The first council meeting in April comes after a somewhat rare three-week gap between council meetings. The first-and-third Monday schedule most often yields an every-other-week pattern.
The council’s April 7 agenda features two significant items of old business: a first reading of an ordinance that would regulate outdoor smoking in certain locations; and an allocation of funds for the work of a pedestrian safety and access task force.
[Updated 5 p.m. April 4, 2014. The pedestrian safety task force funding resolution is now expected to be withdrawn. At the first meeting of the task force, held on Friday, April 4, Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere, speaking from the audience, told the group that it was her intent to withdraw the funding resolution when the council meets on April 7. Withdrawing the resolution at the April 7 meeting would not mean that the task force will not be able to do its work. Details are included after the jump.]
Pedestrian issues form one of the themes of the meeting agenda – as the council will be approving annual contracts for the sidewalk repair program, as well as applying for a grant to renovate the pathway in Gallup Park – from the Geddes Dam at the east end of the Gallup Park pathway, to the parking lot east of Huron Parkway. Along with the sidewalk maintenance program contracts, the city council will also be asked to approve the annual street resurfacing program contracts.
Another main theme of the meeting is land use. Carried over as a topic from the council’s March 17 meeting is the surface of the city-owned Library Lane underground parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor. After voting on March 17 to hire a real estate broker, the council will consider a resolution on April 7 that would allocate to the city’s affordable housing trust fund half of the proceeds of any sale of the site’s development rights.
But on April 7 the council will also be considering an amendment to the March 17 resolution that directed the city administrator to list the surface of the Library Lane parking structure for sale. The amendment would require a public process to take place before brokerage services are obtained or the real estate is listed for sale. That public process is supposed to allow discussion of the possibility that the entire surface of the underground parking garage could be used as a park or plaza. The amendment is sponsored by Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Jack Eaton (Ward 4).
The council will also be considering three items that arrived on its agenda via the city’s planning commission: rezoning of a nature area to PL (public land); approval of a site plan for the gym expansion at Concordia University [now expected on the April 21 meeting agenda]; and a resolution calling on the University of Michigan to incorporate the city’s land use recommendations as it considers the future use of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street.
In other business, the council will be considering a resolution to approve an expansion of the Main Street business improvement zone (BIZ). The geographic area of the self-assessment district – which handles sidewalk snow removal, sweeping and other upkeep for property owners – would more than double. The final decision rests with the property owners in the expanded area.
Also at its April 7 meeting, the council will consider a resolution asking that Michigan state officials stop opposing a recent court ruling that allows same-sex marriages.
The council’s agenda also includes several street-closing approvals for upcoming events: Taste of Ann Arbor on June 2; The Event on Main Street on June 19; the Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade on July 4; and the Townie Street Party on July 14.
Among the reports and communications attached to the agenda is the final report of a council economic collaborative task force.
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.
A new local law regulating smoking in some outdoor locations will be given a first reading by the council for the third time at its April 7 meeting. The law would regulate smoking outside of public buildings and also potentially in areas of some city parks.
The most recent action – to postpone the ordinance until April 7 – came at the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting. The new ordinance had also been postponed at the council’s Feb. 3 meeting.
Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), sponsor of the proposed new local law, had appeared before the city’s park advisory commission on Feb. 25, 2014 to brief commissioners on the proposal and solicit feedback.
Made punishable under the proposed ordinance 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 would also authorize 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 Washtenaw 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.
At the council’s March 3 meeting, other councilmembers expressed concern about the potential disparate impact of such a law on the homeless, and the challenge of enforcement.
Peds: Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force
At its April 7 meeting, the council will consider for the second time a resolution that would appropriate $197,250 to fund the work of a pedestrian safety and access task force. Action to postpone the resolution until April 7 came at the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting.
The total amount proposed to be appropriated for the task force project budget is $197,250. That amount includes an “estimated $122,500” as the approximate cost of the anticipated city staff effort for the project. The total project budget includes $77,400 for a professional services agreement with Project Innovations Inc.
