Monday, May 15, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: May 15, 2023

 


Gentle readers, it's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda

The meeting kicks off with a minute, 5-item consent agenda. CA-1, CA-2, CA-3, and CA-4 are closures for the African-American Festival, Jaycees Summer Carnival, Townie Party Run, and Townie Street Party, respectively. 

There are no public hearings on the docket, and there is one ordinance first reading tonight. C-1 is the first reading for the 721 South Forest PUD. This is a great project because it replaces a mid-rise apartment with a high-rise. 

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is reappointments to the environmental commission. DC-2 is on reappointments to the Greenbelt Advisory Commission. DC-3 is on appointments to the Independent Police Oversight Commission. DC-4 is for reappointments of non-electors to boards and commissions. 

Continuing, DS-1 and DS-2 are on fee adjustments. DS-3 is the big one, the FY24 Budget. Lots of the public comment will be on this tonight. Finally we get to DS-4, a resolution Directing the City Administrator to Designate Southeast Area Park as the 2024 Bicentennial Park. 

And that's all there is. Looks like the meeting could be pretty short. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: May 1 2023

 


Happy May Day gentle readers. Here's the #a2Council agenda and here's Michelle Hughes's preview

The evening kicks off with a modest, 11-item consent agenda. It's basically road construction contracts all the way down with two collections of delinquent fees and taxes. 

There are 5 public hearings on the agenda this evening. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/B-2 are on changes to the water rate and stormwater rate. PH-3 is on updates to public services fees. PH-4 is on a resolution to approve fee adjustments. PH-5 is the big on, it's on the resolution to approve the budget. 

There's one ordinance first reading this evening. C-1 is an ordinance authorizing the sale of $40 million in bonds for the water supply system. 

There are three more resolutions on the agenda tonight. DC-1 is a resolution updating the updating Council's Policy Agenda Committee. DC-2 is a resolution to approve a farm lease on the Maisel Property. DB-1 is a resolution to dissolve the Brownfield Review Committee. There's going to be a lot of public commentary on this one I suspect. 

And that's all there is. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 

Monday, April 17, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 17, 2023

 

A rendering of a potential structure at 415 W. Washington. The public hearing and second reading of the PUD for this project is PH-1/B-1.

Gentle readers, it's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda, and here's Michelle Hughes's preview

Even before we get to the consent agenda, I want to touch on AC-1, the response to resolution R-22-362. This is a report from the Administrator on the viability of food trucks at the Library Lot. I'll be writing more about the Library Lot in the future, but I just want to share the concluding passage here:

It is staff’s recommendation that [the Library Lot] is not well-suited for use as a food truck rally or food truck installation and that it will require significant capital investment to bring the site up to a standard that would be safe, convenient, and attractive as a community event space. Further, the fundamental economics of this property likely mean that the city would have to heavily subsidize the operation of the program totaling in the low to low-moderate six figures annually. These judgments hold true when considering any kind of activation of the space, not just an activation for food trucks. The serious limitations of the site and its disconnection from any other activity in the downtown make it unsuitable for passive activities and programming of nearly any variety. If Council is committed to activating this space in some way without it becoming a burden on the general fund, then there must be a fundamental reimagining of the future uses of this site and how it can best be developed to fit the character and needs of Ann Arbor’s downtown. Finally, there is a real question as to whether a permanent or semi-permanent restaurant space in the form of food trucks is a permissible use of the property under the City Charter, which requires that the space be held in public ownership in perpetuity and developed into an “urban central park and civic center commons.” A formal opinion from the City Attorney should be sought to clarify what uses are allowable on the property.
On to the consent agenda. CA-1, CA-2, and CA-3 are street closures for Top of the Park, Sonic Lunch, and the ALLIANCE Opening Ceremony Dinner, respectively. There is also CA-14, a resolution with Interface Studios for services related to rewriting Ann Arbor's Comprehensive Plan. 

There is one public hearing on the agenda this evening. PH-1/B-1 is on the second reading of the PUD for 415 W. Washington. This is a great project. This will provide dozens of new residences and at least 15% will be affordable (a payment in lieu option is also possible). Hopefully this rundown and polluted site can be redeveloped soon. 

