Archive for June, 2012

Ann Arbor City Council OKs 618 S. Main

Ann Arbor city council meeting (June 18, 2012): Of the two potentially controversial items on the council’s agenda, only one actually resulted in much conversation at the meeting: the site plan approval and brownfield financing for the 618 S. Main project. A possible revision to the city’s year-old medical marijuana licensing ordinance was the other item that could have provoked extended debate – but instead it was quickly postponed, until October, in light of several pieces of legislation currently pending in the Michigan legislature.

From left: Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) and developer Dan Ketelaar.

From left: Councilmember Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) and 618 S. Main developer Dan Ketelaar at the June 18, 2012 Ann Arbor city council meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The council debated but ultimately approved both the site plan and the brownfield plan for the 618 S. Main project – an apartment complex that Dan Ketelaar’s Urban Group Development Co. intends to market to young professionals. The 7-story building would include 190 units for 231 bedrooms, plus two levels of parking for 121 vehicles. The project had received a recommendation for approval from the city planning commission on Jan. 19, 2012.

The project’s approval meant that the council granted a variance in the height allowed in the D2 (downtown interface) zoning district – 85 feet, which is 25 feet taller than the 60-foot limit allowed in D2. The majority of councilmembers felt that the project reflected a months-long positive collaboration by the developer with neighbors and with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, which approved a $650,000 grant to complement the $3.7 million brownfield plan.

The project was opposed by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), who essentially indicated he did not trust Ketelaar and other “speculators.” Kunselman also seemed unconvinced of the environmental benefits of the project. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) joined Kunselman in voting against the site plan and the brownfield plan. Both votes were 8-2 – Sandi Smith (Ward 1) was absent from the 11-member council.

In other business, the council made an adjustment to the current fiscal 2012 budget just before the fiscal year ends on June 30, to ensure that the city conforms with the state statute on uniform budgeting and accounting. The adjustment to the city’s general fund allowed for $1.3 million in additional expenses. Despite that, CFO Tom Crawford said he felt the city would end the year around “break even.”

The council also took action to allocate $1,244,629 to different nonprofits that provide human services. The amount was set as part of the FY 2013 budget, which the city council approved on May 22, 2012.

The council also authorized around $1.5 million for new dump trucks – with stainless steel parts to ensure a longer life than the vehicles they are replacing. And councilmembers approved a roughly $800,000 contract for a five-phase study to analyze stormwater in the city.

Other expenses authorized by the council included a $48,000 annual contract renewal with Governmental Consultant Services Inc., the city’s lobbyist in Lansing, and a $75,000 contract with Ann Arbor SPARK, the area’s economic development agency.

Also at the council’s meeting, nominations for three commissions were floated, to be voted on at the next meeting: Ken Clein for the planning commission; John German for the environmental commission; and Archer Christian for the greenbelt advisory commission. [Full Story]

Ashley & Madison

Washtenaw Dairy. Witnessed couple smooshing ice cream cones together to mix flavors – blech.  Later, guy’s cone slips out of paper wrapper, but he saves it before it hits the ground. NB: Keep your cone under control at all times.

A2: Business

Inc. magazine published a column by Mark Hodesh, owner of Downtown Home & Garden, who describes why he supports the federal Affordable Care Act: ”I’m very interested in offering health care – in part because it’s the right thing to do, but that’s not really my motive. Really, it’s just pragmatic. We’re a small downtown store, and we compete with the national chains. You know, the ones with the huge parking lots. Well, we have six parking spaces. We remain competitive by offering an attractive benefits package. And a big part of that benefits package is health care.” [Source]

Townhome Project Raises Density Concerns

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (June 19, 2012): A proposal to build townhomes on a parcel along Ellsworth Road drew harsh criticism from nearby residents, who argued that this part of Ann Arbor already has more housing units than the city’s services and infrastructure can support.

Claudia Myszke

Claudia Myszke, managing agent of the Forest Hills Cooperative, spoke on behalf of residents there who have concerns about a proposed townhome project on Ellsworth. (Photos by the writer.)

The annexation request for the site of the Summit Townhomes project was recommended for city council approval by the planning commission. However the planning commission postponed action on a related zoning and area plan proposal.

