The Alliance of Neighborhoods is a network of residents from various Ann Arbor neighborhoods that became active in late 2008. The Alliance states as its goal,

There is a need for neighborhoods to join together, share concerns and ideas, study proposed changes, and raise awareness, so that what is adopted is an improvement for the City as a whole and for existing neighborhoods.

In practice, this appears to take the form of coordinating opposition to various development projects around town, rather than serving as the neutral forum for discussion that the above would imply. Additionally, the Alliance seems to suffer from a lack of transparency, barring an Ann Arbor Chronicle reporter from their first meeting [1] [2] Additionally, the group limited access to their e-mail group only to invited members. [3]

Disambiguation: "Ann Arbor Alliance"

Despite the similarity in names the "Alliance of Neighborhoods" is not the same as the "Ann Arbor Alliance", which was active around 2005, and still has a web presence. That group was focused on renter advocacy, including student renter advocacy, and was generally in favor of increased residential development in the downtown area. The Alliance of Neighborhoods appears to be composed of more traditional homeowner associations, and appears extremely anti-development.

Anti-Development Stance

The Alliance's webpage and e-mails demonstrate a strong bias against essentially all recent development in Ann Arbor, as well as the current A2D2 process for overhauling development standards and processes in downtown.

The following statements appear to have been copied from various points on the Alliance's Google Groups page:

The Ann Arbor Alliance is a work in progress - meaning that we are still organizing this entity. It is a group meant to facilitate communication and cooperation between neighborhood associations and other citizen groups. Reportedly, an Alliance of neighborhoods was active just a few decades ago. We intend to reignite that kind of coalition to assert the interests of neighborhoods and residents in matters of City planning and development.

Neighborhood groups throughout the City of Ann Arbor have become increasing alarmed by the City's willingness to allow any development to be approved. The City's Planning Commission and the City Council are currently working on planning instruments that will encourage high density development in most areas of the City.

Additionally, a majority of the City Council has declared that the zoning ordinance standards for approving new developments cannot be applied. The ordinance requires new developments not to have an adverse impact on public health, safety and welfare. It also requires minimal adverse impact on natural features. The Council majority believes that if a development meets technical standards (height, placement, etc.) it must be approved.

Other neighborhood groups were experiencing similar difficulties in their opposition to a proposal to build luxury student apartments on South University. As originally proposed, the project known as 601 Forrest would have involved a 25 story tower and two smaller towers, housing more than a thousand students. Like the South Maple Group, these citizens were informed that the City was powerless to deny a development merely because of its negative impact on public health, safety or welfare.

The City is currently revising a variety of planning documents to encourage taller developments, reduced set-backs and greater density. The 20 year transportation plan that is moving through the planning process calls for high density - "transit friendly" development. The downtown area plan encourages high density development. Proposed changes to non-single family zoning districts outside of the downtown area call for taller buildings and reduced set-backs as a means of encouraging "transit friendly" development. The northeast area plan, which has already been adopted, also calls for higher density, transit friendly development. These planning instruments were being developed without including neighborhood representatives. For example, the non-single family zoning district changes outside the downtown area were developed with the input of hundreds of "stake holders", none of which were from neighborhood groups.

The Alliance of Neighborhoods hopes to change the manner in which city planning is processed. At a minimum, we seek to have neighborhoods be included in the discussions as stake holders every bit as important as the realtors and developers who have been included up to now. In a positive sign of change, at a City Council working session where planning staff presented the non-single family zoning district changes outside the downtown area, Council members asked that the staff hold meetings in the various neighborhoods to present the ideas to citizens and allow them an opportunity to respond to the proposed changes.

Various e-mails on the list have had an explicitly anti-development stance as well:

Back to good news: the [A2D2] process has been slowed down.

Though I feel many individuals have given input, perhaps it would be effective for us to put together as concise as possible a petition summarizing A2D2 impacts (unlimited height, etc), and collect signatures of anyone opposing it.

[City Council has] used underhanded tricks to bring about this zoning change, and most people are not aware this is going on. You are counting on that to push this through. Well, the time has come for us to stand up and say NO. NO, we don't want height. NO, we don't want density. Nor do we need it. Bigger is not better. Outside developers can not and do not perceive our needs.

People do not like walking by or being near this building, or any other of a number of such soul-less developments that have recently popped up

Alliance and Inclusiveness

The organization refused entry to an Ann Arbor Chronicle reporter at its first meeting. [4] The Alliance web site has a page describing the events that led to the reporter being turned away. [5]

Additionally, the Alliance's former Google Groups page noted that access to the e-mail list was by invitation or application only. Currently, the group's web page invites neighborhood activist to join its mailing list. [6]

History

The Alliance was formed in part as an outgrowth of the South Maple Group, a group that formed to oppose the 42 North (1430 S. Maple Rd.) and its companion project known as Grace Bible Church Site Plan (1300 S. Maple Rd.) on South Maple Road.

A few of us worked on setting up a meeting of like-minded neighborhood activists who were concerned about the City's approval of extreme development projects over the protests of the neighbors who would have to live nearby. On October 1, 2008, a group of more than three dozen concerned citizens met at the downtown library to discuss the formation of the Alliance of Neighborhoods. There was general agreement that neighborhoods needed to act before the City amended the zoning regulations to allow taller and closer buildings.

Fifth Anniversary

On October 1, 2013, the Neighborhood Alliance marked its fifth anniversary as an organization. When the group formed in 2008, Ann Arbor City Council had a strong majority of members who had little regard for the concerns of neighborhoods. At its inception, the Alliance sought to have neighborhoods treated as stakeholders in City decision making. With the November 2013 City Council elections, a slight majority of Council is considered neighborhood friendly. The group continues its efforts to foster communication and cooperation between neighborhoods.

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