There are two ordinance first readings at tonight's meeting. C-1 and C-2 are on changes to the water and stormwater ordinances, respectively. I haven't read these so I'll share with you what Michelle wrote:

Water rates are increasing, in order to cover the costs of upgrades to our water treatment plant. One reason we need to upgrade the plant is to make sure we can clean up all the dioxane, PFAS, and hexavalent chromium that people keep dumping in the water! But that’s actually a very small portion of what the money will be spent on. The water treatment plant was built in the 1930s and just needs routing maintenance and upgrades that we’ve been putting off.

Finally we get to DC-1, an amendment to Council Rules. This change will allow them to postpone agenda items to a specific date. 


And that's all there is. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 


 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 3, 2023

 

Renderings of the proposed N. Maple Apartments. 

Gentle readers, there is a new #a2Council blog in town. Make sure to check out Michelle Hughes' a2council.info. There's also a preview of tomorrow's Planning Commission meeting there too! 

Anyway, here's the agenda for tonight's meeting

The evening kicks off with a brief, 4-item consent agenda. CA-1 looks fun: a street closure for a soapbox derby on April 16. 

There are three public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on the new ordinance requiring residential carbon monoxide monitors. PH-2/B-2 is for the North Maple Apartments township island annexation and PUD zoning. PH-3/DB-2 is for the site plan for the apartment. The proposal is for a 4-story building with a mix of studios, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. There will be 79 units, 12 of which will be subsidized to be affordable at 60% AMI. This sounds great, but as always, I'd love to see this a little bigger. Also, it would be great if these types of buildings didn't have to come through PUDs. 

On to the resolutions. DB-1 is a resolution asking the Administrator to engage with the state legislature and Michigan Public Service Commission to advance energy equity and resilience. DC-1 is a resolution to support pollinator habitat in Ann Arbor. DC-2 is a resolution to contract with Davey Tree to help with winter storm cleanup. DS-1 is a resolution to publish a notice of intent to issue water revenue bonds to the tune of $45m. 

And that's all there is. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 20, 2023

 


Gentle readers, it's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's your preview:

The evening kicks off with a decent, 20-item consent agenda. The first two items, are street closures. CA-1 is for MUSIC Matters Spring Fest on April 14th. CA-2 is for the Glacier Area Memorial Day Parade on May 29th. There are also some cool housing items on the consent agenda. CA-7 is appropriating $3.5M in American Rescue Plan funds to purchase 8 duplexes in the Liberty/Virginia for affordable housing. CA-8 is transferring 121 Catherine, the 4th and Catherine Surface Lot, to the Ann Arbor Housing Development Corporation for a future affordable housing development there. CA-8 is the tax exemption for that project. It is really exciting to see this moving forward. CA-9 is a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the 121 Catherine project. 

There are two public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on amendments to the city's solid waste ordinance. PH-2/B-2 is on an ordinance to amend the city's risk fund. 

There are two ordinance first readings on the agenda tonight. C-1 is very exciting. This is the rezoning of the old Road Commission Building, 415 W. Washington, from public land to PUD. The plan is to replace the decaying road commission building with a pretty nice mid rise. Very exciting to see this moving forward. C-2 is to amend the city's housing code to require buildings with gas appliances and/or attached garages to have a carbon monoxide detector. Makes sense. 

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is to appoint Kate Laramie to the Greenbelt Advisory Board. DC-2 is to request the public art commission put together a plan to redesign the city flag for the bicentennial next year. Honestly, it'd be hard to beat what we have currently:

The current flag of the City of Ann Arbor. These colors don't run. 

DC-3 is to approve a general services agreement between Wast Management and Ann Arbor for solid wast franchise collection. DC-4 is a resolution asking the Administrator to provide city with a monthly risk fund claims review. DB-1 is a resolution asking the Administrator to engage with the state legislature and Public Services Commission to advance energy equity and resilience. 

And that's all there is. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 
 

Monday, March 6, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 6, 2023

 


Gentle reader, it's #A2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda

The meeting kicks off with a modest, 12-item consent agenda. We've got street closures for the Burns Park Run (CA-1) and for restaurants and retail (CA-2). The city is also going to purchase a bike lane sweeper (CA-9)! 

There are three pubic hearings on the docket this evening. All of them have to do with the Village of Ann Arbor development on the city's northside. PH-1/B-1 is the rezoning, PH-2/DB-1 is the site plan, and PH-3/DB-2 is the brownfield plan. This is a pretty big rezoning (~68 acres) of a former township island to R4A. I'd love to see it a little denser, but more housing in Ann Arbor is really important. 

