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Art Commission OKs Stadium Bridges Art

The Ann Arbor public art commission has recommended approval of “Arbor Winds” artwork for East Stadium bridges, designed by Massachusetts artist Catherine Widgery. The action came at AAPAC’s April 23, 2014 meeting. The recommendation will be forwarded to the city council for consideration. [.pdf of proposal]

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Catherine Widgery’s rendering of her proposed public artwork for East Stadium bridges. (Image provided in the April 23, 2014 AAPAC meeting packet.)

In early August of 2013, Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. was recommended as the artist for this project. She was picked by a selection panel from four finalists who had submitted proposals for the project, which has a $400,000 total budget. [.pdf of Widgery's original proposal]

The selection panel provided feedback to Widgery and asked that she revise her proposal before it was presented to AAPAC and then later to the city council for approval. Members of the panel were Wiltrud Simbuerger, Bob Miller, Nancy Leff, David Huntoon and Joss Kiely. [.pdf of panel feedback]

Over the past few weeks, AAPAC chair Bob Miller and vice chair John Kotarski have been presenting her revised proposed to several local public entities, including the city’s park advisory commission, planning commission and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. A public forum to get additional feedback also was held on April 21 at the downtown library. [More details on the presentation by Kotarski and Miller are included in The Chronicle’s report of the Ann Arbor planning commission’s April 1, 2014 meeting.]

Widgery’s new design for the bridge features elevated, stand-alone louvered glass columns that are etched with images of trees. The same type of louvered glass panels are also used under the bridge along South State, affixed to the wall of the underpass. The panels will be lit from below, so that the etchings stand out at night. The glass is tempered and laminated for strength.

The artwork is meant to evoke the strength and fragility of this community. From the artist’s statement:

As one drives around Ann Arbor, the gracious stands of trees stand out as a clear expression of the town’s identity so trees have symbolized this arbor town from the beginning.

On a deeper level, the trees as portrayed in the artwork Arbor Winds are a metaphor for our own paradoxical fragility and strength in the context of our life cycles. We speak of having “deep roots” or of “branching out” or of how someone is “blooming”. After a long winter, the return to life of spring is expressed above all through the return of leaves to trees. We all feel the sense of being reborn in the spring with the blossoms and leaves and, in the autumn, the somewhat wistful sadness as the leaves reach their glory of color and then fall.

Arbor Winds evokes not just trees but wind and light as expressions of the energy that surrounds us. In each panel we see the ghostly afterimage as if the wind has blown the tree; we see both moments in time simultaneously. These images etched in glass are like those etched in our memories. We walk through a forest and it is our mental “snapshots” of the branches against the sky or the texture of the thick trunk, or the dense layers of the many trunks silhouetted against the forest underbrush that remain in our memories. Indeed each of these etched images is more the memory of moments rather than a physical reality: a subtle expression of our own ephemeral existence and the light traces we leave behind.

The recommendation will be placed on the council’s agenda for its first meeting in June. If approved, the art would likely be installed sometime in 2015.

Ann Arbor public art commision, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An image by artist Catherine Widgery for artwork on the East Stadium bridge. This night view shows how the structures would be lit from below, illuminating the images of trees that are etched into louvered glass panels.

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An image of proposed artwork by Catherine Widgery along East Stadium bridge.

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An image of proposed artwork by Catherine Widgery along East Stadium bridge.

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An image of proposed artwork by Catherine Widgery along East Stadium bridge.

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An image of proposed artwork by Catherine Widgery below East Stadium bridge, along South State Street.

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An image of proposed artwork by Catherine Widgery below East Stadium bridge, along South State Street.

Catherine Widgery, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A detail of the louvers designed by Catherine Widgery. The etched glass panels will be attached to a metal frame.

This brief was filed from the basement of city hall, 301 E. Huron, where AAPAC holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow.

County Board Races Set for Aug. 5 Primary

Competition in only one district for the Washtenaw County board of commissioners will play out in the Aug. 5, 2014 primary. Four Democratic candidates have filed for that seat. The deadline to file for the primary election was 4 p.m. on April 22.

In the remaining eight county districts, incumbents are unopposed in the primary but in most cases face competition in the Nov. 6 general election. Only the board’s two Republican incumbents – Dan Smith and Alicia Ping – are unopposed in the primary and will not face a Democratic opponent in November.

In District 5, incumbent Democrat Rolland Sizemore Jr. decided not to run for re-election. Four Democrats and one Republican have filed for that seat, which represents southeast Washtenaw, including Augusta Township and much of Ypsilanti Township. The Democrats are Wilma Gold-Jones, who serves on the board of the nonprofit Mentor2Youth; Ruth Ann Jamnick, former state representative and former Ypsilanti Township supervisor; Victor Dobrin, a retired engineer; and Keith Jason, coordinator of student services for Eastern Michigan University’s College of Technology. Jason also is a current Ypsilanti Township park commissioner and board member of the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority (YCUA). Republican Timothy King has also filed for that seat, but will be unopposed in the primary.

In the remaining eight districts, there are no primary challenges. Here’s a breakdown of the races and a link to the map of districts:

  • District 1: Incumbent Democrat Kent Martinez-Kratz of Chelsea is unopposed in the primary, but will be challenged by Republican Larry Murphy of Scio Township in November. The district covers five townships in the west and northwest portions of the county, as well as Chelsea and Dexter.
  • District 2: Incumbent Republican Dan Smith of Whitmore Lake is unopposed in the primary. No Democrat has filed for this seat, so unless an independent challenger emerges, Smith will also be unopposed in November. District 2 covers north and northeast portions of Washtenaw County, including five townships, Barton Hills and a small part of northern Ann Arbor.
  • District 3: Incumbent Republican Alicia Ping of Saline is unopposed in the primary. She’ll also be unopposed in November, unless challenged by an independent candidate. This is the largest district in terms of geographic size, covering seven townships in southwest and southern Washtenaw County, as well as the cities of Saline and Milan and the village of Manchester.
  • District 4: Incumbent Democrat Felicia Brabec does not face a challenger in the primary, but will be on the ballot with Republican Stanley Watson in November. The district primarily covers Pittsfield Township.
  • District 6: Incumbent Democrat Ronnie Peterson does not face any Democratic opponents in the primary. Republican David Raaflaub will be on the ballot in November. If Peterson is re-elected in November, he would be the longest-serving current commissioner. The district includes Ypsilanti and parts of Ypsilanti Township and Superior Township.
  • District 7: Democrat Andy LaBarre is running for re-election in this district, covering the east, northeast and southeast sides of Ann Arbor. He is unopposed in the primary, but will face Republican Joe Miriani in November.
  • District 8: Incumbent Democrat Yousef Rabhi, who currently serves as county board chair, faces no primary challenger. The only Republican to file for this district is Jeffrey Gallatin, who ran for county sheriff in 2012. The district represents central and south-central Ann Arbor.
  • District 9: Republican John Floyd will challenge incumbent Democrat Conan Smith in November. Neither candidate faces opposition in the primary. This district covers the west, northwest and southwest sides of Ann Arbor.

For the office of county commissioner, candidates could file either 50 signatures from their district or pay a $100 filing fee to appear on the ballot. Of all the current candidates, only three filed signatures: Wilma Gold-Jones and Victor Dobrin in District 5, and incumbent Yousef Rabhi in District 8. All other candidates paid the filing fee.

The county board has nine seats. All commissioners serve two-year terms, and all seats are up for election in 2014. Commissioners elected in November will begin their new terms on Jan. 1, 2015.

The deadline to withdraw from these races is 4 p.m. on Friday, April 25. More information about the candidates in these and other local elections is on the Washtenaw County elections website.

Council Delays Some Action on Sidewalks

Sidewalk gaps on Scio Church Road and Newport Road in Ann Arbor took  a couple of steps closer to being filled as the result of city council action taken at its April 21, 2014 meeting.

