Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 18, 2010): On Monday night, the council gave an initial approval to a set of zoning laws that are intended to regulate medical marijuana use in the city. It also gave the city attorney direction to pursue the development of a license for medical marijuana facilities. All ordinances require an initial approval – a first reading – followed by a second and final reading at a later meeting.
Also related to zoning was the council’s second-reading consideration of changes in the city’s zoning code for areas outside the downtown, across most of the city’s zoning classifications. The changes affect area, height and placement (AHP). The final approval of the AHP zoning overhaul had been postponed from council’s first meeting of the month, on Oct. 5, at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).
At Monday’s meeting, Higgins brought forth amendments that confined a height cap on buildings to areas adjacent to residential areas. The amendments would allow taller buildings in some non-residential areas, like Briarwood Mall. After some deliberation on the merits of the amendments, Higgins withdrew them, and the council elected to postpone the measure. With Higgins’ amendments, the proposal would be substantively different from the proposal that had already received council approval at first reading, and would thus require an additional reading before final adoption.
In other matters before the council, it was also Higgins who provided much of the impetus for conversation. Two items involved modification to the city’s budget by drawing upon the general fund reserve. One involved a $153,116 expenditure for the city’s planning department to fund corridor planning, and the other was a $160,000 item to purchase furniture for the 15th District Court, which will soon take up residence in the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron. The planning department money was approved over Higgins’ dissent, while the court’s expenditure was postponed, pending the production of an itemized list of what’s being purchased. The two items prompted discussion of the projected budget deficit for FY 2012, which the city’s CFO had estimated in May to be $5 million.
In other business, the council took the final step to enact a special assessment of property owners along Washtenaw Avenue to fund a portion of a new non-motorized path. The council also approved its part of a two-year extension to the consent agreement with Glen Ann Place, which gave site-plan approval for a project at the corner of Glen and Ann streets. Council also gave initial approval to stricter stormwater management rules for impervious surfaces in residential zoning districts.
Council chambers were filled at the start of the meeting with many members of the community who came to hear a proclamation and watch councilmembers vote on a resolution giving council’s support to a similar Michigan Civil Rights Commission resolution. The MCRC condemned the conduct of assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, who has written blog posts targeting Chris Armstrong, an openly gay University of Michigan student leader. The Ann Arbor city council’s resolution also calls upon the state legislature to pass a proposed comprehensive hate crime bill and a school anti-bullying law currently before the state Senate.
Ann Arbor Marijuana Law Gets Initial OK
Before the council was a set of zoning regulations that are meant to control how medical marijuana is grown and dispensed in the city. Among other restrictions, the proposed zoning regulations include a provision that medical marijuana dispensaries can only be located in zoning districts classified as D (downtown), C (business), or M (industrial), or in PUD districts where retail is permitted in the supplemental regulations. Also, medical marijuana cultivation facilities would only be located in C (business), M (industrial), RE (research), or ORL (office/research) districts.
The medical marijuana zoning was before the council for its first reading – all new ordinances require approval at a first and a second reading.
Medical Marijuana: Public Comment
Chuck Ream spoke during public commentary reserved time on the zoning resolution and began by complimenting the planning commission and the city staff on how they’re moving along with their work on the development of a way to regulate medical marijuana. [Ream had addressed the council back on Feb. 1, 2010 suggesting it explore ways of approaching regulation, but the council did not undertake any public discussion on the subject until Aug. 5, when a moratorium on medical marijuana facilities was passed by the council. A prior closed session by the council held on July 19 concerned medical marijuana, and is currently the subject of litigation filed by The Chronicle for an apparent violation of the Open Meetings Act.]
Much of Ream’s commentary focused on his objection to the idea that inspections might be required by the city. Ream referenced a 63-page paper produced by a consultant for the Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys (MAMA), which discusses inspection of medical marijuana facilities in various ways via a licensing scheme. For example [emphasis added]:
The sample licensing and regulation ordinance set out in Appendix 1 has been prepared with a general disbursement format, together with provisions calculated to afford greater protection, efficiency, and capability for law enforcement by requiring information about sites used for caregiver cultivation and distribution activities, and requiring inspections of facilities used for cultivation.
The paper was commissioned by MAMA from a consultant, Gerald A. Fisher, who is a law professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. MAMA contends that the views in the paper are Fisher’s own opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of MAMA. Ann Arbor’s city attorney, Stephen Postema, is president of MAMA.
