Updated Friday, Jan. 31: An item authorizing the city’s right of first refusal to purchase the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street has been added to the agenda.
Two new ordinances will be given initial consideration at the Ann Arbor city council’s Feb. 3, 2014 meeting. One involves public art – which relates to leftover business from the council’s previous meeting. The second proposed new local law involves prohibitions against smoking in some public places.
Public art is actually the topic of two separate items on the council’s agenda. One is a contract extension for the city’s part-time public art administrator, which had been on the council’s Jan. 21, 2014 agenda, but was postponed at that meeting.
The postponement took place in the context of a political horse trade offered by Jack Eaton (Ward 4) at the council table on Jan. 21. Eaton indicated he’d support the public art administrator’s contract extension at the council’s subsequent meeting – but only if the council would move toward returning as-yet-unallocated money set aside during the now defunct Percent for Art program to its funds of origin (e.g., sanitary sewer fund, street millage fund etc.).
Both elements of the horse trade are scheduled for the Feb. 3 meeting. The move toward returning money out of the public art fund takes the form of initial consideration of an amendment to the city’s public art ordinance. The ordinance amendment, sponsored by Jane Lumm (Ward 2), would allow the council to return money accumulated under the city’s former Percent for Art program to the funds from which that money was drawn. The ordinance change would need a second and final council vote at a subsequent meeting to be enacted. Any transfer of public art money would require separate council action after the potential ordinance change.
A third public art item is expected to be on the agenda as an item of communication – the annual public art plan for fiscal 2015, which was approved by the Ann Arbor public art commission at its Jan. 29 meeting. It lists projects that are underway, as well as potential new projects for the coming year.
Also getting initial consideration on Feb. 3 will be a new ordinance that would prohibit smoking in specific outdoor public areas. Made punishable through a $50 civil fine would be smoking within 20 feet of: (1) bus stops; (2) entrances, windows and ventilation systems of the Blake Transit Center; and (3) entrances, windows and ventilation systems of any city-owned building. The ordinance amendment would also authorize the city administrator to have signs posted designating certain parks or portions of parks as off limits for outdoor smoking.
In another item on its Feb. 3 agenda, the council will consider approval of a $398,703 contract plus a $40,000 contingency with Hubbell Roth & Clark Inc. to reconstruct Geddes Avenue from Huntington to Huron Parkway. The project, which includes five components, is scheduled to start in the spring of 2015 and may continue through 2016. The five components of the project are: reconstruction of Geddes, sanitary sewer on Geddes, sanitary sewer on Dover Place and Riverview, storm sewer on Geddes, and water main on Dover Place and Riverview.
Also on the council’s Feb. 3 agenda is a proposed expansion for Germain Motors – an auto dealership on South State Street, formerly Howard Cooper Imports.
The council will also consider setting a hearing date for three establishments that could potentially be recommended for non-renewal of their liquor licenses for non-payment of taxes: The Arena, Banfield’s Bar & Grill, and Café Zola. The three businesses were also subject to the same scrutiny last year, and all eventually paid their taxes without having their licenses revoked.
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 starting at 7 p.m.
Two items related to public art appear on the council’s Feb. 3, 2014 agenda. One item is a contract extension for the city’s part-time public art administrator, Aaron Seagraves. The extension had been on the council’s Jan. 21, 2014 agenda, but was postponed at that meeting.
The postponement took place in the context of a political horse trade offered by Jack Eaton (Ward 4) at the council table on Jan. 21. Eaton indicated he’d support the public art administrator’s contract extension at the council’s subsequent meeting on Feb. 3 – but only if the council would move toward returning as-yet-unallocated money set aside during the now defunct Percent for Art program to the money’s funds of origin (e.g., sanitary sewer fund, street millage fund etc.).
Both elements of the horse trade are on the Feb. 3 agenda. The move toward returning money out of the public art fund takes the form of an amendment to the city’s ordinance on public art.
