The Ann Arbor Chronicle » contracts it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Council Tables Ann Arbor SPARK Contract Tue, 17 Jun 2014 06:09:43 +0000 Chronicle Staff The $75,000 annual contract with Ann Arbor SPARK for economic development services has been tabled by the Ann Arbor city council. The 6-5 vote by the council at its June 16, 2014 meeting came after 10 minutes of deliberations, with support from Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jack Eaton (Ward 4), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), and Jane Lumm (Ward 2).

The abbreviated discussion was the result of the fact that a motion to table – as contrasted to a motion to postpone to a date certain – is not debatable. So once the motion was made, the council immediately voted. The motion to table was made by Eaton, who said it could be taken up off the table at a future meeting when SPARK’s job retention, attraction and creation numbers could be reconciled.

Paul Krutko, CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, stayed at the meeting until the rest of the council’s business was finished, which was around midnight. He was then invited to the podium to answer questions, and the ensuing debated by councilmembers lasted about 30 minutes. They did not reconsider their earlier vote to table the funding, however.

At its May 19, 2014 meeting, the council spent roughly five hours of deliberations on amendments to the FY 2015 budget, and just under 30% of that time was spent on two amendments involving SPARK – neither of which were approved by the council.

Ann Arbor City Council Budget Deliberations FY 2015: 4 Hrs 45 Min by Amendment Topic

Ann Arbor city council budget deliberations FY 2015: 4 hours 45 minutes by amendment topic.

SPARK is also the entity with which the local development finance authority (LDFA) contracts for business accelerator services. One of the proposed amendments to the FY 2015 budget would have decreased the amount of funding to SPARK from the LDFA, resulting in an increase to the amount the LDFA would have reserved for future infrastructure projects. The second budget amendment debated on May 19 would have eliminated $75,000 in the FY 2015 budget for the contract that the council was asked to approve on June 16.

Ann Arbor SPARK also receives money from other governmental units in Washtenaw County. In 2013, the $75,000 paid by the city of Ann Arbor to SPARK accounted for more than half of the $132,888 total contributed by all governmental units besides Washtenaw County. The county levies a tax under Act 88, and out of that levy, last year the county contributed $200,000, according to the information provided to the city by SPARK. [.pdf of 2013 "return on investment" from Ann Arbor SPARK] [.pdf of 2013 Ann Arbor SPARK projects] [Ann Arbor SPARK 2013 annual report] [21st Century Jobs Trust Fund 2013 Annual Report]

During public commentary on June 16, three people spoke about the SPARK contract. Kai Petainen read a statement about apparent discrepancies in two reports that provide jobs figures. [Petainen public comment] [Ann Arbor SPARK 2013 annual report] and [21st Century Jobs Trust Fund 2013 Annual Report] Jeff Hayner said that SPARK has misrepresented its results, and he suggested revising the resolution to reduce the $75,000 to just 10% of that figure. And Dave DeVarti, a former councilmember, asked the council to deny or table the funding. He pointed out that $75,000 could go a long way for a human services agency. He asked that the council hold Ann Arbor SPARK to the same kind of standards as it does the human services agencies it has contracts with.

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

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CDM Smith $750K Contract Extension Delayed Tue, 06 May 2014 01:25:23 +0000 Chronicle Staff A $748,106 contract extension with CDM Smith Inc. for continued work as part of Ann Arbor’s footing drain disconnection (FDD) program has been postponed by the city council until June 2, 2014. City council action to postpone the contract extension came at its May 5, 2014 meeting.

In 2012, the city’s program to disconnect footing drains from the sanitary sewer system was suspended by the council in some areas of the city. Specifically, it was suspended in the Glen Leven and Morehead (Lansdowne neighborhood) areas. The program was allowed to continue in other geographic areas and as part of the city’s developer offset mitigation (DOM) program. The DOM requires owners of new developments to complete a certain number of FDDs to offset the additional flow in the sanitary system caused by new construction.

The CDM contract drew scrutiny because the city is currently undertaking a sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation (SSWWE) study. It’s supposed to yield a recommendation about whether to continue with the FDD program, and if so, in what form. In addition, the city’s ordinance, which requires property owners to undertake FDDs, was challenged in a lawsuit filed earlier this year. That case is pending as the city has removed the case from state to federal court and the plaintiffs are seeking to remand it back to state court. A hearing is scheduled for May 28 on the question of remand. Questions have been raised about the quality of work performed by CDM.

City administrator Steve Powers offered to set up meetings between staff and councilmembers in advance of the council’s May 5 meeting to discuss the resolution. The resolution is perceived by some as an indicator that the sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation (SSWWE) would have a forgone conclusion that the FDD should continue. However, at more than one meeting of the advisory committee that’s working on the study, staff and consultants have indicated that if the FDD were to continue at all, it would almost certainly not continue in its current form.

And the staff memo accompanying the resolution on the contract addressed possible questions by stressing that until the SSWWE is completed and a determination is made on the city’s approach to wet weather sanitary sewer flows, the services of CDM will be required in order to continue the existing FDD and DOM programs. It’s expected that this contract would cover services that are needed through January 2015.

This item on the May 5 agenda would have approved the fourth contract extension of an original contract with CDM dating back to 2006. This amendment to the CDM contract includes: citizen support ($36,928); FDD citizens advisory committee meetings ($24,180); information management for sump pump monitors ($93,707); developer offset mitigation program support; ($95,213); and multi-family FDD implementation ($498,005). When the item appears on the June 2 agenda it’s possible that some of those items might not be included.

The previous three iterations of the CDM contract totaled  about $3.6 million. The money for these contracts is drawn from the city’s sewer fund.

The proposed contract extension drew criticism during public commentary on May 5 from Frank Burdick, a Ward 4 resident who urged the council to reject it. Council deliberations on this item are included as part of The Chronicle’s live updates from the meeting.

Since the FDD program’s start in 2001, about 1,834 footing drains have been disconnected through the city program and 848 footing drains have been disconnected through the developer offset mitigation program.

Animation of contrast between the pre-FDD configuration and the post-FDD configuration. (Original illustration from screenshot of Youtube video by Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, modified by The Chronicle.)

Animation of contrast between the pre-FDD configuration and the post-FDD configuration. (Original illustration from screenshots of YouTube video by Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, modified 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.

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Bus Stop Concrete Work Goes to Saladino Thu, 17 Apr 2014 23:37:08 +0000 Chronicle Staff 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: [link]

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Ann Arbor Skatepark Construction OK’d Tue, 16 Jul 2013 03:50:26 +0000 Chronicle Staff The Ann Arbor city council has given the final approval necessary for the creation of a skatepark in the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park, on the west side of the city. That approval took the form of a unanimous vote on a $1,031,592 contract with Krull Construction.

Ann Arbor skatepark, Wally Hollyday, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, Veterans Memorial Park, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

This conceptual design by Wally Hollyday for the Ann Arbor skatepark at the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park was approved by the city council on Jan. 7, 2013.

Construction could start in early August, with completion of the concrete portion of the skatepark by this November – weather permitting.

The council’s action was taken at its July 15, 2013 meeting. The park advisory commission had voted earlier, on June 8, 2013, to recommend award of the contract.

The originally approved budget for the project was $800,000 – though the expectation was that the project would cost about $1 million. The total budget now – including the construction contract, 10% contingency and $89,560 design contract – is $1,224,311, or $424,311 higher than the originally budgeted $800,000. Funds to pay for the skatepark include a $400,000 grant from the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, $300,000 from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Trust Fund, and $100,00 raised by the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, which paid for the skatepark’s design.

The city identified funds from a variety of sources to make up the gap.

  • $110,463 from uncommitted funds available in the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage fund balance. The amount reflects a $45,000 decrease in the amount the city will contribute, because the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark recently learned that they will receive a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. Of that, $5,000 will go into the maintenance endowment.
  • $80,000 from the city’s stormwater capital budget for rain gardens, to be repaid as a loan to the state revolving fund (SRF). The city expects a 50% loan forgiveness on this amount.
  • $32,356 from the FY 2014 parks memorial and contributions fund (the Feldman Trust) for landscaping plantings.
  • $30,356 from the FY 2014 parks maintenance and capital improvements millage.
  • $22,977 from the FY 2014 parks and recreation services general fund operating budget – from the “parks fairness” funds resulting from other budget amendments made by the council.

In addition, up to $103,159 in uncommitted funds are available in the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage fund balance to cover a 10% construction contingency. Any unspent portion of this amount will be returned to the fund balance.

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

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Council OKs Annual Contracts: SPARK, Lobbyist Tue, 18 Jun 2013 04:56:55 +0000 Chronicle Staff The Ann Arbor city council approved two annual contracts for services at its June 17, 2013 meeting. One was a $48,000 contract with Governmental Consultant Services Inc. (GCSI) for lobbying services with the state legislature. The council also approved a $75,000 contract with Ann Arbor SPARK for business support services.

The two items appeared on the council’s consent agenda and were approved as a part of it. Items on the consent agenda are considered routine, and include contracts for less than $100,000.

The contact with the economic development agency Ann Arbor SPARK is one that has been renewed annually since the Washtenaw Development Council and Ann Arbor SPARK merged in 2006. Previously, Ann Arbor had contracted with the WDC for the business support services for which it now contracts with SPARK. On June 20, 2005, the city council authorized that one-year contract with WDC for $40,000. The resolution authorizing the $75,000 contract with SPARK again this year describes the organization’s focus as “building our innovation-focused community through continual proactive support of entrepreneurs, regional businesses, university tech transfer offices, and networking organizations.”

Ann Arbor SPARK is also the contractor hired by the city’s local development finance authority (LDFA), to operate a business accelerator for the city’s SmartZone, one of 11 such districts established in the early 2000s by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC). The SmartZone is funded by a tax increment finance (TIF) mechanism, for a TIF district consisting of the union of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority districts.

Revenue is generated only in Ann Arbor’s district, and the LDFA is a component unit of the city’s budget. In the FY 2014 budget, the LDFA is expected to receive $1,655,647 in revenue. The specific taxes on which the increment since 2002 is captured are the school operating and state education taxes, which would otherwise be sent to the state and then redistributed back to local school districts.

GCSI’s Kirk Profit, a former member of the state House of Representatives, typically makes an annual presentation to the council with an update on state-level legislative issues relevant to the city’s budget situation. Written updates to councilmembers on legislative activity are sent on a weekly or daily basis.