During his commentary, Ream claimed that MAMA is trying to “take over” the Michigan Marijuana Act, which was passed by voter referendum in 2008. Ream’s contention seems to be supported in part by the language of Fisher’s paper, which MAMA makes available on its website through a prominent link [emphasis added]:
The passage of the Act would appear to reflect a sentiment by many in the state that assistance should be provided to those truly suffering, and for this purpose a defined medical use exception should be made to the general policy that activities involving marihuana must be treated exclusively as criminal acts.
Supporters of the act contend that the act’s passage does reflect a sentiment by a majority in the state that use of medical marijuana should not be be treated as a criminal act. Further, Fisher’s paper suggests consideration that a federal declaratory judgment be requested, which could conclude that the act is not valid because it might violate the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
At the council’s Monday meeting, Ream was adamant that the city council not adopt any ordinance that would require an inspection of medical marijuana facilities, citing Michigan’s act:
Possession of, or application for, a registry identification card shall not constitute probable cause or reasonable suspicion, nor shall it be used to support the search of the person or property of the person possessing or applying for the registry identification card, or otherwise subject the person or property of the person to inspection by any local, county or state governmental agency.
Ream cautioned the council that no local unit of government should purposefully contradict the intent of Michigan’s medical marijuana act. He also stressed that no “hit list” be maintained that could be turned over to federal authorities if there is a policy change at the federal level against prosecuting marijuana offenses when the use is medical.
Later during the meeting, Postema left the council table, and invited Ream from the council chambers audience to confer with him in the hallway, which is separated from the chambers by an accordion-style partition – and is not impervious to sound – where the two engaged in an energetic and heated conversation.
Medical Marijuana: Council Deliberations
Sandi Smith (Ward 1) opened council deliberations on the measure, indicating that she’d toured some of the medical marijuana facilities and saying that she supported the zoning change they were considering.
Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who is the council’s representative to the city planning commission, noted that the commission had passed two resolution at its Oct. 5 meeting. One was a zoning ordinance recommendation, while the other was a recommendation that the city attorney develop a licensing scheme. Derezinski contended that the licensing and the zoning are interrelated. [See Chronicle coverage: "Medical Marijuana Zoning Heads to Council"]
Derezinski suggested that it would be useful for the city attorney to explain the various amendments that the planning commission had made. Stephen Postema, the city attorney, deferred to Wendy Rampson, the head of planning services.
Rampson summarized the three amendments that had been made to the initial draft:
- The zoning districts where medical marijuana facilities are permitted to be located – originally D (downtown), C (business), or M (industrial) – were expanded to include as well PUD districts where retail is permitted in the supplemental regulations.
- A stipulation that landlords provide prior express written permission for a medical marijuana facility was deemed to be unnecessary.
- The ordinance defines medical marijuana as a “home occupation” in addition to “facilities.” Staff had removed a provision that there be no delivery of medical marijuana at medical marijuana home occupations, but the planning commission restored it. In the form that was considered by the city council, the ordinance requires any transfer of medical marijuana to be made at a patient’s home address, not transferred at the “home occupation.”
Rampson also noted there was a gap in the original draft. While the ability of patients to grow medical marijuana in dwelling units other than single-family dwellings is made explicit, the ability of patients to grow in single-family dwellings is not. Postema indicated that a revision could be made at the second reading of the ordinance, and that he did not feel it was substantive enough to require an additional first reading. Rampson also indicated that a zoning compliance section had been omitted due to a “cut and paste” error, and that it needs to be restored.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) inquired about the need to define a home occupation in connection with medical marijuana – couldn’t that be achieved with a special exception use? He also wondered why patients could not pick up medical marijuana from a home occupation – home occupations are limited in the number of trips they can generate, but such trips are allowed by law.
Rampson explained by way of comparison to a daycare home occupation that there’s a difference, because you need a zoning permit for such a daycare center. Even though visits by patients to pick up medical marijuana would be prohibited under the zoning, other visits would be allowed, subject to the usual home occupation restrictions for frequency and off-street parking, she explained – UPS deliveries and employee arrivals, for example.
Sabra Briere (Ward 1) asked for clarification concerning Chuck Ream’s concern about inspections that he’d expressed during public commentary. Postema contended that Ream is concerned about the licensing of caregivers. Postema also said it might be the case that fire inspections and electrical inspections would be required, independent of whether a care-giving facility is located there.
Briere offered the analogy of a seamstress who used sewing machines and steam presses, and who might or might not need to pull additional electricity.
Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) wanted to know the rationale behind the location requirement of a 1,000-foot buffer between medical marijuana facilities and schools. He also wanted to know if “schools” included daycare and childcare centers. The explanation given for the 1,000 feet – provided by Kristen Larcom of the city attorney’s office – was that it’s part of the punishment provisions in the criminal code for drug infractions.
