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Planning Commission, Tuesday, April 5, 2022

video, Legistar meeting details.

Disch notes that council passed TC1 (I think she's referring to the rezoning of the are near Briarwood to TC1). Yay! Increasing housing density along transit corridors is a win for so many reasons. I only wish the process was going faster.

Maple Cove II is a proposed 70 unit apartment complex at Miller and Maple. Some discussion about why all the curb cuts were required. The answer seemed to have to do with fire truck access. The discussion seemed to imply that, other things equal, it's better to have fewer curb cuts. I wonder why. (Honest question, I haven't thought about it much.) Comissioner Gibb-Randall is unhappy that it required taking out a big tree. Gas/electric choice was brought up again. Petitioner says they just haven't looked into it very closely yet? Lots of comments in favor of electrification, but doesn't sound like planning commission has much leverage there. Commissioner Mills asks about height. They're limited by FAR (floor-area ratio), but why not fewer taller buildings? DIdn't hear a clear answer. Commissioner Lee finds the construction cost estimates optimistic. Wysche asks whether they can get some sort of sustainability scoring to simplify some recurring discussion. Lennart says some projects get sustainability office review, which would be included in the staff report, but this one didn't get that, I'm a little unclear why.

Off-street parking requirements: this is the bit I'm most enthusiastic about. (See e.g. the high cost of free parking for an introduction to the problem.) The introduction to the staff report is good: "Staff recommends that the amendments to the Unified Development Code (UDC) be approved because the proposed amendments will reduce the amount of under-utilized impervious surfaces, encourage land to be used more efficiently, incentivize the construction of new residential dwelling units by reducing construction and land acquisition costs which may result in more affordable housing units being constructed, and by using land more efficiently, will support transit service.") It's not going to result in immediate dramatic change, for a lot of reasons, but it's a really important step.

Some details: they're only eliminating car parking requirements, not bike parking requirements (which don't take up much space anyway). Also, if I understand correctly: *if* you still choose to build parking, you're still required to include some EV spaces (spaces with chargers for electric vehicles), as a percentage of the total parking. (The details are complicated.) But you're not subject to any EV space requirements if you don't build any parking.

It imposes parking *maximums* in the TC1 district. It makes sense to minimize parking in districts where we expect lots of trips to be by bus--first, there should be less need for it, and second, big parking lots make walking less safe and convenient.

There are also a few maximums for specific cases, e.g., "broadcasting facility". I'm not clear why some get maximums and some don't.

Minor thing, but I like that this is a net decrease in the size of Ann Arbor's zoning code.

Brett Lenart says they try to choose a single maximum for TC1 to make it easy to modify uses. But maximums may make it difficult to market non-residential housing: Commissioner Lee's comments here are informative. If we want other uses in TC1 (like retail or office), we may need to allow more parking for those uses for now.

DIscussion points out there's already another limit in TC1: area for use of vehicles is limited to size of the building footprint. (Apparently that's already part of the existing TC1 ordinance language, but I can't find it.)

Commissioner Sauve says TC1 isn't appropriate for large restaurants (which was one example given as a parking-heavy use), and smaller "neighborhood joints" (and maybe other more neighborhood-focused businesses) may have less parking demand?

Commissioner Mills says TC1 allows more sharing between parking users, which may help with adjustment.

Commissioner Disch is concerned about the footprint limitation because she sees council's main goal as higher residential density, and it may make limit the height of residential buildings too much.

Staff's proposed parking changes pass unanimously as is (with at least one "heck yes").

Next they discuss the policy agenda (the city's wishlist for the state legislature). Agreed to strike enabling inclusionary zoning as something to lobby for. (Inclusionary zoning may be good or bad for affordability depending on the details and your assumptions, given a not-particularly-friendly legislature and the uncertainty, there's skepticism about the value of pushing for it, if I understand right.)

Finally, they revisit discussion of apartment building electrification. They don't have much authority over that sort of thing, but there's an argument that they should talk about it anyway, as part of education petitions and the public. Brett Lenart suggest, if I understand correctly, that perhaps they could impose some sustainability requirements on new developments if they could come up with metrics that are clear enough.

There's also the consideration that imposing such requirements may have the unintended consequence of just moving developments a little further away to a different jurisdiction, for now gain in building sustainability and a loss in transportation efficiency.