Editor’s note: This “Live Updates” coverage of the Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 2, 2013 meeting includes all the material from an earlier preview article. We think that will facilitate easier navigation from live-update material to background material already in the file.
The Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 2, 2013 agenda is comparatively light, but might not lead to an especially short meeting.
Items that could result in considerable council discussion include final approval of a repeal of the city’s crosswalk ordinance. A scheduled public hearing on that issue could also draw a number of speakers. The council gave initial approval to the repeal at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting – on a 9-2 vote.
The tally could be closer for the final vote, as mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) could join Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Margie Teall (Ward 4), who had dissented on the initial approval. Also a possibility is that a compromise approach could be worked out. The possible compromise would leave intact the language about motorists stopping, but still limit the right-of-way to just pedestrians within a crosswalk – that is, it would not afford the right-of-way to those standing at the curb.
Some of the public’s perspective and council discussion on the crosswalk issue was aired out during the council’s Sunday caucus, held in council chambers at city hall. This week the caucus was rescheduled for 1 p.m. instead of its usual evening start time, to accommodate more discussion of the local crosswalk law. The caucus drew six councilmembers and a dozen members of the public, and lasted three hours.
Another topic that could extend the Dec. 2 meeting is related to the pending sale of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street to the University of Michigan for $12.8 million, which was announced in a press release last week. A right of first refusal on the property is held by the city of Ann Arbor as a condition of a tax abatement granted by the city council almost three years ago, on Jan. 18, 2011.
There’s some interest on the council in holding a closed session on Dec. 2 to review the options and the impact of those options. Any interest on the council in acquiring the land, which seems somewhat scant, would be based on a desire eventually to put the land back on the tax rolls. The topic of land acquisition is one of the legal exceptions to the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires all deliberations of a public body to be open to the public. If the council holds a closed session on that topic, it could extend the Dec. 2 meeting.
One reason the council may have little appetite for acquiring the Edwards Brothers property is that the city has just now managed to sell a downtown property the city acquired 10 years ago – the old Y lot on William Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues. Approval of the $5.25 million sale to Dennis Dahlmann came at the council’s Nov. 18 meeting. But it’s possible that not all the due diligence will be completed before Dec. 16, when the city owes the $3.5 million principal it used to purchase the property. As a hedge against that possibility, the council will be asked on Dec. 2 to approve a six-month extension on the installment purchase agreement with Bank of Ann Arbor for the $3.5 million.
In the meantime, the minutes of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s most recent operations committee meeting reflect the DDA’s expectation that all of the equipment used to operate the public surface parking facility at the old Y lot will need to be removed by Dec. 31, 2013.
The city’s right of first refusal on the Edwards Brothers property is linked to a tax abatement. And on the council’s Dec. 2 agenda is an item that would establish an industrial development district (IDD) for a different property, at 1901 E. Ellsworth, where Extang Corp. and GSG Fasteners are located. Creating an IDD is a step in the process for granting a tax abatement.
Land control and use is a predominant theme among other Dec. 2 agenda items as well.
The council will be asked to give initial approval to a rezoning request for the Traverwood Apartments project – from ORL (office, research and light industrial district) to R4D (multiple-family district). The First Martin Corp. project would include 16 two-story buildings for a total of 216 one- and two-bedroom units – or 280 total bedrooms. The site plan and final rezoning approval would come before the city council at a future meeting. The Dec. 2 meeting will also include council’s consideration of a donation of 2.2 acres to the city from Bill Martin just north of the Traverwood Apartments project site. The acreage to be donated is next to the city’s Stapp Nature Area and the Leslie Park golf course.
At its Dec. 2 meeting, the council will also be asked to approve the site plan for a three-story addition to the Running Fit store at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor. The first floor will be retained as retail space, but six residential units would be built on the upper three floors – one two-bedroom and five one-bedroom units.
The city council will also be asked to place a value on land currently used as on-street parking spaces – $45,000 per space. By formally adopting that figure, any future development that causes the removal of on-street parking could be charged that amount. It would be paid to the Ann Arbor DDA, which manages the city’s public parking system. In this matter, the council would be acting on a four-year-old recommendation, approved by the Ann Arbor DDA in 2009.
In non-land issues, the council will be introduced to newly hired firefighters at its Dec. 2 meeting. The budgeted staffing level for the fire department is 85. However, the statistical section from the city’s most recent comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) shows 82 AAFD staff in fiscal year 2013. That’s because the council approved the hiring of additional firefighters after the fiscal year began, bringing the total to 85.
The CAFR itself is indirectly included in the council’s agenda – as part of a presentation that will be given by chief financial officer Tom Crawford on the result of this year’s audit. It was a clean audit that showed the general fund doing about $2.4 million better than budgeted.
Among the other myriad statistics in the CAFR are the number of parking violations recorded by the city – which are again down in the range of 90,000, as they’ve been for the last three years. That’s about half what they were in 2006 and 2007. Those numbers in the CAFR don’t include University of Michigan parking tickets – although the city and the UM have an agreement under which the city processes tickets and hears appeals for the university. A renewal of that agreement is on the council’s agenda for Dec. 2.
On Dec. 2 the council also has a fair amount of its own internal business to wrap up, associated with the seating of the new council, which took place on Nov. 18. That includes adoption of the council rules. Based on a less than 10-minute meeting of the council’s rules committee on Nov. 29, no changes to the rules would be put forward at this time. Based on that meeting, it appears that Sally Petersen (Ward 2) will replace Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) on that council committee. The rest of the new council committee assignments are also supposed to be made at the Dec. 2 meeting.
The council’s calendar of regular meetings and work sessions will also be adopted at the Dec. 2 meeting. The basic pattern is first and third Mondays for regular meetings, except when there’s a holiday or an election during the week of the meeting.
This article includes a more detailed look of many of these agenda items. More details on other meeting agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings Monday evening on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.
The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the Dec. 2 meeting, published in this article below the preview material. Click here to skip the preview section and go directly to the live updates. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Updates might begin somewhat sooner.
The council will be asked to give final approval of a repeal of the city’s crosswalk ordinance. The council gave initial approval to the repeal at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting – on a 9-2 vote.
Current Ann Arbor local law differs in two ways from the state’s Uniform Traffic Code. First, under current local law, motorists in Ann Arbor are supposed to yield the right-of-way to those pedestrians not just “within a crosswalk” but also to those who are “stopped at the curb, curb line or ramp leading to a crosswalk.” Second, when driving toward a crosswalk, motorists in Ann Arbor don’t have the option to yield to a pedestrian by merely slowing down; instead, they’re required to yield by stopping.
Here’s what the current law says (as a result of amendment on Dec. 19, 2011):
10:148. Pedestrians crossing streets
(a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop before entering a crosswalk and yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian stopped at the curb, curb line or ramp leading to a crosswalk and to every pedestrian within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
(b) A pedestrian shall not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into a path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
(c) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway. (Corresponds to UTC rule 706)
For more detail on the evolution of the local law, see “Column: Why Did the Turkey Cross the Road?”
A possible compromise the council might consider would leave intact the language about motorists stopping, but still limit the right-of-way to just pedestrians within a crosswalk – that is, it would exclude those standing at the curb.
The compromise could be based on the wording of the ordinance used by Traverse City:
When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to every pedestrian within a marked crosswalk.
Representatives of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, who are advocating against repealing the crosswalk ordinance, contend that Traverse City police enforce “within a crosswalk” by including the curb. When The Chronicle interviewed Traverse City code enforcement officer Lloyd Morris by telephone, he indicated that a pedestrian merely standing at the curb, not in the roadway, would not be considered to be “within a crosswalk.” But he allowed that Traverse City enforces the language to mean that a pedestrian who is not in the roadway but approaching the crosswalk with a clear intent to enter the roadway should be given the right-of-way. But at the council’s Nov. 18 meeting, assistant city attorney Bob West indicated that he didn’t interpret “within a crosswalk” to mean anything except being in the roadway.
At least some of the community debate on the topic has included the question of whether Ann Arbor’s ordinance is unique. On a national level, the ordinance language used in Boulder, Colorado includes more than just those pedestrians within a crosswalk:
A driver shall yield the right of way to every pedestrian on a sidewalk or approaching or within a crosswalk.“
And in Seattle, a similar effect is achieved by defining the crosswalk to extend from the roadway through the curb to the opposite edge of the sidewalk:
‘Crosswalk’ means the portion of the roadway between the intersection area and a prolongation or connection of the farthest sidewalk line or in the event there are no sidewalks then between the intersection area and a line ten feet therefrom, except as modified by a marked crosswalk.