By way of background, Public Health Code Act 368 of 1978 provides that [emphasis added]:
… (2) An individual 18 years of age or over who violates section 7401(2)(a)(iv) by delivering a controlled substance described in schedule 1 or 2 that is either a narcotic drug or described in section 7214(a)(iv) to another person on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a library shall be punished, subject to subsection (5), by a term of imprisonment of not less than 2 years or more than 3 times that authorized by section 7401(2)(a)(iv) and, in addition, may be punished by a fine of not more than 3 times that authorized by section 7401(2)(a)(iv).
(3) An individual 18 years of age or over who violates section 7401(2)(a)(iv) by possessing with intent to deliver to another person on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a library a controlled substance described in schedule 1 or 2 that is either a narcotic drug or described in section 7214(a)(iv) shall be punished, subject to subsection (5), by a term of imprisonment of not less than 2 years or more than twice that authorized by section 7401(2)(a)(iv) and, in addition, may be punished by a fine of not more than 3 times that authorized by section 7401(2)(a)(iv).
(4) An individual 18 years of age or over who violates section 7401b or 7403(2)(a)(v), (b), (c), or (d) by possessing gamma-butyrolactone or a controlled substance on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a library shall be punished by a term of imprisonment or a fine, or both, of not more than twice that authorized by section 7401b or 7403(2)(a)(v), (b), (c), or (d).
The idea is that if a drug offense is committed, the punishment is greater, if that offense is committed within 1,000 feet of a school or library.
Childcare centers are not included in the proposed zoning ordinance as part of the 1,000-foot restrictions, said Larcom, because they are not included in the state law. Hohnke wanted to know if changes to the 1,000-foot requirement could be undertaken at the second reading of the ordinance, without the change being substantive. City attorney Stephen Postema seemed to indicate that the kind of changes Hohnke was contemplating could be undertaken at the second reading of the ordinance.
Postema also weighed in saying that medical marijuana is not legal under federal law, saying, “I can’t hide that fact.”
Outcome: The council unanimously approved the medical marijuana zoning ordinance at its first reading. There is no licensing scheme included in the zoning ordinance.
Medical Marijuana: Council Directive to City Attorney
During deliberations on the zoning ordinance, city attorney Stephen Postema clarified that there was no licensing scheme as part of the zoning ordinance – “we’d need direction from council on that,” he said. He contended that the planning staff has looked at the experiences of other communities and there had been problems. Postema did not specify what the problems were.
Of cities in the U.S., Postema described Oakland, Calif. as having the most regulated system of marijuana distribution. Proponents of medical marijuana, Postema said, recognized that regulation is the key to success, but he repeated more than once that it’s for the city council to decide the issue. Postema warned that there are distributors looking at Ann Arbor who are poised to come into town to set up shop as quickly as possible.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated that his understanding is that Oakland has licensing requirements that stipulate that medical marijuana dispensaries be nonprofits – he would be a proponent of that, Kunselman said. He noted that in Los Angeles the number of medical marijuana dispensaries had become something of a joke – there are more dispensaries than coffee shops. He weighed in for a requirement that the licensing scheme force dispensaries to be nonprofit entities. He felt that it would result in fewer, but larger dispensaries.
After the vote on the ordinance change, Postema stated that he needed direction from the council before he could proceed to develop a licensing scheme. In response, Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who is the city council’s representative to the city’s planning commission, noted that the planning commission had recommended that a licensing scheme be developed. He indicated that his understanding is that there’s a lot that can’t be accomplished with just zoning regulations.
Postema responded by saying that’s not enough direction. He said he needed a timeframe. [The 120-day moratorium on use of land as a medical marijuana facility was passed by the city council on Aug. 5, and thus expires on Dec. 3.] The second reading for the zoning ordinance is scheduled for the second meeting in November, which is Nov. 15, he said. [The council's first meeting in December is Dec. 6]. The conclusion to the discussion on the timeframe directive to the city attorney seemed to be that a draft of a licensing scheme would be developed for presentation as a first reading at the same time the zoning regulations were presented for second reading, accepting the fact that the two parallel approaches would be “out of sync.”
Outcome: There was no motion made or vote taken on the directive to the city attorney.
AHP Zoning Changes
Before the council as a second reading for approval was a zoning code change for areas outside the downtown, across most of the city’s zoning classifications. The changes affect area, height and placement (AHP).
