The Ann Arbor Chronicle » Chronicle Staff it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ann Arbor LDFA Gets OK Toward Extension Wed, 03 Sep 2014 04:47:08 +0000 Chronicle Staff A 15-year extension of Ann Arbor’s local development finance authority (LDFA) has taken another step forward in action taken by the city council on Sept. 2.

The extension – which would still need approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation – depends on establishing a relationship between the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti SmartZone and some other “satellite” LDFA. So the Sept. 2 resolution designates Adrian/Tecumseh as that satellite and approves an agreement with Adrian/Tecumseh.

The council’s vote was 7-4 over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). It followed a discussion that lasted over an hour, with questions from councilmembers fielded by city CFO Tom Crawford and LDFA board members Eric Jacobsen and Stephen Rapundalo, a former city councilmember.

The Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti LDFA – branded as one of about a dozen LDFA SmartZones statewide – is funded through capture of public school operating millages within the geographic areas of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti downtown development authority districts. However, no capture is made of the Ypsilanti school taxes.

The LDFA contracts with Ann Arbor SPARK to operate a business accelerator, which is meant to move start-up companies in the tech and biosciences sectors more quickly to a stage in their development when they are generating revenue from paying customers and adding jobs.

The city contracts separately with Ann Arbor SPARK for general business attraction and retention services. Also at its Sept. 2 meeting, the council voted to take SPARK’s $75,000 annual contract up off the table and consider it again, having tabled it three months ago. That contract won approval from the council.

The council’s Sept. 2 resolution on the LDFA extension specified the following as findings:

  1. That the selection of the Adrian/Tecumseh LDFA as a satellite provides unique characteristics and specialties through its public and private resources including the location of Adrian College, Siena Heights University and Jackson College within its TIF District and the opportunities for research partnerships and student/young entrepreneur involvement. In addition partnership with another multi-jurisdictional LDFA provides opportunities for shared experiences.
  2. That the selection of the Adrian/Tecumseh LDFA as a satellite provides regional cooperation and collaboration benefits to the LDFA and the Cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti with joint focuses on technology (including expanding green technologies and agricultural technology) and entrepreneurial services.
  3. That the selection of the Adrian/Tecumseh LDFA as a satellite provides value and support to the LDFA by strengthening existing collaboratives, making available a new/expanded technical assistance and support through its Innovation Center at Adrian College, and agricultural and manufacturing resources.

In connection with the extension, revisions to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti SmartZone TIF (tax increment financing) plan and development plan are being undertaken. Drafts of revisions are attached to the council’s Sept. 2 agenda item. Revisions appear to address concerns that have been raised about the current arrangement – to some extent by Ann Arbor city councilmembers.

Those concerns include the fact that TIF is not currently allowed to be spent outside the TIF district in the city of Ann Arbor; further, no TIF funds can currently be expended in Ypsilanti – inside or outside its TIF district – because no actual tax capture revenue is generated for the LDFA in that area. The revisions would allow TIF revenue to be expended anywhere in the entire cities of Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti.

In addition, the revisions specify in greater detail that TIF revenue can be used to pay for high-speed communications infrastructure. Specifically mentioned as eligible expenditures is the “installation of technology related infrastructure assets, i.e. fiber lines, nodes, or work spaces.”

The LDFA extension comes in the context of lingering questions about the impact on school funding of the LDFA tax capture. In FY 2013, the total amount captured by the Ann Arbor SmartZone LDFA was $1,546,577, and the current fiscal year forecast is for $2,017,835. About the same amount is forecast for FY 2015. The majority of councilmembers were convinced that the mechanism by which the state of Michigan funds public education means that the LDFA tax capture has no negative impact on  local schools funding.

Separate from the LDFA business acceleration contract with Ann Arbor SPARK, the city of Ann Arbor has historically engaged SPARK for business attraction and retention services. However, this year the $75,000 annual contract with SPARK was tabled by the council – in a vote taken at the council’s June 16, 2014 meeting.