Edwards Brothers Land
A pending sale of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street to the University of Michigan for $12.8 million was announced in a press release last week. A right of first refusal on the property is held by the city of Ann Arbor as a condition of a tax abatement granted by the city council almost three years ago, on Jan. 18, 2011.
The topic of land acquisition is one of the legal exceptions to the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires all deliberations of a public body to be open to the public.
The council’s deliberations on granting the tax abatement nearly three years ago contemplated the possibility that the council could be faced with a decision about whether to act on the right of first refusal, which was associated with the tax abatement. At the time, city assessor David Petrak pegged the value of the land at anywhere between $1 million and $50 million. From The Chronicle’s report of that Jan. 18, 2011 meeting:
The cover memo also indicates that the Edwards Brothers real property is located immediately adjacent to a University of Michigan park-and-ride lot, and it’s felt that UM may have some interest in purchasing the property, which would remove it from the city’s tax rolls. In that light, the city staff built a stipulation into the tax abatement that would give the city the right of first refusal on any future land sale. So if UM offered to purchase the property, the city would have an opportunity to make an offer – presumably with the idea that the city would then sell the land to some other private entity, thereby returning the land to the tax rolls.
City assessor David Petrak briefly introduced some of the background on the request to the council.
Sandi Smith (Ward 1) pressed for some additional explanation. Without additional information, she said, she could not support it. Why was the city considering the application? The answer was that by statute it must be considered.
Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) reminded the council that Edwards Brothers has been in Ann Arbor for over 100 years. When the previous abatement was granted, he said, the company was “this close” to moving the operation to North Carolina. Instead, due to the abatement, the company decided to remain in Ann Arbor and preserved around 400 jobs in this community.
With respect to Edwards Brothers not meeting the employment numbers required by the first tax abatement, Rapundalo cited the dire economic times, noting in particular that the book business has not exactly been thriving. So he did not want to hold the job losses against the company. He called Edwards Brothers a long-standing corporate citizen. He also said that if the company left, he would not doubt for a second that UM would pick up the property.
From the city’s CFO, Tom Crawford, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) elicited the fact that the tax abatement would apply to a new press – a typical economic requirement in a very competitive industry, he said. Petrak went on to explain the right of first refusal on the possible sale of the real estate, if Edwards Brothers decided eventually to leave anyway.
City administrator Roger Fraser elaborated in more detail on Crawford’s description of the press to be acquired. It’s particularly suited to quick turnaround on small printing jobs, and offers an opportunity to pick up some additional business for the company. The right of first refusal on the land sale, he said, was an attempt to extract some additional public benefit from the agreement.
Smith pressed for information about what the approximate cost of the land would be, if the city found itself having to contemplate whether to exercise its right of first refusal. Petrak didn’t have that information, but when continued to be pressed by Smith, he allowed that it was between $1 million and $50 million.
Mayor John Hieftje established with Crawford that there’d been no negative impact to the city’s revenues due to job losses at the company. Hieftje said the right of first refusal did not matter to him at all, but the 400 jobs at the company represented good, if not fancy, jobs. They might not earn the average $80,000 salaries that Pfizer workers earned, but they were good jobs. Hieftje also noted that the percentage of property that is abated in the city is minuscule.
Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) observed that 415 jobs is a lot of jobs. The fact that there’d been only a 13% drop he characterized as a “great feat.” If it were a new company, he said, they would all be out helping to cut the ribbon.
Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) expressed his support for the abatement.
As that report from 2011 indicates, the abatement applies to “personal property” that’s used in book production. If that equipment is moved to the Edwards Brothers Jackson Road plant, as part of the company’s effort to consolidate operations, then that equipment would no longer qualify for the tax abatement. That’s because it will have been moved outside of the industrial development district (IDD) where the 2011 abatement was granted.
Bank of Ann Arbor Loan
An agreement to sell the old Y lot on William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues downtown – to hotelier Dennis Dahlmann for $5.25 million – was approved by the council at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of rider] [.pdf of sales agreement]
But it’s possible that not all the due diligence will be completed before Dec. 16, when the city owes the $3.5 million principal it used to purchase the property. As a hedge against that possibility, the council will be asked on Dec. 2 to approve a six-month extension on the installment purchase agreement with Bank of Ann Arbor for the $3.5 million. The interest rate would be the same as the interest rate at which the city is currently borrowing the money – 3.89% with no penalty for pre-payment.
If additional interest is owed due to the extension of the loan, presumably the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority would also continue with its share of the payments. That was an arrangement agreed to in 2003 through action by the DDA’s executive committee, not the full DDA board. The DDA’s portion of the interest payments could factor into the calculation of the net proceeds from the former Y lot sale. A year ago at the council’s Oct. 15, 2012 meeting, the council adopted a resolution that indicated the proceeds of the sale would:
“… first be utilized to repay the various funds that expended resources on the property, including but not limited to due diligence, closing of the site and relocation and support of its previous tenants, after which any remaining proceeds be allocated and distributed to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund …
However, two days after the council meets on Dec. 2, the board of the Ann Arbor DDA will be considering a resolution that would waive any need to repay the DDA for those interest payments or for the expenditures by the DDA to demolish the old Y building in 2008. [.pdf of Dec. 4, 2013 draft DDA resolution on Y lot proceeds]
Possibly relevant to the question of whether the DDA can simply waive any required repayment by the city to the DDA is the source of funds used by the DDA to make those payments. In recent years, the DDA has used parking funds to make the interest payments. To the extent that in earlier years, funds captured under the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) may have been used to make interest payments, it’s not clear if the DDA could simply allow the city to retain those funds as part of the proceeds of the Y lot sale.
On the council’s Dec. 2 agenda is a project proposed by First Martin Corp. that would construct a complex of 16 two-story buildings on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. The development is called Traverwood Apartments.
Only the initial vote on the zoning is being considered on Dec. 2. The final vote on the zoning and the site plan will appear on a future council agenda.
The project, estimated to cost $30 million, would include 16 two-story buildings for a total of 216 one- and two-bedroom units – or 280 total bedrooms. Eight of the buildings would each have 15 units and 11 single-car garages. An additional eight buildings would each have 12 units and 8 single-car garages.
The city’s planning commission recommended approval of the site plan and the required rezoning at its Nov. 6, 2013 meeting. The site is made up of two parcels: a nearly 16-acre lot that’s zoned R4D (multi-family residential), and an adjacent 3.88-acre lot to the south that’s currently zoned ORL (office, research and light industrial). It’s the smaller lot that needs to be rezoned R4D.
The Dec. 2 agenda includes the council’s consideration of a donation of 2.2 acres to the city from Bill Martin just north of the project site. The donated acreage is next to the Stapp Nature Area and the Leslie Park golf course.
Running Fit Addition
At its Dec. 2 meeting, the council will be asked to approve the site plan for a three-story addition to the Running Fit store at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor.
The first floor will be retained as retail space, but six residential units would be built on the upper three floors – one two-bedroom and five one-bedroom units.
The city planning commission recommended approval of the site plan at its Oct. 15, 2013 meeting.
The location in Ward 1 is zoned D1, which allows for the highest density development in the city. It’s also located in the Main Street Historic District.
The city’s historic district commission issued a certificate of appropriateness on Aug. 15, 2013.
The project is expected to cost about $900,000.
Cost of In-Street Parking Spaces
The city council will also be asked to place a value on portions of the public right-of-way currently used as on-street parking spaces – $45,000 per space. By formally adopting that figure, any future development that causes the removal of on-street parking spaces could be charged that amount.
In this matter, the council would be acting on a four-year-old recommendation approved by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority in 2009:
Thus it is recommended that when developments lead to the removal of on-street parking meter spaces, a cost of $45,000/parking meter space (with annual CPI increases) be assessed and provided to the DDA to set aside in a special fund that will be used to construct future parking spaces or other means to meet the goals above. [.pdf of meeting minutes with complete text of March 4, 2009 DDA resolution]
The contract under which the DDA manages the public parking system for the city was revised to restructure the financial arrangement, which now pays the city 17% of the gross parking revenues. But it also included a clause meant to prompt the city to act on the on-street space cost recommendation. From the May 2011 parking agreement:
The City shall work collaboratively with the DDA to develop and present for adoption by City Council a City policy regarding the permanent removal of on-street metered parking spaces. The purpose of this policy will be to identify whether a community benefit to the elimination of one or more metered parking spaces specific area(s) of the City exists, and the basis for such a determination. If no community benefit can be identified, it is understood and agreed by the parties that a replacement cost allocation methodology will need to be adopted concurrent with the approval of the City policy; which shall be used to make improvements to the public parking or transportation system.
Subject to administrative approval by the city, it’s the DDA that has sole authority to determine the addition or removal of meters, loading zones, or other curbside parking uses.