Not included in the changes to AHP is the R4C (multi-family dwelling) zoning classification. The AHP changes are intended to allow more compact use of land, preserve natural systems, accommodate new growth along transit corridors, and locate buildings to promote non-motorized access. [Previous Chronicle coverage of the city planning commission's deliberations on AHP changes: "AHP Zoning Revisions Go to City Council"]
The measure had been postponed from the council’s previous meeting on Oct. 4 as well, at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who said at that time she’d been unable to get questions submitted in time to receive answers from the city staff. The AHP staff-recommended ordinance changes had, at one time, included no provision for absolute height limits, with building height regulated indirectly by floor-area-ratio and setback and open space requirements. In response to feedback from the public, building height limits were added to the proposal – in large part to protect adjacent residential neighborhoods from undesirably tall buildings.
At Monday’s meeting, Higgins brought forth amendments that essentially would undo the height cap on buildings in areas that are not adjacent to residential areas. In the course of the council deliberations, it emerged that Higgins’ amendments, if approved, would require the proposal to re-start its process before the city council, with a first reading, a second reading and another public hearing.
AHP: Council Deliberations
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) led off deliberations by recounting at least six public meetings on the topic. She described how restrictions on height near residential areas are essential, but that in areas in the south part of town – near Briarwood Mall, for example – such restrictions are not necessary, because those areas do not abut residential neighborhoods. She noted that part of the intent behind the AHP zoning overhaul is to help make these areas employment and economic drivers for the city – height restrictions might impinge on that.
Higgins introduced amendments to the AHP proposal that removed height restrictions for areas that do not abut residential neighborhoods.
Margie Teall (Ward 4) wanted to make sure that the result of Higgins’ amendments would not have a negative impact on parks. She said she didn’t want to see “towers” being built up along the Huron River or in view of other parks. City planner Jeff Kahan indicated to Teall that it would be possible to add parks – in addition to residential areas – to the kinds of areas that would be buffered by Higgins’ amendments.
Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who is the council’s representative to the city planning commission, described the AHP proposal as a complex and widespread zoning change. The inclusion of height limits, he said, had had a possible unintended consequence of restricting growth in areas like Briarwood Mall – but it was amendable, he said. So he suggested adoption of Higgins’ amendment, with other issues to be dealt with as they come up.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) said he recalled from his previous service on the city’s planning commission that there was an opportunity for a developer to obtain a variance – perhaps the issue that had been identified could be addressed by variances on a case-by-case basis. Kahan explained that a variance would probably not be an appropriate mechanism, but that there was built-in flexibility in other ways: planned projects and planned unit developments.
Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) wanted to know what the effect is of the airport on building heights. [The municipal airport is located south of Briarwood Mall in the south part of town, which was the area of concern for the AHP heights.] Kahan explained that plans for new developments that are located in the airport’s fly zone are reviewed by the airport, confirming for Taylor that even if building heights were, by city ordinance, uncapped in that area, they would still be functionally capped by federal regulations.
Sabra Briere (Ward 1) said that she and Sandi Smith (Ward 1) had been looking at maps during the deliberations and that they’d looked at the North Main Street corridor, which is supposed to be studied by the planning department soon. [The corridor studies to be undertaken by the planning staff were the subject of another agenda item later in the evening, which concerned an additional appropriation to the planning department for the FY 2011 budget.] Briere noted that it’s not merely the Bluffs and Bandemer parks that could be impacted by height restrictions in the AHP plan, but also the Border-to-Border Trail.
Mayor John Hieftje then engaged Higgins in a conversation, which resulted in her withdrawal of her proposed amendment, allowing the council to entertain the possibility of postponing the matter again. Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) requested that additional maps be prepared by the staff with pre- and post-AHP setbacks indicated. Higgins thanked the city planning staff for all the work they’d done in the last week in response to her requests.
Outcome: The council again unanimously postponed consideration of the AHP zoning changes until the second meeting in November, which falls on Nov. 15.
City Budget: Two Draws on General Fund Reserve
Two items considered by the city council required modification of the current budget [FY 2011] by dipping into the general fund reserve balance. In response to an emailed query from The Chronicle concerning where the current reserve fund balance could be found in the city’s data catalog, the city’s CFO Tom Crawford responded by pointing to page 4 of the “Monthly Financial Report.” The current reserve stands at $10,760,279 for the $81,617,387 general fund annual budget for FY 2011, which runs from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. The report tracks year-to-date figures for budget line items.
Although the report allows comparison of year-to-date budget amounts to the portion of the year that has elapsed – 17% for the current report – many items do not naturally follow a smooth progression through the year. For example, tax revenues come in to the city at two isolated points in the year. Or on the expense side, certain materials or supplies are purchased one time during the year, not incrementally.