It was taken back up off the table for consideration at the Sept. 2, 2014 meeting and approved on a 9-2 vote over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5)

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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AAHC Gets Council Support for Renovations Wed, 03 Sep 2014 04:44:01 +0000 Chronicle Staff The Ann Arbor housing commission’s plan to renovate its properties has been given support by the Ann Arbor city council in three separate actions taken at its Sept. 2, 2014 meeting.

The council approved a $729,879 transfer from the affordable housing trust fund to the AAHC to support the “West Arbor” portion of the AAHC’s renovation plan. And the council also took two actions in specific support of the West Arbor portion of the plan. The council gave initial support to a zoning revision for a project at 3451 Platt Road, which will entail demolishing four 5-bedroom units – because of their current placement in the floodplain – and constructing 32 townhomes and a community center. A third council action on Sept. 2 was approval of a site plan for North Maple Estates, which currently offers 19 units. All those units will be demolished and replaced with 42 townhomes.

The $729,879 transfer from the affordable housing trust fund would leave a $850,920 balance in the trust fund. The trust fund’s current balance stems largely from the council’s decision late last year – on Dec. 16, 2013 – to deposit the net proceeds of the sale of the former Y lot into the trust fund.

By way of background, in 2012 the city was accepted into a new rental assistance demonstration program, known as RAD, offered by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program allows residents in selected housing units to receive rental assistance through long-term Section 8 subsidy vouchers that are tied to the buildings, rather than individuals. The RAD program also enables entities like the AAHC to partner with private-sector developers on housing projects – something the AAHC couldn’t previously do. The Ann Arbor city council gave necessary approvals in connection with the RAD program at its June 3, 2013 meeting. Financing for the RAD program is primarily through low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC).

According to the memo accompanying this item, out of the $16,564,370 project budget for West Arbor, low-income housing tax credits and permanent debt are expected to cover $14,091,491. That leaves a gap of $1,472,879. The AAHC has secured $50,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and $293,000 from a Community Challenge Planning Grant. So the AAHC has requested up to $729,879 in capital funding support from the Ann Arbor housing trust fund for the West Arbor portion of the RAD conversion.

The initial approval given by the council for the Lower Platt project is from R1C (single-family dwelling district) and R2A (two-family dwelling district) to R4B (multi-family dwelling district). Final approval of the zoning, as well as the site plan approval, will come before the council at a subsequent meeting, probably in October.

The planning commission had sent the rezoning request for the 3451 Platt Road property to the city council with a recommendation of approval – in a vote taken at its Aug. 6, 2014 meeting. However, commissioners postponed consideration of the site plan for the five-building, 32-unit project, amid concerns about the site’s location in the floodplain and stormwater management. The postponement was supposed to allow time to address staff concerns regarding the impact on natural features.

Zoning and site plan approval must ultimately be given by the city council. However, the zoning approval will require two votes by the council at two separate meetings – because changes to the zoning code are actually changes to a city ordinance. So the site plan’s delay would not necessarily delay the project, as long as the site plan is put in front of the council for consideration by the time the council takes a second vote on the rezoning.

The site includes a property currently owned by AAHC, as well as an adjacent parcel that’s being purchased by the city on behalf of AAHC.

The project calls for demolishing four single-family homes and one two-family building, and constructing a 32-unit apartment complex with five buildings, 61 parking spaces, a playground, and a community building. The new apartments will include: 8 one-bedroom units; 12 two-bedroom units; 6 three-bedroom units; 2 four-bedroom units; and 4 five-bedroom units.

Two of the proposed buildings would be in the floodplain, which raised concerns from city staff. The AAHC is working to address those concerns – possibly by eliminating or reducing the number of buildings in the floodplain. It had been expected that the AAHC could address the issues raised by city staff so that the site plan could return to the planning commission at its Aug. 19 meeting – but that didn’t happen. Nor is it on the planning commission’s Sept. 3 agenda. [.pdf of planning staff report] [.pdf of June 28, 2014 citizen participation meeting report]

The AAHC Platt Road project is different from a Washtenaw County-owned property at 2260 and 2270 Platt Road, the former location of the county’s juvenile center. That site is also being considered for affordable housing.

