Many police in and out of the storefront Bongs and Thongs. Two people watching described it as a raid? Plain white van part of the process. Lacking more information or details.
Bride and bridesmaids in wedding attire taking pictures in front of TKWu Chinese food on Liberty.
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Aug. 20, 2012): With no major action items on the agenda, highlights of this week’s AADL board meeting related to the effort to build a new downtown library: (1) a presentation on trends for public libraries, including digital media and non-traditional collections, and (2) an update from the bond proposal campaign committee.
Ellie Serras, chair of the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee, spoke during public commentary to brief the board on actions of that group. It was formed earlier this year to support a $65 million, 30-year bond proposal that the board voted to put on the Nov. 6 ballot. Serras described the committee’s outreach efforts, including its website, Twitter account (@OurNewLibrary), Facebook group, promotional mailing, yard signs, and meetings with individuals and groups in the community.
Committee members are committed to this project and they want everyone to know how important it is, she said. ”It’s a life changer.”
In the context of the proposed building project, AADL director Josie Parker told the board that library staff are being asked about the relevancy of public libraries, so she thought it was appropriate to address that question at a formal board meeting by looking at changes that public libraries are facing. Associate director Eli Neiburger described how the library is responding to changes in the publishing industry regarding digital content. Currently, publishers are fairly restrictive in allowing public libraries to access digital content for patrons. So the Ann Arbor library has started negotiating licensing deals directly with creators – including filmmakers of the 2009 “Grown in Detroit” documentary, and the author of the graphic novel “Poopy Claws” – to allow AADL patrons to access those works through online streaming and limitless downloads, respectively.
Associate director Celeste Choate described the library’s non-media, non-traditional collections, which include art prints, energy meter readers, Science to Go kits, telescopes and electronic musical “tools.” The full list of collections is on the “Unusual Stuff to Borrow” page of AADL’s website. Additional collections are in the works, including art tools and kits for science experiments.
Though Neiburger described storage needs for digital media as trivial – he could keep 200,000 copies of “Poopy Claws” on his cell phone, if he were so inclined – the needs for non-traditional physical items are more challenging. The library’s tracking/circulation software is well-suited to adapt, because that system doesn’t care about size, he said. “But the shelf sure does.” It was an implicit reference to some of the arguments put forward in the board’s decision to pursue a new downtown building.
Also during the Aug. 20 meeting, Choate reported on a recent satisfaction survey for patrons of the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which is operated by AADL and serves over 400 people. The library received high marks from those who responded to the survey, she said. [.pdf of survey results]
I know a lot of people who look forward to their high school reunions, others who dread them, and still others who avoid them like the plague. My brother falls squarely in the third category. “If I was that eager to see you,” he says, “why would I have waited five years?”
Now that we have Facebook, we already know who’s gained weight and who’s gone bald, so what else do we really need to see? Maybe that’s why attendance for reunions nationwide has dropped dramatically.
As for me, I like reunions. Yes, high school was often traumatic – a time when I could actually think everybody really was focused on my bad hair day, because what else could possibly be more important than scrutinizing my many flaws? But on the whole, I liked high school. I liked most of my classes at Huron High, from Homebuilding to Humanities. I had great teachers, and I made lifelong friends.
But a high school reunion can test all those memories, and throw us back into the same traumatized state we fell into the first time. One friend, who was a tough, popular guy in high school, has skipped all our reunions, he told me, out of fear. Despite my peer pressure, he did not show up for this one, either.
Man who uses wheelchair to get around, with sign indicating 3 jokes for $1. Wallet check reveals I’m fresh out of all cash, but my pitiful look earned one gratis. It involved a Democrat, a Republican, Jesus and a donut.
The meeting of the Washtenaw County board of canvassers to conduct recounts of some ballots cast during the Aug. 7, 2012 elections has been set for Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Races to be recounted include the race for city of Ann Arbor Ward 4 Democratic councilmember. The final results across the nine precincts of Ward 4 showed incumbent Margie Teall with a total of 848 (49.5%) votes, compared to 866 (50.5%) for Jack Eaton – an 18-vote difference.
The city of Ypsilanti Ward 3 Democratic councilmember race will also be recounted. In that race, Pete Murdock tallied 440 (60.03%) votes compared to 242 (33.02%) for Mike Eller and 47 (6.41%) for Ted Windish.
Three races in Augusta Township will be recounted, …
Again on the agenda of the Washtenaw County board commissioners for Sept. 5 will be the articles of incorporation for a new countywide transit authority. The intended outcome is not for the board to rescind or amend in a significant way the articles it approved on Aug. 1, 2012 – on a 6-4 vote.
