planning Commission and the City Staff, did too. The Council Minority articulated reasonable positions, but not enough to kill this project. I want development in Ann Arbor. Too bad a minority on Council sends the message that they can pull the plug at the end of the game.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

Too bad my reply was not allowed to be printed. Steve Let me just say that no one I know, on earth anyway, could report circumstantial evidence based on a hypothetical as fact. At this point, to state that without the petition the vote and outcome would have been different is conjecture, not fact. After that, conjecture needs a good crystal ball. ciao, baby


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 8:19 p.m.

Moose, I don't see how you are perceiving editorial bias from the pictures. In my opinion, Mr. Clark has a much closer resemblance to a female than Mrs. Giles does to a male.

Steve Bean

Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

"Mr Bean, municipalities are prohibited by State of MI law from enacting their own construction codes." Moose, I'm aware of that restriction. Could you expand on your comment to more directly tie it to my earlier one? I'm not clear on your point. Thanks. And by the way, I appreciate your clarity on our inability to know outcomes under different circumstances.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 6:20 p.m.

Moose, Previously in the comments, you said, "Mr Stanton made a positive assertion based on his opinion and stated it as fact." You were immediately debunked by a member of this, and proven to not be an authority on the subject although claiming to be. Now, you've dropped this nugget of wisdom on us: "but to claim that it was the petition was solely responsible for the losing vote is either a poor choice of words or indicates an underlying bias that believes that the petition and by reference, those signing it, are irrelevant." The vote was 6-4. This should have been enough for the project to gain approval. Because of the petition, the project needed 8 votes and was denied. Therefore, if not for the petition, the project would have been approved in yesterday's session. My question is: In all of your infinite wisdom, please explain to me how is showing bias with this factual statement. Thanks, I'll wait.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 3:56 p.m.

"That is a majority of the council, and therefore would normally mean the vote would pass. But because an opposition petition was filed, eight votes were needed." All true, but to claim that it was the petition was solely responsible for the losing vote is either a poor choice of words or indicates an underlying bias that believes that the petition and by reference, those signing it, are irrelevant. thurber's supposition is probably closer to the truth. Carsten was probably in favor of the project, but he is facing a primary election and a highly motivated and tightly knit group of Fifth Warders who would stand on hot coals in the voting booth to get rid of him.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.

"This historic district crap is a joke too. Last week a young man died in a home I suppose would be designated in a historic district too, if anyone wanted to develop that area." Mick 52's comment is completely out of context given the current discussion. The fire on State street is still under investigation and I think you have a weak argument making the assertion that new construction would not go up in smoke if set on fire?! Arson is almost certainly to blame for the State street blaze and the various OTHER fires around town during Hash Bash weekend! To place the blame on older homes is silly and unfounded. Landlords must still meet the City's requirements to lease (or rent) properties.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 2:25 p.m.

Don't forget that there may (or may not) be an increase property taxes, but there are also publicly paid infrastructure improvements involved in new (and more dense) construction such as water, sewer, street and sidewalk improvements, storm water drainage etc and the continuing costs of trash and recycling pickup, police and fire protection, ordinance enforcement etc. Simply adding new development to the tax rolls does not guarantee a net increase in revenue.

John Q

Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

"It would be interesting to see if taxes on the new structure would be significantly more than what the current properties are bringing in." What would you consider significant? It would be a blip on the screen from the view of the city's total tax base. People have this belief that new development generates a lot of new tax dollars for the city. But the math tells another story. Even a development the size of Briarwood couldn't offset the loss of tax revenue that the city is seeing from falling property values.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

Mr Bean, municipalities are prohibited by State of MI law from enacting their own construction codes. All construction, statewide, is governed by State of MI building (and plumbing, electrical, mechanical) code laws. There is no correlation between a building's zoning allowances and how the construction codes are applied. They are separate issues. Neither PUD's nor a zoning compliant development receive any special allowances or relief from the Michigan construction codes. The codes are a written and enforced only to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the people using the building.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 2:06 p.m.

Would really like to like this fellow.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

Back in the mid seventies I lived in this neighborhood. We jokingly called it the student slum. The difference between now and then is 35 years of deterioration. This historic district crap is a joke too. Last week a young man died in a home I suppose would be designated in a historic district too, if anyone wanted to develop that area. These "historic" buildings burn well and fast. But new construction with modern fire suppression systems don't. So lets keep the historic fire traps and deny developers the ability to build safer homes. Ryan, is it possible that you could include in stories like this how much more in property taxes a project like this would add to city revenues? It would be interesting to see if taxes on the new structure would be significantly more than what the current properties are bringing in. I am not promoting this should affect a decision, but it might be interesting.

Steve Bean

Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 11:07 a.m.