Other AAHC-related action by the council on Sept. 2 included site plan approval for North Maple Estates. It calls for demolishing 20 existing single-family homes at the public housing complex on North Maple and constructing an eight-building, 42-unit apartment complex with a total of 138 bedrooms.

North Maple Estates, Ann Arbor housing commission, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of North Maple Estates site, outlined in green.

The rezoning of the 4.8-acre site at 701 N. Maple Road already has been given final approval by the city council at its Aug. 18, 2014 meeting. The zoning was changed from R1C (single-family dwelling district) to R4B (multi-family dwelling district).

The Ann Arbor planning commission had recommended the zoning and site plan for approval at its meeting on June 17, 2014. The council gave initial approval of the rezoning at its July 7, 2014 meeting.

The site is on the west side of North Maple, between Dexter Avenue and Hollywood Drive. [.pdf of staff report]

The units in the eight-building, 42-unit apartment complex are proposed to have a total of 138 bedrooms. The units range in size from one bedroom to five bedrooms.

The project will include a playground, community building and 73 parking spaces. According to a staff memo, the buildings will 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.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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Gift of Life Expansion Gets Final OKs Wed, 03 Sep 2014 04:36:44 +0000 Chronicle Staff At its Sept. 2, 2014 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to the rezoning of property necessary for an expansion of the Gift of Life Michigan facility on Research Park Drive in the mid-southern part of Ann Arbor. The rezoning will change 6.55 acres from O (office district) and RE (research district) to ORL (office/research/limited industrial district). At the same meeting, the council approved the site plan for the project.

Gift of Life Michigan, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of Gift of Life Michigan site.

The proposal calls for building a three-story, 40,786-square-foot addition to connect two existing buildings at 3161 and 3169 Research Park Drive, which are owned and occupied by the nonprofit. According to a staff report, the additional space will accommodate offices, a special events auditorium and “organ procurement suites.” The nonprofit’s website states that the Gift of Life is Michigan’s only federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. Cost of the expansion project will be $10.5 million.

The city planning commission had recommended approval of the rezoning at its July 1, 2014 meeting. City council action to give initial approval of the site plan came at its meeting on Aug. 7.

The project will reduce the four existing curb cuts to Research Park Drive to three, connecting one of the loop driveways to an existing driveway at the east end of the site. A parking lot at the back of the site will be expanded by 38 parking spaces. Two alternate vehicle fueling stations are proposed in parking spaces near the main entry, with the driveway at the center of the site providing access for ambulances. A new shipping and receiving facility will be located on the northeast corner of the site.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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Ann Arbor Sets Stage for Taxicab Rate Hike Wed, 03 Sep 2014 04:34:19 +0000 Chronicle Staff Even though the Ann Arbor city council rejected one proposed change to its taxicab ordinance at its Aug. 18, 2014 meeting – which would have regulated all drivers for hire in the city – initial approval was given at that meeting to another change in the part of the ordinance that regulates rates. And the council gave final approval of that ordinance change at its Sept 2, 2014 meeting.

The change establishes certain parameters to mitigate possible negative consequences to the setting of a very high maximum allowable taxicab rate, under which taxicab companies might eventually compete. Those parameters include a requirement that a taxicab company commit to a single rate annually and that the rate be advertised in a vehicle with signage in letters one-inch tall. New, higher rates have not yet been approved by the council.

The vote by the taxicab board to recommend the ordinance change came at its July 24, 2014 meeting.

These issues were also discussed at three monthly meetings of the taxicab board prior to that, on April 23, 2014, May 22, 2014 and June 26, 2014. Representatives of the taxicab industry at those meetings advocated for the establishment of a very high maximum – not tied to gas and insurance prices. They feel it’s one mechanism that would allow them to compete with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The proposal to regulate all drivers for hire, which the council rejected, was also intended in part to allow taxicab companies to compete with Uber and Lyft on an even playing field. Taxicab drivers are already regulated by the city.

