Editor’s note: This “Live Updates” coverage of the Ann Arbor city council’s Jan. 6, 2014 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 first regular meeting of the year, on Jan. 6, 2014, features a relatively light agenda with only a half dozen substantive voting items.
Two of those items were postponed from the final meeting of 2013, on Dec. 16.
One of those postponed items was the official termination of a four-year-old memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan for construction of the Fuller Road Station project.
That was a planned joint city/UM parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical campus. The council had approved the MOU on the Fuller Road Station project at its Nov. 5, 2009 meeting on a unanimous vote. However, a withdrawal of UM from the project, which took place under the terms of the MOU, was announced on Feb. 10, 2012. So it’s been clear for nearly two years that the MOU was a dead letter. The vote to terminate the MOU has its origins in the politics of Stephen Kunselman’s Ward 3 re-election campaign in 2013, when he promised to bring forward such a resolution.
The council’s postponement of the MOU termination at its Dec. 16 meeting was not due to any particular controversy about the vote itself. Instead, the postponement resulted from the fact that the item had been added to the agenda on the same day as the meeting, and that’s a practice the council has agreed should be avoided.
The other item delayed from the Dec. 16 meeting was a resolution assigning a specific cost to the removal of an on-street parking space, in connection with future developments: $45,000. That item first appeared on the council’s Dec. 2 agenda, but the council postponed it, based on a desire to hold a public hearing on the matter before taking action. The Dec. 16 postponement came after questions were raised during council deliberations, about the accounting procedures that would be used by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to track any money that might be collected under the policy.
Apart from those previously delayed items, the rest of the council’s agenda is filled out primarily with items concerning future development.
Accounting for two of the council’s Jan. 6 voting items is Traverwood Apartments – a First Martin development on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. The council will consider final approval of some rezoning necessary for the complex of 16 two-story buildings. And on a separate vote, the council will consider the site plan approval and a wetland use permit associated with the apartment complex.
A third development item on the Jan. 6 agenda is the site plan for the upward expansion of the Montgomery Ward building on South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. The estimated $3.8 million project would expand the existing 17,273-square-foot building – a former Montgomery Ward’s department store – to 38,373 square feet, with housing on the second through fifth floors.
And a final development item on the Jan. 6 agenda is a site plan and development agreement for two restaurants at Briarwood Mall. The restaurants – one at 6,470 square feet, the other at 7,068 square feet – would be constructed on the east side of the Macy’s building at Briarwood Mall. The restaurants would be operated by two chains: P.F. Chang’s and Bravo! Cucina Italiana.
The consent agenda features two items involving cellular phone antennas mounted on city facilities. One of the items relates to the specific contracts with Sprint for placing antennas at four facilities: the Plymouth Road water tower, the Manchester Road water tower, the Ann-Ashley parking structure, and the water treatment plant on Sunset Road. The contracts are being revised upwards to $45,000 a year at each location, with 4% annual escalators.
The other consent agenda item that’s related to cellular phone antennas, if it’s approved, would make it unnecessary in the future for items like the agreements with Sprint to come before the city council for approval. Instead, it would give the city administrator the power to approve licensing agreements with cellular service providers – even though they exceed the $25,000 threshold for council approval set forth in a city-charter required ordinance.
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.
The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the 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.
How Much Is a Parking Space Worth?
A resolution that was postponed for the second time at the council’s Dec. 16, 2013 meeting is now on the Jan. 6 agenda. It would define how much developers would need to pay the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority if a developer’s project requires removal of a metered on-street parking space. The proposed amount is $45,000 per space. The payment would go to the Ann Arbor DDA because the DDA manages the public parking system under a contract with the city.
The rationale for postponing the item on Dec. 2 – offered by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who sponsored the resolution – was that because it amounts to a fee, a public hearing should be held on the matter before the council voted.
After the public hearing held at the council’s Dec. 16 meeting, the council’s deliberations focused on the question of the accounting procedures to be used by the DDA in tracking any money that might be paid under the policy. Given that the rationale for the policy is that the money would be put toward the cost of construction for new parking spaces, councilmembers wanted to know how the money would be reserved for that purpose.
In this matter, the council would be acting on a four-year-old recommendation approved by the Ann Arbor DDA 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 revenues), but 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, the DDA has sole authority to determine the addition or removal of meters, loading zones, or other curbside parking uses.
The $45,000 figure is based on an average construction cost to build a new parking space in a structure, either above ground or below ground – as estimated in 2009. 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. [For more background, see: "Column: Ann Arbor's Monroe (Street) Doctrine."]
Taylor, the resolution’s sponsor, participated in meetings during the fall of 2013 of a joint council and DDA board committee that negotiated a resolution to the question about how the DDA’s TIF (tax increment finance) 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 Taylor’s reasoning on the TIF question, 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, would be closer to $55,000, assuming a 5% figure for construction cost inflation. The city’s contribution in lieu (CIL) parking program allows a developer (as one option) to satisfy an on-site parking space requirement by paying $55,000. (The other option is to enter into a 15-year agreement to purchase monthly parking permits at a 20% premium.)
