Civic News Ticker

Recent Tickers

Final City Tally for Dascola Lawsuit: $35,431

The final tally of costs to the city of Ann Arbor in connection with the Bob Dascola election lawsuit is $35,431.75. According to Tom Wieder, attorney for Dascola, the settlement agreed to on Aug. 20, 2014 for the second phase of the lawsuit was $9,400 – to be split between the city and the state of Michigan.

The city lost both phases of the litigation, which began when the city sought to enforce city charter eligibility requirements against Dascola to prevent him from being a candidate in the Ward 3 city council Democratic primary race. The election was won by Julie Grand in a three-person field that included Samuel McMullen.

The $35,431.75 amount is the total agreed to for the initial phase of the lawsuit on city charter eligibility requirements ($30,731.75), plus half the amount that was agreed to in the second phase, which involved the counting of misprinted ballots ($9,400). The other half of the $9,400 will be paid by the state of Michigan, which intervened in the second phase of the lawsuit. So the total paid to Dascola’s attorney, Tom Wieder, will be $40,132, which includes court costs.

Fees for the initial phase of the lawsuit were settled on June 19, 2014 – at $30,731.75. That total includes attorney fees in the amount of $30,306.25 – which was the result of 93.25 hours billed at an hourly rate of $325. The remainder of that total was $425.50 – costs for filings and document retrieval.

The motion for fees in the second phase of the lawsuit was filed by Wieder on Aug. 19, 2014 and asked for a total of $12,320 based on 30.80 hours of work at $400 per hour. Wieder’s filing parcels out each item of work to either the city or the state or to both jointly. The amount was reduced to $9,400 through back-and-forth among Wieder, the state and the city, with the final settlement splitting the amount evenly between the city and the state. [.pdf of Aug. 19, 2014 motion for fees]

The initial phase of the lawsuit was decided in favor of Dascola on May 20, 2014. At issue were city charter durational requirements on voter registration and residency – that require city councilmembers to be registered to vote in the city and to be a resident of the ward they want to represent for at least a year prior to taking office. Dascola contended he met the residency requirement, but conceded that he fell short of the voter registration requirement. He did not register to vote in the city until Jan. 15, 2014. The court ruled that the requirements were not enforceable, because they’d been ruled unconstitutional in the early 1970s, and never re-enacted by the city. Dascola submitted sufficient signatures to qualify, so the impact of the ruling was that Dascola was supposed to appear on the Ward 3 ballot.

However through a series of errors, his name did not appear on the printed ballots and nearly 400 of the misprinted ballots were sent to Ward 3 absentee voters. A dispute arose over how ballots would be counted if someone did not return one of the replacement ballots. The state of Michigan intervened on behalf of the Bureau of Elections, which told the city to go ahead and count the ballots. But on July 22, 2014 the federal court ruled that such ballots should not be counted.

The kind of city charter eligibility requirements that triggered the lawsuit in the first place should not become an issue in the future, if Ann Arbor voters approve charter amendments that the city council has voted to place on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot.

Parks Group Strategizes on Liberty Plaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberty Plaza: Feedback to City Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberty Plaza: Fee Waiver

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music School Gets Special Exception Use

The Ann Arbor planning commission has granted a special exception use to the Community Music School of Ann Arbor to operate at 1289 Jewett Ave., between South Industrial and Packard. The decision – made at the commission’s Aug. 19, 2014 meeting – allows the private music school to use the Clonlara School building with a maximum of 150 students at any time.

Clonlara School is located in a district zoned R1B (single family dwelling), which permits private schools if given a special exception use approval. That school already has a special exception use to operate with a maximum of 150 students. No changes are planned for the exterior of Clonlara’s 16,900-square-foot, single-story building.

The music school will primarily use the facility on weekdays from 3:30-9 p.m., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on occasional Sunday afternoons. On average, 25-30 students will come in for lessons each day.

Clonlara School’s 2.46-acre site includes 22 parking spaces in a parking lot off Jewett Avenue, plus three spaces behind a rental house located north of the school building. A one-way drive runs north from Jewett to Rosewood Street.

Two people spoke during the public hearing: Kasia Bielak-Hoops, executive director of the Community Music School (formerly the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts); and Martha Rhodes, Clonlara’s campus director. They both supported the special exception use.

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

Fitness Center Proposal Gets Planning OK

A plan to create a fitness center at 3100 W. Liberty received a special exception use approval from Ann Arbor planning commissioners at their Aug. 19, 2014 meeting.

3100 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

3100 West Liberty.

The proposal by the owners, John and Jackie Farah, is to convert an existing office building on the 5.37-acre site into a fitness center that would operate similar to a physical therapy/rehabilitation facility, according to a staff report. The special exception use allows for indoor recreation on a site zoned office (O). It would be part of the Farah Professional Center, which was first developed in 1995 and expanded in 2005. The site – on the north side of West Liberty, between Wagner and South Maple – includes a 13,000-square foot, two-story building and a 10,000-square foot, one-story building with an 89-space parking lot. The property is located in Ward 5.

The staff report states that the proposed center “is a facility available to customers by appointment only, offering less than a dozen pieces of equipment such as treadmills, elliptical, bikes and nautilus machines. Yoga, spinning, massage therapy and acupuncture also will be offered. Hours of operation will be consistent with normal office/health practitioner business hours.” [.pdf of staff report]

Six people spoke during a public hearing on this project, including the Farahs as well as nearby residents. Concerns from neighbors included the disturbances that additional use of this site would have on their properties. Also speaking against the project was Brian Eisner, owner of the nearby Liberty Athletic Club, who expressed concern about increased traffic on West Liberty. The Farahs stressed that their effort would not increase traffic or negatively impact the residential neighbors.

During deliberations, commissioners considered putting limits on the hours of operation or restricting use to appointments only, but ultimately rejected those constraints. However, they did amend the special exception use to limit the amount of square footage that could be used for fitness center activities – to 9,000 square feet.

Separately, the owners have submitted an administrative amendment to the previously approved site plan for changes to the office center’s parking lot. The proposal is to increase the number of spaces from 89 to 104 within the limits of the current parking area. The additional spaces are required to support the proposed indoor recreation use. The modified parking lot would have 70 full-sized spaces, 29 compact-sized spaces, and 5 barrier-free spaces.

The administrative amendment does not require planning commission or city council approval. Nor is additional council approval required for the special exception use.