It’s not clear what the specific impetus is to act on the issue now, other than the fact that action is simply long overdue. In 2011, the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research expansion was expected to result in the net removal of one on-street parking space. [For more background, see: "Column: Ann Arbor's Monroe (Street) Doctrine."]
The $45,000 proposed amount is based on an average of the estimated construction cost for an above-ground space of $40,000, and $55,000 for a below-ground parking space, as estimated in 2009. By way of background the Ann Arbor DDA’s most recent financial records show that last year, on-street parking spaces generated $2,000 in gross revenue per space or $1,347 in net income per space annually. The contract with the city under which the DDA operates the public parking system stipulates that the city receives 17% of the gross parking revenues. So the city’s revenue associated with an on-street parking space corresponds to $340 per space annually.
The resolution on the council’s Dec. 2 agenda is sponsored by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). Taylor participated in recent meetings of a joint council and DDA board committee that negotiated a resolution to the question about how the DDA’s TIF revenue is regulated. In that context, Taylor had argued adamantly that any cap on the DDA’s TIF should be escalated by a construction industry CPI, or roughly 5%. Taylor’s reasoning was that the DDA’s mission is to undertake capital projects and therefore should have revenue that escalates in accordance with increases in the costs to undertake capital projects. Based on that reasoning, and the explicit 2009 recommendation by the DDA to increase the estimated $45,000 figure in that year by an inflationary index, the recommended amount now, four years later, could be closer to $55,000, assuming a 5% figure for construction cost inflation.
The actual cost of building an underground space in the recently completed (2012) underground Library Lane parking structure could provide a more current estimate, but the DDA has not made public a breakdown of how that project’s actual costs lined up with its project budget.
The last two month’s minutes from the DDA’s committee meetings don’t reflect any discussion of the on-street parking space replacement cost. Nor has the issue been discussed at any recent DDA board meeting.
Audit, Firefighters, Other Stats
In non-land issues, the council will be introduced to newly hired firefighters at its Dec. 2 meeting.
The statistical section from the city’s most recent comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) shows a budgeted staffing level for the fire department of 82, in fiscal year 2013. But the council approved the hiring of additional firefighters after the fiscal year began, bringing the total to 85.
The CAFR is indirectly included in the council’s agenda – as part of a presentation that will be given by chief financial officer Tom Crawford on the result of this year’s audit. It was a clean audit that showed the general fund doing about $2.4 million better than budgeted.
Highlights from that FY 2013 audit report, which has now been issued in final form to the city, include an increase to the general fund balance from about $15.4 million to about $16.2 million. The $800,000 increase contrasts to the planned use of roughly $1.6 million from the general fund balance in the FY 2013 budget. About $200,000 of the increase was in the “unassigned” fund balance.
The result of the audit, in the new GASB terminology, was an “unmodified” opinion – which corresponds to the older “unqualified” opinion. In sum, that means it was a “clean” audit. The concerns identified last year had been addressed to the auditor’s satisfaction.
Members of the council’s audit committee met on Oct. 24. 2013 to review the draft audit report, and were enthusiastic about the $2.4 million better-than-budget performance for the city’s general fund, which had expenditures budgeted for $74,548,522 in FY 2013.
Challenges facing the city this coming year include the implementation of the new GASB 68 accounting standard starting in FY 2015, which begins July 1, 2014. That standard requires that most changes to the net pension liability will be included immediately on the balance sheet – instead of being amortized over a long time period. The GASB 68 standard must be implemented for an organization’s financial statements for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2014.
Two of the city’s funds were highlighted by Crawford at the Oct. 24 meeting as having potential difficulties associated with the GASB 68 standard – solid waste and the public market (farmers market). For the public market fund, Crawford floated the idea to the audit committee that it could be folded back into the city’s general fund, on analogy with the golf fund. Starting this year (FY 2014), the golf fund has been returned to general fund accounting.
Among the other myriad statistics in the CAFR are the number of parking violations recorded by the city – which are again down in the range of 90,000 as they’ve been for the last three years. That’s about half what they were in 2006 and 2007. Those numbers in the CAFR don’t include University of Michigan parking tickets – although the city and the UM have an agreement under which the city processes tickets and hears appeals for the university. A renewal of that agreement is on the council’s agenda for Dec. 2.
Here’s a sampling of the kind of data available in the statistical section of the FY 2013 CAFR, which includes data from previous CAFRs as well. [.pdf of final audit report released on Nov. 15, 2013]
Internal Council Business
On its Dec. 2 meeting agenda, the council also has a fair amount of its own internal business to wrap up, associated with the seating of the new council, which took place on Nov. 18.
That internal business includes adopting the council rules. Based on a less than 10-minute meeting of the council’s rules committee on Nov. 29, no changes to the rules were planned to be put forward at this time. The council’s rules committee – established by last year’s council – currently consists of Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and mayor John Hieftje.
However, the .pdf file attached to the council’s online agenda – which reflects the council’s rules to be considered for adoption – includes a revision that was explicitly discussed and, for the time being, rejected at the committee’s Nov. 29 meeting. [.pdf of city council rules]
That change replaces “personality” (an archaic usage meaning a disparaging remark about a person) with “personal attack” in the following rule: “The member shall confine comments to the question at hand and avoid personality.” At the council’s Nov. 18 regular meeting, when the council voted to delay adoption of the rules pending a review by the rules committee, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) had asked that the rules committee look at the rule requiring that councilmembers “avoid personality” during deliberations.
At the Nov. 29 committee meeting, Kunselman weighed in specifically for retaining the more archaic wording as reflective of history and tradition. The outcome of that committee discussion was that no changes would be recommended at this time, as any changes should be reviewed by the rules committee with its new membership. But based on the inclusion of the change in the Legistar document, it’s not clear what the status of that proposed change is meant to be.
A consensus on the committee at the Nov. 29 meeting seemed to be that the new membership of the rules committee should include Sally Petersen (Ward 2) in place of Kunselman, as Kunselman did not wish to continue on the rules committee. In addition, Petersen’s ethics initiative, which was approved at the council’s Nov. 18, 2013 meeting, tasks the rules committee with a certain amount of work – so the rules committee consensus on Nov. 29 appeared to be that the committee would be well-served by her membership.
The rest of the new council committee assignments are also supposed to be made at the Dec. 2 meeting.
The council’s calendar of regular meetings and work sessions will also be adopted on Dec. 2. The basic pattern is first and third Mondays for regular meetings, except when there’s a holiday or an election during the week of the meeting.
5:48 p.m. Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition board chair Erica Briggs has forwarded to the city council three documents – including a letter of support, and names of more than 600 people who’ve signed an online petition supporting the existing crosswalk ordinance. [.pdf of comments from supporters] [.pdf of WBWC letter to mayor and council] [.pdf of names of 668 people supporting existing crosswalk law]
6:35 p.m. Pre-meeting activity. The scheduled meeting start is 7 p.m. Most evenings the actual starting time is between 7:10 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
6:38 p.m. Here in council chambers, the partitions are already pulled back in anticipation of a large crowd on the crosswalk ordinance. Folding chairs are set up to provide additional seating. Carolyn Grawi of the Center for Independent Living is here. Three members of the city’s commission on disability issues attended yesterday’s council caucus: Larry Keeler, Lloyd Shelton, Linda Evans.
6:49 p.m. Erica Briggs has arrived, as has Lloyd Shelton. Jack Eaton (Ward 4) is the first councilmember to arrive. City administrator Steve Powers is now here. Assistant city attorneys Mary Fales and Abigail Elias are also in council chambers.
6:49 p.m. Firefighters to be introduced have also now arrived.
6:52 p.m. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) has now arrived. Chambers are beginning to fill up.
6:55 p.m. Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) are now here.
7:07 p.m. Chambers are now packed. We’re shoulder-to-shoulder. Much of the supplementary seating is now occupied. It will still be standing-room-only despite the additional seats.
7:12 p.m. Professor Jonathan Levine is here, as are several others who could be counted as public transportation and non-motorized advocates.
7:12 p.m. We appear to be nearly ready to begin.
7:14 p.m. And we’re off.
7:15 p.m. Call to order, moment of silence, pledge of allegiance, roll call of council. All except for Margie Teall (Ward 4) are present.
7:15 p.m. Teall’s absence might affect the council’s ability to achieve a political compromise on the crosswalk ordinance.
7:15 p.m. Approval of agenda.
7:17 p.m. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) wants to swap the order of public hearings so that the crosswalk ordinance has its public hearing after the others. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) wants to move C1 before B1. That’s Traverwood Apartments rezoning before the crosswalk ordinance.
