Sandi Smith Takes DDA Baton from Gunn

Sandi Smith has been elected chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board for the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The board took the action at its annual meeting, which followed its regular monthly board meeting on July 3, 2013. Smith’s election as chair followed the board’s custom of electing its vice chair to the position of chair for the next year.

Other board officers elected included John Mouat as vice chair, Keith Orr as secretary, and Roger Hewitt as treasurer.

One of Smith’s first challenges leading the board will be to resolve an outstanding issue over the way the DDA administers Chapter 7 of the city code of Ann Arbor – which regulates the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture. An effort led by Ann Arbor city councilmember Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) – which has taken different forms over the last year and a half – culminated earlier this spring in initial approval by the council of a revision to Chapter 7. The council’s action, if given final approval, would prevent the DDA from giving the code an interpretation that doesn’t recognize a cap on TIF revenue expressed in Chapter 7. The amendment to the ordinance would return several hundred thousand dollars a year to the other taxing authorities from which the DDA captures taxes. Those entities include the Ann Arbor District Library, Washtenaw Community College, Washtenaw County and the city of Ann Arbor.

The council has postponed final action on the matter until Sept. 3, 2013. Between now and then, the council’s expectation is that a joint DDA-council committee will meet and make recommendations on the Chapter 7 issue.

At its July 1 meeting, the city council appointed four members to its committee: Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Sally Petersen (Ward 2). And two days later, on July 3, outgoing DDA board chair Leah Gunn appointed Bob Guenzel, Roger Hewitt, Joan Lowenstein and Sandi Smith to the DDA’s committee.

Gunn’s current term on the DDA board expires on July 31 this year.

At the board’s July 3 meeting, the board bid farewell to Gunn and Newcombe Clark, whose term is also expiring at the end of July. First appointed in 2009, Clark served one four-year term. He’s making an employment-related move to Chicago.

Gunn served for nearly 22 years on the board starting in 1991. In 2011 she announced she would not to seek re-election in 2012 to a seat on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. She had first been elected as a county commissioner in 1996. After redistricting of the county board seats, she decided to support fellow Democrat Yousef Rabhi, who was re-elected and now serves as chair of the Washtenaw County board. In her professional life Gunn served as a librarian in the University of Michigan graduate and law libraries.

The second term for Russ Collins is set to expire on July 31, with those of Gunn and Clark. However, Collins was nominated at the city council’s July 1 meeting by mayor John Hieftje for reappointment to the DDA board.

This brief was filed from the DDA offices at 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301 where the DDA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link]