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

Victoria Circle Site To Be Annexed, Zoned

Ann Arbor planning commissioners have recommended the annexation and zoning of 2115 Victoria Circle, a 0.5-acre vacant site west of Newport and north of M-14.

2115 Victoria Circle, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

2115 Victoria Circle.

The action came at the commission’s Aug. 19, 2014 meeting.

If approved by the city council, the property will be annexed from Ann Arbor Township and zoned R1A (single family dwelling).

The owner, Abayomi Famurewa, wants to build a single-family home there and connect to the city’s public water and sanitary sewer service. The staff report notes that the city’s storm sewer system does not extend to that area at this point.

No one spoke during a public hearing on this item.

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

Santacroce Elected Chair of Park Advisory Group

The Ann Arbor park advisory commission has elected David Santacroce as chair for the coming year, replacing Ingrid Ault in that position. The vote came at PAC’s Aug. 19, 2014 meeting.

Santacroce is a professor of law at the University of Michigan. Before his appointment to PAC in November 2013, he chaired the city’s North Main Huron River corridor task force, which last year delivered its report to the council on recommendations for that corridor.

Paige Morrison was elected vice chair. Each vote was conducted by “secret ballot” as stipulated in PAC’s bylaws. The one-year terms begin Sept. 1.

Typically, the current vice chair is nominated and elected as chair. However, PAC’s vice chair – Graydon Krapohl – is running unopposed for a city council seat in Ward 4. He won the Aug. 5 Democratic primary, also unopposed, and will appear on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election. Krapohl told The Chronicle that he plans to step down from PAC after the November election, but is interested in being appointed as one of the two city council ex officio members. Those positions are currently held by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Taylor won the Aug. 5 Democratic mayoral primary, and faces independent Bryan Kelly in November.

Ault is planning to resign her position on PAC later this year, as she is moving out of town. Earlier this year she took a job as an educator with the Michigan State University Extension in Calhoun County, Michigan, based in Marshall. She says she is currently commuting there from Ann Arbor, but plans to move.

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

Selma Cafe Takes a Hiatus

Selma Cafe, the Ann Arbor breakfast fundraiser that has supported local farming efforts since 2009, is taking an indefinite hiatus, according to co-founder and operations manager Lisa Gottlieb. The monthly gathering had previously announced that it would close just for the summer – the last breakfast was in May.

But on Aug. 18, Gottlieb posted this message on the Selma Cafe website: ”Dear friends and supporters of Selma Cafe, As we move towards September, the board of directors of Selma Cafe, and I, are discussing what is next for Selma Cafe. The monthly breakfast parties are currently on hold. Please stay tuned for updates on activities, and thanks to all for the love!”

Selma Cafe began as a weekly breakfast salon in 2009, held on Friday mornings at the home of Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe in Ann Arbor’s Eberwhite neighborhood, on the city’s west side. Operations were suspended in mid-April of 2013, after the city notified the group that the breakfasts were violating local zoning ordinances. At roughly the same time, Selma’s previous fiscal sponsor – the nonprofit Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP) – froze funds it held on behalf of Selma Cafe, citing violations of a memorandum of understanding between the two entities. Artrain, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit, agreed to take on the sponsorship responsibilities, and the IRS expedited Selma’s application for nonprofit status.

The volunteer-supported fundraising breakfasts resumed in June of 2013 at a new location – in the common house dining room at Sunward Cohousing, 424 Little Lake Drive. The cohousing community is located off of Jackson Road, west of Ann Arbor in Scio Township. The events shifted to a Saturday brunch, held monthly and featuring guest chefs and locally sourced food. Chefs this year have included Eduardo Rubio of Aventura and local attorney Nick Roumel, among others.

About a year ago, Selma Cafe received a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS, a final step needed to secure financial autonomy.

Board members for the nonprofit include Roumel, local farmer Nathan Lada, long-time Selma Cafe volunteers Susie Baity and Kyoko Yamamoto, and McCabe, who also is owner of Nifty Hoops.

Gottlieb, who emailed The Chronicle with the news on Aug. 18, indicated that the transition over the past year has been difficult, requiring a tremendous amount of work for her personally, although she stressed that Sunward Cohousing has been welcoming and has worked to accommodate Selma Cafe’s needs. She has also become interested in nonviolent communication (NVC), describing it as “a form of conflict resolution and peace making that seems essential to our world these days.” She’s been working closely with NVC-certified trainers to bring workshops and classes on into the Ann Arbor area, including a year-long training program. “I am finding that is currently where I have passion and stamina,” Gottlieb wrote in an email.

“The board of Selma Cafe and I are in discussions about what is next for our organization,” Gottlieb wrote, “and we are all very invested in finding new and creative ways to support local food and sustainable agriculture in the near future, while allowing the format of the breakfast parties to shift to other activities. We are all tremendously grateful and appreciative for the love and support from volunteers, guests and friends of Selma Cafe. I’ll keep the website updated as we move forward.”

City Council Rejects Ride-Share Regulation

In action taken on Aug. 18, 2014, the Ann Arbor city council approved one change to its taxicab ordinance, but rejected another one meant to provide some regulation of shared-ride services like Uber and Lyft. Based on the council’s deliberations, the city will instead likely be taking the approach of establishing an operating agreement with the companies.

The rejected ordinance failed on a 5-5 vote, as Margie Teall (Ward 4) was absent. Voting for the regulation of all drivers for hire were Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jack Eaton (Ward 4), Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Voting against the change were mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3).

The one ordinance change given initial approval by the council would establish certain parameters to mitigate possible negative consequences to the setting of a very high maximum allowable taxicab rate, under which taxicab companies might eventually compete. Those parameters include a requirement that a taxicab company commit to a single rate annually and that the rate be advertised in a vehicle with signage in letters one-inch tall.

The city taxicab board’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 28 at 8:30 a.m. at city hall, and will likely include discussion of the appropriate price point for that very high maximum.

The ordinance change rejected on Aug. 18 would have required all drivers for hire to be registered with the city, to have commercial plates on their vehicles and to maintain insurance commensurate with commercial plates. And the absence of commercial plates on a vehicle that is observed to be used for picking up or dropping off passengers would have provided a reason for a traffic stop by Ann Arbor police. At the taxicab board meetings over the last few months, representatives of the taxicab industry argued that the state statute regulating limousines already gives the city the ability to enforce against Uber and Lyft drivers.

