Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 20, 2024

 

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

The evening kicks off with a modest, 10-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-1, 3/4 of a million dollars for golf cart leases. CA-6 is $140,000 for a grant for the Pauline-Runnymede Path. And That Damn Bridge (on E. Medical Center Drive rears it's head again in CA-8

There is one public hearing on the agenda tonight. PH-1/B-1 is for an ordinance second reading for changes to the rules on Conflicting Land Use Buffers. 

There is one ordinance first reading. C-1 is on changes to the early leasing ordinance. 

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is for approving an agreement for legal services for help with acquisition of easements. DC-2 is in support of strengthening the city of Ann Arbor's Fair Chance Hiring Practices. Finally DS-1 is for publication of the ordinance changes from PH-1/B-1. 

That's it, gentle reader. What items are you most excited for? 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 5, 2024

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 5, 2024

 


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

The evening kicks off with a modest, 12-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-2, $534k for golf course equipment. 

There are two public hearings on the docket this evening. PH-1/DS-1 is a on a resolution to approve fees for the Fire Department ambulance transport and lift assists. PH-2 is for the Stone School Road Sidewalk Special Assessment. There are no ordinance first readings tonight. 

On to the Resolutions. DC-1 is a resolution to approve a liquor license for Hearsay Inc at 2350 W. Liberty. DC-2 is a resolution to approve a liquor license for AOC North Ann Arbor Opco LLC, a continuing care and retirement center at 1901 Plymouth Road. 

That's it, gentle reader. What items are you most excited for? 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. 


Friday, January 26, 2024

Guest Opinion: Don't Widen US-23 - Highway Expansion is Bankrupting our State!

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

On Wednesday, in Governor Whitmer’s State of the State address, we once again heard about “fixing the damn roads”. However, MDOT’s own data clearly shows that conditions are getting worse, not better:

MDOT 2024-2028 5YTP, page 20

From 2020-2023, the State of Michigan took on a total of $3.5 Billion in one-time bond debt to accelerate some road-work projects. These “Rebuilding Michigan” bonds did - temporarily - stabilize our statewide pavement conditions. However, the money is about to run out; after that, conditions are expected to worsen dramatically.

In fact, a recent study concluded we have a multi-billion dollar annual road funding shortfall. $3.5 Billion in one-time funding was never going to be enough - we need that kind of money every year.

We should ask ourselves, though: Why are our roads so expensive to maintain? Why do we have such an egregious funding shortfall? While there are many contributing factors, the most fundamental reason is quite simple: we’ve massively overbuilt our road and highway networks, and we keep doing it!

MDOT I-375 Reconnecting Communities Project

To understand this better, let’s look at a project that’s taking a different approach: I-375 in Detroit. MDOT proposes to remove the freeway and replace it with a surface road. There are many problems with their proposal, to be sure.

However, if we consider it very narrowly, from a fiscal perspective, it’s a good long-term investment: it’s reducing total pavement area and eliminating many expensive-to-maintain bridges and other structures. It will reduce long-term maintenance costs for our state.

With our huge road-funding shortfall, it seems clear we should be doing this sort of project - right-sizing and simplifying our highway network - everywhere possible...

… but we are doing the exact opposite. In the last decade, we’ve been widening seemingly half the freeways in Southeast Michigan! These projects are enormously expensive and destructive - e.g. widening a mere 7 miles of I-94 in Detroit will cost over $3 Billion, which is almost the entire amount of the aforementioned “Rebuilding Michigan” bonds. Even worse, though, they will increase maintenance and repair costs for future generations of Michiganders.

Thanks to decades of this unbridled highway expansionism, Michigan’s total annual Vehicles Miles Traveled (VMTs) have increased by 65% since 1980 (as of 2019), according to the Federal Highway Administration. Meanwhile, our population has only grown by about 9%. This is unsustainable, in every sense of the word.

Similarly, some estimates suggest our developed land area has sprawled out by 50% over the same time period:

Michigan Municipal League, Let’s fix the damn roads for ALL the damn modes

Looking at this, it’s no wonder everything’s crumbling in this state! Not just roads and highways, but water, sewer, power lines - you name it. We have to maintain as much as 50% more infrastructure with almost the same population of taxpayers we had back in 1980.

Highways, though, are key in enabling this sprawl, thanks to a phenomenon known as induced demand.

Transportation 4 America, Driving Down Emissions, page 12

This is a ruinous cycle for our communities, our state, and our global climate.

In pursuit of climate action, some of our local leaders are trying to break that cycle. Both the City of Ann Arbor’s A2Zero plan and Washtenaw County’s Resilient Washtenaw plan have established goals to reduce VMTs by 50% in the coming years… but we will never achieve these goals if we continue widening our highways. And yet, widening US-23 is exactly what MDOT is proposing to do, in a study they're conducting right now!