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

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AAPS Board Briefed on Paving Contracts Thu, 25 Apr 2013 21:51:01 +0000 Chronicle Staff At the April 24, 2013 meeting of Ann Arbor Public Schools board, trustees were briefed on bid recommendations for contractors to perform the 2013 summer paving projects. The first briefing was presented by Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties.

Trent had interviewed the lowest qualified bidders: Best Asphalt from Romulus, Barrett Paving of Ypsilanti, and Quality Asphalt of Howell. After the district conducted due diligence, Barrett Paving withdrew its bid.

Contract awards are recommended for Best Asphalt at $377,535 and Quality Asphalt at $60,208 to perform the paving projects. Trent noted that Best Asphalt previously has done paving projects for the district, and Quality Asphalt has tried to get projects with the district in the past. The projects are funded through the district’s 2010 sinking fund.

The schools receiving parking lot or sport court paving this summer are: Allen Elementary, Ann Arbor Preschool and Family Center, Ann Arbor Tech High, Bryant Elementary, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, Dicken Elementary, Forsythe Middle, Haisley Elementary, Huron High, Northside Elementary, Scarlett Middle, Slauson Middle, Tappan Middle, and Wines Elementary.

The board of education will be asked to approve the bids after a second briefing at its next regular meeting.

This brief was filed the day following the April 24, 2013 AAPS board meeting. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link]

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Coke to Replace Pepsi in Ann Arbor Parks Tue, 16 Apr 2013 20:35:02 +0000 Chronicle Staff Coke will be replacing Pepsi at the city’s parks facilities, if the city council acts on a recommendation by the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. At their April 16, 2013 meeting, park commissioners unanimously recommended approval of a five-year contract with Coca-Cola Refreshments for cold beverage concessions.

A 10-year contract with Pepsi Bottling Group of Michigan is set to expire in June of 2013. In vying for the new contract, only two companies responded to a request for proposals (RFP). According to a staff memo, the other bidder was disqualified after failing to meet the bid deadline. The memo did not name that company, but deputy parks and recreation manager Jeff Straw told commissioners that Pepsi had missed the deadline.

The new contract will cost the city an estimated $25,000 annually for non-vending items, but the city expects to generate $47,500 in revenues from the beverage sales. In addition, Coca-Cola Refreshments will provide an annual sponsorship fee of $10,000 to the parks and recreation unit, and give a 96-cents-per-case rebate on each case that’s sold. These funds will be used to provide scholarships to low-income kids for parks and recreation programs. The case rebate is estimated to bring in $700 to $1,000 each year for scholarships, according to Straw.

The company also will provide 50 cases of free product each year for public special events, and will sponsor four special events annually with product sampling and free giveaways. The firm also will provide recycling containers with credit for returnables.

Concessions and vending are located at Leslie Park Golf Course, Huron Hills Golf Course, Veterans Memorial Park, Buhr Park Pool and Ice Rink, Fuller Park Pool, Mack Indoor Pool, Gallup Park Canoe Livery and Argo Canoe Livery.

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

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

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Parks Group Explores New Dog Park Site Fri, 01 Mar 2013 14:35:34 +0000 Mary Morgan Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (Feb. 26, 2013): An item generating the most discussion at this month’s PAC meeting related to two potential locations for a new fenced-in dog park: about 2 acres in and near South Maple Park, on the city’s west side off of West Liberty; and a roughly 1-acre section of West Park, on a knoll in the south-central area.

West Park, dog park, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial map showing a possible location – the purple trapezoid outline – for a dog park in West Park. The image is oriented with south at the top. North Seventh Street runs on the right side of this image, on the west side of the park. (Map by city staff, included in the park advisory commission’s meeting packet.)

No action was taken, and a PAC committee will continue to evaluate these options with parks staff before making a formal recommendation to the full commission. The previously recommended site – at a different location within West Park, near the parking lot off Chapin Street – was ultimately not presented to the city council, following protests from the nearby New Hope Baptist Church.

Another PAC committee, focused on developing recommendations for a possible downtown park, gave only a brief update. Its next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5. However, commissioners heard from four people during public commentary who advocated for a new park atop the city’s Library Lane underground parking structure on South Fifth Avenue. Part of the commentary covered a proposal to build a temporary ice-skating rink on that site.

Commissioners also recommended approval of several contracts totaling over $180,000. The contracts cover landscaping work at multiple locations, golf cart leases, custodial work at Cobblestone Farm, renovations at Esch Park, and rental of an overflow parking lot for the Argo canoe livery. The landscaping work is being funded through a donation from the Henrietta Feldman Trust.

And in his monthly report, parks and recreation manager Colin Smith informed commissioners about a strategy the city is pursuing to deal with invasive aquatic plants – primarily Eurasian watermilfoil – at Geddes Pond.

New Dog Park

A report from PAC’s dog park committee turned into an extensive discussion on the topic. By way of brief background, at PAC’s Dec. 18, 2012 meeting, commissioners had recommended locating a new dog park in West Park, in a spot across from New Hope Baptist Church. But because of concerns raised by church members, the recommendation was never put on the city council agenda and that location – by the parking lot off of Chapin Street – was abandoned earlier this year, when it was removed from the city council’s Jan. 22, 2013 agenda.

So the dog park committee – Ingrid Ault, Missy Stults and Karen Levin – met again with park planner Amy Kuras. They visited and evaluated three sites that had been among the top five locations previously identified as suitable for a possible new dog park. The goal is to find a location more centrally located than the city’s two legal off-leash dog parks in Ann Arbor, at Olson Park and Swift Run – on the far north and south sides of the city.

The locations visited by the committee were:

  • A different part of West Park, on a roughly 1-acre knoll in the south-central area.
  • About 2 acres in and near South Maple Park, on the city’s west side off of West Liberty.
  • Just under an acre at city-owned land at the northwest corner of Crest and Bemidiji.

Each of these sites had been on the short list of locations that were previously considered for a dog park. Committee members had evaluated the three sites, scoring each site based on location, size, shade, parking, water access, neighborhood buffer, surface grading (minimal slopes), and potential conflicts with other uses on the site. The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5, from best to worst. [.pdf of scoring and maps for the potential dog park locations]

At PAC’s Feb. 26 meeting, Kuras told commissioners that subsequent conversations with city staff have eliminated the Crest/Bemidiji site from consideration. It’s a former landfill, and for that and other reasons, the city’s utilities department – which is responsible for the site – did not support using it as a dog park.

The utilities department also has plans for the South Maple site, where a water tower might be built at some point, Kuras reported. But city staff felt that a dog park could co-exist with a water tower, so that site remains a possibility. The positives are that it’s a large area well-buffered from neighbors, and is in an underserved part of town. However, there isn’t much parking available there, and that’s an issue that would need to be addressed, Kuras said.

Ingrid Ault, Colin Smith, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ingrid Ault, PAC’s vice chair, led the Feb. 26 meeting in the absence of chair Julie Grand, who was on jury duty. Ault reviewed the agenda with parks and recreation manager Colin Smith before the meeting began.

The West Park spot is more centrally located to the downtown, and in a part of the park that is near to only one home – although it would be somewhat near the back yards of houses along North Seventh Street.

Neither of the sites have lighting nearby. That was an advantage of the previously identified site at West Park, where the nearby parking lot provided ambient lighting.

PAC talked about how to proceed, with the committee planning to meet again to make a recommendation to the full commission. There would also need to be public meetings with neighbors and a revised budget, because the sites being considered now are larger than the previous half-acre lot off of Chapin.

Tim Doyle encouraged staff to conduct a survey of current dog park users, to get feedback about existing parks that might be useful in creating a new one.

Christopher Taylor wondered how the site at West Park is currently being used. Kuras replied that the uses are mostly informal –  saying it’s not a location where organized sports are programmed.

Tim Berla wondered whether the new site at West Park was too far away from parking for people to use. His observations were that people preferred to drive to the other dog parks. Kuras thought that the parking – either in the Chapin lot, or on North Seventh – was sufficiently close. She didn’t think it would be a barrier. If that’s the location chosen, the city would need to put in a path to reach the dog park, she said. Graydon Krapohl noted that it’s in more of a residential area than the other two dog parks, so people might be more likely to walk there.

Berla also questioned whether PAC needed to get a broader perspective, perhaps by looking at a larger number of possible sites and identifying how many total dog parks the city should have. Colin Smith noted that this effort is following up on a goal in the city’s parks and recreation open space (PROS) plan – which PAC approved – that identified the need for a centrally located dog park. It’s not clear how to answer the question of how many dog parks the city should have, Smith said.

Commissioners discussed concerns that neighbors might raise about being close to a dog park. Doyle suggested that PAC consider finding a location away from residential areas, perhaps near a highway so that traffic noise would drown out noise from the dog park. If the point is to add a new dog park, the city might need to give up the idea of one that’s centrally located, he said.

Christopher Taylor, Tim Doyle, Bob Galardi, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Christopher Taylor, Tim Doyle, and Bob Galardi.

Stults strongly disagreed that the idea is just to add a dog park, and she stressed the importance of the central location. For her, the South Maple location wouldn’t fit that description. She also noted that it doesn’t need to be an either/or decision. When Doyle then suggested pursuing both the South Maple and West Park locations simultaneously, Smith cautioned that the city didn’t want to move forward on anything that it didn’t have adequate funding.

Krapohl wondered what the costs would be, other than the initial start-up expenses. Jeff Straw, the city’s deputy parks and rec manager, reported that the Swift Run dog park, which is operated in partnership with the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, had $25,000 in expenses for calendar year 2012. Those costs include mowing, trash removal and general maintenance. Straw noted that Swift Run is fairly large – about 10 acres – which makes a difference in expenses.

Alan Jackson pointed out that mowing already occurs at the West Park location, so he wondered if there would be any additional increase in expenses by adding the dog park. Parks staff indicated that some efficiencies would be seen because mowing and trash pickup already occur at West Park. Smith again noted that a budget would need to be developed, depending on the location identified.

Public Commentary: Library Lane Park

Four people spoke during public commentary at PAC’s Feb. 26 meeting, all of them advocating for a park on the top of the Library Lane underground parking structure. The South Fifth Avenue site is owned by the city, adjacent to the downtown Ann Arbor District Library building and across from the Blake Transit Center.