All drivers for hire would include those who work for Uber and Lyft, who together had a contingent of about 50 people in attendance at the meeting, several of whom addressed the city council during public commentary at the start and the end of the meeting. A representative from Uber, Michael White, was invited to the podium during the council’s deliberations on the ordinance. He spoke to councilmembers in a back-and-forth that lasted about 25 minutes, and recited many of Uber’s standard marketing points. No representatives from the taxicab industry seemed to be in attendance at the meeting; in any case, councilmembers did not inquire as to whether a representative might be available for comment.

The recommended ordinance changes came from the city’s taxicab board in the context of the entry of Uber and Lyft into the Ann Arbor market. The companies offer the arrangement of rides through mobile networks with drivers who operate their own vehicles. Both companies have continued to operate in Ann Arbor, despite cease-and-desist orders from the city. [.pdf of cease-and-desist sent to Lyft] [.pdf of cease-and-desist sent to Uber]

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

These issues were also discussed at three monthly meetings of the taxicab board prior to that, on April 23, 2014, May 22, 2014 and June 26, 2014.

At the council’s Aug. 18 meeting, Kunselman – who serves on the taxicab board – advocated strongly for the changes, making arguments based on public safety and adherence to existing law. He argued that Lyft and Uber can make a profit with lower rates because the companies are “cheating” the law.

Taylor said that Uber and Lyft are safe and that the companies provide an alternative transportation option, which is desirable. He announced that he would be working with Briere to bring forward a resolution directing the city administrator to develop an operating agreement between the city and ride-sharing companies along the same lines that the city of Detroit has with such companies. His remarks were met with applause from Uber and Lyft supporters, including some riders and drivers who spoke during public commentary.

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

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

At its July 24 meeting, taxicab board members discussed the possibility of delaying their recommendation on the ordinance changes until the board could also make a specific recommendation on the price point for a very high maximum rate. But ultimately board members felt that a recommendation on a price point for a new maximum rate could come later – especially because ordinance changes require a first and second reading in front of the council. There would be a window of opportunity between those readings to make a recommendation on the higher maximum. The taxicab board’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 28 at 8:30 a.m. at city hall.

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

City Delays Parking Lease with University

A two-year extension on a University of Michigan lease of three city of Ann Arbor parking lots at Fuller Park has been delayed by the city council.

The council’s unanimous vote to postpone consideration of the lease agreement came at its Aug. 18, 2014 meeting, after a brief discussion. The council will take up the item again at its first meeting in October – on Oct. 6. The lease came to the council with a recommendation of approval from the park advisory commission, given at its July 15, 2014 meeting. The council now wants PAC to take another look at the agreement.

Fuller Park, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map of parking lots at Fuller Park that are leased to the University of Michigan.

The existing lease expires on Aug. 31, 2014. Given that the lease is expiring, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) asked about the implications of postponing until October. Mayor John Hieftje indicated that the lease renewal came to the council later than it should have.

The three lots are: (1) the parking lot south of Fuller Road, next to the railroad tracks (Lot A); (2) the paved parking lot north of Fuller Road at Fuller Park (Lot B); and (3) the unpaved parking lot north of Fuller Road at Fuller Park (Lot C). The lots are used by UM during restricted hours.

The city has leased Lot A to UM since 1993. Lots B and C have been leased since 2009.

Annual revenue of this lease would be $78,665, and will be included as part of the parks and recreation general fund budget. [.pdf of proposed lease agreement] [.pdf of staff report]

The hours that UM can use these lots are stipulated in the agreement:

  • Lot A: 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Lot B (paved lot): 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning the day after Labor Day through the Friday before Memorial Day, excluding holidays.
  • Lot C (unpaved lot): 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

At PAC’s July 15 meeting when the lease was recommended, parks and recreation manager Colin Smith noted that the revenue from these three lots is significant for the parks and recreation operating budget. The current agreement – which was approved by the council in 2009 and extended by two administrative renewals – is essentially the same as the agreement that will expire, Smith told PAC.

The main purpose of the lots is for the parks, Smith explained. That’s reflected in the hours when UM can use the lots – on weekdays, prior to 4-5 p.m. The outdoor pool and soccer fields don’t need the quantity of parking during the winter or off-season. “It’s an asset within the parks department that we can either have sit there, or we can lease it for a significant amount of revenue that obviously helps us provide other programs,” he said. If the city doesn’t lease those parking lots, “I am absolutely certain that people will park in it anyway,” Smith added.

Two residents who had raised concerns about the lease at PAC’s July 15 meeting – Rita Mitchell and George Gaston – also addressed the city council on the same issue on Aug. 18. Their commentary is reported in The Chronicle’s live updates of that meeting.

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

Ann Arbor OKs $20K to Create Deer Plan

The Ann Arbor city council has voted to appropriate $20,000 from the general fund for development of a “community endorsed deer management plan” and to accept formally a deer management options report from city administrator Steve Powers. [.pdf of Aug. 14, 2014 deer management options report]

Combined antlered/antlerless deer taken in 2012. (Data from Michigan Department of Natural resources. Map by The Chronicle. Image links to dynamic map.)

Combined antlered/antlerless deer taken in 2012. (Data from Michigan Department of Natural resources. Map by The Chronicle. Image links to dynamic map.)

Action came in a unanimous vote at the council’s Aug. 18, 2104 meeting, after about 15 minutes of discussion. The council had directed the preparation of the report in a resolution approved at its May 5, 2014 meeting. The report, which presented various options to the council, was to have been delivered by July 31.

Fall 2015 is the earliest date identified in the report as a possible timeframe for a culling of the herd.

Before developing a specific plan – that could involve killing deer or not – input from Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation and the University of Michigan would be sought. And the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would need to approve any plan for deer management. The Aug. 14 report includes descriptions of deer management plans in other Michigan cities that range from ordinances prohibiting the feeding of deer to culling programs that shut down city parks and prescribe shooting lanes for archers.

City of Ann Arbor staff estimate that six months would be needed for public engagement. That public engagement could start within 45 days of city council approval to proceed.

Estimated staff time to develop the specific plan is 160 hours, according to the Aug. 14 report. Contractual public engagement and support to develop a management plan are estimated at $20,000.

Other facts included in the plan are the fact that neither city parks nor golf courses have had vegetation damage by deer. The cost to the city for disposing of deer carcasses in fiscal year 2014 was $5,850.

