The Nov. 18, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council is the first one with the new post-election composition of the 11-member council. The one new member of the council is Jack Eaton (Ward 4), who prevailed in the August Democratic primary contested with Marcia Higgins. She concluded 14 years of council service at her final meeting on Nov. 7.
The Nov. 18 meeting will include ceremonial swearing in of all councilmembers who won election on Nov. 5 – including Eaton, Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).
Three other items internal to the council organizational configuration appear on the agenda: approval of the 2014 city council rules; appointment of the 2014 city council committees; and election of mayor pro tem, as well as establishing the order of succession for acting mayor.
In recent years, the rules and the committee appointments have been put off until the first meeting in December, with only the election of mayor pro tem taking place at the second meeting in November. Higgins had served as mayor pro tem since 2008.
Speculation among some council sources indicate that Lumm could have sufficient support on the council to win election as mayor pro tem. Mayor pro tem fulfills the duties of mayor when the mayor is out of town or unable to perform those duties. The mayor pro tem’s salary is the same as other councilmembers, which is $15,913. Customarily, the order of mayoral succession has followed seniority on the council, with councilmembers who were elected in the same year sorted alphabetically.
A substantial portion of the council’s Nov. 18 agenda consists of items the council has seen at least once before – some through postponement and others by the nature of the standard approval process. In the standard-process category, the council will be asked to confirm a handful of appointments to boards and commissions that were nominated on Nov. 7.
The council will also consider giving final approval to two ordinance revisions that received initial approval at the council’s Nov. 7 meeting. One of those ordinance revisions involves changing the permitting requirements for use of public parks – so that fees would be waived for organizations that use parks to distribute goods to meet basic human needs.
A second ordinance revision that will be up for final approval on Nov. 18 is a change to the ordinance regulating the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s tax increment finance capture and board governance.
Although it’s not yet on the online agenda, the council would expect to see a sales agreement for the former Y lot presented for consideration. The council had directed the city administrator to negotiate with Dennis Dahlmann for the sale of the land, based on his $5.25 million offer, and to present a sales agreement for approval on Nov. 18.
Several items on the Nov. 18 agenda were postponed from previous meetings. One of those was first seen on Nov. 7 – a resolution sponsored by Sally Petersen (Ward 2), which would direct an educational effort for local officials and the public on conflict of interest and ethics issues.
Several other items postponed from previous meetings are tied together by a transportation theme. The city council will be considering for a second time a revision to the articles of incorporation of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to admit Ypsilanti Township as a member and to increase the board membership from 9 to 10 members so that the township can appoint a member.
Postponed at the Nov. 7 meeting was the adoption of an update to the city’s non-motorized transportation plan, so the council will have a second look at that plan on Nov. 18.
Also postponed at the Nov. 7 meeting was a resolution to establish a pedestrian safety task force. It’s unclear if that task force will have sufficient traction to be appointed – because it was postponed amid concerns about the budget needed to support the task force’s work. The task force sponsors, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1), have indicated their intent is not to make the task force an alternative to repealing the city’s mid-block crosswalk ordinance.
The repeal of language in the crosswalk ordinance will get its first reading at the council’s Nov. 18 meeting. The ordinance could be altered so that slowing (not necessarily stopping) would be a legal way to yield to pedestrians within crosswalks. The ordinance would be further changed so that only pedestrians within crosswalks (not those standing at the curb) would need to be accommodated by motorists.
Also related to streets are two resolutions authorizing the closing of streets in connection with New Year’s celebrations – on New Year’s Eve for the Puck Drops Here in downtown Ann Arbor, and on New Year’s Day for the NHL’s Winter Classic hockey game at Michigan Stadium.
The agenda features a few separate resolutions on standard easements and some rezoning requests. One of those rezoning requests is not standard – and was recommended by the planning commission for denial. That’s a request for rezoning a parcel on Packard Road from single-family to two-family.
The council will also be asked to authorize the city’s participation in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Redevelopment Ready Communities Certification Program.
This article includes a more detailed preview of many of these agenda items. More details on other agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. The meeting proceedings can be followed Monday evening live on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.
Much of the council’s Nov. 18 agenda covers topics familiar from previous meetings – items that were moved forward as part of the standard approval process.
Familiar Business: Appointments
Nominations made on Nov. 7, which the council will be asked to confirm on Nov. 18, include Peter Greenfield to the airport advisory council replacing Wilson Tanner, and Anthony Ramirez to be reappointed to the cable communications commission.
