Council Votes on Liquor, Delays on Marijuana

Police-related issues highlighted at city council meeting

Ann Arbor city council meeting (March 19, 2012): With only eight out of 11 city councilmembers in attendance, the council found some of its business a challenge to complete.

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3)

From left: Ann Arbor city councilmembers Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) as they arrive to the March 19 meeting. Lumm was clearly feeling ill and was encouraged by her colleagues to head home, advice she heeded. (Photos by the writer.)

The council postponed for a second time (without deliberation) a resolution that would direct Ann Arbor’s city attorney to delay enforcement activities against medical marijuana dispensaries, except in limited circumstances. The only reason offered for postponing was to allow the absent councilmembers to participate in that vote. The same resolution had been postponed previously, at the council’s March 5 meeting. On that occasion, other deliberations had pushed the council’s meeting past midnight, and councilmembers had wanted to deal with the issue while they were fully awake.

And the council found itself unable to muster a six-vote majority for any intermediate action on a proposed change to the landscape and screening ordinance – and thus wound up simply defeating it. The changes would have restricted additional landscaping requirements just to those site plans requiring planning commission or city council approval, and would have exempted R4C (multi-family residential) districts from certain buffering requirements. Attempts to amend, postpone and table the resolution all failed on 5-3 votes, one vote short of the majority needed.

Several agenda items highlighted the Ann Arbor police department in some fashion. The council authorized the purchase of four new police vehicles, along with a street sweeper. And a new contract with the command officers union was one of two labor contracts ratified by the council at its meeting – the other was with the firefighters union. Deputy chief John Seto, who’ll be interim police chief when Barnett Jones retires at the end of the month, briefed the council on police activity on St. Patrick’s Day as well as during a severe storm the week before. Seto also was criticized during public commentary for a traffic stop he’s alleged to have made as a patrol officer in the mid-1990s.

The police department was also a key actor in the city council’s action to recommend to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission that the liquor license not be renewed for Dream Nite Club, located on Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. At an administrative hearing earlier in the day on that issue, much of the evidence presented by the city was based on police reports or police officer testimony.

In other business, the council approved an upgrade to control room equipment for Community Television Network. The city also added a total of around 160 acres to its greenbelt program, while selling a tiny wedge of property on Summit Street that had a murky history. Also related to land and its use, the city gave final approval to a rezoning request for the Les Voyageurs Society property located near Argo Dam.

The council passed a resolution expressing opposition to pending state legislation, which has already won approval from the Michigan house of representatives, that would allow grass clippings to be dumped in landfills under certain conditions.

The topic of Fuller Road Station emerged during public commentary as well as during remarks at the council table.

And councilmember Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) alerted his council colleagues that he’d be pressing two issues in the near future: (1) getting a written, public legal opinion from the city attorney regarding the city’s Percent for Art program; and (2) getting a calculation by the city treasurer of the tax capture to which the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is entitled.

Direction on Medical Marijuana

The council considered for a second time a resolution that would direct the city attorney, Stephen Postema, to “delay all enforcement activities against medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities except for claims that they violate Section 5:50.1(3) of the City Code [zoning regulations], until the Council amends or rejects amendments to the zoning and licensing ordinances for medical marijuana.”

The part of the city code called out for continued enforcement in the resolution, Section 5:50.1(3), specifies the zones in the city where medical marijuana businesses may be located. From the code: “Medical marijuana dispensaries shall only be located in a district classified pursuant to this chapter as D, C, or M, or in PUD districts where retail is permitted in the supplemental regulations. Medical marijuana cultivation facilities shall only be located in a district classified pursuant to this chapter as C, M, RE, or ORL.” [.pdf of Section 5:50.1(3)]

The attempted resolution reflects an ongoing tension between the city’s medical marijuana licensing board and the city attorney’s office.

That tension between the medical marijuana licensing board and the city attorney’s office is highlighted in a statement sent by members of the board to city councilmembers on March 2, which reads in part: “[The city attorney's office] has been aggressively trying to shut [dispensaries] down while we actively try to license them.” The statement goes on to point out that a representative from the city attorney’s office had been present at all of the board’s meetings and that the board’s recommendations had been reported to the city council. But after that, the city attorney’s office had sent out new letters to all dispensaries requesting them to provide information about how their business operates. [.pdf of entire statement from Ann Arbor's medical marijuana licensing board to the Ann Arbor city council]

The attempted council resolution stemmed from a meeting of the city’s medical marijuana licensing board on Feb. 28 that was convened in response to concerns by several dispensary owners, who had received letters dated Feb. 24 from the city attorney’s office. The letters make specific inquiries into several aspects of the business model of dispensaries – in order to assess whether they are in compliance with Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act. Compliance with the MMMA is a requirement for issuance of a medical marijuana license, and recipients of the letters have license applications pending with the city. Although the legal position of the city attorney appears to be that it’s possible for a dispensary to operate in compliance with the MMMA, no explication of what that model would entail has been set forth publicly.

Among the questions being posed to all dispensaries in the letters is the following: “Does any person or entity deliver marijuana to [Dispensary Name]? If so, does [Dispensary Name] ever pay, donate, or in any way give money to the person or entity who delivers the marijuana or to anyone else? If so, to whom is the money paid, donated, or given and how much?” [.pdf of set of letters]

The city council resolution was sponsored by Sabra Briere (Ward 1), who is the council’s representative to the medical marijuana licensing board. After its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting, the board submitted a required report to the council with recommendations on the issuance of the first dispensary licenses and revisions to the city’s medical marijuana ordinance. The report recommends to the council that 10 dispensaries be issued licenses.

The city council enacted zoning and licensing regulations for medical marijuana businesses at its June 20, 2011 meeting.

The resolution requested that the council decide on recommendations for amendments to the city’s medical marijuana ordinance before June 18, 2012.

Direction on Medical Marijuana: Public Comment

Chuck Ream told the council that he helps operate a medical marijuana dispensary in town that helps a lot of people. He offered councilmembers a pile of medical benefit report forms that they could read and see how medical marijuana can help people. Ream said he’d sent councilmembers an email about the science of medical marijuana, which he described as incontrovertible and conclusive. Right now they can get the medicine to the people, he said.

Ream told the council that the attempt at marijuana prohibition has nothing to do with marijuana, it’s about social control, he said. He told the council, “You guys have done the right thing in the past, even though it’s difficult.” He said he was confident they would do the right thing in the future. He reviewed the voter support for medical marijuana locally – 74% voted in favor of a charter amendment in 2004, he said. The voter-initiated state law in 2008 had enjoyed support of 79% of Ann Arbor voters, he noted. He said he didn’t think apple pie could bring in that kind of numbers.

What’s needed is a legal basis for dispensaries to exist and to be regulated in a reasonable and consistent manner, Ream said. Ann Arbor has demonstrated how that can be done [through its licensing ordinance]. He told councilmembers that they should be proud of themselves. He called the medical marijuana licensing board almost as smart as the council.