Regarding fare regulation, the city’s current structure already allows for the establishing of a maximum rate to be adopted by the city council. Currently the maximum rate in Ann Arbor is $3 to get in, $2.50 per mile, and 40 cents per minute waiting time. Those maximum rates were last adjusted upwards three years ago, on May 16, 2011, in response to gas prices that had nudged past $4 per gallon. At that time, the taxicab board indicated it did not anticipate considering another rate change until the gas prices were over $5 for at least two consecutive months.

So the taxicab board’s thinking is not being driven by gas prices, which are currently between $3.75 and $4 in the Ann Arbor area. Instead, a possible increase in allowable fares is based on concern that the taxicab industry in Ann Arbor might not be able to survive unless taxis are allowed to charge more.

At its Aug. 28, 2014 meeting, taxicab board members recommended the following maximum rate schedule for eventual consideration by the council, which could appear on the council’s agenda as soon as Sept. 15: $10 to get in, $5 per mile and 40 cents per minute waiting time. In addition, a $1 surcharge could be applied for each passenger over three passengers.

At the council’s Aug. 18 meeting, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) – who also serves as the city council’s representative to the taxicab board – asked rhetorically if the taxicab board should be disbanded. At its Aug. 28 meeting, taxicab board chair Michael Benson announced that he’d received an email from board member Eric Sturgis, who indicated that he would be resigning from the board – because he’s moving to Jackson, Mich. It has historically been difficult to find residents willing to serve on the taxicab board.

On Sept. 2, eight people – including Benson and LuAnne Bullington, another taxicab board member – spoke during a public hearing on the ordinance change.

Other Sept. 2 action related to the topic of hired rides was a vote by city council that directed the city administrator to negotiate operating agreements with transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. The discussion on that item lasted about 45 minutes, resulting in approval on an 8-3 vote, over dissent from Kunselman, Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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Ann Arbor to Pursue Deals with Uber, Lyft Wed, 03 Sep 2014 03:40:04 +0000 Chronicle Staff The Ann Arbor city council has directed city administrator Steve Powers to negotiate operating agreements with transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. The council’s action came at its Sept. 2, 2014 meeting, after a discussion that lasted about 45 minutes.

The council’s vote on the question was 8-3 over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

The resolution sets the second meeting in October – Oct. 20, 2014 – as the date on which Powers is to return to the council with operating agreements to be approved by the city council.

The council’s Sept. 2 action comes after it rejected an ordinance change on Aug. 18, 2014 that would have required all drivers for hire to be registered with the city, to have commercial plates on their vehicles, and to maintain insurance commensurate with commercial plates. That rejected change had been recommended by the city’s taxicab board.

The absence of commercial plates on a vehicle that is observed being used for picking up or dropping off passengers would have provided a reason for a traffic stop by Ann Arbor police. At the taxicab board meetings over the last few months, representatives of the taxicab industry argued that the state statute regulating limousines already gives the city the ability to enforce against Uber and Lyft drivers.

At the taxicab board’s Aug. 28 meeting, representatives of the taxicab industry lamented the fact that they had not attended the council’s Aug. 18 meeting to advocate for regulating all drivers for hire through a city ordinance. Representatives of Uber and Lyft numbered over 50 people at the council meeting, some of whom addressed the council during public commentary time.

Ward 3 city councilmember and taxicab board member Stephen Kunselman indicated at the board’s Aug. 28 meeting that there might be a possibility that one of the five councilmembers who voted against the ordinance at first reading on Aug. 18 might bring it back for reconsideration.

On Aug. 18, the 5-5 vote totaling 10 on the 11-member body stemmed from the absence of Margie Teall (Ward 4). Voting for the regulation of all drivers for hire were Kunselman, Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jack Eaton (Ward 4), Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Voting against the change were mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3).

At the council’s Aug. 18 meeting, during deliberations on the rejected ordinance change, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) indicated that she’d concluded as early as April of this year that an operating agreement – instead of a local ordinance – would be the right approach. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) indicated he had been working with Briere to come up with that kind of approach.

