The Ann Arbor city council’s first meeting of the fiscal year is also the next-to-last one before the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections for city council and mayor.
A month before the dog days actually begin, the council will be considering as part of its July 7 agenda a resolution that would pay Washtenaw County $135,570 for animal control services. The county in turn contracts with the Humane Society of Huron Valley for those services. This is a new arrangement, based on recommendations from a 2012 county task force. The idea is that local governments in the county with their own dog licensing programs, which generate revenue through licensing, should shoulder part of the cost of the county’s animal control contract. Ann Arbor has its own dog licensing program.
The July 7 agenda is heavy with items related to infrastructure. Three special assessments for the construction of new sidewalks are on the agenda for final approval: Stone School Road, Barton Drive and Scio Church Road. And the council will be considering approval of contracts for street repair associated with utilities work, the replacement of a clarifier at the drinking water treatment plan, the replacement of liners for the swimming pools at Buhr and Fuller parks, and for monitoring work at the now-dormant Ann Arbor city landfill.
Several development items also appear on the July 7 agenda. The rezoning of three Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC) properties will be given final consideration in connection with major renovations and improvements the commission is making to its inventory – at Baker Commons, Green/Baxter Court Apartments, and Maple Meadows. Initial approval for rezoning of another AAHC property is also on the council’s agenda: North Maple Estates.
In addition to the AAHC properties, the council will consider rezoning for parcels on Research Park Drive, in the southern part of the city, and a site plan for the expansion of Rudolf Steiner High School on the city’s north side.
The council will give initial consideration to changes in the ordinance that defines how city boards and commissions are appointed – changes that focus on the environmental commission. The changes involve clarifications of the nomination process and other housekeeping issues. The council will also consider confirmation of three appointments to the environmental commission: Allison Skinner, Benjamin Muth and Mark Clevey.
The summertime theme of the agenda is reflected in the approval of temporary outdoor sales and consumption of alcohol for several downtown businesses during the art fairs, which run from July 16-19. A permanent liquor license for Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse also appears on the council’s agenda. The theme of transition from summer to fall is reflected on the council’s July 7 agenda in the set of street closing approvals, which include closings around the University of Michigan stadium for home football games.
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.
Animal (Dog) Control Services
The council will be considering a $135,570 agreement between the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County for animal control services.
Background to the city’s agreement includes a long process of discussions and negotiations between Washtenaw County and the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) – a conversation that began in 2011 when the amount of funding provided to HSHV was under scrutiny. A task force was appointed, and ultimately the county board of commissioners, at its Nov. 7, 2012 meeting, authorized contracting with HSHV for $500,000 a year for animal control services. [.pdf of contract between Washtenaw County and HSHV]
Recommended as a part of that task force report was for the county to pursue a cost-sharing arrangement with those municipalities in the county that collect licensing fees for animals. The city of Ann Arbor is one such municipality in the county. From the task force report:
Cost Sharing with Local Governments
Between 45 and 65 percent of the animals at the Humane Society come from jurisdictions with their own animal control ordinances or licensing programs. While the County would bear responsibility for stray dogs in those jurisdictions absent a controlling ordinance, it would also collect licensing fees from pet owners in those communities. The current system, however, drives costs to the County without providing direct revenues to offset them. The Task Force recommends that the County reach out to the communities whose ordinances either exceed the scope of the County animal control policy or that capture licensing fees, and develop a cost sharing agreement with those local governments to offset increases driven by local ordinance requirements. [.pdf of 2012 task force report]
Cited in the council’s July 7 resolution as the cost of public animal control countywide is $951,793. The assignment of $135,570 of that cost to the city of Ann Arbor is based on the proportion of dogs that come from Ann Arbor that are housed at HSHV, factoring in the $500,000 provided to the HSHV by Washtenaw County.
The city council’s approved FY 2015 budget had already included $105,000 for such animal control services. Increased dog licensing revenue is projected to fund the remaining $32,570, according to the staff memo accompanying the resolution.
