Archive for October, 2010

Geddes at US-23

Local officials cut – or tear – the ribbon on the new bicycle-pedestrian bridge. Donuts, cookies and Dexter Mill cider are enjoyed.

UM: Race & Politics

The New York Times reports on the issue of race and politics, in the context of the Nevada U.S. Senate race. Sharon Angle, the Republican candidate, commented to a group of Latino students, “some of you look a little more Asian to me.” At the time, students were asking Angle if Latinos had appeared in her advertisement condemning illegal immigration – Angle appeared to be distancing herself from the ad’s message. But Nicholas Valentino, a UM associate professor in political science and communication studies, weighed in with a different view on the ad: “It is difficult for anyone who studies political advertisements to say that those images weren’t chosen specifically to activate thoughts about Latinos. The visual reference is clearly … [Full Story]

Change to University Bank PUD Postponed

At its Oct. 19, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission postponed a proposal by University Bank to revise its approved PUD (planned unit development) that would have increased the total number of employees and parking spaces allowed at the bank’s headquarters at 2015 Washtenaw Ave. – the site known as the Hoover Mansion. The proposal included a request to build 14 new parking spaces on the east side of the building, for a total of 53 spaces. Four neighbors spoke against the project during a public hearing, and planning staff recommended denial, stating that the project impacts natural features and doesn’t offer an overall benefit to the city. However, commissioners asked planning staff to work with bank officials to come up with an alternative proposal for locating new parking.

This brief was filed immediately after the planning commission meeting. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Briar Cove Parking Expansion Approved

At its Oct. 19, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission approved a request by Briar Cove Apartments to add 23 parking spaces throughout the existing apartment community, to address resident demand for more parking. The complex of 272 apartments in 18 buildings is located on 20 acres at 650 Waymarket Drive, near the Colonade Shopping Center off of Eisenhower Parkway. Approval is contingent on gaining approval from the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner as well.

This brief was filed during the planning commission meeting at city council chambers. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link]

Arbor Dog Daycare Postponed Again

At its Oct. 19, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission voted unanimously to postpone again any action on a special exception use that would allow for the expansion of Arbor Dog Daycare, a business located at 2856 S. Main St., near the corner of Eisenhower. Commissioners had initially rejected the proposal at their Sept. 21 meeting, due to concerns about noise generated by dogs using the outdoor dog run. Then at the commission’s Oct. 5 meeting, owners Jon and Margaret Svoboda had asked that their request be reconsidered, and commissioners voted unanimously to take up the proposal again at the Oct. 19 meeting. After an hour of discussion on Tuesday evening, commissioners voted to postpone again, asking staff to explore possible conditions – such as an annual review or written policy requirement – that could be added to the special exception use to address the problem of continuously barking dogs.

This brief was filed during the planning commission meeting at city council chambers. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

PAC Recommends Argo Dam Bypass Project

At its Oct. 19, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor park advisory commission recommended selecting TSP Environmental, a Livonia firm, to build a bypass channel in the Argo Dam headrace for $988,170, and to add whitewater features for an additional $180,000. The project will be designed by Gary Lacy of Boulder, Colo., who attended Tuesday’s meeting and fielded questions from commissioners. The plan calls for removing the canoe portage, replacing it with a series of “drop pools” so that no portage is required. The project will also improve accessibility of the path – which is part of the county’s Border-to-Border trail – and address problems in the headrace embankment. The work is tied to a consent agreement that the city reached with the state in May, laying out steps that the city must take to deal with some of long-outstanding structural issues with the dam.

Commissioner Tim Berla voted against the resolution, calling it a “protest vote” because removing Argo Dam hadn’t been considered as an option. Park staff has indicated that this project doesn’t preclude removing Argo Dam in the future, if that’s a decision that the community makes.

This brief was filed immediately after the conclusion of PAC’s meeting at the county administration building. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

A2: Business

The Wall Street Journal is among several media outlets reporting on Ann Arbor-based Domino’s Pizza third-quarter sales results, which were released on Tuesday and showed a 12% increase in U.S. stores during the three-month period. A profit of $16.6 million reflects a 6.9% drop from a year ago. Company officials attributed the sales increase to a new recipe and subsequent ad campaign. [Source]

A2: Media, a new investigative reporting website based in Ann Arbor and funded by millionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, launched earlier this month. According to a press release from the nonprofit that’s posted on PoynterOnline, the site “tracks how (federal) government agencies spend billions in taxpayer money on travel and related activities.” The site’s editor, Chris Carey, was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at UM – he also is editor of, a nonprofit news site formed in October 2008 that tracks how funds are used from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and other federal economic-stability programs. [Source]

Chronicle to Host Ward 5 Candidate Forum

The Ann Arbor Chronicle is hosting a forum for Ward 5 Ann Arbor City Council candidates on Thursday evening that will allow voters to see how candidates might do the public’s work in public, if elected.