Instead, the point of re-introducing the agenda item is to provide an opportunity for the board to affirm the administrative changes to the articles of incorporation that took place after the board’s Aug. 1 vote.
The administrative changes were already included in the documents by the other three parties to the four-party agreement when they subsequently ratified the document. Those parties are the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is leading this effort. The Ann Arbor city council voted (for a third time) to approve the articles of incorporation at its Aug. 9, 2012 meeting; the Ypsilanti city council voted at its Aug. 14 meeting (also for a third time); and the AATA board voted (for a second time) at its meeting on Aug. 16.
News of the agenda item came from an email sent by Washtenaw County board chair Conan Smith to other commissioners on the evening of Aug. 22. It’s not entirely clear whether the board will: (1) take a vote that affirms the administrative (non-substantive) nature of the changes that were made after the board approved the document on Aug. 1; or (2) take a vote that amends the document to match the version approved by the other three parties.
Previous re-votes have been driven by substantive amendments made by one of the parties to the agreement. For example, the Ypsilanti city council amended the four-party accord after the Ann Arbor city council first voted, on March 5, 2012. That amendment involved service charges applied to the respective cities’ existing millages. When the agreement went back to the Ann Arbor city council, that body amended the document further – which meant that it returned to the Ypsilanti city council for its approval again. The AATA board then ratified the agreement.
It was expected to be approved by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners without further substantive amendment. But on Aug. 1 the board made a change to the size of the majority needed, in order for the new transit authority’s board to change the articles of incorporation – from 2/3 to 4/5 of the 15 board members. That triggered the most recent round of approvals by the various bodies.
But those approvals incorporated some changes that were driven by a desire to harmonize the county board’s amendment with the rest of the document, as well as with Act 196 of 1986 – the act under which the new transit authority will be incorporated. For example, the 4/5 majority requirement for changes to the articles of incorporation is at apparent odds with one kind of change to the articles specifically mentioned in Act 196 – a change in jurisdictions that are part of the authority. Act 196 explicitly indicates that a 2/3 vote is required. So an administrative change undertaken after the board’s Aug. 1 meeting was to add the clause: “… unless another vote of Board is required under the terms of these Articles or provided for in Act 196.”
The view of legal counsel for the four parties was apparently that it’s not actually necessary for those changes to be explicitly re-voted and affirmed by the county board of commissioners. However, there is at least some sentiment on the county board that the changes might be construed as substantive and contrary to the intent of the county board, which could become an unnecessary point of contention down the road.
The AATA is current finalizing the details of a five-year service plan that will need to be published as one of several conditions that must be met before the AATA could transition into the newly incorporated authority, to be called The Washtenaw Ride. This week, the AATA board called a special meeting for Sept. 5 to unveil that service plan.
Earlier in the year, the AATA had hoped to be in a position to possibly place a transit millage proposal on the ballot this November. But at this point, that won’t be possible. Any transit millage proposal will come at a later election.
After the jump, this report describes the administrative changes in question and possible misinterpretations.
The board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has called a special meeting for Sept. 5, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. The purpose of the meeting is simply to release publicly the five-year service plan associated with a possible transition of the AATA to a new transit authority to be incorporated under Act 196 of 1986 – to be called The Washtenaw Ride.
Publication of the service plan is one of the conditions that must be met before Washtenaw County can be asked by the AATA to file the articles of incorporation for the new transit authority. A draft of the plan was released on April 26, 2012.
At the AATA’s most recent regular board meeting, held on Aug. 16, 2012, strategic planner Michael …
Parents of Lawton Elementary School students meeting to discuss 2nd grade class sizes for upcoming school year – 30 and 31 students per class.
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Aug. 16, 2012): The AATA board achieved its minimum quorum of four out of seven members at its monthly meeting. But they were joined by three as-yet non-voting members of a possible new transit authority, The Washtenaw Ride – which could have a countywide governance structure and service area.
As part of that goal of establishing the new authority, the AATA board gave final approval to a four-party agreement – between the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA. The agreement would establish a framework for the transition of the AATA to a transit authority incorporated under Act 196 of 1986 – to be called The Washtenaw Ride. That authority would have a 15-member board.
An unincorporated version of the Washtenaw Ride’s board (the U196) has been meeting since late 2011. The three guests at the table for the Aug. 16 AATA board meeting are representatives of three districts in the possible new authority: Karen Lovejoy Roe (Southeast District), Bob Mester (West District) and David Phillips (Northeast District).