I see several issues raised by this proposal and the community reaction that I'll be exploring, even if relevant policies already exist, since they don't appear to be serving us well: - Clarity in the PUD process, primarily with respect to what constitutes sufficient public benefit. Given that our local building code requirements can't exceed those of the state, the PUD option, currently considered unfavorable by city government, has the potential to truly benefit the community if we design it properly. As with the property tax abatement policy that the Environmental Commission recommended to City Council, which requires that the applicant demonstrate that they operate a sustainable business, and which council developed and adopted (though I'm not aware that council has applied this policy since its adoption), the PUD option could require a sustainable level of energy load for the proposed structure, however we might define that. Also, whatever the refinements, developers need to know clearly what's required of their proposals. - Related to the PUD requirements, a policy with regard to accumulating adjacent parcels for development. I'm not aware of one, but if it exists, does it ensure that the subsequent development will provide greater benefit to the community than would development of the individual lots? Other considerations are likely relevant as well. - Solar access for property owners. Passive solar heating is an affordable and effectiveperhaps necessarycomponent of home energy supply, as is solar water heating. Passive solar heating relies primarily on unobstructed exposure to the sun when it is low in the southern sky during winter months. - Consideration of non-resident property owners, particularly the ability to rent residential property when the owner doesn't live within sight distance of the property. Knowing our neighborsand that they are our neighborshas value. - The amount of land zoned for residential use within walking distance (1-2 miles) of downtown and the percentage that is in historic districts. Transitioning to a sustainable community will require the retrofitting of most of our homes and businesses to be much more energy efficient than they currently are and, as I noted above, taking greater advantage of passive solar energy and other on-site energy capture. Our historic districts aren't exempt from using energy. How will we choose to preserve the values they represent without limiting their contribution to our community transition to a lower energy future? A few thoughts on walking distance and affordable housing: Residences near services include a cost premium. This is especially true for service areas like the downtown. This will be even more pronounced in the future as fuel costs rise. Transit oriented development (TOD) incorporates this understanding as well. Affordable housing can't reasonably be sited within a five-minute walk of such premium locations without our subsidizing it. (And that's not to say that we won't choose, as a community, to subsidize it in some cases.) Able and healthy adults can walk up to two miles one way for a commute or occasional visit to an area like the downtown, regardless of whether they're in their twenties or seventies. Reasonable bicycling distance, by the way, extends that radius to at least five miles and perhaps to ten or more, safety and weather conditions being considerations, of course. To point to just one of many examples of rental apartments within two miles of downtown, there are several complexes near the intersection of Pauline and W. Stadium Blvd. The bus ride from there is less than ten minutes. Our opportunities for redevelopment for the benefit of new residents extend to that area and others. Let's keep that in mind as well as we continue this discussion.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 9:04 a.m.

Keep digging Amalie. Council had to deny on the merits and the law. If not for the cover of a supermajority other councilpersons would change their vote from 'yes' to 'no'.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

Mr Stanton made a positive assertion based on his opinion and stated it as fact. The petition may have been a deciding factor, but I doubt that it was the only factor in determining council's decision.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 8:20 a.m.

Mr Stanton made himself part of the story by writing comments like that. I hope that he's learned the lesson to report the facts and not choose sides.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 8:17 a.m.

Thanks, Griffen. Mrs Giles took the risk to come to council chambers speak her mind and exercise your democratic rights and she's roundly ridiculed for it in the most personal of terms. Where were bruno uno, rust shackleford, voice of reason and the rest? Did they put their money where their mouths are? Have any of them owned and managed property in the city? Have they made never ending repairs to their property caused by neglectful tenants? Did they go to council and make a cogent argument in favor of the Moravian? I doubt it. They're perfectly happy to sit back and throw spitballs, disparage long time "stakeholders" and perpetuate myths about how poorly developers are treated in this town.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 8:14 a.m.

Ryan is objective. He's not part of this story. He doesn't fit in with whiners and truth stretchers who've never been told 'no.'


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

@ bruno_uno, the building failed because the proposed area is home to an already diverse and historic neighborhood and would only unbalance the area with an overwhelming amount of students. Instead, I bet this PUD would have passed Council if it were moved to Georgetown mall, replacing the blight. A2 residence have a right to express their opinions. The woman in the picture is doing just that. I salute her and others for showing up and letting folks know how they feel. Ultimately, the Mayor agreed with her, not you.


Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 7:26 a.m.

"If not for their petition, the Moravian would be approved right now." That's quite a stretch, Mr Stanton, to place all of your blame for the vote to not allow the Moravian on the property owners petition. Could it be that it was the wrong project for that location or that they possibly misled the public in their quest to find a way around the legally mandated zoning requirements?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

I was at council last night and the people opposed to the Moravian submitted a substantial number of signatures, well beyond the signatures of landlords. The unsightly, noisy Moravian would have destroyed value well beyond what could be attributed simply to increased competition. In fact, an argument can be made that the current adjacent properties, excluding the destruction of value created by the Moravian, could compete quite well against the Moravian since the Moravian is really an undergraduate dorm and not fit for a large number of families. The rents will be very high for an apartment, once again giving an advantage to the existing rental units in the area.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9:25 p.m.

If you look at the petition signed by adjacent property owners to force the super-majority vote by council, it is true that landlords who own competing rental properties were able to defeat this project. One of them in particular, Walter Spiller, owns properties at four addresses. And there are others on the list who do not actually live in the properties they own but, in fact, do rent them out to other tenants. If not for their petition, the Moravian would be approved right now. Whether this situation is right or wrong is open to interpretation, but these are the facts. Marianne Zorza 538 S. Fifth Ave. Richard Jacobson 538 S. Fifth Ave. Walter Spiller 548 S. Fifth Ave. Walter Spiller 549 S. Fifth Ave. Walter Spiller 551 S. Fifth Ave. Walter Spiller 303 E. Madison Mustafa Ali 537 S. Fourth Ave. Claudius Vincenz 545 S. Fifth Ave. Beverly Strassmann 545 S. Fifth Ave. Cynthia Kokkales 544 S. Fifth Ave. Robert Giles 541 S. Fourth Ave. Louise Giles 541 S. Fourth Ave. Sharon Potoczak 543 S. Fourth Ave. Henry Meares 536 and 538 S. Fourth Ave.

John Q

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9 p.m.

"Another perfect example of why companies are moving their dollars to Canton and Plymouth and Ann Arbor continues to live with a moat built around itself." Really? Which companies are those? "This can't be legal can it? What sort of values does this town have????" Not only is it legal, it's mandated by state law. The state legislature recognized the impact that zoning changes can have on adjoining property owners and mandated that zoning changes get a supermajority of support when a sufficient number of adjacent property owners objected. Don't like it? Take it up with lawmakers in Lansing.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:42 p.m.

The truth to this situation is that income property owners (not residents or neighbors) who don't want competition from new, higher quality units triggered the 8 vote majority requirement. Were it not for landlords colluding to prevent competition, the 6 votes this project received would allow it to move forward. Way to protect the landlords Mayor Hieftje and Councilman Hohnke. I hope they made big campaign contributions. Think about what is really going on here. Imagine if we allowed existing restaurant owners to block the opening of a new restaurant because they didn't want the competition? This can't be legal can it? What sort of values does this town have????


