Monday, March 18, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 18th, 2018

Buckle up, gentle reader, tonight's #a2council meeting promises to be a spicy one. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with a 16 item Consent Agenda. Highlights therein include 4 street closures for festivals as well as a Greenbelt purchase. In the past Greenbelt purchases have been pretty routine, but recently they have been somewhat more controversial. I would not be surprised if this item gets pulled from the consent agenda.

There are 4 public hearings on tonight's agenda. PH-1 and PH-2 deal with the Mallets Wood PUD which would rezone 3.77 acres at 3300 Cardinal Ave. from single family residential to Planned Unit Development (PUD). PH-3 is a township island annexation. I have not been following either of these proposals very diligently. I know there has been some recent opposition to annexation by people who live in township islands. Still I wouldn't be surprised if there are not a ton of speakers during these public hearings.

PH-4 is tonight's spiciest chili. This public hearing is for the Lockwood of Ann Arbor PUD. This project is located at 3365 Jackson Road. It would rezone 3.52 acres from single family residential to PUD in order to build a 95 unit senior independent living facility. 40% of the units would be affordable units for a period of 99 years. Supporters and detractors of this rezoning are expected to turn out lots of folks for this public hearing so make sure you have your popcorn ready. I expect this will be a long public hearing and that council's discussion of the ordinance (C-2) will also be pretty long and heated.

There are a couple of other interesting items on the agenda tonight. C-2 and C-3 are downzonings, which we haven't seen come before council in a long time. C-2 rezones 0.6 acres from C2B (Business Service District) to R2A (Two-Family Dwelling District) in the 600 block of South Ashley. Planning commission has unanimously recommended denial of this ordinance. C-3 rezones 58 lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1D (Single Family Dwelling District) and 4 Lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1E (Single Family Dwelling District) in the West Hoover/West Davis area. Planning Commission recommended denial of this rezoning 5 to 3. It will be interesting to see how the council factions debate these downzonings.

Elsewhere in the agenda, CM Ackerman is introducing 3 resolutions aimed at provisioning affordable housing: DC-4, DC-5, and DC-6. There is also a resolution to study the regulation of short-term rentals: DC-7.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? 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.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Guest Article: Revisiting Water Rates in Ann Arbor

Ed: form time to time, we publish Guest Articles. This piece is by Erich Z., who has been diligently following the debate in Ann Arbor about the changes in the structure of water rates.

A sink in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Last week, the city received a second consultant’s opinion on Ann Arbor’s water rates. Arcadis Consulting’s report’s findings are largely consistent with conclusions reached by Stantec Consulting Services in 2017. This report suggested Ann Arbor introduce a tiered rate system where residential customers who use large amounts of water would pay a higher rate per 100 cubic foot (CCF) of water. The city adopted its current rate and tier structure in 2018. The new rates have been a hot topic, with resident confusion and anger helping to fuel a new balance of power in the wake of city elections late last year. The new council majority has contracted with both Stantec and Arcadis for a reappraisal of the water datagathered by Stantec.

A Gallon is a Gallon, right?

Reviewing the 2018 report by Stantec Consulting, the justification for a tiered rate system is that water rates should be tied to the actual cost of service. In 1998, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that fees must be proportionate to the costs of providing a service, otherwise they are considered taxes, and can violate the Headlee Amendment. The cost of a water system is mostly determined by its peak usage, so users whose needs do not fluctuate throughout the year do not cost nearly as much to serve as those those usage spikes. Peak use occurs in July for Ann Arbor, mostly due to a relatively small number of residential customers watering lawns and irrigating gardens. The presentation showed residential meters paid 12% less than the cost of service, while multi-family meters were paying about 30% more than their cost of service. In a move to make rates more fair and equitable, the council voted to change the water rates, most controversially to a four-tier system for single-family residential customers.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Biology on Tap tomorrow night at Corner Brewery

Gentle readers, a former colleague of mine, Dan Katz, is giving a talk on pollen heterogeneity in urban areas tomorrow night at Corner Brewery. If you or someone you know suffer from pollen allergies, this Dan's presentation will answer the question: "Can I avoid pollen hotspots during allergy season." You won't want to miss it. There will also be presentations by Emily Grman on prairie restoration and Lauren Schmitt on coffee agro-ecosystems.

The Biology on Tap event is tomorrow, March 12th, and starts at 7:30. There is no cover.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Paczki Guide 2019

Workers at Copernicus Deli load Paczki into boxes, Fat Tuesday, 2012. Unfortunately, Copernicus is no longer open.

It's Fat Tuesday. That means you need to eat a paczek. Of course, if you want the real experience, you should already be in line at the New Martha Washington Bakery in Hamtramck. If you are looking for paczki a little closer to home here are some suggestions:

Dom Bakeries - Everyone in Ypsi is getting their paczki at Doms.

Dimos - On Stadium in Ann Arbor. Dimos is a popular donut shop with lots of loyal fans.

The Lunch Room - If you want vegan paczki, you will have to wait until next year. The Lunch Room sold out of preorders yesterday.

Zingerman's Bakehouse - They expect to run out, so show up early.

Argus Farm Stop - I have it on good authority they are stocking my favorite flavor, prune, form Crust Bakery in Fenton.

Gentle reader, are you indulging in paczki today? Where are you procuring yours from?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 4th, 2019

For those of you just turning in, this season of #a2council is great. It's full of emotional highs and lows and tons of plot twists. You should really be watching. Tonight's meeting could be a great place to start watching. The meeting (agenda here) starts out with a pretty light consent agenda with only 8 items. Highlights include a street closing for Take Back the night on April 3rd.

There are two spicy items on the agenda tonight. The first is PH-1/B-1. This would amend the rules for membership in the Independent Police Oversight Taskforce. Specifically it would add the bolded text below:

Persons who are current employees of the City or who have been employed by the City, including active or former police officers, within 5 years of nomination shall not be eligible for appointment. The requirements in the preceding sentence may be waived by a resolution approved by at least 7 members of City Council for current and former employees who are or were classified as temporary employees and who received fewer than seven pay checks in any year from the City.
This is the night's only Public Hearing. Police oversight is an issue that many people are very passionate about so I imagine that there could be some heated audience participation here.

The night's second hot pepper emoji is the first only reading of DC-3, a Resolution Regarding the City of Ann Arbor’s Spending of Proceeds from the 2017 Washtenaw County Mental Health and Public Safety Millage. By way of background, here's what I wrote about the Washtenaw County Mental Health and Public Safety Millage in January:

My tl:dr is as follows: under the Mental Health and Public Safety Millage, communities that have their own police force (e.g. Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti City, Pittsfield Twp., etc.) get a portion of the money from the mileage back as a rebate. Previously council passed a ordinance/resolution saying that if the millage passed, they would use the rebate for pedestrian safety, affordable housing, and climate change (I think). The new majority on the council does not necessarily like this plan...
You can expect some sparks to fly between the councilmembers tonight during the discussion of DC-3.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? 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.

EDIT: I made some minor edits reflecting that DC-3 is a first and only reading of the resolution. Also, I updated the quote text to reflect the fact that the previous council passed a resolution, not an ordinance, to dictate how to spend the millage proceeds.