The 2.95-acre site at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road, east of Stone School Road, is currently located in Pittsfield Township. The developer wants to remove an existing single-family home and detached garage, and build 24 townhomes in four, two-story buildings, with attached single-car garages for each unit. The plan calls for R3 (townhouse dwelling district) zoning.

Several residents from the nearby Forest Hills Cooperative townhouse complex came to the June 19 meeting to speak in opposition to the project. They argued that this area is already densely developed, with several major housing developments and a lack of services, like places for children to play. Traffic along Ellsworth was also a concern, especially in light of the soon-to-open Costco on that road, west of South State Street.

In part based on that feedback, commissioners unanimously voted to postpone the zoning and area plan proposals, and asked city planning staff a range of questions that they’d like to have answered before considering those requests. The concerns related to zoning options, traffic volume, the location and amount of parkland in that area, and the capacity of utilities to handle increased density. However, the annexation request will move forward to be considered by the Ann Arbor city council. It was recommended for approval on a 6-1 vote, with Erica Briggs dissenting. Eric Mahler and Wendy Woods were absent.

Briggs also dissented on another request considered by the the planning commission at its meeting – to approve the rezoning and site plan for an expansion of Knight’s Market, and Spring and Miller. The proposal – which had been originally discussed, but ultimately postponed, at the planning commission’s May 15, 2012 meeting – won approval from the other six commissioners, and will be forwarded to the city council for their consideration. Several commissioners expressed concerns, but felt comfortable enough to approve the rezoning and site plan. Briggs said the potential for future commercial expansion and other issues made it impossible for her to support the project.

In other action, the commission unanimously approved their annual work plan, as well as a resolution affirming the city’s master plan. Both actions are required annually under the planning commission’s bylaws.

It was the final meeting for Briggs, who is ending her term this month. She did not request reappointment. Her colleagues on the commission praised her work, with Bonnie Bona saying: ”You may not realize it, but you’ve had a strong influence on all of us.” Ken Clein – a principal with Quinn Evans Architects – has been nominated to replace her and will likely receive city council confirmation at the council’s July 2 meeting. [Full Story]

West Park

West Park pond, dusk: Eleven nearly-grown ducklings feeding voraciously, one adult duck keeping watch. Also sighted: muskrat; frog.

UM Regents Briefed on Athletic Budget

At their June 21, 2012 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents were briefed by UM athletic director Dave Brandon on the athletic department budget. It does not require regental approval.

A surplus of $5.8 million is projected for FY 2013, after allowing for $4.5 million for deferred maintenance. Revenue growth is positive, budgeted for an increase to $130.32 million in FY 2013, he said, compared to anticipated revenues of $128.69 million in the current fiscal year. The largest individual line item comes from ticket sales, which are budgeted at $44.05 million, down from a projected $48.988 million in FY 2012. Brandon noted that the lower ticket sales reflect fewer football games this coming season – six, compared to eight games … [Full Story]

AATA Opts for 80/20 Health Care

At its June 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board passed a resolution in order to comply with the Michigan legislature’s Act 152 for non-union employees, which was signed into law on Sept. 27, 2011. The AATA will now limit its contribution to medical benefits for non-union employees to 80% of the premium for the Blue Care Network Core Plan, starting Aug. 1, 2012.

The law limits the amount that a public employer like the AATA can make to its employee’s medical benefits plans – $5,500 for single-person coverage, $11,000 for two-person coverage, and $15,000 for family coverage. However, the act provides another option – under which a public employer can choose through a vote of its governing body (in this case, the … [Full Story]

Sunset & Daniel

Longboarders celebrating Go Skateboarding Day old school style by charging Sunset hill.

AATA Connector Study to Move Ahead

Pending the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority will be moving ahead with an alternatives analysis of a connector study – for the corridor running from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94. The alternatives analysis phase will result in a preferred choice of technology (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and identification of stations and stops.

That study will move forward, based on a total of $300,000 of local funding that has been identified to provide the required match for a $1.2 million federal grant awarded last year for the alternatives analysis phase. The breakdown of local support … [Full Story]

AATA OKs North-South Rail Planning Costs

At its June 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board authorized the funds for north-south commuter rail planning that were already part of its approved fiscal year 2012 budget, which runs through Sept. 30, 2012. The total in the line item for the WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway) is $230,000, of which $45,000 are AATA funds.

