City commission says no to four-story limit on buildings downtown

Downtown Adrian

The Adrian City Commission on Monday shot down a proposal to ban any building higher than 60 feet or four stories in Adrian’s central business district, but left the door open to considering a more limited list of height restrictions in the future.

The proposed ordinance, which was recommended by the planning commission in a 6-3 vote, would have applied to the entire B3 central business district. Planning commission chairman Mike Jacobitz said the concern is that with no height limits whatsoever, the door is currently open to buildings of any height anywhere downtown, which could damage the appearance of the downtown historic district. Most buildings downtown are shorter than four stories, with only a few having four.

“It’s not a development issue. It’s an aesthetic issue to a great extent,” Jacobitz said.

Jacobitz also said the planning commission did not want to be anti-development. “Please rest assured that is not the intention of the planning commission,” he said. “To a person, the planning commission is pro-development.”

Chris Miller, the city’s Downtown Development Authority coordinator, urged the city commission to reject the proposed ordinance.

“I think at heart, what the planning commission is seeking to do is incredibly important to us, and that is to protect the heritage of beautiful architecture and historic buildings downtown,” he said. But he said the ordinance as written used “too broad a brush.”

Although the downtown historic district — a much smaller zone that includes Maumee Street from Broad Street to the River Raisin, plus parts of Main and Winter streets downtown — should have its historic character protected, Miller said, there are many places within the B3 central business district where significantly taller buildings would be not only appropriate, but welcomed.

An ordinance could be written that would affect only the core historic district and not the entire downtown, he said.

Commissioner Jeff Rising said he felt there should be height limits downtown, but a limit of four stories and 60 feet would be too short.

“I don’t feel we should put obstacles in the way of development,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Faulhaber said he felt the proposal was “incredibly anti-business, incredibly anti-progress.”

The city commission voted 6-1 to reject the ordinance. Rising and Faulhaber were joined by Allen Heldt, Andrew Munson, Lad Strayer and Mayor Jim Berryman in voting against it. John Dudas voted in favor.

Some of the discussion at Monday’s meeting centered on a pair of affordable housing complexes downtown that were proposed last summer by Peter Jobson, president of Excel Realty Group in Beachwood, Ohio. Some commissioners said they would not want to jeopardize that project. Those plans originally called for two apartment buildings, each on top of a three-level parking structure, rising to a total of six stories. In the plans’ original form, they would have been affected by the proposed ordinance, but the developer is now looking at different locations downtown that would not involve building as high. (See related story to be published shortly.)