At their Nov. 26 meeting, the Washtenaw Community College board of trustees has unanimously voted to opt out of Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). The Washtenaw Voice, WCC’s student newspaper, posted the outcome of the vote on its website, as part of a live blog from the meeting. At stake was nearly $3 million in taxes that would have been diverted to fund road improvements along State Street over a 20-year period, if WCC had not opted out. [Source]
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Nov. 11, 2013): In a 6-1 vote, AADL trustees approved a tax-sharing agreement for Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). Nancy Kaplan cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she couldn’t support diverting dollars that taxpayers had intended for the library.
For taxing entities that participate, a portion of revenues from local taxes would be used to provide matching dollars to help secure federal funding for road improvements and other features along the State Street corridor. The CIA covers a stretch roughly between Ellsworth and Michigan Avenue.
Although other trustees indicated that they shared Kaplan’s concerns, they were persuaded to support the CIA for several different reasons. Margaret Leary said she appreciated the transparency and openness of township officials during this process. She noted that in contrast to some other TIF arrangements, the tax-sharing agreement with the CIA is clear, comprehensive and was developed in a collaborative way. [Her reference to other TIF arrangements was likely an allusion to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. See Chronicle coverage: "Library View on DDA TIF Capture: Unchanged"]
Leary also pointed out that the CIA will create a situation that could benefit the AADL, which operates a branch in Pittsfield Township. If the overall tax base increases because of improvements to the State Street corridor, she said, then tax revenues for AADL will increase too. Barbara Murphy added that the amount of AADL tax revenue that will be diverted to the CIA is relatively small – about $120,000 over 20 years – compared to some other taxing entities.
Two people addressed the board during public commentary about the CIA. Prior to the vote, Christina Lirones – a former Pittsfield Township official – urged the board to opt out. At the end of the meeting, Don Salberg said he was disappointed in the board’s decision. He had expected AADL to opt out.
In addition to Pittsfield Township and AADL, other taxing entities within the CIA are Washtenaw County, Washtenaw County parks & recreation, Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority (metroparks), Washtenaw Community College, and Saline District Library. At its Nov. 12 meeting, the Saline library board voted to opt out of the CIA. The metroparks board also decided to opt out, with a vote at its Nov. 14 morning meeting. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners and the county’s parks & recreation commission both voted in support of the CIA. WCC trustees have not yet made a decision.
Also during the Nov. 11 meeting, AADL director Josie Parker highlighted the fact that AADL had been awarded a five-star ranking by the Library Journal – the highest ranking awarded by the journal for library use in a community. AADL is the only library system in Michigan that achieved that level, and has been awarded this designation for five consecutive years. AADL is the only library in Michigan to ever achieve five stars.
And during committee reports, Nancy Kaplan noted that the communications committee has reviewed a report from Allerton-Hill Consulting. [.pdf of Allerton-Hill report] Some of the recommendations in the report include expanding the use of social media, publishing a quarterly newsletter to keep library patrons informed, and conducting a satisfaction survey to determine the priorities and public perception of the library, and to learn more about who is using the library, and why. The administration will now determine whether and how to implement the report’s recommendations.
During public commentary, Kathy Griswold urged the board to be more open and transparent, specifically by recording its meetings for broadcast.
In a 6-1 vote taken at its Nov. 11, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board voted to approve a tax-sharing agreement for Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). Trustee Nancy Kaplan cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she couldn’t support diverting dollars that taxpayers had intended for the library.
Unless the governing body of a taxing jurisdiction opts out, the CIA will capture a percentage of taxes from each public entity that collects taxes within the CIA boundaries. The new authority is expected to help fund about $30 million in improvements on State Street over 20 years, roughly between Ellsworth Road and Michigan Avenue. The intent is to create a four-lane boulevard with a median, bike …
Two different versions of a revision to Ann Arbor’s ordinance regulating TIF capture were considered by the Ann Arbor city council at its Nov. 7, 2013 meeting. One was tabled, while the other will move forward for final consideration at the city council’s Nov. 18, 2013 meeting.
The version to be considered by the council on Nov. 18 would set a cap on TIF (tax increment financing) revenue for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority that would not apply at all until FY 2017. It would result in roughly $6.1 million of TIF revenue to the DDA that year, with an estimated return of $300,000 total to the other taxing jurisdictions. The city’s portion of that would be about $180,000, distributed proportionally …
Washtenaw County government will have a portion of its taxes captured by Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA), following final approval by county commissioners at their Nov. 6, 2013 meeting. The final vote was unanimous. An initial vote had been taken on Oct. 16, 2013, over dissent by Dan Smith (R-District 2).
