Monday, April 5, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 5 2021

 


Gentle readers, tonight is the first #a2council meeting of April. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode about the meeting. I am going a little out of order here, but I think the most exciting item here is DC-3, a resolution directing the administrator to develop an unarmed public safety response program. This is a great direction the city is moving. 

The evening kicks off with a respectable, 24-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-5, repaving S. Industrial. Looks like some mid-block crossings are going to be added. CAs 14 through 18 are all purchasing conservation easements in various forms. Neat. 

There are 6 public hearings on the docket this evening. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/B-2 are rezoning parcels to make nature areas. PH-3/B-3 is a township island annexation. PH-4/B-4 is the second, second reading of the fair housing ordinance. On this one there will probably be a lot of landlords calling in to say they need to be able to discriminate against people who have been convicted of crimes. PH-5/B-5 is a restructuring of the dog license fees. PH-6/B-6 is the second reading of the reduction in fees for failure to shovel snow. 

C-1 is the first reading of an ordinance making it so that landlords cannot start showing houses or asking to renew leases until 240 days into a year long lease. Currently they can start showing houses 70 days into a lease. C-2 and C-3 are township island rezonings. C-4 and C-5 are ordinances to governing the rules for short term rentals.  

Elsewhere on the agenda we have DC-2, a resolution to support U of M's President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s recommendations. DC-4 is a resolution condemning recent anti-Asian attacks and rhetoric. And DC-5 is a resolution to order the Attorney's Office to review ordinances related to police enforcement. The A2AF podcast has a good discussion of this towards the end of the most recent episode. Hopefully the report will recommend getting rid of statues that criminalize things like having drug paraphernalia and consensual sex work. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Much ado about ADUs

 

A two-story detached Accessory Dwelling Unit in Portland, OR. Image by Jordan Palmeri, Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality.

Tonight at 7pm the Ann Arbor Planning Commission is going to be discussing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Specifically, they are going to be looking at changing the rules around ADUs to allow them in more residential zones. Here's the agenda

I think making it easier to build ADUs is good. I think we should make it easier to build many more types of housing in Ann Arbor's residential areas and that ADUs should play a part in this. (For a more indepth look at my thoughts on housing, check out this article I wrote last June: Ann Arbor for the many, not the few.) 

Let's talk about ADUs specifically and why they are good. I have two main reasons that I think we should allow ADUs in all residential zones. First, ADUs provide more housing and Ann Arbor desperately needs more housing. ADUs are, on average, less expensive per unit to build than many other forms of housing. A study in Portland, OR found the average cost to build an ADU was about $75,000. The study also found that the average rent of an ADU was lower than other housing options. 

Second, ADUs will help Ann Arbor meet its ambitious climate goals. ADUs, on average, have lower lifetime carbon emissions than larger houses (Slide 5). They also allow more dwellings to be built on residential lots, saving greenfields outside of the city. Finally, by allowing more people to live closer to where they work, ADUs allow people to dramatically reduce their transportation emissions. 

ADUs are not going to solve all of Ann Arbor's housing problems. The city needs more subsidized housing and more market rate housing of all types. Still, if Ann Arbor is going to solve its housing crisis and meet its ambitious housing goals, it is important to make it easier to build ADUs. If you support this, make sure you drop the planning commission an email (planning@a2gov.org) or call into Planning Commission tonight. At the last meeting, a ton of homeowners called in to oppose allowing more ADUs. I think it would be nice for the Planning Commission to hear from people who support ADUs in addition to those that oppose them. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 15, 2021

 


Gentle readers, it's #a2Council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda. Also, make sure you check out the latest episode of the A2AF podcast, which covers this meeting. 

The evening kicks off with a brief, 10 item consent agenda. Of note, three street closures. CA-7 is for Take Back the Night, April 1st. CA-8 is for the Dexter Ann Arbor Run,  August 15th. CA-9 is temporary closure of downtown streets for retail and dining. 

