Barton Hills Village, Michigan

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November 19, 2009



November 19, 2009

The meeting of the BHV Planning Commission was called to order by Chair Laura Weingartner at 7:35 PM at the Village Hall.

ROLL CALL Present: Commissioners Boddie, MacKrell, Richards, Weingartner and Zoldan. Absent: Commissioners McCabe and Wallace. Others present: ZPA Perry and BHV Long Range Planning Committee Chair Cheryl MacKrell.


MINUTES Motion The minutes of the September 17, 2009 meeting were approved as printed. (Richards/MacKrell/Passed unanimously)



Master Plan
No public comments concerning the draft Master Plan have been received since the last Planning Commission meeting on September 17, 2009. The following changes were made as directed by the Commissioners at that meeting (changes indicated in the marked-up electronic version dated 11/13/09 received by the Commissioners):

--The historical data in Section 2.2 was amended to be as accurate as possible (text attached to these minutes).

--The final sentence of Section 3.2 was amended to read: “The Village does not expect significant changes in population over the period covered by the plan due to a lack of available land area planned for new development and demographic characteristics.”

--Regarding Section 3.5.2 Mr. Carlisle commented: “Accentuating the private recreational facilities in the existing land use section is not a concern because that is in fact what exists. Demonstrating a plan for future public recreational space is discussed in another section.” Section 3.5.2 was amended to read: “Development for recreation has been historically focused on Barton Hills Country Club, Barton Boat Club and the Village Green, which offer open space for informal recreation and enjoyment. However, significant opportunities exist for the creation of public parks and open spaces around the water courses and natural features in the planning area. These areas are shown on Map 2.”

--Regarding Section 3.5.5 Mr. Perry reported to the Commissioners via email: “I've attached the pertinent pages and maps from the Township's plan. As you'll see, it plans the area across Whitmore Lake Rd. as "Suburban Residential" with 1 to 2 acre lots. As the plan says: The suburban (0.5 to 1.0 DUs/acre) class is a transitional category between rural and urban residential areas, as far as density hierarchy is concerned, but not necessarily in a geographic sense. Lots in this class are considered to be too small for agricultural activities. The suburban residential areas outside the water and sanitary services areas will be not be served by public water or sanitary sewer services.’ The chart on p. 35 of the plan (included in the attached extract) shows that this is the second lowest residential density in the Township plan.” Mr. Carlisle also commented: “The statement in the first sentence [of Section 3.5.5] remains accurate. The Township designations serve as an appropriate transition between the Village and the adjacent agricultural preservation areas to the north and the river serves to transition into the City of Ann Arbor.” No changes were made to Section 3.5.5.

Motion The Master Plan as written on this date is accepted and will be submitted to the Barton Hills Village Board of Trustees for formal review and comment. (Richards/Boddie/Passed unanimously).

Further discussion included the expected process from this date:

--review by the Board of Trustees at their December 14, 2009 meeting, hopefully with approval of the Master Plan for distribution

--distribution of the plan to appropriate jurisdictions/utilities by December 18, 2009

--required waiting period of 63 days completed by February 19, 2010

--public hearing scheduled at a regular Planning Commission meeting in Spring 2010

--vote by the Planning Commission to adopt the Master Plan, possibly at the same regular meeting as the public hearing.

Mr. Perry noted that while other jurisdictions may not have comments, the Washtenaw County Planning Commission will be looking to see if the BHV Master Plan is consistent with the Washtenaw County Master Plan and may submit comments pointing out any differences or concerns. Other BHV Commissioner comments included appreciation for the value of the section that sets forth the history of the community, and various ways to preserve open and/or agricultural space in BHV.


Motion The Planning Commission meeting schedule for 2010 was set as the third Thursday of the month, every other month beginning in January (January 21, March 18, May 20, July 15, September 16, November 18). (Richards/MacKrell/Passed unanimously)

Since major changes to the Master Plan are not expected, it was agreed that workshop sessions should be scheduled to begin revision of the BHV Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Weingartner and Mr. Perry will consult with Mr. Carlisle to see if there are appropriate models of zoning ordinances that would be helpful. Mr. Boddie voiced support from the Board of Trustees, stating that $10,000 has been budgeted in 2008-2009 and again in 2009-2010 for the very necessary work of completing the Master Plan and developing a suitable zoning ordinance.

