Ann Arbor city council meeting (Feb. 4, 2013): Two significant land use items were included in the council’s agenda, but councilmembers moved ahead on just one of them. A request to zone a recently annexed piece of property as R3 (townhouse district) prompted long deliberations by the council, and ultimately a referral of the item back to the planning commission for further review.
Dependent on the R3 zoning is Summit Townhomes – a proposed project for the 2081 E. Ellsworth Road site, located in the southern part of the city just east of Stone School Road. The townhouse project’s site plan is expected to come before the council for approval later this month. The planning commission has already recommended that the Summit Townhomes project be approved, and previously recommended the R3 zoning. The council itself had already given the zoning its initial approval at a previous meeting.
But during the public hearing about the zoning on Feb. 4, the council heard from several people who spoke against the zoning and the project, reprising many of the same objections that had been raised more than seven months ago at the June 19, 2012 meeting of the planning commission. Concerns included overcrowding and congestion in the area, and a lack of adequate city services. Also weighing in with general support for zoning that fits with the desires of residents was Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre, who represents the county district where the site is located.
Another item related to future land use was council action to authorize the distribution of the draft South State Street corridor plan to neighboring jurisdictions and other stakeholders, such as the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. After a mandated comment period, the city planning commission will have the opportunity to make revisions to the plan, before the commission and the city council make a decision to adopt it.
A major infrastructure study, with a roughly $1 million budget, was also authorized by the council – to give the city a clearer understanding of how flows behave in the sanitary sewer system, especially during rainy periods. The study is prompted by a desire to measure the impact of a footing drain disconnection program that the city has implemented for over a decade. In the last year, the program has generated strong protest from the Glen Leven neighborhood. The footing drain disconnection program was created in part to remedy the backup of raw sewage in basements during heavy rains.
The city council also authorized revisions to two existing technology agreements. One was an agreement between the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to act as a purchasing consortium. The modification to the agreement will allow other participants to be added to the consortium in a streamlined way. The second agreement was the extension of a contract with the city of Chelsea to provide various IT services.
The council put off a decision on issuing bonds to support energy improvements for its property assessed clean energy (PACE) program. The item had been added late to the agenda, and several councilmembers had questions they wanted answered before voting on it.
Although the agenda itself was light, several significant communications were included, either as written attachments or conveyed verbally. The written reports attached to the agenda included a revised auditor’s letter and a report on how the street resurfacing millage money was spent during the 2012 season.
Conveyed verbally was a report from the council’s budget committee chair, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who alerted councilmembers that on Feb. 11 and Feb. 25 the council would hold budget work sessions starting at 6 p.m., with each meeting consisting of two 2-hour sessions with a break.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), chair of the city’s taxicab board, called for enforcement of the city ordinance that is meant to prevent the operation of “rogue limousines” – in the context of a reported sexual assault of a University of Michigan student by the driver of either a taxicab or limousine.
Kunselman also called for a number of revisions to the city ordinance that establishes the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, including stricter regulations on membership of the board, but more significantly a limitation on the way the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture is calculated.