Other entities that have contributed money to the WALLY project include: Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority ($50,000); Washtenaw County ($50,000); city of Howell DDA ($37,000); and a federal grant ($48,000). The planned expenditures are for station design work and for other consulting work on railroad operations and liability issues.

Ordinarily, the expenditure of funds from the budget would not necessarily need an explicit board authorization. … [Full Story]

AATA OKs 5 New Lift-Equipped Buses

At its June 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Board approved the purchase of five new wheelchair lift‐equipped paratransit vehicles for $390,000 from Mobility Transportation Services. These vehicles are to be purchased using federal formula funds with matching funds from the State of Michigan. The vehicles are to be used for the AATA’s paratransit service, which is marketed under the name A-Ride.

The AATA’s capital and categorical grant program, on which a public hearing was held at the June 21 meeting, includes “5 Small Replacement Buses for Paratransit Service” with a federal share of $600,000.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed … [Full Story]

UM Tuition to Increase 2.8%, Budget Up 3.9%

University of Michigan’s tuition for students at its Ann Arbor campus will increase 2.8% in the coming year for in-state first- and second-year (lower division) undergraduates – to $12,994 per year – following approval by the board of regents at their June 21, 2012 meeting. Tuition for out-of-state lower division undergraduates will increase 3.5% per year, to $39,122. Most graduate and professional programs would see tuition increases of 3%. Voting against the tuition increases were three regents: Democrats Denise Ilitch and Larry Deitch, and Republican Andrea Fischer Newman.

A year ago, tuition increased 6.7% for in-state undergraduates at the Ann Arbor campus, and 4.9% for out-of-state undergraduates. At the June 2011 regents meeting, Ilitch and Deitch had cast dissenting votes for … [Full Story]

UM Housing Rates Set to Increase in FY 2013

Residence hall rates at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus will increase 3% this fall, following a 5-3 vote by the UM board of regents at their June 21, 2012 meeting. Dissenting were regents Denise Ilitch, Larry Deitch and Andrea Fischer Newman. Last year, the regents had also approved a 3% rate increase. The proposed rate increase for Northwood Community Apartments – housing primarily for graduate students and families on UM’s north campus in Ann Arbor – will be an average of 1% for the 2012-13 academic year.

Room and board costs for a double residence hall room would increase from $9,468 to $9,752. A staff memo accompanying the proposal indicates that the 3% increase for residence halls is divided into two components: … [Full Story]

UM Regents OK 8 Conflict-of-Interest Items

The University of Michigan board of regents authorized eight items that required disclosure under the state’s Conflict of Interest statute, in a unanimous vote taken at the board’s June 21, 2012 meeting. The law requires that regents vote on potential conflict-of-interest disclosures related to university staff, faculty or students.

The items often involve technology licensing agreements or leases. This month, seven of the items were approved unanimously and related to the following businesses: Avicenna Medical Systems Inc., Arborlight, Ascenta Therapeutics Inc., EXO Dynamics, Opsidio Inc., Photon Affinity, and Superior Rehabilitation & Assessment Solutions Inc.

Larry Deitch recused himself from voting on an eighth item, which was related to an amendment in a license agreement with NanoBio Corp. Deitch did not publicly state his reason … [Full Story]

UM Regents OK Michigan Health Corp. Plan

At their June 21, 2012 meeting, University of Michigan regents approved the fiscal 2013 business plan and budget for the Michigan Health Corporation. MHC is a nonprofit founded in 1996 that’s part of the UM Health System, with 12 subsidiaries that are operated as partnerships with other entities statewide. [.pdf of FY 2013 budget and business plan]

In fiscal 2013, MHC is projecting a net loss of $4,975,845, compared to a loss of $1,116,769 in fiscal 2012. Those figures incorporate costs for startup operations. If startup costs are excluded, MHC anticipates a $1,489,919 net gain in FY 2013, compared to a projected $2,335,033 gain in FY 2012.

One of the startup ventures being formed is called Paradigm, which is described in the MHC report as … [Full Story]

Renovations OK’d for UM Cancer Center

A $2 million”backfill” renovation project for the University of Michigan Cancer Center was approved by regents at their June 21, 2012 meeting.