7:17 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the agenda as amended.
7:18 p.m. INT-1: Introduction of new firefighters. The current authorized staffing level for the AAFD is 85. After the FY 2013 was approved last year authorizing staffing at 82, the council approved a subsequent increase to 85, based on the receipt of some grant funding.
7:20 p.m. Assistant fire chief Ellen Taylor is introducing the new firefighters. She’s describing the one-year probationary period. She’s introducing five of the seven new firefighters in the city. They get a round of applause.
7:20 p.m. INT-2: FY 2013 audit results. The 2013 fiscal year ended June 30, 2013. The council’s audit committee reviewed the draft report on Oct. 24, 2013. It was a clean audit that showed the general fund doing about $2.4 million better than budgeted. Highlights from that FY 2013 audit report, which has now been issued in final form to the city, include an increase to the general fund balance from about $15.4 million to about $16.2 million. The $800,000 increase contrasts to the planned use of roughly $1.6 million from the general fund balance in the FY 2013 budget. About $200,000 of the increase was in the “unassigned” fund balance.
The result of the audit, in the new GASB terminology, was an “unmodified” opinion – which corresponds to the older “unqualified” opinion. In sum, that means it was a “clean” audit. The concerns identified last year had been addressed to the auditor’s satisfaction. Challenges facing the city this coming year include the implementation of the new GASB 68 accounting standard starting in FY 2015, which begins July 1, 2014. That standard requires that most changes to the net pension liability will be included immediately on the balance sheet – instead of being amortized over a long time period.
7:26 p.m. Tom Crawford leads with some light humor: “I’m sure the crowd has come to hear this report.” He gets the intended laugh. Now he’s into a discussion of net assets of the city – over a billion dollars. But that’s mostly buildings and roads, not much of which can be used to pay for things, he notes. There’s $82 million that’s actually available. The general fund has a balance of about $14 million. Street repair millage had $18 million in it. Minimum balance for that fund is $9 million. Crawford explains that the apparent excess is partly due to timing of when road repair takes place. He’s talking about the potential liabilities of various funds. He highlights the public market fund – which has an adequate fund balance, but is actually weak in the context of GASB 68 requirements.
7:27 p.m. The pension system is 80% funded. VEBA is 39% funded. Their return achieved 11% last year, Crawford reports. He characterizes the general fund last year as doing about $2.4 million better than budgeted. It was a good year for the general fund, he says.
7:27 p.m. INT-3: Volunteer appreciation. Phillip Delekta is being honored with a mayoral proclamation for his volunteer work with the Ann Arbor police department.
7:29 p.m. Delekta is now explaining his work with the citizens emergency response team. He’s thanking the police and fire department personnel who’ve helped. Football games, the Ann Arbor marathon and the art fairs are some events they help with. He gets a round of applause.
7:29 p.m. Public commentary reserved time. This portion of the meeting offers 10 three-minute slots that can be reserved in advance. Preference is given to speakers who want to address the council on an agenda item. [Public commentary general time, with no sign-up required in advance, is offered at the end of the meeting.]
Tonight’s lineup for reserved time speaking includes just two speakers: Thomas Partridge and Henry Herskovitz. Partridge is speaking on ending discrimination. Herskovitz will be talking about the council’s 2014 meeting calendar, which will be set tonight.
7:33 p.m. Thomas Partridge is now addressing the council. He’s using the hand-held microphone. It doesn’t seem to be working. He says he’s an advocate for all residents of the city, county and state who need advocacy due to various challenges. Sound of kids in the audience makes this tough to hear. He calls for an end to discrimination. He contends that red-lining is practiced in Ann Arbor – with respect to housing and transportation. He says the council needs to be reformed. The council should see the world through the eyes of the most unfortunate among us, he says.
7:37 p.m. Henry Herskovitz says he’s speaking about the establishment of the council’s 2014 calendar. He wants the council reconsider a decision made 10 years ago to give preference to those commenters who want to talk about items on the agenda. That was based on a desire to prevent people from talking about Palestine and Israel, he says. He’d not been able to talk to the council at its previous meeting about “blacklisting of companies by MasterCard” – because it wasn’t an agenda item.
7:37 p.m. Communications from council. This is the first of three slots on the agenda for council communications. It’s a time when councilmembers can report out from boards, commissions and task forces on which they serve. They can also alert their colleagues to proposals they might be bringing forward in the near future.
7:39 p.m. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) leads off by announcing he’ll be putting forward a compromise amendment on the crosswalk ordinance. “That will be my first order of business,” he says. “We will not be repealing the pedestrian ordinance,” he says. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) says that Kunselman means that he hopes a repeal will not happen. Added late to the agenda, she notes, are the city council committee appointments, including resolutions on the environmental commission and greenbelt commission.
7:41 p.m. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) is speaking about the crosswalk ordinance. Kunselman’s compromise would strip out language that requires motorists to stop for pedestrians at the curb or curbline, Taylor stresses. Mayor John Hieftje is clarifying that the compromise would still not require motorists to stop for motorists at the curb. Kunselman reads aloud the language.
7:43 p.m. Taylor quips “with summer just around the corner” that a resolution will be brought forward in the near future (not at this meeting) about the art fairs. The council provides financial support for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, and Taylor is indicating that the art fairs should also be supported.
7:44 p.m. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) thanks several people who are present: Matt Grocoff, Chris Hewett and Erica Briggs. A meeting will take place on Dec. 11 at Bach School at 6:30 p.m. on pedestrian safety and traffic calming. Screaming children in the audience.
7:45 p.m. Briere is calling the public’s attention to a meeting to be held on Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. on a presentation of results of the Allen Creek berm opening feasibility study.
7:47 p.m. CC-1 Appointment of 2014 city council committees. [.pdf of committee assignments]
7:47 p.m. Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) ventures that nobody wants to spend time with him on the University of Michigan student relations committee.
7:48 p.m. Hieftje says that Jack Eaton (Ward 4) was going to be asked to serve. Eaton asks when it meets. Hieftje explains that it’s not regular. Eaton accepts the assignment.
7:48 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to confirm all the committee assignments.
7:50 p.m. Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) appointment. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) to LDFA.
Outcome: The council has voted to appoint Petersen to the LDFA.
7:51 p.m. Planning commission, greenbelt advisory commission. Briere is returned to the planning commission and Taylor to the greenbelt advisory commission by a unanimous vote.
7:52 p.m. Environmental commission. Anglin and Briere are appointed to the environmental commission.
7:52 p.m. Commission on disabilities. The council has established a position for a councilmember and appointed Petersen to that spot.
7:52 p.m. CC-2 Approval of 2014 city council rules. Internal business tonight includes adopting the council rules. Based on a less than 10-minute meeting of the council’s rules committee on Nov. 29, no changes to the rules were planned to be put forward at this time. The council’s rules committee – established by last year’s council – currently consists of Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and mayor John Hieftje. However, the .pdf file attached to the council’s online agenda – which reflects the council’s rules to be considered for adoption – includes a revision that was explicitly discussed and, for the time being, rejected at the committee’s Nov. 29 meeting. [.pdf of city council rules] That change replaces “personality” (an archaic usage meaning a disparaging remark about a person) with “personal attack” in the following rule: “The member shall confine comments to the question at hand and avoid personality.”
At the council’s Nov. 18 regular meeting, when the council voted to delay adoption of the rules pending a review of the rules, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) had asked that the rules committee look at the rule requiring that councilmembers “avoid personality” during deliberations. [For additional background see Internal Council Business above.]
7:52 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to adopt its rules for the year.
7:53 p.m. Communications from the mayor. Mayoral communications fall typically into two categories: (1) nominations to boards and commissions that will be voted on at a subsequent meeting; and (2) requests for confirmation of nominations that have been made at a previous meeting.
7:53 p.m. MC-1 Appointments. The council is being asked to confirm the nomination of David Blanchard, put forward at the council’s Nov. 18 meeting, to the housing and human services advisory board.
7:53 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to confirm David Blanchard’s appointment to the housing and human services board. It runs through June 4, 2016.
7:53 p.m. MC-2 Nomination. Elizabeth Bletcher is being nominated to replace Al Gallup on the Elizabeth Dean Fund committee. For some historical background on the Elizabeth Dean Fund, see “Dean Tree Fund Committee Changed.” That nomination will be voted on at a future meeting.
7:53 p.m. Public hearings. All the public hearings are grouped together during this section of the meeting. Action on the related items comes later in the meeting. Tonight three public hearings appear on the agenda. The first is on the repeal of the crosswalk law. The second is on establishing an industrial development district (to facilitate granting a tax abatement) at 1901 E. Ellsworth. The third is on a site plan to build a three-story addition to Running Fit at the corner of Liberty Street and Fourth Avenue downtown. The order of the hearings was changed at the beginning of the meeting, so that the crosswalk law public hearing will come last.