The elements to be included in the operating agreement were specified in an attachment to the resolution read originally as follows:

Operating agreement principles include:

  • Company will provide a minimum of $1M in liability insurance coverage for the driver, vehicle and passengers and any other injured parties, from the moment a driver is linked with a passenger to the moment the passenger releases the vehicle.
  • Company will conduct the following at no cost to the city: background checks for each driver-applicant prior to allowing their participation. This background check will include a criminal background check, including a check for multiple relevant jurisdictions; a review of the applicant’s driving record; a mechanical inspection of the vehicle by a licensed inspector. The results of this data collection will be made available to the City for any driver / vehicle combination approved for participation in the company.
  • Company will not allow participation by a driver / vehicle combination if the driver has any felony conviction; any conviction for DUI; more than 2 moving violations in any calendar year or more than 4 moving violations in a six-year period, with no more than 4 accumulated points in any calendar year.
  • Company shall ensure that all driver vehicles pass an annual, mutually agreeable safety inspection conducted by a licensed mechanic.
  • Prior to participation in the program, drivers shall go through a driver-education program that provides training in customer service and improves familiarity with local streets and local traffic conditions.
  • Drivers shall not accept passengers except through the ride-sharing mechanism provided by the Company.
  • Company will provide requested data to the City about accidents and incidents with passengers, as well as a report on customer satisfaction and safety ratings.

During the Sept. 2 meeting, an amendment was made that would restrict the felony convictions referenced in the principles to just those that are relevant for drivers for hire.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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Splitt Reappointed to DDA Board Wed, 03 Sep 2014 01:04:46 +0000 Chronicle Staff John Splitt has been confirmed for a third four-year term of service on the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board. The vote on the 11-member council was 7-4. Voting against Splitt’s confirmation were Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

The council’s action came at its Sept. 2, 2014 meeting.

Splitt is still within the three-term limit for DDA board members that was included as part of a set of ordinance changes made by the city council at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting. Some councilmembers had wanted a two-term limit, but the three-term limit emerged as part of a compromise. In addition to board governance, the council amended the ordinance regulating the DDA’s TIF (tax increment finance) capture.

Some councilmembers voting against Splitt’s confirmation cited recently reported raises awarded to DDA executive director Susan Pollay for FY 2013 and FY 2014 that appear to have been decided in a way that violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.

Several others were uncontroversially confirmed to other boards and commissions at the Sept. 2 meeting. Anna Ercoli-Schnitzer had been nominated to fill a vacancy on the commission on disability issues. Tamara Burns and Dick Mitchell had been nominated to be reappointed to the design review board. Sofia Franciscus had been nominated to fill the vacancy on the planning commission due to Paras Parekh’s resignation. All of those nominations were confirmed without discussion.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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County Issues Call for Winter Warming Space Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:21:10 +0000 Chronicle Staff The Washtenaw County office of community & economic development and the Washtenaw Housing Alliance are seeking suggestions for sites that can be used during the upcoming winter months as warming spaces for the homeless.

In a press release issued on Aug. 22, the OCED described a list of specifications needed for these sites [.pdf of press release]:

  • Include a single room to accommodate approximately 50 adults lying down on thick mats (approximately 1,500 square feet)
  • Be accessible to limited-mobility individuals
  • Have multiple, accessible bathrooms on site
  • Ideally equipped with showers and/or a kitchen prep space
  • Space should be available every night of the week (roughly 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.) minimally from January 1 to March 31, 2015 – with potential to begin earlier than January 1 if weather dictates
  • Ideally have storage space for stacked sleeping mats during daytime hours.

Any information about possible sites should be directed to to Amanda Carlisle, director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, at by Friday, Sept. 5.

This outreach is the result of efforts by a Winter Emergency Shelter/Warming Center Response workgroup, which has been focused on ensuring a more coordinated and sufficient response to the demands for the 2014-15 winter. From the press release: “As a result of the initial meetings of this workgroup, a need has been identified for space to host an expanded overnight warming center for individual adults for the 2015 winter season. The committee has identified a provider for the staffing of this additional overnight warming center and is working to identify the resources to support the operation of it; however, the committee has not yet identified an ideal space to host this temporary overnight warming center for the winter months.”

