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03-15-11 PC Meeting

The following message was prepared by the Georgetown Neighborhood Association and distributed to interested parties. It summarizes the public hearing and Planning Commission discussion of the proposed Packard Square project. That project is proposed for the old Georgetown Mall site.

Dear Neighbors,

On March 15th the Planning Commission held a public meeting concerning the Packard Square site plan and the recommendation to move it forward for City Council approval. The Packard Square Site Plan recommendation was the last item on the evening's agenda. City Planner, Jeff Kahan, gave a summary of both the history of the site and the petitioner's plan for a mixed use complex on the site as well as an overview of the particulars of the plan. The floor was then opened for public comments/questions. Those questions were presented first and then answered after all the questions/comments had been stated. For clarity's sake, the answers are written down right after the question in this summary. The answers were provided by Craig Shubiner, Bruce Measom as well as representatives from the design/architectural firm they have employed. All questions and answers are paraphrased but hopefully capture the gist of the statements. As always, if there is any misconstrued or erroneous information, let me know and I will send out a correction a.s.a.p.
There is also an excellent article on the meeting in the Ann at: Packard Square project criticized by Ann Arbor planning commissioners for 'lack of imagination'

I) Public Comments/Questions:

Q:  There has been some concern about the increased sewer and storm volume from this project. Have studies been made to determine the maximum capacity for the existing structure and if the increase exceeds that maximum what measures have been taken to alleviate that problem?
A: The detention capacity being built under the complex will be able to hold 71,000 cubic ft. which exceeds the code for capacity of a detention system for a project this size and stands at 180% of the expected volume. The storm waters will also be funneled through the perforated pipes that will help release the storm waters at a controlled rate. With the change in the grading and newly constructed drainage, the overall drainage for the property and surrounding properties will be much improved from how it is today.

Q: Calculation have been made on how many gallons a 1" rainfall and a 6" rainfall produces and  there is skepticism as to how a retention system for that large of a project could hold the approximately half a million gallons that would be produced from a large rainfall.
A: The detention capacity should be more than adequate.

Q: The massiveness of this structure will block views and deprive all the residents abutting the complex of privacy. The plantings that are suggested in the plan would not be tall enough to block the huge apartment complex out. Also, the noise from delivery trucks and garbage trucks will be disruptive. Is there anyway to have garbage pick-up and deliveries happen at the west side of the building where it abuts to the other office building and is there any way to place most of the height of the building on the other side?
A: It would not be feasible to change the architectural plans or to move all the deliveries and garbage removal to one side, however we are willing to work with the neighbors on the times for garbage pick-up so as to minimize noise disturbance.    

Q: There is a concern about pedestrian crossings and the need for traffic calming for the increased amount of residents. Can a HAWK traffic light system be installed?
A: The traffic study has shown that there would be a minimal increase in traffic and that no extra traffic light needs to be installed.

Q: With the Michigan state budget slated to cut Brownfield credits will this complex still get built if you don't receive the credits? And does the commission consider the financial wherewithal of petitioner's to build their project before approving it?
A: Hopefully the possible lack of Brownfield credits will not affect the project. There is, to date, enough funding from a variety of sources like grants and T.I.F. (tax increment financing) to complete this project.

The floor was then opened up to Commissioner's questions and comments, most of whom amplified neighbors' concerns:
II) Commissioner Comments/Questions:

Q: You are only using 126% of the density allowable on that site when 150% would have been allowed. Why are using less than allowed?
A: The market study and financing made the project feasible at 126% density and therefore we planned it accordingly.

Comment: This plan exemplifies why the city needs site design guidelines. The massing of this structure is big, it's boxy  - which is easy to build - but it's also unimaginative and does not architecturally support the neighborhood.
Response: none

Q: Is there enough parking provided?
A: There are approximately 1.5 spaces allotted per tenant in addition to the retail parking spaces.

Q: Is the front of this complex level with Packard?
A: Although the complex will be graded there will remain a 5ft-6ft elevation difference between Packard and the front of the complex,  but the slope will be much less pronounced than it's current angle and the front of the complex will sit closer to the street than the current structures do.

Q: The concerns about storm water and sewer is an important one. Is the amount of impermeable surface area the same as the current complex? And how was it assessed?
A: Yes, the amount of impermeable surface area will remain the same approximately and it was assessed by calculating the surface area of roof and parking lot surface. The detention system provides a 180% volume capacity that is even higher than the building codes necessitate and will be guided into perforated pipes for a controlled release into the system. The drainage of the complex will be a big improvement for the adjacent homes as well as the complex .

Q: This question is for staff  [i.e. city planner], how is traffic impacted by this complex as opposed to how traffic flowed when the Kroger's and other businesses were there?
A: It's really trying to compare apples and oranges due to the residential component of this plan. When it was strictly a commercial property the peak times were on the weekends when people would do their shopping. Now we'll see a varied pattern with residential schedules as well as retail schedules. However, the traffic studies do not indicate that there will be a significant impact.