7:56 p.m. PH-2 Establish Industrial Development District at 1901 E. Ellsworth. Luke Bonner, vice president of business development for Ann Arbor SPARK, is addressing the council. The petition was initiated by the property owner, he says. The establishment of a district will allow a tenant there, Mahindra Genze, to then apply for a tax abatement.
7:58 p.m. Alan Clark is addressing the council as a Ward 3 resident working at a start-up, called Mahindra Genze. It was started in the basement of the chief engineer. The location at Phoenix Drive has “max-ed out,” he says. Another new hire came in today, Clark says, and there’s around 25 employees there. Clark moved to Ann Arbor from Washington D.C. to become the seventh employee. He’s describing the product: an electric scooter. They’ll sell the product nationally, he says. There’s international interest in the product as well.
7:59 p.m. Clark says the company is looking to hire another 34 employees and wants to start production early next summer.
8:01 p.m. Thomas Partridge is now addressing the council. He says he’s usually conservative with respect to such requests. But he’s endorsing this request. He calls for the establishment of a larger district, he says, which was the point of the state’s enabling legislation.
8:02 p.m. Here are the names of the firefighters who were introduced earlier: Brian Schotthoefer; George Allard; Nicholas Kaczor; Christopher McGlothin; John Crowell; Ryan Newkirk; and Christopher Brown.
8:03 p.m. That’s all for this public hearing.
8:04 p.m. PH-3 Running Fit addition site plan. Architect Brad Moore is addressing the council. The expansion will add more stories for residential units. He notes that there were previously more stories before it burned back in the 1950s. He notes that the city’s historic district commission gave it a unanimous approval, as did the planning commission.
8:05 p.m. Thomas Partridge contends that there’s been a history of discrimination involved in zoning and site plan approvals. The site plan should be re-examined with respect to accessibility issues, he contends. Affordable housing is needed, he says.
8:07 p.m. That’s all for this public hearing.
8:07 p.m. PH-1 Crosswalk ordinance change. Hieftje asks people to line up and be ready to speak.
8:08 p.m. Hieftje advises that it’s not required to use the whole three minutes, but people can do so. Erica Briggs, chair of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, leads off.
8:11 p.m. Briggs urges the council not to repeal the ordinance. She says that the Kunselman compromise really does amount to a repeal. She’s ticking through familiar points. She’s citing pedestrian crashes so far this year – 36, and she contends that this reflects a 16% decrease since the ordinance was passed. She cites the community-wide support for the ordinance. She invites people to stand who are against the repeal. The vast majority of people here are standing.
8:15 p.m. James Briggs addresses the council from his wheelchair. City clerk Jackie Beaudry then reads aloud his statement on his behalf. “It boils my blood,” says the statement, to see the ordinance repealed. He calls the approach that some councilmembers are taking one that asks people to “check your brains at the door.”
8:15 p.m. Katie Brion tells the council that she walks to school with her kids crossing Madison to get to Bach Elementary School. After the ordinance passed, she’s seen a huge improvement, she says. Enforcement should be the focus, she says.
8:18 p.m. Judy Stone speaks in favor of retaining the ordinance. She’s relating her experience almost hitting someone. She’s paid more attention to pedestrian crossings, since the installation of flashing lights, she says. The response to say “get rid of this system” goes in the wrong direction. It’s her own responsibility to modify her behavior, she says. Elderly people or people with children in tow shouldn’t have to put themselves in harm’s way, she says. Stone calls for a strong and ongoing educational campaign. “We need to keep at it,” she says. It would be shortsighted to repeal the ordinance, she says.
8:20 p.m. Matt Grocoff introduces himself as a resident of Seventh Street. He relates his experience taking his daughter back home and attempting to cross the street. The traffic was heavy and fast. He waited at the crosswalk with his daughter in his arms. Cars didn’t stop. Then an Ann Arbor Public Schools bus went through the crosswalk as he was already standing there with his child in his arms, he reports. He’s posted a video of the encounter on Safety on Seventh. He calls for a sober, thoughtful process.
8:24 p.m. Cory Snavely supports the ordinance as it stands. The point of contention, he says, is which pedestrians have the right-of-way, so Kunselman’s compromise doesn’t really do anything for that. He applauds the installation of the HAWK signal and pedestrian islands. He noticed a difference, he says, when the ordinance was passed. The only safe street to step into is one with no cars or cars that are stopped, he says.
8:26 p.m. Charles recalls spending a year in the hospital after being struck by a car. “When a car hits you, it wins, no question,” he says. He was proud that the ordinance had been passed and calls it a demonstration that Ann Arbor is a progressive town. He talks about how M.A.D.D. had changed culture with respect to drunk driving. And he calls for a similar cultural change for pedestrian safety.
8:28 p.m. Lloyd Shelton leads off by saying that the setup for addressing the council is not accessible. He’s astounded and disappointed that the city council would leave him out of the equation. “To put the onus on me is wrong. I would wag my finger at you if I could,” he says. Kunselman’s amendment is “exclusionary,” he says.
8:31 p.m. Annie Wolock tells the council she’s lived in Ann Arbor for 35 years. She wonders if repealing or changing the law is the right way to approach citizen safety. She calls for more law enforcement and education. Changing the law now will lead to more confusion, she says. “We need to stay the course,” she says and reevaluate after 10 years. She calls for tabling the issue.
8:34 p.m. Marissa Arnold has been a bus driver at UM for 15 years. She’s noticed a shift in culture for pedestrians. On a daily basis, pedestrians don’t do what their mothers taught them, she says – they just go out into the street. She says that pedestrians think that because they have an ordinance to back them up, they can just walk across the street without checking traffic. She calls for balance. She calls for more education. “Everyone has somewhere they need to go and be,” she says. So she supports the amendment of the ordinance as Kunselman is proposing. It’s too difficult to assess the intent of someone standing at the curb, she says.
8:37 p.m. Jeff Hayner urges the council to increase education, engineering and enforcement of the current ordinance. Failing that, he’s in favor of repealing it. He’s spoken to thousands of people, he says. [He ran for Ward 1 city council earlier this year.] He heard from a lot of people who wanted to see the crosswalk ordinance repealed. But he’s not sure that’s the right thing to do. He says that the lack of engineering leads to people not knowing what to do – giving the example of three crosswalks in succession that are marked in different ways. He calls education of pedestrians and their responsibilities an important priority.
8:39 p.m. Another UM blue bus operator [Kwajalynn Burks] is addressing the council. She wants more HAWK signals. Other drivers are always trying to beat her somewhere, she says. Pedestrians feel entitled, she says, which could lead to a fatality. At some intersections near campus, there’s no end to the pedestrian flow, she says. The “pedestrian rules” type of marketing has pushed pedestrians to adopt that mindset, she says.
8:42 p.m. Helen Aminoff says she’s lived here since 1960. The push to repeal the crosswalk law was prompted by the tragedy of a death in a Plymouth Road crosswalk, she says. That incident was not a result of the crosswalk ordinance, she points out. The driver had passed a car that had been stopped at the crosswalk and struck the pedestrian, she says. There’s room for improvement and tweaking, she allows, but she doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
8:44 p.m. Ted Reynolds relates an experience from 10 years ago. He was in the middle of a crosswalk when he saw a car come through a red light. He dodged the car, but fell and struck his head on the pavement. His brain had lost the connection to his right foot. He has not driven since then. He says he didn’t want to become an old geezer who rams into people in a crosswalk. He’s against anything that makes it easier for drivers to go through crosswalks and strike pedestrians.
8:45 p.m. Emma Wendt is advocating for the current crosswalk ordinance. She says she wants more of her peers to move to Ann Arbor. It’s a walkable, liveable, progressive city, she says. But her friends on the coast find it odd that she likes living in the Midwest. When they hear that Ann Arbor is planning to repeal the crosswalk ordinance, they’re aghast, she says.
8:47 p.m. Chris reports that he was hit in 1980 by a car. He was on the sidewalk on a ramp and the person turned left. A good buddy of his, a “little person” in a wheelchair, was crossing Stone School, he says, and was killed. An apparatus needs to be set up to make cars slow down, he says.
8:48 p.m. The gentleman now addressing the council supports the current ordinance. Before he moved to Ann Arbor, he says, he was director of disability resources for a university in Illinois. Each of you will have a disability if you don’t die first, he tells the council.