Local attorney Dennis Hayes, who represents some of the dispensaries in Ann Arbor, said he thought it would be a long time before he and Thomas Partridge agreed on everything, but he agreed with everything Partridge had said that night. [Partridge spoke about a right to affordable transportation, health care, education and housing. In the past, Partridge has also spoken against the city's initiative to license medical marijuana dispensaries.]

Hayes described the background of the resolution that the council was considering. The issue arose after a letter was sent to dispensaries asking for additional information. And the medical marijuana licensing board had proposed the resolution that was before the council that night. All the questions posed in the letter, Hayes said, were items in the original licensing ordinance drafted back in October 2010.

Those items were removed from the ordinance because it was clear that city couldn’t prevent that information from being disclosed, Hayes said. The licensing ordinance was discussed over a period of time, he said, and it was recognized in the course of that discussion that the city would wind up with information that it couldn’t protect, if the information were collected that’s asked for in the recent letter. Yet the questions have come back, he noted. He stated that it’s inappropriate for the city attorney to ask dispensaries for information that the city can’t protect against disclosure.

Direction on Medical Marijuana: Council Deliberations

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) immediately asked for a postponement of the measure. Mayor John Hieftje said he had no problem with a postponement. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) asked on what basis Briere wanted to postpone. Briere indicated that some of the absent three members had expressed a desire to participate in the vote on the issue. To give them an opportunity to vote would be “good manners,” she said.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to postpone the resolution giving the city attorney direction on enforcement of the city’s medical marijuana ordinance.

Liquor Licenses: Dream Nite Club, Rush Street

The council considered resolutions with recommendations concerning the renewal of annual liquor licenses for two downtown bars – Rush Street and Dream Nite Club.

For Rush Street the recommendation was for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) to renew the license, because the bar had finally paid nearly $10,000 in back taxes.

Assistant city attorney Bob West at the liquor license hearing on March 19, 2012.

Assistant city attorney Bob West at the liquor license hearing on March 19, 2012.

But for Dream Nite Club, the recommendation approved by the city council was to object to the renewal of that bar’s license. The recommendation was consistent with the finding of hearing officer Tony Derezinski, a city councilmember representing Ward 2 who presided over a hearing earlier in the day on March 19. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., and lasted until the early afternoon.

The March 19 hearing had been set at the council’s March 5 meeting, when councilmembers had passed a resolution with an initial recommendation that liquor licenses for both businesses – Dream Nite Club and Rush Street – not be renewed this year. That initial vote was based on the recommendation of the city council’s liquor license review committee, which met on Feb. 23, 2012 to conclude its annual review of licenses in the city.

Initially, no one appeared on behalf of Rush Street at the March 19 hearing, but later, a representative did appear. Derezinski re-heard the matter and based on the report that back taxes had been paid, which was verified by city treasurer Matt Horning, Derezinski made the recommendation that the council recommend renewal of Rush Street’s license to the MLCC.

[.jpg file of map showing liquor license locations in Washtenaw County] [link to dynamic map showing liquor license locations in Washtenaw County] Note: Maps include all liquor licensees, not just those with on-premise consumption.

Liquor Licenses: Council Deliberations

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) summarized what had happened at the hearings earlier in the day.

He characterized the rationale for the recommendation against renewing the liquor license for Dream Nite Club as based on numerous complaints and conduct on the premises and violation of state liquor laws. He told his colleagues that the hearing earlier in the day had included testimony from police officers, and a number of police reports had been provided as evidence. He noted that there were two court reporters taking notes – one for the city and one for Dream Nite Club.

Liquor Licenses: Hearings

During the portion of the Monday morning hearing observed by The Chronicle, at least a dozen different Ann Arbor police officers offered testimony, elicited by assistant city attorney Bob West, in support of the city’s contention that Dream Nite Club constitutes a nuisance. Legal counsel for Dream Nite Club – Roger Farinha and Brent Leder – sharply questioned the officers about their reports and the conclusions they drew from what they’d witnessed.

Roger Farinha

Roger Farinha, attorney for Dream Nite Club, at the March 19 liquor license review hearing.

Objections by Dream Nite Club’s counsel, contending hearsay evidence or a lack of foundation, became routine during the hearing – to the point that on several occasions, a “standing objection” was made to subsequent testimony and introduction of evidence. At one point Leder rose to object that the police officer who was providing testimony was doing so on behalf of another officer who could not attend the hearing, and that the absent officer’s testimony was itself hearsay – which made the testimony double hearsay.

Derezinski’s response to the objections was simply to advise that they were noted; however, he allowed the testimony and the admission of the evidence. During the hearing, assistant city attorney Bob West argued for admission of the evidence and the testimony, saying that the rules of evidence for administrative hearings are different from that for courts of law. From Michigan’s Administrative Procedures Act 306 of 1969 [emphasis added]:

24.275 Evidence; admissibility, objections, submission in written form.
Sec. 75. In a contested case the rules of evidence as applied in a nonjury civil case in circuit court shall be followed as far as practicable, but an agency may admit and give probative effect to evidence of a type commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent men in the conduct of their affairs. Irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence may be excluded. Effect shall be given to the rules of privilege recognized by law. Objections to offers of evidence may be made and shall be noted in the record. …

The general direction of much of the cross examination by Dream Nite Club’s legal counsel mirrored the themes in a federal lawsuit that the owners of the club have filed against the city of Ann Arbor, which is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Southern Division).

Tony Derezinski presided over the liquor license hearing on March 19, 2012.

Tony Derezinski presided over the liquor license hearing on March 19, 2012.

The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 17, 2012, names the city of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor’s police department, chief of police Barnett Jones, city administrator Steve Powers and former city administrator Roger Fraser. [.pdf of the complaint in V.R. Entertainment v. city of Ann Arbor]

The city of Ann Arbor answered the complaint, filing a motion to dismiss the claim. [.pdf of city of Ann Arbor's motion to dismiss] In responding to the city’s motion, V.R. Entertainment (Dream Nite Club) re-asserted its claim. [.pdf of response to motion to dismiss] A motion hearing is scheduled before judge Paul Borman on May 30, 2012.

The lawsuit contends violations of Section 1983 and 1985 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 as well as violations of the U.S. Constitution – Fourth Amendment (prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure), Fourteenth Amendment (guarantee of due process), and Eighth Amendment (prohibition of unusual punishment). The lawsuit also claims infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy.

The set of facts alleged in the lawsuit includes the following:

10 On or about May 29, 2011, the City of Ann Arbor brought a nuisance action against the Plaintiffs for an alleged altercation and shooting that occurred in the vicinity of the Plaintiffs night club.

11 The fight and shooting in fact occurred on federal government property after the club was closed specifically the United States Postal Service Parking Lot, a property that does not belong to the club and is overseen by federal authorities.