The actual cost of building an underground space in the recently completed (2012) underground Library Lane parking structure could be calculated by taking the actual costs and dividing by 738 – the number of spaces in the structure. Based on a recent memo from executive director Susan Pollay to city administrator Steve Powers, about 30% or $15 million of the cost of the project was spent on items “unneeded by the parking structure.” That included elements like oversized foundations to support future development, an extra-large transformer, a new alley between Library Lane and S. Fifth Avenue, new water mains, easements for a fire hydrant and pedestrian improvements.
The actual amount spent on the Library Lane structure, according to DDA records produced under a Freedom of Information Act request from The Chronicle, was $54,855,780.07, or about $1.5 million under the project’s $56.4 million budget. Adjusting for those elements not needed for the parking structure yields a per-space cost of about $52,000. [(54,855,780.07*.70)/738] [.pdf of Nov. 22, 2013 memo from Pollay to Powers][.pdf of budget versus actual expenses for the 738-space Library Lane structure]
By way of additional 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 annually.
Killing Fuller Road Station MOU
An item postponed from the Dec. 16, 2013 meeting would officially terminate a four-year-old memorandum of understanding between the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan on Fuller Road Station.
Fuller Road Station was a planned joint city/UM parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical campus. The council had approved the MOU on the Fuller Road Station project at its Nov. 5, 2009 meeting on a unanimous vote. [.pdf of Nov. 5, 2009 MOU text as approved by the city council] However, a withdrawal of UM from the project, which took place under terms of the MOU, was announced on Feb. 10, 2012. So it’s been clear for nearly two years that the MOU was a dead letter.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) sponsored the Dec. 16 resolution. The idea to terminate the MOU has its origins in election campaign rhetoric. He had stated at a June 8, 2013 Democratic primary candidate forum that he intended to bring forth such a resolution to “kill” the Fuller Road Station project. From The Chronicle’s report of that forum:
Kunselman also stated that he would be proposing that the city council rescind its memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan to build a parking structure as part of the Fuller Road Station project. Although UM has withdrawn from participation in that project under the MOU, Kunselman said he wanted to “kill it.” That way, he said, the conversation could turn away from using the designated parkland at the Fuller Road Station site as a new train station, and could instead be focused on the site across the tracks from the existing Amtrak station.
The city continues to pursue the possibility of a newly built or reconstructed train station, but not necessarily with the University of Michigan’s participation, and without a pre-determined preferred alternative for the site of a new station. At its Oct. 21, 2013 meeting, the council approved a contract with URS Corp. Inc. to carry out an environmental review of a project called the Ann Arbor Station. That review should yield the determination of a locally-preferred alternative for a site.
Kunselman led off deliberations at the Dec. 16 meeting saying he would like to postpone the resolution. He indicated that he thought he’d managed to add the item to the agenda on the Friday before the Monday meeting, but it turned out he had not done so. In light of the council’s discussion at their Dec. 9 budget planning session – when councilmembers had said they’d strive to avoid adding resolutions at the last minute – Kunselman said he wanted it postponed.
Mayor John Hieftje and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) both indicated they’d vote for the resolution – but also said they didn’t think the resolution was necessary. They indicated they were willing to vote for the resolution without postponing. Kunselman nevertheless wanted to postpone it, because it was added late to the agenda. It now appears on the Jan. 6 agenda.
Also on the council’s Jan. 6 agenda is a First Martin Corp. project, which would construct a residential complex on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. The development is called Traverwood Apartments.
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.
Two separate items are on the council’s agenda – one for the rezoning required for the project, and the other for the site plan and wetland use permit.
At the council’s Dec. 2, 2013 meeting, the initial approval of the required rezoning was given. Also approved at that meeting was a donation of 2.2 acres, just north of the project site – by Bill Martin, founder of First Martin Corp., to the city. The donated acreage is next to the Stapp Nature Area and the Leslie Park golf course.
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.
Montgomery Ward Building
Another item on the city council’s Jan. 6 agenda is the site plan for a four-story addition to the existing two-story building (the old Montgomery Ward building) at 210-216 S. Fourth Ave., between East Liberty and East Washington in downtown Ann Arbor. The plan calls for creating 32 new housing units, including four studios, 14 one-bedroom, and 14 two-bedroom units. Planning commissioners took action to recommend approval of the project’s site plan at their Nov. 19, 2013 meeting.
The estimated $3.8 million project would expand the existing 17,273-square-foot building – a former Montgomery Ward’s department store – to 38,373 square feet, with housing on the second through fifth floors. The ground floor would remain commercial space. Current tenants include Salon Vertigo and Bandito’s Mexican Restaurant. The top floor will include a stair/elevator lobby, restroom, wet bar, and access to several roof decks. Part of the fifth-floor roof will be covered in vegetation as a green roof.
Because the building is located in a historic district, it required a certificate of appropriateness from the city’s historic district commission. The HDC granted that certificate at its Sept. 12, 2013 meeting.
The site is zoned D1, which allows for the highest level of density. According to a staff memo, eight footing drain disconnects will be required.
According to a report from the July 10, 2013 citizen participation meeting, the units will be marketed to “anyone who wants to live downtown.” If approvals are received, construction is expected to begin next summer. The project’s architect is Brad Moore.
Moore is also the architect for an expansion project on the adjacent property – a three-floor addition to the Running Fit building at East Liberty and South Fourth, which will create six residential units. That project received a recommendation of approval from planning commissioners at their Oct. 15, 2013 meeting and was subsequently approved by the city council on Dec. 2, 2013.