Budget: Council Delays Approval of Court Furniture
Before the council was an item to allocate $160,000 for furniture, paid for out of the general fund reserve, for the 15th District Court, which will be housed in the new municipal center.
Sabra Briere (Ward 1) led off deliberations by asking CFO Tom Crawford to illuminate how roughly $300,000 could be taken from the general fund reserve that night – she was anticipating another item on the agenda as well, which allocated money to the planning department.
Crawford noted that the expenditures – because they modify the budget – require eight votes on the 11-member council. He also noted that the currently projected fund balance is around $10.8 million, or around 13% of expenditures. He compared that with the minimum range of 8-12%, where they generally like to operate.
How did it happen, asked Briere, that the $160,000 was not in the current FY 2011 budget that the council approved in May? Keith Zeisloft, the court administrator for the 15th District Court, came to the podium to explain that a level of detail had not been reached in the project’s planning that would have allowed for the budgeting of an amount for furniture. He said he did not think it was appropriate previously to simply throw a number into the budget. He also stressed that the language of the resolution specified not $160,000, but rather some amount “not to exceed $160,000.” He indicated that they would try to be as frugal as possible.
Mayor John Hieftje elicited from Zeisloft the characterization of the furniture to be purchased as “essential.” Zeisloft said he had known the expense for the furniture would be coming, but he had not put a figure into the budget because it would have been an “inchoate” figure.
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) then stated that she was “flabbergasted” that the furniture expense had not been in the budget. She wanted to know from Zeisloft why he did not have a placeholder line item so that the expense was budgeted four months ago. “We see placeholders all the time,” she said. On the question of the use of placeholder amounts, Zeisloft said, “I will concede that to you.”
However, he stated that his own judgment had been that putting a specific number into the budget would have been difficult to do. “I can accept your discomfort with that,” he told Higgins.
Higgins was adamant in her questioning of Zeisloft, wondering how he didn’t know even roughly what the expense might be just four months ago. She asked if Zeisloft had worked with Tom Crawford – yes, said Zeisloft. However, he continued, four months ago, they did not have finished layouts of the space that the court would occupy.
Higgins then said she was not inclined to support the expenditure – she wanted to see a more detailed list. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) supported Higgins request, saying that he, too, wanted to see a list.
Kunselman then opened up the general topic of the general fund reserve balance, as the council begins to contemplate the FY 2012 budget, which they must approve in May 2011. What’s the projected deficit, Kunselman wanted to know. The number he recollected from projections four months ago was $5 million, he said.
Crawford indicated that they’d done five-year projections, but that he’d not made update projections for FY 2012 yet. The amount of state shared revenue that the state legislature is allocating, he said, is a significant factor. His office is also analyzing property tax revenues to determine what that part of the revenue stream would look like.
At the May 2010 meeting when the council adopted the budget, the conversation between Kunselman and Crawford on the projected deficit for the following year [FY 2012] was reported by The Chronicle this way:
FY 2011 Budget: Coda – What About FY 2012?
In some concluding remarks about the budget, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) said the council would probably feel pretty good about what they’ve done, having saved jobs. But he wondered what the projected deficit might be for FY 2012. Responding to the question, chief financial officer Tom Crawford put that number at $5 million. After the meeting, Crawford clarified for The Chronicle that the projected deficit of $5 million for FY 2012 includes as assumptions: (i) an additional $2 million from the Ann Arbor DDA, and (ii) reductions in the state shared revenue for FY 2011 and FY 2012 of $1 million each year.
At last Monday’s meeting, Kunselman wanted to know how the council could simply pull money out of the general fund reserve, when it appeared that they would need to spend half of the reserve to make up the deficit. Crawford responded by saying that simply spending the general fund reserve to make up the deficit was not good financial practice and not something he expected to happen.
Outcome: The request for $160,000 to purchase court furniture was unanimously postponed, with the expectation that an itemized list would be provided for the items to be purchased.
Budget: Council Approves Corridor Planning Money
Before the council was another revision to its FY 2011 budget [which started July 1, 2010], allocating a total of $153,116 from the FY 2011 general fund reserve to planning and development services. The total is the sum of $83,116 for master planning and $70,000 in corridor planning – amounts that were allocated, but not spent, in FY 2010. The unspent funds reverted to the general fund reserve after July 1, 2010, the start of the 2011 fiscal year. At its meeting, the council authorized moving those funds back out of the general fund reserve. The planning department will focus those funds on corridor planning, not general master planning.