Both projects were on the agenda to be handled as special assessments of property owners whose land would benefit from the sidewalks. Action on the special assessment portion of the funding for construction of the Scio Church sidewalk was delayed until the council’s second meeting in May – on May 19. Action on the Newport Road sidewalk special assessment moved forward.

For the sidewalk segment on Newport Road, the council approved a resolution directing the city assessor to prepare a special assessment roll of properties to be assessed. The council took action to set a public hearing on the Newport Road special assessment – for May 5, 2014 at the council’s regular meeting on that date.

The total amount to be special assessed for the Newport Road project is $49,746. But residents of the Newport Creek Site Condominium – who would not ordinarily be assessed, as their property isn’t adjacent to the sidewalk – have volunteered to contribute $10,228 to the project to help offset their neighbors’ assessments. Details of that arrangement are being finalized.

For the Scio Church Road 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 general fund and by the special assessment of just $1,626. It was the size of the total amount of special assessment that led to the postponement. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) argued that the amount to be assessed was not worth the staff time to follow all the bureaucratic procedures involved in the implementation of a special assessment. He also called for 80% of any sidewalk project to be funded through non-special assessed funds.

While other councilmembers were fairly quickly willing to postpone the question until May 19, most did not appear to be inclined to support the idea of waiving the special assessment. Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) cautioned that if the city made the filling of sidewalk gaps contingent on providing support from the general fund, that could stall the city’s program of filling those gaps.

Also its April 21 meeting, the council approved $177,100 of city funds for the construction of the Scio Church sidewalk and for an additional sidewalk on Barton Drive. The Barton Drive sidewalk will also be special assessed – with the associated resolutions to be presented to the council for approval at a future meeting.

Approval of the design contract for the Barton Drive and Scio Church stretches of new sidewalk was approved by the city council at its March 3, 2014 meeting.

By way of additional background, at its July 15, 2013 meeting, the council approved $15,000 for preliminary design of a sidewalk along Barton Drive. And at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting, the council approved $15,000 for preliminary study of a sidewalk to be constructed along Scio Church, west of Seventh Street. On Nov. 7, 2013, the council approved another $35,000 for Scio Church sidewalk design work. The design contract for the Barton Drive and Scio Church stretches of new sidewalk, drew on the previously authorized funding.

The preliminary planning budget of $15,000 for the Newport Road sidewalk gap was approved over a year ago by the council at its Jan. 23, 2013 meeting.

Location of proposed Barton Drive sidewalk.

Location of proposed Barton Drive sidewalk.

Purple indicates stretches of Scio Church Road where no sidewalk exists.

Purple indicates stretches of Scio Church Road where no sidewalk exists.

newport-sidewalk-small

Newport Road sidewalk stretch.

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

Ann Arbor Passes Outdoor Smoking Law

A new Ann Arbor law regulating smoking outside of public buildings and also potentially in areas of some city parks has been given final approval by the city council.

A pole for disposing of cigarette butts placed outside the Ann Street entrance to Ann Arbor's city hall building.

A pole for disposing of cigarette butts is placed outside the Ann Street entrance to Ann Arbor’s city hall building.

Smoking within a specified distance of certain locations is punishable under the new ordinance through a $25 civil fine. Those locations include: (1) bus stops; (2) entrances, windows and ventilation systems of the Blake Transit Center; (3) entrances, windows and ventilation systems any city-owned building; and (4) areas of public parks where signs have been posted as determined by the city administrator. Except for bus stops, the specified distance is 20 feet. For bus stops, the distance is 10 feet.

Community service could be ordered instead of the payment of a fine. The amount of the fine was reduced during deliberations at the April 21, 2014 meeting through an amendment suggested by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), who argued that the city charter of Ann Arbor sets a fine for use of marijuana at $25 for the first offense.

A citation could be issued only if someone doesn’t stop smoking immediately when asked to stop by a police officer.

Action giving final approval of the ordinance came at the council’s April 21, 2014 meeting after a public hearing was held, during which six people spoke.

The ordinance also authorizes the city administrator to have signs posted designating certain parks or portions of parks as off limits for outdoor smoking, and to increase the distance from entrances to city buildings where outdoor smoking is prohibited. Enforcement of the ordinance at these additional locations would take place only if signs are posted.

The initial approval of the ordinance had come at the council’s April 7, 2014 meeting after it had been postponed on March 3, 2014, and before that on Feb. 3, 2014. The initial approval came over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Jack Eaton (Ward 4). They cited concern that enforcement of the smoking law could distract from other policing duties and could have a disparate impact on the homeless population.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), sponsor of the 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.

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.

Ellen Rabinowitz, interim health officer for Washtenaw County, attended the April 7 meeting and spoke to councilmembers about the county’s experience. She supported the city ordinance, as did Cliff Douglas, director of the University of Michigan’s Tobacco Research Network. Douglas addressed the council during public commentary and answered questions later in the meeting on April 7. He also attended the April 21 meeting, again speaking in support of the ordinance.

Final approval of the ordinance came over dissent from Eaton and Lumm.

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

Council OKs $600K for Ann Arbor Housing Commission

Three resolutions supporting the Ann Arbor Housing Commission’s work to renovate its housing stock have been given approval by the Ann Arbor city council: a $600,000 transfer from the city’s affordable housing fund to AAHC; approval of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for AAHC properties; and approval of a 50% waiver of fees for capital improvement projects to be undertaken by AAHC.

The three actions were taken at the city council’s April 21, 2014 meeting.

By way of background, at its March 3, 2014 meeting, the council had directed the city administrator to prepare a budget resolution that would allocate $600,000 from the city’s affordable housing trust fund to support the AAHC’s plan to renovate its properties.

That allocation was to be contingent on the closing of the sale of the former Y lot to Dennis Dahlmann, as the net proceeds of that sale were to be deposited into the city’s affordable housing trust fund. The sale of the property closed on April 2, with net proceeds of roughly $1.4 million. So the $600,000 transfer out of the affordable housing trust fund was approved by the council at its April 21 meeting.

Also approved by the council at the same meeting was the reduction of planning and development fees associated with two of the capital renovation efforts being undertaken by the AAHC – at North Maple Estates and Platt Road.

Rendering of North Maple Ann Arbor Housing Commission property after renovation.

Rendering of North Maple Ann Arbor Housing Commission property after renovation.

The current AAHC complex at 701-739 North Maple – north of Dexter Avenue, on the west side of North Maple – consists of 19 single-family homes with a total of 85 bedrooms, as well as two three-bedroom duplexes with a total of 12 bedrooms. AAHC executive director Jennifer Hall has described the 21-unit complex as the busiest of AAHC’s properties.

The housing at North Maple was built at the lowest portions of the site, while an asphalt basketball court is at the highest point. The current configuration does not make sense from the perspective of drainage and stormwater management.

The AAHC is proposing to demolish the existing buildings at North Maple site and replace them with a small community building and 42 new units ranging in size from 1 bedroom to 5 bedrooms.

A community center would be centrally located on the west side of the site, and parking will be located adjacent to each of the buildings.

Rendering of Lower Platt Ann Arbor Housing Commission property after renovation.

Rendering of Lower Platt Ann Arbor Housing Commission property after renovation.

The AAHC property described as Lower Platt is located at 3451-3457 Platt – on the east side of Platt Road, north of Belvidere. Currently, there are four single-family houses at that site, each with five bedrooms.

Three of those houses are in the floodway, and the water table is higher than the basements. When it rains, the properties flood. The plan is to tear down the existing buildings, and rebuild 12 new townhomes further north on the same site, on land that’s currently vacant.

In addition, there’s a strip of vacant city-owned land on the west side of Platt, north of Verle and south of Sharon. The land runs from Platt over to Springbrook. The development plan calls for building four duplexes there – a total of eight units – with two duplexes accessed from Platt, and the other two accessed from Springbrook.