12 The Defendants unjustly sought and obtained without a full hearing and without consideration to the facts a Temporary Restraining Order shutting the Plaintiffs club for several weeks; thereafter, a ‘security receiver’ was appointed to oversee the security at the club.

13 The report that was submitted by the ‘security receiver’ Mr. John Phillips indicated that the problems in the area came allegedly from the parking garage immediately next to the club, not from the club itself, albeit without evidence.

14 Throughout the State Court case, Case No. GCW-11-597-CH and up to the filing of this action, the Defendant Police Department has focused extraordinary police attention on the club without justification, routinely targeting surveillance on the club as evidenced by parked Police vehicles directly in front of the Plaintiffs club.

During the liquor license hearing, AAPD officers were asked under cross examination to comment on the assignment of patrol officers to the general vicinity of the Dream Nite Club. They were also asked to assess the demographic makeup of the crowd at the club.

Liquor License: Outcomes

Derezinski’s conclusion as hearing officer was based on the police reports as well as violations of the Michigan Liquor Control Code. His conclusion was that the city of Ann Arbor had a basis to object to the renewal of Dream Nite Club’s liquor license. For Rush Street, he concluded that the city should have no objection to the renewal. The council handled those issues on separate votes.

Outcome: On separate votes, the council’s unanimously recommended to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission that Rush Street’s license be renewed, but that Dream Nite Club’s license not be renewed. The license renewal will be decided by the MLCC.

Policing in Ann Arbor

Like the Dream Nite Club liquor license renewal, a number of other items at the March 19 council meeting touched on Ann Arbor police department activity. Blair Shelton led things off during public commentary at the start of the meeting – he’d attended the Dream Nite Club liquor license hearing earlier in the day as well.

Shelton had filed a lawsuit in 1995 against the city of Ann Arbor, after he’d been targeted in an investigation and eventually provided blood evidence for DNA testing. He sued for the return of his blood evidence and was successful. The complaint in the lawsuit alleged a set of facts that essentially amounts to racially profiling of Shelton, which is parallel to allegations in the current Dream Nite Club lawsuit. [.pdf of Shelton v. city of Ann Arbor police department]

Policing: Public Commentary

Blair Shelton told the council he was there to talk about the new police chief. By way of background, current chief Barnett Jones will be retiring at the end of the month. Deputy chief John Seto has been appointed interim chief.

Blair Shelton

Blair Shelton at the liquor license hearing for Dream Nite Club on March 19.

Shelton told the council that before he’d filed a lawsuit against the city in 1995, he’d been pulled over by Seto on Geddes near Forest Hill Cemetery in a brand new Camero. It was around 7 a.m., Shelton said. Seto didn’t say why he’d pulled Shelton over, he said.

Shelton told the council that when he looked at Seto, he thought, “Oh, great, an Asian police officer, I don’t have to worry about any, you know, typical Ann Arbor police.” Shelton then described how Seto had verified that Shelton had a driver’s license, had insurance and was the owner of the vehicle and had no police record. When Shelton asked Seto why he’d pulled him over, Shelton contended that Seto had replied, “You’re a smart guy, you can figure it out.”

Shelton told the council that he had figured it out. He concluded that there is no way Seto should be police chief. He said he’d spoken to many African Americans about trouble they’ve had with the police department, and that Seto’s name came up quite a bit.

Shelton wondered why Barnett Jones was being “pushed out.” He ventured that it was because Jones did not agree with DNA testing of everyone in the city. He said he’d spoken with Jones and liked him. He’d warned Jones that the city will turn on you and make you a scapegoat the first chance they get, he said. He contended that Jones had replied: I’m beginning to see that. Shelton stressed the importance of vetting the new police chief.

Former police chief Carl Ent wasn’t vetted, Shelton said, and it was discovered that he was having sex in the back of a patrol car. Dan Oates was also not vetted properly, he said, and alluded to an occasion when Oates had used his lights and siren in order to catch a plane. Shelton then concluded with an intended reference to city attorney Stephen Postema, saying that if adopting an African American child meant Postema couldn’t be labeled a racist, then he could still be labeled a “slave owner.”

Responding later in the meeting to Shelton’s remarks about chief Barnett Jones, mayor John Hieftje described Jones as his friend and stated that Jones’ decision to retire was entirely personal. The city would get Jones to stay on as chief, if that were possible. Jones’ decision came as a surprise, Hieftje said. He ventured that the deputy chiefs would be glad to have Jones stay on as chief. Jones deserves his time off, Hieftje said.

Policing: Fire, Police Labor Contracts

The council considered a resolution approving new contracts with its firefighters as well as with its police command officers.

The contract with Local 693 of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is retroactive to July 1, 2010 and runs through June 30, 2014. Ann Arbor’s firefighters have been working without a new contract since the previous agreement expired on June 30, 2010. Features of the new contract include the restoration of pay to the 2008 level – the union had previously accepted a wage decrease of 3% in order temporarily to preserve jobs. The restoration to previous wage levels will take place over the course of two years, at 1.5% each year.

The contract reduces the food allowance for firefighters, who work 24-hour shifts. The contract also includes a change in the firefighters’ schedule to increase the average number of hours worked from 50.4 to 54. Health care provided under the contract meets the new state mandated hard caps on health care contributions by public employers.

The new contract with the Command Officers Association of Michigan runs retroactively from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2013. The command officers have been operating without a contract since the expiration of the previous one.

The health care plan in the contract is similar to the health care offered to non-union city staff, with the state of Michigan’s mandated hard cap on the amount that a public employer can contribute to employees’ health care.

The council considered the two contracts on separate votes – they were listed as different items on the agenda. Up first was the contract for the firefighters. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) said she was pleased to bring the firefighters resolution forward for the council’s labor committee, which has worked hard on it. [In addition to Higgins, others on the labor committee are Sandi Smith (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Margie Teall (Ward 4), and mayor John Hieftje.] Higgins praised the firefighters union for working to resolve the contract outside the framework of arbitration. She called the agreement a “win-win,” and said she thinks it’s a good contract. She urged other councilmembers to support it.

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) said he wanted to thank the labor committee for its work – as someone who does not serve on that committee. He also thanked the union for working with the city outside the arbitration process. Mayor John Hieftje complimented the labor committee and the members of the firefighters union. He remarked that this would be the first time in a long time that the city has all of its labor contracts settled. Higgins quickly interjected that this would be true as soon as the command officers contract was approved. When that contract came up as the next item on the agenda, Higgins said she hope this meant there would be labor peace for at least some period of time.

Outcome: The council unanimously approved both labor contracts on separate votes.

Policing: Police Cars

The council considered separate resolutions that authorized the purchase of a total of four police cars from three different vendors: two from Gorno Ford for $49,420; one from Signature Ford for $27,067; and one from Shaheen Chevrolet for $26,081.