A third public art item is expected to be added to the Feb. 3 agenda as well, but simply as an item of communication – the annual public art plan for fiscal 2015, which the Ann Arbor public art commission approved at its Jan. 29 meeting.
Public Art: Part-time Administrator’s Contract Extension
The council will be asked again to consider a six-month extension for Ann Arbor public art administrator Aaron Seagraves – through June 30, 2014. The council will be asked to allocate $18,500 to cover the added term.
The budget expenditure for Seagraves’ contract will need support from at least an eight-vote majority on the 11-member council. That’s why some councilmembers’ dissatisfaction with the current $839,507 in unallocated money in the public art fund posed a credible possibility of a failed vote at the Jan. 21 meeting.
The proposal to postpone the vote on the contract extension came from Jack Eaton (Ward 4), who wanted to delay until the council’s next meeting, by which time a clear plan could be crafted to return the Percent for Art money to its funds of origin. The only dissenting vote on postponement at the Jan. 21 meeting came from Margie Teall (Ward 4). [Details of the council's deliberations are reported in The Chronicle's live updates from the Jan. 21 meeting.]
Seagraves is contracted to work an average of 20 hours a week.
By way of background, the city council enacted a public art ordinance in late 2007, setting up a Percent for Art program as a funding mechanism. For each of the city’s capital projects, 1% of the budget – up to a cap of $250,000 – was set aside for public art. The Ann Arbor public art commission oversaw the expenditures. However, the approach proved controversial and the city council changed the ordinance to eliminate the Percent for Art funding mechanism at its June 3, 2013 meeting. That ordinance change came after a failed public art millage that was put before voters in the November 2012 election.
Under the new approach, city staff will work to determine whether a specific capital improvement should have enhanced design features “baked in” to the project – either enhanced architectural work or specific public art. The funding for any of the enhanced features would be included in the project’s budget and incorporated into the RFP (request for proposals) process for the capital project.
The funds accrued to the public art fund during the time of the Percent for Art program are still subject to the same legal constraints – which require a thematic link between the original source of the funds (e.g., the street millage) and the piece of art to be funded.
A budget summary provided by Seagraves in response to a Chronicle emailed query shows a current balance of $839,507 in available funds for public art, as of Jan. 14, 2014. An additional $535,853 is earmarked for three projects that are underway: artwork at East Stadium bridges ($385,709), a rain garden at Kingsley and First ($7,009), and at Argo Cascades ($143,134). [.pdf of financial summary]
The council debate at its June 3, 2013 meeting included wrangling about what to do with that fund balance, with Jane Lumm (Ward 2) arguing unsuccessfully that $845,029 should be returned to the funds of origin. The council voted to return only the money that had accrued to the fund in the most recent budget year – $326,464.
Public Art: Ordinance Revision
At the June 3, 2013 meeting, the council did not ultimately vote on Lumm’s proposal to return Percent for Art money from earlier years to its funds of origin. That’s because the council rejected her proposal to amend the public art ordinance to allow that transfer to take place.
So Lumm’s ordinance proposal for the Feb. 3, 2014 meeting reprises the previous effort to amend the ordinance to allow the transfer of money accumulated during previous years of the Percent for Art program to the money’s funds of origin.
If the council votes to approve the ordinance on Feb. 3, it would still require a second vote at a subsequent meeting to be enacted. And any transfer of money would require a separate council action.
On the council’s Feb. 3 agenda for initial consideration is a new ordinance that would prohibit smoking in specific outdoor public areas. Made punishable through a $50 civil fine would be smoking within 20 feet of: (1) bus stops; (2) entrances, windows and ventilation systems of the Blake Transit Center; and (3) entrances, windows and ventilation systems any city-owned building.
The ordinance amendment also authorizes the city administrator to have signs posted designating certain parks or portions of parks as off limits for outdoor smoking, and to increase the distance from entrances to city buildings where outdoor smoking is prohibited.