For the North Maple and Lower Platt projects, the city would ordinarily assess fees for site plan approval, zoning approval and street vacation. Those charges break down as follows, for a total of $22,705:

  • North Maple: $8,995 for site plan approval; $1,425 for zoning approval; and $2,565 for street vacation.
  • Lower Platt: $8,295 for site plan approval; $1,425 for zoning approval.

But under Chapter 55, Section 5:108 of Ann Arbor city code, those fees may be reduced by resolution of the city council by up to 50% of the specified fees – if the reduction is based on a finding that the development would provide affordable housing for lower-income households. That’s what the council agreed to do.

At its April 21 meeting, the city council also authorized a payment in lieu of taxes for AAHC properties at North Maple Estates, North Maple Duplexes, Lower Platt, Broadway, and White/State/Henry apartments. The period for which property taxes are being waived – under Section 15(a) of the State Housing Development Authority Act and Chapter 19, Section 1:651 of Ann Arbor City Code – is 50 years. In lieu of taxes, a $1 service charge must be paid.

The $600,000 authorized by the city council in support of AAHC’s renovation efforts comes after the April 2, 2014 vote by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board to grant $600,000 over a three-year period to AAHC for renovation of its downtown and near-downtown properties at Baker Commons and Miller Manor.

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

Tussle over Environmental Appointments to Come

Appointments to the city’s environmental commission (EC) will likely a point of friction at the Ann Arbor city council’s May 5, 2014 meeting. Re-appointments for currently serving members of the EC – Kirk Westphal, David Stead, and Susan Hutton – were brought forward at the council’s meeting on April 21.

The action taken by the council at its April 21 meeting was to postpone the vote until May 5. That’s not unusual for appointments to the EC – because nominations are not made by the mayor, as with most boards and commissions. Past practice as been for the appointments to the EC to mimic the typical two-step mayoral appointment process – with nomination at one meeting followed by confirmation at the next meeting. So council has customarily had the EC appointments on its agenda for initial consideration and postponed a vote until the next meeting.

But council sources indicate that there will likely be debate on at least Stead’s appointment. Stead was originally described in the agenda item as having served on the commission since 2007. That was subsequently corrected. City records in Legistar indicate he was among the first members to be appointed, on Sept. 18, 2000 after the council established the commission in a resolution approved on April 3, 2000.

Based on Legistar records, he has served continuously since that initial appointment. Stead also served on the city council representing Ward 5 from April 1993 through November 1994.

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at Thursday nights Environmental Commission. The resolution, which was approved, recommends removing Argo Dam.

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at an environmental commission meeting in 2009. The resolution, which was approved, recommended removing Argo Dam. At left is Margie Teall, a city councilmember who also sat on the environmental commission at the time.

There are no term limits for Ann Arbor city boards and commissions, but several councilmembers have expressed concerns about the length of service by some members of some boards and commissions preventing a broader range of participation in local governance. Most recently the issue arose in connection with the re-appointment of Wayne Appleyard to the energy commission on Oct. 23, 2013. Also a factor in the 8-3 confirmation vote for Appleyard was his non-city residency.

Stead is vice president of Resource Recycling Systems. City council minutes show that the council has approved roughly $300,000 in contracts for consulting work by RRS for the city of Ann Arbor between 2007 and 2009.

Westphal is being put forward as the planning commission’s representative to the environmental commission. He currently serves as chair of that commission. The planning commission voted at its Jan. 23, 2014 meeting to recommend Westphal’s reappointment. Westphal did not participate in the vote on that recommendation.

Westphal, a Democrat, is contesting the Ward 2 seat to which Sally Petersen is not seeking re-election – because she is running for mayor. Nancy Kaplan, who’s currently a member of the Ann Arbor District Library board, is running for that same Ward 2 seat.

In 2013, mayor John Hieftje declined to nominate Jeff Hayner to serve on the public art commission, citing a policy against nominating candidates for city council to serve on city boards and commissions. Hayner ran for Ward 1 council against Sabra Briere that year – a race in which Briere prevailed.

Hutton was first appointed to the environmental commission in 2011 and is concluding her first three-year term.

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

Development: Council OKs 3 Site Plans

Three different site plans were approved by the Ann Arbor city council at its April 21, 2014 meeting: Concordia University’s proposed gym expansion; an expansion of an office building on Collingwood; and the overhaul of a Shell station on South State.

A site plan to expand the existing Concordia University gym was approved by the city council with scant discussion, but with thanks expressed by Jane Lumm (Ward 2) Concordia University CEO Curt Gielow.

Concordia University, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of Concordia campus.

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.

Planning commissioners granted 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.

In other action on land use approvals at its April 21 meeting, the council approved a site plan that expands an office building at 278-280 Collingwood. The proposal received a recommendation of approval from the Ann Arbor planning commission at its March 18, 2014 meeting.

Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view indicating location of 278-280 Collingwood Drive.

The site plan calls for removing the existing second floor on the east side of the office building and constructing a 2,451-square-foot second floor over the entire building for office use.

A new staircase will be added at the southwest corner of the building. The second floor will overhang the first floor along the front of the building and along part of the north side. An existing curbcut on the north side of the property will be removed. The current 22 parking spaces on the site will be reduced to 17.

Planning commissioners approved modifications to the city’s landscaping requirements for this site. Total construction cost for this project is estimated at $300,000. The office building is located in Ward 4. Collingwood Drive is a street off of West Stadium Boulevard, just south of West Stadium’s convergence with South Maple Road. [.pdf of staff memo]

Finally, the council approved a site plan for the overhaul of a Shell station and a new drive-thru restaurant at 2991 S. State. The site is located at the northeast corner of the East Eisenhower Parkway and South State Street.

Shell, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of the site for a Shell station and drive-thru restaurant at the northeast corner of South State and East Eisenhower.

The city planning commission recommended approval of the site plan at its March 18, 2014 meeting. The plan calls for demolishing the current one-story convenience store and car wash on this site, which total 2,435 square feet. In its place, the owner – Joseph Kafi of JAK Cubed LLC – would put up a single building with a 1,250-square-foot drive-thru restaurant and 3,000-square-foot convenience store.

The existing gas pump island canopy will remain in place, and two pumps will be relocated to spots under the canopy. According to a staff memo, a single lane drive-thru would be primarily accessed from the existing East Eisenhower Parkway curb cut. Vehicles would move in an east-to-north direction before exiting onto either South State or East Eisenhower.

The drive-thru lane provides stacking for up to nine vehicles and would be screened to the west by the proposed new building. A total of 22 parking spaces are proposed for the site, including eight that are located at the four gas pump islands. The project, located in Ward 4, is estimated to cost $800,000. The business is expected to remain open during construction. The existing convenience store will then be demolished after the new building is finished.

The specific restaurant to be located there is still being negotiated. [.pdf of staff report]

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

Library Board Reviews FY 2014-15 Budget

At its April 21, 2014 meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board reviewed its proposed fiscal year 2014-15 budget, which is based on a millage rate of 1.55 mills – unchanged from the current rate. [.pdf of draft budget summary]

The $12.568 million budget assumes a 2.4% increase in tax revenues, based on an increase in property values. The library is authorized to levy up to 1.92 mills, but in recent years the board has set the millage rate at lower levels.

The budget reflects a 3% increase in the merit raise pool for full-time employees. Salaries, wages and benefits account for the largest portion of the budget expenditures – a projected $8.048 million in fiscal 2014-15. Other major line items include materials ($1.75 million); utilities ($448,000); programming ($320,000); and repair/maintenance ($312,000).

The library’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. The board is expected to vote on the budget at its meeting on May 19.

Ken Nieman – the library’s associate director of finance, HR and operations – made the budget presentation. April 21 was his last board meeting at AADL, as he’ll be taking a job as CFO for the public library in Sonomo County, California. Nieman has worked at AADL for 14 years. His last day there will be May 2.

This brief was filed from the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown library at 343 S. Fifth Ave. A more detailed report will follow.