For background on this issue, see Chronicle coverage: “County Board Briefed on Shelter Services” and “County Board Discusses Homelessness.”

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AAATA OKs Bus Contract, Orders 27 Fri, 22 Aug 2014 00:10:44 +0000 Chronicle Staff Up to 60 new buses will be purchased by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority from Gillig LLC over the next five years as a result of AAATA board action taken on Aug. 21, 2014. The total cost of each bus will be between $444,000 and $662,500, depending on the length, drive system and options. That puts the total value of the contract with Gillig at a figure between $26.6 million and $39.7 million.

Of the 60 buses, 20 would be new, additional buses that are needed for the expansion of services the AAATA will be offering starting Aug. 24. Those services will be funded with proceeds from a new millage authorized by voters on May 6, 2014. The other buses will replace existing buses that are nearing the end of their useful life.

The large spread between the minimum and maximum cost per bus is due to the incremental price difference between a hybrid electric drive system and a conventional clean diesel drive, which is nearly $200,000. According to the minutes of the Aug. 12, 2014 meeting of the AAATA’s planning and development committee, the extra cost of a hybrid bus over the life of the bus is $138,604. That figure includes cost comparison data relating to the upfront capital and fuel costs of both technologies.

Of the AAATA’s existing 80 buses, 52 use hybrid technology. The ongoing debate among AAATA board members on choice of technology is based in part on the AAATA’s own experience with hybrid buses. The 5-year warranty has expired on the AAATA’s oldest hybrids, which has required a contingency budget for their future repairs. And manufacturers have now shortened their warranty periods for new hybrid buses from five to two years. That shorter warranty period will translate into greater costs to the AAATA for repairs.

According to AAATA staff cited in the PDC meeting minutes, the hybrid buses’ lower emission levels are a benefit of hybrid technology. However, the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing emission reduction standards now ensure that all new transit buses – whether hybrid or conventional – have very low emissions. On average, hybrid buses run at a noise level of 72 dB(A) compared to 75 dB(A) for conventional buses.

So the AAATA board has not yet made a final decision on the choice between hybrid technology and conventional clean diesel. The order for the first 27 buses from Gillig – which was also given approval at the board’s Aug. 21 meeting – leaves open the decision on the choice of technology.  Of the 27 that are being ordered, 14 are replacement buses and 13 are buses needed for the service expansion.

The board would need to act by November 2014 on choosing the technology for the bus order. The choice to order hybrid technology could be based on the identification of grants that might pay for the cost differential of that technology. Delivery of the buses is planned for October 2015.

Here’s how the bus acquisition schedule breaks down:

              OCT   FEB   JAN   JAN   OCT  
Purpose      2015  2016  2017  2018  2019  TOT
Rplcmt buses
(now elig)     4                             4                          
Rplcmt buses 
(elig 11/15)  10           5     4          19
Rplcmt buses
(elig 11/19)                           15   15 
5YTIP Svc Exp 
(8/2015)       4                             4
5YTIP Svc Exp        
(6/2016)             9                       9
5YTIP Svc Exp  
(8/2017)                   7                 7 
TOTAL                                       58


This brief was filed from the AAATA headquarters building, where the board held its Aug. 21, 2014 meeting – due to the closure of its regular meeting location at the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. The library building was closed to due to the repair of the public elevator.

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Downtown Library to Reopen Friday, Aug. 22 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:40:41 +0000 Chronicle Staff The downtown Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave. will reopen on Friday, Aug. 22 after being closed over the past week for repairs to its public elevator. There will be another temporary closing next week, however, as that work continues.

In a post on her director’s blog, Josie Parker stated: ”The last phase of the work is scheduled for next week, and we anticipate another closure for the installation of the new jack. That work is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, August 27.”

On Aug. 13, the library announced that its downtown building would be closed indefinitely starting the following day. The elevator has been out of commission since this spring, after leaks had developed in the hydraulic piston, causing it to fail a weight test. At their July 21, 2014 meeting, trustees authorized a $93,598 contract with Schindler Elevator Corp. to repair the elevator. A week after the July 21 meeting, the board called a special meeting for July 29 to address additional issues related to the elevator. The four board members present at that meeting voted to authorize an additional $75,000 for elevator work.