The Oct. 21 event will present candidates with a set of scenarios on local issues. They’ll be challenged to work together to accomplish specific tasks related to those scenarios. On other occasions there have been, and will be, plenty of opportunities to hear the candidates’ talking points and opinions on specific issues. What makes our forum different is our goal of giving voters a sense of how these individuals work with others to solve problems and work through challenges. The program, moderated by Chronicle editor Dave Askins, runs from 7-8:30 p.m. at Wines Elementary School, 1701 Newport Road. The event is free and open to the public.

Three candidates are running for the Ward 5 seat: Independent Newcombe Clark, Republican John Floyd and Democrat incumbent Carsten Hohnke. The impetus for the event stemmed from Floyd and Clark, and all three candidates were given early opportunity to offer input into the forum’s planning. Flexibility of time and dates, location and moderator were offered. Hohnke chose not to involve himself in the planning of the event, and is not participating. [Full Story]

A2: City Guide

The Design*Sponge blog posts a city guide to Ann Arbor by Jaimi Gadaix, with an illustration by Nicole Ray. Gadaix lists attractions in the categories of See, Taste, Hear, Touch, Smell (Pot & Box and the Hash Bash), Shop and Play. In the intro to the Shop category, she writes: “If you’re in the mood to shop, there are plenty of great ‘university stores’ (Urban Outfitters, American Apparel), and many unique, eclectic, artsy and vintage shops that will keep you plenty busy. But I still secretly wish for an Anthropologie or a Design within Reach. It must be said that people here appreciate good clothes, but instead of being fixated with what’s new at the Gap, we are more into … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Gives Kudos

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 18, 2010): The bulk of Monday’s 20-minute library board meeting was devoted to accolades: A clean audit for the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, praise from representatives of people with disabilities, and a five-star ranking for the AADL, making it among the top libraries in the country.

Shannon Owen

Shannon Owen, circulation clerk at the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown branch, checks out materials for patrons on Monday night. (Photos by the writer.)

In addition, during public commentary the board heard from Alan Haber, a community activist who’s advocating for a greenspace commons to be located atop an underground parking structure being built adjacent to the downtown library on Fifth Avenue. Haber presented architectural renderings of the proposal, designed by Stephan Trendov, and asked the board to allow him to give a more detailed presentation at an upcoming meeting.

In his financial report, AADL associate director Ken Nieman told the board that while most costs are expected to be in line with budgeted amounts during the current fiscal year, that might not be the case for employee benefits. It was an issue that arose during the board’s September meeting as well, when library officials reported that they were changing the insurance options for non-union employees to address increased expenses. On Monday, Nieman also said they’d just received word that the employer contribution rate to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) was going to increase again – it had already been bumped up to 19.4% on Oct. 1, and would rise to 20.5% on Nov. 1. [Full Story]

AHP Zoning Changes Delayed Again

At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council again delayed making 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 measure had been postponed from the council’s previous meeting as well, at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). At the Oct. 18 meeting, Higgins brought forth amendments that confined a height cap on buildings to areas adjacent to residential areas. After some deliberation on the merits of the amendments, Higgins withdrew them and the council elected to postpone the measure, which was being considered that night for its second and final reading. If the amendments are included, the AHP revisions will need to be approved at an additional first reading, and a second reading, which will include a public hearing.

Not included in the changes to AHP is the R4C (multi-family dwelling) zoning classification. The 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

A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Non-Motorized Path Gets Final OK

At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved 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.

This brief was filed from city council chambers. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Council Approves Corridor Planning Money

At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized a 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. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) dissented.

This brief was filed from city council chambers. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Thompson Street

Thompson Street parking structure expansion includes shelter for bicycles, or so it appears. [photo]

Council Extends Glen Ann Place Agreement

At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved its part of a two-year extension of the 2007 consent judgment it agreed to 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.

This brief was filed from city council chambers. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Marijuana Law Gets Initial OK

At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to 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 council must still give its final approval of the measure at a second reading, after a public hearing, in order for the ordinance to take effect. The city’s planning commission had recommended the zoning change at its Oct. 5, 2010 meeting, along with a separate recommendation for licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries.