The funds are to be sourced in part from an allocation made during the May 20, 2013 budget deliberations, which appropriated $75,000 for a study to prioritize sidewalk gap elimination. The connection between sidewalk gaps and the task force’s work is based in part on one of the other “resolved” clauses establishing the task force: “… the task force will also address sidewalk gaps and create a tool for setting priorities for funding and filling those gaps; …”
The pedestrian safety and access task force was established through a council resolution passed on Nov. 18, 2013. Confirmed as members of the task force on Jan. 21, 2014 were: Vivienne Armentrout, Neal Elyakin, Linda Diane Feldt, Jim Rees, Anthony Pinnell, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, Kenneth Clark, Scott Campbell, and Owen Jansson.
Another key “resolved” clause establishing the group’s scope of work includes the following: “… the task force will explore strategies to improve pedestrian safety and access within a framework of shared responsibility through community outreach and data collection, and will recommend to council improvements in the development and application of the Complete Streets model, using best practices, sound data and objective analysis.”
The responsibilities of the task force include delivery of a report a year from now – in February 2015.
The funding for the task force is in part to be used to pay for a $77,400 contract with Project Innovations Inc. to provide facilitator support to the task force.
According to a staff memo written in response to councilmember questions, the facilitator would assist with an anticipated 18 task force meetings, 24 resource group (staff) meetings, five stakeholder meetings and three public meetings. The facilitator would be “preparing materials and agendas; facilitating the meetings; summarizing the meetings; facilitating communication and discussions between, and among, the task force members and the resource group; and, developing materials for community outreach in addition to the actual public meetings, including content for press releases and web page publishing, and a community survey.”
According to the staff memo, a “team of staff members has identified Project Innovations, Inc. as a firm in the region that has demonstrated skill in task force facilitation and robust community engagement efforts, and is uniquely qualified with the capacity to facilitate the pedestrian safety and access task force’s rigorous work approach within the specified timeframe.” Based on the phrasing in the memo, the work appears not to have been put out to bid and Project Innovations was identified as a “sole source” provider.
Project Innovations is the same firm currently providing facilitation support to a citizens advisory committee that is attached to a sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation study being conducted by the city.
The resolution establishing the task force does not explicitly charge the group with a review of the city’s crosswalk law. But the pedestrian safety task force was established in the same time frame as the council was considering an amendment to the city’s crosswalk law. The council ultimately voted to change the language of that law at its Dec. 2, 2013 meeting – so that motorists were required to concede the right-of-way only to pedestrians who had already entered the crosswalk.
That change was subsequently vetoed by mayor John Hieftje. Drawing on the phrasing used in Hieftje’s statement of veto, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) has indicated he intends to bring forward an amendment that would require motorists to stop at crosswalks for pedestrians only if “they can do so safely.” At the council’s Feb. 18, 2014 meeting, Kunselman announced he’d be pursuing such an amendment.
The council’s April 7 deliberations on the funding of the task force could be impacted by the first meeting of the task force, which is scheduled for April 4. Based on the agenda for that first task force meeting, recommendations on the funding question could come from the task force to the council to consider on April 7. Indications at the March 3 council meeting were that the budget for the task force and the scope of work for the staff and consultant support could change considerably.
[Updated 5 p.m. April 4, 2014] The funding resolution is now expected to be withdrawn. At the first meeting of the task force, held on Friday, April 4, Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere, speaking from the audience, told the group that it was her intent to withdraw the funding resolution when the council meets on April 7.
Withdrawing the resolution at the April 7 meeting would not mean that the task force will not be able to do its work. Here’s why. In the resolution that’s expected to be withdrawn, the total amount proposed to be appropriated for the task force project budget is $197,250. That amount includes an “estimated $122,500” as the approximate cost of the anticipated city staff effort for the project. The total project budget includes $77,400 for a professional services agreement with Project Innovations Inc.
So the portion of the project budget that requires hard costs to be covered – other than city staff time – is the cost for the consultant to provide facilitation services. And according to a staff memo to the city administrator written after the council’s action to postpone, the bulk of the cost can already be covered in an existing budget allocation. From the March 27, 2014 staff memo to the city administrator: “The estimated amount for the facilitation work is $70,000 to $90,000. Of this amount, $75,000 is currently budgeted for pedestrian safety and sidewalk-gap planning. The remaining $15,000 will be included in the City Administrator’s recommended FY 14 budget amendment.”