On the housing and human services advisory board, Eleanor Pollack and Thaddeus Jabzanka are being nominated to fill the vacancies left by Ned Staebler and Anthony Ramirez, respectively.
Mohammad Issa and Linda Winkler are being nominated for reappointment to the city’s human rights commission.
Nominations to be put forward on Nov. 18 are not yet posted on the Legistar agenda.
However, those might eventually include some nominations to the local officers compensation commission (LOCC) – the group that sets the salaries for city councilmembers, including the mayor.
The city’s Legistar system shows only two members of seven-member group without expired terms – Eunice Burns and Roger Hewitt. Hewitt also serves on the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. So the legal basis for Hewitt’s membership appears dubious in light of the prohibition against service on the LOCC for anyone who’s an employee or member of any branch of any government.
The LOCC is supposed to meet in every odd-numbered year, but has not yet met in 2013.
Familiar Business: Public Park Use Fee Waiver
The council will be giving final consideration to a change to the city’s ordinances so that charitable distribution of goods for basic human needs could be conducted in city parks without incurring a fee for park use. The proposal is not restricted to downtown parks, but the idea originated from an issue that emerged in connection with Liberty Plaza, a downtown park.
The council gave initial approval to the ordinance change at its Nov. 7 meeting. All changes to city ordinances require an initial approval, followed by a final vote at a subsequent meeting.
The recommendation for the ordinance change came from the city’s park advisory commission at its Sept. 17, 2013 meeting. This broader policy change comes three months after the Ann Arbor city council waived all rental fees for the use of Liberty Plaza during a one-year trial period, based on a PAC recommendation. That city council action came at its July 15, 2013 meeting.
The Liberty Plaza fee waiver was approved in response to a situation that arose earlier in the spring, when the city staff considered applying fees to the hosting of Pizza in the Park at Liberty Plaza – a homelessness outreach ministry of a local church. The proposal recommended by PAC on Sept. 17, and now on the council’s Nov. 18 agenda, would amend Chapter 39, Section 3:6 of the city code. [.pdf of revised ordinance language]
The ordinance change would provide permanent fee waiver for this specific purpose – the charitable distribution of goods for basic human needs – but it would still require that organizations get a permit to use the park, and follow permitting procedures, including clean-up obligations.
Familiar Business: DDA TIF, Governance
A second ordinance revision that will be up for final approval at the Nov. 18 meeting is a change to the ordinance (Chapter 7) regulating the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s tax increment finance capture and its board governance.
The outcome of deliberations at the council’s Nov. 7 meeting was to table a version of the Chapter 7 changes that had been under consideration by the council since Feb. 19, 2013.
The council then gave initial approval on Nov. 7 to a different version of the Chapter 7 changes. Those recommendations came from a committee of DDA board members and city councilmembers that has met four times since Aug. 26, most recently on Oct. 30. That committee was established at the council’s July 1, 2013 meeting – after the first version achieved initial approval at the council’s April 1, 2013 meeting. Representing the council on the joint committee were Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Sally Petersen (Ward 2). Representing the DDA were Sandi Smith, Roger Hewitt, Bob Guenzel and Joan Lowenstein.
The committee’s version of the Chapter 7 ordinance change would allow for several million dollars in additional TIF capture by the DDA, compared to the tabled version. The version in front of the council on Nov. 18 would set a cap on DDA TIF revenue that would not apply at all until FY 2017 and would result in roughly $6.1 million of TIF revenue to the DDA that year. It would mean an estimated return of $300,000 total to the other taxing jurisdictions.
That amount would be proportionally divided among the taxing jurisdictions, which together levy roughly 27.5 mills of taxes in the DDA district. Proportionally, that translates to: city of Ann Arbor (60%), Washtenaw County (21%), Washtenaw Community College (13%), and Ann Arbor District Library (6%).
The $300,000 total to be divided by the other taxing jurisdictions in FY 2017 compares to roughly $2 million that would be divided among them under the tabled version of the Chapter 7 revision. The tabled version essentially clarifies the enforcement of existing language in the ordinance. In both versions – assuming that new construction in the DDA district continues to take place at a healthy pace – taxing jurisdictions would continue to receive additional funds into the future after FY 2017.
The city’s share of the estimated $300,000 in excess TIF in FY 2017 would be about $180,000. But that would be distributed proportionally across the city’s funds based on the levy associated with the fund. For example, out of the $180,000, the general fund would get about $65,000. That compares to $430,000 that the city’s general fund would receive based on the tabled Chapter 7 approach.