The resolution authorizes the county administrator to sign a tax-sharing agreement with Pittsfield Township and the State Street CIA, which is overseen by an appointed board. [.pdf of agreement] The agreement would allow the CIA to capture 50% of any county taxes levied on new development within the corridor boundaries, not to exceed $3,850,464 over a 20-year period, through 2033. The purpose is to …
Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Oct. 16, 2013): A packed agenda and extensive public commentary resulted in a meeting lasting over six hours, with the majority of discussion focused on three issues: (1) the state’s Stand Your Ground law; (2) an increase to the Act 88 tax, and questions about the legality of such a levy; and (3) the county’s participation in a Pittsfield Township corridor improvement authority for State Street.
About three dozen people spoke to the board about the Stand Your Ground resolution, which urged the state legislature to repeal that law. Although there were speakers on both sides of the issue, more than 20 voiced opposition to the resolution, including several who attended the meeting wearing sidearms.
It was after midnight when the board took a 5-to-4 vote to pass the resolution, over dissent from Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1), Dan Smith (R-District 2), Alicia Ping (R-District 3), and Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5). In support of the resolution were Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6), Andy LaBarre (D-District 7), Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) and Conan Smith (D-District 9).
The following week, David Raaflaub of Ypsilanti – a former candidate for county commissioner – filed a complaint against the board in the 22nd Circuit Court. The complaint asks the court to determine two issues: (1) what authority the board has that enables it to “draw conclusions of law,” and (2) what authority the board has to represent the county in seeking changes to state law. Dan Smith has indicated that he would bring forward a resolution to rescind the board’s Oct. 16 action, if it’s determined that the county will incur additional costs – such as fees for outside legal counsel – to defend the lawsuit.
Another major debate on Oct. 16 related to an increase in the Act 88 tax levy, which funds economic development and agriculture – including activities of Ann Arbor SPARK. The board ultimately gave initial approval to increase the tax from 0.06 mills to 0.07 mills, following a long discussion and a failed attempt by Conan Smith to increase the tax even more, to 0.09 mills. His proposal for a draft policy to guide the allocation of Act 88 funds did win support from the majority of commissioners, however.
The county’s position is that it’s authorized to collect the Act 88 millage – as well as a levy for veterans relief services – without seeking voter approval. That’s because the state legislation that enables the county to levy these taxes predates Michigan’s Headlee Amendment. During deliberations, Dan Smith raised questions about whether levying this kind of tax is constitutional. He also questions whether the language of the Act 88 statute allows the kind of general interpretation the county is using to define eligible uses of funds generated by the levy.
Dan Smith also proposed amendments for both the Act 88 and veterans relief millages in the future exempt them from capture by tax increment financing (TIF) districts or authorities in the county. Those exemptions, which were approved by the board, would apply to tax capture from a proposed State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA) in Pittsfield Township. After about 90 minutes of debate, the board gave initial approval to participate in that project, with Dan Smith casting the only dissenting vote. He had unsuccessfully proposed postponement, then floated an opt-out resolution that did not secure enough votes to pass. The board is expected to take a final vote on participating in the CIA at its Nov. 6 meeting.
In other action, the board (1) gave initial approval to a proposed brownfield redevelopment plan by the Chelsea Milling Co., makers of Jiffy Mix; (2) appointed Barb Fuller to the county road commission; (3) took an initial vote to extend the coordinated funding approach, which supports local nonprofits; and (4) authorized the annual apportionment report, with details of the 2013 taxable valuations for property in the county.
And in a vote taken after midnight, the board rejected a proposal that would have given notice to eliminate a lump-sum budgeting approach for Washtenaw County’s court system. That vote was 3-6, with support from only Dan Smith (R-District 2), Conan Smith (D-District 9) and Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1).
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 21, 2013): Expressing concerns over the possible addition of a downtown park on the city-owned Library Lot site – adjacent to the downtown library – AADL trustees discussed but took no formal action related to a recent recommendation of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission.
The idea for a new park was among several recommendations approved by the commission at its Oct. 15, 2013 meeting, to be forwarded to the city council for consideration. The AADL was specifically mentioned in the Library Lot recommendation: “In order to adequately address issues of safety and security, the Ann Arbor District Library must also be strongly represented in the planning process.”
AADL director Josie Parker stressed that neither she nor board president Prue Rosenthal had indicated that the library is in any way capable of advising the city regarding security and safety of a park. They had attended a meeting of the downtown park subcommittee, she said, and had related the library’s experiences regarding a range of security issues at the downtown building. Parker reported that so far in 2013, the library has made police requests to its downtown building on average every 3.5 days.
Trustees generally expressed caution and noted that many questions remained about whether a downtown park at that location would be viable, without adequate oversight and additional development. Parker planned to relay the board’s concerns to the park advisory commission.