In addition to authorizing the funding, the resolution would authorize a $77,400 contract with Project Innovations for the facilitation work. But now, it’s not clear that particular consultant will be selected for the work. Originally Project Innovations had been identified by staff as a contractor uniquely qualified to do the facilitation work. Project Innovations is familiar to city staff as the facilitator for a sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation study the city is currently conducting. But now the city has decided to issue an RFP for the facilitation work. [.pdf of RFP No. 893] Responses to the RFP are due by April 22, 2014.
At the April 4 task force meeting, Connie Pulcipher – a systems planner with the city of Ann Arbor – told members of the task force that they could be involved in the process of interviewing respondents to the RFP. The delay in selecting a facilitator means that the original timeline for the group’s work, which included a final report by February 2015, has shifted to around August 2015.
Peds: Belle Tire Easement
On the council’s agenda is approval of an easement related to the Belle Tire site plan at State and Ellsworth. The planning commission recommended approval at its March 18, 2014 meeting.
The site plan itself was recommend for approval by the commission at its Aug. 20, 2013 meeting, and the project subsequently received city council approval on Oct. 7, 2013. The site is located in Ward 4.
By way of background, a 50-foot-wide right-of-way easement on the front this site was recorded by the city as part of a previously approved land division for this parcel. That easement reduced the front setback of the Belle Tire building from 10 feet to roughly 3 feet. The minimum front setback for this site is 10 feet.
So the property owner, who also owns the adjacent site at 3975 S. State, has proposed that the city vacate the northern 7 feet of its right-of-way easement.
In exchange, the property owner has offered to convey a non-motorized use easement over the same 7 feet. Such an easement would allow for this strip to be used by the public for future non-motorized transportation facilities, according to a staff memo. And as a non-motorized use easement, the 7-foot strip would be considered part of the required 10-foot front building setback.
Peds: Gallup Park Path
On the council’s consent agenda – a group of items voted on all-in-one-go – is approval of a grant application to fund renovations to a pathway that runs through Gallup Park, which is part of the Border to Border Trail (B2B) connecting the eastern and western borders of Washtenaw County. Renovations would include repairs to the existing asphalt, as well as widening to 10 feet – in part to meet current American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards.
The grant application would be made to SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) and MDOT (Michigan Dept. of Transportation) for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The grant funds, if awarded, would fund renovation of the pathway from the Geddes Dam at the east end of the Gallup Park pathway, to the parking lot east of Huron Parkway. The work would include the loop that leads around that part of the park. Total length of the pathway to be renovated is about two miles.
The city would provide a grant match of $200,000, which would be paid out of the parks and recreation capital improvements millage.
Peds: Sidewalk Maintenance Program
Also related to pedestrian issues are two contracts related to the annual sidewalk maintenance and repair program, which is funded out of a five-year millage approved by voters in November 2011.
Some sidewalk slabs are in reasonably good shape but are out of alignment with adjacent slabs. The city takes the approach of shaving the portion that’s out of alignment so that it’s flush.
Cutting the concrete is more cost effective than replacing the entire slab. The contract for the cutting work for the upcoming 2014 program is to be awarded to Precision Concrete Cutting for $207,350.
The other part of the program involves outright replacement of sidewalk slabs.
That contract is to be awarded to Doan Construction Company for $1,707,037.
Asphalt: Street Resurfacing Program
In addition to an annual sidewalk repair program, the city manages an annual street resurfacing program. On the council’s April 7 agenda is the award of a construction contract to Barrett Paving Materials Inc. for $3.409 million for the 2014 program. Also on the agenda is a professional contract for materials testing – with CTI and Associates Inc. for $82,332.