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 6:15 p.m.

The elephant in the living room is the University of Michigan. Look at the cost of room & board at UofM for 2010-11,which is $11,762 or about $1,470/month for a double occupancy room. Just for comparison, room & board at the ICC coops is $578/month for double occupancy rooms. A double occupancy room at 411 Lofts is $750/month with no board; but of course, a student has $720/month or about $24/day board budget to match a dorm at 411 Lofts. What would you pick? You'd pretty much be a fool to pick a dorm over 411 Lofts if you can afford a dorm. So what does this have to do with the Moravian? Well, the profit margins selling dorm housing is a high margin business thanks to the pioneering efforts of UofM! Hence, developers now want to build exclusively student dorm housing since the profit margins are so high. Rent is usually about $13/sq-ft/year in German Town but at the Moravian it will be about $17/sq-ft/year.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 5:51 p.m.

@Loka... I think there are multiple reasons for the deficit - but insofar as this development is concerned, it sounds like the developer played fast and loose with the process, ultimately rolling the dice and losing. I have little sympathy for local landlords or the mayor and most of council, but I think they made the right decision, though not necessarily for the right reasons. The attitude of the developer probably didn't help either.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 5 p.m.

"I think they laid-off most of the housing inspectors to help cover the deficit... oops!" The deficit that was partially created by conintually refusing buildings that could have raised property taxes....oops!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

@Alan Benard - "Get the code enforcement officers down that street and the rest of the slums in the student ghetto and write some summonses." I think they laid-off most of the housing inspectors to help cover the deficit... oops!

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 4:19 p.m.

Patricia Lesko, who is challenging Mayor Hieftje in the August primary, was in attendance last night and wrote a piece critiquing what happened on her blog, A2Politico. Just an FYI for those of you who have said Hieftje's lack of support for this project is reason to vote him out: Lesko isn't in support of the project, either. "What I will never support is the use of PUDs to build high-rise student housing in our neighborhoods, or vote for a PUD to allow out-sized developments to 'leak' outside the established boundaries of our downtown," she wrote. Hieftje's other challenger, Steve Bean, hasn't yet gone on the record with his stance on the Moravian as far as I know.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

"Looks like you've got plenty of friends to help you knock on doors. Get a seat at the table and stop the fruitless name calling." So your answer is either run for a government seat or you have no right to complain? That just doesn't make any sense.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

Trying to get to be the 100th poster. Re: NIMBY LIBERAL Would the prospective council candidate have to buy drinks to get friends to help? Why do people like the Moravian developer? DO they like him? Why? Or are they just frustrated. Frustrated with what? Why so many posts on this topic?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:58 p.m.

Seeing how the years of negotiations, expert opinions and taxpayer-funded city legal expenses for these projects get thrown out in 20 minutes of politics, it seems appropriate that people are talking about "ousting" folks from council. Just be careful what you wish for -- the medicine may be worse than the disease. To wit: Hieftje v. Lesko and Honke v. Glorie. If you think the alternatives are better, I've got news for you. To me, until these "neglected" voices start running for office, there is no question we will be in for more of the same. I'm talking especially to you, Fifth Ward people, you've got one month to get 100 signatures: Or anyone can go for mayor (250 signatures). Looks like you've got plenty of friends to help you knock on doors. Get a seat at the table and stop the fruitless name calling.

Alan Benard

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:52 p.m.

I have a modest proposal to make up for the lost property tax revenue from this rejected improvement, as well as the lost economic activity from sustainable, increased density: Get the code enforcement officers down that street and the rest of the slums in the student ghetto and write some summonses. If these absentee landlords have time to intimidate our timid counsel, they have time to clean up their shabby properties, or else enrich the city's coffers.

Al McWilliams

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.

Okay Kids, I've never commented (or read) anything on before, because I hate the Internet, but I went to that meeting last night... and yer little, sassy red signs got me fired up. 1. Rent in walkable downtown is similar to LA (it is, really) and the quality of dwelling is (no matter what those "residents" say) abhorrent. Trust me - I've lived in them. If you haven't lived in a rental downtown in the last 10 years, you can address your arguments to the nearest loaf of bread. 2. No, the Moravian isn't for me: but it will provide clean, nice, rental units downtown which HOPEFULLY will get the rest of you "residents" to paint, put in some non-barf carpet, and make sure the toilet flushes. Alternatively, charge what your property is actually worth. It's a little competition for your old dumpy rental houses. I get it, you don't like it... but I do. Now, who wants to rent me an apartment! I won't rant any more here, so if you want the rest:


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:22 p.m.

I'd feel more sympathy for the surrounding property owners if they would make a minimal effort maintain their properties. They're clearly trying to suck as much profit out of them as possible -- just what they accuse the Moravian people of doing. The other day I saw a scene that captured the situation: a "No Moravian" sign in front of a decrepit home with a trash-strewn yard.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:22 p.m.