Estimated cost to kill 40-50 deer in the city of Ann Arbor is $25,000-$27,000 per year. That amount includes city staff administration cost in the amount of $14,000.

A Michigan DNR report indicates that in 2012 there were about 6,600 deer taken by hunters in Washtenaw County.

All deer-car accidents in Washtenaw County from 2004 through 2013 are plotted in the dynamic map below. Map is by The Chronicle with data from michigantrafficcrashfacts.org

The city of Ann Arbor has two deer crossing signs, one at Huron Parkway and Hubbard and the other on Dhu Varren Road.

Since 2004 the number of vehicle-deer crashes in Washtenaw County has shown a slight downward trend. (Data from michigantrafficcrashfacts.org, chart by The Chronicle)

Since 2004, the number of vehicle-deer crashes in Washtenaw County has shown a slight downward trend. (Data from michigantrafficcrashfacts.org, chart by The Chronicle)

Since 2004 the number of vehicle-deer crashes in Ann Arbor has shown a slight upward trend. (Data from michigantrafficcrashfacts.org, chart by The Chronicle)

Since 2004, the number of vehicle-deer crashes in Ann Arbor has shown a slight upward trend. (Data from michigantrafficcrashfacts.org, chart by The Chronicle)

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

Guenzel Reappointed to DDA Board

Bob Guenzel has been reappointed to a second four-year term on the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board. The city council took the action at its Aug. 18, 2014 meeting. The council’s confirmation vote, on the mayoral nomination that had been made at the council’s Aug. 7 meeting, was unanimous, with no discussion.

Guenzel was first appointed to the DDA board in 2010 when mayor John Hieftje chose not to reappoint Jennifer Santi Hall. During her tenure on the DDA board, Hall was on occasion sharply critical of the board as a group – for a lack of commitment to open and transparent governance.

During Guenzel’s first four years of service, board decisions on salary increases for DDA executive director Susan Pollay – in FY 2013 and FY 2014 – were apparently made in a way that violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act (OMA). The DDA has not produced minutes of any meeting when the board made decisions to increase Pollay’s salary in those years.

Guenzel is likely more familiar with requirements of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act than typical DDA board members are – through his experience as former Washtenaw County administrator. And though retired, Guenzel is also an attorney who maintains his membership in the Michigan Bar Association (P14457).

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

121 Kingsley West Gets Initial Council OK

Rezoning of 121 W. Kingsley Street for a proposed new condo development has received initial approval from the Ann Arbor city council.

121 Kingsley West, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rendering of 121 Kingsley West project, looking south from Kingsley. The existing building is in the left foreground.

The project calls for rezoning the site from a planned unit development (PUD) to D2 (downtown interface). The development would include renovating the existing two-story, 2,539-square-foot building, plus constructing two additional buildings: (1) a 3.5-story addition to the existing building; and (2) a 4.5-story structure at the southeast corner of West Kingsley and North Ashley. In total, the development would include 22 units and 40,689 square feet. The estimated cost is $6.5 million.

Council action on the initial approval came at its Aug. 18, 2014 meeting. The site plan will not come before the council until the rezoning is considered for a second and final vote. The Ann Arbor planning commission’s recommendation of approval for the site plan and the rezoning came at its July 15, 2014 meeting.

Developers are Tom Fitzsimmons, Peter Allen and Mark Berg. The architect is Marc Rueter.

There would be 29 parking spaces below the buildings – though only two spaces are required, based on residential premiums that the project is seeking. The premiums give the project additional floor area, compare to what’s allowed by right. An elevator for each building will be accessible from the parking level. The parking level of the east building will include a bike room with 14 spaces.

According to a staff report, the project’s development agreement will address “easements for encroachments onto the City right of way by the existing building, onsite stormwater management, verification of LEED points, six required footing drain disconnects, future façade alterations, and the contribution to Parks and Recreation Services.” [.pdf of staff report]

Planning commissioners unanimously recommended approval of the rezoning, site plan and development agreement. However, only five commissioners on the nine-member body were present, and the commission’s bylaws stipulate that approval requires six votes. So the project was forwarded to city council for consideration with a recommendation of denial from the commission. Wendy Woods, the commission’s chair, assured the developers that city council would be informed that the project secured unanimous support from all commissioners who were present.

The project is on the same site as a previously proposed project by Peter Allen called Kingsley Lane. That had been envisioned as a larger development with 46 units in a complex with two “towers” – at four and nine stories. According to a 2006 Ann Arbor News article, pre-sales of the units were slower than expected because of the struggling housing market, and ultimately financing fell through. At a July 9, 2013 planning commission work session, planning manager Wendy Rampson reported that the developers had lost the property to the bank, but subsequently secured the land and were expected to submit a new site plan.

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

Zoning for AAHC North Maple Project OK’d

The rezoning required for an Ann Arbor Housing Commission project – a 4.8-acre site at 701 N. Maple Road – has been given final approval by the city council at its Aug. 18, 2014 meeting. The zoning will change from R1C (single-family dwelling district) to R4B (multi-family dwelling district). The site plan, which has been shifted to the Sept. 2 agenda, calls for demolishing 20 existing single-family homes – the public housing complex known as North Maple Estates – and constructing an eight-building, 42-unit apartment complex with a total of 138 bedrooms.

A related item on the Aug. 18 agenda, which was also given approval by the council, was the vacation of a portion of the city’s right-of-way for Seybold Drive.

The Ann Arbor planning commission recommended all three items for approval at its meeting on June 17, 2014. The council gave initial approval of the rezoning at its July 7, 2014 meeting.

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

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

The project is part of a major renovation effort by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission of several of its properties. The site is on the west side of North Maple, between Dexter Avenue and Hollywood Drive. [.pdf of staff report]

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

The project will include a playground, community building and 73 parking spaces. According to a staff memo, the buildings will be located along a T-shaped driveway that connects to North Maple Road and Dexter Avenue. The drive extends northward toward Vine Court but does not connect with that street. There would be a new connection to Dexter Avenue through the remaining, undeveloped length of Seybold Drive.

The project also requires the city to vacate a portion of the right-of-way for Seybold Drive. The surrounding land is owned by the housing commission, the land will become part of the housing commission property. In a separate vote, the planning commission also recommended approving that request.