8:51 p.m. John Weir is a Ward 4 resident. He walks where he goes – by choice. It matters a lot to him to live in a place where he feels safe and doesn’t need to own a car. That matters to a lot of his peers, he says. The other towns and cities of Michigan are not the only places that compete with Ann Arbor. The norm for Boston, where he’s from, he says, is better education and enforcement than Ann Arbor. “We can do better,” he says.
8:53 p.m. Don Whitaker has lived in Ann Arbor for 28 years and he supports the current ordinance. He’s an automotive engineer and commutes to Detroit every day. He was proud of the council when the council passed the ordinance originally, calling it a progressive move. Walkable cities are good for property values, he says. The main reason we should have the ordinance is safety, but a vision of a better community for everybody is also important. We need to work on education of pedestrians and motorists alike, he says.
8:56 p.m. Carolyn Grawi, of the Center for Independent Living, speaks in favor of keeping the current ordinance. She says there’s a lot of work to be done on engineering and education. She points out that in 1978, the law changed so that you’re supposed to stop for people with white canes. Before the ordinance, it took 35 minutes for someone with a white cane to cross, she says, which is not acceptable. She agreed with the UM bus drivers that pedestrians also need education.
8:58 p.m. Steven Kronenberg cautions against the idea that it should be an issue of motorists versus pedestrians. He points out the link between the amount of traffic on the roads and the number of parents who drive their children to school. He urges the council to preserve the ordinance.
9:02 p.m. Tricia Jones introduces herself as a Ward 5 resident. She feels for the UM bus drivers who spoke, but says that students have behaved that way forever. The recent data at non-signalized intersections, she says, show that incidents have decreased from 34 to 11 – but she allows that it’s just for 10 months of the year. She urges the council to preserve the ordinance.
9:03 p.m. Andrew Peters is a student at UM law school. He and his wife chose Ann Arbor over Boulder and Manhattan. They didn’t know about the crosswalk ordinance before they moved here. But when they visited they noticed that people were able to walk around the city. He was concerned that before something is changed – about something that makes Ann Arbor what it is – more thought should be given to it.
9:05 p.m. Julie Grand says that she visited some personal websites of councilmembers. She’s quoting their own sentiments at them to argue for waiting for a recommendation from the pedestrian safety task force.
9:08 p.m. Jonathan Levine said he’s relieved that Kunselman is bringing forward an amendment that would still require motorists to stop. A number of states are updating their laws from “yield” laws to “stop” laws, he says. If Ann Arbor is going to be different from the rest of Michigan, it’s important to think about how it should be different. He argues from the point of view of how to treat the negligent pedestrian versus the patient pedestrian. A law requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians standing at the curb rewards patient pedestrianism, he says.
9:11 p.m. Ken Clark notes that Michigan actually doesn’t have a law on crosswalks. He reviewed all the 2012 pedestrian crashes. 77% of the crashes last year were assessed by the police as the fault of drivers, he says.
9:14 p.m. Jeff Gaynor, a teacher at Clague Middle School who’s on the school’s Safe Routes to School committee, explains how the group had applied for a grant. Three of the engineered crosswalks had been installed on Green Road with that money, he says. In his 35 years of teaching, he’d taken his students on hundreds of field trips and taught them how to cross the street. There has been an increase in the number of cars that stop, he says, but the behavior is not yet universal.
9:15 p.m. Gaynor says that he can’t tell his students to step off the curb and hope that cars will stop.
9:17 p.m. Mike Miller says he logs 30-35 miles a week walking different routes. He thinks that the ordinance has made things better. He thinks Kunselman’s amendment is a step backwards. He calls for more engineering and education. He thinks that stoplights might be put in on certain streets. Through enforcement we could get a more effective law, he says.
9:19 p.m. Julia Roberts is speaking as a resident (she’s an AAATA transit planner). She’s lived in Ann Arbor for eight years – having moved here from Chicago. She’s proud of the ordinance that was passed. The crosswalk law isn’t responsible for reckless driving or walking. She asks for the council to wait for a recommendation by the pedestrian safety task force.
9:20 p.m. Tony Pinnell, a translator for European companies, advises the council that repealing the ordinance would send a bad message – and would be bad business.
9:21 p.m. Chip Smith says he lives in Ann Arbor to give his daughter a chance to walk to school. In the 18 years he’s lived here, the city has made progress but it’s still not a walkable city. He calls for the council to wait until the pedestrian safety task force can make a recommendation.
9:23 p.m. Mary Benson describes the situation as “Russian Roulette.” She thinks the issue isn’t addressed in either version of the ordinance. “I think we need more red lights,” she says. That’s universally understood. People don’t know what the flashing beacons mean. “We can educate until hell freezes over,” she says. There will still be 10,000 new drivers every year, she says. She also calls for enforcement of jaywalking laws.
9:24 p.m. Larry Deck says that he doesn’t see how Kunselman’s amendment gets to the heart of the matter. He encourages the council to wait for the recommendation of the pedestrian safety task force. He calls for a culture of mutual respect.
9:26 p.m. Ed Vielmetti says he started looking at maps of pedestrian crashes. Many of them happen near UM campus and downtown. There are two problems. One is main arteries along big long stretches. The other problem is downtown pedestrian safety, where cars are turning. He cites State Street as a particularly difficult area.
9:30 p.m. Kathy Griswold says that almost 10 years ago she spoke to the council and asked why Ann Arbor couldn’t be more like some other cities. But Ann Arbor doesn’t want to do the work, she said, to enforce existing ordinances. She contends that the crosswalk ordinance was borne out of a desire to help Ann Arbor win awards. Ann Arbor’s crosswalk ordinance isn’t consistent with AAPS school safety rules, she says, or with the state’s UTC. She contends that a professional engineer hasn’t been heard from. She asks if the city wants to work hard or just have an ordinance.
9:31 p.m. Robert Gordon addresses the council as a Ward 3 resident. He says this is a “rush” to repeal. He calls for waiting for the pedestrian safety task force to make its recommendation.
9:34 p.m. Thomas Partridge recounts his various candidacies for public office. He calls for using scientific data and for enacting ordinances to make a better community. Councilmembers come to meetings having made decisions before the meetings, no matter how many people come to the podium to make reasoned, logical arguments, he contends. He’d attended his first caucus meeting yesterday, when they had spoken in emotionally committed ways to the repeal. He calls the language of the ordinance “muddled.” He tells councilmembers to put themselves in a wheelchair and then try to cross Huron Street.
9:36 p.m. Karen Moorhead asks the council to move carefully and slowly. She hopes that the council might reconsider how much the ordinance means. Think about enforcement, engineering, and education, she says.
9:37 p.m. Recess. The public hearing on the crosswalk ordinance is done. We’re now in recess.
9:49 p.m. And we’re back.
9:50 p.m. Approval of minutes from previous meeting.
9:51 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the minutes of the previous meeting.
9:51 p.m. Consent agenda. This is a group of items that are deemed to be routine and are voted on “all in one go.” Contracts for less than $100,000 can be placed on the consent agenda. This meeting’s consent agenda includes just one item: a resolution to approve purchase order for Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) for annual geographic information system (GIS) software maintenance and license agreement ($58,900).
9:51 p.m. Councilmembers can opt to select out any items for separate consideration, but no one moves to separate out the one item from itself.
9:51 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the consent agenda.
9:51 p.m. C-1 Approve rezoning for Traverwood Apartments. The council is being asked to give initial approval for rezoning of a 3.88 acre parcel for the Traverwood Apartments project – from ORL (office research light industrial district) to R4D (multiple-family district). The site plan for this project, being developed by First Martin Corp., is not being considered by the council tonight. But the $30 million project would include 16 two-story buildings for a total of 216 one- and two-bedroom units – or 280 total bedrooms. [For additional background, see Traverwood Apartments above.]
9:52 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted without discussion to give initial approval of the rezoning necessary for the Traverwood Apartments project. A final vote will come at a future council meeting after a public hearing.
9:52 p.m. B-1 Crosswalk ordinance. The council will be asked to give final approval of a repeal of the city’s crosswalk ordinance. The council gave initial approval to the repeal at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting – on a 9-2 vote. Current Ann Arbor local law differs in two ways from the state’s Uniform Traffic Code. First, under current local law, motorists in Ann Arbor are supposed to yield the right-of-way to those pedestrians not just “within a crosswalk” but also to those who are “stopped at the curb, curb line or ramp leading to a crosswalk.” Second, when driving toward a crosswalk, motorists in Ann Arbor don’t have the option to yield to a pedestrian by merely slowing down; instead, they’re required to yield by stopping. Here’s what the current law says (as a result of amendment on Dec. 19, 2011):
10:148. Pedestrians crossing streets (a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop before entering a crosswalk and yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian stopped at the curb, curb line or ramp leading to a crosswalk and to every pedestrian within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger. …
9:53 p.m. Kunselman leads off by calling it a great discussion with the citizenry. That had led to the effort not to repeal but to amend the ordinance, he says. It would also make it more consistent with the language on the city’s signs, he says. He now reads forth the ordinance in its entirety.
