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SG-W:/ Sprawl-fighter's Notebook: Autumn Ridge



I thought all of you might be interested in the arguments that seemed to
convince the AA Planning Commission to reject the Autumn Ridge (Bluffs)
development.  First, the Friends of the Bluffs conducted a few studies (with
UofM professors) to debunk key developer arguments.  It might be useful to
get those studies online for other people to use. Second, they conducted an
email (and phone no doubt) campaign to get people to the meeting, so they
had plenty of people who stood up when Mary Beth Doyle asked how many people
were there in opposition to the development.  Email is turning out to be an
extremely effective way for NGOs to organize whether it's in Ann Arbor or
Seattle.  Finally, over a dozen people (including Doug Cowherd, Jack Smiley,
and Steve Bean from this list) spoke about the various negative aspects of
the development.

This development may be easier to make a case against than some of the
others in the County because of the conditions.  The location is a fairly
steep climb from North Main Street in Ann Arbor to a bluff 100' or so to the
west.  Sinse this area is quite close to the Huron, drainage from this site
goes fairly directly into the river.  The development would only have
entrances on a fast, heavily traveled part of North Main that can't
reasonably be altered as well.

The top issues that swayed the Planning Commission were (in no particular
order) erosion potential, stormwater detention and runoff, and traffic
hazard.  There was a great deal of concern that this location was highly
erodable, that there would have to be extensive use of retaining walls, and
that this would likely result in a great deal of silt runoff into the river.
This line of reasoning could be useful in other areas where development is
proposed on steep hillsides, since much of the County's soils are glacial
till.

The development proposed modifying some existing small wetlands (of low to
medium quality depending on who you listened to) and I believe replacing one
with a detention pond.  I don't know the specifics of the detention system
the developer was planning.  The Friends of the Bluffs apparently produced a
report showing that the detention capacity was based on a lower than normal
rainfall level (or rain removal rate), on a misconception about storm-sewer
capacity, and on the questionable acceptability of the developers choice of
running runoff through the wetlands for filtering.  This part of the
argument was confusing to me, many of the planning commissioners, and I'm
sure most of the audience.  Perhaps someone else here could describe the
argument better than I can.

An important point is that Janis Bobrin's office is apparently proposing a
higher standard for rain removal rate (what actually this standard is
refering to is one of the things I didn't understand) than is currently
being used in the City and County.  It would be good to have someone explain
this new standard to the list.  This might be a good argument to use in
other development fights.

Finally, all of the Commissioners seemed to agree that the location posed a
traffic hazard and the developer's proposal to deal with the hazards really
didn't help.  The problem is that this location only has road entrances to
North Main just south of Huron River Drive and the Main Street/M-14 ramps.
This location has very heavy traffic (26,000 vpd), with peak traffic even
worse (1614 vph @ 7-8am for peak southbound, 1556 vph @ 5-6pm for peak
northbound), and speeds from 40-50mph (posted 40mph).  As I pointed out, if
you were to try to leave this development in the morning you would be facing
an average of one car every four seconds if you're trying to turn right.  As
someone else pointed out, most of the turns involved in getting into and out
of the development had level of service ratings of F, the worst level
possible.

The traffic argument was great for this situation, since there really isn't
much possibility of changing the lane configuration.  The developer proposed
a number of changes that didn't really change the basic hazards.  For most
of the County this argument is less effective, since there are fewer
restraints on road expansion.

As I offered for the AA Township study that the Washtenaw-Potowatomi Land
Trust did, if someone has a website to host it, I'd be happy to put the
Friends of the Bluffs studies online for everyone to see and use.

Ken Clark
jamullet@umich.edu



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