According to a staff memo, the project includes renovating about 6,300-square-feet of space that was vacated when the pediatric hematology and oncology units – and both pediatric and adult bone marrow transplant teams – were relocated from the Cancer Center to the new C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. The renovation involves converting pediatric infusion spaces to adult infusion services, and offices to exam rooms. The work also will “provide additional staff team spaces, upgrade and expand public waiting areas, and make other minor changes to improve patient access to educational and support services,” according to the … [Full Story]

UM Regents Approve Health Budget

University of Michigan regents approved the fiscal 2013 operating budget for the UM Hospitals and Health Centers, in a unanimous vote taken at their June 21, 2012 meeting. Doug Strong, CEO of the UMHHC, made a presentation on the FY 2012 budget – which ends June 30, 2012 – as well as on the budget plan for FY 2013. He described the organization as financially healthy, though stressed by the same economic pressures as similar entities.

For the current fiscal year 2012, revenues are expected to reach $2.24 billion, with an 0.5% negative operating margin of $11.3 million. However, that’s better than the anticipated loss of $23.5 million that had been budgeted for the year, Strong said. The loss is due in large … [Full Story]

Deitch Elected UM Board of Regents Chair

One of the first actions taken at the June 21, 2012 University of Michigan board of regents meeting was to elect new officers – an event that happens annually in accordance with the regental bylaws. In unanimous votes, vice chair Larry Deitch was elected chair of the eight-member board, replacing Denise Ilitch. Andrea Fischer Newman was elected vice chair. Both positions are effective July 1, 2012 and run through June 30, 2013.

Before the unanimous vote, Ilitch read a statement, highlighting her appreciation for UM president Mary Sue Coleman and each regent. She showed a short film that was produced by the student-run Filmic Productions, showing key campus events over the past year, including the January 2012 … [Full Story]

AATA to Provide Some AAPS Bus Service

Starting in the fall of 2012, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority will provide bus service for three public school  routes – one for each of the comprehensive high schools in the Ann Arbor Public Schools system. The AATA service will be provided in lieu of services currently provided for those three school bus routes, for which the AAPS contracts with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

The information packet for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board’s monthly meeting on June 21, 2012 includes as part of CEO Michael Ford’s written report to the AATA board: “… we have agreed to replace three school bus routes – one from each comprehensive high school – with AATA service. These high school students will use … [Full Story]

Division & Liberty

Mitch Ryder performs at Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch. Before taking the stage, Ryder chatted with Tim Marshall, president of Bank of Ann Arbor. [photo 1]  [photo 2] [photo 3]

AAPS Candidate Info Session: Attendance 0

On Tuesday evening, June 18, 2012, the Ann Arbor Public Schools held an information session for prospective candidates for election to the AAPS board of trustees. Board president Deb Mexicotte’s seat is the only one up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. It is a four-year term, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

Current trustees Andy Thomas and Christine Stead were on hand to talk over the roles and responsibilities of a trustee. No potential candidates showed, however. Attendance at the information meeting was not mandatory for candidacy.

To appear on the ballot as a school board candidate, candidates must file paperwork at the Washtenaw County clerk’s office by Tuesday, Aug. 14 by 4 p.m. Candidates must file an affidavit of identity and … [Full Story]

AAPS Board Passes 2012-13 Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (June 13, 2012): The Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education passed a $188.96 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1.

AAPS school board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

That budget reflects roughly $4 million in spending cuts compared to last year’s budget, and reflects the elimination or restructuring of some transportation services, a reduction in the budget for substitute teachers, and the consolidation of high school summer school programs.

The approved budget also calls for using $6.54 million, or about one-third, of the district’s current fund equity, which caused trustee Christine Stead to cast her vote against the budget. Stead expressed strong concern that the budget neither allows for incremental expenditure shifts, nor sets the district up for successfully weathering the 2013-14 budget cycle and beyond. “I want us to use our past year’s experience as a data point,” she said, “… [T]o act like we are, with the information we have, is difficult for me to support.”

The June 13 meeting also saw the approval of three special briefing items – a renewal of the district’s food service contract with Chartwells, a resolution to upgrade human resources and finance software, and a set of policy revisions. Special briefing items are reviewed and voted on by the board in a single meeting instead of being entertained as first and second briefing items at two consecutive regular meetings.

Finally, the board approved the contract of Robyne Thompson as the new assistant superintendent of secondary education, and extended the contract held with AFSCME Local 1182, which primarily represents custodians and maintenance workers in the district. [Full Story]