Text descriptions of the streets to be resurfaced are as follows:
- Washington: First Ave to Fourth Ave (April – May)
- Fuller: Maiden Lane to Huron River Bridge (May – June)
- Newport: Sunset to south of Bird Rd (June – July)
- Linwood:, Doty to Wildwood (April – May)
- Northside Grill Alley: Broadway to End (April – May)
- Vinewood: Berkshire to Avon (May – June)
- Steeplechase: Whiltshire to Blaney (June – July)
- St. Aubin: Platt to Creek Dr (June – July)
- Woodbury: Astor to Stadium (July – July)
- Prairie: Plymouth to Aurora (July – August)
- Burlington Court: Burlington to End (July – August)
- Waldenwood & Adjacent Courts: Penberton to Earhart (north end) (July – September)
Asphalt: Windemere Tennis Courts
The council will consider a $134,297 contract with Nagle Paving Co. to relocate and rebuild the tennis courts at Windemere Park. The park advisory commission recommended approval of the contract at its Feb. 25, 2014 meeting.
PAC’s recommendation on the contract followed its approval on Jan. 28, 2014 of a revised new location for tennis courts at Windemere Park, on the city’s northeast side. The final location approved by PAC was one put forward at a public meeting earlier this year.
The new location for the tennis courts has been disputed among neighbors who live near Windemere Park, a nearly four-acre parcel north of Glazier Way between Green and Earhart roads. The tennis courts there have deteriorated, and the city has been looking at options for replacing them. Neighbors had originally advocated keeping the courts in the same location, but the soil there is unstable. Before the area was developed, the current location of the courts was a pond.
Nagle Paving was the lowest of five responsible bidders on the project, according to a staff memo. Including a 10% construction contingency, the entire project budget is $147,727. Funding will come from the FY 2014 park maintenance and capital improvement millage revenues. [.pdf of staff memo and resolution] [.pdf of cost comparison chart]
Land: Library Lot Proceeds to Affordable Housing
The city council will consider a resolution at its April 7 meeting that would direct the city administrator to allocate half the proceeds from a possible upcoming real estate sale to support affordable housing. The land in question is the surface of the Library Lane underground parking structure, which completed construction in the summer of 2012. [.pdf of draft resolution on Library Lane sale]
From the resolution: “Resolved, That City Council direct the City Administrator to allocate 50% of any and all proceeds, after fees and closing costs, from the sale of development rights at 319 S. Fifth Avenue [the Library Lane lot] to the affordable housing fund.” Use of money in the city’s affordable housing trust fund is subject to recommendations by the housing and human services advisory board (HHSAB).
Based on a ballpark estimated value for the property of $6-7 million dollars – given by Jim Chaconas of Colliers International at the council’s March 17, 2014 meeting – the resolution would translate to somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million to support affordable housing, depending on fees and closing costs.
No specific deal appears to be in the offing to develop the top of the structure. But the council voted at its March 17, 2014 meeting to hire a brokerage service to list the development rights to the top of the underground parking garage for sale. At the same meeting, the council passed a separate resolution that reserved 6,500-12,000 square feet on the Library Lane site for a publicly owned urban park.
The resolution allocating 50% of proceeds of a Library Lane sale to support affordable housing is sponsored by four councilmembers: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) and mayor John Hieftje.
The strategy of channeling at least some of the proceeds of land sales to support affordable housing efforts has been a consistent part of city policy dating back several years. However, the council has not always agreed on the portion of a sale that should be allocated to support affordable housing. At the March 16 Sunday night caucus, Briere indicated one reason she might be reluctant at the following evening’s council meeting to support the hiring of a broker to list the Library Lane development rights for sale: She did not at that time want to take on the fight with other councilmembers about what to do with the proceeds. But Briere voted with seven of her colleagues on the 8-1 vote that saw only Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) dissenting. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) were not present for that vote.
The sale of another city property – the former Y lot in downtown Ann Arbor, on William between Fourth and Fifth avenues, across the street from the Library Lane site – is expected to generate roughly $1.4 million in net proceeds from the $5.25 million purchase price. That sale to hotelier Dennis Dahlmann had a closing date of April 2, 2014. And that sale was, in fact, completed.
