Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Sept. 20, 2010): On a unanimous vote at its Monday night meeting, the council approved a ban on placement of upholstered furniture in outdoor locations, if that furniture is not designed for outdoor use.
The case for the change in the city’s code was based primarily on the fire hazard posed by outdoor couches as compared to indoor couches – increased oxygen supply outdoors, coupled with decreased ability of indoor occupants to detect outdoor fires.
The council chambers were filled with friends and family of Renden LeMasters, who died in an April 2010 fire on South State Street. Though that blaze did not start in upholstered furniture, a porch couch was analyzed by city fire officials as contributing to that fire by helping to spread flames from a waste container to the house itself.
University of Michigan students opposed certain aspects of the proposed enforcement mechanism, and after the vote reminded the council that the measure they’d enacted that evening was one part of a large piece of work yet to be done on ensuring safety of off-campus student rental housing in the city.
The council also approved the creation of a task force that will work for the next six months to identify cost-effective ways to achieve better enforcement of the city’s ordinance against panhandling, and to provide help to panhandlers who are addicted to drugs. The idea is to build on the knowledge gained from the work of a previous task force that had been formed in 2001 and continued through 2003.
Several people addressed the council in support of a resolution, added to the agenda on Monday, which reaffirmed community support for religious freedom, in the wake of increased anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence. The resolution required some modification to gain support of all councilmembers – Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) was dissatisfied with the singling out of Muslims in the language of the resolution – but in the end, it passed unanimously.
Some councilmembers made clear on Monday night that they saw the vote as a reaffirmation of the council’s previous 2004 resolution, which condemned the demonstrations against U.S. support of Israel that had then begun each Saturday outside the Beth Israel synagogue on Washtenaw Avenue – and continue to the present.
The meeting was also notable in that no action was taken to reconsider the Heritage Row project. Betsy de Parry, wife of developer Alex de Parry, attended on his behalf and expressed her disappointment that the council had not seen fit to bring back the project for reconsideration that evening, reviewing many of the same points of discussion at the previous evening’s caucus.