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Back & Forth

During the planning process for the first 42 North plan, the Planning Commission asked the developer to meet with the neighborhood and respond to our concerns. After the meeting, one of the developers sent an email to the  Planning Commission staff informing the staff and Commission about the meeting. The first entry below is that email without the prior correspondence that was appended to the email. The developer's email was part of the Planning Commission's packet of information and was generally circulated to the public. The second entry below is from a response made to the Planning Commission during the hearing on the planned project.

Developer's Comments

Kowalski, Matthew

From:  anderson-development@comcast.net

Sent:   Wednesday, November 14, 2007 3:12 PM

To:      Kowalski, Matthew

Cc:      J B Moore; Matthew R. Marshall

Subject: 42 North Summary of the 2nd Neighborhood meeting

Matt Kowalski and The Planning Commission;

As you know we have now had two neighborhood meetings ; The first with the actual land owners within the 300' and the second with the Friends of Dicken woods and other neighbors and apartment owners scattered throughout the City .

In the meeting with the affected landowners there were only a hand full that actually showed up; mostly for curiosity and we felt like we had a majority of their support. They had common concerns of crime and were curious as to how the property would look. They were also happy that there would be enhanced AATA bus service to the area.

In the second neighborhood meeting with "Friends of the Woods" and various people as well as other apartment owners in the City; the tone was much different. Before the meeting even started people were telling me to take my development back to Tennessee, your not welcome here, your not a good Christian and they actually told Pastor Jack that the Church was greedy. So you can image how the rest of the night went.

The meeting was opened with a ten minute speech from the steering committee of friends of the woods telling us why they didn't want us there; this speech ended not addressed to us but by telling the crowd (which by now was worked into a frenzy) exactly what to to say in letters to the planning commission that would help get the project stopped. (again we haven't been allowed to speak nor have we been ask to change anything about our development only to not build it)

The meeting continued with Friends of the Woods giving people from the crowed 5 mins each to ask questions of the developers; the first several peoples only questions were would we consider leaving Ann Arbor and taking our development with us; each playing to the crowd to see how many cheers they could get as they completely bashed us and our development. One fellow in-particular told us that we didn't now what we were doing that we would fail miserably due to the current vacancy rate in the market and that there was no demand for product; he even argued that our all inclusive rents of $650 were too high, he heckled one of the commissioners as she attempted to have a civil discussion with the neighbors as the tone in the room was all but civil, After the meeting he spoke to us and we found out that he and his family were landlords in the student slums and that all of their properties were 100% leased for next year at rates above $850 a month without utilities, obviously his motivation was to try to keep someone from coming into town and offering an affordable solution for students so that he could keep charging outrageous rents for his sub-standard housing.

Once all the excitement started to subside we actually did get a few questions regarding Water Pressure, storm-water, sewer and traffic we answered these questions and offered copies of the studies that showed back up information to support our findings, we also told them that the City had been very meticulous and professional throughout the process to make sure that the neighbors would not be adversely affected. We seemed to satisfy some of the participants who actually came up to us after the project and thanked us for being there and apologized for the general tone of the meeting and for the words and actions of others . (So there was some positive feedback at the end)

At no time did friends of the woods or any of the participants ask us to make any changes to our plan. A few days after the meeting we received an email from friends of the woods speaking of a win win win situation for all parties involved as you can read in the  attached email below the only thing they ask us to do besides "leave town" was to completely abandon our site plan in favor a senior living facility, we appreciated them advising on on how we could get their support but responded that we had spent a year and several hundred thousand dollars for the design and the market research for a student facility and would be continuing down that path.

I feel like that there is no middle ground with FOW and as you can see by the following email's from them that they are taking a NIMBY approach to this development. In particular they will argue about height, parking, water pressure, etc., yet they offered to support a "different" type of project without concern to height, parking and all of the other issues. Its interesting that in their opening speech to the Planning Commission the steering committee of FOW said they concerned that we didn't have enough parking now we have too much.

We did have the meeting although the general tone was NIMBY we actually did get some positive feedback from some of the people who attended the meeting, we cant make any concessions when no reasonable ones were ask for. We would like to thank the City Staff and the Planning Commission for their consideration in this matter and we ask for your support. We will build a quality development that in the end you all will be happy with. Thanks, Again.

Thanks, Tim Anderson

Anderson Student Housing Solutions, Inc.

Co Developer with Wood Partners



Neighborhood Response 

This is an excerpt from the Friends of Dicken Woods' response to the developer’s mischaracterization of the meeting between the developers and the neighborhood at Dicken Elementary School on October 30, 2007:

Mr. Anderson’s letter references the community meeting that we coordinated in response to your suggestions that the neighbors and developers try to find common ground.

His letter said that we opened the meeting by whipping the neighbors into a frenzy with a 10 minute speech, without even allowing the developers to speak.  That is false.  I opened that meeting by asking all in attendance to keep their emotions in check and to be courteous during the discussions. 

In addition, we offered numerous times to allow the developers to speak first.  In fact, they contacted us by email 3 hours before the meeting and asked to speak first.  We agreed that would be fine.  When we arrived that night they had changed their mind.  We offered again on the spot that they could open the meeting, and they declined again.  And we offered again early in the meeting to allow them to respond to comments or to make other statements. 

So the accusation that we were unfair and muzzled them is false.

Mr. Anderson’s letter to you also said: “At no time did friends of the woods or any of the participants ask us to make any changes to our plan.”

That is false.  I myself asked the developer’s team if they would honor the West Area Plan which calls for this site to be developed as high density single family housing.  Their response was “no, we don’t do that, and we can’t make enough money that way.”  Other questions were asked as well, including whether they would cut the parking and limit the building heights to 30 feet as required by the site’s current zoning.  The plan they continue to push here tonight makes it clear their answers are “no” and “no.”

Mr. Anderson’s letter also accuses us of taking a NIMBY approach. He says we “will argue about height, parking, water pressure, etc., yet we offered to support a "different" type of project without concern to height, parking and all of the other issues.”

Again, this is just false.  While we did reach out and try to find common ground, we never abandoned the widespread concerns in the neighborhood regarding excessive building height, excessive parking, and numerous other problems with the current plan. 

We tried to find common ground that infringed neither the developer’s rights nor the neighbor’s rights.  And we found that the developer could still make just as much profit as they hope to now, by building an active adult senior housing development.  We learned that those types of developments require less water usage and less parking, and produce less sewage, runoff, and traffic.  So, we could support that type of development precisely because it would minimize the negative impacts on neighbor’s property including things like the neighborhood’s existing low water pressure, and existing sewer and creek systems which are already at capacity. 

We also learned that the developer already builds and owns these types of developments; that there is already excess student housing capacity in town, even before the new dorms being built today come online; and also that there will be growing need for senior housing as that demographic doubles over the next 30 years.

So this seemed like a no brainer as a place to search for common ground.  Still, we never abandoned the list of serious concerns raised throughout the neighborhood, despite the letter’s accusations.

In addition, if we were taking a NIMBY approach as the letter claims, we would simply stand behind the line in the sand that is already drawn in the city’s own master plan, which says that this site should be single family housing.  But we are trying to be constructive, and we have gone more than half way to find common ground without harming the developer’s potential profit.

Mr. Anderson’s letter also says that I asked the developers to simply leave town.  That is completely false.  I, and FoDW, offered to work with them constructively to find common ground. 

South Maple Group,
Dec 28, 2010, 9:50 AM