Where no signs are posted noting the smoking prohibition, a citation could be issued only if someone doesn’t stop smoking immediately when asked to stop.
An existing county ordinance already prohibits smoking near entrances, windows and ventilation systems, according to the staff memo accompanying the resolution – but the county’s ordinance can be enforced only by the county health department. The memo further notes that the Michigan Clean Indoor Air Act does not regulate outdoor smoking.
Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) is listed as the sponsor of the ordinance change on the city’s Legistar system. At the council’s Oct. 21, 2013 meeting, he had announced his intent to bring forward a proposed ordinance regulating outdoor smoking, and reported at that time he’d been working with city parks staff on the issue.
Geddes Avenue Reconstruction: 2015
The council will consider approval of a $398,703 contract plus a $40,000 contingency with Hubbell Roth & Clark Inc. to reconstruct Geddes Avenue from Huntington to Huron Parkway.
The project, which includes five components, is scheduled to start in the spring of 2015 and may continue through 2016. The five components of the project are: reconstruction of Geddes, sanitary sewer on Geddes, sanitary sewer on Dover Place and Riverview, storm sewer on Geddes, and water main on Dover Place and Riverview. [.pdf of map showing parcels currently lacking sanitary sewer service]
The components of the project, which the city is calling collectively the Geddes Avenue Improvements Project, could also include corrections of slope sloughing, and the construction of non-motorized improvements within the project limits.
The scope of the actual project is supposed to stem in part from public participation. So part of the contract with HRC includes a “robust public engagement process” to include the adjacent residents, various interest groups, and the public at large.
Germain Motors Site Plan
On the council’s Feb. 3 agenda is a proposed expansion for Germain Motors – an auto dealership on South State Street, formerly Howard Cooper Imports.
The planning commission’s recommendation of approval of the project’s site plan was subject to variances for modifications related to parking lot and landscaping requirements. Those variances were considered and approved by the city’s zoning board of appeals on Jan. 22. Planning commissioners also approved landscape modifications that would reduce the requirement – outlined in Chapter 62 of the city code – for depressed landscape islands within the site.
The planning staff had supported a recommendation of approval on Dec. 17, noting that the owner had addressed several issues that had previously raised concerns. Changes from the plan presented on Nov. 19 include:
- Adding 5,027 square feet of porous pavers to be installed in the expanded vehicle display areas along State Street and Oakbrook Drive.
- Adding eight new depressed landscape islands to the parking storage areas in the back of the site. The changes mean a loss of about 24 parking spaces.
- Changing the landscape modification request. The original request had included reducing the number of required trees to be planted on site by eight. The owner now plans to plant all of the required trees.
The project’s architect also explored the possibility of adding a “green” (vegetated) roof, but ultimately determined that it wasn’t feasible without making significant changes to the existing buildings. The question of whether the architect had considered a green roof to help with stormwater management was raised on Nov. 19.
Other parts of the proposed project, which is located in Ward 4, were unchanged. It calls for a 4,877-square-foot addition to the Volkswagen building on the northern portion of the State Street frontage, bringing the total square footage to 18,722 for that structure. A 6,429-square-foot addition is proposed for the Porsche/Audi building, in the center of the site, which would create a total building size of 31,097 square feet. The site’s third building, housing the Honda dealership on the southern part of the property, would remain at 36,101 square feet.
Also, the owner – Steve Germain, who attended the Nov. 19 planning commission meeting with several members of the project team – would like to add 248 parking spaces, bringing the total number of spaces to 1,039. The new spaces would be in three locations: (1) along the southern half of the South State Street frontage; (2) along the Oakbrook Drive frontage; and (3) in the rear car storage lots. The proposal would require three variances from Chapter 59 (off-street parking) in order to allow tandem parking, to reduce the aisle widths, and to exceed the maximum percentage (30%) of allowable small car parking spaces. Those are the variances granted by the ZBA at its Jan. 22 meeting.
