The Ann Arbor Chronicle » Washtenaw Avenue it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Medical Marijuana Rezoning Request Denied Mon, 22 Aug 2011 12:09:53 +0000 Mary Morgan Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Aug. 16, 2011): Two zoning-related requests on South State Street received mixed responses from planning commissioners, amid calls for a formal study of that corridor.

Treecity Health Collective

Treecity Health Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary on South State Street. (Photos by the writer.)

One request was the first tied to the city council’s recent approval of zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries. The operator of Treecity Health Collective, a dispensary at 1712 S. State, asked that the location be rezoned from O (office) to C1 (local business). In June 2011, the council approved amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances that prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in office zoning districts. Rather than relocate the dispensary, the operator was asking for the zoning change. The property is located on the west side of State, south of Stimson.

While expressing sympathy for the operator, commissioners recommended denying the rezoning request, noting that the master plan calls for an office district in that area. It will now be forwarded to the city council for final action.

The commission considered a separate request for nearby parcels on the opposite side of South State, where the new Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky opened about a month ago. The property – 1643 and 1645 S. State St., south of the Produce Station – is in Ann Arbor Township, and requires both annexation and zoning. The commission recommended approval of annexing the land, but postponed a decision on zoning. Biercamp owners are hoping for commercial zoning, which would allow them to expand the retail component of their business. The city’s master plan currently calls for light industrial zoning in that section.

In discussions for both Treecity and Biercamp requests, some commissioners pointed to the need for a comprehensive study of the South State Street corridor. Such a study has been planned, but earlier this year the city council voted against funding a consultant to conduct the work.

In other action, commissioners recommended annexing several Scio Township parcels that are located in a recently expanded well prohibition zone related to the Pall/Gelman Sciences 1,4 dioxane underground plume. Pall is paying for the hook-ups to city water and sewer, according to city planning staff.

Commissioners also recommended approval of a site plan at 3590 Washtenaw Ave., at the southwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Yost Boulevard. The plan calls for building a 9,500-square-foot, single-story addition to the existing 15,769-square-foot retail building that currently houses the Dollar Tree. It’s in the spot where Frank’s Nursery formerly operated, along the same stretch that’s part of the Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue project.

Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager, gave several updates to the commission. Among them, she noted that four projects previously approved by the city council are now asking for two-year extensions on their site plans: (1) The Gallery planned unit development (PUD) on North Main, at the site of the former Greek Orthodox church; (2) the 42 North residential development at Maple and Pauline; (3) the Forest Cove office building on Miller; and (4) the Mallets View office building on Eisenhower. Those requests are being reviewed by city planning staff.

During his communications from city council, Tony Derezinski, who also represents Ward 2 on council, mentioned that a final meeting for the R4C/R2A advisory committee is tentatively set for Sept. 21. He noted that the 21st is also Saint Matthew’s Feast Day, which he quipped might help the group finish up the project.

One member of that advisory committee is former planning commissioner Jean Carlberg, who received a resolution of appreciation from the commission at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting. Her term ended June 30 – she served on the commission for 16 years.

South State Annexation & Zoning – Biercamp

The planning commission was asked to consider annexation of two parcels located in Ann Arbor Township “islands” – 1643 and 1645 S. State St., south of Stimson and next to the Produce Station. The property is owned by Stefan Hofmann, but the request was spurred by a new business – Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky – that Hannah Cheadle and Walt Hansen opened at 1643 S. State about a month ago.

Biercamp building

Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky is located at 1643 S. State – the building on the left.

The parcels cover about 0.6 acres and include four non-residential buildings. In addition to Biercamp, other businesses on the property include Zak’s Auto Shop and Hofmann’s Furniture. The building at 1645 S. State is used for storage.

In the township, the site is zoned for light industrial. Hansen and Cheadle have requested that the parcels be zoned by the city for commercial use. This would allow them to expand the business – they eventually would like to sell Michigan craft beer and wine at the shop.

They have also applied to the township for a certificate of occupancy at that site, which would allow the business to be grandfathered in under zoning that permits it to sell items produced there. The city’s master plan calls for light industrial zoning in that area, but only allows for retail space to occupy 20% of the building’s floor area, to sell products made on-site.

Planning staff recommended annexing the properties, but postponing the zoning request until the issue of a certificate of occupancy is resolved with the township. Staff also recommended postponing action on a request to waive the area plan requirement for the site. A waiver is requested because no changes to the site are proposed.

