Boulevard Plaza parking lot under construction, more landscaping, resurfacing. Congested for now.
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.
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.
Several parks in Ann Arbor will get plantings and other landscaping improvements this summer, if the city council acts on a recommendation by the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. At its Feb. 26, 2013 meeting, PAC recommended approving a $53,248 contract with Terra Firma Landscape 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 …
Non-conforming landscaping plans for three different projects got exemptions at the Ann Arbor planning commission’s Oct. 18, 2011 meeting.
The exemptions were prompted when the three projects requested administrative amendments – changes that can be made at the staff level – to previously approved site plans. Those projects are: (1) a 184-square-foot addition to the Gallup One Stop gas station and convenience store at 2955 Packard Road; (2) a 3,231-square-foot third-floor addition to the University of Michigan Credit Union at 340 E. Huron St. (formerly the Ann Arbor News building); and (3) reconfiguration of parking lots for a Glacier Hills planned project Life Enrichment Center addition, at 1200 Earhart Road.
The planning commission’s approval on Tuesday means that existing landscaping plans that …
Ann Arbor city council meeting (June 6, 2011, Part 1): While the largest chunk of time at the city council’s Monday meeting was devoted to consideration of ordinances regulating medical marijuana, the agenda was dense with other significant material.
For road users who head to the polls on Nov. 8, possibly the most important issue on the agenda was a brief presentation from the city’s project management manager, Homayoon Pirooz, on the city’s street repair tax, which would reach the end of its current five-year life this year, if not renewed by voters. The city council will convene a working session on June 13 to look at the issue in more detail.
Also related to infrastructure was the council’s initial action on setting rates for utilities (water, sewer, stormwater), voting unanimously to send the rate increases on to a second and final vote with a public hearing. The rate increases range from 3-4% more than customers are currently paying. All new and amended city ordinances require two votes by the council at separate meetings.
The council also approved an $800,000 agreement with the Michigan Dept. of Transportation for the initial, right-of-way portion of the East Stadium bridges replacement project. Construction on that public project is due to start later this fall.
For another public project, the council voted to add a previously budgeted $1.09 million to the construction manager contract for the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron.
In an action designed eventually to reduce employee benefits costs, the council passed a resolution – brought forward by its budget committee – that directs the city administrator to craft an ordinance revision that would alter the way non-union employee benefits are structured. What’s planned is a change from three to five years for the final average compensation (FAC) calculation, and a change from five to 10 years for vesting. In addition, retirees would receive an access-only health care benefit.
The city’s newest non-union employee is Chuck Hubbard, whose appointment as the new fire chief was approved by the city council on Monday night. Hubbard was previously assistant chief, which, unlike the chief’s job, is a union position. Hubbard has 25 years of fire protection experience, all of it in Ann Arbor.
Expected to begin construction this year – in late summer – is a private development on the First and Washington lot currently owned by the city. On that lot, Village Green is planning to build a 9-story, 99-foot-tall building featuring 156 dwelling units and a 244-space parking deck on the first two stories. After much discussion, the council approved a $100,000 reduction in the purchase price – from $3.3 million to $3.2 million – that Village Green will pay for the First and Washington parcel. The price break came in the context of water management and a decision to use a full “bathtub”-type design for the foundation. The unanimous vote came after two councilmembers had already left the meeting (which pushed nearly to midnight), but it seemed at one point to hang in the balance, with two of the remaining nine councilmembers expressing reservations. Because the resolution involved land purchase, it needed eight votes to pass.
Village Green’s project, a planned unit development (PUD) approved over two years ago, was not required to undergo the mandatory process of design review that is now part of the city’s code. The council gave final approval to that design review process on Monday night. The new ordinance sets up a seven-member design review board (DRB) to provide developers with feedback on their projects’ conformance to the design guidelines. While the DRB process is required, conformance with the recommendations of that body is voluntary.
Also receiving approval at first reading was a revision to the landscaping ordinance. Fuller Road Station also drew comment from the public and the council.
Final action on medical marijuana zoning and licensing is not expected until the council’s June 20 meeting. Council deliberations on medical marijuana will be covered in Part 2 of The Chronicle’s meeting report.