Aaron Hammer told commissioners he lives in Ward 5 and has a background in landscape architecture. He focused his remarks on the load-bearing capacity for part of the Library Lane area – the part of the site that does not include footings for a large building. He was attempting to show how much soil and plant material could be supported on the site. Information provided as part of the city’s previous request for proposals (RFP) for that site indicated that it can accommodate 18 inches of soil, Hammer said, and that accommodating an additional 18 inches of soil beyond that would require further analysis. Average soil weights are between 75-100 pounds per cubic foot, he said, so a cubic yard of topsoil will cover 100 square feet with a depth of 3 inches. That translates roughly to between 19-25 pounds per square foot. So the structure can support about 150 pounds per square foot – the weight for 18 inches of soil.

Mary Hathaway, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Mary Hathaway addressed the Ann Arbor park advisory commission at their Feb. 26 meeting to advocate for a park on top of the Library Lane underground parking structure.

Factoring in the weight of crushed gravel and stone that’s already on the site, it would be possible to remove the surface parking and replace it with plantings and trees with shallow root systems, Hammer contended. He thought that more questions could be asked about the information in the RFP as well as the construction documents, which show the site in more detail. In addition to being a great green outdoor common space, it could be a live, environmentally-respecting, useable green roof, he concluded.

Mary Hathaway said she was speaking as a member of the Library Green Conservancy and as a former chair of the Ann Arbor historic district commission. She was there to address what she described as two fallacies put forward by opponents of a park on top of the Library Lane structure. Opponents say that the site isn’t suitable for a park because the existing structures wouldn’t face the park, she said. The second fallacy is that new construction would be forbidden under historic district ordinances. “Both of these arguments are false,” she said. There’s nothing in the law that would prevent existing buildings from opening their rear facades to face a new park, Hathaway said. New entries, porches, balconies and decks could seize this opportunity, she added, and would bring the buildings enhanced value.

Also, the historic districts on the block would not prevent new development from occurring, Hathaway said. She showed a drawing that indicated the location of buildings that are part of historic districts – five houses on South Division; a carriage house on East William; three houses on East Liberty, west of Seva restaurant; and three buildings on South Fifth, including those that house Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar.

These houses can’t be demolished, she said, but changes are allowed in the rear. Not part of an historic district are the Ann Arbor District library building on South Fifth; the University of Michigan Credit Union building on East William; and the Michigan Square building on East Liberty, next to Liberty Plaza. The Denali condos and the Seva restaurant building on East Liberty are technically within an historic district, she noted, but are classified as “non-contributing” structures and as such could be demolished or replaced.

Hathaway mentioned the “proximity principle,” which predicts increased value of land near public parks. A park at the Library Lane location would encourage redevelopment of properties that aren’t protected by an historic district, she said. The conservancy hopes that a new park and redevelopment of that area would create a vibrant setting for downtown.

Odile Hugenot Haber told commissioners that she’s French, and in Paris there are many parks where you can sit on a bench and meet older people who live in your neighborhood, watch children play, see people walking their dogs – there is social life going on. In Ann Arbor, many people work all day in front of a computer, she said, so it’s nice to walk downtown and have some place to meet your friends. She said she couldn’t think of a better place for that to happen than next to the library. You could check out or return your books, meet a friend in an area where there’s grass and a waterfall, she said, with maybe a concrete ping pong table or place for people to play chess. It would be an interactive urban park.

This kind of thing is happening in other cities, she noted. “I don’t know why Ann Arbor is so stuck in the ’50s.” People want to destroy old buildings and just put in more parking. The city wants to attract people to live downtown, she noted, but why would people want to do that if there’s no place to walk around and see green space? A lot of people she knows would like to see a playground next to the library – there’s a big demand for it, she said. “Why not go for it?”

Alan Haber, Library Lane, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Alan Haber distributes material about a proposed skating rink on top of the Library Lane parking structure.

Alan Haber spoke next, focusing his comments on a proposal for an ice-skating rink on top of the Library Lane structure, using artificial ice. The site won’t be developed for quite a while, he said, so in the short-term there could be a skating rink there. It would be a way to indicate how people like using that space. Haber said that people have already pledged money toward this project, and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has been asked to make a contribution too. The Library Green Conservancy is also making this proposal to the city council, he said. [.pdf of handout given to PAC on skating rink proposal]

Skating is a lot of fun, he said, and even people who don’t skate have expressed enthusiasm for it. He called it “public art in motion.” The project is a good idea, and he hoped PAC could make a statement as a body or individually to the city council, urging them to give it a try for just two months. It could even continue into the summer, because artificial ice doesn’t require freezing, he said. Or the ice could come off and the platform underneath could be used as a dance floor.

As commissioners look at the issue of where a downtown park should be, he said, this would be a great project to support on an interim basis and would generate a lot of community involvement.

Downtown Parks

Commissioners did not discuss the public commentary on the proposed park atop the Library Lane parking structure. However, there was a brief update regarding work of a subcommittee that’s developing recommendations on the need for downtown parks. [For background, see Chronicle coverage: "Committee Begins Research on Downtown Parks."]

The next subcommittee meeting is set for Tuesday, March 5 at 4 p.m. in the council workroom at city hall. The meeting of PAC’s land acquisition committee, which typically meets at that time, has been canceled. Parks and recreation manager Colin Smith reported that after March 5, the subcommittee will be meeting every two weeks, and will begin posting information about its work online.

Subcommittee members include Ingrid Ault, who is serving as the subcommittee chair, PAC chair Julie Grand, Alan Jackson, and Karen Levin. However, any park commissioner can participate. The meetings are also open to the public.

Landscaping Contract

A contract to do plantings and other landscaping work at several parks in Ann Arbor was on PAC’s agenda for review. The $53,248 contract with Terra Firma Inc. would be for plantings at Cobblestone Farm, Gallup Park Livery, Huron Hills Golf Course Club House, Leslie Park Golf Course entrance, and the Veterans Park Pool and Ice Arena entrance.

The work would be funded through a $112,442 donation from the Henrietta Feldman Trust. Terra Firm submitted the lowest of two qualified bids, coming in under a $103,695 bid from Crimboli Nursery Inc. The contract with Terra Firm will include a 10% contingency of $5,325, bringing the project total to $58,573.

The contract will include maintenance for two planting seasons, including watering, weeding, and replacing dead plants. It will also cover maintenance of plantings made in the fall of 2012 by volunteers at Bryant Community Center, Northside Community Center, the Ann Arbor Senior Center, Fuller Park and Buhr Park Pool and Ice Arena. Those plantings were also funded by the Feldman Trust, which also paid for work to design all of these plantings. That work was done by InSite Design Studio, an Ann Arbor landscape architecture firm. [.pdf of InSite designs for park plantings]

Buhr Park, landscaping, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, InSite Design Studio, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Diagram of proposed landscaping at Buhr Park, designed by InSite Design Studio of Ann Arbor.

Amy Kuras, the city’s park planner, gave a presentation to PAC about the proposed work, including before and after photos of plantings that volunteers have already done. She noted that the Ann Arbor Rotary paid for plantings at three of the sites.

Parks and recreation manager Colin Smith said it’s important to note that there are people in the community who support the parks system – this landscaping project is an example of that. He also cited the previous donation made for improvements at South University Park. [Leslie and Michael Morris made that donation in 2011. See Chronicle coverage: "Couple Gives $50,000 for Ann Arbor Park."]

Smith told commissioners that these efforts make a big difference in the appearance of the parks, which over the years have been affected by budget cuts. He pointed out that several years ago, the city employed a horticulturalist – but that position had been cut. So to have a funding source like the Feldman Trust is really outstanding, he said, and will make the parks look better and more colorful.

Landscaping Contract: Commission Discussion

Missy Stults asked whether the plantings would be robust enough for this climate, and whether they would be native plantings. Kuras replied that InSite was known for its work with native species. The firm had designed the rain garden at city hall, for example. But because of soil and aesthetic considerations, the plantings will be a mix of native plants and cultivars, she said.

Ingrid Ault observed the variation in bid amounts made by Terra Firma and Crimboli Nursery. Kuras said it wasn’t clear why there was such a difference in price. She noted that when the Terra Firma representative saw the other bid, he wondered if his own bid had been too low. Sometimes firms will bid low if they want to get work for the first time with the city, Kuras said. But that’s not the case in this situation, so she didn’t know why.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to recommend awarding the landscaping contract to Terra Firma. The contract requires city council approval.

Esch Park Upgrades

Commissioners were asked to recommend approval of a $39,219 contract with D&J Contracting for improvements to the 4.5-acre Esch Park, located off Fenwick between Packard and Eisenhower Parkway on the city’s south side. The contract would include a 10% construction contingency of $3,922, bringing the total project to $43,141.

The city received 12 bids on the project, which entails repairing an asphalt walk and game court, adding pathways to the playground that will make the area compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and installing picnic tables, benches and shade trees. The bids ranged from a high of $106,904 by DRV Contractors to the lowest bid, which came from D&J Contracting.

The project would be paid for out of the fiscal 2013 park maintenance and capital improvements millage.

Park planner Amy Kuras gave a presentation on the work. She characterized it as a fairly simple project, but noted that neighbors were excited about it. [.pdf showing location and features of Esch Park]

Esch Park Upgrades: Commission Discussion

Alan Jackson said it seemed like a nice project, but he wondered what kind of public process had been involved. Kuras explained that it was a three-step process, including an initial public meeting, a questionnaire sent to residents, and a follow-up communication to residents with proposed drawings that showed the work to be done. She noted that the project had been initially spurred in response to complaints from residents about the park’s condition.

Bob Galardi pointed out the wide variance in the bids, and wondered why that had occurred. Kuras said she’d also been baffled by that, given that it’s a straightforward project. She didn’t know why the bids had come in at such different levels.

Responding to a question about her experience working with D&J, Kuras reported that she had worked with D&J on other city projects, including renovation of a bridge at Bandemer Park and work on pathways at Buhr Park.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to recommend awarding the Esch Park improvements contract to D&J Contracting. The contract requires city council approval.

Golf Cart Leases

On the agenda was a resolution to award a two-year contract for leasing golf carts at Huron Hills and Leslie Park golf courses. The contract with Pifer Inc. – for up to $40,260 – covers the leasing of 65 golf carts for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, with an option to renew for 2015.

Doug Kelly, Huron Hills, Leslie Park Golf Course, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, the Ann Arbor Chronicle

Doug Kelly, the city of Ann Arbor’s director of golf.