South State Annexation & Rezoning – Biercamp: Public Hearing

The only speakers during a public hearing on the issue were Biercamp owners Walt Hansen and Hannah Cheadle. Cheadle noted that they’d come to the meeting straight from work: “We probably smell like smoked sausages.” She told commissioners that she and Hansen were originally from northern Michigan, but had lived in New York City for six years before moving to Ann Arbor about six months ago to open their business.

Walt Hansen and Hannah Cheadle

Walt Hansen and Hannah Cheadle, owners of Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky.

She said they felt the zoning to C3 (fringe commercial district) was appropriate, since the property is located near commercially zoned land along Stimson and South Industrial. The store is directly adjacent to the Produce Station, which is located to the north on State.

An appraisal done on the two properties included a zoning analysis, Cheadle said. The appraiser had talked to city planner Matt Kowalski, who had said C3 zoning would be appropriate in the context of other zoning in the area, she reported.

Cheadle told commissioners that during the month that the Biercamp has been open, the response from customers has been amazing. More than 300 people have already signed up to receive the store’s email, she said. Cheadle noted that one of the city’s concerns is if the parcels were zoned C3, it would be possible for other types of businesses – like drive-through fast food restaurants – to open there, if Biercamp went out of business. Biercamp is there for the long-haul, she said, but they would be limited if the land is zoned for light industrial.

Hansen added that they hope to eventually start selling Michigan beer and wine in the shop.

South State Annexation & Rezoning – Biercamp: Commissioner Discussion

Diane Giannola led off the discussion, saying she didn’t support zoning the land as C3 or C2B (business service district). She said she felt for the owners, but this would amount to spot zoning, which she said the courts have shown is illegal. Even though it’s a great business and the kind of company that the city hopes to see, the problem is what type of business might want to operate there later, she said. If the city approves this type of zoning, then owners of the parcel next to them could use the same excuse to change the zoning too – and it would just continue down State Street. The city needs to be consistent with its master plan, she said.

Further, planning staff and commissioners have talked about the need to do a comprehensive study of the South State Street corridor, Giannola noted. But the city council hadn’t approved funding of the study. To her, that action showed that councilmembers aren’t interested in rezoning the area.

There are many other places in the city where the business could operate and be successful, Giannola said. Just because the owners didn’t do their due diligence before locating there doesn’t mean the city should make an exception about the zoning and risk a lawsuit, she concluded.

Tony Derezinski said he appreciated Giannola’s heartfelt comments, but there’s another side. Sometimes an area is zoned for one purpose but it evolves to be appropriate for other uses, he said. In this case, having Biercamp located next to the Produce Station is a benefit to customers of both businesses, he said. It’s a unique parcel, he added, in part because it’s a township island. For those reasons, Derezinski didn’t think it would set a precedent for zoning, and it’s the type of business the city wants to encourage.

City planner Chris Cheng clarified that the reason for the annexation related to the need to hook up to the city’s sewer system. That has now occurred – the site had already been hooked up to city water. He noted that the township’s I-1 light industrial zoning is very similar to the city’s M-1 limited industrial zoning. The main difference is that the township would allow products made on site to be sold in 100% of the floor area. For the city, M-1 zoning only allows sales on 20% of the floor area. But if the township grants Biercamp a certificate of occupancy before annexation occurs, that would allow the city to grandfather in the business under the township’s zoning, Cheng said.

Cheng noted that the city planning staff feels that M-1 zoning is appropriate for this site.

Erica Briggs strongly supported zoning the parcels as commercial – probably C2B would be best, she said, since it would prevent drive-through businesses. If commissioners simply looked at the south area plan, then M-1 zoning would apply, she observed, but that plan is out of date. Looking at more current indicators – including environmental and sustainability goals – all point to this kind of use, she said: locally produced food, and neighborhood businesses that people can reach by biking or walking. It would be crazy not to support and nurture this, she said. If this type of business continues down State Street, she added, “I say great – all the better.”

The original plan for that area had envisioned it becoming a tech corridor, Briggs noted, but on the ground, it’s evolving into something else. She said she’d support C2B zoning for the parcels.

Kirk Westphal drew out the fact that Biercamp was operating without a certificate of occupancy from the township, and that this was somewhat unusual. He clarified with Cheng that the township’s light industrial zoning was more permissive regarding how much of the floor area could be used for retail.

