At the Dec. 16 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee, DDA board member Sandi Smith previewed a city council resolution on parking she said she expected would be on the Dec. 21 city council agenda. Smith also serves on the city council.
Key elements of the draft resolution that Smith shared with fellow DDA board members included: (i) net revenues from the Fifth and William (old YMCA) lot would go into city rather than DDA coffers, (ii) downtown parking meters would operate and be enforced until 10 p.m., which is later than their current cutoff of 6 p.m., and (iii) the city would discontinue its plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near the downtown.
The city’s plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near downtown was formulated as part of the city’s FY 2010 budget (the current fiscal year), but implementation was not immediate. Reference to the city’s installation of “its own meters” alludes to the fact that the DDA manages the public parking system via an agreement with the city – the new meters would not fall under that agreement.
Although the specific wording of the draft differed in parts from the resolution that was added to council’s agenda on Friday, the key points remained.
Within hours of its appearance on the agenda, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce had sent a memo to city councilmembers asking for postponement of the resolution.
Smith’s resolution puts one question that’s been simmering for nearly a year closer to the front burner: Will the parking agreement between the city and the DDA be renegotiated as part of the FY 2011 budget?
FY 2010 Adopted Budget, FY 2011 Budget Plan
The city of Ann Arbor plans budgets in two-year cycles, though it formally adopts budgets only one year at a time. When the city council adopted the FY 2010 budget in May 2009, that was the first year of a two-year plan, which included FY 2011 as the second year. The city’s fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30 – FY 2011 begins on July 1, 2010.
The FY 2010-2011 city budget planning cycle included parking and the Downtown Development Authority in two significant ways.
The FY 2010 adopted budget included an assumption of $380,000 in additional annual revenues per year through the installation of parking meters by the city in areas outside the DDA district. [.PDF file of the DDA district boundaries]
The FY 2011 budget plan included an assumption that the parking agreement between the city and the DDA could be renegotiated to result in a $2 million payment by the DDA to the city, which the DDA is not compelled by the current agreement to make. That agreement, struck in 2005, called for the DDA to pay the city up to $10 million through 2015 – the DDA has made payments of $2 million in each of the first five years of the agreement, for a total of $10 million.
Since January 2009 , there’s been political jostling on the side of the city council and the DDA board on the question of the parking agreement, but no actual discussions between the two bodies through their respective “mutually beneficial” committees.
On the question of parking meter installation, the DDA has expressed skepticism about the amount of revenue those meters could generate. [Chronicle coverage: "DDA to City on Meters: We're Skeptical"] Sandi Smith (Ward 1) has, since June 2009, worked on the city council to delay the installation of the meters until alternative revenue sources could be identified to replace the $380,000 the city expected to collect from the new meters.
Before summarizing the discussion at the DDA operations committee on Wednesday, we provide two separate timeline overviews: (i) the political jostling on the city-DDA parking agreement, and (ii) the city council actions on installation of additional parking meters outside the DDA district.
History of the Mutually Beneficial Committees
- Jan. 20, 2009: City council passes a resolution asking the DDA to begin discussions of renegotiating the parking agreement between the city and the DDA in a mutually beneficial way.
- March 4, 2009: DDA board establishes a “mutually beneficial” committee to begin discussions of the parking agreement between the city and the DDA. On the committee: Roger Hewitt, Gary Boren, Jennifer S. Hall, and Rene Greff. The DDA’s resolution establishing their committee calls on the city council to form its own committee.
- May 20, 2009: During the mid-year DDA retreat, mayor John Hieftje states publicly that city councilmembers object to Jennifer S. Hall and Rene Greff’s membership on the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee.
- June 3, 2009: DDA board chair Jennifer S. Hall removes herself from DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, replacing herself with Russ Collins.
- June 15, 2009: Mayor John Hieftje nominates councilmembers Margie Teall (Ward 4), Leigh Greden (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) to serve on the city council’s “mutually beneficial” committee, and they’re confirmed at the city council’s July 20 meeting.
- July 1, 2009: DDA board chair Jennifer S. Hall appoints Sandi Smith to replace outgoing DDA board member Rene Greff (whose position is filled with Newcombe Clark) on the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee. Smith is also a city councilmember, representing Ward 1.