Although the committee did not put forth a recommendation on governance, the tabled version included various provisions on changes to governance. Those governance revisions included: (1) a two-term limit for service on the DDA board; (2) a prohibition against elected officials, other than the mayor, serving on the DDA board; and (3) service of the mayor on the board (a possibility explicitly provided in the DDA state enabling legislation) subject to annual approval by the city council. If the council did not approve the mayor’s service on the DDA board in a given year, then that spot would go to the city administrator, according to the tabled version.
On Nov. 7, after debating the issue, the council amended the new version to include a limitation on terms. The version that’s up for final consideration on Nov. 18 would impose a limit of three four-year terms, with additional terms possible only after a four-year lapse.
On Nov. 7, during deliberations, the council also added a requirement that the DDA budget at least $300,000 each year for affordable housing projects, with “affordable” defined as targeting residents with 50% average median income (AMI).
Familiar Business: Former Y Lot Sale
Although it’s not yet on the online agenda, the council will expect to see a sales agreement for the former Y lot presented for their consideration. The council voted on Nov. 7 to direct the city administrator to negotiate with Dennis Dahlmann for the sale of the land and to present a sales agreement for approval on Nov. 18.
The Nov. 7 resolution had been added to the agenda on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. It directed city administrator Steve Powers to negotiate a sales agreement with Dahlmann for the purchase of the city-owned property north of William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues in downtown Ann Arbor. Dahlmann has offered $5.25 million for the property, known as the Y lot. It had been listed at $4.2 million. The city purchased the property for $3.5 million 10 years ago and has been making interest-only payments on the property for that time. A balloon payment is due at the end of this year. [.pdf of Dahlmann offer 10.17.13]
The original resolution directed the inclusion of a provision to ensure eventual development of the site. But during the Nov. 7 deliberations, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) put forward amendments that were far more detailed about how protection against non-development was to be achieved. Those amendments were adopted by the council as part of the direction to the administrator. [.pdf of Taylor's amendments.]
Taylor’s amendments included a minimum 400% floor area ratio (FAR) including mixed use on the bottom floor, office space on the mid-floors and residential on the top floors. The deadline for building something is January 2018. There’s a prohibition against sale to another third party except that the city has a right of first refusal. The amendments also gave direction on requirements for energy efficiency and a required conversation with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, which operates the Blake Transit Center next door to the parcel.
If negotiations with Dahlmann are not successful, then the resolution directs the city administrator to negotiate with CA Ventures (Clark Street Holdings). CA Ventures had increased its offer to $5.35 million – but that increased amount was received after the deadline for offers, which was firm and clearly communicated to bidders, according to the city’s broker.
The city received five bids on the property by the Oct. 18 deadline. The city had hired Colliers International and local broker Jim Chaconas to handle the possible sale. [.pdf of summary page by Chaconas]
If the sale is not completed by the end of the year when the balloon payment is due, the Bank of Ann Arbor would, according to city sources, maintain the existing interest rate on the loan (3.89%) and extend it for up to a year to allow for the city to finalize a sale.
Several items on the Nov. 18 agenda were postponed from previous meetings.
Delayed Business: Ethics
First considered by the council on Nov. 7 was a resolution sponsored by Sally Petersen (Ward 2), which would direct an educational effort for local officials on conflict of interest and ethics issues. On Nov. 7 Petersen herself moved immediately to postpone consideration of the resolution, due to the very heavy agenda that night.
The resolution directs an educational effort on Public Act 317 of 1968, which is the state’s conflict-of-interest statute.
A final “resolved” clause directs the council’s rules committee to draft standards of conduct for local officials based on Public Act 196 of 1973, which applies to state employees of the executive branch and appointees of the governor. The final resolved clause – if it’s approved, and if the council adopts a standard that’s recommended by the council rules committee and it’s strictly followed – would end any unauthorized leaks of information from the city government.
Delayed Business: Transportation – AAATA
Several other items postponed from previous meetings are tied together by a transportation theme.
The city council will be considering for a second time a revision to the articles of incorporation of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to admit Ypsilanti Township as a member and to increase the board membership from 9 to 10 members so that the township can appoint a member. The council had postponed the action at its Oct. 21, 2013 meeting.
The vote to postpone was 8-3 with dissent from mayor John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Margie Teall (Ward 4).