9:54 p.m. The key part is “shall stop and yield the right of way to every pedestrian within a crosswalk …”
9:55 p.m. Hieftje says that Kunselman can just substitute the amendment in place of the previous repeal, without a vote.
9:57 p.m. Kunselman says that the issue has been talked about for several months. The death on Plymouth Road was very emotional, he says. Whether that death resulted from the words in the ordinance, it was a situation to be taken seriously, he says. Kunselman complains that Erica Briggs of WBWC had taken the conversation he’d had with her and used it as “propaganda.”
9:58 p.m. Kunselman reviews the Traverse City ordinance, which requires stopping, but doesn’t talk about pedestrians anywhere except within a crosswalk.
10:01 p.m. Kunselman argues from the point of view of uniformity. We don’t want to have confusion among drivers trying to guess how to operate, he says. About the crash data, he says, any decrease can’t be attributed to the crosswalk language. He says that the citizenry has called for more enforcement and education. So at the next council meeting, “by golly” he’s going to propose a budget amendment to fund more traffic enforcement.
10:03 p.m. Kailasapathy says that it’s not the case that councilmembers were asking pedestrians to step into traffic. And it’s not acceptable to have to wait a long time to cross the street, she says. “We’re telling you to wait and find a gap,” she says. She calls for HAWK and other signals and infrastructure. She supports any amendments to the budget to support this – like hiring more police, or spending money on infrastructure. The marginal rate of return on pedestrian infrastructure is greater than investing in something like a rail station, she says.
10:06 p.m. Lumm agrees with investing in infrastructure and enforcement capability as budget priorities. She appreciates everyone coming out to speak. She’s talking about the crash data. She says it can’t be used as a definitive argument either way. She’s reviewing the history of the crosswalk ordinance changes.
10:07 p.m. Lumm says she tried back in 2011 to get the crosswalk ordinance language revised to refer only to “within a crosswalk.”
10:10 p.m. Briere says that Lumm is correct that the data doesn’t support a particular conclusion. November and December – for which 2013 data is not available – are months when accidents have historically been higher, she says. Briere says the question is what problem they’re trying to fix. The public has said more education, enforcement and engineering is necessary. So she doesn’t see how changing the ordinance helps. She says that accidents happening with pedestrians are in the crosswalk, not when cars are stopping for pedestrians stopping on the curb.
10:11 p.m. Briere clarifies what a “traffic signal” is: a red-yellow-green light. So it doesn’t include flashing beacons or stop signs, she explains.
10:11 p.m. Briere notes that the ordinance doesn’t apply to most downtown locations.
10:13 p.m. Briere says she’s going to reflect more on this issue. But she says she’ll paraphrase Jeff Hayner, who ran against her this last election – he had called for education, enforcement, and engineering, not repealing the ordinance.
10:14 p.m. Anglin is for spending the money on education and engineering. Right now there are too many irregularities, he says. He notes that many of the drivers are parents driving their kids to school. He says he’ll support the Kunselman amendment, and says it’s important to follow through and support it.
10:15 p.m. We’re in a state of confusion, Anglin says. And until that confusion is removed, we won’t have a safe community.
10:18 p.m. Warpehoski says he doesn’t see how the Kunselman amendment lines up with the rhetoric of uniformity. He likes his irony like he likes his coffee: bitter. Tomorrow is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, he points out.
10:19 p.m. Warpehoski talks about his goals for the pedestrian safety task force. He’s not convinced that an inappropriate sense of pedestrian empowerment exists. He doesn’t buy that argument – but allows that that’s a data question. That data could be collected, he says, or the council could take a fire-ready-aim approach.
10:21 p.m. Warpehoski says that he walks a lot, with his kids. And he says he’s noticed that things have improved since the ordinance was passed. He says he feels safer as a pedestrian since the ordinance was passed. He says he’ll vote no on Kunselman’s proposal.
10:23 p.m. Taylor says he rejects the idea that Kunselman’s proposal is a compromise. He’s ok with Ann Arbor being different with its crosswalk law. No ordinance can protect drivers or pedestrians from negligence, he says. He repeats an argument from the Nov. 18 meeting – that the ordinance can’t be so powerful to embolden pedestrians but too weak to compel motorists to stop. He calls the budgetary amendments that others have talked about “chest thumping.”
10:24 p.m. Taylor says that the alleged confusion and fear has been “sown” and is not real, because the ordinance is very simple.
10:28 p.m. Eaton thanks everyone who showed up to speak. But he also says his vote is informed by those he talked to during his council campaign. The small numbers in the data, he says, mean that conclusions can’t be drawn. Eaton calls for a real education program and a real enforcement regime. “Here were are again tinkering with the ordinance,” he says. Ultimately, the money will have to be spent, like Griswold said, Eaton says.
10:31 p.m. Petersen says that she’s struggled with the logic of the ordinance. She says the data doesn’t show that increasing the right-of-way for pedestrians has increased safety. Petersen is skeptical that enforcement of the current ordinance would actually work. And she’s skeptical that effective education is possible in a transient community. Pedestrians should take full responsibility for their own safety, she says.
10:31 p.m. Petersen puts her faith in engineering. She says she’ll support an ADA compliant pedestrian bridge over Plymouth Road.
10:35 p.m. Warpehoski says he can count votes and realizes that he’s not going to win this one. But some comments of colleagues have gotten under his skin. He responds to Eaton’s characterization of the engineering efforts to date by saying the staff should be applauded for their efforts. Warpehoski explains that Petersen’s characterization of how a pedestrian claims the right-of-way is not correct. He agrees that pedestrians need to take responsibility for their own safety, but argues that pedestrians can best do that when they’re standing on the curb and can expect that motorists can stop.
10:36 p.m. Petersen responds to Warpehoski by saying that what he’s describing is ideal and that there’s not adequate enforcement to get to the point where motorists will actually stop.
10:39 p.m. Taylor says there’s are those who are unable to make the judgment as to whether it’s safe to enter the roadway. Under the current ordinance, it’s proper for the motorist to stop for someone just standing at the curb. Taylor says that the public speaker who talked about the culture change associated with drunk driving made a good analogy. That casts interesting light on where we are as a culture, he says.
10:42 p.m. Briere says that Petersen wants better enforcement, engineering and education and thinks there’s no way to achieve those goals, and thinks that the ordinance needs to be changed. She ticks through a paraphrase of positions taken by Eaton and Kailasapathy. Briere says that as more cars stop for pedestrians, more and more cars will stop for pedestrians. When drivers are not prepared to see a pedestrian – because they don’t have to stop for pedestrians – then they’re not prepared to stop for a person with a white cane or a person in a wheelchair, she says.
10:44 p.m. Briere also says that for “foreigners,” the more they see people stop for pedestrians, the more those “foreigners” will stop for pedestrians.
10:46 p.m. Hieftje says that in light of the closed session that’s scheduled, he would like to have the council suspend the council rule that requires a closed session to begin before 11 p.m. That rule is now suspended. Now back to the crosswalk ordinance.
10:48 p.m. Lumm is arguing against tabling. She says there’s been a lot of debate about the ordinance. Lumm is now holding forth with prepared comments.
10:50 p.m. Lumm’s comments are based essentially on an argument for uniformity across Michigan.
10:53 p.m. Hieftje corrects Anglin’s previous statement that “most bicyclists get hit” saying that some do but most don’t. Hieftje says he doesn’t think there’s a case in the data for changing the ordinance.
10:55 p.m. Hieftje talks about a video that the council had been shown years ago that showed pedestrians not using a pedestrian bridge. That’s a response to Petersen’s expression of support to build a pedestrian bridge on Plymouth Road.
10:56 p.m. Hieftje says that education, better signage, and engineering will help. But he doesn’t see how changing the ordinance will help. He doesn’t see the logic of requiring a person in a wheelchair to roll out into the road to see if cars are going to stop.
10:59 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted 6-4 to change the ordinance. But Hieftje says he will veto the change.
11:00 p.m. DC-1 Establish 2014 city council calendar. In this item, the council is complying with a charter requirement: “The Council shall fix the time and place of its regular meetings and shall hold at least two regular meetings in each month.” The pattern of the council’s regular meetings is: First and third Monday of the month with a work session on the second Monday.
11:00 p.m. Briere raises the question of a conflict with Passover.
11:00 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to confirm its calendar of regular meetings.