Another major item of discussion at the Oct. 21 meeting related to Pittsfield Township’s proposed State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). Craig Lyon, director of utilities and municipal services for Pittsfield Township, and Dick Carlisle of Carlisle Wortman Associates were on hand to answer questions, as was CIA board member Claudia Kretschmer of Gym America. Trustees asked a range of questions, covering other financing options, the process for receiving federal funds, and the procedure for opting out of this new tax increment financing (TIF) authority.
If the board decides that AADL will opt out, a resolution would need to be passed. Taxing entities have a 60-day period in which to make an opt-out decision. That period began with an Oct. 9 public hearing held by the Pittsfield Township board, and will end in early December. The only AADL board meeting currently scheduled before then is on Nov. 11.
In its one main action item on Oct. 21, the board authorized a $40,000 adjustment to AADL’s 2013-14 budget to cover costs of repairs and testing of the downtown library roof. The adjustment transfers $40,000 from the library’s fund balance to the repair and maintenance line item. According to the most recent financial report, the library had a fund balance of $8.03 million as of Sept. 30, 2013.
During her director’s report, Parker highlighted some of the niche services that the library provides – such as hosting a Minecraft server and a recent Oculus Rift Hackathon. She said she wanted the board to think about the things that go beyond just lending books – services that are important to some but completely irrelevant to others. “The combination of it all is what makes the Ann Arbor District Library the amazing library system that we all know it is,” Parker said. “It’s the sum of all these parts, not one aspect or service.”
During committee reports, Nancy Kaplan noted that the communications committee hopes to receive a report later this month from Allerton-Hill Consulting to review. The consultants were hired earlier this year to conduct a communications audit for the library – a move that’s been criticized by some residents who believe the work is positioning AADL for another bond proposal to build a new downtown library.
For the first time in several months, no one spoke during public commentary at the board meeting.
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 16, 2013): Representatives from Pittsfield Township briefed AADL trustees about a proposed State Road corridor improvement authority (CIA) that would entail capturing a percentage of taxes from several local entities, including the Ann Arbor District Library.
Planning consultant Dick Carlisle and Craig Lyon, director of utilities and municipal services for Pittsfield Township, described the new authority and the roughly $30 million in improvements it would fund between the I-94 interchange and Michigan Avenue. The intent is to create a four-lane boulevard with a median, bike lanes and pedestrian pathway.
The library’s Pittsfield branch is located in the township, and a portion of the AADL district is included in the northern part of the proposed CIA. Under the CIA’s tax increment financing plan, 50% of the increase in taxable value would be captured over a 20-year period to fund the CIA projects. The captured taxes would otherwise go to the entities that levy those taxes. Currently, AADL receives about $8,536 in taxes from taxpayers in the proposed CIA boundaries.
In responding to questions from trustees, Carlisle alluded to ongoing controversy related to the TIF capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. He said that’s why Pittsfield Township is offering to enter into specific agreements with each taxing jurisdiction “that will carefully spell out the limitations on what will actually occur here. So this way, there is no blank check. It is very specific that what we are saying here is exactly what we are going to do.”
A two-year disagreement has persisted over the way the Ann Arbor DDA calculates its TIF capture, which includes capture of AADL taxes. For the latest Chronicle coverage on this issue, see: “Library View on DDA TIF Capture: Unchanged.”
When the Ann Arbor DDA was formed in the early 1980s, the state enabling legislation for DDAs did not allow for taxing jurisdictions to opt out of participation. However, CIA legislation includes an opt-out provision. AADL and other taxing entities will have a 60-day period to make that decision. That period is expected to begin when the Pittsfield Township board holds a public hearing about the CIA proposal on Oct. 9.
Based on questions from AADL trustees, they may be skeptical about whether participating in the CIA would be a wise move for the library.
The CIA presentation was the library board’s main agenda item on Sept. 16. The board also reviewed data for the month of August in five categories: Collections, users, visits, usage and participation. In addition, associate director Eli Neiburger presented highlights from the AADL summer game, which wrapped up last month.
During her director’s report, Josie Parker noted that AADL recently released an archive feature on the history of the Ann Arbor Garden Club. It’s part of a broader archiving effort on local history, which includes architecture, cooking, the Ann Arbor police department and several other organizations and topics. Parker said AADL staff would be pleased to talk to anyone who’s interested in archiving the history of other local organizations online.
Parker also told trustees that she’s been invited by the Journal of Library Administration to serve on its editorial board and to write a quarterly column. The journal has historically been limited to administration in academic and specialty libraries, but the new editor and review board wanted to add a public library administrator’s voice to the publication. “I’ve been invited to be that voice, and I’ve accepted,” Parker said.
