Comments on: Downtown Items OK’d, Public Art Delayed it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Fri, 31 Jan 2014 15:51:40 +0000 Here’s some context for the recent tall-building boom downtown (624 Church St., et. al.):

“As previously noted, the skyscraper indicator is flashing sell signals. The indicator is based on Edward R. Dewey’s observation that the tallest buildings go up at the end of economic booms. The Empire State Building was constructed through the Supercycle wave (III) peak in 1929; One World Trade Center was built through the Cycle wave III peak in 1966. The completion of the new One World Trade Center, which was topped off this year and will be ready for occupancy sometime next year, holds strongly bearish implications for the stock and real estate markets. This time the signal is amplified by some key divergences that are as dramatic as the views from One WTC’s observation deck. In November, the building became the tallest in North America, but it took a special ruling by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (yes, there is such an organization) to crown it so. The council’s ruling said that One WTC’s spire is a permanent architectural element, which pushes the building’s official height to 1776 feet. In addition to the fudge factor that was needed to surpass Chicago’s Willis Tower (built through the major stock peak in 1973), there is the fact that One WTC will be the largest building in North America but not in the world. That honor remains with the Burj Khalifa, a 1,988-foot-tall building in Dubai that was constructed through the 2007 stock market peak.”–Elliott Wave International, Global Market Perspective – January 3, 2014.

By: Eric Boyd Eric Boyd Wed, 29 Jan 2014 18:08:15 +0000 @7: Mr. Hollyer, I also appreciate your point of view. (FWIW, “Eric” is fine, but I did not want to be disrespectful by being informal in return.)

It does sound like your case in particular did not match the majority of the township islands, but, obviously, I have no idea where you live. However, looking at the city maps, there are plenty of township islands that make absolutely no sense from an equity perspective.

For example, the building that now houses Biercamp (near corner of South State and Stimson) was just brought into the city. Before that, however, it was Ann Arbor township, albeit miles from the rest of the township). The street in front of that building is paved and plowed. There are sidewalks. There are bike lanes. There are cops catching speeders on South State, even if they weren’t technically required to respond to problems at that address. I’m guessing that the city fire department would “assist” (by getting there first) in case of a fire. I don’t know if they had sewer or water through the city, of course, but for all intents and purposes, they were benefiting from their location in the city. Just not paying their proportionate taxes.

Take another example: there are streets off of Dexter west of Maple that are dirt. I’ve been told residents want them to be dirt because it slows / reduces traffic. Many of the houses in those neighborhoods are actually 2 lots. One lot is in the city and has the structure, city water (driven in part by the Pall plume), city sewer. The other lot is “yard” and is in the township. If the second lot is ever built, it will have to be brought into the city, But, for now, the owners pay township taxes for a yard that is for all intents and purposes, in the city.

In both these examples, I think it’s an equity issue. Since presumably I can’t break off my backyard into a separate lot, revert it to township, and pay lower taxes, I would like the city to bring properties like these into the city and with that additional tax base either improve our services (e.g. more cops, better parks, more frequent street repairs, more plowing) or reduce our taxes (same revenue spread across more property).

@9: I realize the schools and shops are not paid for by property taxes. My point was that the close proximity of schools and shops to dense neighborhoods is part of the inherent value of city living. Creating and maintaing that requires infrastructure built up over time, additional security, years of accumulation of legacy costs, etc.

Moreover, the city and townships have long ago agreed that these township islands belong in the city. The only question is when is the city going to get around to it.

By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Wed, 29 Jan 2014 13:48:14 +0000 Re: #9, “…they perceive that what they would receive in services would not be worth what they would pay in taxes.”

Would such a perception be any wonder given the bemoaning of U-M purchases of private land—the so-called erosion of the tax base? Do the mayor and council members think that township island and other possible annexation-eligible township residents won’t hear that as their needing to make up for the losses when they’re brought into the city?

John’s point about legacy costs is insightful. (Your first paragraph, though, John, seems to me to be a bit off base).

In the bigger picture, is the strategy for addressing these matters to go ‘all in’ on downtown development (with the possible exception of speculating on the Edwards Bros property)?

What we ignore at our peril—as I’ve been saying for several years now—is the unprecedented global credit bubble and the potential follow-on economic impacts after it bursts. Our focus is too narrow, too close in. The city can’t possibly hope to stem the tide of deflation. We’ve been whistling in the dark for years while the evidence mounts around us. Have we done anything at all to prepare for this possibility? (I could call it an inevitability, but I understand that some people disengage at the sight of such language.)