The acquisition of the vehicles comes in the context of the city’s planned evaluation of pursuit-rated vehicles from all three major manufacturers in the wake of the retirement of the Crown Victoria, a model that was retired by Ford last year.

Outcome: The council voted without comment to approve the purchase of the vehicles.

Policing: Graffiti

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) said she’d heard a lot about graffiti and that there’s been a lot of dialogue about it. There’d been a commercial building completely cleaned and hit from top-to-bottom within 72 hours of it being cleaned. The issue is “creeping,” She thought it would be a good time to have an update from the police about what the public can do. People are getting very frustrated, she said.

John Hieftje and John Seto

Mayor John Hieftje (left) and deputy chief of police John Seto, who'll serve as interim chief when Barnett Jones retires at the end of March.

When deputy chief John Seto was at the podium to report on St. Patrick’s Day policing issues, mayor John Hieftje asked Seto about the graffiti. As he typically does, Hieftje mentioned the fact that he attends a weekly Wednesday meeting with the city administrator and the police department about crime in the city. Hieftje said he knew that the police department is “engaged on this issue,” saying that graffiti has risen to a higher priority than he’d ever seen. Hieftje said it’s not just an Ann Arbor problem – there’s a surge of graffiti among communities nationwide, he said. And one of the theories for that is that it’s been glorified on the Internet, Hieftje said.

Seto said the police had heard the frustration from citizens and the community. He said there’s a detective assigned to graffiti cases, and the department is trying to combat the problem. There’s a lot of awareness of the issue within the police department, but also in the community, he said. And the department continues to explore all its options.

Smith asked Seto for recommendations for homeowners or business owners. She’s told people to call community standards. Seto allowed that calling community standards is a good option for correcting the situation once the graffiti is there. But it’s also important to be alert so that the police can be notified when perpetrators are doing the graffiti – in the act or soon afterwards, he said.

Policing: Tornado

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reminded the public that the neighborhood of the broader community had suffered from a tornado. [On March 15, a tornado touched down in the Dexter area, west of Ann Arbor.] She said that who are able should be doing what they can to help rebuild houses, schools, businesses and lives.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) reported that on Thursday night [March 15] she’d called city administrator Steve Powers to see how Ann Arbor was faring as a city after the storm. The southwest side (which includes Ward 4, represented by Higgins) got hit really hard. As she was driving home, lightning hit a transformer, and there was a live wire dancing around the street. She’d also watched a garage get hit and a resulting fire. She said that city staff had responded well.

Several “lakes” had formed and were named for the streets where they were located, Higgins said. It was good to see people helping each other, Higgins said, getting cars out of the deep water. There were two firefighters injured, she said, and she hoped the city would get a report that they’re doing better. The staff did a good job and it was quite a display, she said.

During his report to the council, Powers noted that by the luck of nature, the storm on Thursday was less damaging than it could have been. Two firefighters were injured by the live wire Higgins had described earlier. One firefighter had been off-duty until the previous day.

Six roads were barricaded in connection with the storm, Powers said. High-priority roads were chosen for those barricades. There’d been six reports of basements flooding and two property owners had accepted the city’s offer of assistance for catastrophic cleanup. Compared to surrounding communities, Ann Arbor was very fortunate, he said.

Deputy police chief John Seto told the council that between 6-9 p.m. the police department received 64 calls for service, the majority of which were to assist motorists who’d been trapped in the rising water. The police department also assisted the fire department in responding to a structure fire as well as to some smaller fires created by downed wires.

Craig Hupy, interim public services area administrator, also stepped to the podium to respond to councilmember questions about the city’s response to the storm. Briere said that after the storm she’d driven through several low-lying areas. She’d spoken with a crew that was staffing a truck dealing with cleanup efforts, and one of the crew members said next time the city repaves Depot Street, the stormwater pipes should be enlarged. Briere said she had no way to assess whether that was a good idea or a bad idea. But she wanted to know when Depot Street is up for repaving.

Hupy said he didn’t know off the top of his head when Depot Street would be repaved. Generally, he said, stormwater on Depot Street flows to the west. He described a project that had been put in to give some relief in Depot Street and take the water directly to the Huron River. The challenge there is that you have to cross the MichCon site, and the cost of constructing across a contaminated site is so high that the project never went to its full scale. Hupy and Briere agreed that the basic problem is that the area is in the floodplain.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) asked for information on the amount of rainfall. Hupy gave a report out from the city’s rain gauges, but noted there was a possibility that accuracy had been affected due to the hail.

Policing: St. Patrick’s Day

City administrator Steve Powers described the St. Patrick’s day events as also somewhat weather-related, but ventured that the outcome was determined not by luck but by decisions made by police officers on Saturday evening.

Deputy police chief John Seto noted that this year, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday and came in conjunction with unseasonably warm weather. From the 24 hours from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m., the police department had received 308 calls for service, Seto told the council. By way of comparison to a similar timeframe for the previous week, he said, that’s twice as many. Five arrests were made in which someone was taken into custody, three of which were for fighting.

There was a period of time when the crowd grew to a point where South University Avenue needed to be closed off for the safety of the public, Seto said. Working with the University of Michigan department of public safety, he said, officers were able to clear the street of people in 90 minutes without any major incidents.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) told Seto she’d begun receiving complaints about debris left from Saturday. She wondered what the role of community standards officers would be in addressing that debris. Briere had alluded to football Saturdays in her question, and Seto described how that’s addressed through the day on a Saturday and on that evening. Seto indicated that community standards officers had gone out to address the St. Patrick’s Day litter on Monday morning.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) asked what kind of people took part in the St. Patrick’s Day revelry – were they students, or did they come into the city from out of town? Seto said the police don’t keep track of whether someone is a student, but said that they were not all students. A lot of visitors came from outside the city, Seto said.

Landscaping Buffer Change

The council considered a resolution that would have made changes in landscaping and land use buffer requirements in the city code. The council had previously postponed the vote from its March 5, 2012 meeting.

The first change would have restricted some requirements that have been added recently just to those plans that require city planning commission or city council approval: (1) providing landscaped islands for every 15 parking spaces; and (2) providing bioretention areas in 50% of the interior landscaping areas. Administrative amendments to existing plans would not trigger the requirements.

The second change would have involved existing requirements to provide buffers between parcels with conflicting land uses. Recent amendments to the code had added requirements that properties in R3 (townhouse dwelling) and R4 (multiple-family dwelling) districts include a buffer along the side and rear property lines if the parcel is immediately adjacent to a property that is principally used or zoned as residential.

The change considered by the council on March 19 would have removed the R4C zoning district from the recently-added land use buffer requirement. The rationale for exempting the R4C sites from the requirement was characterized in the staff memo as due to the fact that the R4C sites “are typically located on small lots in older neighborhoods near downtown. Most R4C lots are too small to accommodate a 15-foot wide conflicting land use buffer along the entire side and rear property lines.”