Briarwood Mall Restaurant Expansions
A site plan for construction of two freestanding restaurants at Briarwood Mall is also on the council’s Jan. 6 agenda.
The proposal calls for building two new restaurants – one at 6,470 square feet, the other at 7,068 square feet – on the east side of the Macy’s building at Briarwood Mall, 700 Briarwood Circle. The restaurants would be two chains: P.F. Chang’s and Bravo! Cucina Italiana.
The parking lot north and east of the new restaurants would be reconfigured, reducing the total amount of parking by 188 spaces. The estimated cost of the project is $1,577,094. The site is located in Ward 4.
Ann Arbor planning commissioners recommended approval of the site plan and development in action at their Nov. 19, 2013 meeting. The project was originally considered at the commission’s Oct. 15, 2013 meeting, but postponed because of outstanding issues.
Originally, the planning staff had indicated that the project would require rezoning a portion of the parking lot from P (parking) to C2B (business service. However, according to a memo accompanying the commission’s Nov. 19 meeting packet, planning staff subsequently determined that because the original 1973 Briarwood Mall zoning anticipated the expansion of Hudson’s (now Macy’s ) to the east, no rezoning was needed.
Cellular Antenna Licensing
The consent agenda for Jan. 6 features two items involving cellular phone antennas mounted on city facilities. By council rule, contracts for less than $100,000 can be placed on the consent agenda.
One of the consent agenda items relates to the specific contracts with Sprint for placing antennas at four facilities: the Plymouth Road water tower, the Manchester Road water tower, the Ann-Ashley parking structure, and the water treatment plant on Sunset Road. The contracts are being revised upwards to $45,000 a year at each location with 4% annual escalators. The previous agreements ranged from $25,920 to $39,283, according to the staff memo accompanying the resolution.
The staff memo also indicates that Sprint has been given initial administrative approval to undertake replacement of some of its equipment related to its 4G deployment.
The other consent agenda item related to cellular phone antennas, if it’s approved, would make it unnecessary in the future for items like the agreements with Sprint to come before the city council for approval. Instead, it would give the city administrator the power to approve licensing agreements with cellular service providers – even though they exceed the $25,000 threshold for council approval set forth in a city-charter required ordinance.
3:54 p.m. Now added to the agenda are nominations for the nine members of the pedestrian safety task force, which was established by the council at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting: Vivienne Armentrout, Neal Elyakin, Linda Diane Feldt, Jim Rees, Anthony Pinnell, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, Kenneth Clark, Scott Campbell, and Owen Jansson.
4:00 p.m. An email from Mary Jo Callan, Washtenaw County’s director of the office of community and economic development – sent today to city administrator Steve Powers, among others – outlines the county’s response with respect to the homeless during the snowstorm. The email indicates she’ll be at tonight’s city council meeting to provide additional information. [Callan's Jan. 6, 2014 email] Most of the nine people signed up for public commentary have indicated they’ll be addressing the topic of shelter for the homeless during the inclement weather.
4:22 p.m. Part of the tally associated with the 10.4 inches of snow that fell on Ann Arbor is the vehicle miles traveled from midnight Sunday through around 1 p.m. Monday by Ann Arbor city snow plows: They logged 7,641 vehicle miles. Eleven of the city’s fleet logged at least 300 miles during that period. Top mileage for any plow, logged by vehicle number 4551, was 483.9 miles. [.jpg of snowplow mileage chart]
4:25 p.m. Staff responses to city council “caucus questions,” which are submitted in advance of the meeting, are now available. [.pdf of Jan. 6, 2014 staff answers to caucus questions]
6:28 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. Three audience members have arrived so far. Yellow agenda sheets are stacked neatly on the public speaking podium.
6:42 p.m. Chief of police John Seto and public services area administrator Craig Hupy have circulated through council chambers. Earl Ophoff of Midwestern Consulting has arrived with posterboards for the Traverwood Apartments project.
6:53 p.m. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Jack Eaton (Ward 4) have now arrived. Eaton is explaining to Odile Hugonot Haber that he’s not, as was rumored, bringing a resolution tonight to fund a warming center. He characterizes the issue as not an emergency, in the sense that it gets cold every winter. But it’s become an emergency because adequate action hasn’t been taken in the past. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) is also now here.
6:58 p.m. Mayor John Hieftje and city administrator Steve Powers are here. City attorney Stephen Postema is here. Postema has started a beard. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) is also here, with fresh beard.
7:01 p.m. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) has now arrived, clean-shaven.
7:04 p.m. Margie Teall (Ward 4) has now arrived. Kathy Griswold, signed up to speak during public commentary, has now arrived.
7:06 p.m. Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) has arrived, as has Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1).
7:08 p.m. Brad Moore, architect for the Montgomery Ward building expansion, is here.
7:11 p.m. Call to order, moment of silence, pledge of allegiance. And we’re off.
7:11 p.m. Roll call of council. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) are absent.
7:11 p.m. Hieftje reports that Briere is out with the flu.
7:11 p.m. Approval of agenda.
7:11 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the agenda.
