Tuesday, May 17, 2022

In support of the 220 N Park development


The proposed development at 220 N Park in Ypsilanti is coming before the Ypsilanti Planning Commission tomorrow, May 18. The meeting is at 7 pm. Here is the zoom link for the meeting. I am in support of this development, for reasons I will go into below. If you support this development, I strongly urge you to call into the Planning Commission tonight and let them know. 

The project is proposed for a 4.5 acre, city-owned parcel near Depot Town sometimes called "the Boys and Girls Club parcel." The proposed project would have 20 1200 sqft duplexes and 36 450-900 sqft cottages for a total of 56 units. In a July 2021 meeting, the developers said they were working to have the houses cost between $120k and $200k. One of the reasons the cost of these homes is so low is that the city currently owns the land and so they can leverage that for lower cost homes. 

I think this is a great development because it helps our city become more sustainable and more equitable. 

220 N Park is just blocks from Depot Town. This is a very walkable area. There are numerous restaurants, cafes, a grocery stores, parks, and shops within a 0.5 mile walk. This will enable residents in this area to live a car free or car light life, reducing CO2 emissions. 

These houses are very reasonably priced. $220k for a 1200 sqft house comes out to ~$183 per sqft. This is a really good deal for new construction with most homes in Ypsi City going for well north of $200 per sqft in the current market. And while $120k for a 450 sq ft house is not as great price per square foot, it is a very low price to become a homeowner. 

If I had a critique of this project, it would be that the development adds too few units. This is such a great location, that I would love to see something with the density of Ann Arbor's upcoming Valhalla Development. Something more like 45 homes per acre, rather than just 12 per acre. This would allow even more new neighbors to live a car-light lifestyle and could allow for subsidized units. 

Nevertheless, I think this is a great development. It offers good housing at a reasonable price in an area that will allow people to live with a lower impact on our planet. I look forward to welcoming these new neighbors to our wonderful city. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview, May 16, 2022


It's #A2Council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda, and here's the episode of A2AF on tonight's agenda

The evening kicks off with a modest 11-item consent agenda. The first 5 items are street closures. CA-7 is the contract for the State Street Reconstruction. It's exciting to see this happening. 

There are no public hearings on the agenda tonight though there are two ordinance second readings. The public hearings for these items have already happened. B-1 is on the increase in water rates and B-2 is on the increase to stormwater rates. 

Further down the agenda, the first 5 resolutions are on appointments to various boards and commissions. DC-6 is a resolution to begin to discussing workforce housing with U of M. I'm a little dubious about this. There is a lot more the city could be doing to increase the amount of housing in Ann Arbor. Specifically, TC1 could be applied to more corridors (Maple/Stadium, Packard/Platt, Larrytown, Plymouth, Washtneaw), the city could end exclusionary zoning (reducing minimum lot sizes, reducing setbacks, allowing quadplexes to be built on all residential lots). I'm also a little wary about something that would tie housing to work. I also feel like #a2Council is in a uniquely important position to impact the housing supply in Ann Arbor, and asking UM is kind of passing the buck. 

DC-7 is a resolution supporting abortion access. DC-8 is an employment agreement with Milton Dohoney, Ann Arbor's new city administrator and former interim city administrator. DS-1, DS-2, and DS-3 are fee adjustments for community services, public services, and the fire department, respectively. 

And finally we get to DS-4, the resolution to adopt the FY23 budget. There is a lot of stuff in here. But one thing I want to talk about is are amendments 1 and 3, which both have to do with how to appropriate Marijuana Excise Tax revenue. These two resolutions have the bulk of the Marijuana Excise Tax Revenue going to a deflection program. Molly and Jess go into a lot more detail about this on A2AF, so please listen to their thoughts. Rather than seeing this money go to part of our criminal legal system, I'd much rather see this being spent on reparations for people who have had marijuana convictions in Ann Arbor or treatment options that do not involve the police or courts. 