Library Moves Ahead on Downtown Facade

A renovation of the downtown library’s front entrance took a step forward, following action by the Ann Arbor District Library board at its April 21, 2014 meeting.

Ann Arbor District Library, InForm Studio, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rendering of the new design for the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building entrance. (Image by InForm Studio.)

The board authorized the library director, Josie Parker, to hire a construction manager for the project. Board members also allocated $18,580 from the fund balance to pay InForm Studio for construction documents. InForm Studio, the architecture firm that previously designed AADL’s Traverwood branch, has been working on this project for several months. An update was given most recently at the board’s March 17, 2014 meeting.

Parker has expressed her intent that the project be kept under $250,000.

Before taking action, the board heard from architect Cory Lavigne of InForm Studio, who presented a revised design for the project. A large translucent sign that had previously been part of the design is now eliminated, after some board members voiced concerns about security issues that it might cause. A bench in front of the building – originally part of the proposed design –  has been removed. Instead, a sign that’s low to the ground is proposed in that location.

The existing teal porcelain metal panels that wrap around the front facade will be replaced with a “concrete skin” panel. The entrance would continue to be oriented to South Fifth Avenue, with new doors into the building. Leading from the front of the building into the vestibule will be two balanced double doors, which will be easier to open than the existing entry, and a single automatic door. A matching set of these doors will lead from the vestibule to the interior of the building.

Lavigne reviewed several other changes, some of which addressed accessibility concerns that were raised in the preliminary design. A heated sidewalk also is proposed along the exterior edge of the steps.

The board spent several minutes discussing a suggestion from Ed Surovell, who wanted more than just one flagpole in front of the building. Trustees reached consensus for the details to be worked out by the architect and the facilities committee, on which Surovell serves. Other members of the facilities committee are Margaret Leary, chair, and Jan Barney Newman.

This brief was filed from the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown library at 343 S. Fifth Ave. A more detailed report will follow.

Ann Arbor Elections Update

The deadline for filing sufficient petition signatures to qualify for the Aug. 5, 2014 ballot in Ann Arbor city council and mayoral primary elections is April 22. So this is the last weekend to collect signatures. Council candidates must collect 100 signatures from voters registered in the ward they seek to represent. Mayoral candidates need 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards.

The city’s offices closed today at noon for the holiday weekend.

Here’s a quick status report as of noon April 18 on who’s taken out petitions, who’s filed signatures, and whether they’ve been verified by the city clerk’s staff. All candidates who have taken out petitions and are eligible are Democrats.

Mayor

  • Sabra Briere: petitions filed
  • Sally Petersen: petitions filed
  • Christopher Taylor: petitions filed
  • Stephen Kunselman: petitions filed and verified

Ward 1

  • Don Adams: petitions filed
  • Sumi Kailasapathy (incumbent): petitions filed and verified
  • Eric Sturgis: took out petitions but has indicated to clerk staff he will not be filing
  • Bryan Kelly: took out petitions as a candidate with no party affiliation on April 18, but according the city clerk, he does not meet the one-year durational residency and voter registration requirements in the city charter. He moved from Ward 4 to Ward 1 on Nov. 19, 2013.

Ward 2

  • Nancy Kaplan: petitions filed and verified
  • Kirk Westphal: petitions not yet filed

Ward 3

  • Bob Dascola: petitions filed and verified, but a lawsuit is pending to determine eligibility in light of one-year durational residency and voter registration requirements in the city charter.
  • Julie Grand: petitions filed and verified
  • Samuel McMullen: petitions filed

Ward 4

  • Graydon Krapohl: petitions filed and verified

Ward 5

  • Leon Bryson: petitions filed and verified
  • Chuck Warpehoski (incumbent): petitions not yet filed

Updated April 21, 2014 5:30 p.m.: Signatures have now been filed for all eligible candidates who intended to file. Clerk’s staff have also verified all signatures except for those of Chuck Warpehoski, which are still in process, and Samuel McMullen, who fell eight signatures short. McMullen has been notified of the shortfall, and he’ll have until tomorrow to hand them in.  

Bus Stop Concrete Work Goes to Saladino

A one-year contract with Saladino Construction for small concrete jobs has been approved by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board of directors. The contract, which has the option to be extended for four additional one-year periods, will cover work for access walks, shelter and bench pads, sidewalk extensions, curb extensions and bus pullouts.

Action to approve the contract came at the April 17, 2014 meeting of the AAATA board. The one-year contract is expected to be worth about $54,000 a year, which is under the $100,000 threshold requiring board approval. But because the board was approving potentially a five-year period, with the value of the work expected to exceed $100,000, the contract required board approval.

Saladino was selected from four bidders for the work. Even though 445 vendors were sent notice of the RFP, only four bids were received: Audia Concrete Construction of Milford; Hartwell Cement of Oak Park; Luigi Ferdinandi and Son Cement of Roseville; and Saladino Construction of Ann Arbor Township. The AAATA staff analysis indicated that small concrete jobs at multiple locations are not attractive to many contractors.

This brief was filed from the boardroom at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave., where the AAATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow.

AAATA Adopts Title VI Policy

A policy on service equity analysis has been adopted by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, as part of the authority’s Title VI compliance. Title VI is the civil rights legislation that in the context of public transportation requires proof that a service change has no adverse effect on disadvantaged populations. [.pdf of Title VI policy included in April 17, 2014 AAATA board packet]

The adoption of the policy on service equity analysis came at the board’s April 17, 2014 meeting – in the context of a 5-year service improvement plan the AAATA hopes to implement if voters approve a millage request on May 6, 2014. The AAATA is required to have such a policy as one element in a Title VI program submitted to the Federal Transit Administration by October 2014.

The policy includes a method of analyzing disparate impacts on different populations for various changes in service, including: fare increases, decreases in frequency of service, decreases in span of service, and reduction in days of service.

This brief was filed from the boardroom at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave., where the AAATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow.

Equalization Report: Taxable Value Up

Most local governments in Washtenaw County will see increases in tax revenue this year, according to the 2014 equalization report that county commissioners approved at their April 16, 2014 meeting. The report was presented by Raman Patel, the county’s long-time equalization director.

Equalized (assessed) value is used to calculate taxable value, which determines tax revenues for the county as well as its various municipalities and other entities that rely on taxpayer dollars, including schools, libraries and the Ann Area Arbor Transportation Authority, among others.

For 2014, taxable value in the county increased 2.02% to $14.18 billion. That’s a greater increase than the 1.68% climb in 2013, and an improvement over declines seen in recent years.

It’s also an improvement over projections made when the county administration prepared its 2014 budget. The general fund budget was approved with a projection of $63.79 million in tax revenues. But actual revenues, based on 2014 taxable value, are now estimated at $64.511 million – for an excess in 2014 general fund revenues of $720,486. Patel stressed that at this point, the taxable value is a recommendation and must be approved at the state level.

Patel also presented tentative taxable values for specific jurisdictions. The city of Ann Arbor shows a 2.68% increase in taxable value, while the city of Ypsilanti’s taxable value is an 0.87% increase over 2013. All but three municipalities showed an increase in taxable value. Those municipalities with decreases are the city of Saline (-1.41%), Ypsilanti Township (-0.37%), and the city of Milan (-0.85%).

Properties in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district – which includes the city of Ann Arbor and parts of surrounding townships – will see a 2.37% increase in taxable value. Properties taxed by the Ann Arbor District Library, covering a geographic area which in large part mirrors the AAPS district, increased in value by 2.36%.

Taxable value is determined by a state-mandated formula, and is the lower of two figures: (1) a parcel’s equalized (assessed) value; or (2) a capped value calculated by taking last year’s taxable value minus any losses (such as a building being torn down), multiplied by 5% or the rate of inflation (whichever is lower – this year inflation is 1.016%), plus the value of any additions or new construction.