Go to Google Earth and view this entire block from the air. There are three other large structures already on the block and the Moravian would far and away be a great improvement. Given the run down homes to the north of the Moravian site the real question should be why would any "young professional" want to live in the Moravian? I drove by the so-called "Greek Revival Home" at 541 South Fourth Avenue this morning. It's a total dump-- broken down porch railing and steps, rusty barbeque in the dirt out front, old tire leaning up agains the foundation, bad siding and roof. Whoever owns it should be ashamed. The street looks like Catfish Row to me. The landlords who were there last night pretending to be homeowners or tenants were there because they don't want the competition-- not because this is The Great Wall of China. Unfortunately the councilmembers were intimidated by their numbers. Our city council has made a lot of bad decisions when it comes to subjects they know nothing about-- like architecture and planning. This was just one more.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

"If you can afford a house in your 20s, buy it. Paying rent is tantamount to flushing money down the toilet (with a spigot that ends up in a landlord's wallet.) " This, in my opinion only, is a complete false statement and made up by banks to get you to sign a mortgage :) Not actually but this logic is flawed. Try talking to somone who bought a home 7 years ago...what has happened since then? 1. You're home has los 20-35% of it's value 2. you've payed property tax the whole time you would not have been paying if you were renting 3. probably lost a water heater or AC unti or somthign needdeda chunk of money to repair. 4. You couldn't sell your house now if you wanted to without a huge loss. Talk about throwing your money away.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

"Saying that they should buy a "starter house" rather than rent an apartment is pretty inappropriate." I agree with this. Property taxes people...let us not forget.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

De hacer su punto bien, mi amigo.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

I offer this comment not to be argumentative, but helpful. If you can afford a house in your 20s, buy it. Paying rent is tantamount to flushing money down the toilet (with a spigot that ends up in a landlord's wallet.) Don't be overly worried about business cycles-the economy invariably turns around. My last bit of financial advice, is that if a guy named Newcombe offers you free drinks, take them, but don't drink the Kool Aid.

Jeremy Peters

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:05 p.m.

A translation for those who may not speak Spanish of the comment from Jess Rodriguez Acevedo above: "What Ann Arbor needs more than anything is housing for immigrants. It is we who work at every restaurant in the center and so we have a house closer to Ypsilanti or brighton alla. Thank you."


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 3:01 p.m.

@Happy and beuwolf: Not every twenty-something can or should own a house. Saying that they should buy a "starter house" rather than rent an apartment is pretty inappropriate. There are a multitude of reasons for renting as opposed to buying a house, such as not being financially ready, just starting in a career, being here on a short-term basis, a change in family situation, etc. There appears to be a need for the type of non-student apartments that were professed by the developer. (I'm not referring to the 3-4 bedroom ones.) In the end, the marketplace will vote with its wallet whether it wants apartments or starter homes. As was proven by the events of the past few years, there were many who were enticed into ownership of houses and the resulting too-easy-to-get mortgages that they could not afford on a "sustainable" basis that put them in over their heads. Do you wish to repeat that?

Jess Rodriguez Acevedo

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 2:54 p.m.

Lo que Ann Arbor necesita mas que nada es viviendas para inmigrantes. Somos nosotros que trabajamos en cada restaurante en el centro y por eso debemos tener casa mas cerca de alla que ypsilanti o brighton. gracias.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

"Believe it or not, I'm not in the habit of discussing my personal finances with anonymous Internet denizens." But more than one anonymous poster here has gone to the effort to "expose" Ms Giles, her property, her business interests and make assumptions about where she may live. Shameful and more than a bit creepy. should take notice of this.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

Given that less than 1/3 of the units are studios, one, or two-bedroom units suitable for a single person, or a couple - and given that most "young professionals" want an "affordable" place of their own, how does it follow that this project helps more than a handful of these folks out?? The other 2/3 of the units are 3 to 4 bedroom units clearly designed to appeal to well-heeled undergraduates - the very demographic most yuppies are trying to distance themselves from. If the project was 2/3 studio and one-bedroom units and 1/3 larger units, it might have generated more support from the neighbors, who probably have visions of beer-kegs bouncing off their roofs at 4 in the morning. Also, the developer and some his staff, who spoke last night, did have quite the attitude.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 1:40 p.m.

Rusty~ I have 2 kids in this demographic; I am far from dismissive. I'm just tired of reading all the whining on this forum. Lots of intelligent and creative young adults playing the victim. Btw, I think it's pretty dismissive and arrogant of YOU to tell me how I would behave and presumably change my mind. Hmmmmm. As for the "take away space from a local business" comment; Fingerle was actively marketing that property FOR SALE until recently. Did you just tune in?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

Wow! So many people - so many axes to grind! Ann Arbor politics has degenerated into complete anarchy with no leadership pulling it all together to do what is right. And by "what is right", I'm not referring to the vote on the Moravian project, I'm referring to the whole process of where the city has been heading and how it is getting there. The inmates are clearly running the asylum. It sounds like many good points have been raised, but also that there are more than a few people who are willing to stoop to the level of bending the truth at a public meeting to make their point. What is missing is vision and leadership. We need city and regional government to sit down and evaluate the needs for the future and put a better long-term plan together that considers all of the points that people are trying to make, but in an orderly way that doesn't let a few special interests disrupt the process, as has become the norm. Someone to make them play fair and be considerate of others, or get out! We need some good old fashioned hard work by city government and an investment in some effective and coordinated planning and zoning to proactively plan for the future. We dont need to delegate it to any expensive consultants; we need to do it ourselves in an orderly fashion. This community has proven that it does not handle change well. Its like a bunch of unruly two-year-olds who are all crying I want I want I want about differing and fractional interests and not considering what else is going on around them. Someone needs to gently but firmly take them by the hand and get them all working together for mutual benefit. The mayor got one thing right - the neighborhood where the Moravian was proposed is very transitional. Its current use is not likely going to be its best long-term use. The neighborhood is a very fragmented hodgepodge with little consistency. A few owner-occupied residences, rental houses, commercial businesses, retail, light industrial, office, university buildings, gas station, restaurant, etc. The Moravian is clear example of how the city has not handled change in these transitional locations very well. There is a long and documented pattern of projects like the Moravian being dragged out for years, upsetting all involved, and pulling many others into the fray and making it worse. This costs and frustrates us all. The message to developers cannot be one of false hope that they can keep guessing what is wanted until they get it right, and/or that they can keep trying to wear everyone down with an inappropriate plan until someone cries Uncle! and approves it. Plans need to be put mercifully out of their misery if they are not progressing toward acceptability on a timely basis. There needs to be a clearly-defined and clearly-communicated vision. That has not been happening for a long time. Change is needed.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 1:26 p.m.