Mr. Perry noted that the Planning Act requires a Capital Improvement Plan. It was agreed that development of a five-year budget plan by the Board of Trustees would meet this requirement.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:05 PM (Richards/MacKrell/Passed unanimously).

Janice K. Esch, Assistant Secretary     Approved 1/21/10

Draft Master Plan Section 2.2 as amended for 11/19/09Planning Commission meeting:

“Wooded hills . . . valleys . . . beautiful water . . . an elevation that overlooks Ann Arbor and the picturesque Huron River Valley . . . artistic homes and congenial neighbors . . . privacy without seclusion . . . .”

So begins a real estate brochure from the early 1930s, proclaiming the virtues of the area now known as Barton Hills. From the Native Americans who frequented the riverbanks, to the early settlers who described the landscape as striking and appealing, to the current residents who often stay for a lifetime, the natural beauty and ambiance of the community continue to be valued highly.

Native American populations along the Huron River probably peaked at the beginning of the 17th century. European settlement in Michigan began in earnest after the War of 1812, and the first sales by the Government Land Office in the Barton Hills area occurred between 1825 and 1830. Sometime in the 1870s a farm was purchased by James Allen, who sold the property to the Towars Wayne County Creamery in 1896. The Towar Farm raised cattle and operated a dairy until about 1912, centered in buildings located just east of Whitmore Lake Road across from the Upper Gate. Cattle grazed on the bare hillsides too steep for farming and drank from the meandering Huron River, with only natural vistas between them and their neighbors at the settlement of Foster upstream. The Towar Farm property was acquired by Huron Farms, a development subsidiary of Detroit Edison, as part of its plan to construct a series of hydro-electric dams along the Huron River.

Barton Dam was built in 1912-1913, along with staff homes, three of which now house Barton Hills Village staff. Shortly thereafter, the prestigious Olmsted Engineering firm of Brookline, Massachusetts was engaged to design a residential community of gracious country homes. The first home was built on Underdown Road for Detroit Edison executive William Underdown, followed by a stately dwelling constructed on Corrie Road for Detroit Edison President Alex Dow. Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation was formed in 1922 and “Supervisors Plat Barton Hills” was approved by the Ann Arbor Township Board of Supervisors in 1924.

Barton Hills Village embodies the land planning philosophy of the Olmsted firm—to bring harmony between natural and man-made features. What was conceived by the Olmsted firm in the 1920’s remains today. Parcels and roadways were arranged with an artistic eye towards using the topography to best advantage. Home sites were envisioned with unobstructed vistas of water as evidenced by early photographs of the first houses that highlight the excellent view of the Huron River from Underdown and Corrie Roads. (Since then, trees have been allowed to grow and obstruct many water views.) Olmsted believed that scenery could have a powerful psychological effect on people, rejuvenating the spirit and fostering a sense of community. Restrictions attached to each deed for property in the original plat of the Village specify generous setbacks and stipulate that all homes are subject to the approval of an architectural review committee. While each home has its individual personality, there is a common connection to the physical surroundings that define the Village.

Several homes were constructed before the economic restraints of the Depression slowed growth. By the 1940s Barton Hills had become an expensive liability for a public utility, and Detroit Edison resolved the situation by offering to the residents of Barton Hills all its unsold lots, equipment, and the right to collect taxes on the property already sold under a $20,000 mortgage arrangement. In exchange, the resident owners assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the community. This was accomplished by the formation of Barton Hills Improvement Association, which took title to the remaining unsold properties, along with Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation, which continued to be responsible for maintaining the water system, roads, and other services. The community grew as the residents developed experience in self-management, attracting owners with a variety of architectural preferences in home design.

In the early 1970s, residents decided to seek municipal status. On December 12, 1973, Barton Hills Village became the first home rule village in Washtenaw County. A Board of Trustees was elected to oversee municipal services. Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation continued to be responsible for enforcement of the restrictive covenants, care of undeveloped land, and architectural review. Barton Hills Improvement Association was dissolved about the same time as all the developed residential lots had been sold, with Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation receiving title to the remaining parcels.