During council deliberations, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) drew out the fact that the Washtenaw Avenue and State Street corridor studies were winding up to their conclusion and that North Main Street is next in the queue. Wendy Rampson, head of planning for the city, indicated that the Main Street study could take 18 months.
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) indicated that she had “real problems” with the request and that she would not be supporting it. The issue is that master planning is a directive from the city council, Higgins said. It’s been a priority, she said, ever since she’d served on the council [since 1999].
In response to questions from Higgins, Rampson indicated that staff had met with city administrator Roger Fraser on the issue around the time he’d become ill and that he is aware of the focus on corridor planning, and she believes he supports it.
Mayor John Hieftje pointed out that the amount to be budgeted had been in the previous year’s budget. Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) elicited from Rampson the idea that focusing on corridor planning is considered by the planning staff to be more strategic than master planning. Rampson cited the example of Grand Rapids and suggested that if the city focuses on specific corridors, it can possibly spur new development more quickly.
Outcome: The council approved the allocation of $153,116 to the plannning department. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) dissented.
Glen Ann Place Agreement
Before the council for its consideration was a two-year extension of the 2007 consent judgment that the city reached with Joseph Freed and Associates LLC, developer of the Glen Ann Place project. The extension of the agreement, which currently ends on Nov. 30, 2010, also needs approval from the city’s historic district commission.
Glen Ann Place was a planned unit development (PUD) approved by the council in July 2005, but that did not win subsequent approval from the city’s historic district commission. Freed then filed suit against the city, the outcome of which was a consent judgment. Per the consent agreement, the height of the building was reduced from 10 to 9 stories. Glen Ann Place is planned to include retail and office uses on its first two floors, with residential on upper stories.
With only five of seven members present, the city’s historic district commission postponed action on the extension at its Oct. 14 meeting, and intends to convene a special meeting to discuss the matter, so that all commissioners can be present for the discussion. During their deliberations, the fact that Freed had asked for a five-year extension, not two, was a prominent part of the discussion, with somewhat of a consensus achieved that in two years it’s unlikely that anything would happen on the property.
Glen Ann Place: Public Comment
Addressing a number of topics at the end of the meeting during public commentary – including the Glen Ann Place question – was Jim Mogensen. He noted the historic district commission had postponed their decision at their last meeting. He said it’s interesting that the issue of how to deal with historic districts is still around and the community is still trying to sort through it. He asked what the implications are for the R4C districts directly adjacent to the Glen Ann Place project.
Glen Ann Place: Council Deliberations
At the invitation of Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), city attorney Stephen Postema made some remarks on the Glen Ann Place. He was eager to stress the fact that the city felt its legal position on the case was correct, but that the consent judgment was entered because changes to the project had been made that were agreeable to both parties.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) asked Dennis Harder, who represented Freed at the council meeting, to approach the podium, and asked if Freed’s taxes on the property were up to date. Harder indicated they were. Kunselman also inquired about the status of eight employee parking spaces for Angelo’s, a restaurant located across Glen from the site of the project. The eight spaces, said Harder, were being provided elsewhere.
Outcome: A two-year extension was unanimously granted for the Glen Ann Place consent agreement. The city’s historic district commission must still give its approval.
Washtenaw Non-Motorized Path
Before the city council was approval of the special assessment roll to fund a non-motorized path on the north and east sides of Washtenaw Avenue from Tuomy to Glenwood roads. It was the fourth and final step in the special assessment process, which is funding a small portion of the project. [Chronicle coverage: "Four-year Trail to Non-Motorized Path"]
Out of the $1.58 million project budget, the special assessment of property owners totals just under $60,000 for 12 properties, at an average of $4,936 per parcel. Most parcels are being assessed at around $3,500. One parcel, at $16,087, skews the average high.
At a public hearing on Sept. 7, 2010, several residents – whose properties are to have the extra tax levy applied – spoke against the assessment, many of them citing the financial burden.
During council deliberations, mayor John Hieftje elicited the clarification from the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, that the proposed asphalt path is 10 feet wide. Cooper went on to explain that it’s not possible to construct an in-road bike lane along that stretch.
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) wanted to know the basis of the assessement. Cooper clarified that the amount property owners were being required to pay was based on the cost of a standard concrete sidewalk – which is five feet wide. The asphalt material for the proposed path, Cooper confirmed for Higgins, is cheaper than an equivelent amount of concrete; however, the proposed path is twice as wide as a sidewalk.
Outcome: The final assessment roll for the Washtenaw non-motorized path was unanimously approved.