The council voted at its Dec. 16, 2013 meeting to allocate all of those net proceeds to the affordable housing trust fund. More recently, at its March 3, 2014 meeting, the council directed the city administrator to prepare a budget resolution that would – upon completion of the former Y lot sale – allocate $600,000 from the affordable housing trust fund to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, to support major capital improvements to its properties.
More than a year ago, at its Oct. 15, 2012 meeting, the council adopted a general policy on proceeds of land sales that was based on a budget committee recommendation. Essentially the policy is to consider land sales on a case-by-case basis, considering all the needs of the city. A nod to affordable housing was included in an amendment added at the council meeting in the form of a statement that all needs of the city would be considered in deciding the use of land sale proceeds – but “especially the need for affordable housing.”
The draft resolution to be considered at the April 7 council meeting cites the budget committee’s recommendation, which was adopted in the Oct. 15, 2012 council resolution, that “no less than 10% of net proceeds of any sale will be allocated and distributed to the affordable housing trust fund …”
Land: Amendment to Library Lane Resolution to List for Sale
On April 7, the council will also be revisiting the March 17 resolution on listing the surface of the Library Lane structure for sale. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Jack Eaton (Ward 4) have sponsored a resolution that would delay the hiring of a broker and listing the property for sale until a public process, to be structured by the city administrator, is completed.
That public process is supposed to allow discussion of the possibility that the entire surface of the underground parking garage could be used as a park or plaza. From the resolution:
Resolved, That Resolution R-14-098 Directing the City Administrator to List for Sale 319 South Fifth and Retain Estate Brokerage Services be amended to direct the City Administrator to require that retention of brokerage services be delayed and listing not occur until adequate public process has taken place to explore public uses for the entire property;
Resolved, That the City Administrator structure the public process to allow citizens an opportunity to bring forward and discuss any and all appropriate public uses for this City-owned property, including its use, in its entirety, as a park or plaza;
Resolved, That City Administrator schedule a public hearing as part of the public process for citizen input on public uses for the property
Resolved, That City Administrator provide City Council with report on the public process at its completion; and
Resolved, On completion of the required public process, the City Administrator is directed to seek further direction from City Council as to whether the property should be listed or to continue to develop a wholly public or mixed public/private plan for its use.
The vote on the council’s March 17 resolution was 8-1, with dissent only from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1). Sally Petersen (Ward 2) was absent from the start of the meeting and Margie Teall (Ward 4) departed late in the meeting but before the vote was taken.
The April 7 council agenda also includes, as an item of communication, a resolution passed by the city planning commission on March 18, 2014 that gives advice to the council about how to develop the Library Lane property. The commission’s recommendations focused on conditions for developing the site that would garner economic benefits to the city, such as a mixed-use development that generates foot traffic, with an entry plaza or open space and a design that “creates an iconic addition to the skyline.” The recommendations drew on material in several existing documents, including the Connecting William Street report that was completed by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority about a year ago.
Also attached to the council agenda as an item of communication is a resolution passed by the Ann Arbor District Library board on March 17, 2014. The resolution asked the council to reject designating a portion of the city-owned Library Lane site – which is adjacent to the downtown library – as a public park or plaza at this time.
Land: Recommendation to UM on Edwards Brothers
An additional land-use item on the council’s April 7 agenda is a resolution recommending that the University of Michigan collaborate with the city of Ann Arbor on the future development of the former Edwards Brothers property at 2500-2550 South State Street, immediately adjacent to existing UM athletic facilities. The university is purchasing the 16.7-acre property, following the Ann Arbor city council’s decision on Feb. 24, 2014 not to exercise its right of first refusal to buy the site.
The city planning commission passed the same resolution at its March 18, 2014 meeting and forwarded it to the city council.