Those three were not there to vote, and did not participate in deliberations, though they could have. However, Lovejoy Roe – who serves as Ypsilanti Township clerk, an elected position – gave one of the most enthusiastic statements of support for the countywide initiative that’s been heard at the AATA board table over the last two years. “I’m just really excited about where we’re headed as a community, as a county at large. I know that there’s been a lot of hiccups, but I think that that’s normal … I’m committed, and I think that those who’ve asked me to be here working willingly and openly to do what’s best for all county residents [are, too] …”
One element of the 30-year vision that the AATA has developed for countywide transportation is a north-south commuter rail connection between Ann Arbor and Howell, in Livingston County. And the planning effort was given continued support at the Aug. 16 meeting when the board awarded a $105,200 contract to SmithGroupJJR for station location and design services in connection with the WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway) project.
That overall planning effort was given a boost by a somewhat unexpected $640,000 federal grant to the AATA and Michigan Dept. of Transportation. The grant was awarded on Aug. 6, 2012 under the Transportation, Community and System Preservation (TCSP) program. AATA had applied for the grant last November, but did not have high expectations, given the competitive nature of the grants.
In other business, the board decided to accept a non-applicable penalty – which has no actual impact – and not comply with Michigan’s Public Act 192 for its unionized employees. The act mandates limits on how much public employers can contribute to their employee health care costs. The decision was essentially based on deference to a federal law that applies to agencies receiving federal funding – like the AATA. That federal law requires benefits like health care to be collectively bargained, not stipulated. Under the state law, failure by the AATA to comply would just mean that it would be denied state funds to which it is not even entitled.
In the meeting’s other business item, the AATA approved a three-year contract with CBS Outdoor Advertising of Lexington, New York, to handle placement of ads on its buses and bus stops. That’s a change from the previous contract, which was held by Transit Advertising Group (TAG) of Farmington Hills, Mich.
An expansion of the Food Gatherers’ facility in Ann Arbor moved ahead following action at the Ann Arbor planning commission’s Aug. 21, 2012 meeting. Commissioners unanimously recommended approval of changes to the nonprofit’s planned unit development (PUD), which will allow for a 12,646-square-foot addition to the back of the existing 16,977-square-foot building.
That building houses the nonprofit’s administrative offices, storage warehouse, and training space. The plan also will add 22 parking spaces to the site, and includes an expansion of produce-washing stations, used to clean vegetables grown at gardens on the site. The Carrot Way site is located on the north side of Ann Arbor off of Dhu Varren Road, east of Pontiac Trail.
According to a staff memo, the changes include a …
The site plan for a new Fiat showroom at 2095 W. Stadium Boulevard was recommended for approval by the Ann Arbor planning commission at its Aug. 21, 2012 meeting.
The plan calls for demolishing a 2,505-square-foot automotive service building and constructing a 3,408-square-foot showroom. The 30,010-square-foot site is zoned C3 (fringe commercial) and is located next to the post office on the west side of Stadium between Federal Drive and East Liberty. It was recently acquired by the Suburban Collection of Troy, which operates a Chrysler Jeep dealership across the street at 2060 W. Stadium. Suburban also owns Cadillac and Chevrolet dealerships located on Jackson Avenue.
The planning staff had recommended this project for approval. It will now be forwarded to the city council for …
A request to change the site plan for Plymouth Green Crossings – a mixed-use complex off of Plymouth Road, west of Green Road – was unanimously recommended for approval by the Ann Arbor planning commissioners at their Aug. 21, 2012 meeting.
The original planned unit development (PUD) agreement was approved in early 2006. The site includes a bank, two mixed-use buildings (housing and retail/commercial) and attached garages.
The current request proposes six major changes: (1) allowing the ground floor of a proposed three-story mixed-use building – on the site’s northeast corner – to be used for parking or flexible space for special events; (2) increasing the use of potential restaurant space within the site from 7,000 square feet to 14,224 square feet; (3) eliminating …
An effort to develop off-leash dog parks in central Ann Arbor took a step forward at the Ann Arbor park advisory commission’s Aug. 21, 2012 meeting. The commission unanimously voted to direct its dog park subcommittee to work with city staff and develop recommendations that could lead to additional off-leash dog parks. Those recommendations are expected to be presented at PAC’s Sept. 18, 2012 meeting.
John Lawter, PAC’s vice chair, has been leading this effort – though he did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. A year ago, he gave a presentation on the topic at PAC’s Aug. 16, 2011 meeting, and cited the need for another off-leash area in the central part of the city. There are only two legal off-leash …
University of Michigan Marching Band is practicing. Summer is, indeed, almost over.