MDOT US-23 Improvement Project Study

In fact, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s SHIFT calculator, widening 7 miles of US-23 can be expected to increase our county’s VMTs by as many as 44 million miles per year, accounting for as many as 400,000 metric tons of added CO₂ emissions by 2050. It’s also worth noting that these calculations hold true regardless of whether the new lanes are general purpose lanes, HOV lanes, or any other type.

MDOT US-23 Improvement Project Study

For all these reasons, all three proposed widening options for US-23 must be rejected. Our communities and our state literally cannot afford to keep widening all our highways!

Take action today to put a stop to this wasteful, unnecessary, and climate destroying project.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 22, 2024

 


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

The evening kicks off with a scant, 8-item consent agenda. CA-1, is the street closure for the Shamrocks & Shenanigans Run. Looks like we are back in street closure season. Elsewhere in the consent agenda we have CA-7, the development agreement for the awesome project going in at 121 Catherine. 

There are 4 public hearings on the docket this evening. PH-1/B-1 is the second reading of the Plymouth TC-1 District. Awesome. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an amendment to the Unified Development Code to add additional permitted uses to the Office district: Banquet Hall, Personal Services, Veterinary Uses. PH-3/B-3 is the second reading of an amendment to allow front and backyard solar in residential zoned districts. PH-4/B-4 is on the second reading of an ordinance to modify Ann Arbor's non-discrimination ordinance to prohibit city contractors inquiry into applicants criminal records until after a conditional employment offer has been made. 

There is one ordinance first reading on tonight's agenda. C-1 removes the requirement for a conflicting land use buffer between similar land use types. 

Further down the agenda we get to the resolutions. DC-1 is a resolution to approve hiring Marua K. Thomas as the Executive Director of the DDA. DC-2 is a resolution to add Lubny (Лубни́) Ukraine as a sister city. DS-1 and DS-2 are resolutions to publish the changes to the UDC from B-2 and B-3 respectively. 

That's it, gentle reader. What items are you most excited for? 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, December 18, 2023

Ann Arbor Agenda Center: December 18, 2023


 

Gentler reader, tonight is the last #a2Council meeting of the year. Here's the agenda

The evening kicks off with a respectable, 18-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-4, the contract for the Barton portion of the Border to Border trail. 

There are three public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1is the second reading of the leaf blower ordinance. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an ordinance to annex 5.9 acres from Ann Arbor Township at 2520 and 2540 Pontiac Trail to R4A. PH-3/DB-1 is a resolution approving the awkwardly named Village of Ann Arbor site plan. This project at 1710 Dhu Varren Road will have 604 units across 78.5 acres. Great to have a chance to welcome so many new neighbors, but it is unfortunate this development is not denser. 

There are 3 ordinance first readings on the agenda tonight. C-1 is the first reading of the Plymouth Road TC1 ordinance. This would rezone 53 parcels to transit corridor zoning. C-2 is the first reading of an ordinance that would allow new uses in Office zoned parcels: banquet hall, personal services, veterinary uses. C-3 is the first reading of an ordinance that would reduce the restrictions on personal scale solar energy systems. 

There is one new resolution on the docket this evening. DC-1 is a resolution to recommend approval of a of a Downtown Development District Liquor License for the Michigan Theater. There was a resolution this evening on the conflict in Gaza, but it looks like it has been pulled at the time of writing. 

That's it, gentle reader. What items are you most excited for? 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, December 4, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: December 4, 2023


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

The evening kicks off with a modest, 7-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-5 is accepting a $182,360 to make the Bryant Community Center carbon neutral. 

There are 5 public hearings on the docket this evening. PH-1/B-1 is the second reading of a change to the Lockwood PUD. Again, this is an illustration of why PUDs are such a brittle tool. It would be much better to drastically overhaul the zoning code to allow more good projects to go forward without having to be PUDs. 

PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of a fix to the downtown premiums for the D1 and D2 zones. A few years ago council reworked the downtown zone premiums. The end result is that no new affordable units being built. This ordinance change will fix this issue so that new D1 projects with affordable units will work. 

PH-3/B-3 is the second reading of changes to the setback rules for TC-1. This is coming to council with a denial recommended by the Planning Commission. 

PH-4/B-4 and PH-5/DB-5 are the rezoning and site plan for the Briarwood Parking lot. The parking lot is being rezoned from Parking to C2B (Business Service District). The current plan is to raze the current Sears store ad build a grocery store and sporting goods store. The parking lot will be redeveloped as three residential buildings with 352 total units. You love to see it. 

There is one ordinance first reading tonight. C-1 is the first reading of the ordinance to ban most gas leaf blowers. Again, you love to see it. 