In 2014, commercial property showed a 3.97% gain in equalized value. Residential property value – the largest classification of property in the county – showed an increase of 5.84%. That’s stronger than last year’s 2.37% increase, which had been the first climb in value since 2007.

Values for developmental property – a relatively small category that covers properties not yet developed – continue to struggle, registering a decrease of 9.54% in equalized value. Industrial property, which dropped 4.78% in equalized value last year, is essentially flat in 2014 at 0.1%. Over the past few years that category has lost significant value, falling from an equalized value of nearly $1 billion in 2007 to this year’s value of $422.146 million.

Countywide, about $400 million is captured by local downtown development authorities (DDAs), local district finance authorities (LDFAs), brownfield tax increment financing, and other entities that are allowed to capture funds from taxing jurisdictions. For taxes levied by Washtenaw County government alone, $2.472 million goes to these other tax-capturing entities that would otherwise be revenues for the county’s general fund.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow.

Final Approval Granted for Police Services

A two-year pricing proposal for contracts to provide police services to local municipalities has received final authorization from the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its April 16 meeting.

For 2016 and 2017, the police services unit (PSU) price will be  $156,709 and  $158,276, respectively. An initial vote had been taken on April 2, 2014.

By way of background, on July 6, 2011, commissioners had authorized the price that municipalities would pay for a contract sheriff’s deputy through 2015. The price in 2012 – $150,594 per “police services unit” – was unchanged from 2011, but has been rising in subsequent years by about 1% annually. The complex, politically-charged process of arriving at those figures in 2011 involved more than a year of discussion between the sheriff’s office, other county officials and leaders of local municipalities that contract for these services.

The board’s decision in 2011 was based on a recommendation from the police services steering committee. That same group recommended the next pricing changes as well, based on the cost of a police services unit (PSU). The PSU price for 2014 is $153,621. For 2015, the PSU price will be $155,157. In the following two years, the PSU price was proposed to be $156,709 in 2016 and $158,276 in 2017. The pricing for those two years was authorized by the board in its April 16 action.

Those figures are based on a 1% annual increase in direct costs to contracting municipalities. That rate of increase for PSUs is included in revenue projections for the county’s four-year budget, which the county board passed at its Nov. 20, 2013 meeting. The budget runs from 2014-2017, and includes revenue projections based on contracts for 79 PSUs.

According to a staff memo, there will be an addition to the 2016 and 2017 prices for in-car printer replacement, after the total cost of ownership is determined. The memo also notes that the pricing is based on salaries stipulated in current union contracts with the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) and the Command Officers Association of Michigan (COAM). Those contracts run through 2014, and new contracts are currently being negotiated. The memo states that ”no assumptions were made for salaries or fringes change in this cost metric in anticipation of any union negotiations.” [.pdf of staff memo]

The county – through the sheriff’s office budget – pays for the difference between the price charged for each PSU, and the actual cost to provide those services. In 2011, that difference was $25,514.

In 2016, the cost per PSU is expected to be $195,104 – a difference of $38,395 compared to the price being charged to municipalities. In 2017, the cost per PSU is estimated at $199,188 – a difference of $40,912. [.pdf of cost estimates]

Discussion during the April 2 meeting included concerns by some commissioners about the financial sustainability of this approach to funding police services, and the need for new revenue sources for public safety. Sheriff Jerry Clayton was on hand to present the pricing proposal, and supported suggestions to seek new funding for public safety. As he’s done in the past, Clayton characterized the issue of public safety as one that encompasses economic development, human services and other aspects of the community.

There was no discussion on this item during the April 16 meeting.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow.

Thompson Block Brownfield Plan Gets OK

Final approval for a brownfield redevelopment plan for the Thompson Block in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town area was given by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its April 16, 2014 meeting. [.pdf of Thompson Block brownfield plan] Commissioners had granted initial approval on April 2, 2014.

The plan covers 400-408 N. River St. and 107 E. Cross St., an historic property that has been declared ”functionally obsolete and blighted.” That qualifies the project as a brownfield under the state’s brownfield redevelopment financing act (Public Act 381), which allows the owner to receive reimbursements for eligible activities through tax increment financing (TIF). Approval also will allow the developer to apply for Michigan Business Tax Credits. The property is currently owned by Thompson Block Partners LLC, led by Stewart Beal of Beal Properties.

Beal plans to create 16 “luxury lofts” in the structure’s second and third floors, and up to 14,000 square feet of commercial space in the remainder of the site. The project is estimated to cost about $7 million.

The resolution passed by the board also ends a previous brownfield plan for part of the same site, which was approved in 2008. A fire in 2009 delayed the project. The new plan now covers the 107 E. Cross, which was not part of the original plan, and includes public infrastructure improvements, such as streetscape enhancements along North River Street.

The Washtenaw County brownfield redevelopment authority approved this plan at its March 6 meeting. Subsequently, the plan was approved by the Ypsilanti city council on March 18. The city council’s action included approving an “Obsolete Properties Rehabilitation” certificate, which freezes local millages at the current, pre-development level for 12 years. Because of that, the project’s TIF capture will apply only to the state’s school taxes.

The project can get up to $271,578 in eligible cost reimbursed over a 12-year period, for activities including brownfield plan and work plan preparation, limited building demolition, selective interior demolition, site preparation and utility work, infrastructure improvements, architectural and engineering design costs, asbestos and lead abatement, and construction oversight.

The intent of the state’s brownfield redevelopment financing is to support the redevelopment of urban sites that will increase the municipality’s tax base. Tax increment financing allows an entity to capture the difference between the taxable value before a project is undertaken, and the value of the property after it’s developed.

A public hearing on this proposal was held at the April 2 meeting, when the board also voted to give initial approval to the plan. Only one person – Tyler Weston, representing Thompson Block Partners – spoke, telling the board that it would help the project. Weston attended the April 16 meeting, but did not formally address the board. There was no discussion on this item.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow.

Distribution of Accommodation Tax Approved

Initial approval of proceeds from a countywide tax on hotels and other accommodations has been given by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

For 2013, $472,846 was available for distribution. Given initial approval at the board’s April 16, 2014 meeting was a distribution that sees the county keeping 10% ($47,285) to pay for enforcement of the accommodation ordinance. The remainder will be divided between the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau ($319,171) and the Ypsilanti Convention & Visitors Bureau ($106,390).

A final vote on that distribution is expected on May 7.

The county collects the 5% excise tax from hotels, motels, and bed & breakfasts, which is then distributed to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti convention & visitors bureaus and used to promote tourism and convention business. The contract calls for the county to retain 10% of that tax to defray the cost of collection and enforcement. (Until 2009, the county had only retained 5% for this purpose.) The remaining funds are split, with 75% going to the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau, and 25% going to the Ypsilanti Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In December 2009, the board approved five-year contracts with the CVBs, outlining the distribution arrangement and creating an accommodation ordinance commission to oversee the process. A amendment made in September 2011 addressed the process for distributing excess funds that might accumulate from the county’s 10%, if that amount exceeds the expenses required to administer and enforce compliance with the tax. Beginning in May 2013, the county retained 10% of the tax proceeds, plus 10% of any remaining fund balance. If additional funds accumulate in the fund balance, they are to be returned proportionally to the two convention & visitors bureaus – 75% to Ann Arbor, and 25% to Ypsilanti.

Subsequently an ordinance change was made in October 2012, when the board voted to shift responsibility for collecting and enforcing accommodation tax from the county treasurer to the county finance director. The ordinance amendment transferred a 0.7 full-time equivalent accounting job from the treasurer’s office to the county finance department, and amended the accommodation tax policy to clarify that the tax is only assessed against the actual price of a hotel, motel or other rental – not against other amenities that the business might charge its customers, such as Internet access or an extra cot in the room.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow.

Urban County Action Plan: Initial Approval

Washtenaw County commissioners gave initial approval to the 2014 Urban County action plan at their April 16, 2014 meeting. The plan covers the period from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 and outlines how the Urban County consortium intends to spend federal funding received from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [.pdf of draft action plan]

Washtenaw Urban County, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map of Urban County participants.