The city council’s FY 2015 budget deliberations on May 19 , 2014 resulted in two amendments that affected funding for animal control services. One was an amendment that re-allocated $75,000 for a commercial sign inventory to animal control, including deer herd management. The other was an amendment that adjusted the revenue budget upwards to reflect an assumed 30% participation rate for dog licensing in the city – which would be a total of about $63,000. That’s $48,000 more than the actual amount up to now, with the idea being that a publicity campaign could increase participation in the licensing program. The additional revenue is to be put towards animal control.
Infrastructure: Sidewalk Special Assessments
At its July 7 meeting, the city council will consider the final vote on the special assessment of property owners to help pay for construction of three different sidewalks – on Stone School Road, Barton Drive and Scio Church Road.
The new sidewalk on Stone School Road will be on the west side of the road. This work will be done in conjunction with the Stone School Road reconstruction project from I-94 to Ellsworth Road. The total sidewalk project cost is roughly $128,500, of which about $55,000 will be special assessed. A public hearing on the special assessment will also take place at the council’s July 7 meeting.
The Barton Drive sidewalk project will extend eastward from Bandemer Park at Longshore Drive. The cost of the Barton Drive sidewalk has been calculated to be $80,606. Of that, about $36,000 will be paid from federal surface transportation funds. Of the remaining $44,606, the city’s general fund would pay $42,626, leaving just $1,980 to be paid through the special assessment.
For the Scio Church sidewalk project, the total cost is expected to be $365,100. Of that, about $164,000 will be paid from a federal surface transportation grant. The remaining $201,100 will be paid out of the city’s general fund and by the special assessment of just $1,626.
Infrastructure: Public Services Contracts
Several contracts appear on the council’s July 7 agenda that are related to infrastructure maintenance and repair. The council will be considering a $344,600 contract with Cadillac Asphalt LLC for repair of streets after water mains, storm and sanitary sewers are repaired. The city’s public services area does not have the equipment or the staff to perform these types of street repairs, which often involve the replacement of the concrete base or the concrete street surface, according to the staff memo accompanying the resolution.
The city council will also consider awarding a $175,000 contract to replace a clarifier drive in the drinking water treatment plant – to Titus Welding Company. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, the drive to be replaced is original to the plant and was installed in 1965. It had an expected life of 30 years. It has begun to show signs of failure, included seizing, high vibration, and bearing failure. The drive has been assessed by the manufacturer and it has been determined that it is not cost-effective to repair, according to the memo.
The council will also consider a $205,055 contract with Renosys Corp. to install PVC pool liners at Buhr and Fuller pools. The city is switching to PVC from Marcite, which is, according to a staff memo, a “cementitous product that covers the pool shell creating a smooth and waterproof surface.” The new product has a smoother surface, and won’t require the yearly patching required due to harsh winters and wear and tear on the pool, according to the staff memo.
The council will consider a $80,836 contract amendment with Tetra Tech Inc. for environmental consulting services at the now-closed Ann Arbor landfill. That brings the total amount on the contract to $624,221. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, for several years the landfill has had a plume of 1-4 dioxane and vinyl chloride contamination offsite primarily in Southeast Area Park, northeast of the landfill. A slurry wall was constructed along most of the boundary of the landfill to eliminate groundwater passing through the landfill, and three purge wells were used to attempt to capture the offsite contamination.
Also on the July 7 agenda is a resolution for $125,000 contracts with Stantec Consulting Michigan Inc. and Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc. for general civil engineering and surveying services. Those services include a range of activities, according to the staff memo accompanying the resolution: design and management of capital improvement projects; private development construction plan review; private development utility and road construction inspection; traffic engineering; civil engineering design; construction inspection; drafting; and surveying.
On the council’s agenda are a number of rezoning requests and site plans associated with new development in the city.