City councilmembers’ discussion included their interest in first receiving the report of a study committee, which has been looking at possible revisions to the R4C and R2A zoning code. The committee has looked at the issue of establishing maximum lot sizes in R4C districts, to prevent the accumulation of multiple parcels for a single project.

The change had been recommended 6-2 by the planning commission.

Landscape Buffer: Council Deliberations

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) led off deliberations by noting that she’d raised the point at the council’s previous meeting that the focus of the proposed ordinance change is on property zoned R4C. Because the R4C/R2A study committee is still going through its process and has not yet issued its report, Briere was interested in making sure the council did not modify the zoning code to eliminate protections for R4C properties. Briere noted the staff memo had described R4C parcels as generally small, so it would be difficult to apply the code and include a buffer.

However, Briere continued, it’s possible to combine R4C parcels to make a larger site for building. So Briere proposed to include R4C back into the list of zoning classifications that require a buffer. In terms of the actual wording of the proposed change, that meant eliminating the listing of R4 types, of which R4C is one. If all R4 types required a buffer, then R4C would as well.

Sabra Briere (Ward 4) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2)

City councilmembers Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2).

It’s worth pointing out that the “amendment” considered by the council with respect to R4C would essentially have taken the proposed revision to the city code and restored it to the status quo.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) inquired of Briere when the issue of R4C property might be taken up – after the study committee’s report comes out? Briere allowed that the council might see that report and decide not to revise the buffer requirement at all.

Higgins wanted to postpone consideration until the council sees the study committee report. She felt it would be “cleaner” to handle all the ordinance revisions that were going to be undertaken all in one go, instead of piecemeal. Briere wanted to know if Higgins was making a formal motion to that effect. Higgins said she would move for postponement, but that Briere would need to withdraw the effort to amend the proposal. Her amendment, explained Briere, was a effort to respect the planning staff recommendation to move ahead on the other aspects of the proposed revision – which related to the kinds of projects that trigger the landscaping requirements.

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) described how a final draft of the R4C study committee is currently being circulated. He agreed with Higgins that it’s better to handle everything together. His own view was that postponing the resolution would be better, and it could then be folded into the broader ordinance revision.

Higgins asked city planner Alexis DiLeo if it would be burdensome to the staff if council postponed the proposed revision. DiLeo indicated that postponing all of the revisions might be burdensome – there’s a somewhat pressing need for some of them, she said. However, with respect to Briere’s proposed amendment, it would not have a very large impact. For the part Briere wanted to amend out, it’s workable to deal with a postponement of a few months, DiLeo said.

Higgins observed that over the years, when the council has done things piecemeal, it’s created some of its own problems. She was less inclined to approve just part of the proposed revision. She said it sounded like, based on Derezinski’s remarks, that the study committee report is coming soon, so she’d support postponing. At that, Briere withdrew her proposed amendment.

Derezinski then moved to postpone the issue until the second meeting in April.

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) asked if the R4C/R2A study committee would include recommended ordinance changes. Derezinski indicated that it would not include explicit proposed ordinance changes. Rather, it would include the relevant concepts – setbacks, bundling of parcels and the like. That report would go first to the planning commission for drafting of ordinance language.

Based on Derezinski’s description of what would be included in the study committee’s report, Taylor said he would not support postponement. The work of the committee has been hard and difficult, but it’s taken longer than expected, he observed. Clean language is not going to be brought forward in the report. And the city planning staff says some of the revisions being proposed now would be useful now. So let’s get it done, Taylor suggested.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) indicated he was in favor of postponement and alluded to the hard work of the citizen study committee.

Mayor John Hieftje wanted to know why R4C was not included in the R4 classifications that would require a buffer. DiLeo reviewed how about nine months ago, the ordinance was revised to require the buffer – for R4C as well. Subsequently, the planning staff felt it would be good to remove the R4C area, so that R4C areas could be treated comprehensively. Based on DiLeo’s remarks, Hieftje said he would not support postponement, but would like to go back to consider Briere’s previous amendment.

Marcia Higgins

City councilmember Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).

Higgins expressed her disappointment at the view of Hieftje and Taylor, noting that the council had tasked the committee to do the work, and now a report was a month away from being produced. She felt if the council were not going to see the report for another six to eight months, she’d be less amenable to postponing.

Higgins cited Derezinski’s status as the city councilmember representative to the planning commission, saying that if the city council’s planning commission liaison says it makes sense to postpone, she felt she was willing to support postponement, and she encouraged her colleagues to support postponement as well.

Hieftje pointed out to Higgins that Derezinski had said the report would not contain specific ordinance language. Derezinski, however, followed up by saying that Higgins was “right on the money on this one.” Derezinski recalled how the study committee was first formed with one citizen representative per ward. That was then doubled to two citizens per ward. That doubled the amount of input, Derezinski said. Additional extended meetings were held so that other groups in the community could be included, he said. The council’s resolution didn’t ask for ordinance language from the study committee, he said. Derezinski said no one likes to kick the can down the road – but it’s a short road and a small can, he contended.

Taylor again pointed out the difference between two portions of the proposed revision under the council’s consideration – the portion that refers to R4C and portion that refers to site plan review, which the planning staff indicated would be useful to have in place now.

Anglin mentioned that small R4C parcels near downtown are not the only properties zoned R4C. Briere agreed with Anglin and noted that R4C areas near downtown could be at risk of a consolidation of lots, yielding a large lot where no buffer would be required. She felt it’s premature to go ahead with that portion of the revision that deals with R4C areas, but indicated agreement with Taylor’s point of view, saying that her bias is to go forward with the things that can be done today. Even with the study committee report in hand, she said, it could take a long time before an ordinance revision was drafted.

Outcome on postponement: The vote for postponement failed on a 5-3 vote. Voting for it were Anglin, Smith, Derezinski, Kunselman and Higgins. Voting against it were Briere, Taylor and Hieftje.

The council then returned to Briere’s amendment, which she re-introduced. It would have restored R4C as a zoning classification that required a buffer. Briere said she felt she was not causing conflict by essentially removing a staff-proposed revision to the ordinance. If it needed to be revised in the future, she said, the council could do that.

Derezinski indicated that rather than bounce back and forth, he felt the best way would be to consider the issue in the context of the study committee report, and he asked his colleagues to join him in voting against the amendment.

Taylor said he understood the vote for Briere’s amendment as a vote for the status quo. It does no violence to the ordinance and the consistency principle is maintained, Taylor said. He’d support the amendment. Hieftje said the amendment would continue to protect R4C areas.

Higgins characterized the amendment as yet another example of making changes at the council table when extensive work on a complex project had been done. She said she would not support the amendment or main motion.

Outcome on amendment: The amendment failed on a 5-3 vote. Voting for it were Hieftje, Smith, Briere, Taylor and Kunselman. Voting against it were Anglin, Derezinski and Higgins.

With the main motion back before the council, Briere said she’d take Higgins’ advice and vote no.