7:15 p.m. Communications from the city administrator. City administrator Steve Powers has introduced Craig Hupy, public services area administrator, to give an update on the city’s response to the recent snowstorm. Official tally for snowfall was 10.4 inches. He’s describing how the city has been using 12-hour shifts. Twenty-four snowplows are working on the local streets right now. Four plows are working major streets to keep drifts back. Hupy also gives the mileage summary, which was reported above.
7:17 p.m. Mary Jo Callan has been introduced. She is Washtenaw County’s director of the office of community and economic development. Her message from earlier in the day is now attached to the agenda. [Callan's Jan. 6, 2014 email] She gives a status update. She says the Delonis Center has opened the daytime warming center. Twenty-five people were using the daytime warming center, she says. It has a capacity of 200. No one has been turned out into the cold up to this point, she says. The restriction on intoxication has been loosened, she notes.
7:18 p.m. Known campsites were visited by PORT (the county’s project outreach team), she says, and soundness of tent structures were assessed. Various materials were distributed, she says. First Pres will be open tomorrow, among other facilities, she says.
7:20 p.m. Callan is reading aloud a statement from St. Joe’s, which has space for 30 people. St. Joe’s is looking to coordinate with the county and city on this. The county’s community support and treatment services (CSTS) and Alpha House are coordinating to staff that facility, if a decision is made to use it. That decision will be made later tonight, she said.
7:22 p.m. Hieftje is getting clarification from Callan on the situation with the daytime warming center at Delonis – a capacity of 200, with about 25 people making use of it.
7:22 p.m. Eaton asks a question about how much money this is costing for all the organizations. He wants information about how much it is costing so that the city can understand what it might do to help.
7:25 p.m. Responding to a question from Teall, Callan thanks the council for its recent support of affordable housing. She mentions the plan that the Ann Arbor housing commission has for Miller Manor to convert it to a front-desk staffed facility. She says the world has changed a lot since the 2007 needs assessment was done. So she’ll be providing fresh information soon about what the current needs actually are.
7:26 p.m. Warpehoski says he’s glad that the Delonis Center has loosened the restriction on intoxication. He inquires about those people who have been prohibited from accessing the Delonis Center due to behavioral problems. Callan says that the 15 people that PORT has responded to were in that category.
7:28 p.m. Kailasapathy says that the collection of organizations that have stepped forward seems ad hoc. She wants to know if it can be better publicized and systematized. Yes, says Callan. There is a plan in place, but it could be better. In some cases, she said, staff for some facilities can’t get into work due to the snow.
7:30 p.m. Police chief John Seto now reports out. He says there have been no staff shortages, and the AAPD is “response capable.” Last Saturday, there was a water pipe rupture at a University of Michigan student dorm, he says, and AAPD had helped with that.
7:30 p.m. Powers notes that parks and recreation programs had been cancelled today and tomorrow due to the severe cold. Hieftje thanks Powers for keeping councilmembers up to date.
7:31 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.]
A total of nine people are signed up to speak during public commentary reserved time. Eight of them are signed up to speak on the topic of providing shelter to the homeless during the current inclement weather [current temperature -12 F with forecast high temperature of around 0 F for Tuesday, Jan. 7]: Thomas Partridge, Tracy Williams, Ryan Sample, Tate Williams, Sheri Wander, Greg Pratt, Odile Hugonot-Haber, and Alan Haber.
Kathy Griswold is signed up to speak on the topic of the termination of the Fuller Road Station memorandum of understanding.
7:36 p.m. Thomas Partridge calls on the council to protect the most vulnerable. He criticizes various “right wing proposals.” He wants provisions in all site plan approvals requiring accessibility for public transportation and affordable housing.
7:39 p.m. Saying that she wanted to start on a positive note, Kathy Griswold reports that her street was plowed early this morning and that when she drove around town, she observed the streets were well-plowed, even the mid-block crosswalks. She supports the termination of the Fuller Road Station memorandum of understanding. She calls on the council to pay attention to process. She cautions that enforcement for traffic might be understood as much more than just handing out tickets, and that there could be far more positive interactions between officers and residents besides just ticketing.
7:41 p.m. Tracy Williams introduces himself as a homeless resident. People are in trouble, he says. We can keep talking, but we need to be doing, he says. He suggests 721 N. Main as a possible warming shelter. The city’s plan to demolish the building and turn it into a park would prevent that, he notes. He says that instead of turning it into a park, they should turn it into a cemetery – because that way, the city’s homeless might finally find a place to rest there.
7:41 p.m. Ryan Sample commends the Delonis Center for operating beyond its capacity. He urges the city to open the doors to the 721 N. Main building for use as a warming center.
7:43 p.m. Tate Williams says that the existing social services network is overtasked and underfunded. It leaves many people unable to receive the help they need to survive. He asks for the city to provide a way for citizens to help in an organized way – including opening their homes to the homeless.