Development: Research Park Drive – Rezoning, Recreation
On the city council’s July 7 agenda for initial consideration is the rezoning of six sites along Research Park Drive – from RE (research district) to ORL (office/research/limited industrial district). Related to that rezoning, the council will be asked to give initial approval to amendments to the city’s zoning code to allow outdoor recreation as a special exception use in the ORL zoning district.
The six lots are undeveloped and total 16.6 acres. Four of the lots, on the southern end of the site, are owned by Qubit Corp. LLC; BMS Holdings LLC owns the northern two sites.
A proposed area plan – which is less detailed than a site plan – includes an indoor-outdoor tennis facility on one of the lots. It also includes five two-story buildings that could accommodate office, research, and limited industrial uses on the remaining lots, each with their own parking lot and access point to Research Park Drive.
Prior to construction, the project must go through the city’s site plan approval process, which might require a traffic impact study.
Only the initial rezoning and the amendment allowing recreation as a special exception use will be in front of the council at its July 7 meeting. The planning commission recommended support of both actions at its June 3, 2014 meeting.
Development: Rudolf Steiner Site Plan
On the July 7 city council agenda is the approval of a site plan for the expansion of the Rudolf Steiner High School. The private school is located at 2230 Pontiac Trail, north of Brookside. The planning commission had recommended approval of the site plan at its June 3, 2014 meeting.
The project – estimated to cost $2.5 million – involves building a one-story, 19,780-square-foot addition to the existing classroom building. The structure will include a 9,990-square-foot gym, with the remaining 9,790 square feet used for classrooms and storage.
According to the staff memo, an existing Quonset hut on the east side of the site will be removed, as will a 48-inch white oak tree immediately east of the proposed addition. The school will be required to plant 12 trees for mitigation. In addition, 17 new trees will be planted as part of the project.
Parking will be increased by 31 spaces to accommodate special events and discourage parking in nearby neighborhoods, according to the staff memo. A total of 32 bicycle parking spaces will be provided near the north entry to the new addition. No additional enrollment beyond the previously approved 120 students is proposed. The school has operated at that location since 2002.
At their June 3 meeting, planning commissioners approved a special exception use for the project. That’s required under Chapter 55 of the city’s zoning code because the site is zoned R1D (single family dwelling). Private schools are allowed within that zoning district, if granted a special exception use. The planning commission has discretion to grant a special exception use, which does not require additional city council approval.
Development: AAHC Rezoning Final Approval
On the council’s agenda for July 7 is the final approval to the rezoning of three Ann Arbor Housing Commission properties that have been given initial approval by the city council. The planning commission had recommended the rezonings at its May 6, 2014 meeting. Initial city council action came at its June 2, 2014 meeting.
The current PL (public land) zoning for some of the properties is a vestige of the AAHC properties’ status as city-owned land. The city council approved the transfer of deeds to the AAHC at its June 2, 2013 meeting. The three sites given initial rezoning approval on June 2, 2014 are part of the housing commission’s major initiative to upgrade the city’s public housing units by seeking private investors through low-income housing tax credits.
Rezoning is in progress for the following public housing sites, two of which are currently zoned as public land:
- Baker Commons: Rezone public land to D2 (downtown interface). The 0.94-acre lot is located at 106 Packard Street, at the intersection with South Main, in Ward 5. It includes a 64-unit apartment building.
- Green/Baxter Court Apartments: Rezone public land to R4A (multi-family dwelling district). The 2-acre site is located at 1701-1747 Green Road and contains 23 apartments in four buildings and a community center. It’s in Ward 2.
- Maple Meadows: Currently zoned R1C (single-family dwelling district), the recommendation is to rezone it as R4B (multi-family dwelling district). The site is 3.4 acres at 800-890 South Maple Road and contains 29 apartments in five buildings and a community center. It’s located in Ward 5.