Q: This is for staff - Being a resident of the area I am familiar with the difficulty of making a left hand turn out of that Mall site. It is difficult to see the traffic and with residents needing to access Packard as well I can foresee a back-up of traffic through that complex. Wouldn't a traffic light be warranted?
A: With the change in the grade sight lines for cars will be much improved. There is also the exit along Page if residents choose to exit that way. The traffic study did not show that a traffic signal was warranted, however if residents would like to discuss the question of a HAWK traffic signal they should contact Pat Cawley the senior project manager for traffic engineering. We are also looking at a feasibility study for extending the one-lane down Packard, but we are still just studying the possibility.

Comment: As someone who is also familiar with the area, I do not believe a HAWK signal would work. They are designed for long stretches of traffic between lights. The lights between Pine Valley and Stone School are too close together for a HAWK to work well. Also there are a multiple of ways to get onto Packard from Page using the various side streets.

Q: As far as the noise issue is concerned, anyone who has had a child awakened at 5am by the back-up signals of trucks knows how disruptive the noise volume for delivery and garbage trucks can be. You made the comment earlier that you would be willing to work with neighbors in determining a time for garbage trucks so that it would be the least disruptive. Even though it is not mandatory, would you be willing to put that in your plan, to say officially, that you would be willing to work with residents on a time schedule?
A: Even though we are unsure what the noise levels will actually be, we are willing to officially work with neighbors on a schedule, yes.

Q: It seems to me that even with the plantings you suggest the loss of privacy is still significant. Even with mature trees you will still have the top story looking down into adjacent properties.
A: The line of sight visuals show that once the trees are mature the should provide enough shielding for privacy for neighbors.

Comment: You really need to show the visuals on that. Show what this will look like once the trees are mature rather than having residents having to guess.
Response: Nod.

Q: How do you work the mix of pedestrians and cars going into the complex?
A: [using the slide showing the rendering] There are sidewalks that would provide safe passage to the shopping complex. Access on either end of the complex would only necessitate a crossing of a driveway.

Q: Will the paths for pedestrians be marked?
A: It will be an obvious concrete sidewalk.

Q: Will the traffic be more or less than before? Again, it would be preferable if  you would quantify the amount. Just saying it will be marginally more doesn't really give good information. Will it be 5% more? 55% more? Please have that quantified.
Response: nod

Q: Returning to the Brownfield Credit question, to be blunt, will killing the Brownfield Credit from the state kill your project?
A: Hopefully not. There should be enough funding sources to allow us to proceed.

Q: There was a question of maintenance from the public. Will you better maintain the property?
A: We have every incentive to maintain the property and intend to do so.

Comment: I would really like to see more differentiation for the pedestrian crossings.
Response: Nod

Comment: This 'plaza' area you have designated is really just an island in the middle of parked cars. I can't imagine that people would be attracted to it enough to cross all that parking lot to sit amongst cars. You might want to think of it more as a landscape feature maybe with a sculpture on it.
 Response: Nod.

Comment: How would people even get to that island safely? It seems they would have to navigate parked cars and driveways. I would like to see it work, but it doesn't look very inviting from the drawings.
Response: The island is larger than you would suppose. It's 25ft wide by around 75ft-80ft long.

Comment: Perhaps if you paved it with brick, gave it a more European plaza feel it could work. It would be nice if this could work.
Response: nod

Q: How is the parking allotted?
A: Uncovered parking would be free, the covered parking would be an extra fee.

Comment: I'd like to see you give more of an incentive to people who don't drive rather than have the non-drivers supplement the drivers. Maybe if you were to take away some of the parking it would encourage people to look for alternate modes of transportation?
A: The retail shops really do demand a certain amount of parking in order to be economically viable.

Comment: Mr. Schubiner, it seems to me that you are underselling your project.  Your comments that it will have "minimal" impact on the area is an attempt to undersell your project as less than what it really is. This is a big project. And I would have you know that you should not try to undersell this project to this commission, the public, or the council, because it will not work.
Response: nod

Q: At one point you had expressed a commitment to be a "green" project, and that it would be LEED Silver certified. What happened to that?
A: The certification process is cost prohibitive.

Comment: There are a lot of good things about this project - the increase in the number of trees, it has an excellent location with bus access and it certainly is an improvement over what is there now.
Response: nod

Q: How will the lighting affect the neighbors?
A: There are cut-off shields on the lighting to ensure the light is trained on the complex and minimize any light leakage to surrounding residents.

Comment: You should really think about the width of your sidewalks. It says here they  are 12ft wide. Do the cars' tires go against the sidewalk? And if they do you lose 2ft right there - and if you are thinking of cafe tables it would be quite a tight squeeze. 12ft is the minimum for downtown but that's with parallel parking.
Response: nod

Q: For staff - Does the Brownfield Committee impact this project?
A: The Brownfield Committee meets once a month. When it meets next month it will look into this plan and reach a conclusion as to whether it should  recommend it be approved as a brownfield and that will allow repayment of some of their taxes for brownfield clean-up.

Q: For staff - Is that contaminated plume stable?
A: Yes. Studies show that is sitting in an insulated pocket of clay.

Comment: The parks improvement fee will bring 50,000 for both Woodbury and Esch parks in the neighborhood. That is a definite plus.
Response: nod.

III) The chairman than asked if there were any other comments or questions. There were none. They moved to vote on recommending approval to the City council. It was unanimous. The plan was approved and moves on to City Council.

A notice will be sent as to when that meeting will take place.

Stay tuned and keep well,

Mary Krasan