7:46 p.m. Sheri Wander lives on White Street, she says. She apologizes if her remarks come off as emotional. She’s spent the last several days delivering propane tanks to those who are living in tents. She says she was “in awe” of PORT today as they raced around to put some people in hotel rooms. She’s proud of what the city has done, but it shouldn’t be done at the last minute, she says. She hears over and over that we have the infrastructure and the capacity to take care of people. But she doesn’t think there’s enough sanctioned capacity to take care of people. “I know the city can do better,” she says. Wander wants the city to look at 721 N. Main, even though that facility isn’t perfect, she says. She quotes G.K. Chesterton: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
7:48 p.m. Greg Pratt thanks all the previous speakers by name. He also thanks Mary Jo Callan. He appreciates all the support. But he offers an alternative pledge of allegiance, and on the phrase “to the principle for which we stand,” the rest of the audience stands. The pledge calls for 45 F degrees as the threshold for opening the warming center.
7:51 p.m. Odile Hugonot-Haber is reading aloud Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the right to housing. She says that city officials seem to want to say that everything is just fine. The timer goes off. [That seems a bit abbreviated. Possibly the timer was set incorrectly.]
7:52 p.m. Alan Haber thanks Odile for reading aloud from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ann Arbor should adopt warmth as a fundamental human right, he says. Warmth is not just temperature, he says. Statistics might show that everyone is taken care of, he says, but from what he’s heard and seen, that’s not so. The city needs a space that is managed by those who use it, he says. All of us should be more contributory. The homeless “them,” he says, are seen as a problem. But they have creativity and skills. He calls on the council to consider 721 N. Main as an option.
7:55 p.m. Communications from council. Eaton says that Anglin is stuck in Florida and could not be at the council meeting. Anglin is with his 94-year-old mother. Eaton notes that when Camp Take Notice was dispersed, the city had interfered with an attempt to create a self-governed community to deal with homelessness in the way that Haber described. Eaton ventures that the city might lease a city building to a group. His remarks draw applause.
7:55 p.m. MC-1 Appointments: Confirmations. The council is being asked tonight to confirm nominations to city boards and commissions that were made at the council’s Dec. 16, 2013 meeting: Kristin Tomey to the Ann Arbor public art commission, filling the vacancy of Wiltrud Simbeurger for a term ending Dec. 31, 2016; and Benjamin Bushkuhl, a reappointment, to the historic district commission for a term ending Dec. 6, 2016.
7:55 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to confirm the two appointments on the agenda.
7:56 p.m. MC-2 Nominations. Nominations are being made for the pedestrian safety task force, which was established by the council at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting: Vivienne Armentrout, Neal Elyakin, Linda Diane Feldt, Jim Rees, Anthony Pinnell, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, Kenneth Clark, Scott Campbell, Owen Jansson. A confirmation vote will be taken at the council’s Jan. 21, 2014 meeting.
7:56 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. Four public hearings are on the agenda. The first two relate to the Traverwood Apartments project – a proposed complex of 16 two-story buildings on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. One of the Traverwood Apartments public hearings relates to some rezoning that’s required as a part of the project. The second public hearing is on the Traverwood Apartments site plan and a wetland use permit associated with the apartment complex.
A third public hearing on tonight’s agenda is the site plan for the upward expansion of the Montgomery Ward building on Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. The estimated $3.8 million project would expand the existing 17,273-square-foot building – a former Montgomery Ward’s department store – to 38,373 square feet, with housing on the second through fifth floors.
And the fourth public hearing is on the site plan and development agreement for two restaurants at Briarwood Mall. The restaurants – one at 6,470 square feet, the other at 7,068 square feet – would be constructed on the east side of the Macy’s building at Briarwood Mall, 700 Briarwood Circle. The restaurants would be operated by two chains: P.F. Chang’s and Bravo! Cucina Italiana.
7:57 p.m. PH-1 Traverwood Apartments rezoning. Mike Martin of First Martin tells the council that the project team is in attendance and available to answer questions.
8:01 p.m. Thomas Partridge is giving general commentary critical of the rezoning proposal. He wants the proposal postponed until there is a requirement in every such proposal that ensures the turnaround of egregious past discrimination.
8:01 p.m. That’s it for PH-1.
8:08 p.m. PH-2 Traverwood Apartments site plan and wetland use permit. Partridge follows up on his remarks on PH-1 saying that it amounts to egregious discrimination to not take up the question of whether a site was used for the Underground Railroad, before approving the site plan.
8:08 p.m. Peggy Rabhi has questions about the wetland use permit. She says it looks like the project will preserve the “lake” and the largest pond on the south end of the property. The south pond is home to frogs, newts and salamanders, she says. Those species pass the winter not in the pond but rather adjacent to the pond, she says. She hopes that First Martin would be willing to work with the city’s natural area preservation staff on this issue.
8:11 p.m. Stacie Printon says she’s a park steward for the park adjacent to the property. She expresses some concerns and makes some suggestions. The southwest portion of the plan abuts Leslie Park golf course and Leslie Woods, so she has concerns about the impact on those woods. There will be some cutting into the slopes, she says. There are three trees worthy of preservation, numbered 2582, 2583, and 2584. Buildings #5 and #6 come very close to the corner, she says. She suggests combining the buildings into a single L-shaped building that might eliminate the need for a retaining wall.
8:11 p.m. That’s it for PH-2.
8:13 p.m. PH-3 – Montgomery Building site plan. Architect Brad Moore describes the project as next to the Running Fit building, which the council had recently approved. He’s describing the basic highlights of the project.
8:16 p.m. Thomas Partridge says the attempt to rehabilitate the property is admirable. But he’d not heard the two words he thinks are essential: “Affordable housing.”