There are three ordinance first readings on the agenda as well. C-1 is on revisions to the solid waste code. C-2 is on rezoning 3.13 acres of a township island on North Maple to PUD. C-3  is on changes to the city's risk fund rules. I think it get's rid of the insurance commission?

Moving on, there are 5 more resolutions on the agenda. DC-1 appoints Brooks Curits to the Environmental Commission. DC-2 is the postponed street closure for the Monroe Street Fair. DC-3 amends the agreement with Recycle Ann Arbor for multifamily pickup. DC-4 is a reallocation of extra money from the Human Services Fund. DC-5 is a resolution asking the Administrator to engage with the legislature about energy infrastructure reliability. 

And that's all there is. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 
 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 21, 2023

 

File photo of Pączki.

Gentle reader, tonight is a special Tuesday-edition of #a2Council. Here's the agenda

The evening kicks off with a substantial, 17-item consent agenda. CA-1 is closing Monroe St for the 2023 Monroe St Fair. The police and fire departments are opposed to this because the the event would coincide with Umich's spring football game. I expect this will get pulled tonight. CA-2 is a street closure for Take Back the Night/Standing Tough Against Rape. CA-3 is a street closure for the Dexter Ann Arbor Run. 

There are two public hearings on tonight's docket. PH-1/B-1 is the second reading of the amendment to the Tax Exemption for Housing Projects ordinance. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an ordinance to amend the city's discrimination ordinance. 

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is a resolution to appoint non-resident electors to city boards and commissions. DC-2 is the contract for That Damn Bridge (the East Medical Center Drive Bridge). DC-3 is a resolution to support common sense gun safety laws at the state level. DS-1 is a resolution to approve a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for Union at A2 at 2050 Commerce Drive. 

And that's all there is. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 
 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 6, 2023


It's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda. The evening kicks off with a scant, 6-item consent agenda. Items 1, 2, and 3 are all street closures. CA-5 is to accept $3 million HUD grant. 

There are 4 public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on changes to the the rules around storm water management. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of the ordinance to establish the Robert and Erma Hayden House Historic District at 1201 Gardner Avenue. PH-3/B-3 is the second reading of the ordinance for the PUD at 530 N. Division Street. PH-4/DB-1 is on the resolution to approve the site plan for said PUD. This development seems good. I just wish it were bigger. Also, I wish such minor projects didn't need all the increased process and costs associated with a PUD. All this extra process is for just adding 3 units onto an existing quadplex. 

There are 3 ordinance first readings tonight. C-1 is an ordinance to annex ~68 acres at 1680 Dhu Varren Road, 1710 Dhu Varren Road, 2670 Pontiac Trail, 2672 Pontiac Trail, 2678 Pontiac Trail, and 2682 Pontiac Trail. This area will be zoned R4A for the somewhat confusingly named, Village of Ann Arbor development. C-2 is an ordinance to amend the city's non-discrimination ordinance to forbid discrimination based on the type of government ID being used. C-3 is an ordinance to amend the section of the city charter on tax exempt housing projects. 

On to the resolutions! DC-2 is a resolution to recommend approval of issuance of a downtown development district liquor license to Liberty Drinks, LLC. DC-3 is a resolution to update the list of participating businesses in the downtown social district. DC-4 is a resolution to recognize Temple Beth Emeth as a civic non-profit for the purpose of obtaining a charitable gaming license. 

And that's all there is. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 
 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 23, 2023

 


It's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda for tonight's meeting. 

The evening kicks off with a modest, 10-item consent agenda. CA-1, and CA-2 are on That Damn Bridge (East Medical Center Drive Bridge). Though good news, the resolution has been updated and now Umich is agreeing to pay for 3/4 the cost and to have wider sidewalks. CA-9 is an amendment to the project at 841 Broadway. They are planning to include affordable units instead of doing a payment-in-lieu of affordable units. Finally, there's CA-10, the street closure for the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5k on March 12. Anyone want to run it?

There is one ordinance first reading tonight. C-1 is to establish the Robert and Irma Hayden House Historic District. Robert Hayden was the first African American to hold the office that because Poet Laureate and also a notable rider of the No. 5 AAATA Bus. This would establish a historic district for his old house at, 1201 Gardner Avenue in Lower Burns Park. 