So, if the desire is to make this City block an historic single family neighborhood filled with young professionals, and only 3 of the 28 buildings on this block are potentially owner occupied right now (90% are rentals), how does the City kick out the slumlords so that young people can buy these buildings?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 1:15 p.m.

Rusty Shackleford: Give me a break. First time homeowners were recently entitled to an $8,000 tax credit. Did you attempt to buy a house?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 12:46 p.m.

"So, if you're in your 20's or 30's, the city is obligated to run a bulldozer through a neighborhood so you can park your creative minds in a clean and new apartment building?" The flip side is that you're in your 40s or 50s and you oppose any and all buildings being erected anywhere near you that might be prettier than your run down neighborhood.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 12:43 p.m.

Agreed. But for some reason I assume everyone would paint her as a "mom & pop" rental owner and not a big bad developer. Which, at least to me, seem the same.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

So, if you're in your 20's or 30's, the city is obligated to run a bulldozer through a neighborhood so you can park your creative minds in a clean and new apartment building? Boy, the developer sure has you guys under his spell; maybe it was all the cocktails last night he gifted before the meeting. Turning this dialogue into a generational battle was a brilliant PR move. It has nothing to do with that. Move your project 15 feet. Drag it across Madison and buy a chunk of land from Fingerle. I'm sure the flood plain issue would be just as easy to solve on that side of the street. a2jean asks a good question. i think the young professionals, who are all begging for a decent and affordable place to live, need to respond to her query about the ashley mews condos.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 12:31 p.m.

Rusty - I see her listed on one address as "personal parcel." I don't know if that's the primary address thing though.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

I agree 100% with oldbutyoung! If you read about economic development and the strategies for successful cities, they embrace this "creative class" and do what they can to retain their young talent! That's the difference! If I look at the picture of that women in this article, it says it all! That is the face of Ann Arbor! Good luck, we better start looking at some senior housing options in this city or where will all these 50 and 60 somethings end up in a few years? Won't be anyone left here to take care of them.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 12:06 p.m.

oldbutyoung- you should run for mayor or at least city council. finally someone on this blog understands what the word sustainable means.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:52 a.m.

I'd like to know where those young urban professionals are that need inexpensive housing -- we have three 1-bedroom affordable housing units ($114-116K) on the market in Ashley Mews, and not much interest.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:49 a.m.

Last night demonstrated the patronizing scorn this community has for younger people. I heard opponents of the Moravian describe the supporters as misinformed, entitled, not old enough to understand the way things work, misguided, conned and on and on. It was as if the opponents couldn't believe that 30 year-olds with college degrees couldnt possibly know what they can afford, where they want to live, the specifics of this development, or the lifestyle theyd like to live. This is the overall mindset of this town and its appalling. Who would have thought that my generation, who supported so many social causes in the 60s and 70s, would become so selfish, small-minded and dismissive. My take away from those young professionals who came out to speak (and who outnumbered the opponents by 2:1) was that they wanted our city to share the downtown area with them, to not exclude them once again. And what did the mayor, Kunselman, Brier, Anglin and Hoenke say? Sorry, no room for you. I will not vote for the mayor ever again. Nor Mr. Hoenke, who I supported in the last election. Not only did they dismiss these young professionals with dishonest arguments (noticed how many of them jumped on the phrase "social compact"... as if they were relieved to find the right marketing term for their opposition), they turned down significant tax revenues for our city and schools (fiscal conservatives take note!) Last night wasn't "theater" or a "show" (another scornful comment) but a sincere request from the generation that will eventually inherit our community, if we let them. Unfortunately, too many of my peers have decided to take the city with them to the grave. We dont deserve these dynamic, creative young people. I guess when Ann Arbor becomes a student-filled retirement community with failing public services we can draw comfort from our 100 year old homes.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:47 a.m.

Griffen- sustainable development is high density mixed use buildings in the city, its the citys job to regulate where they are located and how they are designed. this project met all those requirements in the PUD zoning requirements but failed due to people like the lady in the picture. I will stay bipartisan but will classify all people like you from this day forward as the "lady in the picture". Its true, pictures really do say a thousand words, perhaps I will use it in my sign campaign against the mayor and those councillors who voted against sustainable projects in our city.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

Having an opinion vs being informed: Opinion: more housing is needed for young professionals. Informed: 80% of the units would be 3 or 4 bedrooms if you include flex rooms. Opinion: the neighborhood is blighted. Informed: the site is designed to flood the tenants cars (pg 14 Planning Commission 1-6-10 minutes). It takes time to learn the local zoning ordinances, to study the specific plans, and to form your own judgment, but you're professionals; you know the effort it takes to develop a skill...or just show up every year or two and think you're doing something.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

I'd rather wake up looking at the Gerogetown Mall parking lot than this neighborhood.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

@ bruno_uno, I actually don't attend any meetings, I just vote. In addition, I'm not a knee-jerk republican (like some) who see an empty lot and want to fill it with a monster. Sustainable development is the key to our city's success and that won't happen if we let ever tom, dick, and harry build what they think we need. I don't care if you're republican or democrat, common sense needs to prevail.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:15 a.m.

Blah blah blah. Same as it ever was for any building. Oh sweet jesus this "HUGE" building is going to totally block the sun. Dwellers of this "historic" area won't be able to see the sun rise on their precious railroad tracks and lumber yard. How can you start a day without seeing the crisp morning sun dazzling the electronic billboard 50 feet in the air.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:10 a.m.

Hieftje made the comment last night: "I applaud both the developers and the people who oppose this project for their participation in the process. I think what we had here tonight was exactly the way democracy should work. There are people who would say that because we have battles like this, somehow there's something wrong with our system, that somehow people should be able to find out sooner if their project is going to be acceptable." Hieftje disagreed with that assertion.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

thomas- and all others in NIMBY land (which includes city council). the buzz word "out of scale" is brought forth every time a development is proposed in this city and is pretty much used up. Perhaps learn a new word and go back to your bedrooms and play with your lego land of little buildings.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:59 a.m.