The total expansion is estimated to cost $5.5 million.
Liquor Licenses: Possible Non-Renewal
On the council’s Feb. 3 agenda is a resolution that would set hearings on a recommendation for non-renewal of liquor licenses for three establishments in the city. The date of the hearing would be Feb. 25 at 9 a.m.
The three businesses subject to the hearings are The Arena, Banfield’s Bar & Grill, and Café Zola. They could all potentially be recommended for non-renewal due to non-payment of personal property taxes.
The council’s resolution would also appoint Jane Lumm (Ward 2) as the hearing officer. Lumm serves on the council’s liquor license review committee, along with Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1).
Lumm served as the hearing officer for this kind of proceeding in 2013 as well. Also on that occasion, Banfield’s Bar & Grill, Café Zola and The Arena were on the hearing list. However, by the time of the hearing, Café Zola had resolved its issue. And at the hearing itself, Banfield’s Bar & Grill made an arrangement to resolve its outstanding issue.
Only the hearing on The Arena ultimately resulted in a city council recommendation to the state liquor control commission not to renew a license. Subsequently, The Arena did pay its taxes, and the council withdrew its objection to a license renewal for The Arena.
Planning Commission Bylaws
Again on the city council’s agenda is the approval of a change to the planning commission’s bylaws. The changes related to the order of agenda items, and the length of time required for special accommodations, such as sign language interpreters. The change would require additional lead time so that special accommodations, including a sign language interpreter, can be made for people with disabilities, when requested at least two business days in advance of a meeting. The current bylaws specify just a one-day advance request.
The planning commission had given approval to changes in its bylaws about six months ago – at its July 16, 2013 meeting.
The bylaws changes were considered but postponed twice by the city council last year – first at the council’s Nov. 7, 2013 meeting, then at the Dec. 16, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of planning commission bylaws changes]
The council had held off voting to approve the bylaws changes as the planning commission has considered further revisions to its bylaws – related to the number of times someone can speak during a public hearing, and whether city councilmembers are allowed to address the planning commission during the commission’s meetings.
At a regular meeting of the planning commission, the additional revisions were discussed most recently on Nov. 6, 2013. The additional changes were also discussed at a working session on Jan. 7.
Appointments to City Boards, Commissions
Several nominations to city boards and commissions were made at the council’s previous meeting on Jan. 21. They’ll be voted on at the council’s Feb. 3 meeting.
Jim Simpson was nominated to fill the vacancy of Malverne Winborne on the public art commission. Winborne’s term ended on Dec. 31, 2013.
Daniel Lee was nominated to serve out the rest of Marta Manildi’s term on the Ann Arbor housing commission. Manildi’s term ends this spring, but she said she’d step down early if someone could be appointed.
Paige Morrison was nominated to serve out the rest of Jennifer Geer’s term on the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. Geer has resigned.
And Peter Woolf was nominated to fill the vacancy of Lindsey-Jean Hard on the public market advisory commission.
The consent agenda 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. Here are some highlights from the Feb. 3 consent agenda.
Consent Agenda: Chelsea Tech Agreement
The council is being asked to approve an amendment to the renewal agreement for information technology services between the city of Ann Arbor and city of Chelsea. The contract is being amended to match fiscal years – by extending it an extra five months for a total of 17 months and $80,499.
The contract covers support for the help desk, management of the city’s website, server hosting, data backup and recovery, overseeing IT contractors, project management, and representing the city of Chelsea in regional technology efforts and meetings.
Consent Agenda: Street Closings
Consent Agenda: Firehouse Subs Grant
The council will be asked to approve a resolution accepting a grant of $25,736 from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Corporation. The money will be used to buy 11 automatic external defibrillator units for use by the fire department.
It was the fire department that applied for the grant to replace existing equipment. No matching funds are required.
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