A public art millage will be on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot for Ann Arbor voters. That decision was made by the Ann Arbor city council at its Aug. 20, 2012 meeting on a unanimous vote. One wording change made at the meeting was to replace “public art” with “art in public places” throughout the charter amendment.
The wording change was undertaken to make clear that organizations like The Ark or the Michigan Theater would not benefit from such a millage, so that their supporters would not mistakenly believe that the millage would support those organizations and thus decide to diminish their donations to those organizations.
The possibility of placing a ballot question in front of voters this November was first revealed at the …
Ann Arbor’s municipal airport was back on the city council’s Aug. 20, 2012 agenda, possibly the last time for a long while to come. That was expected, based on action taken earlier this year in April. The first of two agenda items on Aug. 20 was the fifth of five different grant contracts for the completion of an environmental assessment (EA) related to a possible 800-foot extension of the runway. The $42,500 in the grant consists of $40,375 in federal funds, $1,062 in state funds and a local match of $1,063.
That item was approved by the council with dissent from Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1).
A second airport-related item on the council’s agenda involved …
An additional member has been added to the Ann Arbor taxicab board – Michael Benson. The addition will allow the body to achieve a quorum of three out of five voting members for its meetings. It has not been able to do that since July 2012, when Tim Hull resigned because he took a job on the west coast and could not continue to serve.
Benson was added to the board in a one-step confirmation process – in a vote taken by the city council at its Aug. 20 meeting. Ordinarily, nominations to a board or a commission are first announced at a city council meeting, then confirmed by a council vote at a subsequent meeting.
The taxicab board will now …
A process to change the current PUD zoning on the former St. Nicholas Church property on North Main Street will not start before the land is put up for public auction on Sept. 6, 2012. That was the result of an Ann Arbor city council decision not to act on Aug. 20, 2012.
The property is being offered at auction by the Washtenaw County treasurer at a cost of $365,051, which covers back taxes and demolition costs. Demolition is expected to begin in the coming weeks. [See also Chronicle coverage: "Rezoning Process for North Main Site on Agenda"]
The city council voted down a resolution at its Aug. 20 meeting that would have begun the rezoning process by directing staff to prepare to …
Comcast had its application for a franchise within the city rejected by the Ann Arbor city council at its Aug. 20, 2012 meeting. The city is instead opting to leave in place its existing franchise agreement with the cable company, which runs through 2017.
It was important that the council act at its Aug. 20 meeting, because Comcast had sent an application dated July 17, which the city and Comcast agreed should count as “submitted” on July 23. And based on a recent ruling in the U.S. District Court, on a matter involving the city of Detroit, the city needed to make a decision within 30 days of July 23.
Reasons given in the staff cover memo for rejecting the application include …
A planning effort by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, Connecting William Street, got an implicit expression of support from the city council at its Aug. 20, 2012 meeting, when it voted down a resolution directing the city administrator to proceed independently of that effort. [See also Chronicle coverage: "Planning Group Briefed on William Street Project"]
The resolution would have directed city administrator Steve Powers to evaluate the parcel at 350 S. Fifth for possible public or corporate use; and if none was found, to report back to the city council with a timeline for the disposition of the property – based on state and city laws and policies. That parcel is more commonly known as the Fifth and William parking …
A goal for the city’s financial services unit, which is listed out in the fiscal year 2013 budget book, was met at the Ann Arbor city council’s Aug. 20, 2012 meeting: collaboration with Washtenaw County to centralize the administration of public towing. Parking on someone’s private property or having as excessive number of parking tickets are examples of this kind of situation.
Currently, the city contracts with three different companies, in three districts of the city: Brewers Towing Inc., Sakstrup’s Towing, and Triangle Towing. But those contracts expire at the end of 2012.
The council’s Aug. 20 resolution authorizes the city to contract with Washtenaw County, which will administer the towing under a single contract. The city will share responsibility for various aspects of …
Nearly a year ago, at its Sept. 6, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to appropriate $82,500 from its open space and parkland preservation millage to acquire the property at 5 W. Eden Court. The Eden Court property is immediately adjacent to the city’s Bryant Community Center.
And at its Aug. 20, 2012 meeting, the council took another step toward conversion of the land to city property – by giving initial approval to zone the property as PL (public land). Because a rezoning is a change to the city’s ordinances, the change will require a second council vote after a public hearing at a future meeting.