When the project was in front of the planning commission, planning staff noted three issues that need to be resolved before the project gets approval from city council:

The parcel containing two duplex buildings also owned by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission in the northeast corner of the site must be combined with the subject site, forming a single parcel as a requirement for issuance of any permits.

The legal description and comparison chart data must be confirmed to include the duplex parcel.

The northern-most parking stall, nearest the connection to Vine Court, must be relocated outside of the minimum front setback area.

According to the staff memo, after June 3 the city’s traffic engineer reviewed the proposed new connection from Seybold Drive onto Dexter Avenue, and concluded that sight distances from all approaches are acceptable. He suggested that the pavement markings on Dexter should be refreshed.

The reconstruction of North Maple Estates is part of an ongoing effort by the housing commission to upgrade the city’s housing stock for low-income residents. At the planning commission’s May 6, 2014 meeting, AAHC executive director Jennifer Hall had made a presentation about the initiative, which includes seeking private investors through low-income housing tax credits.

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

State Street Village Gets Council OK

Approval of the site plan and rezoning of land for the State Street Village project at 2221-2223 S. State St. has been given by the Ann Arbor city council.

The 4.5-acre parcel will be rezoned from M1 (limited industrial district) to O (office district). It’s a $10 million project by Ann Arbor-based McKinley Inc. The plan calls for constructing two 4-story apartment buildings at the rear of the site, totaling 112,262 square feet, with 38 units each. Another 2,027 square foot building – for a leasing office with two apartments above it – will be built on the front of the parcel, on South State.

South State Village, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of State Street Village site.

Final action came at the council’s Aug. 18, 2014 meeting. Action on the initial zoning approval came at the city council’s meeting on July 21. A recommendation for the rezoning was given at the June 17, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor planning commission.

At that meeting, commissioners recommended approval of the site plan, development agreement and rezoning for the project.

The front part of the site is currently a surface parking lot, and is zoned O (office). The rear parcel – 4.5 acres – is vacant, and zoned M1 (limited industrial). Residential developments are permitted in office-zoned areas. [.pdf of staff report]

The development will include 114 parking spaces in the rear of the site and 13 spaces for the front. Another 22 spaces in the surface parking lot will be shared by the existing office building just south of the site.

In addition, 44 covered bicycle spaces and 8 enclosed bicycle spaces will be provided near the entrances of the apartment buildings and 2 hoops will be placed near the entrance of the rental office building.

Instead of making a $48,360 requested donation to the city for parks, McKinley has proposed two 8×10-foot grilling patios with picnic tables and grills.

According to the staff memo, the footing drains of 18 homes, or flow equivalent to 71.91 gallons per minute, will need to be disconnected from the city’s sanitary sewer system to mitigate flow from this proposed development.

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

AG OKs Ann Arbor Ballot Questions

A successful election lawsuit filed against the city of Ann Arbor led last month to city council action to place a charter amendment in front of voters on Nov. 4, 2014. The amendments – which establish eligibility requirements for elected and appointed officials – were placed on the fall ballot in a July 21, 2014 vote of the council.

And now the ballot language for the two proposed Ann Arbor city charter amendments has been certified by Michigan’s attorney general as meeting the requirements of the Home Rule City Act. The AG’s office communicated its conclusion in an Aug. 8, 2014 letter to Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.

The existing charter language imposes a one-year durational requirement of voter registration on elected and appointed officials in the city. But the federal court ruled that the city’s requirements were not enforceable, because they had been struck down as unconstitutional in two different court cases dating from the early 1970s. Similar durational requirements have – in the intervening years – been found constitutional in various jurisdictions. However, the court ruled on May 20 this year that the city could not enforce its requirements against Ward 3 Democratic primary candidate Bob Dascola – because the city had not re-enacted its requirement using a standard legislative process. The placement of a ballot proposal in front of voters on Nov. 4 will use the legislative process of a popular referendum on the charter to establish eligibility requirements that are enforceable.

The language approved by the council at its July 21 meeting imposes a requirement that in order to be mayor, someone would need to be a registered voter in the city, and to serve on the city council someone would need to be a registered voter in the ward they seek to represent – at the time they submit their paperwork to appear on the ballot.

For example, a potential candidate for the city council would need to be a registered voter in the ward they seek to represent at the time they submit their qualifying signatures to the city clerk. And a potential candidate for mayor would need to be a registered voter in the city at the time they submit their qualifying signatures to the city clerk.

With paperwork for partisan primaries due in April – for November elections – the new requirements would translate practically speaking to something similar to a six-and-a-half-month durational requirement. For independent candidates, that timeframe would be closer to three and a half months. In the case of a vacancy that needs to be filled by appointment, the new charter requirement would require the person to be a registered voter in the geographic area they are being appointed to represent – at the time of appointment.

A second amendment to the charter to be decided by voters on Nov. 4 would acknowledge state law with respect to residency requirements for paid appointed officials. With a few exceptions, local municipalities can’t impose geographic requirements on the residence of paid officials. The amendment would also stipulate that unpaid appointed officials must be registered voters in the city, unless that requirement is waived by a seven-vote majority on the 11-member city council.

Four Candidates File for AADL Board Race

Four candidates have filed to run for three seats on the Ann Arbor District Library board in the Nov. 4, 2014 general election: Karen Hart, Jim Leija, and incumbents Jan Barney Newman and Ed Surovell. The filing deadline was Aug. 12.

These are non-partisan positions, with four-year terms starting Jan. 1, 2015. The seats are currently held by Newman, Surovell and Barbara Murphy, who decided not to seek re-election. Voters will be able to choose up to three of the four candidates on the ballot.

Leija is director of education and community engagement at the University Musical Society, a position he’s held since 2011. He’s worked for UMS in various roles since 2008.

Hart served as planning manager for the city of Ann Arbor from 1992-2004, and later was planning and development director for the city of Ypsilanti from 2006-2008. Her tenure as Ann Arbor’s planning manager overlapped with Surovell’s service on the city’s planning commission. Surovell owned an eponymous real estate firm until it was acquired by Howard Hanna in 2012. He has served on the AADL board since 1996, when he was elected to the first board after the library system separated from the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Newman, who currently serves as board treasurer, is retired. Her professional background includes founding two Ann Arbor-based businesses: Aristoplay, an educational game company; and Learning Express, an educational toy store. She’s seeking her third term on the AADL board, having been elected for the first time in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.