Stricter Stormwater Code Gets Initial OK
At its Oct. 19, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave approval for its first reading of a change to the city’s stormwater code. Under the new requirements, any time more than 200 square feet of impervious surface is added to single- and two-family residential property, controls must be put in place to handle stormwater runoff from a “first flush” downpour. The “first flush” is the runoff from the first 1/2 inch of rain during any rainstorm. About 40% of land area in the city of Ann Arbor is zoned for single-family and two-family uses. The council must still give its final approval of the measure at a second reading, after a public hearing, in order for the measure to take effect.
Stormwater: Council Deliberations
Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) introduced the measure, which he said had resulted from work by the Malletts Creek Association and the city’s environmental commission. Stormwater management, Taylor said, is an important part of flood mitigation and improvement of water quality. One of the main culprits, he said, is the amount of impervious surface. The new ordinance, he said, would extend similar provisions already in place for non-residential areas to residential districts. The point of the measure is to help stop the spread of impervious surfaces, he concluded.
Outcome: At its first reading, the city council approved the new stormwater control requirement for increases in amounts of impervious surfaces of 200 square feet or greater. To be enacted, the council will need to give its approval at a second reading, after a public hearing.
Against Hate Crime; For Support of LGBT Community
Before the council was a resolution offering its support for an Oct. 12, 2010 resolution passed by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, which condemned the conduct of assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell. Shirvell has written blog posts targeting Chris Armstrong, an openly gay University of Michigan student leader. The Ann Arbor city council’s resolution also calls upon the state legislature to pass a proposed comprehensive hate crime bill and school anti-bullying law currently before the state Senate. UM’s board of regents have also expressed their support of Armstrong.
The city council meeting began with a mayoral proclamation declaring October to be Transgender, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual History Month.
Hate Crime, LGBT: Public Commentary
Andre Wilson identified himself as a member of the city’s human rights commission, but said he was speaking as a community member in support of the resolution condemning the conduct of Andrew Shirvell, saying that Shirvell had harassed Christopher Armstrong because he was an “out” gay leader. Wilson recalled being an “out” lesbian student leader at the university in 1978 and that following a transgender transformation, he had come out as transgender. “When Chris is targeted,” he said, “we’re all targeted.” Wilson stressed that it’s not merely the actions of the city council that are important, but rather the actions of each member of the community.
Leslie Stambaugh introduced herself as a member of the city’s human rights commission and spoke in support of the council’s resolution. She described how Shirvell had followed, photographed and blogged about Chris Armstrong, just because Armstrong is gay. Shirvell’s conduct, Stambaugh continued, had caused the University of Michigan to bar him from their campus.
Hate Crime, LGBT: Council Deliberations
The council resolution was sponsored by Sandi Smith (Ward 1). She said she was in some ways happy that the council was considering the resolution, but in other ways sad that a resolution like it was necessary. She said she’d come to Ann Arbor because of its progressive attitudes. She cited the 40-year record of LGBT leaders in the city. She said that she did not want the resolution to reflect a punitive moment, but that it was, in fact, punitive.
Nobody deserves to be harassed, Smith said. She ticked off names of young people across the county country who have taken their own lives as a result of harassment they’d been subjected to. She noted she’d had a chance to meet Chris Armstrong, president of the Michigan Student Assembly, who’s been the target of harassment by Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general with the state of Michigan. She stated that Armstrong did not need to fear for his safety, because he’s got the whole community supporting him.
Outcome: The council unanimously passed the resolution condemning the harassment of people based on sexual orientation and calling on the state legislature to pass legislation addressing hate crime and school bullying.
Confirmation of Appointments
The nominations and appointments on the agenda were confirmed without comment by the council. However, mayor John Hieftje separated out the confirmation of Wayne Appleyard to the city’s energy commission to highlight the fact that Appleyard was uniquely qualifed to continue his service on that commission, despite the fact that he does not live in the city of Ann Arbor.
Communications and Comment
There are multiple slots on every agenda for city councilmembers and the city administrator to give updates or make announcements about important issues that are coming before the city council. And every meeting typically includes public commentary on subjects not necessarily on the agenda.
Comm/Comm: Other Public Commentary
Thomas Partridge introduced himself as a senior citizen and a disabled person. He recalled how he was a college student back when John F. Kennedy had visited Ann Arbor. Partridge said that we are on the eve of another historic decision, to elect Democrat Virg Bernero, the current mayor of Lansing, who is running against Republican Rick Snyder, an Ann Arbor resident. Snyder represents himself as being smart, Partridge said, but has no experience in government and shows no support for civil rights.