There are 5 public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1 and PH-4 are township island annexations. PH-2 is on amending the new Sidewalk Ordinance. This is a second reading of this ordinance. If I recall, this make it clear that new developments are required to build sidewalks. PH-3 is the second reading of an ordinance that would ban landlords from asking about criminal history on rental applications. I hope this goes through. PH-5 is on the site plan for Lewis Jewelers at 300 S Maple. 

Moving down the agenda we have the ordinance first readings. C-1 is an ordinance to rezone 700 N Main from PUD to R4C. This will allow the site to be developed into 22 townhouses. C-2 is a change to the way Ann Arbor does dog licenses to make it so that licensee renewal coincides with rabies vaccines. C-3 is the first reading of an ordinance that would reduce fines for not shoveling sidewalks. 

Wrapping things up we have DC-3 which lays out what to do with Ann Arbor's Marijuana Excise Tax. This is aimed at undoing a lot of the damage that the war on drugs has done locally. DC-6 is a resolution recognizing the transgender day of visibility. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 1, 2021

 


It's that time again gentle reader. Tonight is the first #a2council meeting of March. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode about the meeting

The evening kicks off with a scant, six-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-4, which would allow sidewalk cafes in MDOT right of ways. 

There is one public hearing tonight, PH-1/DC-3. This is a resolution that would set fees to cover annual investigation and review of on-prem liquor licenses. This resolution would set the annual fee at $50 for this year and raise it to $90 in subsequent years. 

Further down the agenda there are five ordinance first readings tonight. C-1 and C-2 are both rezonings to make nature areas. C-3 is a routine annexation of a township island on Newport Road. C-4 is an ordinance to clarify that new construction should still be responsible for building sidewalks in light of the sidewalk millage. C-5 is an ordinance that would prohibit housing discrimination against formerly incarcerated people. Props to CMs Nelson and Radina for bringing this forward. 

DC-1 is, perhaps, the first spicy chili on tonight's agenda. This is a resolution to waive attorney-client privilege on advice regarding the new council rules.  I don't really know where to start with this one. Some CMs feel that the new council rules, specifically, the section that asks them to take their beefs to the Council Administration Committee rather than air them during council, represents unlawful viewpoint discrimination. They want the Michigan ACLU to redteam the City Attorney's Office, I think. The part I don't get is, if the new council rules constitute illegal viewpoint discrimination, why does the ACLU need to see the City Attorney's advice? There is a good discussion of this on the latest A2AF podcast, linked above. 

DC-2 is a resolution to evaluate alternative proposals for 2857 Packard. Apparently the development plan for the Weber Property is in rough waters. DC-4 awards a five-year recycling contract to Recycle Ann Arbor. 

DC-5 is exciting. It's a resolution directing the City Administrator to assess the feasibility, and propose cost estimates and strategies for a municipal sidewalk snow removal program, among other things. This resolution has some great whereas clauses. Very exciting to see this happening. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 16, 2021


 What better way to celebrate a snowy Fat Tuesday than with a #a2counil meeting? Here's the agenda. If you'd like a deeper dive into some parts of the agenda, check out the latest episode of A2AF. 

The evening kicks off with a deep, 22-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-5, traffic calming for Glenwood. Also, CA-12, street closing in front of Conor O'Neil's for St. Patrick's. At the risk of editorializing, are we really at a place where we should be encouraging drunken revelry? I guess it'll be outside...

There are two public hearings on the docket for this evening. PH-1/DB-1 is on the site plan for St. Francis of Assisi, 2150 Frieze Ave. The parish is planning a 2-story, 14,570 sq ft addition. Are site approvals for religious institutions just a formality? Does anyone have a good grasp of the intersection between RLUIPA and local zoning law? PH-2/DB-2 is the site plan for 907 and 913 S. Main. This by-right project involves the demolition of two single family houses and replacing them with a 6-unit apartment complex. The real question here is: why do we make by-right projects come up for review by council?