8:16 p.m. That’s it for PH-3.
8:19 p.m. PH-4 Briarwood restaurants site plan. Thomas Partridge says he was a recent candidate for the city council as well as for the Michigan state house and senate. He’s attended meetings of several different public bodies over the last decade. He reiterates his standard call for a requirement that all site plans include provisions for access to public transportation and affordable housing.
8:20 p.m. That’s it for PH-4.
8:20 p.m. Approval of previous meeting’s minutes.
8:20 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the previous meeting’s minutes.
8:20 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 three items: (1) authorization for the city administrator to approve cell phone antenna licensing agreements, even if they exceed the $25,000 threshold requiring city council approval; (2) authorization to pay Scio Township $46,807 in sewer hookup charges for the Varsity Ford property at 3480 Jackson Ave.; and (3) approval of cell phone antenna licensing agreements with Spring at four city locations – the Plymouth Road water tower, the Manchester Road water tower, the Ann-Ashley parking structure and the water treatment plant facility on Sunset Road. [For additional background on cell phone antenna licensing, see Cellular Antenna Licensing above.]
Worth noting is that total revenue to the city for cell antennas budgeted for FY 2014 is $520,000, all of which goes toward debt service on the Justice Center.
8:21 p.m. Councilmembers can pull out items on the consent agenda for separate consideration. Hieftje says that an administrative change has been made to correct the name of the company in CA-3.
Warpehoski pulls out CA-2.
8:21 p.m. CA-2 Scio Twp. Sewer connection fees. Councilmembers are discussing this item that Warpehoski pulled out for separate consideration. Warpehoski says he doesn’t understand why the city is paying instead of the landowner. Hupy explains that the landowner is paying the city, and the city is meeting the request of its customer in the most cost-effective way possible. The landowner is paying the city’s fee to the city. The city is paying the township to service the city’s customer. Warpehoski says he doesn’t fully understand it, but he’s comfortable going ahead.
Kunselman asks Hupy to describe the property: It’s Varsity Ford on Jackson Road. Hupy describes it as cleaning up a situation that came to light as the city prepared to renegotiate the agreement between the city and Scio Township for sewer service.
8:26 p.m. Outcome: The council has now approved the Scio Township sewer hookup payment.
8:26 p.m. Outcome: The council has now approved all the items on the consent agenda.
8:28 p.m. Recess. We’re now in recess.
8:36 p.m. And we’re back.
8:36 p.m. B-1 Traverwood Apartments rezoning. This project, estimated to cost $30 million, would include 16 two-story apartment 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 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 as R4D. The city council gave initial approval of the rezoning at its Dec. 2, 2013 meeting.
8:37 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted without discussion to give final approval of the Traverwood Apartments rezoning.
8:37 p.m. DC-1 Approve a city policy regarding removal of on-street metered public parking spaces. This item would establish $45,000 as the fee to be charged to developers and passed through to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority for removal of an on-street metered public parking space. The conceptual basis for the amount is the cost per space of constructing new parking structures. [For additional background see How Much Is a Parking Space Worth? above.]
8:38 p.m. Taylor describes the resolution. The resolution creates a policy that the contract between the city and the DDA describes.
8:41 p.m. Petersen wants to amend the resolution. She says that the true cost of a metered parking space should include the net present value estimate for the revenue associated with a parking space. She’d chosen a 10-year projection provided by the staff. She and Taylor had had some back-and-forth, she reports. Her amendment ensures that the city would get 17% of the revenue from the $45,000 payment.
8:43 p.m. Kailasapathy wants to amend the resolution so that the money that goes to the DDA is recorded as restricted funds for capital projects in the parking system. Taylor says that they are both excellent ideas, which he’s happy to support. The changes are considered “friendly.”
8:45 p.m. Taylor also has an amendment: swapping out “on the parcels” for “in the right of way.” That’s accepted as friendly as well.
8:48 p.m. Lumm says the changes are an improvement. She thanks staff. She supports the resolution. Lumm is reviewing how many meter have been removed over time. She thinks it’s important to adopt a requirement for reimbursement, because these do accumulate to amounts that can be substantial.
8:51 p.m. Eaton has a question about the authorization of the city administrator to review the DDA decision. Given that the city administrator now sits on the DDA board, he wants to substitute in “city council” for that. Teall says she understands the conflict that’s being pointed out. But she doesn’t think the council should review the decision. She feels it could be handled within the administration. Kunselman says he doesn’t have a problem with the city administrator having the authority to override the DDA as a whole. Powers says that he can balance the responsibility, noting that his ultimate accountability is to the council.
8:54 p.m. Eaton says he’s not questioning the ability of Powers to balance the decision, but thinks it’s bad public policy to have someone sitting on a board who then reviews the decisions of that same board. Hieftje responds by saying that the DDA statute requires conflict in some ways. Petersen says there’s no drafted policy the DDA has for evaluating public benefit. [The issue here is the ability to waive the $45,000 fee if there's a public benefit to removing the on-street parking space.]
8:57 p.m. Kailasapathy characterizes the issue as one of checks and balances, and not the integrity of Steve Powers. We’re human beings and we’re fallible, she says. Having the same person implementing the policy and reviewing isn’t good policy, she says. Kunselman indicates he agrees that it might not be good policy, but notes that government is messy. If the city council should review it, he wonders if the council shouldn’t just take back the whole parking system. He doesn’t think it’s possible to avoid the kind of conflict that Eaton has identified. It’s fine the way it is, he says.