The 2011 taxes on the property were estimated at $1,400, which will be eliminated from the …
Final approval of rezoning has been given to two parcels acquired by the city of Ann Arbor to add to the Bluffs Nature Area at 1099 N. Main St., north of Sunset Road. The approval came at the city council’s Aug. 20, 2012 meeting after receiving the initial approval on July 16.
The city planning commission had recommended the rezoning at its June 5, 2012 meeting.
A 1.12-acre parcel to the north of the Bluffs – connecting the existing parkland to Huron View Boulevard – is currently zoned O (office), and had been donated to the city by a nursing home near that site. A 0.57-acre addition to the south connects the existing parkland to Sunset Road and is currently zoned R4C (multiple-family …
Work on West Park apparently halted again; equipment and parts sitting without activity for several days.
At their recent working session, Ann Arbor planning commissioners got their first detailed look at the Connecting William Street project – an effort to coordinate planning for five city-owned sites in downtown Ann Arbor.
Led by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority at the behest of city council, the project’s goal is to build a framework to guide possible development of those sites, which are primarily surface parking lots: (1) the Kline’s lot (on the east side of Ashley, north of William), (2) the lot next to Palio restaurant (northeast corner of Main & William), (3) the ground floor of the Fourth & William parking structure, (4) the old YMCA lot (on William between Fourth and Fifth), and (5) the top of the Library Lane underground parking garage on South Fifth, which recently opened north of the downtown library.
Amber Miller of the DDA and Cheryl Zuellig of SmithGroupJJR led the Aug. 14 discussion and solicited feedback on three development scenarios. Broadly speaking, the scenarios represent low density, moderate density and high density development, and all conform to current zoning. They were created based on input from interviews, focus groups, an online survey, and the work of land use economist Todd Poole. [.pdf of Poole's market study]
Miller stressed that these scenarios are not recommendations for development, but are being used as conversation starters to get additional feedback. The final recommendation to the city council, which is expected in late October, will likely be a hybrid of the ideas in these scenarios.
The planning commission had a wide-ranging discussion, floating questions and suggestions. Ideas included: (1) creating spaces for food carts to give downtown workers more low-cost lunch options; (2) building structures that are adaptable, and that could easily be transformed from office to residential space; and (3) incorporating aspects of the city’s recently approved sustainability framework, as well as elements of a climate action plan that’s being developed.
Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager, raised concerns over Ann Arbor becoming a “Disneyland of foodies,” and stressed the importance of diversity for a healthy downtown. Poole’s market study indicates that Ann Arbor residents spend 1.6 times the national average on dining out and entertainment.
Eric Mahler, a planning commissioner who served on a committee that had recommended a development on top of the Library Lot, cautioned that the public’s response to any proposal can’t be underestimated. People will likely challenge any assumptions related to market demand, he said, such as demand for a conference center. He also indicated that parking and traffic concerns shouldn’t be underestimated – people will raise those issues, too.
Miller noted that one of the lessons they’ve learned from previous unsuccessful efforts is the importance of having conversations in advance of specific proposals, and of reaching out to a more diverse group of people. That’s what they’ve been doing with Connecting William Street, she said, and it’s what they’ll continue to do in the coming weeks as they gather input for a final recommendation.
Michigan Radio reports that DTE Energy will begin its major pollution cleanup on Monday of the former MichCon site, located next to the Huron River near Argo Dam. The report quotes Shayne Wiesemann, an environmental engineer for DTE: “These MGP [manufactured gas plant] residuals have a characteristic odor that smells a little bit like, uh, like creosote, so folks may smell that but we’ll be doing our best to minimize the odors.” [Source]
Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education (Aug. 15, 2012): In a meeting notable for its brevity – under an hour – trustees gave final approval to adoption of a new biology text book, and to a contract for therapy services.
The biology textbook adoption for the district’s high schools was priced at $117,441. The district expects 1,391 students to be enrolled in biology courses this fall – in five different high schools. The purchase includes bound copies of traditional textbooks, as well as an interactive reader and access to an online edition.
A contract for physical, occupational therapy services – provided to Ann Arbor Public School district students with disabilities – was also given approval by the trustees. The contract is with Pediatric Therapy Associates and totals $528,360 for the 2012-2013 year. It includes 120 hours weekly for physical therapy and 135 hours weekly for occupational therapy, at an hourly rate of pay of $56.
The board was also briefed on the selection of an auditor for the coming year and the financial institutions that the district can do business with.
Public commentary included a call to leave three police liaison positions unfunded. They were left unfunded in this year’s budget, and the call was to leave those positions out of the budget in future years as well. The argument for that was based on the idea of better learning in environments without police presence.