Kunselman said he’d also lean toward a no vote. He sought confirmation from the city attorney that all the council’s options would be preserved, even if the council voted down the proposed revisions.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) indicated that instead of voting it down, she would prefer to table the resolution. [Tabling is functionally similar to postponing, but does not include a specific time at which the council needs to consider the action again. After six months, if a tabled agenda item has not been taken back up, it automatically dies.] So Smith put forward a motion to table the issue.

Higgins pointed out that a tabled item needs to be brought back in six months. She felt that would allow enough time for the planning commission to put together an entire package of recommended revisions based on the R4C/R2A study committee recommendations. Derezinski indicated that he totally agreed with Higgins.

CTN microphone swap

A Community Television Network technician swapped out mayor John Hieftje's microphone during the March 19 meeting.

Briere pointed out that if the revision were simply defeated, they could be brought back to the council in whatever form it’s deemed appropriate. But with a motion to table, the resolution would need to be taken up off the table with exactly the same language that is currently in front of the council. So tabling would be the best outcome only if the council wants to see the same language again in the future.

Kunselman wondered if that night’s agenda could simply be re-opened – with the idea that the council could simply solve its dilemma by taking the item off the agenda. Hieftje, who presides over the meetings, indicated no enthusiasm for getting Smith to withdraw her motion to table, so that Kunselman’s suggestion could be pursued. So he simply told Kunselman there was a motion on the floor to table. Hieftje observed that the council did not seem to be accomplishing very much.

Taylor briefly reiterated his view that there’s part of the proposed revision that has current usefulness, indicating his disinclination to support tabling.

Outcome on tabling: The motion to table failed on a 5-3 vote. Voting for tabling were Anglin, Smith, Derezinski, Kunselman, and Higgins. Voting against it were Briere, Hieftje and Taylor.

On the question of the (unamended) ordinance revision, Hieftje said he wouldn’t support it, because the amendment had not been approved.

Outcome on the main question: The council rejected the ordinance revision on a 1-7 vote. The sole supporting vote was from Taylor.

Les Voyageurs Rezoning

The council considered a resolution to give final approval to a rezoning request and a site plan for an addition to the Habe Mills Pine Lodge – owned by the Society of Les Voyageurs. The rezoning was unanimously recommended for approval by the Ann Arbor planning commission at its Jan. 19, 2012 meeting. It also received initial approval from the city council at its Feb. 21, 2012 meeting.

The property owned by the society, at 411 Long Shore Drive near Argo Pond, is zoned public land, even though it’s owned by a private entity. The society is asking that the land be rezoned as a planned unit development (PUD), which would allow the group to build a 220-square-foot, one-story addition to the rear of the existing lodge, on its east side.

The nonprofit society is a University of Michigan student and alumni club, focused on nature and the outdoors. Named for French-Canadian voyageurs of the Great Lakes fur trade, it was founded in 1907 and is one of the university’s oldest fraternal student groups. The lodge was built in 1925 – about the same time as the city’s first zoning ordinance and zoning map. Five student members live at the lodge, and society alumni gather there for potluck Sunday dinners from September to April.

Les Voyageurs: Public Hearing

Thomas Partridge stated that he felt the French name of the society illustrated that what was being requested was a decision based on privilege, and claimed that it was related to the society’s connection with the University of Michigan. He called for every rezoning request to be tied to a requirement of paying into a fund to establish adequate and radically expanded affordable housing within the city of Ann Arbor.

Les Voyageurs: Council Deliberations

Responding to Partridge’s comments immediately following his turn at the microphone, mayor John Hieftje described the society’s house as an old house down by the river – not fancy. Hieftje ventured that it was hard to see how it could be criticized.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) noted that he believed there was a regular Sunday night dinner that would provide an opportunity for Partridge to visit and mingle with members of the society. Kunselman also ventured that the society had a backyard chicken permit so they’re doing what they can to maintain the property in a sustainable fashion. It’s a benefit to the society and the whole community to provide the proper zoning, Kunselman said.

Outcome: The council gave unanimous final approval to the Les Voyageurs rezoning.

Greenbelt Acquisitions

The council considered a resolution authorizing the purchase of development rights for two additional properties under its greenbelt program – the Van Natter Farm in Webster Township (about 25 acres for $126,867) and the Boike Farm in Northfield Township (about 136 acres for $502,307). Both owners agreed to make a donation of 20% of the fair market value of the property as part of the deals.

Greenbelt: Related Public Commentary, Council Communication

Kermit Schlansker addressed the council by saying that the government is breaking the Golden Rule – by not planning for the future. By not making material sacrifices that would help our children, we’re not treating our progeny in the way that we’d like to be treated, if we were them. We face a sure prospect of eternal poverty for our grandchildren and grandchildren, he said. As the price of oil grows so high that poor people can’t buy the gasoline they need to go to work, great hardships will follow, he warned. Urban sprawl is not just deplorable, it will become a killer if we don’t start to deal with it.

The only way to reduce energy use to sustainable levels is to use compact housing that reduces energy use by having reduced heating and transportation needs, Schlansker said. Common sense says we should put as much biomass back into the soil as possible, to make it more fertile, yet we ignore these basic concepts of sustainability, he said. He told councilmembers that when they are his age, they might be desperate because of the increased costs for everything. Schlansker reported that he’d attended a recent city forum on sustainability and based on that compared the city’s efforts to using a toothpick to shovel out from a snowstorm.

Schlansker called for a ring of farms around the city that could help feed the city. The starting point should be a series of colloquia, not lectures, he said. He called for an expansion of the city’s energy commission, in order to start implementing that.

Mayor John Hieftje responded to Schlansker’s comments by saying he was glad that Schlansker had mentioned the series of sustainability forums. He contended that the city was, as Schlansker had recommended, planning for local agriculture and doing more in that area than any other city Hieftje was aware of. He alluded to the building of hoop houses on greenbelt properties.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) followed up later in the meeting on the issue of sustainability, by mentioning that the city is looking at updating its solid waste plan. At some point, she said, that plan will come before the city council. There will be public engagement meetings in May 2012, she said. She ventured that it’s well past time to rewrite the solid waste plan.

During the brief council deliberations about the greenbelt acquisitions, Briere connected the acquisition of the land to Schlansker’s remarks during public commentary. Hieftje observed that the size of the Van Natter property was small, but good for growing food that could be sold at the farmers market.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) asked for a future update on the finances of the greenbelt program, including the endowment and what the endowment is being used for. [A detailed financial update for the past fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2011, was given at the greenbelt advisory commission's September 2011 meeting.]

Outcome: On separate votes, the council approved both greenbelt acquisitions.

Grass in Landfills

The council considered a resolution supporting the continued maintenance and enforcement of a 1990 statewide ban on adding yard waste, like lawn grass clippings, to landfills.