9:00 p.m. Lumm says she appreciates Kunselman walking the council through the nuance. Having someone in administration review the decision would mean that person would still be reporting to Powers, she notes. And to drag the city council into it, she says, wouldn’t be a good idea. She ventures that the council might want to weigh in on the drafting of the public benefit policy. Eaton says it’s purely a process question, and it’s not a desire for the city council to take over that role, but he doesn’t know who else would.
9:01 p.m. Petersen says that it’s been a good discussion and that it shows that the council needs training on what is and isn’t a conflict of interest. She compares it to having a separate person collect the money and count the money. She’s willing to let it go forward with the city administrator being the reviewer.
9:01 p.m. Outcome on Eaton’s amendment: Only Kailasapathy and Eaton vote for the amendment. It fails.
9:02 p.m. Outcome on main resolution: The council has voted unanimously to approve the policy, as amended, for charging a fee of $45,000 for removal of an on-street parking space.
9:02 p.m. DC-2 Termination of MOU on Fuller Road Station. This resolution would formally terminate the four-year old MOU between the city and the University of Michigan for construction of joint city/UM parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical campus. The university withdrew from the project two years ago under the terms of the agreement. The resolution is a formality. [For additional background, see Killing Fuller Road Station MOU above.]
9:03 p.m. Kunselman introduces the resolution. He calls it wrapping up loose ends for a document that doesn’t have an expiration date. Hieftje says it’s like digging someone up who died a couple of years ago and re-burying them, but he’ s not opposed to it.
9:03 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to terminate the Fuller Road Station MOU.
9:03 p.m. Ann Arbor Summer Festival board appointments. This resolution appoints directors to the board of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. It reflects a certain amount of bureaucratic housecleaning, as all of the appointments are retroactive, some of them dramatically so:
- Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2014 Paul Cousins (trustee, Dexter Village)
- Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2014 Erica Fitzgerald (attorney with Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker)
- Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2014 Linda Girard (CEO, Pure Visibility)
- Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2014 Kimberly Scott (attorney with Miller Canfield)
- Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2014 Ellie Serras (community relations director, Main Street BIZ)
- Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2014 Christie Wong Barrett (manufacturing council at U.S. Department of Commerce)
- Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2015 Tim Freeth (head of industry, Google)
- Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2015 Jerold Lax (attorney with Pear Sperling Eggan and Daniels)
- Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2015 Kenneth Magee (former head of University of Michigan public safety)
- Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2015 Kevin McDonald (city of Ann Arbor, assistant city attorney)
- Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2016 Tom Crawford (city of Ann Arbor, chief financial officer)
- Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2016 Mary Kerr (president, Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
- Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2016 Dug Song (CEO of Duo Security, tech entrepreneur)
Most of these members, however, do not appear to meet the membership criteria listed out in the description available on the city’s online Legistar system, which reads:
Membership/Committee Composition: Representatives from each of the following: Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, South University Merchants Association, State Street Area Art Fair, State Street Area Association, Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans, Main Street Area Association, Washtenaw Non-Profits, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ann Arbor City Council (2-1 each caucus), City and County Government Departments (4 votes total): Ann Arbor Building Dept., Ann Arbor Police Dept., Ann Arbor Fire Dept., Ann Arbor Solid Waste Dept., Ann Arbor Transportation Division, Ann Arbor Attorney’s Office, Washtenaw County Health Dept., U of M (2 votes total): Community Relations, Public Safety, Michigan Union, Plant Operations, Parking Services.
Some confusion surrounding these appointments is reflected in one of the resolved clauses of the resolution, which reads:
RESOLVED, That the Mayor and City Council request that the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Inc., clarify the designation process in their Bylaws and implement an annual designation process by August 1, 2014.
9:04 p.m. Hieftje says that this item was prompted by a bylaws review of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival board. He then praises the Summer Festival.
9:04 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the board appointments to the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
9:04 p.m. DB-1 Traverwood Apartments site plan and wetland use permit. This is a proposed complex of 16 two-story buildings on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. This is the second of two items on the agenda related to this project. Earlier in the meeting the council approved the rezoning necessary for the project. [For additional background see Traverwood Apartments above.]
9:06 p.m. Lumm leads things off, saying that she’d seen the development team having a conversation with those who spoke during the public hearing. She asks for some response of the concerns described. Earl Ophoff of Midwestern Consulting responds to the description of the retaining walls that are tiered so that it minimizes the impact on the critical root zones of nearby trees.
9:09 p.m. Ophoff is describing how the newt and salamanders will be finishing their mating in the spring around March and May before the project starts work. He describes how the project accommodates bats.
9:12 p.m. Eaton asks about a pipe to be installed in connection with a wetland. Wetland #2 has three parts, Ophoff explains. Eaton is concerned that the pipe is undersized.
9:13 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the site plan and wetland use permit for the Traverwood Apartments project.
9:13 p.m. DB-2 Montgomery Ward building site plan. The council is being asked to approve the site plan for the upward expansion of the old Montgomery Ward building on South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. The estimated $3.8 million project would expand the existing 17,273-square-foot building – a former Montgomery Ward’s department store – to 38,373 square feet, with housing on the second through fifth floors. [For additional background see Montgomery Ward Building above.]