At its Sept. 26, 2013 meeting, the AAATA board already approved the membership of Ypsilanti Township. That action was contingent on approval by the Ann Arbor city council.
An earlier expansion in membership was given final approval by the AAATA board at its June 20, 2013 meeting. That’s when the city of Ypsilanti was admitted as a member of the AAATA and its board was increased from seven to nine members, one of whom is appointed by the city of Ypsilanti. The name of the authority was also changed at that time to add the word “area” – making it the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. [Amendment 3 of the AAATA articles of incorporation]
The expansion of the AAATA’s geographic footprint to include some jurisdictions geographically close to the city of Ann Arbor – and with whom the AAATA has historically had purchase-of-service agreements (POSAs) – would set the stage for a possible request of voters in the expanded geographic area to approve additional transportation funding to pay for increased service frequencies and times.
The AAATA could place a millage request on the ballot in May 2014, probably at the level of 0.7 mills, to support a 5-year service improvement plan that the AAATA has developed. A schedule of public meetings to introduce that plan runs through mid-November.
Delayed Business: Transportation – Non-Motorized Plan
Postponed at the Nov. 7 meeting was the adoption of an update to the city’s non-motorized transportation plan. So the council will have a second look at that plan on Nov. 18. The postponement on Nov. 7 came in deference to a request from Jane Lumm (Ward 2), who indicated she had not had an opportunity to read it through as closely as she wanted.
The city’s non-motorized transportation plan is part of the city’s master plan. The planning commission adopted the updated plan at its Sept. 10, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of draft 2013 non-motorized transportation plan update] With respect to the adoption of the master plan, the council and the planning commission are on equal footing. That is, they must adopt the same plan. So in this case, the commission is not merely the recommending body.
The update will be an amendment to the main non-motorized transportation plan, which was adopted in 2007. The new document is organized into three sections: (1) planning and policy updates; (2) updates to near-term recommendations; and (3) long-term recommendations.
Examples of planning and policy issues include design guidelines, recommendations for approaches like bike boulevards and bike share programs, and planning practices that cover education campaigns, maintenance, crosswalks and other non-motorized elements for pedestrians and bicyclists.
For example, the update recommends that the city begin developing a planning process for bike boulevards, which are described as “a low-traffic, low-speed road where bicycle interests are prioritized.” Sections of West Washington (from Revena to First), Elmwood (from Platt to Canterbury) and Broadway (from its southern intersection with Plymouth to where it rejoins Plymouth about a mile to the northeast) are suggested for potential bike boulevards.
Near-term recommendations include lower-cost efforts like re-striping roads to install bike lanes and adding crossing islands. Longer-term projects that were included in the 2007 plan are re-emphasized: the Allen Creek Greenway, Border-to-Border Trail, Gallup Park & Fuller Road paths, and a Briarwood-Pittsfield pedestrian bridge.
Delayed Business: Transportation – Pedestrian Safety Task Force
Also postponed at the Nov. 7 meeting was a resolution to establish a pedestrian safety task force. So that will again be before the council for consideration on Nov. 18. It’s unclear if that task force will have sufficient traction to be appointed – because it was postponed amid concerns about the budget needed to support the task force’s work. Public services area administrator Craig Hupy described the staff and other support for the task force as costing on the order of $100,000. [.pdf of Nov. 7 memo on pedestrian safety]
The pedestrian safety task force would consist of nine residents, including “representatives from organizations that address the needs of school-aged youth, senior citizens, pedestrian safety, and people with mobility impairments.” Applications from interested citizens should be turned in to the mayor’s office by Nov. 22, 2013. [.pdf of standard city board and commission task force application] The intent is to appoint the task force at the Dec. 2, 2013 city council meeting.
The task force would deliver a report by early September 2014. That report would include recommendations for “improvements in the development and application of the Complete Streets model, using best practices, sound data and objective analysis.”
The task force sponsors, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1), have indicated their intent is not to make the task force an alternative to repealing the city’s mid-block crosswalk ordinance.
New Business: Crosswalk Ordinance
One piece of transportation business that’s new before the council on Nov. 18 is the repeal of language in the city crosswalk ordinance.
The city’s ordinance differs from the state’s Uniform Traffic Code (UTC) in two respects: (1) requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians, not just to slow as to yield; and (2) requiring motorists to take action to accommodate pedestrians standing at the curb at a crosswalk, not just those pedestrians who have already entered the crosswalk.