Here’s an “economic development” study that the city (not SPARK, please) could commission that would actually be a worthwhile investment: an analysis of three possible five-year scenarios, each with (at least) two possible policy implementations. We’re not likely to do so, though, because we follow the optimistic herd. And when the mood shifts to pessimism, we’ll follow the herd down as well. We’re in denial. And we do that at our peril.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Wed, 29 Jan 2014 06:28:46 +0000 Mr. Boyd,

City taxes do not pay for schools. City taxes do not pay for stores or shops, and for that matter much of our day-to-day shopping is now located in townships . Except by mutual agreement with a township, city police will not respond to township service calls.

The larger point is that there is a reason that residents of Scio, Pittsfield, or Ann Arbor townships are not begging to be brought into the city: they perceive that what they would receive in services would not be worth what they would pay in taxes. People in the urbanized parts of Scio or Pittsfield have their own paved roads, parks, fire and police services, access to courts, etc. Some even have sidewalks. Their trash gets picked up. Their sewage is disposed. Many send the kids to, and pay for, Ann Arbor Public Schools. Many have an Ann Arbor mailing address. When they ask themselves, “Would any new or better services that would I get iif we were part of Ann Arbor be worth the greater taxes I would pay?”, the answer never seems to be “Yes”. Home owners are not asking to be part of the city. We ignore that piece of information at our peril.

Ann Arbor does have legacy costs, such as under-funded pensions, that newer communities do not yet have. However, legacy costs seldom inspire confidence in the management of a city. We ignore this kind of information at our peril.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:54:59 +0000 Re (7) Where, approximately, is your location? What you report is distressing. We definitely owe full service to everyone in the city.

By: Tom Hollyer Tom Hollyer Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:27:41 +0000 Mr. Boyd, I appreciate your point of view. Please appreciate mine. Interconnected roads existed decades before I was in the city. And they still don’t get plowed, or graded in the summer. Maybe because they’re dirt? Who knows? No sidewalks. No bike lanes. Closest shops a mile away. Closet bus stop a mile away. And we still have our well because the city claims it can’t run the city water lines to us. Policing I will buy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining though it may sound so. I’m just pointing out that your initial post claiming “blatantly unfair” is ignorant at best. My city-dwelling neighbors have many things the city cannot or will not provide to me. All circumstances are unique, and to paint all township islands with the same brush is wrong. The implication that those remaining in them are somehow feeloading is equally wrong. But I do get to vote in city elections.

By: Eric Boyd Eric Boyd Tue, 28 Jan 2014 19:16:40 +0000 @4: As a resident of a township island, the city provides densely packed infrastructure just outside your doorstep. That includes an interconnected road network, sidewalks, bike lanes, many shops, schools, neighborhoods, stores, etc. in close proximity, a police force that keeps crime low despite the density, etc. It costs more in taxes to build that dense pattern of settlement than it does to live out in the country. So yes, you are benefiting from living “in” a wonderful city without paying your fair share if you live in a township island. There’s a reason people want to live here.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Tue, 28 Jan 2014 04:40:48 +0000 @4 Mr. Hollyer’s comment crystalizes the single greatest life-and-death issue in our city – and doesn’t once use the word, “Millennial”

By: Tom Hollyer Tom Hollyer Mon, 27 Jan 2014 02:44:32 +0000 Mr. Boyd, my home was in a township island and annexed into the city app. 7 years ago. I’m still trying to figure out what those benefits you mention are. My road still doesn’t get plowed, the city can’t provide me with water. Really nothing much has changed. I do get my trash picked up without having to pay an additional bill. But all in all, the significantly higher taxes seems a pretty steep price for trash collection.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Sun, 26 Jan 2014 23:38:32 +0000 Referring to Susan Pollay,”She ventured that a circulator bus downtown could allow for relocating the permits to a different parking structure sometime in the future.”

That would be a revival of the Link (with possibly a different route). I’d like first to note that a current planning decision should not be made on the basis of an unrealized and unfunded notion.

The idea of the downtown circulator bus has a checkered history. I am referring only to my memory with the following.

The Link was once funded by the DDA and that funding was later withdrawn. Later it was reinstituted with major support by the UM. At that time, it provided transport from Oxford Housing, thus was not only a downtown circulator.

A downtown circulator was included in the TMP (Transit Master Plan) that underlay the countywide transit proposal. When the Financial Task Force subcommittee reviewed elements of the TMP to make the 5-year workable with a (approximately) 0.5 mills tax, that element was summarily removed from the plan with a note, “find private funding”.

A revival of this service would require purchase of a new bus and monies for bus purchases have now been fully committed. If an authority-wide millage is passed, it will be used to buy buses for the “urban core”. A downtown circulator is not included in the “enhanced” services proposed under the Urban Core concept.