At its June 6, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to a revision to its landscaping ordinance that is intended to: (1) improve the appearance of vehicular use areas; (2) revise buffer requirements between conflicting land uses; (3) reduce negative impacts of stormwater runoff; (4) improve pedestrian movement within a development site; and (5) preserve existing significant vegetation.
Those benefits are meant to be achieved through several text amendments to the ordinance, which include: adding definitions for “bioretention” and “native or prairie plantings”; allowing the width of landscape buffers to vary; modifying requirements for interior landscape islands; prohibiting use of invasive species for required landscaping; and increasing fines for violation.
The city’s planning commission had given the ordinance change a unanimous recommendation at its March 1, 2011 meeting.
All city ordinances require a first and a second reading in front of the city council, after a public hearing, before final enactment. The landscape ordinance will need a second vote before its approval is final.
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]
The Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (March 1, 2011): Conducting its business in front of an audience that included more than a dozen Skyline High School students on a class assignment, the planning commission quickly approved revisions to a landscape and screening ordinance that have been in the works for years. They had debated the ordinance extensively at a meeting in December, when they ultimately postponed a vote and asked the staff for additional changes.
On Tuesday, the issue of screening for privacy came up as commissioners discussed a request from the Michigan Alpha Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, which had asked for a special exception use that would allow it to convert a church at 730 Tappan into a fraternity house. The building has been the home of the Memorial Christian Church, which plans to move.
Three people spoke during a public hearing on the issue, including a representative from the neighboring sorority, who raised concerns about lighting and privacy – specifically, about the fraternity having “visual access” to the sorority’s sleeping rooms, which face the current church. However, she said she supported the project overall, and commissioners unanimously voted to grant the request.
During her staff communications, Wendy Rampson – head of the city’s planning staff – noted that city administrator Roger Fraser had announced his resignation the previous evening, at a city council working session. His last day with the city will be April 29 – he’s taking a job with the state of Michigan as deputy state treasurer for local government services. Rampson said she’d alert commissioners as soon as a date is set for his farewell gathering.
Rampson also mentioned that at the city council’s March 7 meeting, they’d be voting on a resolution of support for the state’s Complete Streets policies, saying that the city had been following similar policies for decades. Later in the meeting, however, commissioner Erica Briggs expressed some disappointment that the city wasn’t taking additional steps beyond what’s set by the state. “It certainly doesn’t establish us as a leader,” Briggs said.
Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Dec. 7, 2010): Tuesday’s meeting drew no public commentary, but about a dozen University of Michigan graduate students watched the proceedings to fulfill a requirement for their “Legal Aspects of the Planning Process” class. The course, taught by urban planning professor Dick Norton, includes a final paper, which requires attendance at a public meeting. The paper is due on Thursday.
What they sat through was two hours dominated by a discussion on proposed changes to the city’s landscape ordinance, which the commission ultimately tabled. Several concerns were raised regarding required landscape buffers between multi-family dwellings and public parks or single-family homes. The ordinance would also increase the fines for violating the ordinance, from $500 to up to $2,500 – that change was not debated. Commissioners asked planning staff to revisit the draft.
During the time set aside for communications, Tony Derezinski – who also represents Ward 2 on city council – gave an update on actions at Monday night’s council meeting that touched on planning issues. Saying it was “like the corpse that would wink,” he reported that he and councilmember Sandi Smith had attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring back the Heritage Row project, a residential development on South Fifth Avenue that had been approved by the planning commission in March. Some modifications had been made to the proposal – which council has previously rejected in July – and Derezinski felt that might have persuaded enough councilmembers to support it. But before the project could be reconsidered, council needed to approve suspending their rules – and not enough councilmembers would vote to do that. “I needed one more vote,” Derezinski said, “and didn’t get it.”
Planning commissioner Wendy Woods asked whether there had been enough changes in the project to enable it to be submitted to the city as a new project. Derezinski said that was possible. However, he indicated that the developer, Alex de Parry, had already spent considerable time trying to move Heritage Row forward, and it wasn’t clear whether the financing he had lined up would allow further delays. Derezinski also noted that de Parry has another project, City Place, that’s already approved for that site – it’s possible he’ll build that instead.