Elsewhere on the agenda, we have C-1, a routine township island annexation. DC-2 is a motion to reconsider the council rules amendment from last council meeting. It's probably the first spicy chili of the night. We've also got DC-3, a resolution to determine the cost feasibility of supplemental snow removal within the DDA boundaries. This may seem like a no-brainer. But my understanding is that this is already handled by the downtown business improvement zones. For a deeper dive into this check out the latest episode of the Ann Arbor AF podcast. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Sledding hills, 2021

 

Gentle reader, I am sure you've noticed that we have some snow today. AAPS has called a virtual snow day and that must mean you have sledding on the mind. My personal favorite sledding spot is Huron Hills Golf Course. It is steep and has a great long run. I know people also love the hills at Vets Park and Hunt Park. In Ypsilanti, Riverside Park and Ypsi High are also very popular. If you do go sledding today, make sure you follow CDC guidelines on outdoor social distancing.

Enough about me gentle reader, what are your favorite sledding hills? Here's an article from the Damn Arbor archives with more information on sledding hills. Note: This article was first published on Dec. 27th, 2012.

Look out your window. We've got some snow. It's the holidays so you really have no excuse not to go sledding. With that in mind, I am posting some links to some classic articles about sledding in Ann Arbor:

Guide to Ann Arbor: Sled-DANG! In A2 from Damn Arbor's very own Quinn Davis

Sledding on Arborwiki

Guide to the Ann Arbor area's best sledding hills by Ed Vielmetti

I will add this: Huron Hills is probably my favorite sledding spot in the city (see this article on the Chronicle). The Arb is pretty sweet for sledding too. But the frozen hummocks of grass kind of hurt your bum as your sled there. But really it doesn't matter where you sled, as long as you get out and enjoy yourself.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 1, 2020

 


Gentle reader, tonight's the first council meeting of the shortest month of the year. Here's the agenda. Also, check out the latest episode of Ann Arbor AF where the take a deep dive into the agenda. 

The evening kicks off with a decent, 16 item consent agenda. Item's 5 through 8 are all purchasing conservation easements. CA-10 and 11 are purchasing parkland. Nice. 

On to the public hearings. We've got 4 on the docket tonight. Two rezonings and associated PH-1/B-1 is the rezoning for the new Lockwood development. The site at 2195 Ellsworth is being rezoned from R1C to PUD. PH-2/DB-1 is the public hearing approving the PUD for the site (I think this is like the site plan. PH-3/B-1 is the rezoning of 2111 Packard and PH-4/DB-2 is the site plan for this project. 2111 Packard is currently zoned Parking and this would the zoning it to allow mixed use three story buildings on the site. I think we can all agree that forcing parking through zoning is a bad use for land. 

Moving down the agenda we have DC-1, a resolution to appoint 3 at large members to the Council of the Commons. DC-2, the resolution to join WRRMA, the county solid waste org. DC-3 is a "Resolution to Determine Cost and Feasibility of Supplemental Snow and Ice Removal" sounds benign, but part of it is looking at shoveling out people's driveways after plows go by. This may be a spicy chili. DC-4 is cool, it's a plan to support equitable community engagement. DC-5 is a resolution to amend council rules with an eye towards helping meetings not last so long. DC-6 is a resolution to allow a drive through COVID testing site at Briarwood. This is one drive through I am happy to see. Finally, we have DC-7, a "Resolution to Restate the Purpose and Membership of the Council of the Commons." I have not read this because it's so late. 


As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 19, 2021

 


Gentle readers, it's #a2council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda. If you want to take a deeper dive into the agenda, make sure you check out the latest episode of the A2AF podcast. 

The evening kicks off with a short 8 item consent agenda. CA-5 is a resolution to fill a sidewalk gap on Jackson Road. CA-6 is a resolution to start a sidewalk gap elimination project. I am happy to see these happening. 

There are 4 public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on an update that looks like it clears up some ambiguity/errors in the zoning code. PH-2/B-2 adds rules for electric vehicle parking.  PH-3/B-3 approves the PUD Zoning for the new Lockwood project at 2195 Ellsworth. PH-4/B-4 is the rezoning for 2111 Packard. This is changing the zoning from Parking to Fringe Commercial. This is really exciting because it will allow a parking lot to be replaced with mixed use. 

Further along the agenda we have DC-1 is a resolution to adopt board of review guidelines for the poverty exemption for property taxes. DC-2 appoints three people to the council of the commons. 