Positions on the seven-member AADL board are elected by voters in Ann Arbor and portions of seven townships that are covered by the library’s district – Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior. Those are the same boundaries served by the Ann Arbor Public Schools, with the exception of Northfield Township, which is partly within the AAPS district but has its own library system.

AAATA: Aug. 21 Meeting Location Change

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board has announced that it will hold its Aug. 21, 2014 regular board meeting at the AAATA headquarters at 2700 South Industrial Highway. The typical meeting location is the downtown building of the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL). However, the library building is currently closed for an undetermined period as the main elevator is being repaired.

The start time for the Aug. 21 meeting, which will be held in the boardroom at AAATA headquarters, is 6:30 p.m. The AAATA facility is not equipped with built-in Community Television Network cameras as the AADL is. It’s not yet clear if AAATA will ask that a mobile CTN crew be dispatched to AAATA headquarters to record the meeting. As a contingency, The Chronicle will likely provide a live audio broadcast from the meeting, which will be recorded and archived by The Chronicle.

Downtown Library To Close for Elevator Repair

The Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building at 343 S. Fifth Ave. will be closed indefinitely starting Thursday, Aug. 14 for repair of the public elevator.

AADL director Josie Parker gave an update on her director’s blog: ”It will remain closed into next week for certain. The repair requires casings that are concreted into the elevator shaft to be removed. A drilling rig will be brought in on Thursday, and the work area will be exposed in such a way that makes it impossible for the Downtown library to be open to the public.”

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

The plan at that time was to attempt to keep the downtown library open as much as possible during the work, with the caveat that it was still unclear exactly what would be required to make the repair.

The AADL is also undertaking a major renovation to the front entrance of the downtown library. Construction work on that project has not yet begun. On July 21, AADL trustees authorized a $425,523 construction budget for that project, which has been in the works for several months. The budget covers new doors, a redesigned facade, and heated sidewalks, among other changes. The construction manager is O’Neal Construction of Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor to Court: Toss Suit Against Police

The city of Ann Arbor has responded to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year with a motion to dismiss the suit against the city and three of its police detectives. The lawsuit was filed on May 19, 2014, but not served until July 17.

The complaint was filed by Joseph Bailey against the city of Ann Arbor and three Ann Arbor police detectives – Christopher Fitzpatrick, William Stanford, and Michael Dortch – in connection with Bailey’s arrest for armed robbery of the Broadway Party Store. Bailey’s complaint alleges that the detectives subjected Bailey to excessive force and caused his false imprisonment. Bailey was not prosecuted for the robbery, but eventually pled guilty to resisting arrest.

The city’s motion to dismiss contends that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief has been granted, and argues that the facts adduced in the complaint are actually conclusions – rather than facts that would support a plausible claim under the legal theories pled in the complaint.

The city’s response with a motion to dismiss was filed with the court on Aug. 7. [.pdf of Aug. 7, 2014 motion to dismiss] [.pdf of May 19, 2014 complaint]

Condos OK’d on West Liberty: The Mark

Seven residential condominiums, to be build just west of the railroad tracks on West Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, have received approval from the city council. Council action came at its Aug. 7, 2014 meeting.

The proposal from developer Alex de Parry is to demolish an existing car wash at 318 W. Liberty and build an 11,910-square-foot structure with seven residential condominiums – five two-bedroom and two three-bedroom units. Each condo will have its own two-car tandem garage for a total of 14 parking spaces, although no parking is required.

The plan received a unanimous recommendation of approval from planning commissioners at their July 1, 2014 meeting.

Mark Condominiums, Alex de Perry, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rendering of Mark Condominium proposal, as viewed from West Liberty next to the former Moveable Feast building.

The lot, on the north side of Liberty, is east of the historic Peter Brehme house at 326 W. Liberty and located in the Old West Side historic district. The historic district commission issued a certificate of appropriateness for the project on March 13, 2014. It’s located in Ward 5 and is zoned D2 (downtown interface).

The project would require two footing drain disconnects or the equivalent mitigation, according to a planning staff report. [.pdf of staff report]

In May, De Parry was told that the existing six-inch water main in West Liberty Street would need to be upsized to a 12-inch water main. The city staff told him that the six-inch main wouldn’t have the capacity to handle the additional development, in particular the building’s fire-suppression system. That was the reason for postponement at the planning commission’s May 20, 2014 meeting.

At that time, De Parry told commissioners that the development team had just been informed about the issue, and they were analyzing the budget impact and alternatives that they might pursue.

The current agreement, recommended by commissioners on July 1, is for De Parry to pay for installation of an eight-inch water main, rather than the 12-inch water main.

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

Ann Arbor Council OKs $380K for Tech

As a part of its consent agenda, the Ann Arbor city council has approved over $380,000 in regular computer software and hardware contracts. The vote on the consent agenda is taken on all items as a group, although the items themselves are separate.

The computer technology items approved on the council’s Aug. 7, 2014 consent agenda were:

  • Purchase order to Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office for Judicial Information System (JIS) in FY 2015 ($45,000). This covers the annual software licensing and hosting costs for the JIS case management software. JIS is provided by the State of Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office for the 15th District Court use in its day-to-day operations.
  • Purchase order with Oakland County for CLEMIS (Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System) Information Services for FY 2015 ($87,000). This gives the Ann Arbor police department access to shared information across multiple jurisdictions related to: computer aided dispatch (CAD), CAD Mobile, report management systems, fingerprinting and mug shots.
  • Purchase order for annual maintenance and support of TRAKiT system and e-Markup annual license with CRW Systems Inc. for FY 2015 ($36,500). This system is used to track site plans and permits involved in land development – from initial concept through post occupancy compliance
  • Purchase order with Azteca Systems for CityWorks enterprise license and annual maintenance and support agreement for FY 2015 ($60,000). This is a GIS-based asset management system used for maintenance activities. Service requests and work orders are based upon a customer request or an asset’s preventative maintenance schedule, and its location – which means that work can be managed by geographic location in addition to task type. If workers are already being sent to some area, they can do work that is due that is nearby as well.
  • Purchase order to New World Systems for financial system annual software support and maintenance agreement for FY 2015 (not to exceed $70,000). The software provides monthly reporting and workflow routing for approvals of accounts payable invoices, accounts receivable, purchases, etc. The software allows city staff across departments to track the budget from the beginning of the budget planning process through the approval of the new budget.
  • Purchase order with SEHI Computers for FY 2015 PC replacement program ($55,765). The staff memo accompanying this item notes that SEHI was selected as the lowest responsible bidder for pricing, technology, use of green technologies, power management technologies and ability to meet required bid specifications. But there’s not an indication of how many PCs are to be replaced under the program.
  • Purchase order to BS&A Software for annual software maintenance and support agreement for FY 2015 ($26,000). This system is used for tax and assessment as well as the online hosting of tax and assessing data.