Are you kidding me? The developers should move forward with suing the city or better yet, return with a proposal to build a conference center with underground parking. Council will certainly approve that proposal!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

MargaratS- The PUD like all large developments considers public input, however, as the developer stated, they went to the city leadership for advice and consultation on the project, followed the rules of staff and planning commission, and still got rejected. they have no choice but to sue and win what is right for the city as a whole, not what the lady in the picture and a few others want.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

Regarding last night's council hearing: It was quite amusing to see a certain "old Ann Arbor" family member expressing her concern for the protection of the student neighborhood and rentals... Her family currently owns about forty student rentals... few of which are the "needed" one-bedroom units. Wouldn't it be grand if those voicing their opinions were required to state the addresses of the properties for which they have ownership interest? Some of these owners wouldn't even be able to make the three-minute speaking limit as they recited addresses of their City holdings... not being able to speak their opinion... which is sort of the point... the disclosure itself explains their opinion... Much of the so-called protectionism we hear about is nothing more than protecting financial interest in old rental property that far exceeds current zoning ordinance... Want to see Ann Arbor rental owners throw a royal fit? Make housing immediately more affordable by suspending the limit of 6 unrelated parties living in a rental dwelling unit (example R1A, B, C, or D / R4C)...


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

I'd be curious to see how many of the "supporters" of the Moravian project would react to someone dropping the Queen Mary next to their home. To characterize opponents of the project as anti-development is to display ignorance of their position. The project was not only way out of scale with the adjoining neighborhood, but was certainly not going to make the area so gorgeous and appealing to "young professionals." When developers bring proposals that do not solely benefit their profits, opposition will dwindle. And as to the developers' "surprise" and "outrage," why didn't they bother to find out what the neighborhood thought about the proposal before sending it to the rubber stamp planning commission?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

Just look at the wonderful job developers did at the corner of S Maple and Liberty.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

Mayor John Hieftje: I wasn't planning on voting in this election because I may be moving, but I am going to take the time to show up and do so this year. You have a 100% guarantee of NOT receiving my vote. You are a politcal pawn/yesman and I now see the only way for projects like this to help our city is to break this pathetic political machine we have in Ann Arbor.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

development team- please remember when you sue the city to include the calthorpe report, the watershed studies, floodplain studies, stormwater plans, and neighboring community master plans as your backing materials to exemplify support for the types of development such as yours that meet the requirements for a PUD in the central area of Ann Arbor.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:20 a.m.

@in4mation - okay, if you believe that property owners rights trump all, tell me where you live so I can buy the property next door and then build something that trumps your rights to peaceful use. The developers MAKE this property a public issue when they request the priviledge of a PUD.

Shirley Zempel

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:19 a.m.

I think Ryan Stanton did a good job on reporting this very emotional story. The reaction to the events of the night were predictable, those who would not be affected by the project throw out NIMBY comments and uninformed opinions. I think their opinions would be different if this project was in their back yard. Or if it had been proposed in Burns Park, or Arbor Hills or Old West Side. The Germantown Neighborhood is not anti development. There was not one objection raised when Ashly Mews was built. That provided decent and attractive housing in downtown and a traffic pattern that does not cause undo congestion to the neighborhoods. Nor would there have been objections if it was built on the old Y lot. And most likely if the developer proposed 2 or three town houses on the Madison properties there would not have been such an uproar. The problems is the developers wanted to build a monstrous building shadowing all the housing to the north. I am proud of our stance and blame the developers for being over-reaching and greedy.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:18 a.m.

thanks ryan- you just cut down the costs for my signs: "Hieftje and Hohnke pro sprawl" -ouch

Milton Waddams

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:16 a.m.

..."I don't believe that this project is offering enough in terms of a beneficial effect to the city." Can you say... Extortion?..."We ask of you the courage of leadership," Clark said." Unfortunately Courage of Leadership and Mayor Hieftje are contradictions so them coming together is an impossibility.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.

It must be incredibly profitable to build in A2, since developers have to go through so much idiocy to get a building up. Five years of prep for this? I kind of hope the developers sue, especially if the city will have to pay costs. I agree with many of the comments here, this neighborhood is ugly and needs to be improved. It is odd how the council does nothing to improve the appearance of the student housing areas. Something needs to be done so that this does not happen. No one planning a project should have to put with this for so long. Either approve it or deny it quickly. Perhaps with denial, the city should be required to reimburse a developer denied approval for all planning costs. At least then final decisions would be made quicker and money would not be wasted. I can't think of a more incompetent city government than Ann Arbor.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

So Mr Clark asks that council not listen to voters and instead represent the "vast majority" of citizens. A good example of arrogance with a dash of entitlement. Mr Clark should run for council.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

"We would have more affordable housing if the council didn't add millions of dollars of unneeded cost to projects by making developers jump through hoops. I think the developer must feel violated in a particularly intimate way by the Council." It's a PUD. PUD's require developers to "jump through hoops". That was a calculated risk the developer chose to take. Why play the victim here? Poor, poor developer. Give me a break! Drag that development plan up the hill a couple blocks into the D1/D2 zoning and then he can build, build, build. Better yet, strike a deal with Fingerle and pull it across Madison.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9:50 a.m.

@Just Say No To Censorship I didn't interview Mr. Giles. The one comment I used of his came during the meeting last night. And you're right, he owns the home, used to live in it, and currently rents it out to another tenant. @just a homeowner Both of your 2nd Ward representatives, Tony Derezinski and Stephen Rapundalo, voted in support of the project. @bruno_uno Of those who opposed the project, only Hieftje and Hohnke are up for reelection this year. (Others up for reelection this year include Taylor, Teall, Derezinski and Smith, who all supported the project).


