Monday, June 18, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: June 18, 2018

Tonight at 7:00 pm we've got a #a2council meeting. Here's the agenda. Starting things off is a thick 27 item Consent Agenda. Highlights include 6 street closures ranging from the 4th of July Parade to UM home football games.

There are 4 public hearings, but I am only going to mention 3 of them. PH-2 is on the Fraternity/Sorority rezoning that has been at a few other meetings. PH-3 is on a change to water and sewer rates. PH-4 is on the site plan for 1101 South University. This is the site of the South University Espresso Royale and there is a proposal to build a 5 story building there.

The item I am most interested in is C-1, the Flag and Seal ordinance. This ordinance would require people who want to use the flag or seal of the city to get permission from the city first. I wonder if this is in response to a real issue or if it's a preemptive strike, so to speak. Part of the text of the ordnance reads:

The use of the city seal or city flag by any person for the following, or for any use not expressly approved or authorized by this chapter, is prohibited:

...

(2) Except expressly provided by this chapter, in connection with any advertisement or promotion for any product, business, organization or service whether offered for sale, profit, or without charge; (3) On any written or printed materials that are not official city publications, including proposals or other materials that are submitted to the city for any purpose;

...

This seems like a pretty broad restriction on the use of public images and I wonder whether it would stand up in court. Also, I again wonder if this is really needed.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? We are well into campaign season so there may be some political fireworks. Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival this weekend at AADL

Gentle reader, you that we hear at Damn Arbor HQ love comics. As such, we are very excited for the Comic Arts Festival at the Downtown Branch of the AADL this Saturday and Sunday. The event kicks off at 11 am tomorrow with "Iron Cartoonist" think Iron Chef but with comic artists competing in various drawing challenges. There are other great events including a screen printing workshop and a Drawbstacle Course. Of course, there will be tons of artists and signings.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Preview, June 4th 2018

Today is the first #a2council meeting of June. There are a couple of big items on the agenda. First, DS-1, is a resolution to buy back the Y Lot from Dennis Dahlmann for $5.5 million. The extra million and change is to settle Dahlmann's lawsuit against the city. So we may move to the next phase of the Y Lot. The second big items is the zoning code refactoring, ZORO. B-1 is the second reading of this ordinance, which passed its first reading back in April. There will also be a public hearing (PH-1) on this ordinance.

Also on the docket for tonight is a pretty thicc consent agenda with 23 different items. My favorite item is CA-16, which covers bulk chemical purchases for the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Also on the agenda B-3/PH-3 is a rezoning of a portion of the Briarwood parking lot from Parking to C2B (Business Services District). So we may see some infill coming to our local mall's parking lot. We touched on this a bit last month.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? We are well into campaign season so there may be some political fireworks. Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Normal Park Yard Sale this Saturday

Tomorrow is the first Saturday in June, which means it's time for the annual Normal Park Neighborhood Association Yard Sale. This year's yard sale will feature at least 89 different homes hosting sales. This is, beyond a doubt, Washtenaw County's best garage sale event of the year. If you're cruising for deals tomorrow, you may even see me and EJ. Check out the map below:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pub Reading series this Sunday at Conor O'Neill's

The AADL in partnership with Conor O'Neill's is hosting a pub reading series on the 4th Sunday of the month through July. These are a series of staged readings of some really cool plays. This Sunday there will be a performance of Eurydice, which has been described as "sort of like Alice-in-Wonderland if Alice went and reconnected with her dad in the underworld." Doors are at 6:30 and the performance starts at 7. Sounds like a fun event.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

You must see Cinderella this weekend at the Power Center

Gentle reader, you should make plans to see YPT's production of Cinderella at the Power Center this weekend. It's the 2013 re-write of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic. That means it has all your favorite songs but the story emphasizes some strong progressive elements. The show was choreographed by my wife, and Damn Arbor's chief counsel, Erika Jost, who declined to be interviewed for this article. Here's why I am excited for the show: First, there are 104 cast members. You almost never get to see a show with so many people in it. It is really amazing to see choreography being executed on a stage with so many people on it. I've also had a chance to see some of the costumes and set for the show, and they look completely amazing.

Tickets are just $15 for Adults and $10 for Children, Students, and Seniors. There are evening shows on Friday and Saturday at 7 pm as well as matinees on Saturday at 1 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. You don't want to miss this show.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Vote today

Gentle readers, today is the first election of 2018 if you live in in the Ann Arbor Public School District, Sharon Township, or Ypsilanti Township. The proposal in AAPS is to re-authorize the 18-mil operating millage for the school district. (The actual proposal is for a 21-mil tax which is three mil higher than allowed under state law. The extra 3 mils are a buffer against Headlee rollbacks. Read more about this at AnnArborVotes.Org) Without getting too much into the weeds, taxable value is about one half of market value. So if you own a home, and it’s worth $200k, your taxable value would be $100k. An 18-mil property tax would cost you $1800 per year. Sharon Township residents will be voting on whether the Township should take out a loan, not exceeding $4,900,000 to build a municipal broadband system. Ypsilanti Township residents will be voting for a 0.50 mil tax to provide equipment for the Ypsilanti Township Fire Department and to fill a vacancy on the Township Parks Commission. You can read more about the proposals here.