The resolution was drafted by planning manager Wendy Rampson based on previous discussions by the planning commission and city council. [.pdf of resolution as amended at March 18 planning commission meeting]
The one resolved clause states:
RESOLVED, That the Ann Arbor City Council and Ann Arbor City Planning Commission request that The Regents of The University of Michigan and President authorize University staff to meet with City representatives to collaborate on issues related to future development of the South Athletic Campus area, including, but not limited to:
- Exploring the creation of one or more parcels fronting South State Street to be developed, preferably privately, for complementary uses adjacent to the South Athletic Campus that also follow the South State Street plan recommendations;
- Discussing options for the relocation of park-and-ride facilities as the South Athletic Campus develops; and
- Discussing the opportunities for a future pedestrian and vehicular connection between South Main Street and South State Street via the planned Oakbrook Drive extension through the South Athletic Campus site.
At the planning commission’s March 18 meeting, Rampson said she’s already shared a draft of the resolution with UM planner Sue Gott and Jim Kosteva, the university’s director of community relations.
Land: Stapp Nature Area Addition Rezoning
The council’s April 7 agenda includes a resolution giving initial approval to rezoning of land that’s been donated to the city by developer Bill Martin, founder of First Martin Corp. The 2.2-acre parcel at 3301 Traverwood Drive is being added to the adjacent Stapp Nature Area, near the Leslie Park golf course.
City staff recommended that the donated parcel be rezoned from R4D (multi-family dwelling) to PL (public land). The land reaches from Traverwood Drive to the Leslie Park golf course, south of Huron Parkway. Adding the land expands a corridor of natural areas and parkland. Stapp Nature Area, a 8.11-acre property with a mature native forest and small vernal pool, is adjacent to Tuebingen Park and has a connection to Leslie Woods.
The site is on the northern edge of a larger property that’s being developed by First Martin Corp. as Traverwood Apartments. That project received its final necessary approvals from the city council on Jan. 6, 2014.
First Martin has committed to creating a pedestrian access from the apartment complex to the nature area, which will be formalized with an access easement.
The city has a policy of rezoning city-owned land to PL (public land). This parcel will be differentiated as parkland by its inclusion in the city’s parks and recreation open space (PROS) plan, because it will become part of the Stapp Nature Area, which is already in the PROS plan.
The council would be giving the rezoning initial approval at its April 7 meeting. The final vote would come at a future meeting after a public hearing.
Land: Concordia University Gym Expansion
An additional land-use issue that
appears was expected on the city council’s April 7 agenda is approval of a site plan to expand the existing Concordia University gym.
Corrected: This item is now expected to be considered at the council’s April 21 meeting.
The plan also includes reconfiguring nearby parking lots and stormwater management features on the 187-acre site at 4090 Geddes Road, just west of US-23 and north of the Huron River. The city planning commission recommended approval of the site plan at its March 4, 2014 meeting.
As a separate item, planning commissioners were asked to grant a special exception use for the project. That’s required because the private university is located on a site zoned R1B (single-family residential district).
The site plan requires city council approval, but the special exception use does not.
The proposal calls for a three-story, 34,391-square-foot addition to the current 22,021-square-foot gym that was built in the early 1960s, located on the west side of Concordia’s main campus. [.pdf of campus map] The addition will include men’s and women’s locker rooms, athletic office space, classrooms and an auxiliary gym. A second phase of the project entails constructing a single-story, 5,280-square-foot athletic training room.
An existing gravel parking area west of the gym will be paved and landscaped, and another lot north of the gym along Geddes will get new landscaping and bioswales. A total of 92 new parking spaces will be created, mostly in the former gravel lot. A new stormwater management system will be completed to address a 100-year storm event, including a detention pond with an outlet into a bioswale south of the developed area.
The site plan is for a planned project, which allows variations in height and placement. The proposed addition would be 39 feet high. The site’s zoning has a height limit of 30 feet. The existing gym is about 33 feet high, measured at the midpoint of the roof.
Land: Main Street BIZ Expansion
On the council’s April 7 agenda is approval of an expansion of the geographic area of the Main Street Business Improvement Zone. The business improvement zone was established in 2010 by a vote of property owners in the zone to provide a mechanism for taxing themselves to pay for items like sidewalk snow removal, sidewalk sweeping and landscaping. [For the state enabling legislation for a BIZ, see Public Act 120 of 1961]
The current geographic area of the Main Street BIZ extends north-to-south from William to Huron on both sides of Main Street, extending to the mid-block alleys. The expansion would extend the area westward by a half block from the alley to Ashley Street. The expansion would also extend the area eastward by a half block along the whole north-south dimension; and between William and Liberty, the zone would expand westward an additional block – to Fourth Avenue.