Part of the deal includes selling 24 city-owned golf carts to the company. That sale is a trade-in of nine-year-old carts that are no longer suitable to rent, and will be used to offset the new lease.

The city received four bids for this contract, from Club Car-Midwest Golf & Turf; Ellis Sales Inc.; Michigan Tournament Fleet; and Pifer. Club Car submitted the highest bid at $124,113 with a trade-in offer of $28,800 for a net cost of $95,313 over two years.

Pfier was the lowest responsible bidder. The lease cost of $75,600 will be offset by the trade-in valued at $35,400, for a net bid of $40,260 – or $20,130 per year.

According to a staff memo, golf cart rental at Huron Hills and Leslie Park generated about $250,000 in revenue for the city during fiscal year 2012.

Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, explained that in 2009, the city council authorized buying a fleet of golf carts that the city had been leasing. Since then, those carts have been supplemented with additional carts leased during the season, but at an amount that didn’t trigger the need for council approval. Now, the carts are too old to continue using, he said, so they’re being sold to Pifer to “retire to Florida for less intensive use.” That trade-in aspect makes this particular contract more complicated than it would normally be, he said.

He noted that the current FY 2013 budget includes a $45,000 line item for golf carts. So the good news is that there will be substantial savings, he said, because the lease is for $20,130 per year.

Golf Cart Leases: Commission Discussion

Tim Doyle asked how much a new golf cart would cost. Doug Kelly, the city’s director of golf, replied that the cost would be about $6,000.

Karen Levin asked why the city was leasing, rather than buying. Colin Smith explained that the current carts are gas-powered. Eventually, the city would like to explore moving to electric carts, but the infrastructure for that – such as charging stations – isn’t in place yet. The city’s capital improvements plan (CIP) includes the infrastructure for electric vehicles in the future, Smith said, so the staff is recommending a short-term lease until the transition from gas to electric can be made.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to recommend awarding the golf cart leasing contract to Pifer. The contract requires city council approval.

Custodial Contract at Cobblestone

Commissioners were asked to review a three-year contract with Magic Finish to provide custodial and event services at Cobblestone Farm. The contract would not exceed $44,250 annually, from fiscal year 2013 through fiscal year 2016. It would include an option to renew administratively for an additional two years at an amount not to exceed $47,200.

Tim Berla, Alan Jackson, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor park advisory commissioners Tim Berla and Alan Jackson.

Four firms bid on the contract, according to a staff memo, but two of those bidders – Kristel Cleaning and Pristine Cleaning – were disqualified. Magic Finish submitted a lower bid than H & K Janitorial Services, which had bid $47,695 for the first year and $51,280 in each of the subsequent two years.

The city-owned Cobblestone Farm, located at 2781 Packard, is used as office space for the parks and recreation customer service staff and GIVE 365 volunteer program. Event space is rented to hold public meetings and special events, including weddings.

Parks staff noted that revenue generated by the facility is growing, and reached $342,000 in 2012. Although cleaning and set-up services have been used in previous years, the amount now required has grown to the point that the contract triggered the need for city council approval.

Jeff Straw, the city’s deputy parks and rec manager, reported that Cobblestone Farm hosts about 160 events each year. This year, the facility is booked every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from April through mid-November.

Custodial Contract at Cobblestone: Commission Discussion

Tim Doyle asked whether the city provides staffing for events held at Cobblestone Farm, or if the renter brings in outside staff for services like catering. Straw replied that the city provides a staff person to oversee the building during the event, but the renter is responsible for everything else, like catering, DJ, and other amenities.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to recommend awarding the custodial contract to Magic Finish. The contract requires city council approval.

Parking for Argo Canoe Livery

A $3,000 lease to accommodate overflow parking for the Argo canoe livery was on PAC’s Feb. 26 agenda for review. The lease of a parking lot at 416 Longshore Drive – with about 40 spaces – will cover Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from May 25 to Sept. 2, 2013, with an option to renew administratively for two successive one-year periods.

City parks staff reported that the overflow parking at this lot had been used during the 2012 season, and they recommended continuing the lease. According to city records, the land is owned by the Stewardship Network.

Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, noted that even though the amount is low, the city’s charter requires that any land contract must be approved by the city council.

Parking for Argo Canoe Livery: Commission Discussion

Ingrid Ault asked how the use of this lot is monitored. Smith said that the lot owners have asked the city to put signs up to indicate when the lot is available for the public. The owners would call the city if there are any problems, he said, but so far there hadn’t been any issues.

Bob Galardi wondered if there was sufficient parking, even with this overflow lot. Jeff Straw, deputy parks and recreation manager, reported that the extra lot helps, but parking is still a challenge as the use of the canoe livery grows. He clarified for Galardi that people come to that area both to rent from the canoe livery as well as to use the public boat launch for their own canoes or kayaks.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously recommended approval of the parking lot rental. The contract requires city council approval.

Manager’s Report

Colin Smith, manager of Ann Arbor parks and recreation, gave commissioners an update on plans to deal with aquatic plants at Geddes Pond.

Colin Smith, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Colin Smith, manager of parks and recreation for the city of Ann Arbor.

Last year, city staff hired a company to harvest excess vegetation in July near the Gallup Park canoe livery. The main problem is with Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive plant that makes it difficult for people to use paddleboats or canoe on that part of the pond. In addition to the difficulty of using that area and the aesthetics, the vegetation increases the rate of sedimentation, reduces water clarity, and is perceived as unsafe.

This year, the city staff are proposing to harvest the vegetation three times, and are preparing a request for proposals (RFP) to hire a company to do the work. The parks staff is working with the city’s staff in natural areas preservation and water quality, as well as with the city’s environmental coordinator, Smith said. He referred commissioners to a staff memo with more information. [.pdf of staff memo]

Alan Jackson reported that he’d talked with Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Natural Resources Center in Ann Arbor. Buchsbaum had expressed skepticism about this approach, Jackson said, and had hoped that the city would pursue other alternatives.

Smith responded, saying that the city staff who’ve looked at this have a wide range of expertise and had explored a variety of options. They had also consulted with Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council. Approaches like dredging would require getting state permits and would be quite costly, he said, although that might be something to consider in the future. Smith also noted that the harvesting approach is used by other park systems, including the Huron-Clinton Metroparks.

Manager’s Report: Budget, Conference

Smith also reported that the budget process for fiscal year 2014 is underway, and for the first time in years, no budget reductions are proposed, he said. The outlook for fiscal 2015 is less clear, he added, but still encouraging. [The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.]

Smith will meet with PAC’s finance committee – Tim Doyle and Bob Galardi – then bring the budget for parks and recreation to PAC’s April meeting for review and a recommendation to the city council. The council will vote on the entire city budget in May.

Smith also reported that he’d be attending the Michigan Recreation & Parks Association conference in Lansing later in the week, along with some of the other city parks staff. Gayle Hurn, the city’s outreach coordinator for the Give 365 program, will be making a presentation at the conference about outreach efforts, he said.

Present: Ingrid Ault, Tim Berla, Tim Doyle, Bob Galardi, Alan Jackson, Graydon Krapohl, Karen Levin, Missy Stults and councilmembers Mike Anglin and Christopher Taylor (ex-officio). Also Colin Smith, city parks and recreation manager.

Absent: Julie Grand.

Next meeting: PAC’s meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 begins at 4 p.m. in the city hall second-floor council chambers, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor. [Check Chronicle event listing to confirm date]

The Chronicle survives in part through regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. If you’re already helping The Chronicle with some financial green, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

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AATA OKs RideGuide Print Contract Fri, 22 Feb 2013 01:17:24 +0000 Chronicle Staff The RideGuide – an 84-page publication with bus route maps and schedule information for all Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus routes – will continue to be printed by Grand River Printing/American Litho from Belleville, Mich. A one-year contract for $84,000 for printing and shipping was approved by the AATA board at its Feb. 21, 2013 meeting. The contract can be renewed in one-year extensions up to five years.

The AATA updates its schedule and prints new RideGuides three times a year – in January, April, and August. The cost charged by Grand River works out to about $27,600 per printing. And the staff memo accompanying the resolution indicates that the price bid by Grand River is about $0.36 per booklet. That works out to about 76,600 RideGuides per printing.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]

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City Council Acts on Wind Power, Park Items Sun, 13 Jan 2013 17:01:23 +0000 Dave Askins Ann Arbor city council meeting (Jan. 7, 2013): Most of the council’s first regular meeting of the year was taken up with discussion of a U.S. Department of Energy grant of nearly $1 million for construction of two wind turbines, likely to be constructed on Ann Arbor Public Schools property.

This apple on a city council desk reflects the fact that part of the meeting was devoted to core priorities.

This apple on a councilmember’s desk could reflect the fact that part of the meeting was devoted to core priorities. (Photo by the writer.)

Councilmembers established a concern about the possible financial risks associated with the project, and a desire that public input be solicited on the ultimate decision for a site. But the vote was unanimous to accept the grant, which includes an obligation to provide roughly $480,000 in matching funds. That match is expected to be provided by Wind Products Inc., a company located in Brooklyn, New York.

At a meeting of the city’s energy commission held the following night, commissioners expressed their dissatisfaction that the proposal had not been brought to that body for review.

Some of the council’s deliberations on the wind turbines included the question of whether the effort was consistent with the council’s priorities for the next two years – ones that were formally adopted at the Jan. 7 meeting. The priorities, which had been identified in a Dec. 10 planning session, included the basic areas of: fiscal responsibility, public safety, infrastructure, economic development and affordable housing.

The council had three parks-related voting items on its agenda, neither of which prompted extended deliberations. One was approval of a design for the new skatepark in the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park, which is expected to start construction in the spring and be completed in the fall. A second voting item was the approval of another contract with the Conservation Fund, which helps manage operations for the city’s greenbelt and parkland acquisition programs.

A third parks-related voting item was authorization of a contract to replace roofs on two buildings at Cobblestone Farm.

Another agenda item – related to parks, but not requiring a vote – was a presentation from the council-appointed task force that’s been asked to make recommendations for a future vision of the North Main Street corridor, extending to the Huron River, including the MichCon property. They focused their presentation on the 721 N. Main property, for which the council had authorized two grant applications at its Dec. 17, 2012 meeting. The group has a summer 2013 deadline to make recommendations for the whole area.