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.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Market report for 2022-05-07


"Rheum rhabarbarum leaves and shafts" By Dieter Weber (User: Uellue) - own work, photo taken in a private garden in Kiel, CC BY-SA 3.0 

[Editor's note: this article is part of an ongoing series of Ann Arbor Farmers Market reports submitted by Ed Vielmetti.]

Market report: rhubarb (new crop), parsley (new crop), cilantro (new crop), green onions (new crop), cider (fall), frozen chicken from Harnois, chorizo tempeh crumbles, Betty's Best goat milk soap, a taste of hard cider, a taste of mead, a small bottle of sweet cider consumed on the spot, grape leaves.


Market report for 2022-04-23

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: May 5, 2022


Gentle reader, tonight is a special, Thursday edition of #a2Council. Here's the agenda and here's the Ann Arbor AF episode for tonight's meeting. 

The evening kicks off with a moderate, 17-item consent agenda. 4 out of the first 5 items are street closures: Taste of Ann Arbor, Sonic Lunch, The Event on Main, and the Rolling Sculpture Car Show. CA-6 is purchasing land with the Washtewnaw County Parks & Rec. Commission for the Greenbelt. 

There are 8 public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is on an ordinance to amend the discrimination ordinance to update definitions of gender expression, identity, sexual orientation and add religious based hair and head coverings. PH-2/DC-1 is on the resolution to approve the industrial facilities exemption for Sartorius BioAnalytical Instruments. PH-3 is on increases to the water rates and PH-4 is on an increase to stormwater rates. PH-5, PH-6, and PH-7 are on various fee adjustments. PH-8 is on  the 2023 budget. 

On to the resolutions. DC-2 is a resolution for the city to sponsor information on NACA Mortgages. DC-3 is a resolution to support Michigan House Bill 5931 which aims to fix issues with end of Michigan's no fault insurance program. 

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.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Market report for 2022-04-23

[Editor's note: This Ann Arbor Farmer's Market report was submitted by Ed Vielmetti. Stay tuned for more market reports.]

The market report for 2022-04-23.

Bicycles in abundance on a beautiful Saturday morning. It will be hot (about 80F) this evening, and there's a chance of frost in low-lying areas later in the week. 

No asparagus at market yet, but the Argus Farm Stop folks say there may be asparagus in May, maybe. Drop off donations of food for Food Gatherers at their new grocery on Packard Street, three doors down from their cafe on Packard.

Kapnick Orchards has apple cider and is planting potatoes. 4245 Rogers Hwy, Britton MI 49229 off M-50 South of Tecumseh. "We Keep Good Things Growing". kapnicks@tc3net.com, 517-423-7419 or 877-450-6096 toll-free.

Wilson's Farm has dried hot peppers. 11559 Franklin Meadows, Tipton, MI 49287. wilsonsfarmtipton@gmail.com 517-673-6406. Also at Royal Oak Farmer's Market. Fresh peppers start to appear mid-July.

John Harnois has chicken and ducks, but is now out of the egg business. Whitmore Lake MI (Webster Township).

Tantre Farm has a summer CSA. 18 weeks of fresh produce for $650. Full share only, feeds 2 generously, or 4 with small children. Pickups Wednesdays and Saturdays at various locations around town including 
Saturdays at Roos Roast on Rosewood Avenue.  info@tantrefarm.com, 734-475-4323.

Ann Arbor District Library patrons have a free subscription to Creativebug, which teaches online art and craft classes. Over 1000 video classes in painting, knitting, crafting, sewing and more are available. https://aadl.org/creativebug.

John Roos and his staff brew coffee at their store on East Liberty Street and then haul it to market on a three-wheel coffee cargo trike. They are now selling cold brew coffee in take-home growlers. Dilute! Dilute! OK! OK!

Get your greens on with bok choi and spicy mix and baby kale from Goetz in Riga, MI, also available at Argus Farm Stop.

