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In a neighborhood not too far from your own, a group of concerned neighbors faced the prospects of having seven homes demolished and replaced by an apartment building 40 times larger than any individual home in the neighborhood. Because the huge project was beyond anything permitted in the zoning districts applicable to the building site, the developers sought permission to change the zoning to PUD (Planned Unit Development). The use of PUD zoning is an extreme departure from applicable zoning limits. For that reason, the zoning ordinance requires a PUD to provide significant benefit to the particular neighborhood and significant benefit to the city, in general. In other words, to be eligible, there must be compelling reason to grant the PUD status for the particular site. Additionally, City ordinance provides that PUD zoning is inappropriate for a development that could be built in a different zoning district. The Moravian was not compelling nor unique. It was just another huge apartment building that could have been built in the D-1 or D-2 zoning districts without seeking PUD zoning. 

What was striking about the Moravian debate was the developer's ability to turn out a huge crowd of supporters. If developments were approved or denied on the basis of the number of people who turn out for the public hearing, this may have passed. But the Germantown Neighborhood did their homework. They researched the PUD standards, they analyzed the Moravian project under those standards and they hired a lawyer and some experts. They provided fact based arguments to support their thesis that the Moravian did not comply with the PUD standards. The council voted 6 to 4 (with one absence) in favor of the project, but 8 votes were needed for approval. It is shocking that only five (the absent council member opposed the project) council members understand how demanding the PUD standards are. Nonetheless, we offer our congratulations to the Germantown Neighborhood!

Ann Arbor Chronicle - Six-Vote Majority Leaves The Moravian Short - Moravian project denied approval by Ann Arbor City Council
A2Politico - The Politics of Development: If You Think It’s About Urban Density and Affordable Living, Think Again