Also on the topic of parks, the council heard from representatives of New Hope Baptist Church during public commentary, regarding a planned new dog park. Members of the congregation oppose the location of the dog park inside West Park, because it’s immediately adjacent to the church on Chapin Street. Also during public commentary, the council again heard calls for the top of the Library Lane parking garage to be designated as a park.

Some other items on the agenda could be grouped under land use and planning. The council gave approval to changes to the site plan for Packard Square, a proposed redevelopment of the former Georgetown Mall. The council had postponed the item from its Dec. 3, 2012 agenda.

And the council gave initial approval to a zoning request in connection with the proposed Summit Townhomes project site, just east of Stone School Road. The land was recently annexed into the city from Pittsfield Township.

Also as a result of council action, Ann Arbor residents could have some additional flexibility for parking cars on their front lawns – beyond just the occasions of University of Michigan football games.

In other business, the council approved the appointment of Carrie Leahy to the board of the local development finance authority (LDFA). The LDFA is a tax-increment finance (TIF)-funded entity that comprises the geographic area of the city of Ann Arbor’s downtown development authority, as well as the city of Ypsilanti’s DDA.

Other public commentary heard at the meeting included remarks opposing continued investment in companies that provide military hardware to Israel.

One hour immediately preceding the regular meeting was a special session of the council. Its agenda consisted only of a closed session, to discuss labor negotiations – which is an allowable topic for a closed session under the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Wind Turbine Grant

The council was asked to consider acceptance of a nearly $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that will fund part of the construction of two wind turbines. The turbines are intended to generate electricity for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. The project requires construction in or near the city of Ann Arbor sometime in the next year and a half.

The city is obligated to provide an additional $484,390 in matching funds on the $951,500 grant – which it expects to achieve through partnership with a third-party developer, who was not named in the council’s resolution. However, city staff responded to councilmember questions before the meeting by indicating it was Wind Products Inc., out of Brooklyn, N.Y. that is expected to make the investment.

The city’s plan is to make a $18,590 contribution of in-kind staff time, not paying any cash.

The plan is to locate the wind turbines on AAPS property, and that the third-party developer will construct the turbines. The developer would then provide AAPS with a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) – which would give the AAPS some guaranteed minimum of power at less than the current market rate. The recipient of any renewable energy credits (RECs) from the installation would be the city of Ann Arbor.

AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis responded to an emailed query from The Chronicle describing the possibility that the site of the installation could be Pioneer High School, with the height of the turbines approximating that of two cell towers already located on the property. Margolis indicated that before any decision is made to locate wind turbines on the school’s property, the school district would solicit comments from residents who live near the site. The city council deliberations indicated little enthusiasm for locating the turbines near residential neighborhoods or very near a school building.

In the state of Michigan, Ann Arbor has poor to marginal potential for wind energy generation, compared with areas in the rest of the state – according to data maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy. However, the goal of the Ann Arbor project is focused on the educational benefit – as the schools integrate the project into their curricula and the public would have its awareness raised regarding renewable energy.

Wind Turbine Grant: Public Comment

During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Kai Petainen told the council that he was speaking only on his own behalf. He thanked them for their vote on the skatepark. But he told councilmembers that the wind turbine grant didn’t make sense to him, saying it doesn’t take much to see we don’t have much wind in this area. He ventured that the money would be better spent hiring him to teach children about geography, and where wind resources are distributed. He told the council that the VA hospital has a windmill on its roof that he has occasion to observe with some frequency, and he contended that it never moves.

During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Kermit Schlansker told the council he was unaware that windmills were on the agenda. He told the council they should take money if they can get it, but added that they should divert it for something else. Windmills are not new, he said, and there’s nothing spectacular about them, and there isn’t that much wind in this area, he said.

A better way to spend the money, he said, would be to invest it in an “energy farm” – which relates to food, energy, jobs for unskilled labor, factory jobs, a place to house the homeless and for recreation. He advocated for putting up an apartment building that was supported by using geothermal heat, solar, wind and biomass energy.

Wind Turbine Grant: Council Deliberations

Brian Steglitz, a utilities engineer with the city, was asked to the podium to answer questions.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) indicated that 18 months didn’t seem like a lot of time to complete the project, and the amount of staff time – with an estimated in-kind value of about $18,000 – didn’t seem like sufficient resources to complete the job.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) as she arrived at the meeting.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) as she arrived at the Jan. 7 meeting.

Steglitz explained that half the staff time is reimbursed by the grant, so the amount of staff time would actually be $36,000. He also noted that a fair amount of effort would come from non-city staff. He allowed that the timeline is aggressive but said it’s “doable.” In the scheduling of the activities that have to be completed, there are many items contingent on some previous thing occurring. For example, the environmental assessment could have an outcome that could delay the process. Preliminary conversations have been held about a possible location, he said, adding that he could not yet share details.

Lumm asked Steglitz to describe the risks to the city: What happens if costs exceed projections? He explained that under the U.S. Department of Energy process, spending isn’t authorized until certain milestones are met. As an example, he said, it’s not possible to do design work on the turbines right now. If the project doesn’t meet a milestone, then the project stops, he explained. Steglitz did not see any risk except the staff time – that is, the city could put forth $18,000 worth of staff time and not have finished wind turbines. If the project is unsuccessful, then the city would have to summarize its experience in a report, he said.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) wanted to know how big the turbines would be. Steglitz explained that they hadn’t been designed or studied yet, but estimated that they’d be about 100-150 feet tall – the height of a typical cell tower. Responding to Kailasapathy, he indicated that a turbine could be located on AAPS property.

Sally Petersen (Ward 2) expressed some confusion – about whether there’d been an RFP (request for proposals) process and how Wind Products was selected. Steglitz indicated that the city had gone out initially a year ago and had made a partnership with the University of Michigan. Originally, the university was going to provide matching funds because they were interested in doing research – but that had not worked out. So the city had looked at other financing partners. The proposal from Wind Products calls for the company to construct the turbines on the city’s behalf, and then the company would own the turbines. The city would lease the turbines for a certain period of time and pay the company for the power during that period. Wind Products was the only company that had come to the table to meet the grant requirements and the financial commitment to build the turbines.

Petersen asked Steglitz if he didn’t consider that a risk – that Wind Products would not match the DOE grant matching requirement on the city’s behalf. Steglitz explained that the city had a letter of intent with Wind Products – but it’s not a contract. It states that if the city accepts the grant, then the city and Wind Products will work together to develop the power purchase agreement – the contract. The council would eventually need to authorize that contract, he said. Petersen indicated that she thought the power purchase agreement was supposed to be between AAPS and Wind Products. Steglitz responded that the parties to that agreement had yet to been determined.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) asked what the advantage to AAPS and to the city was: Why is the city working hard to accept this grant? Steglitz said that AAPS has been trying to do some kind of wind project for a long time. A planned project at Skyline High School never came to fruition, he said. There is some financial benefit, he said, because AAPS would pay less than current market rates for the electricity that’s generated. The school district is interested in being the “face of renewable energy,” he said, and wants to incorporate the turbines into the educational program. One of the benefits to the city is that it helps meet its goals for renewable energy.

Briere noted that Ann Arbor is not a really good location to locate wind turbines, because the steady 13-14 mph winds you need don’t blow here. Why are we doing this here? she asked. Steglitz observed that the project goes back many years, and he was not involved with the grant application. He ventured that the application was likely submitted by former city energy coordinator Dave Konkle. Steglitz said the project didn’t indicate that the city thinks it has a great wind resource. It’s more about education. It’ll be a monument to renewable energy, he said.

Mayor John Hieftje drew a comparison to a previous grant the city had received from the DOE for solar energy – which had been awarded even though DOE was aware that Ann Arbor is not the sunniest spot.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated that he felt Skyline High School would be a great location. He was concerned about the siting of the facility without much community engagement. He ventured that there would not be a direct feed from the wind turbine to a school building, but Steglitz indicated that might be possible – but he would not speak on DTE’s behalf.

Steglitz described challenges associated with various sites, including zoning and municipal airport flight lines. Kunselman got additional confirmation that any contracts associated with the project would come back before the council for approval.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4)

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) asked about the size of the turbine blades. Steglitz indicated that they’d be on the order of a 30-foot radius – so 60-feet long. She expressed concern about noise. She also wondered what would happen if a blade flew off. She indicated she had some mixed feelings about it.

Lumm echoed Higgins’ sentiments about the importance of working with the community on site selection – that should be Job 1, she said. She noted that the solar array installation undertaken by UM recently involved zero community input. And the university had made zero effort to reach out to city staff, she contended, so many people were surprised when the panels appear. She said she gets angry any time she drives past it. She expressed a desire to “test the waters” on the issue of siting before going down the path of accepting the grant.

Hieftje described vibration and danger issues associated with wind turbines as minimal. He allowed that one particular wind turbine installation – at California’s Altamont Pass – was a danger to birds.

On the topic of siting, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) joked that if the idea was to consider a site where a lot of air gets pushed around, he wondered if Steglitz had considered city council chambers?

Higgins questioned whether there was clear support from the AAPS board for the project, and drew out from Steglitz that he’d been working with AAPS executive director of physical properties Randy Trent. Higgins ventured that to complete the project in 18 months, they’d need to move with “lightning speed.” Steglitz indicated he was optimistic.

Lumm said this sounded to her like a familiar path. [She was alluding to a grant the city had received from the Federal Rail Administration that required local matching funds that the city thought it had already provided – which turned out not to be the case.] She questioned whether the city should try to do everything, or instead try to prioritize. In the year she’s served on council since being elected most recently, Lumm said, it seemed like the council had spent a lot of time on transportation and the environment, not the priorities the council had discussed at a recent planning session. She looked forward to shifting her focus to those priorities.

Petersen stated, “I’m a fan of wind.” [It's unclear if the pun was intended.] She also said the city needs to focus on alternative energy in the future. As Lumm had pointed out, environmental concerns were not in the council’s top five priorities, Petersen said. She liked the educational components, but was not sure if the AAPS board was supportive. She was also worried about the short time frame.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) did not share Petersen’s concerns and said she was pretty excited about the project. The short time frame means we don’t need to wait, she said, adding: “The time is now; the time is yesterday.”

Responding to remarks by Lumm and Petersen on priorities, Briere noted that infrastructure was one of the identified priorities – which include transportation. Briere’s comment responded specifically to Lumm’s contention that the council’s focus on transportation wasn’t consistent with the five priority areas. Briere pointed out that the council had made a big effort to define infrastructure so that it included transportation. In any case, the priorities are aspirational goals for the next two years, not for the current budget cycle. She said it would be a shame to decide they don’t want to do it.