Items raised during public commentary on Sept. 16 related to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the 2012 library bond campaign, as well as a plea to renovate the front entrance of the downtown library “from bunker chic to pedestrian friendly.” A topic mentioned at the AADL board’s Aug. 19, 2013 meeting was replacement of the front doors to the downtown library, and possibly undertaking broader renovations at the entrance.
Two brownfield plans – both for projects located in Ann Arbor – were given approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its July 10, 2013 meeting, following public hearings on each plan. The projects are at Packard Square (the former Georgetown Mall) and 544 Detroit St. The Ann Arbor city council had signed off on the plans at its June 17, 2013 meeting.
Since the city of Ann Arbor joined the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (WCBRA) in 2002, brownfield projects located in the city must receive approval by the county board. The state’s brownfield program offers incentives for redevelopment of property that’s contaminated, blighted or “functionally obsolete.”
The 544 Detroit St. project is seeking brownfield status so that …
The Ann Arbor city council meeting that started on Monday evening, April 15, 2013 did not end until after 3 a.m. the following day. This was due in part to a stream of about 100 citizens who took the podium for general public commentary and two significant public hearings. The three-minute allocation of time per speaker translated into about five hours of public speaking time.
Conversation amongst audience members at the meeting – as well as subsequently in the community – described the effort as a “citizens filibuster.” The result of all the commentary: Two significant items on the agenda were postponed until the council’s May 6 meeting.
One of those items was the site plan approval for 413 E. Huron. Postponement of a decision on that project was lumped in with the general motion to postpone all remaining action items on the agenda until May 6. It was not necessarily expected that the council would postpone the 413 E. Huron site plan that evening, even if it was hoped by opponents that councilmembers would put off the decision – for a third time.
But there was a reasonable expectation that another significant item would be postponed – the council’s final action on a proposed revision to the city ordinance governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. It was during the often acrimonious debate on that decision that the council ultimately opted to postpone all of its remaining action items until May 6.
The acrimony stemmed in part from the fact that the stated intention of Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) at the start of the meeting was to postpone a final decision – and that was the expected outcome. The fact that this expected outcome was called into question heightened the tension in an already emotional debate. The tension was heightened by the fact that deviation from the anticipated postponement was made possible mainly by the absence of two councilmembers – Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1).
By the time the council reached the DDA ordinance on its agenda, the hour was approaching 2 a.m. And by then Higgins and Kailasapathy had needed to leave the council meeting. Both of them had supported the ordinance changes in the 7-3 vote taken at the council’s April 1, 2013 meeting. But for the final reading on April 15, neither of them were at the table when the debate on the DDA ordinance began.
Kailasapathy described herself to The Chronicle as on the verge of physical exhaustion when she left – having had little sleep over the several days leading up to the meeting. She earns her livelihood as a certified public accountant, and tax season is a time of peak workload.
So apparently recognizing that the absence of Kailasapathy and Higgins would mean defeat for the ordinance change – if it were voted up or down, instead of being postponed – mayor John Hieftje led an effort to force an up-or-down vote on the issue. And councilmembers who were willing to put off the issue were not unified in their view about the parliamentary procedure to use to achieve that delay. So the council voted on two different options – postponing until a date certain (June 17) or tabling the issue. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) provided a crucial vote against postponement, but voted in favor of tabling.
Kunselman argued for the postponement by pointing out that because the sequence of the roll-call vote that evening allowed him to vote last, he could simply assess how the tally stood, and vote accordingly with the prevailing side. That would give him the right to bring back the vote for reconsideration at the council’s subsequent meeting. But Kunselman’s argument was not persuasive to a six-vote majority.
Without a six-vote majority in favor of either tabling or postponing, the council was left to deliberate on the actual ordinance amendments. As some attempted amendments failed – clearly due to the dynamic that had resulted from the absence of two councilmembers – Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) eventually proposed adjourning the meeting until the following Monday, when the meeting could continue. However, after a brief recess it was decided that the council would simply postpone all remaining voting items until its May 6 meeting, and put an end to the April 15 meeting.
After approving the motion to postpone the action items, councilmembers ticked through the remaining “housekeeping” items on the agenda, which largely included various reports and communications. Of those, one highlight worth noting was the nomination by Hieftje of Eric Mahler to replace David Nacht on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
The public commentary at the April 15 meeting exceeds The Chronicle’s capacity to report in its customary way. Still, some accounting of the meeting is important for the archives.
This report provides: (1) a summary of votes taken; and (2) a summary of actions that will now appear on the May 6 agenda as a result of the April 15 postponement. In addition, this report begins with details of the deliberations on the proposed DDA ordinance revisions.