The city council’s resolution came in opposition to two bills, HB 4265 and HB 4266, passed by the Michigan state house of representatives on March 15 on a 67-40 and 66-41 vote, respectively. Together the bills would allow for yard waste to be added to landfills under certain conditions – when the landfill has a gas collection system and that gas is used in the production of electricity. Ann Arbor’s now-closed landfill uses such a gas collection system, which has produced around 3,000 MWh (mega-watt hour) of electricity a year. [.pdf of analysis of HB 4265 and HB 4266]

The council’s resolution was accompanied by a staff memo contending that methane gas-fueled generation is a less effective way to manage wastes, citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s municipal solid waste assessment: “Combustion or gasification with energy recovery, or waste-to-energy (WTE), is the environmentally preferable route for mixed solid wastes that are neither recyclable nor compostable.” The council’s resolution cites in situ composting as a more beneficial policy than adding yard waste to landfills in order to create and collect methane gas for electricity generation.

The council’s resolution also criticizes the pending state legislation for creating an “unfair competitive environment for yardwaste resources, impacting current tipfees and pricepoints.” Ann Arbor’s current costs for disposing of waste in a landfill is $24.83/ton, while its composting costs are $19/ton.

Mayor John Hieftje said that the legislation was being pushed by landfill owners. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) said that in his past he’d worked as an intern with the city and delivered yard waste. He said the politics of landfills and solid waste are well known.

Outcome: The resolution against putting yard waste into landfills was passed on a unanimous vote of the eight councilmembers present.

Sale of Land Wedge

The council was asked to consider the sale of 877 square feet of city land on Summit Street for $7,500.


The wedge-shaped parcel of land on Summit Street that is being sold by the city.

The parcel apparently had a murky history and was a part of the right-of-way for Wildt Street. Sale of the land to the owner of the immediately adjacent property will allow the new owner to construct a duplex after demolishing a dilapidated nuisance property.

Outcome: The council unanimously approved the land sale.

New Street Sweeper

The council considered a resolution authorizing the purchase of an Elgin street sweeper from Bell Equipment Co. for $175,175. It’s a replacement of a 10-year old sweeper that has required frequent repair over the last two years. The staff memo accompanying the resolution indicates that over the last two years, the old sweeper required maintenance and repairs 82 times with a total cost of more than $104,300.

The old sweeper will be cannibalized for high-value parts to be used by other sweepers in the city’s fleet, all of which are Elgin sweepers. The remaining vehicle shell will be sold as scrap metal.

Outcome: The council voted without comment to approve the purchase of a street sweeper.

Television Upgrades

The council considered a resolution approving a purchase order for $118,620 with VTP Inc. for an upgrade to the Community Television Networkstudio and control room equipment. The equipment will give CTN high-definition video capture capabilities to create television productions and internet content.

Outcome: The council approved the CTN equipment upgrade without deliberation.

Communications and Comment

Every city council agenda contains multiple slots 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: Public Art – Attorney Opinion

Toward the end of the meeting, during time reserved for councilmembers to communicate to the public and to their colleagues on upcoming issues, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) told his colleagues he’d be bringing forward a resolution that would provide the necessary direction to get a written opinion from the city attorney regarding the legal basis of the city’s public art ordinance. Kunselman contends, along with many others in the community, that the use of dedicated millage funds or fees by the public art program does not conform with Michigan law.

It’s an issue Kunselman has talked about for over two years, but he has never gone as far as to bring a resolution to the council table.

Comm/Comm: DDA TIF Capture

Kunselman also alerted his colleagues to the fact that he’d be bringing forward a resolution related to the computation of the taxes that can be captured by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority in its tax increment finance (TIF) district.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3)

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) wrangles his computer power cord at the start of the March 19 meeting.

By way of background, in May 2011 the city pointed out a provision in the DDA ordinance that indicates a limit on the amount of taxes that can be captured, based on the rate of increased taxable value in the DDA TIF district. It resulted in a return of taxes by the DDA to other taxing authorities. It’s an open question as to whether the amount of returned money was correct.

Subsequently, the DDA took a completely different position, saying that the ordinance does not limit TIF capture, and that it had not needed to return the money it had already paid.

One of the other taxing authorities, which has some of its taxes captured under the DDA TIF, is the Ann Arbor District Library. At the library board’s most recent meeting, AADL director Josie Parker indicated that the library’s position has not changed with respect to the interpretation of the ordinance. It’s up to the DDA as to whether they want to have a conversation, she said.

In a phone interview after the library board meeting, Kunselman told The Chronicle that he had not had any communication with Parker about the TIF capture issue.

[For background, see Chronicle coverage: "Library Weighs DDA Excess Tax Decision" and "Column: Tax Capture Is a Varsity Sport"]

Comm/Comm: Fuller Road Station

During public commentary, Rita Mitchell reviewed how the University of Michigan pulled out of a university-city partnership to build a parking structure at the Fuller Road location. [See Chronicle coverage: "UM, Ann Arbor Halt Fuller Road Project"] She felt it’s a good time to reassess where the city is going with the project, and it’s time to have open discussion about it. That discussion, she said, had started the previous Friday in the form of a walkaround on the property across from the current Amtrak station, organized by Sabra Briere (Ward 1). It was great to have members of the city staff there to have a give-and-take discussion about the kinds of things that can happen for rail service to Ann Arbor, she said.

Amtrak area tour

During a walkaround on Friday, March 16, 2012, an Amtrak train pulled into the station as the group of residents and staff were talking.

Mitchell felt that everyone supports non-motorized transportation into town and out of town with less use of cars. But she said the discussion needs to be careful and open – more open than she felt it’s been so far. She then ticked through some questions that she said should be answered: (1) How would a station be funded? (2) Should Ann Arbor own and operate a train station? Does Ann Arbor have the resources to do that? (3) What’s a good design, and what’s the appropriate location? (4) How can the alternative locations be assessed impartially?

Mitchell then indicated some attributes she felt the location of a train station should have: It should support the downtown and the Lowertown area, and provide easy non-motorized access to its location. She suggested a continuation of the dialogue.

Following public commentary, when Mitchell had made her remarks on the location of a new train station, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) took the occasion of the council communications time to address the Fuller Road Station project and Fuller Park – he said he liked to refer to it as Fuller Park because it is a park. He said he wanted to review the four resolutions the council had considered in connection with the project. The very first one, he said, he’d voted for. In November 2009, Anglin said, there’d been additional money appropriated. The specific council votes to which Anglin referred to were these:

  • 2009-Aug-17: Ann Arbor city council approves $213,984 of city funds for an environmental study and site assessment. Of that amount, $104,742 was appropriated from the economic development fund.
  • 2009-Nov-05: Ann Arbor city council approves memorandum of understanding with UM on Fuller Road Station.
  • 2009-Nov-05: Ann Arbor city council authorizes additional $111,228 for environmental study and site assessment.