Left to right: Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Stephen Kunsleman (Ward 3)

Left to right: Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Kunselman said he would support the project, reasoning that it’s important that they move forward on something that had been started years ago. He felt like the city would hand off the siting question to the AAPS board.

Warpehoski agreed with Kunselman, saying that he was excited when he saw it on the agenda – because it meets several goals of the city. Among those goals were financial and educational goals. The best way to assure we waste staff time is to back out now, he said, adding that the finish line is in sight. Higgins said she’d support the project but wanted AAPS to have a community-involvement element to its site-selection process.

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) said the project struck him as typical of the large, forward-thinking projects that the city staff brought forward – where the city’s risk is minimized. Taylor said the fact that he didn’t understand where the turbines will be or what the community conversation will be didn’t strike him as important. The time to evaluate that is for the future, he said. If the school district’s process is lacking, the council would hear about it. And the council would have the chance to “pull the plug” at a later time.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve acceptance of the DOE grant for wind turbines.

Wind Turbine Grant: Postlude

On the following evening, on Jan 8, 2013, the city’s energy commission met and was briefed about the wind turbine project. Based on CTN coverage, which is available through Community Television Network (CTN) Video on Demand, commissioners had a negative reaction to not being included in the review process for the project. [CTN coverage begins at roughly the 0:57 minute mark]

Wayne Appleyard, who chairs the commission, stated: “Some of us wonder what we’re here for if we’re not consulted on these things.” He also pointed to the stated purpose of the commission in support of his contention that the city should have taken advantage of the technical expertise of commission members: “To oversee City policies and regulations in areas of energy efficiency concerns and make periodic public reports and recommendations to the City Council.”

By way of explanation for the omission, environmental coordinator Matt Naud, who gave the briefing, explained that the project had languished for a time, and that there’d been a staff transition – as former program manager for the Ann Arbor energy office, Andrew Brix, had left the city. But Naud allowed: “We did not keep you up to date as much as we should have.”

Mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the energy commission, seemed to discount the significance of the council’s action, expressing some skepticism that the project would even be built: “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The item’s appearance on the council’s Jan. 7 agenda was facilitated by Hieftje’s sponsorship of it. It had missed the deadline by which staff could add an item to the agenda – but a member of the council can add an item at any time.

Commissioner Cliff Williams asked some pointed questions about the RFP process that had eventually led to an exclusive letter of intent with Wind Products Inc. He was aware of some companies that had submitted bids, but that were not aware of the change in scope of the project that resulted in the selection of Wind Products, which had not bid in response to the initial RFP.

Council Priorities

On the council’s agenda was an item that called for the adoption of a consultant’s report on a Dec. 10, 2012 council planning session. Part of the report outlines priorities for the next two years identified by the council at that session, including: fiscal responsibility, public safety, infrastructure, economic development and affordable housing. [.pdf of Julia Novak's report on the Dec. 10 session]

For more detailed coverage of the problem and success statements that the council associates with each of the priority areas, see Chronicle coverage: “Council Focus: Budget, Safety, Infrastructure.” And for coverage of statements of councilmember sentiments in response to one of the planning session assignments – a 3-5 minute statement on “What I believe” – see “What They Believe: Ann Arbor City Council.”

Council deliberations consisted of remarks from Jane Lumm (Ward 2), who called the session productive. She thanked the city staff for their efforts. The time was well spent in team-building and identifying key areas of focus for the next two fiscal years, Lumm said. She reviewed the five priority areas. She supported those five areas, which she felt were aligned with the community’s priorities as well, and looked forward to acting on them in the next few months. [The council will be adopting the fiscal year 2014 city budget in May, for the 12-month period beginning on July 1, 2013.]

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to adopt the planning session report.

Ann Arbor Skatepark Design

The council was asked to consider the final design of a new Ann Arbor skatepark, to be located in the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park. The city’s park advisory commission had unanimously recommended approval of the proposed design at its Dec. 18, 2012 meeting.

Ann Arbor skatepark, Wally Hollyday, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, Veterans Memorial Park, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

The conceptual design by Wally Hollyday for the Ann Arbor skatepark at the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2013, with a goal of completing the project by the fall.

The park was designed by Wally Hollyday. In July of 2012, the Ann Arbor city council had authorized a $89,560 contract with his firm, Wally Hollyday Skateparks, for the design and construction oversight of the skatepark. City council action on the skatepark at that location dates back to a Dec. 1, 2008 approval of a memorandum of intent. [.pdf of memorandum of intent]

The roughly $1 million project – including an anticipated $100,000 endowment for ongoing maintenance – will be financed through a combination of funds. Those include private donations – primarily solicited through the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark – as well as a $300,000 state grant, and up to $400,000 in matching funds from the Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission. The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation is acting as fiduciary.

The design includes a wide variety of skateboarding features – including bowls and pools; banked, Hubba and cantilevered ledges; and slappy curbs. Landscaped areas and rain gardens are located throughout the park, which will also serve as stormwater management elements. The design includes a small stage, which could be used for skateboarding demonstrations as well as other community performances. Organizers also hope to incorporate concrete “skateable artwork” on the site.

Two residents who live near Veterans Memorial Park spoke against the location during public commentary at PAC’s Dec. 12 meeting, saying they hadn’t been informed before the site was selected. They also referred to a petition of about 20 other residents who opposed the location, including the owners of Knight’s Restaurant, which is located across from the proposed skatepark. They were concerned about noise, maintenance, safety and other issues that they felt hadn’t been adequately addressed.

Later in that PAC meeting Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, reviewed the history of the project starting in 2007, including a listing of forums with neighbors, which he described as well-attended, and public hearings at PAC and city council. He later showed The Chronicle a receipt for a mailing sent to neighbors in 2008, notifying them about the proposal in its very early stages.

Trevor Staples, chair of the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, also spoke to PAC and noted that the group would be holding a retreat later this winter to discuss their future mission, indicating that they’d be involved in ongoing support for the skatepark. Part of the MOI with the city stipulates that 10% of fundraising for the skatepark is being set aside for future maintenance.

At the council’s Jan. 7 meeting, no one spoke against the project.

Ann Arbor Skatepark Design: Council Deliberations

Although the skatepark design was on the consent agenda, it was pulled out for separate consideration by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). Taylor sits as a council representative (ex officio non-voting) to the park advisory commission, and he reported that PAC had enthusiastically recommended the skatepark design. He said he looks forward to its implementation.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) expressed his thanks to the Friend of the Ann Arbor Skatepark for their hard work. He acknowledged that there have been recent concerns expressed about the location. Although it’s been a long-term process, he allowed that not everybody “got the memo.” He lives near the space, and characterized it as currently not well used. He thought it would be a great amenity and looked forward to seeing it in his neighborhood.

Trevor Staples perused the council agenda before the meeting started.

Trevor Staples perused the council’s Jan. 7 agenda before the meeting started. He’s chair of the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, and a teacher at Burns Park Elementary School.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) said that it had been a long time coming, and called it a community effort. He noted that it had involved kids, who had come to the meetings. He said the city’s youth had stepped up and shown what’s important to them. He was happy to be there for the vote.

After some lighthearted back-and-forth between Kunselman and mayor John Hieftje about age and skateboarding, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) weighed in. She said it was very nice to see the resolution come forward. She asked some clarificational questions about some of the elements in the design – highlighting a “multi-event area.”

Trevor Staples responded to Higgins, saying that from the beginning, the skatepark has been conceived as a community gathering space. The multi-event area could be used for award presentations, or a judges’ stand for competitions, or music. He noted that the area Higgins was asking about is designed to be “completely skateable.”

Higgins expressed some concern about the adequacy of the parking at Veterans Memorial Park – if a skateboarding competition were to be held there at the same time as softball games were going on. Sumedh Bahl , the city’s community services area administrator, indicated that he could not give a precise analysis on that. Staples indicated that parks and recreation manager Colin Smith and park planner Amy Kuras had looked at the parking situation.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the skatepark design.

Conservation Fund Contract

The council was asked to approve a $156,230 contract with The Conservation Fund to manage operations for the city’s greenbelt and parkland acquisition programs. The programs are funded by a 30-year 0.5 mill open space and parkland preservation tax that voters approved in 2003. The contract is for a one-year period, with the option for two one-year renewals.

The city had issued a request for proposals (RFP) in early November, with a Nov. 28 deadline for responses. [.pdf of management RFP] Only one proposal had been received – from The Conservation Fund.

The Conservation Fund has held that contract since the greenbelt program launched. The current three-year contract ends on Jan. 15, 2013. The nonprofit is headquartered in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Ginny Trocchio is the nonprofit’s Ann Arbor staff member.

The current contract was approved by the Ann Arbor city council on Dec. 21, 2009. It authorized $119,565 in 2010, with two one-year renewal options for $113,661 in 2011 and $106,797 in 2012. The Conservation Fund also was the only bidder for that RFP.

Council deliberations on the issue were limited to a brief remark from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who is now the city council representative to the greenbelt advisory commission. Previously, the council representative had been Carsten Hohnke, who left the council in November 2012, having chosen not to seek re-election.

Taylor noted that he’d only attended one meeting of GAC so far, but said that GAC supports the contract with The Conservation Fund.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve The Conservation Fund contract.

New Roofs for Cobblestone Farm

The council was asked to approve a $109,500 contract with Renaissance Restorations Inc. – to allow replacement of roofs at Cobblestone Farm. Roofs on the event barn and on the Tincknor-Campbell House will be replaced. The bid from Renaissance was the lowest of three received for the work. The contract includes a 10% contingency, bringing the total to $120,450.

The project will be funded with proceeds from the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage.

According to a staff memo, the Tincknor-Campbell House is a cobblestone farmhouse that was built in 1844. Its existing wood shingle roof was installed in 1977 and is in serious disrepair. The proposal calls for the new roof to be made of cedar shakes, with flashing done in copper.

The event barn, built in the late 1980s, is rented out for weddings, parties, business conferences, and other events. Its existing roof is over 30 years old and is also in poor condition. Because the building is not historically significant, the proposal calls replacing the roof with a recycled plastic shingle that resembles cedar, but that is less costly and more durable.