This brief was filed from city council chambers. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

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, anytime 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.

This brief was filed from city council chambers. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Against Hate Crime

At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved 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 wrote blog posts targeting Chris Armstrong, who is 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 and school anti-bullying law currently before the state Senate.

This brief was filed from city council chambers. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

UM: Chris Armstrong

The Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review posts a short item on First Amendment issues related to Andrew Shirvell’s Chris Armstrong Watch blog. (Armstrong, UM’s student body president, has been targeted by Shirvell, who has called him a “radical homosexual activist.”) Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University constitutional attorney, is quoted regarding Shirvell, an assistant attorney general for Michigan: “And where he crossed the line seems to be when he … stands outside the person’s house. That comes very, very close to stalking. There could be civil liability here. And I think that that moves this away from free speech into conduct. And that does – that is a legitimate basis for discipline.” [Source]

AAPS Invites Public: Help With Search

The Ann Arbor Public Schools announced a series of community forums today for members of the public interested in contributing to the search for a new superintendent. General community forums will take place Tuesday, Oct. 26 at Skyline High School, and Wednesday, Oct. 27 at Huron High School, each from 6:30-8 pm. For more information, as well as a list of other forums hosted by certain district associations, see the AAPS superintendent search website. The website also offers an online survey to gather input from anyone who cannot attend one of the public meetings.

AAPS Board Ponders Search Process

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Oct. 13, 2010): Robert Allen’s first board meeting as the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) interim superintendent saw the school board pick up the threads of two previous, unfinished discussions.

The first conversation concerned a decision about whether to allow trustees to review the full set of applications that will eventually be submitted for the superintendent’s job. Trustees did not come to a decision on that question – it was tabled pending input from the consultant hired to assist with the search for a new superintendent.

The second discussion involved the merits and risks of joining the countywide consortium that is creating a local international baccalaureate school. The board decided to join the consortium.

The meeting also included the second part of an update on two of the district’s three comprehensive high schools – Huron and Pioneer. The first half of the update, on Skyline High School, had been presented to the board in June, but the Huron/Pioneer presentation was delayed due to inclement weather that evening. The substance of the update and discussion surrounding the three high schools will be reported in an upcoming article. [Full Story]

UM: Stimulus Funding

The Detroit News reports that some conservative lawmakers are criticizing the use of federal stimulus funds, including research grants awarded to UM: “Other grants under scrutiny were awarded to University of Michigan, where federal research spending increased 14.7 percent over the previous year, thanks to the stimulus package. Although U-M received $272 million through July for 503 projects, one that has been criticized includes a $317,000 grant to U-M researchers, who are sharing it with Princeton scientists, to measure how the media primes voters in political campaigns. Another is a $529,648 grant to William Axinn, U-M’s director of the Survey Research Center, who is studying Nepalese population processes on the environment.” [Source]

UM: Poet

A New York Times feature on the Syrian poet Adonis – considered to be a favorite to eventually win the Nobel Prize in literature – notes that he was in Ann Arbor last week giving lectures and readings at UM. (UM professor Khaled Mattawa translated his most recent volume of poetry into English.) “Small and animated, with a nimbus of poet-length gray hair, Adonis also posed graciously for photos with female fans who were presumably collecting souvenirs in case the Swedish Academy gives him the nod next year. But in conversation he refused to discuss the Nobel. ‘I don’t think about it,’ he said sternly. ‘I don’t wish to talk about it.’ Adonis speaks fluent French, and his English is … [Full Story]

Pioneer High School

Gulls vs. Crows on the sweet, sweet garbage-strewn field at Pioneer High School. [On driving past Pioneer again, realize I cannot confirm garbage, nor sweetness of same. The birds are still scrapping.]

On the Field: The Michigan Marching Band

The vibrant sounds of the 360-member University of Michigan Marching Band were bolstered Saturday at Michigan Stadium by the Alumni Marching Band, which drew 350 former marchers from around the country to the homecoming game against the University of Iowa. Enjoying the bands is more than just a musical sensation – it’s also a visual feast. Here are some of the moments, patterns and colors of the day from the camera of local freelance journalist Lynn Monson.

Michigan Marching Band drum major David Hines, Jr.

Michigan Marching Band drum major David Hines, Jr., coils low before springing up to lead the band out of the tunnel and onto the field before the game. (Photos link to larger images.)

[Full Story]

Stadium & S. Main

Large groups of people picking up post-football trash on Pioneer and golf course lots.