Westphal confirmed this is not the first time that a zoning change has been requested in that area. Cheng reported that the property management firm McKinley had previously requested rezoning from light industrial to commercial for a property further south on State Street, where Tim Horton’s was interested in building a shop. That request had been denied.

In that case, Westphal said, it was a fairness issue – coupled with the fact that the city intends to study that entire corridor in the future. For those reasons, he was inclined to defer to the planning staff regarding their zoning recommendation for the two parcels. The commission also needs to think long-term, he said, and if ownership of the property changes hands, other businesses might open that don’t fit in that area. Westphal said he’d be in favor of doing a corridor study as soon as possible, and he hoped that Biercamp could continue to operate in that location in the meantime.

Wendy Woods, Diane Giannola

From left: Planning commissioners Wendy Woods and Diane Giannola.

Wendy Woods was curious to know what would happen if the parcels were annexed, but the zoning remained unresolved. What would it mean for the business? Wendy Rampson, head of the city’s planning staff, said that was tricky. The city doesn’t want to inherit an unresolved situation, she said, and it’s currently in the township’s hands. So far, there’s been good collaboration between the two jurisdictions, she added.

Woods said it seemed like there’s an informal agreement with the Produce Station to use parking for Biercamp customers – is that the case? No, there’s no agreement, Cheng said, although it’s true that some customers who park at the Produce Station do walk over to Biercamp’s shop.

Bonnie Bona wondered why this was coming forward now – why did the business need to connect to water and sewer now, if that hadn’t been an issue previously? Cheadle came forward and responded, saying that she and Hansen had approached the township for an analysis of the parcel’s septic system, after being told by a state health inspector that this was a requirement prior to opening their business. At that point, they were told by the township that the property needed to be hooked up to the city’s sewer system instead, because Biercamp was a new business. The property had previously been hooked up to city water.

Rampson clarified that the property owner, Stefan Hofmann, had been told in 2009 that he needed to connect to a city sewer. He had not come forward voluntarily to do that, she said, so that’s why the issue emerged when Cheadle and Hansen approached the township.

Hansen then clarified that the only reason he and Cheadle were requesting a certificate of occupancy was so that they could be grandfathered in under the township’s zoning. Cheng reported that the township is expected to issue the certificate soon, based on his conversations with township planning staff.

Bona said she hoped the certificate of occupancy would be granted, so that Biercamp could continue to operate there, rather than having them risk being annexed into a zoning category that wouldn’t permit their business. She noted that she struggled with conflicting issues. The master plan is about more than just land use – it relates to transportation, traffic and other issues. The State Street corridor has some of the most intense traffic in the city, she said, especially near Stimson, where the road narrows down from four to two lanes. All she can do, she added, is push for a corridor study so that the zoning is well-planned and not arbitrary.

Meanwhile, Bona added, she hoped that Hansen and Cheadle had a backup plan. She noted that there are a lot of commercial vacancies in the city, especially along Washtenaw Avenue. Bona also asked that a better explanation of the parking arrangement with the Produce Station be provided.

Eric Mahler asked what would happen if Biercamp doesn’t get a certificate of occupancy, and the parcels are annexed under the city’s M-1 zoning. In that case, Cheng said, Cheadle and Hansen would likely be back to the planning commission to lobby harder for C3 or C2B rezoning.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to approve recommending annexation – the request will now move forward to the city council for approval. A request to zone the properties as C3 (fringe commercial district) was postponed, as was a request to waive the site’s area plan requirement.

After the vote, Derezinski asked Cheadle and Hansen when their shop is open. The store hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Biercamp is closed on Sundays.

Treecity Health Collective Rezoning

In the first such request to the Ann Arbor planning commission following the city council’s approval of zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, the operator of Treecity Health Collective, a dispensary at 1712 S. State, asked that the location be rezoned from O (office) to C1 (local business). A waiver of the area plan requirement for that location was also requested.

Planning staff recommended denying the request, because C1 zoning is not consistent with adjacent zoning, land uses and the city’s master plan. City planner Chris Cheng told commissioners that the type of zoning requested would be considered spot zoning, and not appropriate.

The Treecity Health Collective opened in 2010. This summer, the Ann Arbor city council approved amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances that prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in office zoning districts – those changes are set to take effect on Aug. 22, 2011. Rather than relocate the dispensary, the business owner – Dori Edwards – is asking for the zoning change. The property is located on the west side of State, south of Stimson, and is owned by Francis Clark.