At the planning commission’s May 6 meeting, AAHC director Jennifer Hall explained that PL zoning doesn’t allow housing to be built on a parcel. As AAHC seeks private funding to rehab its properties, it needs to ensure if a building burns down, for example, it could be rebuilt. In general that’s why the rezoning is being requested. It’s also being requested to align the zoning with the current uses of the property. She stressed that the highest priority properties to be rezoned are Baker Commons, Green/Baxter and Maple Meadows, because investors have already been found to renovate those sites.
For these three sites, planning commissioners also voted to waive the area plan requirements for the AAHC rezoning petitions, because no new construction is proposed and surveys of the improvements have been provided.
For additional background on the AAHC process of renovating its properties, see Chronicle coverage: “Public Housing Conversion Takes Next Step.”
Development: Ann Arbor Housing Commission – Appointment
Also at its July 7 meeting, the council will be asked to confirm the appointment of Audrey Wojtkowiak to the board of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, to fill the vacancy of Christopher Geer. Wojtkowiak’s nomination was made at the council’s June 16 meeting. She’s controller for the Consolidation Center at Detroit Diesel.
Development: Ann Arbor Housing Commission – North Maple Rezoning
On the council’s July 7 agenda is initial consideration of rezoning that’s necessary for a renovation project to be undertaken by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission for a site on North Maple.
The council will be asked to give initial approval to rezoning the 4.8-acre site at 701 N. Maple Road – from R1C (single-family dwelling district) to R4B (multi-family dwelling district).
The site is on the west side of North Maple, between Dexter Avenue and Hollywood Drive. [.pdf of staff report]
The site plan calls for demolishing 20 existing single-family homes – the public housing complex known as North Maple Estates – and constructing an eight-building, 42-unit apartment complex with a total of 138 bedrooms. The units range in size from one bedroom to five bedrooms. The project would include a playground, community building and 73 parking spaces. According to a staff memo, the buildings would be located along a T-shaped driveway that connects to North Maple Road and Dexter Avenue. The drive extends northward toward Vine Court but does not connect with that street. There would be a new connection to Dexter Avenue through the remaining, undeveloped length of Seybold Drive.
The project will require the city to vacate a portion of the right-of-way for Seybold Drive. The surrounding land is owned by the housing commission, so if the right-of-way vacation is approved, the land would become part of the housing commission property.
The site plan will not be in front of the city council on July 7. Only the initial rezoning approval and a resolution of intent to vacate right-of-way for Seybold Drive appear on the agenda. That resolution of intent sets a public hearing for Aug. 18, 2014 – the same council meeting when a vote will be taken on the vacation’s approval. The rezoning will also need a second vote of approval from the council at a future meeting.
Planning staff noted three issues that need to be resolved before the project gets approval from city council:
The parcel containing two duplex buildings also owned by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission in the northeast corner of the site must be combined with the subject site, forming a single parcel as a requirement for issuance of any permits.
The legal description and comparison chart data must be confirmed to include the duplex parcel.
The northern-most parking stall, nearest the connection to Vine Court, must be relocated outside of the minimum front setback area.
According to the staff memo, after the planning commission’s June 3 meeting the city’s traffic engineer reviewed the proposed new connection from Seybold Drive onto Dexter Avenue, and concluded that sight distances from all approaches are acceptable. He suggested that the pavement markings on Dexter should be refreshed.
The reconstruction of North Maple Estates is part of an ongoing effort by the housing commission to upgrade the city’s housing stock for low-income residents. At the planning commission’s May 6, 2014 meeting, AAHC executive director Jennifer Hall had made a presentation about the initiative, which includes seeking private investors through low-income housing tax credits.
The city’s environmental commission appears in two different agenda items – one that amends the city ordinance establishing the commission, and another that nominates additional members to the commission.
Environmental Commission: Ordinance Change
The council will be giving initial consideration to a change to the city ordinance that regulates how appointments are made to the environmental commission (EC). The EC is one of the few boards or commission in the city for which the mayor does not make nominations. The more familiar procedure – for most boards and commissions – includes a mayoral nomination at one council meeting, followed by the confirmation vote of the council at a subsequent meeting.