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is to approve the 2024 Council Committee Appointments. DC-2 is a resolution to launch engagement initiatives to support all electric leaf maintenance. DS-1and DS-2 are resolutions to publish the changes to the downtown and transit corridor zones. 

That's it, gentle reader. What items are you most excited for? 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, November 20, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: November 20, 2023

 


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

The evening kicks off with a modest, 14-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-1, $350k for miscellaneous concrete repairs. Also, CA-8, participation in the PFAS lawsuit against 3m and DuPont. CA-10 looks cool too. It's for technical support for the Bryant District Geothermal Project. 

There is one public hearing on the docket this evening. PH-1/B-1 is for a township island annexation. The city will be gaining just over 5 acres of parkland at 2282 and 2290 Traver Rd. Nice. 

There are two ordinance first readings on the agenda. C-1 is a township island annexation. Just over 5 acres at 2520 and 2540 Pontiac Trail are becoming R4A. C-2 is the first reading of an ordnance that would phase out most internal combustion leaf blowers. 

On to the resolutions: DC-1 is a resolution to approve the 2024 Council Calendar. 

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 or on a2mi.social. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: November 6, 2023

 


It's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor gentle readers. Here's the agenda

The evening kicks off with a respectable, 20-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-17, accepting the donation of a park at 1420 Maple. There's also CA-18, a contract for installing public restrooms in and near Downtown. 

There are no public hearings on the docket tonight. But there are 4 ordinance first readings. C-1 is an amendment to the Lockwood PUD. One problem when you force so many projects to be PUDs, you end up making it very difficult to make minor changes to a project. C-2 is rezoning the some of the Briarwood Parking Lot from Parking (the worst zone) to C2B (business services). This is good. The city should get rid of the Parking zone from the city's zoning code. C-3 is a fix to the city's downtown premiums for the D1 and D2 zone. These premiums have been so onerous that they have stopped all new construction in these zones. Good to see this fix going in. C-4 is changes to setback rules in the transit corridor district. 

On to the resolutions. DC-1 is a resolution to appoint Anya Ganger to the Health and Human Services Advisory Board. DC-2 is to hire a consulting firm to help with the Bryant School geothermal project. DC-3 is a resolution to move precinct 2-20 from First United Methodist to King Elementary. Finally, DC-4, is a resolution to accelerate safety improvements on Ann Arbor's many stroads. You love to see 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 or on a2mi.social. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: October 16, 2023

 


Gentle readers, tonight is another spooktacular edition of #a2Council. Here's the agenda

The evening kicks off with a ghoulish, 13-item consent agenda. There's just one road closure, CA-1, for the Turkey Trot. CA-7 is traffic calming for Grandview from Jackson to Dexter. You love to see it. 

There are two public hearings on the agenda tonight. PH-1/DB-1 is for a township island annexation at  3701 - 3713 Riverside Drive. PH-2/DS-1 is accepting a grant to help with opioid harm reduction. 

There is one ordinance first reading tonight. C-1 is for a township island annexation for 2282 and 2290 Traver Rd. The city is getting 5.23 acres of vacant public land. 

On to the resolutions. DB-2 is a resolution to approve early voting sites for 2024. DB-3 is a resolution to permanently relocate several election precincts: Precinct 4-32 from the Mary Street Polling Place to the University of Michigan Coliseum, Precincts 4-33 and 3-24 from the U-M Coliseum and Tappan Middle School to the Ann Arbor Senior Center beginning with the 2024 Presidential Primary Election. DC-1 and DC-2 are commission appointments. 

DC-3 is a resolution to measure the impact of the recently adopted home energy rating disclosure. DC-4 is a resolution to encourage connections across US 23 and to make sure there are comfortable walking and biking facilities. Nice. DC-5 is a resolution to appoint Patrick Maguire interim Police Chief. DC-6 is a resolution for he evaluation of the integration of Home Energy Score assessments in residential inspection processes. 

DC-7 is a resolution to ask MDOT not to block off access to the western portion of Barton Nature Area. This has been a whole big thing. You can find out more on this reddit thread. And finally DC-8 is a resolution to inform next steps for selling the Kline Lot, the parking lot on Ashley and William. 

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, October 2, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: October 2, 2023

 


Spooky season is upon us, gentle readers. Here's the agenda

The evening kicks off with a respectable, 19-item, consent agenda. We've got one street closure. CA-1 is for the 2023 Spook-a-Thon on October 28. CA-7 is a special assessment for a sidewalk gap along Stone School. CA-15 could also be interesting, its purchasing a easement to fill the South Main sidewalk gap. 

There are no public hearings nor ordinance first readings on the agenda this evening. There's just one resolution on the agenda tonight. DC-1 is a resolution to encourage DTE to Develop a Process for Burying Power Lines. 

All in all it looks like a pretty light 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.