Fresh preztels.

The black radish is a "beer radish". Scrub well, slice very thin, serve with your favorite beer. Spicy! Available at Argus Farm Stop.


Monday, April 18, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 18, 2022


Gentle reader, it's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda. Here's the A2AF episode on tonight's meeting. 

The meeting kicks off with a moderate, 16-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-1, street closing for the Glacier Highlands Neighborhood Association Memorial Day Parade, and CA-2, street closing for Top of the Park. 

There is one public hearing on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is for a routine township island annexation. 

There are three ordinance first readings on the agenda. C-1 is an ordnance to amend water rates. This amendment increases water rates by just under 13%. If you want to know more about Ann Arbor's 4-tier water rate structure, check out Erich Z.'s 2019 article about the subject. C-2 is an amendment to increase stormwater fees by about 4%. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some disagreement about these ordinances. C-3 is an ordinance to amend the city's non-discrimination ordnance to include religious hair styles and head coverings. 

Further down the agenda we get to DC-1, a resolution to for the city to sponsor information sessions on the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) Mortgage program. This is a mortgage program aimed at lower-income and lower middle-income individuals. DC-2 is a resolution to extend the hours of the Main Street Social District. DS-1 is a resolution to issue a cool $15M in bonds to repair the roads. 

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.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 4, 2022

Gentle reader, tonight we have a big #a2Council meeting. Here's the agenda and here's the A2AF episode on the agenda. If I were you, I'd pause reading right here and listen to the A2AF episode. It's essential listening for the ARPA Funds agenda item. 

The evening kicks off with a modest, 11-item consent agenda.  CA-1 and CA-2 are street closings for a UMLaw School building naming, 25th Annual African American Downtown Festival, respectively. 

There are 5 public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is for the second reading of the PUD for the Y Lot. In short, this is an awesome project. It'll allow a 20 story building with a large portion of subsidized housing. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading for the TC1 rezoning for the State and Eisenhower area. This is also awesome. TC1 is a new zone that allows more density and less car dependence. For more on these, check out Greg's awesome article from last Friday

PH-3/C-1 is on an ordinance to issue Water Supply System Revenue Bonds. I'm assuming this is to fund water system improvements. PH-4 /DB-1 is on the brownfield plan for the Sartorius development at 3874 Research Park Drive. PH-5/DS-1 is on an Industrial Facilities Exemption Certificate for Sartorius. I think this is some sort of tax abatement. 

DC-1 is a resolution to support the No Mow Initiative. Personally, I love not maintaining my lawn, and I think the city should do more to legalize letting your lawn just go. 

DS-2 is a resolution to spend the ~$24 million Ann Arbor is getting in American Rescue Plan loot drops. The city put out a pretty good survey to gauge resident priorities and Administrator Dohoney put together a pretty good resolution on allocation. Though there may be some shenanigans in the form of amendments. If you haven't listened to A2AF yet, do so now please, because Molly and Jessica cover this is a lot more detail than I will. One amendment would take the money for the basic income pilot and put it towards fixing roads. This is regressive. It's taking money that would go to some of the poorest people and put it towards something that disproportionately benefits more wealthy people. People with higher incomes own more cars and drive more, on average. Also, the city is about to issue ~$15mil in bonds to fix the roads. So this would be a drop in the bucket compared to that. Another amendment would take money from the unarmed responder program and put it towards housing the homeless. Both of these are noble, but we shouldn't make it a zero sum game in terms of progressive programs. 

And that's it. 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.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Transit Corridor Development In Ann Arbor: Where Do We Go From Here?

The Ann Arbor City Council will hold a public hearing for the second ordinance reading of the City's first TC1 rezoning at the April 4th #a2Council meeting.