11:00 p.m. DC-2 Approve city policy regarding removal of on-street metered public parking spaces. The council is considering establishing a value for on-street parking spaces, in situations where the builder of a project makes a proposal that results in the loss of an on-street metered parking space. The $45,000 proposed amount is based an average of an estimated construction cost for an above-ground space of $40,000, and $55,000 for a below-ground parking space.
By way of background the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s most recent financial records show that last year on-street parking spaces generated $2,000 in gross revenue per space or $1,347 in net income per space annually. The contract with the city under which the DDA operates the public parking system stipulates that the city receives 17% of the gross parking revenues. So the city’s revenue associated with an on-street parking space corresponds to $340 annually. [For additional background, see Cost of In-Street Parking Spaces above.]
11:01 p.m. Taylor says he’s going to ask for a postponement. A public hearing is recommended, he says, for any kind of fee. So he moves to have it postponed until Dec. 16.
11:01 p.m. Briere asks if there’s sufficient time to give notice or a public hearing. There is.
11:02 p.m. Lumm thanks Taylor for bringing it forward. She agrees with the concept. She thanks staff for their answers to questions.
11:03 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to postpone the question of how much it should cost to remove an on-street parking space.
11:03 p.m. DB-1 Approve Running Fit addition site plan. The site plan entails a three-story addition to the Running Fit store at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor. The first floor will be retained as retail space, but six residential units would be built on the upper three floors – one two-bedroom and five one-bedroom units. [For additional background, see Running Fit Addition above.]
11:03 p.m. Hieftje says he supports the project.
11:03 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the Running Fit addition.
11:03 p.m. DB-2 Accept donation of 2.2 acres from W. Martin. The council is being asked to consider of a donation of 2.2 acres to the city from Bill Martin just north of the project site for Traverwood Apartments. Earlier in the meeting, the council gave initial approval to a zoning change related to the project. The donated acreage is next to the Stapp Nature Area and the Leslie Park golf course. [image of map showing location]
11:05 p.m. Briere says she wants to make sure the official record reflects the correct size of the donation.
11:05 p.m. She thanks Martin for the donation.
11:05 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to accept the acreage as a donation from Bill Martin to the city.
11:05 p.m. DS-1 Approve contract with Emergency Restoration Company ($729,000). The contract is for asbestos abatement in city hall. The council is being asked appropriate $400,000 in funds for the contract.
11:06 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the contract for asbestos abatement in city hall.
11:06 p.m. DS-2 Approve contract with Nova Environmental Inc. ($35,600). This is a contract for an air monitoring project during the city hall asbestos abatement project.
11:08 p.m. Anglin wants to know why this contract would not be included in the one for the work itself. Matt Kulhanek explains that this contractor would be overseeing the work of the other contractor. That’s why the items are separate.
11:08 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the air monitoring contract.
11:08 p.m. DS-3 Establishing a tax abatement district at 1901 E. Ellsworth. Once an industrial development district (IDD) is established, the property owner can apply for a tax abatement. The consideration of the tax abatement is a separate vote, which will be taken at a future meeting.
11:12 p.m. Kailasapathy asks for CFO Tom Crawford. She gets confirmation that the point is eventually to allow for application for a tax abatement. Crawford says that abatements can be requested for any new investment, not just personal property. She wants to know how much the value of the tax abatement would be. She notes that the company, Mahindra Genze, is a large company in India, like GE here. So it’s not really a small start-up. The amount of the investment would be $1.6 million. That’s $25,000 in total tax and the general fund portion of the city would be less, he says.
11:13 p.m. Crawford responds to Kailasapathy by explaining that the question for the council to weigh is whether the company has alternative locations. Kailasapathy wonders if this isn’t just a “race to the bottom” among various communities vying to attract the company.
11:16 p.m. City administrator Steve Powers notes that another consideration was that it would be a manufacturing operation, which is underrepresented in Ann Arbor. The fact that it’s located in an identified important corridor is also important. Kailasapathy gets confirmation that the tax abatement would likely be around three years, but could be up to 12 years.
11:18 p.m. Eaton reports that he’d had the opportunity to sit down with Luke Bonner of Ann Arbor SPARK and Alan Clark of Mahindra Genze. But he’s skeptical about tax abatements. He gets confirmation that the district is attached to the property, not the tenant. Crawford notes that Ann Arbor’s practice is to close the district after the original intent is fulfilled.
11:21 p.m. Eaton says when he looked up the city’s policy, it has a sunset clause. Crawford says that the policy is supposed to be reviewed. Eaton quotes the policy that makes clear that it does end and has already expired. Crawford: “I stand corrected.” Crawford notes that the prior city policy reflects the state’s criteria, so it’s not as if there’s no guidance.
11:23 p.m. Hieftje says that if the investment weren’t made by this company, the city wouldn’t get any tax revenue. Crawford says there’s a history of neighboring jurisdictions aggressively pursuing companies. Hieftje agrees with Kailasapathy’s characterization of the process as a “race to the bottom.” But these are the rules that the state of Michigan has set up, he says.
11:27 p.m. Petersen asks Crawford how common tax abatement is as an economic development tool. Crawford says that very few are done in Ann Arbor – in his nine years, it’s been done for around nine companies, he thinks. Ann Arbor SPARK’s Luke Bonner clarifies that it was a multi-state competition for the location. There were internal forces within Mahindra Genze that would have preferred the manufacturing location to be in a southern state. Previously, Bonner worked in Sterling Heights, where the personal property tax revenue was about $10 million, which he describes as about what all of Washtenaw County generates. That was a function of a policy to grant tax abatements.
11:31 p.m. Petersen supports this as important for economic development, which is a council priority. “I just think this makes sense for us,” she says.
11:31 p.m. Taylor says he’s delighted to support this, echoing Hieftje’s comments about these being the rules of the game. Lumm says she’s also not crazy about tax abatements because they pit one community against another. But she thinks the addition of jobs and the particular technology is a good fit for Ann Arbor. Kunselman also says he met with the representatives of the company, and he’s excited about the product. It’s located in one of the poorest parts of the city, he says, and he hopes that some of those jobs go to locals.
11:31 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to establish the IDD at 1901 E. Ellsworth.
11:31 p.m. DS-4 Approve agreement University Of Michigan for municipal parking citation processing, collections and record management services. This is the renewal of an agreement with the University for processing parking tickets.
11:32 p.m. Hieftje says that last Saturday, UM was clocking speeders on Huron Street. He points out that UM does write tickets on city streets.
11:32 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the agreement with UM for parking ticket processing.
11:32 p.m. DS-5 Approve six-month extension of installment purchase agreement with Bank of Ann Arbor to finance purchase of former Y lot. ($3,500,000). In the event that completion of due diligence on the pending sale of the old Y lot is not done by Dec. 16 – the date on which the city’s $3.5 million balloon payment is due – this approval will allow the city to continue the financing arrangement it has with Bank of Ann Arbor for six months. [For additional background, see Bank of Ann Arbor Loan.]
11:34 p.m. Briere says, “It’s my hope we never use this.” City administrator Steve Powers says that next week might be ambitious, but by the end of the year, the sale would almost certainly be completed. Lumm thanks the Bank of Ann Arbor for the terms, which include no prepayment penalty.
11:34 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the extension of the financing arrangement with Bank of Ann Arbor on the former Y lot.
11:37 p.m. Communications from council. Warpehoski follows up on Lloyd Shelton’s comment during the crosswalk public hearing. He says that Shelton is right about the accessibility of the council chambers. “We should be doing better as a seat of government for people with disabilities,” he says. People should not face an undue burden to address the council or be employed, he says. The configuration would not allow for a mayor or city administrator who uses a wheelchair. Briere points out that the chambers was built to serve as a courtroom.
11:37 p.m. Public commentary. There’s no requirement to sign up in advance for this slot for public commentary.
11:40 p.m. Ed Vielmetti is addressing the council. He reminds the council of the commitment to put items on the agenda in time for people to read them in advance and be able to comment on those items. The council appointments had not been added in a timely way, he points out. He also points out that the amendment on the crosswalk ordinance was not added until just minutes before the discussion. People would like to see the agenda settled on Friday, he notes.
11:41 p.m. Kathy Griswold says it was a major omission to not have a professional engineer recommendation for the original ordinance change. Having one person veto the revision puts a great burden on that one person, she says.
11:42 p.m. Closed session. The council is asked to go into closed session. The purpose is to discuss a privileged attorney-client memo that will be in writing, says assistant city attorney Abigail Elias.
11:45 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to go into closed session.
12:05 a.m. We’re back.
12:05 a.m. Adjournment. We are now adjourned. That’s all from the hard benches.
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