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City Planning

This week I got to learn a little more about the Planning Department.

Something I'd really love to have some day is a "how a proposal becomes a building" flowchart with approximate times for each step. My rough understanding is:

  1. The developer submits a site plan with a ton of details about the proposal. For example, here's a site plan for the recent Lowertown development (not the site plan that was finally approved).
  2. Planning staff reviews the plan for compliance with the zoning code and the master plan, and also sends the plan to other departments for further review. (For example, to make sure there's adequate infrastructure to handle storm water.)
  3. After some back and forth, staff sends the plan to the planning commission, which may approve it, send it back to staff, or send it on to council.
  4. Council may likewise approve it, send it back to planning commission, or whatever. Somewhat bizarrely, Ann Arbor requires this step for every project, even when it's clearly allowed under existing zoning, in which case the most likely result of a "no" vote may be a lawsuit.

I think there are some required delays in there for public notice. I'm a little vague on the details.

Some stuff (a lot of work in single-family neighborhoods, for example?) doesn't require this full process.

You can follow a lot of this on etrakit. E.g., click on "Search" under "Projects" and search for the address "1200 Broadway", and you'll get a lot of details on that Lowertown development. Or you can look for the meetings where the project was discussed in Legistar, for example with a search for planning commission meetings mentioning "1200 Broadway".

A friend also points out this chart, linked from the planning department's Development Review page.