Treecity Health Collective Rezoning: Public Hearing

Dori Edwards was the only person to speak during the public hearing on these requests. Treecity is a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary, she said, and provides other health practitioner services. Although the building is located in an area zoned for offices, the neighboring businesses are non-traditional – a masseuse and a palm-reader.

Dori Edwards

Dori Edwards, employee of Treecity Health Collective, during a public hearing at the Aug. 16, 2011 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting.

The city council has broad discretion to deviate from the city’s master plan, she noted. Edwards said she’s not a planner, but she did read through the city’s master plan online, and could not find anything that indicated her zoning request would be illegal. The city already allows spot zoning to occur, via planned unit developments (PUDs), she said. That kind of zoning requires public benefit, and Edwards said it’s a public benefit to allow her nonprofit to operate at its current location, because of the nature of her clientele. She urged commissioners to approve the rezoning request.

Treecity Health Collective Rezoning: Commissioner Discussion

Diane Giannola began by saying that this request proved the point she made during the Biercamp discussion. The site was located across the street and a couple of parcels south of the Biercamp location. So how could the city approve one request and not the other? It’s arbitrary, she said. The city needs to do a study of the South State Street corridor so that rezoning doesn’t occur arbitrarily.

She asked why the recent zoning ordinance for medical marijuana dispensaries didn’t allow that type of business in areas zoned for offices. City planner Chris Cheng said the reason was that dispensaries seemed more akin to pharmacies, not medical offices.

Bonnie Bona asked why the request was for C1 zoning, not C3 or C2B. Cheng replied that C1 was the minimal intensity of commercial zoning that would still allow the dispensary to operate – it doesn’t allow for uses like auto shops or manufacturing. But city staff wouldn’t recommend any type of commercial zoning, he said.

Then directing her comments to Edwards, Bona said that PUDs require additional public benefits tied to the site plan – the public benefit isn’t simply the type of business that’s located there.

Wendy Woods acknowledged that she hadn’t followed the council deliberations on medical marijuana closely. She wondered if the council’s intent was to restrict dispensaries to certain districts in town. She assumed they’d discussed the possibility of grandfathering in the locations of existing dispensaries?

Tony Derezinski, who also represents Ward 2 on city council, said the council wanted to avoid legal challenges to the ordinance. However, they also wanted to plan for dispensaries to be located in certain areas, with restrictions like distances from schools and churches, he said. There were no specific discussions about instances like the one now being considered by the planning commission, he said.

Derezinski went on to describe the state referendum regarding medical marijuana as poorly written and very ambiguous. For the council’s part, the general notion was to take a more restrictive approach to zoning, he said.

Woods asked if there were other dispensaries located in areas where the newly-enacted zoning would no longer allow them to operate. There are several located in office districts, said Wendy Rampson, head of the city’s planning staff. One dispensary held a citizen participation meeting in July, but decided not to pursue rezoning. Cheng noted that no one showed up for the Treecity citizen participation meeting related to the rezoning request.

Erica Briggs said she was frustrated and torn by this situation. This dispensary seemed to her to be an appropriate use of office space, fitting with compatible businesses in the area. No one came to the public hearing to complain, she noted. So she wished that dispensaries were allowed in office districts – but acknowledged that they’re not.

This request differed from the Biercamp request because the Treecity property isn’t located adjacent to other commercially zoned land, Briggs said. She supported extending commercial businesses along South State, but there’s not a precedent for doing that yet. She expressed sympathy for Edwards’ situation.

Kirk Westphal asked whether the fact that Treecity is a nonprofit has any bearing on the request. It does not, Cheng replied. Westphal confirmed with Cheng that any change in zoning would be attached to the land, not the business. Westphal said it was a shame that the state law is vague and that livelihoods are being disrupted, but he couldn’t support the rezoning request.

Giannola asked whether Edwards could apply for a special exception use, to allow her to operate the dispensary at that site. Cheng said he didn’t believe that would be possible. Rampson explained that the zoning ordinance would have to be amended in order to allow a special exception use for the dispensary. That process would begin with the planning commission, she said.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted against recommending approval of the rezoning request. The recommendation will be forwarded to the city council.

Site Plan for Former Frank’s Nursery

Commissioners were asked to approve a site plan for 3590 Washtenaw Ave., at the southwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Yost Boulevard. The plan calls for building a 9,500-square-foot, single-story addition to the existing 15,769-square-foot retail building that currently houses the Dollar Tree. The new space is designated for an additional tenant.