The plan at that time was to attempt to keep the downtown library open as much as possible during the work, with the caveat that it was still unclear exactly what would be required to make the repair. However, the work required drilling concrete casings, which explosed the work area in such a way that made it impossible for the library to remain open.

The AADL is also undertaking a major renovation to the front entrance of the downtown library. On July 21, AADL trustees authorized authorized a $425,523 construction budget for that project, which has been in the works for several months. The budget covers new doors, a redesigned facade, and heated sidewalks, among other changes. The construction manager is O’Neal Construction of Ann Arbor.

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Parks Group Strategizes on Liberty Plaza Wed, 20 Aug 2014 01:28:53 +0000 Chronicle Staff Liberty Plaza was the focus of two items that appeared on the Aug. 19, 2014 agenda for the Ann Arbor park advisory commission: (1) extension of a fee waiver for events held at Liberty Plaza; and (2) feedback in response to city council action, which addressed Liberty Plaza and the potential park atop the Library Lane underground parking structure.

The surface of the Library Lane parking structure is highlighted in yellow.

The surface of the Library Lane parking structure is highlighted in yellow. The city council has designated 12,000 square feet of that lot, on the west side along the South Fifth Avenue, as a future park.

Regarding feedback on Liberty Plaza and Library Lane, PAC unanimously passed a resolution to form a subcommittee to study issues related to those urban parks, and to allocate or obtain resources to oversee programming there for up to a year. Based on that effort, the subcommittee would analyze the outcome and deliver recommendations to council next year – no later than October 2015. This resolution, drafted by PAC chair Ingrid Ault and vice chair Graydon Krapohl, had been emailed to commissioners earlier in the day but was not available to the public prior to the meeting. [.pdf of Aug. 19, 2014 Liberty Plaza resolution]

Regarding the fee waiver, PAC voted unanimously to extend the waiver through October 2015 – coordinating with the subcommittee work on Liberty Plaza and Library Lane.

Both Aug. 19 items – the feedback to city council (but with no accompanying resolution) and fee waiver – had originally appeared on PAC’s July 15, 2014 agenda, but were postponed because three commissioners were absent at that meeting.

Liberty Plaza: Feedback to City Council

After July 15, PAC called a special meeting for Aug. 5 to begin their discussion on providing feedback to the city council on Liberty Plaza. Commissioners continued that discussion on Aug. 19, focused on PAC’s newly crafted resolution. It responded to a city council resolution that had been considered at the council’s June 16, 2014 meeting. That council resolution had been brought forward by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) – who serves as an ex officio member of PAC – as well as mayor John Hieftje, Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1).

The original version of Taylor’s resolution would have directed the city administrator to “work collaboratively with the property owners adjacent to and near Liberty Plaza, the general public, PAC [park advisory commission], the Ann Arbor District Library, and the DDA to develop a conceptual design for an improved Liberty Plaza…”

But after nearly an hour of debate on June 16, the council voted to refer the resolution to PAC instead of approving it. The vote on referral to PAC came amid deliberation on some amendments to the resolution proposed by Jane Lumm (Ward 2) that would have broadened the scope of the effort to include the Library Lane lot. [.pdf of Lumm's amendments]

Funding for the collaborative work on the redesign, in the amount of $23,577, was specified in the proposed resolution as coming from the parks and recreation budget. In addition to a concept for a “re-imagined Liberty Plaza,” the resolution was supposed to result in options for funding construction, to be provided by city staff. Taylor’s resolution called for a report to be provided to the park advisory commission by December 2014 and to the city council a month later in January 2015.

Taylor’s resolution came in the context of a push by some Ann Arbor residents – including members of the Library Green Conservancy – to establish public park space on top of the underground Library Lane parking garage, which is southwest of Liberty Plaza separated from that park by a surface parking lot owned by First Martin Corp.