- August-December 2009: Sandi Smith, the chair of the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, reports at each monthly DDA board meeting that there is nothing new to report.
- Dec. 5, 2009: Dissolution of the DDA is included in an “everything is on the table” list for discussion at the city council’s budget retreat.
[For background on the tax-increment financing that funds the DDA and the political tension between the city and the DDA, see previous Chronicle coverage: DDA Retreat: Who's on the Committee]
History of FY 2010 Parking Meter Installation
- May 18, 2009: City council adopts its FY 2010 budget, which includes an assumption of $380,000 in revenue from installation of parking meters in near-downtown neighborhoods.
- June 15, 2009: City council passes a resolution authorizing only a limited implementation of parking meters in a limited number of new locations, with an Oct. 5 deadline for development of an alternative revenue plan.
- June 15, 2009: City council passes a resolution that redefines the parking rate and revenue deal between the city and DDA on the 415 W. Washington parking lot (which was not covered in the general city-DDA parking agreement) in favor of the city. Annual net to the city is projected to be $164,000.
- July 1, 2009: DDA approves, with dissent, its side of the 415 W. Washington parking lot deal.
- Oct. 5, 2009: City council extends a moratorium on installing additional parking meters to Dec. 14.
- Nov. 16, 2009: City council separates consent agenda item to purchase parking meters for $87,000 and postpones that action.
- Dec. 7, 2009: City council again postpones action on the purchase of parking meters for $87,000.
- Dec. 21, 2009: City council to consider action on purchasing parking meters for $87,000, along with Smith’s separate resolution addressing Fifth & William lot revenues and extending meter operation and enforcement to 10 p.m.
Discussion at DDA Operations Committee
At last Wednesday’s DDA meeting, Sandi Smith apprised her DDA board colleagues of the resolution she intended to place on the council’s agenda that would have the effect of forestalling permanently the city’s plan to install its own parking meters outside the DDA district. The resolution would also extend the hours of operation and enforcement for downtown meters.
Revenue Replacement: Fifth and William Lot
The revenue replacement for those outside-the-DDA-district meters would come from proceeds of what is now the surface parking lot at Fifth and William, known as the “old Y” site. That surface lot, created relatively recently, is not envisioned long-term for parking. It’s slated for redevelopment.
In that respect, the Fifth and William lot is similar to the surface lot at 415 W. Washington, which was also converted to surface parking, pending planned redevelopment of the site. Both lots are thus considered temporary, and are not covered explicitly in the 2005 parking agreement between the city and the DDA.
As the previous timeline indicates, in the summer of 2009, proceeds from the 415 W. Washington lot were renegotiated in favor of the city, as a part of Smith’s effort to replace the revenue estimated by the city from installation of additional meters in near-downtown neighborhoods.
With the closure of the Fifth Avenue “Library Lot” for surface parking – because of construction starting on the underground parking garage at that location – use of the nearby Fifth and William surface lot has jumped dramatically. In October 2009, the lot generated $26,742 in revenue, compared with only $8,659 in October 2008.
Not all of the estimated $300,000 in annual revenue from the Fifth and William lot would go to the city of Ann Arbor – the DDA would be fully reimbursed for installation costs. Those installation costs would include items like the paving of the lot and the parking gates and payment kiosk, but not the demolition of the old YMCA building that previously stood on the lot or the environmental remediation that was required. DDA executive director Susan Pollay told The Chronicle in a phone conversation Friday that the DDA spent roughly $1.5 million on demolition and asbestos abatement at that site.
At the DDA operations committee on Wednesday, Newcombe Clark expressed some similar concerns about the proposed deal to those that Rene Greff had expressed earlier in the year about the 415 W. Washington deal. [See Chronicle coverage on: "Split DDA Board Agrees on Splitt"] Clark was appointed to replace Greff on the board, when her term expired at the end of July 2009.
Clark was concerned that what was proposed was not transparent – the deal was a mechanism to transfer money from the DDA to the city, which was more appropriately an issue for the two “mutually beneficial” committees to explore. “It creeps into the ‘mutually beneficial’ committee’s responsibility,” he said. “If the city needs money, do it transparently.”
Clark said he feared that there would be perhaps seven or eight smaller deals done before the “mutually beneficial” committees ever met.