I am super excited about DC-3, which rescinds R-19-139. If you will recall, R-19-139 took the decision to make road diets away from the city's transportation staff and gave it to council. Road diets are great, they make roads safer for all users: drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Also, most people in the city support moderate to substantial increases in driving time if that makes roads safer. Check out this graphic from the 2015 Citizen Priorities Survey. 



DC-4 is a notice of Violation to Gelman. DC-5 is an implementation of the Healthy Streets program for 2021. I don't have the report at the tip of my fingers but the 2020 program did a great job keeping people from speeding. DC-6 is a one-step appointment of Makiah Shipp to the ICPOC. Finally, we have DC-8 which is requesting a legal memo about using curse words during public commentary. This is probably the spiciest chili of the night. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.




Monday, January 4, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 4, 2021

 

Gentle reader, today is the first #a2council meeting of 2021. Here's the agenda

The evening kicks off with an 11 item consent agenda. Of note, CA-8, which is purchasing road salt. The consent agenda is pretty light this evening. 

There are two public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1 is an ordinance to initiate the next round to township island annexations. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an ordinance dealing with new rules for building in floodplains. 

Further down the agenda, DC-1, is a resolution to reconsider the resolution to purchase Axon Body Cameras for the AAPD. DC-2, is a resolution for Ann Arbor to join the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority, which would be a regional solid waste authority. When this came forward initially, there was some fear that the new authority may not be as union friendly as Ann Arbor. Word on the street is that this might get pulled tonight to make confirm there are more robust labor protections this time around. Finally we get to, DB-1, a resolution to approve the distribution of the draft transportation master plan. Very excited to see this going out. 

The spiciest chili of the night is not even on the agenda. Last night at the Council Caucus CM Griswold indicated she might bring back the water rate increase for reconsideration. 

If you'd like a deeper dive into a couple of the agenda items, make sure you check out the latest episode of the A2 AF podcast. Hosts Jessica Letaw, Molly Kleinman, and Michelle Hughes take a deep dive into township island annexation, the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority, the draft transportation master plan, and more. It's a great listen

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.


 


Monday, December 21, 2020

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: December 21, 2020

 


Happy Solstice gentle readers! Tonight is the last #a2council meeting of 2020. What a year it's been. Here's the agenda

Even before we get to the consent agenda, I wanted to share the Healthy Streets Project Finding, which will be shared with council tonight. One thing it is worth nothing is that these street modifications were effective at reducing driver speed. 


Given how effective this program was, if we are still in some form of social distancing this spring, I hope council will implement People Friendly Streets again. 

Hopping into the consent agenda. We've got a moderate 15 items on the docket this evening. Of note: CA-5, appropriating an additional $50k to barrier busters. CA-10 is buying two electric Ford Mustangs for the Police. CA-15 is approving the contract with the police union. 

There are two public hearings on tonight's agenda. PH-1/B-1 is on the ordinance to exempt residential solar installations from height restrictions when placed on flat roofs. PH-2/B-2 is on the change to water rates. This will probably be a spicy chili. 

On to the new ordinance, first readings. C-1 makes several changes to the zoning ordinance. From my brief reading this looks like these changes are pretty minor. C-2 creates rules for electric vehicle parking. C-3 is the first reading of a zoning change for the new Lockwood Senior Living facility. This new iteration of the project is seeking rezoning of 2195 Ellsworth from R1C (single-family) to PUD. Of the 154 unites in the building, a minimum of 42% would be subsidized and designated low-income unites for a period of 99 years. There may be some opposition to this, but I think this should easily pass the new council. Finally C-4 is a rezoning of the parking lot at 2111 Packard from P (parking) to C3 (fringe commercial). Any time we can get rid of mandatory parking that is a good thing. 

Rounding out the agenda with the resolutions. We've got DC-1 which concerns Short Term Rentals. DC-2 is the adoption of council rules. Based on statements by some CMs I would not be surprised if this is a spicy chili. DC-3 endorses HV 241, the Water Shutoff Protection Act. And finally, DC-4 appoints 4, as yet unnamed, members to the Council of the Commons. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.