Stalhandske Feb03pc

Letter and Presentation to the Planning Commission, February 4, 2003

Erik and Ann Stalhandske
2140 Stephen Terrace
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Dear Board of Commissioners:

We are requesting that you veto the proposal for designating 1381 South Maple parcel as R3. When we were last before the Commission in November, a number of excellent concerns and issues were raised by all of you - concerns that carry more merit as we have gathered additional information about this valuable community resource.

With a nod to David Letterman, let me provide you our top ten list for why you should vote this proposal down.

  • 10) This proposal runs counter to the Master plan for this area to be R1. The West Side Master plan from 1995 is the most current in the city, and calls for R1. No overriding goal is met by deviating from this thoughtful and well-reasoned planning document.

    • "Existing natural resources such as wetlands, woodlands, steep slopes, and waterways are assets to the community and provide valuable natural functions, such as improving air and water quality, fulfilling natural water infiltration roles, and maintaining biodiversity. In addition, undeveloped environmentally special areas provide residents with physical, spiritual and mental benefits. The importance of such natural areas should be carefully weighed when considering proposals for new developments that would remove, reduce, or adversely impact such areas."

      "Wetlands provide a unique natural system and contribute to flood control, stormwater storage and release, groundwater recharge and discharge, and water quality improvement. Since wetlands are an important element of the ecosystem, care must be taken that assures their protection when development occurs."

      "Natural areas provide habitat for animals, birds, and other wildlife important to the ecosystem. Typically, the natural environment and the urban environment were considered mutually exclusive. However, a significant number of plant and animal species exist in urban areas and on their periphery. The variety of plant communities detremines the diversity and stability of the wildlife populations within an area. The best way to maintain wildlife and ecosystem values is to minimize fragmentation and to increase habitat diversity. In developing areas, fragmentation is inevitable. However, preserving habitat corridors and natural linkages provides a means of mitigating the effects of habitat fragmentation. Corridors provide for relatively easy means of wildlife and plant dispersal across areas where it would otherwise be difficult."

      "Individual neighborhoods possess unique characteristics which can be lost if infill development occurs that is out of character with the existing fabric of a neighborhood. Infill development within neighborhoods is not always complementary or compatible with the existing prevailing style of architecture."

  • 9) This will impact wetlands that are in fact a headwater to Allens Creek. This development will degrade the quality of this tributary running counter to stated city goals. The planning report states that the detention and retention ponds will release water as clean as if no development occurred-I have yet to find an ecologist, biologist, or hydrologist willing to support this claim.

  • 8) This presents an eyesore imposing on the neighbors and looming over the skyscape. The plans have been modified-however, the total height of the building is unknown. The 30' height is to the middle to the roof line. When I asked the developers, they couldn't tell me the ultimate height of these buildings and would be one hundred feet in length. And don't forget, they will be 40 to 50 feet away from neighbors, dwarfing most of the modest homes. This would destroy the integrity of this close-knit community. Our neighborhood coalesces in times of need. We have block parties, cookie exchanges, and keys to our neighbors' houses. We shovel our neighbors' walks, provide hot meals in times of need, and share our joys and sorrows. We are an extended family.

  • 7) This will exacerbate storm and sanitary sewer problems for this trunk line. There will be an additional load on the storm water drains and sanitary sewers. This is at a time when the storm drains seem to be nearing maximum capacity. Additionally, The staff report states "it may be that additional footing drains, above and beyond those in the FDD program, will be disconnected as a result of this proposal."

  • 6) This will increase existing flooding and water problems for existing neighbors. We live in a wet and swampy area. At the back of our property behind an earth berm, we have running water for several months of the year. The water table for our back yard is about 4 inches below ground level. If you look at the photo in the staff report, you will see the extent of this water from the historical photo.

  • 5) This offers only a modestly modified plan with no direct input sought from the residents. We contacted the Crosswinds project manager following the planning commission meeting to identify two of us as the neighborhood representatives. After they had completely developed the revised plan, we were then contacted and met with Crosswinds staff. When asked why we had not been consulted during the redesign phase, we were told that they did not need to involve us in this process.

  • 4) This removes the last ten acre lot in our neighborhood available for an alternative mixed public-private use. Our side of the city is high density mixed use. We have apartment buildings, habitat houses, cooperatives, city subsidized houses, condos, and single family detached. What we do not have is an abundance of park land. We are underserved relative to other parts of the city.

  • 3) As proposed, this would destroy landscape features offering significant natural elevation changes within the parcel. There are substantial slopes on this land, meeting one of the features looked for by the city in parcels to protect.

  • 2) This continues Crosswinds plans for homogenous condo development throughout our city. This proposal presents a cookie cutter approach with yet another condo development. There is little in the way of creativity, foresight, imagination, or design that lends itself to approval.

  • 1) R3 zoning is forever-once we go to R3, the genie is out of the bottle. We cannot go back, and all bets are off with regards to the site plan. In fact, the final words of the staff report are very telling: (p6)"should a site plan be submitted, staff will encourage a design more like the previous area plan" ; in other words, with the cut through to Dicken Drive, and perhaps a return to the height of the previous submission.

We as residents took the Commissioners words to heart. We are pursuing and have accomplished the following:

  • 1) Working with the Archdiocese of Lansing to discuss alternative purchase of this land.

  • 2) Established neighborhood representatives for our area with the Planning Department.

  • 3) Immediately contacted Crosswinds with the names of neighborhood representatives (we were shunned until the revised plan was completely finalized and re-submitted).

  • 4) Scheduling meeting with the mayor and others to explore this area as a park.

  • 5) Contacted the School system leadership to examine mixed uses with the Dicken elementary school (they are very interested and supportive)

  • 6) Petitioned and presented our interests to Parks Advisory Committee.

  • 7) Working with Thurston and Scarlett school representatives to learn how they accomplished purchasing land for this school.

  • 8) In discussions with the Washtenaw Land Trust.
  • In sum, we as residents are proactively working to come up with a viable plan for this valuable parcel that can be a legacy for future generations, and a resource for the entire community. This recommendation is fundamentally flawed, misrepresentative, and damaging to our neighborhood. Imagine what can be - a land returned to its inherent dignity with non-native species removed … a learning laboratory for the schoolchildren…a place to walk and peacefully collect oneself within the boundaries of our wonderful city … a nature path with a pond and wildlife … and, a source of improved water flowing into Allen Creek. Listen to our voices, heed the potential, and support our efforts at a creative use of this land.