The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships. “Urban County” is a designation of HUD, identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, entitling them to an allotment of funding through a variety of HUD programs. Locally, the Urban County is supported by the staff of Washtenaw County’s office of community & economic development (OCED).

Two HUD programs – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership – are the primary funding sources for Urban County projects. For the upcoming year, the Urban County will be receiving $2.914 million, including $1.832 million from CDBG and $925,308 from HOME. That represents a 5% decrease in CDBG compared to the current year, and a 2% increase in HOME funding.

The 2014 plan identifies six overarching goals: (1) increasing quality, affordable homeownership opportunities; (2) increasing quality, affordable rental housing; (3) improving public facilities and infrastructure; (4) promoting access to public services and resources; (5) supporting homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing services; and (6) enhancing economic development activities.

A public hearing on the 2014 plan was previously held on March 19, 2014. A final vote on the plan is expected on May 7.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow.

Urban Forestry Plan Moves to Council

The city’s first comprehensive plan for managing Ann Arbor’s urban forest has been recommended for approval by the Ann Arbor park advisory commission at its April 15, 2014 meeting. [.pdf of Urban & Community Forest Management Plan]

An urban forest is defined as all the trees, shrubs and woody vegetation growing along city streets, in public parks and on institutional and private property. In Ann Arbor, about 25% is on public property, with 75% on private property. Based on a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service i-Tree Eco Analysis done in 2012, Ann Arbor’s urban forest has an estimated 1.45 million trees. It creates a 33% tree canopy – the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above.

The city manages 43,240 street trees and about 6,900 park trees in mowed areas. A tree inventory conducted in 2009 didn’t include natural areas, she noted, so there are thousands of trees that aren’t counted. The urban forest includes over 200 species, representing 82 genera.

Map of selected tree variety by The Chronicle from city of Ann Arbor 2009 survey.

Map of selected tree variety by The Chronicle from city of Ann Arbor 2009 survey. Image links to dynamic map hosted on geocommons.com

PAC had been briefed on the 135-page Urban & Community Forest Management Plan at its Feb. 25, 2014 meeting by Kerry Gray, the city’s urban forest & natural resources planning coordinator. The management plan includes 17 recommendations, listed in priority based on community feedback for implementation. Each of the 17 recommendations includes action tasks and implementation ideas, case studies, and resources that are needed, including funding. The recommendations are:

  1. Implement proactive tree maintenance program.
  2. Strengthen tree planting and young tree maintenance programs.
  3. Monitor threats to the urban and community forest.
  4. Increase landmark/special tree protections.
  5. Secure adequate city‐funding for urban forestry core services.
  6. Develop street tree master plans.
  7. Pursue grant and philanthropic funding opportunities.
  8. Strengthen forestry related ordinances.
  9. Update tree inventory and canopy analysis.
  10. Develop urban forest best management practices.
  11. Increase urban forestry volunteerism.
  12. Strengthen relationships with outside entities who impact trees.
  13. Implement community outreach program.
  14. Obtain the best use of wood from removed trees.
  15. Create city staff working groups to coordinate projects that impact trees.
  16. Engage the city’s Environmental Commission in urban and community forestry issues.
  17. Review the urban forest management plan periodically and update as needed.

Site Plan for Sorority on Oxford OK’d

Ann Arbor planning commissioners acted on two requests related to converting a house at 515 Oxford for use as an annex to the Delta Gamma sorority. The action took place at the commission’s April 15, 2014 meeting.

Delta Gamma, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing the location of 515 Oxford, south of Geddes and at the eastern end of South University.

First, commissioners granted a special exception use to allow the house to be used as a sorority. The main sorority house is located nearby at 626 Oxford.

In a separate vote, commissioners recommended approval of a “planned project” site plan, conditional on rezoning the site from R4A (multi-family dwelling) to R2B (two-family dwelling and student housing). The rezoning request, which the commission recommended for approval on Jan. 23, 2014, has been forwarded to the city council.

According to a staff memo, the timeline for this project is coordinated so that the site plan will be on the same council agenda as the second reading of the rezoning request.

The two-story house at 515 Oxford includes two one-story wings. It is currently a rental property with three units – a studio apartment, one-bedroom apartment, and four-bedroom apartment – and a maximum occupancy of 8 people. One of the units is in a former garage. The existing house was designed by George Brigham and built in 1940 as his home and architectural studio. He designed over 40 houses in Ann Arbor, including many in Arbor Hills and Barton Hills.

The proposal for a renovation would accommodate a maximum of 20 residents, including a required resident manager. The structure would be expanded, with an addition to be constructed in the back that roughly doubles the building’s square footage. An existing carport in the front would be glassed in and used as the front entry. The site would include four parking spaces and more than 10 bicycle parking spaces.

Planned projects allow for variations of the city’s area, height and placement requirements, if certain criteria are met. Among those criteria are “preservation of historical or architectural features.” In this case, reduced side and rear setbacks are being requested to allow the original footprint of the Brigham house and studio to be retained to preserve the house’s existing façade. The house is not located in a historic district.

The commission received more than a dozen letters and emails about this project. Several communications focused on concerns about compromising the building’s historic integrity – from representatives of the Detroit Area Art Deco Society, the Michigan State Historic Preservation Board, the Washtenaw County Historic District Commission, and a2modern, a group created to highlight mid-century modern architecture in Ann Arbor.

Communications were also received in support of the project from sorority representatives and neighbors. One email from George Price was particularly pointed:

Apparently, this property was designed by some distant relative of mine, and now there is a bunch of whining from various relatives about how turning the property into housing for Michigan students is some kind of crime against humanity or some such nonsense. But I have been asked by people who otherwise couldn’t pick me out of a lineup to email you expressing my love of this house I was once dragged to kicking and screaming.

You can tear the place down for all I care, and I hope you do, just so I can laugh at the complaints of these idiots. Definitely don’t waste the public’s resources debating the completely legal rezoning of this property any further.

The site is owned by Dan Pampreen and is located in Ward 2. The project is estimated to cost about $250,000.

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

Adams Takes out Petitions in Ward 1 Race

Don Adams has taken out petitions to run in the Aug. 5, 2014 Democratic city council primary in Ward 1, according to Ann Arbor city clerk staff. He took out the petitions on April 14, 2014.

Incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy, who was first elected to the city council in 2012 and is seeking re-election, has taken out petitions and had 102 signatures verified by city clerk staff as valid.

Adams serves on the PTO Council of the Ann Arbor Public School District. The PTO council is an umbrella organization of PTOs for the district. He’s described  on the PTO council’s website as having a background in health administration. Kailasapathy is an accountant.

Like all candidates for city council,  Adams will have until April 22 to submit at least 100 signatures from voters in the ward in order to appear on the ballot. Mayoral candidates must submit 50 signatures from registered voters in each of the city’s five wards.

Adams’ entry into the Ward 1 race means that four out of five council races will likely be contested in the Democratic primaries, provided those who intend to submit signatures do so. All prospective candidates so far are Democrats.

In Ward 2, the council race looks to be between Ann Arbor District Library board member Nancy Kaplan and current planning commissioner Kirk Westphal.

In Ward 3, a race will likely unfold between former park advisory chair Julie Grand and University of Michigan student Samuel McMullen. And they might be joined by downtown barber Bob Dascola, if his lawsuit asserting this eligibility to run is successful. Today, on April 14, the city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and a response to Dascola’s motion for summary judgment that would find Dascola eligible. The city contends that Dascola does not meet city charter durational residency and voter registration requirements for council candidates. The case is being handled on an expedited schedule so that the question can be settled by the time ballots are finalized in June.

In Ward 4, Graydon Krapohl, who currently serves as vice chair of the city’s park advisory commission, is the only candidate to take out petitions so far. The incumbent, Democrat Margie Teall, has stated that she does not intend to run for re-election.