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

Sidewalk Special Assessment: Pontiac Trail

A special assessment for sidewalk construction on Pontiac Trail has been given final approval by the Ann Arbor city council. It was postponed from the council’s July 21, 2014 meeting to allow additional time for one of the property owners to protest. The total cost that will be assessed to adjoining property owners is $72,218.

According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, sidewalk construction would be done as part of the reconstruction of Pontiac Trail beginning just north of Skydale Drive to just south of the bridge over M-14. The project will also be adding on-street bike lanes and constructing a new sidewalk along the east side of Pontiac Trail to fill in existing sidewalk gaps and to provide pedestrian access to Olson Park and Dhu Varren Road. That’s part of the city’s Complete Streets program.

In addition to the sidewalk, approximately 1,960 feet of curb and gutter is being added north of Skydale along Pontiac Trail to protect existing wetland areas. [.pdf of Pontiac Trail sidewalk special assessment area]

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

Du All Gets City Cleaning Contract

A 35-month, $727,545 contract with Du All Cleaning Inc. has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council – for janitorial service at city hall, the Wheeler Service Center, the water treatment plant, senior center and other city-owned facilities.

Council action came at its Aug. 7, 2014 meeting. The item had originally been scheduled to appear on the council’s July 21 meeting agenda. Responding to an emailed query from The Chronicle, city administrator Steve Powers explained that the item was delayed until the Aug. 7 meeting “to allow more time to evaluate the services of Du All during their probationary period.”

The locations and the cleaning schedule to be covered by the contract include:

  • 911 Dispatch Center [Cleaned 7 days per week]
  • Municipal Center [Cleaned 5 days per week]
  • Wheeler Service Center [Cleaned 5 days per week]
  • Water Treatment Plant [Cleaned 5 days per week]
  • Veterans Memorial Park [Cleaned 5 days per week]
  • Senior Center [Cleaned 4 days per week]
  • Farmers Market [Cleaned 1-3 days per week depending on the season]

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

Ann Arbor OKs $480,000 for Traffic Signals

A contract with Carrier & Gable Inc. for the purchase of $480,000 worth of traffic signals has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council. Action came at the council’s Aug. 7, 2014 meeting.

The list of signals covered in the contract includes:

  • Varsity and Ellsworth pedestrian signal upgrade ($25,000)
  • King George and Eisenhower pedestrian signal upgrades ($35,000)
  • Maintenance operations, including wear-out and accident damage, and support of other city projects ($300,000)
  • Addition of flashing yellow arrows for left turn movement at the following locations ($55,000): Fuller & Glenn; Barton & Plymouth; Plymouth & Broadway; Eisenhower & Stone School; Cedar Bend & Fuller; Fuller & Glazier Way; Fuller & Fuller Ct.; Fuller & Huron High
  • Division and Catherine ($65,000)

The council approved the contract with Carrier & Gable as a sole-source contract, because they are the only area distributor in Michigan and Indiana for the Eagle Signal Company. All of the city’s signalized intersections use equipment manufactured by Eagle. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, the advantages of sole-source supply for these materials include: reduced inventory requirements, as well as the need to train technicians in the repair of only one type of product.

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

Indigent Legal Services OK’d by Council

A $200,000 contract with Reiser & Frushour P.L.L.C. has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council, to provide legal representation as court-appointed counsel to indigent defendants in the 15th District Court. Action came at the council’s Aug. 7, 2014 meeting.

The court is required by law to appoint attorneys to represent indigent defendants when potential punishment, if convicted, includes the possibility of incarceration. According to the staff memo accompanying the item, Reiser & Frushour was selected from a pool of three firms that responded to a request for proposals (RFP). Besides Reiser & Frushour, the two other firms submitting proposals were: Washington, Friese & Graney; and Huron Valley Law Association. A selection committee consisting of the three 15th District Court judges reviewed the proposals and ranked the respondents. The contract covers the term of Sept. 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

Prior to the vote, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) reported that the contracting party is a client of his, so he asked for authorization to sit out the vote. The council voted to allow that.

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

Research Park Rezoning, Area Plan OK’d

A trio of items on the Ann Arbor city council’s Aug. 7, 2014 agenda have been approved, which relate to a future project at Research Park Drive.

The project itself was not on the agenda – but it would construct six new buildings on six parcels, each with associated surface parking and storm water detention. One of the proposed buildings would be a tennis facility. The tennis facility required an amendment to the ORL zoning district, which currently does not allow outdoor recreation uses.

The three associated items approved by the council were: (1) an area plan; (2) rezoning of 16.6 acres comprising six parcels from RE (research district) to ORL (office/research/limited industrial district); and (3) an amendment to the ORL zoning classification to allow the planning commission to grant special exception uses for recreational facilities.

Recommendations of approval for these items came at the planning commission’s June 3, 2014 meeting. Initial approval was given by the city council for the rezoning items at its July 7, 2014 meeting. So a vote for approval at the council’s Aug. 7 meeting was the final vote needed for enactment.

The six lots are undeveloped and total 16.6 acres. Four of the lots, on the southern end of the site, are owned by Qubit Corp. LLC; BMS Holdings LLC owns the northern two sites.

The proposed area plan – which is less detailed than a site plan – includes an indoor-outdoor tennis facility on one of the lots. It also includes five two-story buildings that could accommodate office, research, and limited industrial uses on the remaining lots, each with their own parking lot and access point to Research Park Drive.

Prior to construction, the project must go through the city’s site plan approval process, which might require a traffic impact study.

Research Park Drive, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing Research Park Drive parcels.

Research Park Drive, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Area plan for four sites in a proposed development on Research Park Drive. The image is oriented with east at the top.

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

Gift of Life Rezoning Gets Initial OK

Initial approval has been given to the rezoning of property necessary for an expansion of the Gift of Life Michigan facility on Research Park Drive. The rezoning would change 6.55 acres from O (office district) and RE (research district) to ORL (office/research/limited Industrial district).

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

Aerial view of Gift of Life Michigan site.