The building addition would replace an existing unenclosed canopy area used by the former tenant, Frank’s Nursery. The site is part of a larger retail center along Washtenaw Avenue that consists of five parcels with the same owner. The site plan includes construction of a new public sidewalk in the Yost Boulevard right-of-way fronting the site. An existing 22-foot service drive on the north part of the site would be converted from pavement to turf, and a new 10-foot-wide non-motorized path is proposed.

The project had previously received approval from the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner for its stormwater system, using bioswales and underground pipes in the parking lot area. Since then, changes were made to the city’s landscape ordinance, which now requires additional modifications to the bioswales and an additional review by the water resources commissioner. That approval is required before the site plan will be placed on a city council agenda. The bioswales will be planted with native vegetation, including trees, and will also act as the required interior parking lot landscaping.

Site Plan for Former Frank’s Nursery: Public Hearing

Two people spoke during the public hearing. Damien Farrell, the project’s architect, said he was there on behalf of the owner [Renken Associates] to answer any questions.

Dennis Ritchie told commissioners that he’d lived for 35 years in a home just south of the Washtenaw Avenue property, and he was pleased to see improvements in the shopping district. It would do nothing but improve his experience as a homeowner if a viable business was located there, he said. The Dollar Tree is less of a problem for him than Frank’s Nursery was – now there’s no one on a PA system saying there’s two bags of sheep shit to be loaded, he quipped.

Ritchie noted that the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority intends to create a pullout along that stretch of Washtenaw Avenue. He wanted to ensure that the site plan wouldn’t have an impact on that project.

Site Plan for Former Frank’s Nursery: Commissioner Discussion

Tony Derezinski agreed that having a vibrant business was better than a vacant property, as is now the case. The site is one of the major pieces in the Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue project, he said, noting that it was part of the bus tour that commissioners had taken earlier this year during their retreat. [The revitalization effort focuses on a five-mile stretch between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, which also crosses land within Pittsfield and Ypsilanti townships. It's the county’s most congested – and, in many sections, blighted – commercial corridor. For background, see Chronicle coverage: "County Board Briefed on Washtenaw Corridor"]

Wendy Woods asked where the pedestrian crossing would be across Washtenaw Avenue. At the intersection with Pittsfield Boulevard, Rampson answered. Woods then asked whether the Reimagining Washtenaw project team is still meeting, and if another crossing is being considered? [Arborland is located across the street from the site that was being discussed by the planning commission. There is no bus stop currently in that area on the Arborland side, so people using the bus must walk across Washtenaw, a high-traffic roadway.]

Derezinski said that the AATA had been unceremoniously thrown out of Arborland – the owners of Arborland no longer wanted a bus stop within the shopping complex, and it had been removed in 2009. The stop is now located on the opposite (south) side of Washtenaw Avenue. There’s the possibility of putting a stop on the north side, he added, on property not owned by Arborland, but that hasn’t been finalized.

As for Reimagining Washtenaw, there had been a personnel transition, he said. Anya Dale, the former Washtenaw County planner who staffed the project, has taken a job at the University of Michigan. Derezinski said he’s talked with Mary Jo Callan, head of the county department that’s now overseeing the project – he reported that Callan is determined to keep it alive.

Rampson noted that while the only pedestrian crossing now in that area is at Washtenaw and Pittsfield, the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) is working on an pedestrian underpass project at Washtenaw and US-23. As part of that, there’s discussion about the possibility of a pedestrian crossing at Washtenaw and Yost, she said. City planning staff will be meeting with MDOT officials later this month to talk about these possibilities.

Kirk Westphal asked about the materials that would be used on the building. Farrell said his client had been negotiating with a potential tenant for a long time, and they hadn’t yet settled on specifics. If the tenant signs on, they’ll have some of their own requirements, he said.

Bonnie Bona questioned why there’s a 40-foot-wide lane in the parking lot – is that necessary? Farrell said that’s the way the site is currently configured, and there are no plans to change it. Bona suggested alternatives that would narrow the lane, such as increasing the size of traffic islands or adding more landscaping.

Bona also pointed to landscaping on the building’s east side, and said that might be an opportunity to create some public space, like an area for outdoor seating.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the site plan. It will now be forwarded to the city council.

Annexation of Scio Township Parcels

On the agenda was a request to annex seven parcels from Scio Township – totaling about 2.94 acres – and to zone them R1C (single-family residential). The sites are: 545 Allison Drive; 427 Barber Ave.; 3225 Dexter Road; 3249 Dexter Road; 3313 Dexter Road and a vacant adjacent lot; and 305 Pinewood Street. The annexation and zoning also requires city council approval.