Related to that, the council voted at its April 7, 2014 meeting – as part of reconsidering a vote it had taken at its previous meeting on March 17 – to designate a 12,000-square-foot portion of the Library Lane surface to be reserved as an urban park. The result of the reconsidered resolution on April 7 undid the council’s earlier decision to establish a square foot range for the urban plaza – from 6,500-12,000 square feet. That April 7 council decision was made on a 7-4 vote, with dissent from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), mayor John Hieftje, Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).

Deliberations among councilmembers on June 16, 2014 included questions about why PAC hadn’t been consulted on the resolution on Liberty Plaza. Taylor indicated that it wasn’t necessary to consult PAC, as it’s the council’s prerogative to set policy. The day after the council met, PAC’s regular monthly meeting, on June 17, was canceled.

PAC had previously been directed by the council to develop a set of recommendations regarding downtown parks, which were completed last year. The council accepted PAC’s recommendations at its Nov. 7, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of 21-page PAC downtown parks report]

PAC’s discussion on Aug. 19 was informed in part by a packet of material provided to commissioners at their Aug. 5 special meeting, which The Chronicle was not able to attend, because it was the date of primary elections. [.pdf of Aug. 5 Liberty Plaza packet] The materials included a memo with background and a bulleted list of issues related to Liberty Plaza, a list of potential ideas to address these issues, and suggestions for next steps.

Also included were PAC’s downtown parks recommendations, and a summary of previous work related to downtown parks, such as results from surveys conducted by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s Connecting William Street study and by PAC’s downtown parks subcommittee. It also included case studies from downtown parks in four other communities: Director Park in Portland, Oregon; Arcadia Creek Festival Place in Kalamazoo; Campus Marius Park in Detroit; and Katz Plaza in Pittsburgh.

The Aug. 19 discussion also included comments from Matthew Altruda, who programs the Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch weekly summer concert series at Liberty Plaza. Ault had invited Altruda to the meeting to describe that effort, which is widely cited as a successful use of Liberty Plaza.

The resolution drafted by Ault recommended that the city allocate or obtain resources to oversee programming of Liberty Plaza and Library Lane for up to one year, in order to answer the following questions:

Determine costs for ongoing dedicated resources (human, material and financial) for programming of the spaces for one year, recognizing that a key element for success of any urban park is sustained and meaningful programming of the space.

Determine the success of programming efforts and how the currently designed spaces function in support of that programming. What worked and didn’t work?

Determine at the end of the study if issues long associated with Liberty Plaza are a function of design or the absence of sustained and meaningful programming, or a combination of both.

If shortcomings are design-related, does it warrant a partial or complete redesign based on the outcomes of the study?

Determine what role adjacent and nearby properties (public and private) have along with other downtown neighbors with regard to Liberty Plaza in determining key stakeholders for ongoing discussions.

The resolution will be forwarded to the city council for consideration.

Liberty Plaza: Fee Waiver

Also on Aug. 19, commissioners unanimously approved an extension of the Liberty Plaza fee waiver through October 2015 – a date coordinated with the subcommittee’s work on Liberty Plaza.

By way of background, a year ago the city council voted to waive fees for use of Liberty Plaza, located at Liberty and Divisions streets. The waiver was for a one-year trial period, through July 1, 2014.

The waiver had been recommended by PAC at its June 18, 2013 meeting. It came in response to a situation that arose earlier that spring when city staff applied fees to the hosting of Pizza in the Park in Liberty Plaza – a homelessness outreach ministry of a local church.

The goal of the waiver was to attract additional musicians, performers, and other events at Liberty Plaza.” A key “whereas” clause of the 2013 council resolution stated: “… it is the goal of PAC to further activate Liberty Plaza by increasing social, cultural, and recreational activities that take place there; …”

Later in the year, on Nov. 18, 2013, the council approved ordinance revisions to allow for a waiver of fees when an organization uses any park to distribute goods for basic human needs. The ordinance was revised to include the following text: “There shall be no park rental fee charged in association with a permit, where the permitted event’s primary proposed activity is the charitable distribution of goods for basic human needs.”

This brief was filed from the second floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow.

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