The alternative material was approved by the city planning staff who provide support to the city’s historic district commission. The Cobblestone Farm Association has also reviewed the proposal and agreed with the recommendations. The park advisory commission voted to recommend the contract at its Dec. 18, 2012 meeting.

Outcome: Without substantive deliberations, the council voted unanimously to approve the contracts for replacement of roofs at Cobblestone Farm.

721 N. Main Presentation

Two members of the North Main and Huron River Corridor task force – David Santacroce and Darren McKinnon – gave a presentation to the council summarizing the group’s work to date.

721 N. Main recommendations

A map showing recommendations for the city-owned property at 721 N. Main St.

The group had been tasked with developing recommendations for a future vision of the North Main Street corridor, extending to the Huron River, including the MichCon property.

They focused their presentation on the 721 N. Main property, for which the council had authorized two grant applications at its Dec. 17, 2012 meeting.

The group has a summer 2013 deadline to make recommendations for the whole area. But the council had given the task force an end-of-the-year deadline for a recommendation on the 721 N. Main property – because of grant deadlines. One of the grant applications was due at the end of 2o12, while the other is due at the end of March 2013.

Recommendations were divided into the floodway portion and the non-floodway portion of the site. For the floodway portion, there was not a lot to decide – because a city council resolution from Aug. 15, 2005 calls for the floodway area of the 721 N. Main site to be included within a planned Allen Creek Greenway.

The task force is now recommending that the roughly 2.5 acre floodway portion be developed to include non-motorized paths to connect from Felch Street to North Main and West Summit streets.

Recommendations for the non-floodway portion of the site include:

  •  That, consistent with its charge, the NMVT investigate potential uses for the non-floodway portion of the site, beginning with the existing masonry buildings outside of the floodway for potential reuse. And that, in order to do so, Council shall provide City staff with sufficient resources to conduct a structural and environmental assessment of the buildings and a market analysis of the portion of the parcel outside of the floodway and provide those findings to the NMVT no later than April 30, 2013. Based on these findings and other considerations, the NMVT will provide Council with final recommendations for the future use of the non-floodway portions of the parcel with the NMVT’s final recommendations to Council which are due no later than July 31, 2013.
  • The NMVT’s initial findings with respect to the non-floodway portion of the parcel are as follows:
    (i) If the buildings are determined to be salvageable, the City should promptly pursue building renovation and occupation. Prior to any public use of the site, efforts should be made to minimize the potential for nuisance activities around the buildings;
    (ii) If any future development occurs on this portion of the site, such development should remain consistent with the residential scale and character of the neighborhood and surrounding zoning districts;
    (iii) That it is essential that development of non-floodway open space coincide with efforts to activate the floodway improvements. Such efforts should consider unique and unmet needs near downtown (e.g., a dog park/community garden/flex space/sustainability demonstration/ trailhead parking).

Santacroce indicated that some resources would be required to help determine the value of the property and whether the buildings are salvageable. For general market considerations, he’d had a conversation with Todd Poole, a land use economist who’d done work recently for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s Connecting William Street project. And because Poole wouldn’t be starting from scratch, it would cost perhaps only $5,000 to “tweak” the work he had already done.

For the physical assessment of the property and the buildings, Santacroce estimated it would take about $30,000 to do the necessary analysis.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) expressed a lack of enthusiasm for salvaging the buildings and ventured that instead of hiring Poole, perhaps some local real estate professionals could be engaged, who might be willing to do the work pro bono.

Outcome: This was not a voting item.

Packard Square

The council was asked to approve changes to the site plan of the Packard Square project, an effort to redevelop the former Georgetown Mall. The site plan – given original council approval on May 2, 2011 – calls for demolition of the existing buildings, and construction of a mixed-use development consisting of 23,858 square feet of retail, up to 230 apartment units, and structured parking.

The changes include altering the facade of the building by reducing the number of balconies by one-third, replacing some brick with Hardi-board siding, changing windows, and changing the color of the siding. The council originally postponed the matter a month ago, on Dec. 3, 2012.

Part of the council’s reluctance to give its approval in December was based on aesthetic dissatisfaction with the changes as reflected in the revised renderings. The renderings showing the changes were not given the same amount of attention to detail as the original drawings – with respect to shading to show depth, for example – which left some councilmembers to conclude that the development looked “flat” and dormitory-like. Councilmembers at the Dec. 3 meeting also gave the new color scheme an unfavorable review.

Responding to the specific request of the council to provide drawings on which they could make “apples-to-apples” comparisons, the developer of the project submitted 3D sketches for the Jan. 7 meeting. [.jpg with original color-scheme for Packard Square] [.jpg with revised color-scheme for Packard Square]

The changes to the building that the council was asked to approve were motivated by a change to the upper level residential portion of the Packard Road facade. It was moved 10 feet to the east to make it line up with the front stairwells. That also increased the footprint of the building by 4,720 square feet.

Packard Square: Council Deliberations

Margie Teall (Ward 4) led things off by asking that the developer Craig Schubiner come to the podium. She wanted to know if the new elevations were in the council’s packet. She asked for a description of changes that had been made since December, in response to the commentary at that council meeting.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) gets a closer look at rendering for Packard Square.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) gets a closer look at rendering for Packard Square.

Schubiner explained that they’d had the elevations rendered in the new colors and the old colors in the same way. He said that on the sides, it breaks up what are really long facades on the north and south. The retail “frame” would accentuate the stores in front, he said.

All the windows are six-foot windows, he noted, and there are nine-foot ceilings. If you look at the floor plans that are currently being reviewed by the city for approval, he said, the windows take up most of the wall space in every living and every bedroom. He concluded that these are the largest windows of any non-downtown, garden-style apartment complex ever built in Ann Arbor.

The retail windows had been made bigger and the corner was embellished, he said. He contrasted the new rendering with the original colors. They were a little bit more “washed-out.” The new colors would better break up the long facades, he said. But he noted that colors are, at a certain point, a matter of opinion.

Teall left her seat and examined the drawings up close.

Schubiner noted that the basic building design and footprint had not changed.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the Packard Square site plan changes.

Summit Townhomes Zoning

The council was asked to give initial approval of a request to zone a 2.95-acre site, just east of Stone School Road, as R3 (townhouse dwelling district). The property was recently annexed into the city from Pittsfield Township.

The city’s planning commission had voted to recommend the zoning at its Nov. 20, 2012 meeting.

The R3 zoning would be consistent with the intended development of the site – to be called Summit Townhomes – for which the city’s planning commission recommended for approval at its Jan. 3, 2013 meeting. The developer wants to build 24 attached residential units in four separate buildings, with each building between 80 to 160 feet in length. Each of the 24 units would have a floor area of about 1,300 square feet, and an attached one-car garage. The plan includes two surface parking areas on the east and west sides of the site, each with 12 spaces.

Summit Townhomes Zoning: Council Deliberations

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) asked for confirmation that what was before the council for its consideration was simply the zoning. City planning manager Wendy Rampson told Lumm that was right.

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) indicated he’d vote for it at first reading, but he’d heard some concerns about the type of progress and development that it represents. So he wanted to alert his colleagues to the potential that this could be an issue to be discussed when the council is asked for its final approval.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1), who represents the city council on planning commission, reported that she’d been concerned about how children will get to school in a way that won’t require them to walk down Ellsworth. They live too close for busing, but it’s awkward if there’s no internal sidewalks, she said. But she reported her understanding that the developer has committed to achieving the goal of a walkable route to school.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to give the zoning initial approval. It will need a second approval after a public hearing to be enacted.

Front-Yard Event Parking

On the council’s agenda was the second and final approval of revisions to the parking ordinance that might allow more flexibility for residents to park cars in their front yards.

The change in local law allows the city council to establish “special event dates” for temporary front open space parking. The ordinance had already allowed people to use their front yards for parking for University of Michigan football games. The ordinance change includes a provision explicitly to include “scrimmages,” which will accommodate the UM’s annual intra-squad spring football game.

The ordinance change was motivated in part by the possibility that University of Michigan football stadium events might in the future not necessarily be restricted to football games. For example, a National Hockey League game, between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, had been scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013 at Michigan Stadium. But it had been cancelled last year due to labor disputes between the NHL and its players’ association.

The city planning commission recommended approval of the change at its Nov. 7, 2012 meeting. The council had given initial approval to the change at its Dec. 17, 2012 meeting.

Front Yard Event Parking: Public Hearing

One person spoke at the required public hearing on the ordinance change – Thomas Partridge. He asked that the ordinance be withdrawn and a different one substituted that would provide for greater monetary and city council policy support for the use of existing parking lots on the outskirts of town that aren’t utilized – an allusion to AATA park-and-ride lots. We don’t need more front-yard parking in residential neighborhoods near the football stadium, he contended.

Outcome: The council voted without discussion to approve the front area parking ordinance change.

LDFA Board Appointment

The council was asked to consider the appointment of Carrie Leahy as one of six Ann Arbor representatives to the 9-member local development finance authority (LDFA) board. She replaces Theresa Carroll, whose term expired six months ago, on June 30, 2012.

The LDFA is a tax-increment finance (TIF)-funded entity that comprises the geographic area of the city of Ann Arbor’s downtown development authority, as well as the city of Ypsilanti’s DDA. The LDFA is separate and distinct from the nonprofit Ann Arbor SPARK, which operates a business accelerator under contract with the LDFA. [The Chronicle is able to offer only occasional coverage of the LDFA. From June 2012: "SmartZone Group OKs SPARK Contract."]

Leahy is an attorney with Bodman who specializes in “general corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, compliance with securities regulations, and issues involving venture capital funding.”

Other Ann Arbor representatives on the LDFA board include Richard Beedon and former city councilmember Stephen Rapundalo. Christopher Taylor is another one of the six Ann Arbor representatives, filling the slot that goes to a member of the city council. Based on the city of Ann Arbor’s Legistar online record system, former Ann Arbor representative Lisa Kurek’s term also expired on June 30, 2012. Leahy’s appointment leaves Ann Arbor two representatives short.

The city of Ypsilanti is currently represented by Vince Chmielewski and Phil Tepley. The term for the third Ypsilanti appointment, Mark Maynard, expired on June 30, 2012, according Legistar.

The council deliberations consisted of a remark from Taylor, who joked that no board could have too many lawyers who graduated in 1997 and specialize in corporate and intellectual property law. [Taylor himself shares the description he gave of Leahy.]