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

Ah so many things to address here. First, note to Mr. H. and Mr. C., everything is political. If the politics came down on your side, you'd have no problem with the process. In fact, your shock may be due to the fact that cronyism failed this time! Now on to the whole needs of the "young professional" topic. If you have never owned property, like many of the "young professionals' who favor the Moravian, it may be difficult to understand what adhering to existing zoning codes does to protect the interests of people who commit themselves to their community for the long-term by purchasing property. Perhaps looking at it another way would help. Would you support paying a subsidy to people like Ms. Kriss to give her a clean, modern, place to live downtown? Or would you prefer to see your tax dollars support affordable housing for those truly in need or to pay for basic services or something else you value more? What people unfamiliar with zoning and the legislation that enables PUDs are unable to recognize, is that granting a PUD is equivalent to granting a SUBSIDY to the developers. When property is zoned for a certain, lower-value use, and you give a developer the right to a higher-value use - you in effect give that developer a pay-out. His land increases in value because of your decision. If the instant a PUD was approved, the taxes on the property rose accordingly, the city might break even. But it doesn't work this way. The additional tax income the project MIGHT generate is far down the road and is offset by the increase in demand on infrastructure, etc. The developers openly admit that the nearby land zoned for this purpose it too expensive for them to make a profit. But it is expensive because it is zoned for the level of density they propose! And if, as the developers claim, the Moravian housing will be more affordable to Miss Kriss, because it is not in the downtown, then such rent reduction will be a subsidy to her, from the city, and by extension, from you, the taxpayer. So, do we pay Ms. Kriss so she can live in the type of housing she "prefers" or do we use our limited resources for people without any other options. Lastly, if you lived in that area, you would not call those houses slums. They are affordable and you get what you pay for. When people who walk or drive by, but have never lived there, turn up their noses, in my book they are simply demonstrating prejudice. Where will the 20-30 or more people who will be displaced by the Moravian go? Do they not deserve to live near downtown as much as Ms. Kriss?

just a homeowner

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 9:24 a.m.

Can someone tell me how my 2nd Ward council reps voted in regard to this project?

Jeremy Peters

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:59 a.m.

@Just Say No, it seems you are correct. He also hasn't owned that property since the early 80's according to tax records, since the Warranty Deed was sold to him in 1988 according to tax records. The personal parcel listed isn't even one that is a place people can live - as far as I can tell 118 N State is an office building.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

Nice to see sudden great concern for "integrity of the fabric" of a neighborhood... Let's see the same concern by Council with integrity of the fabric of the City... You know, those boring things like public safety, infrastructure, fiduciary diligence, public process, end of folly projects, end of non-bid crony contracts, etc... Is this the end of the Moravian? Don't know... There's likely more to come... Is this the end of the MORONian City government? Nope... There's lots more to come...


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

@ Just Say No To Censorship, I'm kind of amazed by your lack of knowledge of A2 housing stock?! We have plenty developments that offer precisely what young, professionals want: Cheap rents, access to highways, shopping (strip-malls), and parks and recreation. Why it it has to existing in the form of an out of place PUD is beyond me! Please, in the future do some research. BTW, Fingerle Lumber is planning on selling soon anyway (if they haven't already), so that area will be developed sooner or later anyway depending on if the city, developer, or University grab it. Thanks.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

@griffen- could you be one of the small minority of this city that always comes out to vote in persuading council decisions (see picture of lady holding sign above). Two can play at this game and I think your scared of what if the rest of the city came out on vote day. Let the propaganda begin with our own signs...Mayor John Hieftje and Council Members Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, and Carsten Hohnke are against protecting the Huron River Watershed with urban densification!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

If the demand for rental units is so great, then I would expect many of the Student Ghetto units to be converted over time. And, what would have prevented this development to becoming just one of those student slums? The project required re-zoning. The city didn't change the zoning requirements for me when I rebuilt my garage. If the proposed development was not compliant with the current zoning, the developer took on a big risk hoping to convince others to change. He couldn't, and that is not the fault of anyone but the developer.

Just Say No To Censorship

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:18 a.m.

Ryan, is the Bob Giles you interviewed the same Robert Giles who is listed in the Ann Arbor property tax database as owning (at least) 5 rental properties in Ann Arbor? Who's address is in Huntington Woods, MI, and whose property at 541 S 4th is NOT listed as the principle residence? He was presented in a very sympathetic light as a resident who would be personally inconvenienced by a building next to his home. (The word "home" implying that this is his residence, not a "house" or a "property" that he owns for income.) If it is the same person--and it seems very likely that it is--then this quote is in fact the perfect example of opposition to the Moravian: petty landlords who don't want to deal with competition by high-quality housing more affordable than what they offer. It is extremely disingenuous for NIMBYs to wail that the developer is motivated by profit (of course he is) but that somehow those that oppose it are not. Perhaps this is just a series of large coincidences and Mr. Bob Giles does in fact reside at the house in question. But it seems at least worth looking in to. This is all a matter of public record on the city's online property tax database.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:17 a.m.

City Council, if you truly are worried about the "look" of downtown Ann Arbor, why don't you make the slumlords clean up the student housing? Student housing looks like a ghetto--or haven't you noticed? How attractive would be the newspaper ads (online, of course)--"Students, come spend your parents' very hard-earned dollars/second mortgages on exorbitant and clearly outrageous rental fees to live in a ghetto. Close proximity to the world-class University of Michigan..."

Just Say No To Censorship

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 8:05 a.m.

Griffen, wasn't the entire NIMBY argument that this vaunted "young professional" demographic (whatever that means) couldn't possibly live in anything bigger than a 1 bedroom apartment? All those houses you claim they should buy are going to be 3 bed minimum!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:59 a.m.

I worked in the U-M owned Madison Building... we are talking a neighborhood of student ghetto houses, university buildings and a lumber yard. Any development would be nicer than what is already there, not to mention the potential tax revenue the city just passed up.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:48 a.m.