Lily Au addressed the council during public commentary reserved time on the issue of coordinated and integrated funding of nonprofits. Currently, the city and the county are collaborating on the allocation of money to nonprofits, but a proposal to add the Urban County as well as the United Way of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation into the mix would result in a much larger pool of funds to be administered jointly. [See Chronicle coverage: "Coordinated Funding for Nonprofits Planned"] Au raised several questions about the proposal for integrated funding, including the administrative overhead costs and conflict-of-interest issues.
Montatip Krishnamra addressed the council on the topic of the RFP (request for proposals) that has been issued by the city for private operations of Huron Hills golf course. She presented the council with a giant piece of paper which more than 60 people with a wide range of ages had signed. She encouraged the council to preserve the course as a valued natural feature of the city. [See Chronicle coverage: "Potential Bidders Eye Huron Hills Golf"]
Henry Herskovitz described the regular demonstration he and several others have conducted – for more than seven years – on Saturdays at the Beth Israel synagogue on Washtenaw Avenue, saying they were peaceful vigils. He allowed that some of the 1,000 motorists who drove past expressed annoyance at their activity – which includes holding signs calling for the end of U.S. aid to Israel. But he contended that more motorists would be supportive of them if more people got their news from sources other than the New York Times, which many residents of Ann Arbor now rely on, since the demise of The Ann Arbor News.
The Times, Hersovitz said, had failed to cover the report endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the investigation into events surrounding a Gaza-bound aid flottilla on May 31, 2010, which resulted in nine deaths. Six of the killings, said Herskovitz, were described in the report as consistent with summary execution. Herskovitz described a visit to Ann Arbor by the Jerusalem Quartet, performing on Thursday evening, Oct. 21 at the Rackham Auditorium, as an attempt to put a “human face on inhuman behavior,” and he indicated that he would be there to protest against the performance.
Diahann Chatman waited through the entire meeting to address the council at the public commentary general speaking time. She introduced herself as a resident of public housing and a disabled veteran. She reported that she had a neighbor who uses illegal drugs in a way that impinges on her ability to live there comfortably, and that she’d tried to work with the Ann Arbor housing commission. She suggested that new appointees to the commission board need to be able to address people who have health and mental health issues.
After the meeting, Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who is the city council’s liaison to the housing commission, approached Chatman and collected contact information for followup.
Comm/Comm: Design Guidelines
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) announced that work on the design guidelines component of the A2D2 downtown zoning project could wrap up in November, but the committee might ask for an extension.
Comm/Comm: City Administrator’s Report
Filling in for city administrator Roger Fraser, who is ill, Sue McCormick – the city’s public services area adminstrator – reiterated several announcements that the city has also made via its website. Those informational items included:
- a free furniture dropoff and pickup from Oct. 22-24 in the wake of the city council’s passage of a porch couch ban;
- an announcement that the city would still be running street sweepers in the fall to address leaves that fall from trees directly into the street – the leaf collection program that invited residents to sweep their leaves into the street has been discontinued;
- the Ann Arbor Transporation Authority continues to hold public meetings on the development of a countywide transportation plan;
- the opening of a bicycle-pedestrian bridge over the Geddes interchange at US-23; and
- voting among three different city facilities in a contest sponsored by Stonyfield Farms yogurt had resulted in a $15,000 donation to the Ann Arbor Senior Center.
Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) noted that the discontinuation of the loose leaf collection program – where in previous years residents have been able to rake their leaves into the street at prescribed times for en mass collection with front-end loaders – is very controversial in his ward. Sue McCormick, the city’s public services area adminstrator, indicated that there are several private vendors who looked at the change to containerize leaf collection by the city as a market opportunity. She also indicated that the city would still run street sweepers over the streets to pick up leaves that fell there naturally.
Comm/Comm: Email Rule
Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reported out from the council rules committee that in November they would likely have a recommendation for a change to email rules. By way of background, as part of a lawsuit settlement, the council agreed to formally consider a rule on use of non-government email accounts. The council satsified the requirement of the settlement in the spring by remanding the question to its rules committee, which – by council rule – should have reported back to the council at the council’s subsequent regular meeting.
Comm/Comm: Campus Neighbors Meeting
Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reported on a University of Michigan campus neighbors meeting, where city staff had given a presentation on fire safety. Students who had attended the meeting, Briere said, were interested in learning how to keep their off-campus homes safe.
Present: Mike Anglin, Margie Teall, Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins, John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor, Carsten Hohnke.
Absent: Stephen Rapundalo
Next council meeting: Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]