While the council must give its approval of the plan, the expansion is contingent on a vote among property owners in the area, which has to be set for no later than 49 days after the date of the council’s resolution. The council’s April 7 meeting agenda includes a public hearing on the issue.
At its April 7 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council will consider a resolution asking that Michigan state officials stop opposing a recent court ruling that allows same-sex marriages. [.pdf of draft resolution on same-sex marriage]
The ruling in question was issued by federal judge Bernard Friedman on Friday, March 21, 2014 in the case of Deboer v. Snyder. In that ruling, Friedman found that Article I, Section 25 of the Michigan Constitution – which limits the benefits of marriage to unions between one man and one woman – did not advance any legitimate state interest. So the ruling had the effect of making same-sex marriages legal in Michigan.
But the day following the decision, on March 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a temporary stay on Friedman’s ruling. Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette are appealing Friedman’s decision.
The council’s resolution reads in part:
RESOLVED, That the Ann Arbor City Council urges Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to immediately suspend all efforts to appeal or otherwise contest Judge Friedman’s Ruling…
Before the stay on Friedman’s ruling took effect, Washtenaw County clerk Larry Kestenbaum opened his office for business on Saturday, March 22, and issued 74 marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Washtenaw County. The county board had already set the stage for those couples to receive what practically amounts to a fee waiver for the expedited processing of a license, which ordinarily takes three days. The “fee” approved by the board at its Feb. 19, 2014 meeting reduced the usual fee from $50 to 1 cent.
The resolution passed by the county board on Feb. 19 allows the county clerk, consulting with the county administrator, to establish a “fee holiday” on the day preceding a period during which the office’s vital records division would be closed for four or more days, or when an unusual number of marriage license applicants are expected to appear. During a “fee holiday,” the charge for immediately processing a marriage license is 1 cent.
The resolution to be considered by the Ann Arbor city council on April 7 currently has four sponsors: Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4), Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).
Economic Collaborative Task Force
Among the many agenda attachments – reports and communications – is the final report of the economic collaborative task force, established by the council last year at its May 20, 2013 meeting. The idea to establish the task force had grown out of an idea to review the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority in the context of proposed changes to the city ordinance governing the DDA. The task force drew members from city of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor SPARK and the Ann Arbor DDA. [.pdf of March 28, 2014 economic collaborative task force report]
In more detail, the task force was supposed to do the following:
- Provide clarity, alignment and specificity on economic development policy and objectives for fiscal year 2014 toward accomplishing city council’s success statement for Economic Development.
- Provide for strategic alignment of priorities between the Task Force member entities.
- Highlight cost sharing and maximizing of resource utilization.
- Identify options for sustaining, modifying, or eliminating operations in a financially-responsible manner through efficiencies and/or partnerships as part of a cohesive economic development plan for the city.
The “success statement” mentioned in the resolution was crafted by the city council at a budget retreat held in late 2012.
Those initially appointed to represent the city on the task force were city administrator Steve Powers, Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and then councilmember Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).
According to the resolution establishing the task force, a report was supposed to be presented to the council in December 2013 and the task force was supposed to expire at the end of 2013.
The 4.5-page report in general calls on the city, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and Ann Arbor SPARK to continue existing initiatives.
Some highlights of the report include a recommendation that the city consider technology infrastructure that is “essential for companies to compete globally and for communities to attract the necessary talent.” In that category of infrastructure, the report indicates that the city and Ann Arbor SPARK should “continue their work to develop a proposal for high-speed fiber that would accelerate both commercial and residential internet speeds.”
Also recommended in the report is the preparation of a plan to market and sell surplus city-owned properties. Properties included on the list include the South Ashley/West William (Kline) lot, the South Main/East William (Palio) lot, Library Lane, and 415 W. Washington.
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