In Ward 5, incumbent Chuck Warpehoski is seeking re-election and faces a challenge from Leon Bryson.

No incumbent is running in Ward 2 or Ward 3 because Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) are running for mayor, instead of seeking re-election as councilmembers representing their respective wards. Joining those two for mayor are Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere and Ward 3 councilmember Stephen Kunselman. Briere and Kunselman would serve out the remaining year of their two-year terms on the council if not elected mayor.

For a comprehensive update on the status of petitions and filings for city council and mayoral races see previous Chronicle coverage from last week.

Election Update: Kaplan, Bryson Verified

Ann Arbor city clerk records at the end of the day on Friday, April 11 show that no additional candidates have taken out petitions to run for city council or for mayor.

That would leave anyone with an interest in contesting the partisan primaries on Aug. 5 with just one weekend and seven week days to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. That’s if petitions were taken out on Monday, April 14. Signatures are due on April 22 – 100 for council candidates and 50 from each of the city’s five wards for mayor. If no one else takes out petitions and submits signatures, races in Ward 1 and Ward 4 would be uncontested.

The only action in the races for council and mayor this week was the clerk’s verification of signatures on nominating petitions for two council candidates: Nancy Kaplan in Ward 2 and Leon Bryson in Ward 5. Clerk records show that 104 and 101 signatures were verified for Kaplan and Bryson, respectively.

Kaplan – who serves on the board of the Ann Arbor District Library – took out petitions on March 26 to run for the city council seat. Kaplan’s term on the AADL board runs through 2016. She’s indicated to The Chronicle that if elected to the city council, she would resign from the library board. Another potential candidate in Ward 2, Kirk Westphal, took out petitions on Jan. 15. Westphal currently serves as chair of the city’s planning commission. He has not yet submitted signatures.

The Ward 2 incumbent, Democrat Sally Petersen, is not running for re-election to that seat, because she’s running for mayor instead. Each of the city’s five wards is represented by two councilmembers, who serve two-year terms. The other sitting Ward 2 representative is Jane Lumm, who won re-election in November 2012.

Joining Petersen in the mayoral race are three other Democratic city councilmembers: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Christopher Taylor and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). Mayor John Hieftje announced last year that he will not seek re-election. Of the mayoral candidates, only Kunselman has so far submitted the required 250 signatures, which have been verified.

Bryson will appear on the Ward 5 city council Democratic primary ballot along with incumbent Chuck Warpehoski, who took out petitions last year on Nov. 7, 2013. Warpehoski has not yet submitted signatures, but does intend to seek re-election. Bryson describes himself in an introductory letter as an Ann Arbor resident since 1999, originally from Detroit. He holds an engineering degree from Wayne State and now operates a small business.

Warpehoski has served on the council since first being elected in November 2012. Warpehoski has served as director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) for eight years. The other sitting representative for Ward 5 on the council is Mike Anglin.

In Ward, 3 Samuel McMullen took out petitions on April 3 to contest the Ward 3 city council Democratic primary on Aug. 5. The University of Michigan freshman joins Julie Grand and Bob Dascola as the third candidate to take out petitions for the Ward 3 primary. McMullen is a graduate of Rudolf Steiner High School in Ann Arbor. According to Ann Arbor city clerk Jackie Beaudry, McMullen does meet the city charter’s one-year durational residency and voter registration requirements – through his voter registration indicating an address on East University Avenue in Ward 3, which dates from October 2013.

Those charter requirements have become a point of contention for Dascola’s candidacy. The city clerk’s office has informed Dascola that he’s not eligible to run because he doesn’t meet the city’s one-year residency and voter registration requirements. And Dascola has now filed a lawsuit to assert his right to run, based on federal court decisions from the early 1970s. The city clerk’s office has verified 103 signatures for Dascola, but the question about his eligibility remains.

The other candidate who has taken out petitions for that Ward 3 race is Julie Grand. The former chair of the park advisory commission competed in the August 2013 primary against Stephen Kunselman, who received more votes in that race.

In Ward 1, incumbent Democrat Sumi Kailasapathy filed petitions on March 19, and 102 signatures were verified by the clerk’s office on March 20. The other person shown in city clerk records to have taken out petitions for Ward 1 is Eric Sturgis. But an asterisk recorded next to his name includes a note that says Sturgis has indicated to the clerk’s office that he does not intend to file signatures to become a candidate. Sturgis contested the Ward 1 Democratic primary in 2012, which was won by Kailasapathy.

In Ward 4, the only candidate to take out petitions so far is Graydon Krapohl, who currently serves as vice chair of the city’s park advisory commission. The incumbent, Margie Teall, has stated that she does not intend to run for re-election. Krapohl has not yet submitted signatures.

All candidates for city office so far are Democrats.

Council Wrangles on Library Lot – Proceeds, Process

The Ann Arbor city council debated a total of four resolutions at its April 7, 2014 meeting related to land located in central downtown Ann Arbor. The land in question is the surface of the Library Lane underground parking structure, which completed construction in the summer of 2012.

The result of council action is that a significant portion of the surface is still reserved as an urban park, and the property will be listed for sale without any delay for a public process. A decision on how to use the net proceeds of a potential sale of the land will be put off at least until June.

The Library Lane parking deck is highlighted in yellow. The name “Library Lane” is based only on the proximity of the structure to the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. The library does not own the structure or the mid-block cut-through. (Base image from Washtenaw County and City of Ann Arbor GIS services.)

The Library Lane underground parking deck is highlighted in yellow. The name “Library Lane” is based only on the proximity of the structure to the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. The library does not own the structure or the mid-block cut-through. (Base image from Washtenaw County and City of Ann Arbor GIS services.)

Originally on the agenda were just two resolutions related to the Library Lane parking structure: (1) a resolution directing the city administrator to allocate half the net proceeds from a possible upcoming sale of development rights to support affordable housing; and (2) a delay in hiring a broker to list the property for sale, until an additional public process could be completed. The council had voted at its March 17, 2014 meeting to direct the city administrator to list the property for sale.

But the council wound up re-debating that March 17 resolution on listing the property for sale, as well as a resolution from March 17 that designated a 6,500-12,000 square foot area on the western portion of the Library Lane site as an urban park. At the start of the meeting, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) added the reconsideration of those two March 17 resolutions to the agenda.

First up for the council was the March 17 resolution on reserving a portion of the surface for an urban park. Kunselman moved to amend that resolution to restore the original wording of the March 17 resolution, which had called for a 12,000 square foot portion of the surface to be reserved as an urban park. That amendment passed over dissent from councilmembers Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4), Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), and mayor John Hieftje. An attempt to postpone the resolution then failed on a 5-6 vote, with Kunselman, Hieftje, Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Jack Eaton (Ward 4), and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) voting no. The vote on the question – which specified the portion of the Library Lane site to be reserved for an urban park as 12,000 feet – passed on a 7-4 vote, with dissent from Taylor, Teall, Warpehoski, and Hieftje.

Next up was reconsideration of the March 17 resolution directing the city administrator to list the Library Lane property for sale. Kunselman made it clear that he was bringing back the resolution for reconsideration to highlight why he had wanted the property listed for sale: He wanted definitive answers on the question of how many of the Library Lane structure parking spaces could be dedicated for private use – while still meeting the restrictions of the Build America Bonds used to finance the structure. The vote on that reconsidered resolution was 7-4 with dissent from Kailasapathy, Lumm, Eaton, Anglin.

When the council arrived at the resolution that would have delayed the listing of the property for sale until a public process could be completed, a roughly 40-minute debate ensued. After a brief recess to sort out some kind of compromise, the general consensus – shared even by the resolution’s sponsors (Eaton, Anglin and Briere) – was that it should be voted down and possibly brought back sometime in the future. The vote to reject the delaying resolution was 11-0.