There are two resolutions on the docket this evening. DC-1 is to accept a settlement in the case of Rasiel Alvarez-Rodriguez v. City of Ann Arbor et al.. This stems from an event where an AAPD officer rear-ended the plaintiff in June of 2019. The city is settling for $39,000 to cover head and neck injuries sustained in the incident. DC-2 is to authorize the city to be listed as a supporting municipality in an amicus brief filed in the US Supreme Court in Biden v Nebraska and the Department of Education v. Brown. 

And that's all there is. Looks like a pretty modest agenda. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on a2mi.social. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Guest Opinion: THAT DAMN BRIDGE

Editor's note: This is a guest opinion by Adam Goodman. If you're interested in sharing an opinion, reach out to damn.arbor@gmail.com or drop us a DM on twitter.

The intersection of East Medical Center Drive, Fuller, and Maiden Lane is one of the most important connections for people walking and biking in the city. It’s a key link in the countywide Border To Border Trail, which is itself part of the statewide Iron Belle trail system. It’s also the linchpin in pretty much any conceivable commuting route between North and Central campuses.

Proposed Campus-to-Campus Bikeway route from Walk Bike Washtenaw

In early 2022, at the urging of the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council advanced a proposal to widen the East Medical Center bridge by adding a new 11-foot lane for cars. In doing so, it will - per the latest engineering plans - also increase pedestrian crossing distances and conflict points at the Fuller intersection. Update 1/20/2023: The city has clarified that they do not plan to change the crosswalk geometry. The engineering plans seem to show an excessively wide crossing (almost 60ft); however, it turns out that is already the crossing distance that exists today.

At the City Council meeting this coming Monday (January 23, 2023), the final construction contract will be up for consideration. Rather than approving it, the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan should take immediate steps to modify this project so it provides benefits for all transportation modes, rather than improving throughput for cars at everyone else's expense.

Both the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan have established goals to increase safety and convenience for people biking and walking, and simultaneously reduce overall Vehicle Miles Traveled:

  • The city's Vision Zero transportation plan targets a reduction to zero fatalities or serious injuries by 2025 and implement a citywide all-ages-and-abilities bike network. It specifically identifies Fuller as a "priority corridor".
  • The city's A2Zero climate action plan calls for a 50% reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled in order for the city to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
  • The U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality report calls specifically for the development of a bike route between Central and North Campus, stating: "The Commission views cycling as an increasingly relevant and integral part of campus transit and encourages the university to pursue a multi-modal transportation system by incorporating accessible and safe cycling paths. Additionally, U-M should create a workable and safe Central-to-North Campus bike route..."

So, let's review: this bridge widening project will reduce pedestrian and bike safety and lead to increased car traffic, when our city and the University of Michigan both have established goals to do the exact opposite of both of these things, with specific focus along this corridor. And yet: the bridge widening proposal adds NOT ONE INCH of net-new space on the bridge for people walking and biking, in spite of these goals, and in spite of feedback from many community members noting that such space is needed. Instead, it only proposes to remove sidewalk space from one side and add it to the other, which is a terrible idea, that will make things worse, not better.

Existing vs Proposed sidewalk widths:
10.5 + 10.5 = 21.0
13.0 + 8.0 = 21.0

11 feet for cars, NOT ONE INCH for anybody else.

The only fig-leaf that was included for people walking and biking was to direct that the design contract include an analysis of a pathway connection beneath the bridge. There was no commitment to actually fund construction, but ... none of that matters now. We learned in December in a city memo that this connection is not currently possible, because it would cross into MDOT’s Right of Way for the railroad tracks, and they will not grant the city permission to do that.

This was already a bad project, but this news adds insult to injury. When the design contract was advanced a year ago, over loud objections from many in the community, representatives from the City and from the University characterized this project as a compromise, with benefits for all road users. It was not, and that’s even more clear now. Again. 11 feet for cars, NOT ONE INCH, nor any other new connections, for anybody else.

This project is now pretty far along; engineering plans have been completed. The best time to seek a better outcome would've been a year ago, but it's still not too late to make changes. We need a design that will benefit all transportation modes, rather than improving throughput for cars at everyone else's expense.