In the past, the council has mimicked this procedure for the EC by having some councilmember put a resolution on the agenda appointing a member to the EC, and then postponing the resolution until the next meeting. The ordinance revisions clarify that the nominations put forward by the council as a body to the EC are to be made by the two councilmembers who serve as the council’s representatives to the EC.
Besides two slots for council representatives, the EC includes positions for members of the planning commission, park advisory commission, and energy commission. The ordinance revision that the council will be considering on July 7 makes clear that those groups make their appointments to the EC without further city council approval. This specific revision comes after the planning commission had selected Kirk Westphal from its membership to serve on the EC earlier this year, and some councilmembers voted against his confirmation, when the council was asked to confirm his selection two months ago. For background on that vote, see “Hutton, Westphal Reappointed to EC.”
The staff memo summarizes the changes to the ordinance regulating appointments to boards and commissions as follows:
- clarifies that the councilmembers currently serving on the environmental commission nominate persons for “at-large” appointments, which are then approved by council resolution;
- clarifies that the planning commission, park advisory commission, and energy commission each designate a representative to the environmental commission without council approval and for a one-year term;
- clarifies that the 3-year terms should be equally staggered;
- removes references to the Leslie Science Center Advisory Board, which no longer exists;
- requires the city administrator or the designated support staff of the environmental commission to notify council of vacancies – previously this was delegated to the clerk’s office, which does not always have immediate knowledge of vacancies;
- contains a few minor, non-substantive corrections and clarifications.
If the council gives the ordinance amendment initial approval on July 7, it would still need a second and final vote at a subsequent meeting, in order to be enacted.
Environmental Commission: Appointments
Also on the agenda are confirmation of three nominations to the EC, which were announced at the council’s June 16, 2014 meeting: Allison Skinner, Benjamin Muth and Mark Clevey.
Clevey is the representative to the EC selected by the energy commission, so this confirmation will not follow the ordinance amendment for which the council will be asked to give initial approval on July 7.
At its July 7 meeting, the city council will be considering two items related to serving alcohol. One is an item that would allow several downtown businesses to serve alcohol outdoors during the Ann Arbor art fairs, to be held July 16-19 this year:
Knight’s Restaurant (600 E. Liberty St.), Michigan Theater (603 E. Liberty St.), Neopapalis (500 E. William St.), Cottage Inn (508-512 E. William St.), New York Pizza Depot (605 E. William St.), Ashley’s Restaurant (338 S. State St.), Red Hawk Bar & Grill (316 S. State St.), and Pizza House (618 Church).
The second item is a downtown development liquor license for Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The council approved the site plan for Ruth’s Chris – to be located on Fourth Avenue between William and Liberty – at its June 2, 2014 meeting.
The consent agenda includes approvals of street closings for special events, which provide a window into what’s happening in the coming weeks. Events with street closings on the July 7 city council agenda include:
- Electric Bolt 8K Run/Walk (July 27, 2014): Various streets from 6-10 a.m.
- Cleats and Beats (Aug. 1, 2014): These street closures would be on S. Main from E. William to Huron, on Liberty from S. Ashley to S. Fourth, and on Washington from S. Ashley to the alley by the parking structure. This is sponsored by the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau. It appears to be a different event than the Eats, Beats and Cleats event for which the council unanimously rejected a street closure request last year. That was proposed to take place in a South University neighborhood with a lot of student housing.
- Relevent Sports International Champions Cup Soccer Game (Aug. 2, 2014). Various streets around Michigan Stadium for three hours prior to the start of the game.
- University of Michigan football games (2014 Season): Various streets around Michigan Stadium for three hours prior to the start of each home football game.
- Dancing in the Streets (Aug. 31, 2014): S. Main between Huron and Liberty, and Washington between S. Ashley and the alley on E. Washington toward S. Fourth Avenue, from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
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