On the item allocating 50% of the net proceeds from a potential sale of the Library Lane development rights, the council wound up postponing the question until the first meeting in June, which comes after the council approves the FY 2015 budget. The vote was 6-5 to postpone, with dissent from Briere, Taylor, Teall, Warpehoski, and Hieftje.

More details on the debate to increase the square footage of a park is provided in The Chronicle’s live updates from the April 7 meeting. The live updates also cover deliberations on reconsidering the resolution about listing the Library Lane site for sale, and on a move to delay hiring a broker. The discussion about allocating net proceeds from a potential sale is also part of The Chronicle’s live updates.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall located at 301 E. Huron after the meeting concluded at around 1:30 a.m.

Funding Resolution for Pedestrian Safety Group Voted Down

A resolution appropriating a total of $197,250 to fund the work of a pedestrian safety and access task force was voted down at the Ann Arbor city council’s April 7, 2014 meeting. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) attempted simply to withdraw the resolution, but the council wound up debating the question for more than a half hour before unanimously voting it down.

Previous action to postpone the resolution until April 7 had come at the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting amid concerns over the amount of funding and questions from councilmembers about the need for support from a consultant.

The rejection of  the resolution at the April 7 meeting does not mean that the task force will be prevented from doing its work. Here’s why. In the resolution that was rejected, the total amount proposed to be appropriated for the task force project budget was $197,250. That amount included an “estimated $122,500” as the approximate cost of the anticipated city staff effort for the project. The total project budget included $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 council’s March 3 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.”

The connection between sidewalk gaps and the task force’s work is based in part on one of the “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; …” 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.”

In addition to authorizing the funding, the April 7 resolution would have authorized a $77,400 contract with Project Innovations for the facilitation work. But now, it’s not clear whether 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 (requests for proposals) for the facilitation work. [.pdf of RFP No. 893] Responses to the RFP are due by April 22, 2014.

At an 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 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.

All members attended the first meeting on April 4. At that meeting, task force members decided that they would elect a chair and secretary from among its members. They left until their next meeting the decision about who would serve in those roles. 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.

Council deliberations on this item, which began after midnight, are included in The Chronicle’s live updates filed during the April 7 meeting.

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

Outdoor Smoking Regs Get Initial OK

A new local Ann Arbor law regulating smoking in some outdoor locations has been given initial approval by the city council. The law would regulate smoking outside of public buildings and also potentially in areas of some city parks.

Action to give the ordinance initial approval came at the council’s April 7, 2014 meeting, after it had been postponed on March 3, 2014, and before that on Feb. 3, 2014. The initial approval came over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Jack Eaton (Ward 4).

To be enacted, the new law will need a second vote from the council at a future meeting.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), sponsor of the proposed new local law, 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.

Ellen Rabinowitz, interim health officer for Washtenaw County, attended the April 7 meeting and spoke to councilmembers about the county’s experience. She supported the city ordinance, as did Cliff Douglas, director of the University of Michigan’s Tobacco Research Network. Douglas addressed the council during public commentary and answered questions later in the meeting.

Council deliberations on this item are included in The Chronicle’s live updates filed during the April 7 meeting.

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

Council Echoes Planning Commission on Advice to UM

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 has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council. The resolution had been put forward by the city planning commission, which also approved the recommendation.

The property in question is located 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.

The city council voted not to exercise the city of Ann Arbor's right of first refusal on the Edwards Brothers property, at a special session of the council on Feb. 24, 2014.

The city council voted down a resolution that would have authorized Ann Arbor’s right of first refusal on the Edwards Brothers Malloy property, at a special session of the council on Feb. 24, 2014. That will allow the University of Michigan to purchase the property unimpeded. The council is asking UM to collaborate with the city on the property’s development.

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

Sidewalk, Street Repair Contracts Approved

Contracts related to Ann Arbor’s annual sidewalk maintenance and repair program, as well as for the annual street resurfacing program, have been approved in action taken by the city council at its April 7, 2014 meeting.

A sidewalk marked with a "C" – which indicates it needs to be cut flush – on Fifth Avenue south of William Street.

A sidewalk marked with a “C” – which indicates that it needs to be cut flush – on Fifth Avenue south of William Street.

The sidewalk repair program 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 was awarded to Precision Concrete Cutting for $207,350.

The other part of the program involves outright replacement of sidewalk slabs.

That contract with Doan Construction Company for $1,707,037 was also approved by the council at its April 7 meeting.

Areas of the city of Ann Arbor where sidewalk repair will be done in 2013 and 2014.

Areas of the city of Ann Arbor where sidewalk repair will be done in 2013 and 2014.

In addition to an annual sidewalk repair program, the city manages an annual street resurfacing program. Also on April 7, the council approved a construction contract with Barrett Paving Materials Inc. for $3.409 million for the 2014 program. Also approved was a contract for materials testing – with CTI and Associates Inc. for $82,332.

Heavy black highlights indicate stretches of road that are a part of the city of Ann Arbor's street resurfacing program in 2014.

Heavy black highlights indicate stretches of road that are a part of the city of Ann Arbor’s street resurfacing program in 2014.

Text descriptions of the streets to be resurfaced are as follows:

  • Washington: First St 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)

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

Ann Arbor Applies for Gallup Path Repair

The Ann Arbor city council has approved a grant application to fund renovations to a pathway that runs through Gallup Park, which is part of the countywide Border-to-Border Trail 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.

Gallup Park, Border to Border trail, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing location of trail improvements at Gallup Park. (Links to larger image.)

The council approved the grant application as a part of the consent agenda at its April 7, 2014 meeting. The consent agenda is a group of items that are voted on all in one go.

The city will be applying for a grant from the federal transportation alternatives program (TAP), which is administered in this region by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and statewide by the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT). 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.

Funds would be used to renovate the path from the Geddes Dam at the east end of the Gallup Park pathway, to the parking lot east of Huron Parkway. The project also entails renovations to the large loop that encircles that portion of the park, totaling about 2 miles of trail. The application amount hasn’t yet been determined, but will likely be for $400,000 to $500,000. The entire project budget is in the $600,000 range, with likely about $200,000 in matching funds to come from the city’s parks and recreation maintenance and capital improvements millage.

The city would provide the $200,000 in grant matching funds from the parks and recreation capital improvements millage.

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

Windemere Park Tennis Courts Contracted

The tennis courts at Windemere Park in Ann Arbor will finally be reconstructed at a different location within the park – as the result of city council approval of the construction contract. The $134,297 contract with Nagle Paving Co. to relocate and rebuild the tennis courts at Windemere Park was approved in April 7, 2014 city council action.

Windemere Park, tennis courts, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Recommended new location for new Windemere Park tennis courts. (Image included in Jan. 28, 2014 meeting packet for the Ann Arbor park advisory commission.)

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]

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

Main Street BIZ Expansion Gets Council OK

An expansion of the geographic area of the Main Street Business Improvement Zone in downtown Ann Arbor has received approval from the city council. 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 council’s action approving the expanded area came at its April 7, 2014 meeting, after a public hearing, during which four property owners in the proposed BIZ area – including BIZ board chair Ed Shaffran – spoke in favor of the council allowing property owners to vote on the issue. Shaffran also fielded questions from councilmembers later in the meeting.

While the council must give its approval of the plan, the expansion is contingent on a vote among the owners of more than 60 different parcels in the area, which has to be set for no later than 49 days after the date of the council’s resolution. The total assessment generated by all properties for the first year of the 10-year assessment would be $273,870. To succeed, the vote needs a 60% majority in the combined new BIZ area.

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.

Main Street BIZ geographic area and expansion.

Main Street BIZ geographic area and expansion. (Map by The Chronicle from the BIZ plan using Washtenaw County and city of Ann Arbor GIS services mapping tools.)

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

Ann Arbor Passes Resolution on Same-Sex Marriage

Ann Arbor city councilmembers have approved 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 council’s action came at its April 7, 2014 meeting.

The vote on the resolution was unanimous.

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.

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