A subsequent action that Anglin contends is connected to the Fuller Road Station project was taken by the council on June 20, 2011. That was the award of a $1,216,100 construction contract to Hoffman Brothers Inc. The project involves relocating a sanitary sewer south of Fuller Road, and east of the Maiden Lane and East Medical Center Drive intersection.

Mike Anglin, Steve Powers

Standing is councilmember Mike Anglin (Ward 5) as he talks with city administrator Steve Powers before the start of the meeting.

The project includes moving and replacing an 825-foot, 30-year-old section of 60-inch sanitary sewer pipe. It also includes construction of 525 feet of 24-inch stormwater pipe, as well as construction of 925 feet of a new 12-inch water main for service to Fuller Pool. The water main portion of the project will be completed in two phases, the second of which is planned for 2013.

Anglin voted for that contract award at the June 20 meeting, but then brought it back for reconsideration on July 5, 2011 and voted against it. His was the only dissenting vote.

At the council’s March 19, 2012 meeting, Anglin said he felt the city was starting to wade into the water of the project without the council’s approval. He said he was glad that the walkaround had taken place on Friday. But he said that as a council, they are tiptoeing into the water and it’s getting deeper and deeper. He wanted to re-evaluate the whole item so the city doesn’t keep spending staff time on it.

During his own communications, mayor John Hieftje responded to Anglin’s remarks by saying the Fuller Road Station process is ongoing, and there would be council action requested in the next little while. With respect to Anglin’s review of the action to date, Hieftje said, he believed that those expenditures will help secure the $2.8 million federal grant that is part of the federal funding for the a train station.

If you go back and read the record, Hieftje said, the $1.3 million utilities relocation work was a “free-standing effort” that benefited the Fuller Pool area and the UM hospital – and something like 30,000 people in Ward 1. It had been part of the program of utility work for some time, he said. It could have been done this year or next year, Hieftje said, but it was something that the council had decided was a free-standing effort.

Comm/Comm: Warming Center

Alexandra Hoffman made some remarks in support of medical marijuana dispensaries, but told the council she was there to talk about the Imagine Community. She reminded the council that representatives of the community have been coming to council meetings since the fall of 2011, and they’d been talking about the possibility of using the city-owned building at 721 N. Main since December. It would be a simple space, she said, that the city would still own, for the people of Ann Arbor to work on and congregate in. Liability has been an often-voiced concern, she noted, so one of their community, Alan Haber, has suggested that a lease could be signed and the liability could be transferred to her organization. She then showed the council a lease drawn up on poster board to illustrate what elements such a lease might contain.

Hoffman allowed that the winter is over, but the community will continue to work to prepare for next year, she said. There will be a fundraising benefit held on April 1, 2012, after the FestiFools parade, she said. [The April 1 event will be held at Hathaway's Hideaway from 5:30-7:30 p.m.] Every Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. the group has been holding a vigil in front of the old Borders store on East Liberty. She reported that last week a police officer had asked the group to take their banner down: “Let the people in.” Their banner would continue to say that and she hoped that they would not allow Ann Arbor to be turned into a city that silences protest.

Comm/Comm: Access to Knight’s

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) thanked staff for ensuring that businesses along Dexter Avenue will remain accessible during the construction work along that road, including Knight’s restaurant. Knight’s will remain open, he said.

Comm/Comm: Argo Cascades

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) gave a brief update from the park advisory commission, on which he serves as one of two councilmember representatives. The newly-constructed bypass around the Argo Dam – which has been named the Argo Cascades – is quickly becoming a favorite, he reported. A new bridge is being installed at the entrance. It’ll be poured the following week, he said, so it’s expected to be open again by the middle of April, but is currently closed in connection with the bridge construction. The Border-to-Border Trail segment in that area is also due to be paved by the end of April or the beginning of May, Taylor said.

Comm/Comm: Basic Rights

During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Thomas Partridge said he was there to call attention of the public to the ongoing onslaught against civil rights of Americans, perpetrated by Republican candidates for president. There’s an attempt to deny the basic civil right to affordable transportation, housing, education, and health care, Partridge said, and the denial of those rights is being given the deceptive heading of “budget reductions.”

At the end of the meeting, Partridge called for radical improvement in support of the full range of services that make life worthwhile, including for the poorest members of the community.

Present: Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins, John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor

Absent: Jane Lumm, Carsten Hohnke, Margie Teall

Next council meeting: April 2, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 301 E. Huron. [confirm date]

The Chronicle could not survive without regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor city council. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!


  1. By Bob Jones
    March 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm | permalink

    I feel we all should look into the Dream Nite Club law suit………there are always to sides to the story

  2. By Mark Koroi
    March 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm | permalink

    I would disagree with City Prosecutor Robert West that the Administrative Procedures Act apply here since they apply to State of Michigan proceedings – that is unless of course the City of Ann Arbor adopted the A.P.A. operating procedures into its municipal ordinances.

    A licensing authority’s failure to incorporate published operating procedures into its disciplinary hearing process can be construed as a due process violation.

    I also find it odd that A City Council member is presiding over the hearing as a decisionmaker when he is employed by the City of Ann Arbor. The preferred procedure I have seen is to hire an independent referee to preside over hearing proceedings.

  3. By Bob Elton
    March 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm | permalink

    At the risk of sounding a little picky, I think it is inaccurate to describe GM, Ford and FIAT/Chrysler as “the three major manufacturers”. GM is still #1, but Ford is #6, and FIAT is around 12th, in world rankings.

    It would be hard to describe them as “the Detroit 3″, as some other news sources do, since FIAT, while having some offices in the Detroit area, makes most of the cars it sells in the US in Canada and Mexico.

    Bob Elton

  4. By John Floyd
    March 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm | permalink

    Why would Councilman Kunselman need a resolution for the city attorney to issue a written opinion about the legality of the % for Art ordinance? Of course Mr. Postema has already done all the work for such an opinion – surely the council would not have passed it without first assuring itself & taxpayers that this diversion of funds was legal. Of course Mr. Postema, as a Harvard-trained professional, would have written up the results of his/staff’s research when the research was done. Of course council would have looked at his memo before they voted to approve the % for Art ordinance. All Postema needs to do is print this existing memo on his office’s letterhead, sign it, and deliver it.

    Why should it take a resolution from council to get a memo printed on letterhead and signed by its author, when council has already seen, reviewed, and accepted Mr. Postema’s memo? Is there some other dimension to this issue?

  5. March 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm | permalink

    So grass at dispensaries is ok, but grass at the landfill is not?

  6. March 27, 2012 at 1:37 am | permalink

    The new cafe at City Hall looks like it would be an ideal place for some “medibles”.

  7. March 27, 2012 at 9:45 am | permalink

    Medibles? Are you referring to Alice B. Toklas brownies?

  8. By Leslie Bolgos
    March 27, 2012 at 4:26 pm | permalink

    Re: 6 & 7, If only there were a “Like” option… :)