I beat up on Tom Whitaker a couple of months ago for a comment he made on the Ann Arbor Chronicle’s website. So I think it’s only fair to recognize a really good comment he made this week at another story on the Chronicle:
Whitaker writes of the city of Ann Arbor’s development permits:
Ask the planning department for their spreadsheet that documents submitted projects, their approval status, and the time it took them to get through the process. The data may surprise you. It did when I saw it about a year and a half ago. The vast majority of stalled projects in Ann Arbor were not those that could not make it through the process. The stalled projects were those that were approved, but could not be financed. State law enables the City to require a performance guarantee of developers, but the City has not enforced this. The result? Existing housing and businesses were taken out and replaced with vacant lots with much lower property taxes.
Broadway Village is probably the best example of out-of-town developers coming in, demanding public money and special zoning, promising the moon, and not delivering. There is a fenced vacant lot (still contaminated) at Maiden Lane and Broadway to commemorate this for us all. Several businesses, with their jobs and tax revenues, are no longer there.
Board ups can be found at Main and Catherine (former Greek church), site of the failed Gallery project, as well as Main and Summit, where several affordable houses have been boarded up for years–one recently burned. Glen and Ann is another vacant lot close to downtown, where businesses and houses once stood, paying taxes and providing jobs and housing. Now it is a fenced eyesore with the out-of-state developer/owner paying only minimal property taxes for vacant land. That project (Glen Ann Place) was granted approval by City Council instead of Council backing up the Historic District Commission in court. The developer was just granted an extension to keep his vacant lot for a couple more years. There are several more examples.
I’d wondered in my post Wednesday how Broadway Village had ended up growing weeds for the past several years; as I learned from Whitaker, we have the City to blame, in part, for it.