Smith responded to Clark by saying, “It’s wishful thinking that anything will happen at a meeting between the committees that is really mutually beneficial.”
As far as whether it was transparent what the proposal meant, Smith said, “It’s clear – it says, ‘Back off the installation of new parking meters!’”
Also focusing on the aspect of the proposal that put a stop to the city’s planned installation of new parking meters, Pollay pointed out that the DDA’s strategy in responding to the city had been to express its skepticism about the projected revenue that the new meters would generate, rather than to contest the city’s authority to install the meters.
The supporting material for Smith’s upcoming council resolution on parking alludes to the fact that there is only one public parking system in Ann Arbor, and that the DDA, per its parking agreement with the city, has authority over it. That material reads, in relevant part, [underlining in the original]: “The DDA/City Parking Agreement states that the DDA shall have uninterrupted operation of the public parking system …”
Extension of Meter Operation Hours
Smith’s resolution also includes the extension of meter operation and enforcement to 10 p.m. – meters are currently not enforced past 6 p.m.
The rationale for extending meter enforcement is the complaint that downtown retail/restaurant employees use the free street parking after 6 p.m., which is counter to the goal of promoting turnover of vehicles to allow customers of the downtown to use the spaces.
There’s resistance to the extension of meter enforcement by downtown merchants; there was also vocal resistance to the city’s intended installation of parking meters in near-downtown neighborhoods by residents of those neighborhoods.
Smith’s resolution is part of her continuing effort to forestall the city’s meter installation, which could be analyzed as an effort to address concerns of near-downtown residents. So, at the operations committee meeting, Clark questioned whether Smith – by proposing extension of meter enforcement hours – was simply afraid of “getting yelled at” by residents of neighborhoods.
At that, DDA board member (and county commissioner) Leah Gunn gave Clark a poke back, by asking if Clark was afraid of getting yelled at by Main Street merchants. [Clark is president of the Main Street Area Association board.] Gunn herself said she supported the extension of meter enforcement.
With a detectable weariness in her voice, Smith assured her DDA board colleagues that she was getting yelled at by everyone.
Next Steps: Postponement? Committee Meetings?
If the city council listens to the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, they’ll postpone consideration of Sandi Smith’s (Ward 1) resolution on parking. Within hours of its appearance on the online council agenda, an emailed response to councilmembers came from Kyle Mazurek, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs:
Dear Ann Arbor City Council Members,
I am writing in regard to the attached document entitled “Resolution Regarding New Parking Meters.” Presumably you will take action on this resolution on the evening of Monday, December 21.
Given that it’s now the holiday season and many are traveling, and given that this resolution was not uploaded to the City’s website until today (Friday) at 11:57 a.m., the Ann Arbor Chamber respectfully requests that you postpone consideration of this matter to a later date.
All interested parties should be given sufficient time and opportunity to examine it. Its implications for the downtown area business community should not be taken lightly.
This Council clearly values public input. For consistency and fairness sake, let’s not now stymie it by hastily considering this matter.
While the exact text of the resolution was not finalized until Friday, Smith has indicated to her council colleagues at the last two council meetings that she would be bringing forward a resolution on parking. That has been the basis of her request to her council colleagues to postpone consideration of the purchase of parking meters for installation on Wall Street – a request they’ve respected twice now.
If and when the two “mutually beneficial” committees from the DDA and the city council meet, it’s reasonable to expect that the meetings will be open to the public and announced in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.
While the committee membership from the city council would not amount to a quorum, a resolution passed at its Nov. 4, 1991 meeting by the Ann Arbor city council expresses the council’s will that its committees adhere, to the best of its abilities, with the requirements of the OMA:
RESOLUTION REGARDING OPEN MEETINGS FOR CITY
COMMITTEES, COMMISSIONS, BOARDS AND TASK FORCES
Whereas, The City Council desires that all meetings of City boards, task forces, commissions and committees conform to the spirit of the Open Meetings Act;
RESOLVED, That all City boards, task forces, commissions, committees and their
subcommittees hold their meetings open to the public to the best of their abilities in the spirit of Section 3 of the Open Meetings Act; and
RESOLVED, That closed meetings of such bodies be held only under situations
where a closed meeting would be authorized in the spirit of the Open Meetings Act.