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A2 Other Voices

This piece was submitted to and published by the Ann Arbor News

42 North would take Ann Arbor in the wrong direction

By Karen F. Larson August 19, 2008

Have you heard of 42 North? I would guess that most residents of Ann Arbor are not aware the Ann Arbor City Council and the mayor may be voting on Monday, Aug. 18, about whether to approve an enormous student housing development on South Maple Road near Pauline Boulevard.

When I talk to my friends and neighbors about the proposed student housing, everyone has the same reaction, "Why would students want to live there?" Anyone who regularly reads The Ann Arbor News knows that there are several student housing developments already under construction and all of them are much closer to campus. Since the developer of 42 North wants to build four-bedroom, four-bathroom units with a shared living space, that plan severely limits the ability to find other tenants if students don't want to live so far from campus.

This is actually the second proposal for 42 North that has been brought before council. The first proposal included 640 four-bedroom, four-bathroom rental units as part of five four-story residential buildings and a clubhouse. The new plan has fewer units (480) and parking places (492) than the original plan, and the buildings are proposed to be three stories in height. However, the buildings cover the same amount of space as in the original plan, the plan still requires a massive parking lot, and the buildings will still tower over the neighbors.

Last October the neighbors first learned about plans for the original project, and since that time, we have asked many questions that have not been answered adequately. Some of the neighbors' concerns are water pressure, neighborhood flooding, wetland mitigation, traffic and safety.

The property is at the highest elevation in the City of Ann Arbor and is at the headwaters of three watersheds - the Allen's Creek Watershed, the Malletts Creek Watershed and the Honey Creek Watershed. The property is wooded and contains 12 natural wetlands. The property is zoned R4B, which allows a variety of uses. 

The West Area Plan, which was adopted after the site was zoned, indicates a preference for single-family dwellings. On page 83 the West Area Plan states: "It is important to anticipate appropriate future uses in the event that the church does sell the property.  High-density single-family residential use is recommended for the future development of this site." 

The developer has submitted a third wetland mitigation plan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has told the neighbors that wetland mitigation fails more than 80 percent of the time.

The traffic study was done with the assumption that 90 percent of the student residents will use public transportation. What happens if the students prefer to drive? What about the visitors and pizza delivery people who will be driving on Maple Road daily? Who will pay for the necessary upgrades to Maple Road to keep it safe for the schoolchildren who have to cross Maple Road?

The developer has a similar property in Champaign, Ill. The South Maple Group obtained the calls to police from 88 West over a three-month period. Police were called an average of 2.5 times each day! You can visit the South Maple Group Web site (groups.google.com/group/southmaplegroup) to read more of the concerns. 

The South Maple Group is a coalition of neighborhood groups that includes the Friends of Dicken Woods, the Mushroom Park Neighborhood Group and the Allen Creek Watershed Group. In addition, the coalition also includes approximately 250 individuals who live in the Surrey Park Apartments, Morningside Condominiums, Walden Village Condominiums, Walden Hills Condominiums and the surrounding neighborhoods.

I love Ann Arbor. I'm proud to live in a city that is recognized for its environmental consciousness as well as being a great place to live for a range of ages, including young families and retirees. I support development that benefits the city, and I think U-M students make wonderful contributions to our community. However, development should not interfere with the health, safety, and welfare of our existing neighborhoods. I urge you to let the City Council know that 42 North is not in the best interest of our city.

About the writer: Karen F. Larson is a lifelong Ann Arbor resident.