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E-M:/ Saving the Bluffs



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Enviro-Mich message from Anne Heise <aheise@orchard.wccnet.org>
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Here's the press clip on the Ann Arbor condo project that got voted down
by the Planning Commission due to community opposition.  Doug

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Condo project rejected Planning Commission vote a victory for environmentalists 
Site currently contains office complex, mining sites, woodland 

Ann Arbor News
Wednesday, December 22, 1999

By ANNMARIE SCHULTZ

The developer behind the Autumn Ridge condominium project on North Main
Street was dealt a major setback Tuesday when the proposal got a unanimous
thumbs down from the Ann Arbor Planning Commission.

Rejecting the advice of its own planning staff, the Planning Commission
voted 8-0 to recommend to the City Council that the project be denied
approval.

The vote was a big victory for a group of environmentalists and area
residents who want the 21.8-acre site along North Main Street, next to
Bluffs Park, kept natural. The site currently contains a 3.5-acre office
complex, a one-time farm, several aggregate mining sites and about 6 acres
of woodland.

Steven Schafer, secretary-treasurer of Farmington Hills-based Phoenix Land
Development, was disappointed with the commission's recommendation.

"We've worked long and hard with the (city planning) staff and they
recommended approval," he said. "We wanted to deliver a high quality
development to the city."

The proposal now goes before the City Council, which will have the final
say.

The city planning staff recommended approval of the development, which was
recently scaled down from 208 units to 191. Other changes from earlier
plans included scaling back the size of the tallest buildings from 38 to
35 feet and moving two buildings on the site to the east to reduce the
visual impact on neighbors and to save landmark trees.

Reasons for criticism of the development included increased congestion on
Main Street, the value of existing wetlands on the site, erosion of the
steep slope of the property and potential damage to the Huron River from
runoff.

Reasons for criticism of the development included increased congestion on
Main Street, the value of existing wetlands on the site, erosion of the
steep slope of the property and potential damage to the Huron River from
runoff.

"The members of the public here behind me believe (the development) takes
more than it gives," said Mary Beth Doyle, a representative of Friends of
the Bluff, a group that wants to preserve the parcel on which Autumn Ridge
would be built.

Nadia Selim, a representative of Cushing Malloy, a firm across Main Street
from the proposed development that employs about 80 people, expressed her
concern at the increased traffic along Main Street.

"We have three drives and it's already impossible to get out of the drive
during rush hour," Selim said.

Friends of the Bluff member Bob Johnson said the two wetlands are more
important than the city's building department claimed. He said a privately
hired wetlands consultant found one of the wetlands is protected by the
state because it has a connection to the Huron River.

Planning Commissioners also found fault with the proposed development.

"I find myself in agreement with much of what I have heard," Commissioner
Sandy Arlinghaus said of the audience members' comments.

"I do not believe development on this parcel is appropriate. I like to see
condos - fine. On this site? No."

Commissioner Jean Carlberg was particularly concerned with the traffic
study's failure to address how quickly and how safely a turn could be made
from the proposed development to Main Street.

One item the developer withdrew prior to the public hearing was the
opportunity for affordable housing on the site.

The deletion disappointed Commissioner Kevin McDonald.

"One of the things I did look forward to in this project is affordable
housing," he said. "It lacks a reason to make this a planned project. It
lacks benefit to the public."

Critics of the development were pleased with the commission's recommendation.

"We're thrilled," said Bill Hanson, of the Friends of the Bluffs. "We
think the Planning Commission did the right thing here tonight. They sent
a clear message to the developer."














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