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

The city planning commission recommended approval of the rezoning at its July 1, 2014 meeting. City council action came at its meeting on Aug. 7. Only the initial consideration of the rezoning was on the Aug. 7 city council agenda. Rezoning requires two council votes taken at separate meetings.

The changes would rezone the properties from office (O) and research (RE) to office/research/limited industrial (ORL). The parcel at 3161 Research Park Drive is currently zoned O. The parcel at 3169 Research Park is zoned RE. The plan is to combine those lots before the city issues building permits.

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

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

Delta Chi Site Plan Approved

A plan to tear down the existing Delta Chi fraternity house at 1705 Hill Street and build a much larger structure in its place has received approval from the Ann Arbor city council.

Action came at the council’s Aug. 7, 2014 meeting. The planning commission had voted to recommend approval of the site plan at its July 1, 2014 meeting.

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

The Delta Chi fraternity house at 1705 Hill St.

The fraternity plans to demolish the existing 4,990-square-foot house at 1705 Hill St. – at the northwest corner of Hill and Oxford – and replace it with a 12,760-square-foot structure on three levels, including a basement. The current occupancy of 23 residents would increase to 34 people, including a resident manager.

The house is now on the northwest corner of the site, and a curbcut for the driveway is located at the intersection of Hill and Oxford. The proposal calls for building the new house closer to the southeast corner of the lot, with a parking lot on the west side and a new curbcut onto Hill – away from the intersection. [.pdf of staff report]

The minimum parking requirement is for seven spaces, but the plan calls for 16 spaces on the parking lot. There will be a shed with spaces for 20 bikes, and another four bike spaces in the back yard.

The project is expected to cost $2.2 million.

The fraternity declined to make a recommended voluntary parks contribution of $3,100 to the city. A statement from the fraternity gives their rationale for that decision: “While we can see the merit of such a donation for a large, new development that may bring additional residents to the city, we feel that this is not fitting in our situation. The Delta Chi Building Association has owned this property continuously since 1947, and during that time has consistently paid our property taxes and special millage assessments designated for Parks and Recreation. During our 67 years of ownership, we believe that we have contributed much more than the contribution suggested to support the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation system.”

In two separate votes at its July 1 meeting, the planning commission unanimously recommended approval of a site plan and granted a special exception use for the project. A special exception use is required because the property is zoned R2B (two-family dwelling district and student dwelling district). Fraternities are only allowed in R2B districts if granted special exception use by the planning commission. No additional city council approval is required for that.

1705 Hill, Delta Chi, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of 1705 Hill.

1705 Hill, Delta Chi, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

1705 Hill site plan.

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

Mixed Action on AAHC Platt Road Site

At its Aug. 6, 2014 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission took two actions related to an Ann Arbor housing commission project at 3451 Platt Road.

Ann Arbor housing commission, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of 3451 Platt.

The commission recommended approval of a rezoning proposal on 3.1 acres – from R1C (single-family dwelling district) and R2A (two-family dwelling district) to R4B (multi-family dwelling district). The site includes a property currently owned by AAHC, as well as an adjacent parcel that’s being purchased by the city on behalf of AAHC. The rezoning request will be forwarded to the city council for consideration.

In a separate vote, the commission postponed action on a proposed site plan for the low-income housing development, to allow AAHC time to address staff concerns regarding the impact on natural features. It’s not clear at this time when the site plan is going to be considered again by the planning commission.The site plan will also need city council approval. AAHC hopes to have a decision  on the zoning and the site plan from the city council by mid-October, to enhance a grant application.

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

Two of the proposed buildings would be in the floodplain, which raised concerns from city staff. The AAHC is working to address those concerns – possibly by eliminating or reducing the number of buildings in the floodplain. It’s expected that the AAHC can address the issues raised by city staff so that the site plan can return to the planning commission at its Aug. 19 meeting. [.pdf of planning staff report] [.pdf of June 28, 2014 citizen participation meeting report]

This project is part of major renovations and improvements the commission is making to its low-income housing inventory. For background on the AAHC process of renovating its properties, see Chronicle coverage: “Public Housing Conversion Takes Next Step.”

This project is not the same site as a county-owned property on Platt Road, which is also being considered for affordable housing.

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

County Budget Adjustments Get Final OK

Washtenaw County commissioners have given final approval to mid-year budget adjustments and have allocated this year’s higher-than-expected property tax revenues, as well as a $3.9 million surplus from 2013. Action was taken at the county board’s Aug. 6, 2014 meeting, following initial approval on July 9.

The adjustments increased the general fund budget’s expenses and revenues by $720,486 for 2014, $733,233 for 2015, $745,980 for 2016 and $758,727 for 2017. The county operates on a four-year budget, with the fiscal year matching the calendar year.

The adjustments also followed the recommendation of county administrator Verna McDaniel, and set aside the $3,920,818 surplus from 2013 in unearmarked reserves, rather than spending it. The projected year-end 2014 fund balance is $20,638,675. The county board had previously approved a goal of holding a fund balance equal to 20% of its general fund budget. For 2014, the general fund budget is $103,127,202. [.pdf of staff memo and mid-year budget resolution]

In addition, the following mid-year budget adjustments were made to the general fund:

  • Structural adjustments resulting in a $494,677 increase in expenditures for (1) providing employee health care coverage for autism; (2) a consultant to help with the board’s budget priority work, (3) a “local government initiatives” intern; (4) reinstatement of two full-time equivalent positions in the sheriff’s office; and (5) salary adjustments for non-union employees.
  • Non-structural, one-time, adjustments that increased expenditures by $65,000 for homelessness initiatives.

The administration recommended that the remaining $160,809 be held as an undesignated allocation until budget projections improve as new information becomes available. Finance staff gave a second-quarter budget update on Aug. 6, projecting that the county will have a $211,920 general fund surplus at the end of 2014. [.pdf of budget presentation]

When an initial vote was taken on July 9, commissioners Dan Smith (R-District 2) and Conan Smith (D-District 9) had voted against it. Although they supported it on Aug. 6, both raised the same concerns they’ve voiced earlier. Conan Smith said he hoped that when the county achieves its goal of a fund balance equal to 20% of the general fund budget, then any extra surplus would be “put to work in the community.” Dan Smith stressed the importance of setting a budget and sticking to it, with adjustments coming only during the annual budget affirmation process – rather than throughout the year.

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