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Area, Height and Placement Amendments

On January 3, 2011, the City Council approved modifications to the zoning ordinance which allow taller buildings and reduced set-backs in many zoning districts. The changes do not affect the downtown area (zoning districts D-1 and D-2). The amendments also do not change zoning requirements for single family zoning districts. The Area Height and Placement regulations are found in Ann Arbor City Code, Title V, Chapter 55, Article III.

The Area, Height and Placement amendments do apply to the 1430 South Maple site. Most significantly, the AHP changes require reduced setbacks from the street to the buildings. As such, the site plan for 42 North did not comply with the AHP requirements. When the property owner sought an administrative amendment to extend the site plan, planning staff denied the request. Apparently, the need to relocate buildings in the site plan to conform with the new zoning requirements was not possible through administrative amendment.

The City's planning page explains the "benefits" of taller, closer buildings that have reduced set backs from neighbors and the street:

More recently, current best practices in land use planning and environmental design recommend a more efficient use of land and infrastructure which can provide a number of community benefits including:

  • Preserving and enhancing natural features.
  • Supporting mass transit by focusing growth along major transportation corridors in existing urban areas which already have utility infrastructure.
  • Locating buildings closer to sidewalks to promote non-motorized access.
  • Encouraging business expansion within the city instead of in outlying areas that do not have access to transit.
  • Supporting the redevelopment of outdated retail centers.
  • Encouraging new residential uses along mass transit corridors.
  • Locating some parking under new buildings. 
The property at 1430 South Maple is zoned R4B. The R4B zoning requires the gross lot size to be at least 14,000 square feet and no less than 120 feet wide. The Code allows 15 residential units per gross acre of the site. That site is 15 acres, which allows 225 residential units. R4B zoning provides that the front set back be a minimum of 15 feet and a maximum of 40 feet. Side setbacks are 12 feet, plus one foot of additional setback for each foot of building height above 30 feet when abutting residentially zoned land. Buildings may be a maximum of of 35 feet tall, or 45 feet tall if the building has parking beneath at least 35% of the building. In addition to the required setback lines, the horizontal distance between buildings cannot be not less than 20 feet.