9:14 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted without discussion to approve the site plan for the old Montgomery Ward building.
9:14 p.m. Briarwood restaurants site plan. The council is being asked to approve the site plan and development agreement for two restaurants at Briarwood Mall. The restaurants – one at 6,470 square feet, the other at 7,068 square feet – would be constructed on the east side of the Macy’s building at Briarwood Mall, 700 Briarwood Circle. The restaurants would be operated by two chains: P.F. Chang’s and Bravo! Cucina Italiana. [For additional background see Briarwood Mall Restaurant Expansions above.]
9:14 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the Briarwood Mall restaurant expansion site plan.
9:14 p.m. DS-1 Approve a purchase order with Hastings Air Energy Control Inc. The council is being asked to approve a contract with Hastings Air Energy Control Inc. for 15 systems to capture exhaust from fire department vehicles. The amount of the contract is $109,845. Most of the cost is being funded by a federal grant, which the council formally accepted at its May 13, 2013 meeting. A local match of $21,969 was required on the grant, which was for $87,876.
According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, the systems will be deployed “within the city’s five operating fire stations as part of the city’s commitment to providing its fire fighting personnel and visitors of city fire stations a safer and cleaner living atmosphere, while supporting the city’s leading role in protecting the overall quality of the environment.”
9:14 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted without discussion to approve the contract with Hastings Air Energy Control Inc. for exhaust capturing systems.
9:15 p.m. DS-2 Accepting sanitary sewer easement. The council is being asked to accept a standard grant of easement for sanitary sewer from the owners of the properties at 2200, 2220, 2240, and 2260 Wolverhampton Court.
9:15 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to accept the grant of easement for the properties at Wolverhampton Court.
9:16 p.m. Communications from the council. Teall thanks police chief John Seto and the staff for their work on the New Year’s Eve celebration activities on Main Street, called The Puck Drops Here. She hoped it would be repeated.
9:16 p.m. Communications from the city attorney. City attorney Stephen Postema reports that the Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the city’s position in the revocation of the Dream Nite Club’s liquor license. Postema thanks the police for their role in that.
9:18 p.m. Clerk’s Report. The clerk’s report is now received.
9:18 p.m. Public commentary There’s no requirement to sign up in advance for this slot for public commentary.
9:21 p.m. Thomas Partridge is the only speaker. He says that people might question why he attends council meetings calling on the council to abide by the law and the constitution. He calls for reform and a turnaround of the council. He calls again as he has before for the resignation of mayor John Hieftje and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. He alleges that he’s had property stolen and been subject to threats of intimidation. Huge amounts of snow have been piled up around buildings that house handicapped people, he claims.
9:22 p.m. Closed session. The council has voted to go into a closed session for discussion of land acquisition and written attorney-client communication.
9:39 p.m. While we’re waiting for the closed session to conclude, here’s the first part of the non-motorized transportation plan implementation strategy that the city administrator was directed by the city council to develop: [.pdf of non-motorized plan implementation strategy]
9:51 p.m. Councilmembers have emerged from the closed session.
9:53 p.m. They’re back, but have decided to take a short break.
10:02 p.m. It sounds like the council will be considering a resolution that will direct the city administrator to make inquiries about the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street, with an eye toward possibly exercising the city’s right of first refusal to purchase the property.
10:03 p.m. The resolution is being crafted during the recess.
10:07 p.m. Council is back in open session.
10:10 p.m. They’re opening the agenda to add a resolution directing the city administrator and city attorney to gather appropriate information to explore the possibility to exercise the city’s right of first refusal to purchase the 2500 S. State property owned by Edwards Brothers. The resolution also directs the development of financing proposals that would be feasible for the city. The information is to be gathered by Jan. 30.
10:12 p.m. Hieftje is reciting the standard explanation of the city’s interest in preserving the city’s tax base. He calls the acquisition of the old Pfizer property and the property along Division where the Blimpy Burger’s previously stood part of a pattern that the University of Michigan has displayed.
10:14 p.m. Lumm is glad they’re gathering the additional information so the council can decide whether to exercise its right of first refusal. She says it will be invaluable to have that information so that the council can make the decision. Staff will be looking at the zoning questions, she says, which will help to inform the council’s decision. The site, at 16.7 acres, is the largest remaining such parcel in the city, she says.
10:15 p.m. Taylor echoes Hieftje and Lumm. The University of Michigan’s acquisition of property is a long-term challenge the city faces, he says.
10:16 p.m. Outcome: The council has approved the resolution directing the city administrator and city attorney to gather information on exercising the city’s right of first refusal on the Edwards Brothers property.
10:16 p.m. Here’s the text of the unamended resolution. The amended version contains the due date of Jan. 30. [Edwards Brothers Resolution of Inquiry and Information Gathering Jan. 6, 2014]
10:16 p.m. Here’s the amended resolution. [Amended Edwards Brothers Resolution of Inquiry and Information Gathering Jan. 6, 2014]
10:16 p.m. Adjournment. We are now adjourned. That’s all from the hard benches.
The Chronicle survives in part through regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor city council. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.