Remember gentle readers, don't just go out and vote yourself, harass your friends and family and make sure they vote too.

Monday, May 7, 2018

#a2council Preview, May 7th, 2018

Gentle reader, today is the first regular meeting of the Ann Arbor City Council. It would be the first #a2council meeting of the month if it weren't for the special session on May first. Given the recent rash of special council sessions, this will make the fourth consecutive week with a council meeting. What a treat.

On the agenda, you will notice we're deep into street closure season. On the 19 item Consent Agenda, there are 5 street closures. Highlights include Top of the Park (June 4th through July 4th) and the Tech Trek (June 15th).

There are 6 scheduled public hearings tomorrow. The first is on modifying the definition of a fraternity or sorority in the city zoning code. I touched a bit on this on the April 2nd #a2council preview. The second public hearing concerns the rezoning of 4.52 acres of 2301 Highland Road from public land to R1A (Single-Family). This is the rezoning of the historic Ingils Estate and comes with the support of many neighbors. The third public hearing is on changing the fees for Fairview Cemetery. The fourth public hearing is on changing the fees for Quadricycle Fees (a.k.a. pedal pubs). The fifth public hearing is on the Resolution to Approve Fiscal Year 2019 Fee Adjustments for Public Services Area - Engineering and Public Works. The sixth and final pubic hearing is for a Resolution to Adopt Ann Arbor City Budget and Related Property Tax Millage Rates for Fiscal Year 2019. Dang, that's a lot of public hearings.

There are also 5 ordinance first readings on the docket. These won't get public hearings unless they pass the first reading and come back up for a vote as a second reading at a future #a2council meeting. The first (C-1) would rezone a small portion of the Briarwood Parking from parking lot to C2b (Business Service District). Gentle reader, I tried to read the whole staff report on this, but it's pretty long. I did learn that Briarwood, as we know it, is actually 5 parcels owned by 5 different legal entities. Fascinating. C-2 is on a change to water and sewer rates. Ed Vielmetti has a good writeup about this in his newsletter from a few weeks back. C-3 concerns sidewalk repair and C-4 is on noise control. Finally, C-5 concerns the Medical Marijuana Facilities.

Gentle reader, it's a pretty long agenda and I am sure I have overlooked something. Please let me know in the comments what you think the most interesting agenda items are. Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May First Friday tonight in Ypsi

Gentle readers, tonight is the second Ypsi First Friday of the year. Looks like there will be 21 venues hosting events ranging from live music to art galleries. Ypsi's new maker space, Tinker Tech, will be celebrating their grand opening tonight as part of First Friday. It should be tons of fun. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bløm Meadworks opens this Saturday

Bløm Meadworks, Ann Arbor's first meadery is opening this Saturday at Noon. It's located at 100 S 4th Ave on the first floor of the Courthouse Square apartment building. I went to undergrad with Lauren Bloom, who co-owns the meadery with her husband Matt Ritchey. They were kind enough to grant me an interview and give me a tour last Friday.

Matt labeling cans of mead. 

Matt cut his teeth as the head brewer at Chicago's Begyle Brewing. While he was brewing though, he discovered he was allergic to gluten. Bløm Meadworks is a way for Matt to maintain his love of brewing without poisoning himself with gluten. His experience brewing definitely shows in the quality of mead Bløm is producing. The mead at Bløm is quite good and made from Michigan honey, which is pretty cool. There are plans in the works to make some smaller batches with honey from Washtenaw County.

Bløm offers a simple menu. In addition to mead, they have coffee, tea and a rotating cheese plate.

Mead is pretty simple to make as far as alcohol goes. You take honey, mix it with warm water and wine yeast and let it sit for a while and you've got mead. From that simple recipe though, you can create a wide range of different flavors. Because the ingredients are not boiled before fermentation, a lot of the volatiles from the honey are preserved in the end product. Bløm specializes in session meads, which have an ABV closer to that of beer rather than wine. Bløm's meads are dry to semi-dry and range from 6.2% to 6.4% ABV. I sampled two on my visit and they were both delicious. The first one I tried was the Hopped, which as the name suggests is a lightly hopped mead. It was nice and crisp with a bitterness that was not overpowering. It had a really nice floral finish somewhat reminiscent of goldenrod. The second mead I tried was the Spring Gin, which is brewed with the Ann Arbor Distilling Company's botanicals that are left after the distilling process. The Spring Gin mead was very light and crisp and had a subtle lavender finish. I expected it to have a very strong juniper flavor, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the flavors were balanced. I think it's the perfect thing to drink on a nice spring night.

All of the fermenters at Bløm are named after old family dogs.

Another exciting thing about Bløm is that it has the potential to really liven up the streetscape in a slower corner in downtown. The areas just one block north and one block south are pretty vibrant. Bløm gives will give people a reason to hang out on this stretch of 4th Ave and might bring some life to the area. There are also two more commercial spaces available on the first floor of Courthouse Square (the old Performance Network space) and if those get rented as well, we could really see this part of downtown change.

Cans of mead waiting to be labeled.