[Editor's update, 2022.04.07: Greg asked me to clarify that this would be more accurately classified as an opinion piece or essay. Editor's note: this guest article comes from Greg Pratt. If you'd like to check out more of his stuff, make sure to stop by his substack, #eastannarbor.] The dynamics of our local city council politics don’t always allow for clear communication about land use within our municipal boundaries. This essay is an
#eastannarbor attempt to clear the air a bit. We want you to make up your own mind whether or not you think it is a good idea to add mixed-use, mid-rise buildings along key transit routes in our city.

What is zoning? When was it implemented in Ann Arbor and how was it used?

Zoning is a form of urban planning in which municipal areas are divided into districts. Each district is assigned a zoning category, created in municipal code, to limit/specify the buildable environment. For example, in Ann Arbor we have a lot of R1 districts. These are exclusionary single family home districts that prohibit the construction of multifamily housing (R2, R3, R4). There are also C-districts noting different types of commercial uses, PL districts noting public or parkland. The city is empowered to implement these zoning laws through the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA). Residents are empowered to contribute to the vision for our city’s future buildable environments through the Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MPEA). 

Here is the text of the MZEA. The law allows municipalities to create zoning districts that limit the types of buildings constructed, bulk and height etc. Worthy of note here is a mechanism by which adjacent neighbors near any proposed development can submit a protest petition signed by 20% of affected neighbors and bring a higher vote threshold for the rezoning ordinance to pass.

Michigan Zoning Enabling Act

Monday, March 21, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 21, 2022


Gentle reader, tonight is the first #a2Council meeting of Spring. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode on the meeting. 

There's a modest, 10-item consent agenda. There are three street closings. CA-1, CA-2, and CA-3 are for the Burns Park Run, The Dexter-Ann Arbor Run, and the Mayor's Green Fair. If I were a gambling man, I would wager that CA-3 might be pulled. CM Ramlawi has mentioned in the past that he thinks the Mayor's Green Fair should be on the Library Lot. CA-9 is a resolution to approve the collective bargaining agreement with the Deputy Chief's CBA. Listen to A2AF for their comments on this. But tl:dr one of things that keeps us from having robust resident police oversight are the current contracts for the various AAPD CBAs. Seeing what is an essentially a continuation of the current contract come up in the consent agenda is disappointing.

There are no public hearings on the agenda and one ordinance first reading. C-1 is a routine township island annexation. 

Further down the agenda, there are 6 resolutions on tonight's docket. Of note, DC-3 is a resolution hiring current interim city administrator, Milton Dohoney Jr. as city administrator.  DC-5 is a resolution setting a public hearing on a tax exemption for Sartorius BioAnalytical Instruments. Finally, DC-6 would close streets for cars some places downtown for the summer. This is based. 

And that's it. 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.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 7, 2022

Gentle reader, tonight is the first #a2Council meeting for March. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode for the meeting. Make sure you check it out for the discussion of PUDs. 

The meeting kicks off with a short, 11-item consent agenda. Of note, CAs 1 through 3 are street closings for FoolMoon, The Monroe Street Fair, and FestiFools, respectively. CA-8 is for traffic calming along Northside Ave. You love to see it. 

There is one public hearing tonight, PH-1/B-1 is on some technical changes to the employee retirement system. This passed without discussion during first reading. 

There are two ordinance first readings on the agenda tonight. They are both great. C-1 is the PUD for the Old Y Lot. TL;DR here, it'll be a 20-story building with a good amount of subsidized units. You love to see it happen. C-2 is the first TC1 rezoning. 68 parcels in the State and Eisenhower area that will be rezoned in the new Transit Corridor zone. This is awesome, and I hope it is the first of many TC1 zonings we see. 

There are 4 resolutions on the agenda tonight. DC-1 is a resolution on the need for reliability improvements for upgrades to DTEs streetlights. DC-2 is the contract for replacing the Third and Mosley water main. DC-3 is a resolution to appoint a couple of folks to the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority. DC-4 is a resolution to appoint Kevin McDonald as Interim City Attorney. 

And that's it. 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.