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to confirm Leahy’s appointment to the LDFA board.

T-Mobile Antenna

The council considered a resolution to approve a contract with T-Mobile Central LLC – as the successor in interest to Omnipoint Holdings Inc. The city had a previous agreement with Omnipoint, to place antennas on the Plymouth Road water tower. T-Mobile wanted to amend the license agreement to allow additional equipment on the site. The city will also get a bit more revenue, increasing the annual license fee amount by $1,200 to $39,686. That escalates each year by 4%. Under the previous arrangement, the fee escalated 20% every five years.

Council deliberations were relatively brief. But Jane Lumm (Ward 2) wanted confirmation that the additional equipment would not change the appearance of the water tower. And Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) wanted confirmation that the revenue from such contracts went to pay the cost of the Justice Center construction bonds. City administrator Steve Powers said that he thought Kunselman was right, but would follow up and confirm that.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the contract with T-Mobile.

Communications and Comment

Every city council agenda contains multiple slots for city councilmembers and the city administrator to give updates or make announcements about important issues that are coming before the city council. And every meeting typically includes public commentary on subjects not necessarily on the agenda.

Comm/Comm: Dog Park in West Park

Two members of New Hope Baptist Church addressed the council on a topic that had been discussed at a meeting of the park advisory commission late last year, on Dec. 18, 2012.

Left to right: Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church Roderick Green, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).

Left to right: Rodrick Green, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).

During the public commentary at the conclusion of the special session of the council – which was held before the regular council meeting – Rodrick Green introduced himself as the pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church. He noted that the dog park was not a topic on the council’s agenda, but he wanted to voice on behalf of the entire congregation their unanimous opposition to the proposed dog park. The park is supposed to be located off of Chapin Street, in the area of West Park directly across from the church. Among the concerns the congregation had were issues of safety, noise and odor. They did not think it’s a proper location for a dog park, Green said.

During public commentary at the start of the regular session, Tom Miree, a trustee with New Hope Baptist Church, told councilmembers that he wanted to give them an update on the dog park in West Park. He told them that before the holidays, members of the congregation had met with the city’s park advisory commission, and gave testimony about why the site within West Park that had been selected for the dog park wouldn’t be a good spot. He reported that commissioners had listened politely, but then passed a resolution that said, “Let’s try this for a year to see how it works out.” Miree noted that the dog park site is right across the street from the church. He described the entire area of West Park as about 24 acres, but noted that only about 0.2 acres was designated for the dog park. He described it as a small area on a parcel where a house previously stood.

Miree ventured that anyone who’s done planning work knows you need conflicting land use buffers between properties. He said everyone recognizes that having amenities is a good thing. But he wanted the city to consider the impact a dog park would have on the neighborhood – especially on young children and the ministry in the area. He also asked that they consider the worship service that’s held there, saying that the congregation wants to maintain the dignity of the worship services.

Comm/Comm: Connecting William Street

By way of background, the city council will be holding a work session on Jan. 14 to hear recommendations from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority on future redevelopment of five city-owned sites currently used for parking. The project, which eventually was named Connecting William Street (CWS), began with an April 4, 2011 city council resolution that directed the DDA to engage seek “robust public input” from experts, stakeholders and residents to develop a plan for those parcels.

Jamie Pitts introduced himself as the chief technology officer of a local startup []. The company is located in Detroit now, but he lives here in Ann Arbor, he said. He wanted to talk about the DDA’s Connecting William Street as it relates to open space. In the space next to the Ann Arbor District Library on South Fifth Avenue, the recommended plan depicts a very large building. He said he couldn’t help but notice how small the green space was that’s allocated on the parcel. There’s an opportunity to do something great, he said, so the council would be forfeiting a huge opportunity by not allocating a greater amount of area on that parcel for green space.

He encouraged councilmembers to envision the people who live downtown. If they want more people to live downtown, they need to think about amenities. People who live in urban centers need a backyard, he said. So he called for the creation of a backyard for future downtown residents.

Alan Haber commented on the CWS recommendations that the Ann Arbor DDA would be presenting to the council on Jan. 14. In many ways, Haber said, it’s an excellent report. But he felt that the DDA understood “development” as only buildings and economic development. Other kinds of development, Haber said, include human development and community development. The DDA is only seeing the economic development perspective, he said. The council needs to see the part of the equation that involves community benefit and growing a space on which something can be created together.

Haber characterized the previous Sunday night caucus discussion as making clear to him that he and a lot of others had been barking up the wrong tree. That approach had been since people wanted a park, they should approach the “parks people” [the park advisory commission]. He wanted the council to hear a citizens report, because the DDA translates everything into money terms, Haber concluded.

During communications time, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) relayed a request from Mike Anglin (Ward 5), who was absent from the meeting. He asked to include in the council’s Jan. 14 work session on CWS an opportunity to hear from citizens on their open spaces ideas.

Comm/Comm: Public Art Committee

During her communications time at the conclusion of the meeting, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reported that the city council committee created to review the public art ordinance had held a second meeting.

Councilmembers are sometimes asked by students to sign their agendas to prove attendance. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) turned the act into a kind of performance art.

Councilmembers are sometimes asked by students to sign their agendas to prove attendance. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) turned the act into a kind of performance art.

As the committee moves forward, she said, the members want to hear from the public art community, but also want to think about the best way to reach the public.

The goal is to work with the city staff to create a topic on the city’s A2 Open City Hall. [For detailed Chronicle coverage of that committee meeting, see "Council to Seek Feedback on Public Art Program."]

The committee’s next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14.

Comm/Comm: Environmental Commission

During her communications time, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) noted that a resolution to appoint Christopher Graham to serve on the city of Ann Arbor’s environmental commission would be on the council’s next meeting agenda.

Graham was initially appointed in 2006 and has served two three-year terms on the commission.

Graham is also a member of the executive committee of the Michigan Environmental Council.

Comm/Comm: Recall Snyder, Hieftje

During public commentary, Thomas Partridge introduced himself as a resident of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, and a recent candidate for the state senate and house. He stated that he was there to advance the cause of the most vulnerable. He called on the council and the public to prioritize affordable housing and countywide transportation, and to recognize that we are one community, whether we like it or not. He called for less attention on stormwater drains, and more on getting sufficient affordable housing. He called on the council to end homeless this month. He concluded by saying that mayor John Hieftje and Gov. Rick Snyder should be recalled.

Comm/Comm: Divestment from Israel

Addressing the council on the topic of divestment from Israel and Palestinian rights were Blaine Coleman and Mozhgan Savabieasfahani.

By way of background, for several years a group of people has regularly demonstrated near the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor with various anti-Israel signs. Critics of the action have described the regular demonstrations as religious harassment. Coleman has in the past stood with the group. In that context, his opening remarks can be understood as a way of responding to that criticism – by appealing to protests that have happened in the contexts of other religious institutions.

Coleman began by noting that Ann Arbor has a long history of protest against racist oppression at churches and synagogues. He showed the council a copy of the front page of a Michigan Daily from Aug. 20, 1970 that read: “Church Takeover Backs Demands for Reparations.” Another article from the Ann Arbor News, with the headline “Octogenarian Joins Fight Against Poverty,” described a sit-in at the First Presbyterian Church. [The article, from Nov. 29, 1970 also describes a court-ordered injunction against the group for disrupting church services.] Coleman described the point of the sit-ins as insisting that the country and the city keep its promises to black America.

Today, Coleman ventured, “unless you’re a racist, you will keep your promise to the Palestinian people, too. The Palestinian people are still being murdered and robbed and starved by Israel,” he said. It was human rights violations like those, Coleman said, that had led councilmember Chuck Warpehoski’s organization, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), to publicly resolve itself to work for divestment – from all companies that sell arms to Israel.

Coleman called on Warpehoski to “keep that promise” as a city councilmember. Coleman went on to describe Israel’s actions as a “starvation siege.” And he noted that the ICPJ “brags” about its fight against hunger. Coleman ventured that “unless [Warpehoski] wants to look like a racist and liar, he will keep that promise” to work to divest the city from companies selling arms to Israel.

Coleman noted that Israel was an ally of apartheid South Africa and he characterized Israel as the “last apartheid state on earth.” Federal aid that goes to Israel should instead be spent on rebuilding cities like Detroit, Coleman concluded.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani said she was very hopeful that the city can do more work on human rights and to promote children’s health – particularly the health of children in Gaza. She said she was hopeful because seven of the 11 councilmembers are women, and women, she ventured, are more sensitive to issues involving children’s health.

In addition, she said, Warpehoski has in the past stood for the human rights of Palestinians and against providing military aid to Israel. His election to the council elevated Warpehoski to another level, she said. She wanted to convince the council that it’s past time to stop the “genocide of the Palestinian people.” She criticized continued U.S. aid to Israel, which she called a “racist state.” She wanted to see the city council speak up against the acts that have been committed by Israel and that would lead to a change in policy – and money would be kept in the U.S. That money could be used to clean up neighborhoods, and get the homeless off the streets of Ann Arbor. She concluded her remarks with “Boycott Israel!”

Typically councilmembers do not respond directly to public comment, but occasionally they do. Warpehoski indicated that the public comment from Coleman reminded the council that there are “right ways and wrong ways, productive ways and unproductive ways” to promote respect understanding and coexistence. Eight or nine years ago, he said, the council had passed a resolution saying that democracy and the freedoms it engenders cannot exist without “civil discourse.” [This was a 2004 resolution that condemned the regular demonstrations near the Beth Israel Congregation.] He also pointed to council resolutions in 2008, 2010 and 2011 encouraging people to honor Religious Freedom – on Jan. 16.

One group in town that is “doing it right,” Warpehoski said, is the Interfaith Roundtable of Washtenaw County, led by George Lambrides.

In Ann Arbor, Warpehoski said, we like to assume we’ve got everything all worked out, but when a Muslim woman driving home from her job at the university hospital had a gun pulled on her and was told to “go home,” that indicates that there’s work yet to be done. Another example he gave was the idea of putting a swastika over the Star of David, or circulating literature saying that Jewish religious observances turn boys and girls into “monsters.”

Present: Jane Lumm, Margie Teall, Sabra Briere, Sumi Kailasapathy, Sally Petersen, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins, John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor, Chuck Warpehoski.

Absent: Mike Anglin.

Next regular city council meeting: Jan. 22, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor council chambers at 301 E. Huron. [Check Chronicle event listings to confirm date]

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