The proposal the council will be asked to consider would change the law so that slowing (not necessarily stopping) would be a legal way to yield to pedestrians within crosswalks. The ordinance would be further changed so that only pedestrians within crosswalks (not those standing at the curb) would need to be accommodated by motorists.
New Year’s Events
Also related to streets are two resolutions authorizing the closing of streets in connection with New Year’s celebrations – on New Year’s Eve for the Puck Drops Here, and on New Year’s Day for the NHL’s Winter Classic Hockey Game at Michigan Stadium.
The Ann Arbor city council will be asked on Nov. 18 to authorize the closing of public streets in connection with those New Year’s festivities.
New Year’s Events: Puck Drop
In connection with the NHL Winter Classic Game to be played on New Year’s Day, the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is hosting a New Year’s Eve event called The Puck Drops Here, which will mimic the dropping of the lighted ball in Times Square, but with a 6-foot diameter lighted “puck” that is being fabricated by METAL.
The name of the event is a play on words. In the game of ice hockey, the start of action is marked with an official dropping of the puck between two opposing players – the puck drop. It’s similar to the tip-off in basketball. The name of the event also plays on the expression popularized by U.S. President Harry Truman: “The buck stops here.”
The requested action from the council includes street closures downtown along Main Street all day on New Year’s Eve.
Specifically, the council will be asked to authorize street closures from 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 to 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The actual event runs from 8 p.m. until 12:30 a.m.
Streets to be closed include:
- S. Main from E. William to Huron
- Liberty Street for a block on either side of Main (from S. Ashley to Fourth Avenue)
- Washington Street for a block on either side of Main (from S. Ashley to Fourth Avenue)
Musical entertainment will feature Michelle Chamuel, who placed second in the most recent edition of the TV vocal competition “The Voice.” She lived in Ann Arbor for a time earlier in her musical career.
New Year’s Events: NHL Winter Classic
The Winter Classic is an NHL hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.
The game will be played outdoors at the University of Michigan football stadium. Game start time is currently listed on the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau as 1 p.m. The back-up date, in case of inclement weather, is Jan. 2.
The resolution that the Ann Arbor city council will be asked to consider on Nov. 18 will implement many of the conditions that apply during University of Michigan home football games. For example, the newly implemented street closures for home football games would also be authorized for the Winter Classic:
- E. Keech Street between S. Main and Greene streets, limiting access to parking permit holders on Greene Street from E. Hoover to Keech streets
- The westbound right turn lane on E. Stadium Boulevard (onto S. Main Street) just south of the Michigan Stadium
- S. Main Street closed to both local and through traffic from Stadium Boulevard to Pauline
Those closures would be effective three hours before the game and last until the end of the game – with the exception of southbound S. Main Street, which would be closed beginning one hour before the game until the end of the game.
The council will also be asked to invalidate peddler/solicitor permits and sidewalk occupancy permits in the following areas:
- S. State Street from E. Hoover Street to the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks
- Along the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks from S. State Street to the viaduct on W. Stadium Boulevard
- W. Stadium Boulevard from the viaduct to S. Main Street
- S. Main Street from W. Stadium Boulevard to Hill Street
- Hill Street from S. Main Street to S. Division Street
- S. Division Street from Hill Street to E. Hoover Street
- E. Hoover Street from S. Division Street to S. State Street
- S. Main Street from Scio Church Road to W. Stadium Boulevard
- W. Stadium Boulevard from S. Main Street to Prescott Avenue
The council will be asked to authorize a special temporary outdoor sales area so that the owners of commercially and office-zoned property fronting on the following streets could use their private yard areas for outdoor sales and display:
- West side of S. Main Street between Stadium Blvd. and Hoover Street
- East side of S. Main Street from 1011 S. Main to Hoover Street
- North side of Hoover Street between S. Main and S. State streets
- North side of W. Stadium Blvd. between S. Main and S. State streets
The council would also be asked to designate the Winter Classic game as a date on which the usual front open space parking prohibition does not apply. So residents who customarily offer their lawns for home football game parking would be able to do so for the Winter Classic as well.
At the most recent meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, executive director Susan Pollay described for the board how the DDA plans to charge public parking on New Year’s Day – a time when parking would ordinarily be free. That would allow the DDA to take reservations in advance, using the same strategy it uses for art fairs parking in the summer.
The Ann Arbor DDA manages the city’s public parking system under contract with the city, and has the ability to set rates under that contract. There’s a clause in the contract that requires public notice and input for long-term rate increases, but not for one-off changes.
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