@ bruno_uno, geez! You seem to have a clear position, but your total lack of an argument is disturbing? Council members did us a favor by turning this project down! You'll see. This was purely about greed and attempting to set a standard of PUD housing within a downtown historical neighborhood. It cannot be allowed. We should encourage professionals to purchase and renovate single family homes like Germantown and put the students in towers, e.g. Tower Plaza and the new upcoming 14 story tower on Williams. Enough!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:39 a.m.

Waste to time, waste of money! Power trip galore! Welcome to Ann Arbor, we sure know how waste, waste, waste....... What a JOKE!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:38 a.m.

Last night was a very interesting piece of theater in the City Council chambers. The developers had done a very good job of networking and calling in chips with friends and associates (voice ofreason, is hardly reasonable, although fast to rant--the majority of voices who spoke up were on the developer's side). I, for one, found it important to listen to the young people who complained about a lack of affordable housing downtown. What angered me, however, was the fact that they were all talking about the wrong project; their anger, in turn, should be directed at the developers, who misrepresented the whole thing to them. A young woman boldly asserted that she wanted to live in a clean modern place; who could blame her, but there are only nine single bedroom units in this project and some of them would presumably be dedicated to affordable housing. If she were not one of the lucky few to get a single bedroom, would she rent a three bedroom for herself at around 3000 a month? I suppose not; she would have to share. The developer has a dream of green, sustainable housing, but all construction in Ann Arbor requires that. The dream is simply one of profit, and the project was designed to maximize that at the cost of the local residents and of the character of a city he does not even live in. Why they chose to build a student dorm is difficult to figure out, as the student population is not growing and so many other places are being built for them, including modern UM dorms. As for their disappointment, one can be sympathetic, but they are presumably professionals and therefore one must assume, all name calling and vitriol aside, that they knew what they were doing. They took a gamble that they could overturn existing zoning and planing, planing that was not designated by "nimbies" but through a collaboration of many different community members and groups, involving much time, effort and money. These are not arbitrary regulations; they were not imposed by any small interest group. The message to developers was not "go away," rather it asked that they respect existing regulations and take into consideration the neighborhoods they wish to build in. There are many examples of such projects being approved by council.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:35 a.m.

starting today until voting day I vow to spread the word to every ann arbor voter to come out on voting day and oust the following based on the platform that they are against sustainable regional planning concepts and practice....Mayor John Hieftje, Council Members Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman and Carsten Hohnke

Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

Students in houses can be reasoned with when they make too much noise. Landlords can be called if neighbors in houses are not neighborly. An apartment building invites so many young people in such density that there is no chance of neighborliness. As a UM student back in the 70's, I enjoyed getting to know my Burns Park neighbors and being part of that community. Encouraging enclaves of students in apartment buildings does not create relationships with the residents of the neighborhood, and if it does, then the students take over and overrun the area like they did at River House condos where they ousted the long time elderly residents from the board of directors and refused to upgrade the units because they would be moving out after med school. Developers with money have been winning out over long time residents. This should not be about fighting with each other, the Calthorpe plan is turning our town into something that the locals did not choose.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:26 a.m.

Wow, the city council made a bad move.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:19 a.m.

Stewart Beal, president of Beal Properties, should first clean up his mess in Ypsilanti (Thompson block) before lobbying A2 City Council for more work...tsk tsk talk about putting the cart in front of the horse!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

If this development were moved 2 blocks to the north, the project would of been approved (think old "Y" site). Why? The zoning in the D1/D2 area supports this scenario. Check out the article posted yesterday about Zaragon 2~that project is poised for a green light. Why? ZONING is appropriate. I was laughing when watching the entitled 20-30 year-old "creative" sector (self proclaimed) demanding that the city and community OWES them a cushie place to park their stylish selves. As the parent of 2 in that age group, I've advised them that this is the time in their lives to be a part of something bigger; move into an area that's not so prime and be a part of that neighborhood's renaissance. Even if it means you (gasp) have to take a bus or bike to get downtown. The only reason the developers chose this site is the land is CHEAP and they stand to make a giant profit at the expense of the near-downtown neighborhood. ZONING, ZONING, ZONING. Get it?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

They won't approve the Moravian project which would add at least something to that area, but they WILL approve a 14 story building to mess up our skyline!


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:09 a.m.

Bravo Mayor John Hieftje! It was becoming painfully clear that this PUD was about increasing the size of the undergraduate student ghetto and NOT providing affordable housing to young urban professionals who are starting out in their careers in A2. We have plenty of affordable "young" professional housing called starter homes all over A2. Enough is enough.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 7:07 a.m.

This really tells it all- "Before we spent a dime, before we spent a minute of your valuable time, we met with you and asked what you want. Two years ago, we asked what you'd like to see on this site. Remember?"

Tom Wilkinson

Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 6:53 a.m.

We would have more affordable housing if the council didn't add millions of dollars of unneeded cost to projects by making developers jump through hoops. I think the developer must feel violated in a particularly intimate way by the Council. But what would anyone expect from our pretentious, bloated, and self-absorbed Council?


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 6:49 a.m.

Great, now I get to keep driving by all those wonderful looking homes when I go downtown.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 6:42 a.m.

What a sad joke. Germantown? Please. Please do drive through this "historic" area. It is a collection of cinder block buildings with some homes mixed in. Oh yeah, plus a giant lumberyard, gas station, strip mall, and neon riddled pizza parlor. The vote is a victory for the slumlords that seem to have secret powers over our leadership. Any project that overloads the rental market is a victory for affordable housing.


Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 6:40 a.m.

Oh my! Who could have EVER predicted this outcome! Soooo unexpected! Once again, the vocal minority strikes in an election year! Even though this would have replaced a group of severely dilapidated rental houses with a project that would have improved the appearance of the area, the council sides with whoever screams loudest. The bottom line in Ann Arbor, NIMBY is king!