Nuisance

As you probably know, there was a short article about the Grove in the March 2012 Ann Arbor Observer. In that article, planning staff claimed that during the 42 North process the City fully considered our concerns about public health, safety and welfare.

[Planning director Wendy] Rampson acknowledges that determining if a project could be a nuisance or will have a detrimental effect on the public is "a judgment call, but it would have to be a very unusual issue to deny a site plan that meets all codes. The term 'nuisance' in this case refers to the legal meaning, not the common meaning of bothersome or irritating. In the case of 42 North, the proposal [was] consistent with the zoning and the City's master plan. There was nothing unusual about this project that would have caused Planning Commission or City Council to deny it."

The staff comments prompted a neighbor to write to planning staff to ask about public nuisance. The following is the neighbor's email and the staff's response.

From: Leigh Ann Boyd
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 1:28 PM
To: Rampson, Wendy
Cc: Higgins, Marcia; Teall, Margie
Subject: The Grove
 
Ms. Rampson,
I read the article about The Grove in the Observer. Can you please clarify for me what the legal definition of "nuisance" is? From what I've read, public concerns on noise, water ingress and safety would absolutely all fall under the legal definition of nuisance. A "non legal" nuisance would be painting your house an ugly color. 
 
Your clarification would be appreciated. 
 
Thank you,
Leigh Ann Boyd



From: "Rampson, Wendy" <WRampson@a2gov.org>
To: Jim & Leigh Ann Boyd
Cc: "Higgins, Marcia" <MHiggins@a2gov.org>; "Teall, Margie" <MTeall@a2gov.org>; "Bahl, Sumedh" <SBahl@a2gov.org>
Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:10 AM
Subject: RE: The Grove

Ms. Boyd:
 
Good question.  In general legal terms, a public nuisance is a criminal act against the general public.  Some examples the City has worked on in the past include: a contractor that was cleaning paint equipment in an area that drained into a storm sewer and polluted Mallett’s Creek; homeowners that hoarded material in their house in a way that created a fire hazard to adjacent houses; a property owner with multiple barking dogs in her yard.  In all cases, the City’s involvement was a reaction to a specific activity that impacted the public at large. 
 
The issues you mentioned about the proposed development project are definitely valid points of concern.  The codes the City has in place were created to prevent future public nuisances that might result from new development.  In the case of traffic safety, the code requires the developer to have a professional traffic engineer look at issues like sight distance at driveway entrances and the impact of the traffic on nearby intersections.  If the report shows a potential future problem, then the developer is required to revise plans to correct or mitigate the problem.  For storm water, the code requires that a development detain or retain storm water from the site as if it were still an undeveloped site.  Staff reviews the storm water calculations and plans to determine if the design meets these standards, and if not, requires the developer to come back with a revised plan that does.   The City has noise regulations for construction that would be applied if the project moved to that stage.
 
I hope this clarifies my comment in the article.  If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me.
 
Wendy Rampson, AICP
Planning Manager
City of Ann Arbor Community Services
734.794.6000 x 42606
www.a2gov.org/planning

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