The sites are located in a recently expanded well prohibition zone related to the Pall/Gelman Sciences 1,4 dioxane underground plume. Pall is paying for the hook-ups to city water and sewer, according to city planning staff.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the annexation.

Chris Cheng of the city’s planning staff clarified that the master plan calls for all parcels there to be zoned R1C.

Outcome: Planning commissioners unanimously recommended annexing and rezoning the Scio Township properties. The request will be forwarded the city council for approval.

Honoring Jean Carlberg

At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, the commission presented a resolution of appreciation to former commissioner Jean Carlberg, whose term ended June 30. She served on the commission for 16 years.

Bunyan Bryant Jr., Jean Carlberg

Jean Carlberg with her husband, Bunyan Bryant Jr.

Carlberg is a Democrat whose 12 years on the city council – representing Ward 3 from 1994 to 2006 – overlapped with her time on the planning commission. After stepping down from the commission, she is no longer serving on any other city government boards or commissions. She is a board member of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, a nonprofit consortium of groups working to end homelessness in the county.

The resolution of appreciation – read by planning commission chair Eric Mahler – cited Carlberg’s “thoughtful and pragmatic approach to projects and issues being considered by the Ann Arbor City Planning Commission,” and stated that she “provided innovation, leadership, equanimity and tireless diligence to the City Planning Commission and the City of Ann Arbor in the interest of the City’s planning efforts.” The resolution stated that the commission will miss her “knowledge, expertise, thoughtfulness and quiet humor.”

Carlberg was on hand to accept the resolution, which was given to her on a wooden plaque. She told her former colleagues that she learned a lot during her tenure, both from the planning staff and from the other commissioners, who bring a breadth of experience to their discussions. The diverse backgrounds of commissioners are a benefit, she said, with each person raising individual concerns from their perspectives.

”I miss you all. I miss the work,” Carlberg said. She received a round of applause from commissioners.

Eleanore Adenekan was appointed in July to replace the position vacated by Carlberg.

Misc. Communications

Wendy Rampson, head of the city’s planning staff, gave several updates. She reminded commissioners that their next regular meeting would be on Thursday, Sept. 8, following the Labor Day holiday. Their next working session, on Tuesday, Sept. 13, would be devoted to a talk on sustainability by Dick Norton, chair of the University of Michigan’s urban and regional planning program. [Planning commissioners had been briefed on the city's efforts to develop a sustainability framework at their working session earlier this month. The park advisory commission received a similar briefing at their Aug. 16 meeting.]

Rampson also said that the Summers-Knoll School project is being revised. At its May 17, 2011 meeting, the planning commission had granted a special exception use to allow the school to move to a building at 2203 Platt. At that meeting, commissioners had asked that the school add a continuous sidewalk along the east side of the building, and ensure clearly defined walkways to all of the entrances. In addition to that work, Rampson said, school officials have also decided to change the configuration of the parking lot, and have asked for an administrative amendment to do that work. It does not require additional commission approval.

Rampson also reported that developers on several projects are asking for site plan extensions. These are site plans that have been approved by the city council, but that haven’t yet been constructed. City code allows for extensions of that approval in two-year increments, she explained. Now the city staff are reviewing the projects to make sure they still conform with city ordinances, which might have changed since the projects were initially approved. For example, the city council gave final approval in January 2011 to a set of changes in the city’s zoning code for regulations affecting area, height and placement (AHP). The city’s landscaping ordinance has also been recently revised.

There are requests for site plan extensions on four projects: (1) The Gallery planned unit development (PUD) on North Main, at the site of the former Greek Orthodox church, (2) the 42 North residential development at Maple and Pauline, (3) the Forest Cove office building on Miller, and (4) the Mallets View office building on Eisenhower.

During his communications from city council, Tony Derezinski, who also represents Ward 2 on city council, mentioned that a final meeting for the R4C/R2A advisory committee is tentatively set for Sept. 21. He noted that the 21st is also Saint Matthew’s Feast Day, which he said might help the group finish up the project. [See Chronicle coverage: "No Consensus on Residential Zoning Changes"]

Present: Bonnie Bona, Erica Briggs, Eleanore Adenekan, Diane Giannola, Eric Mahler, Kirk Westphal, Wendy Woods, Tony Derezinski.

Absent: Evan Pratt.

Next regular meeting: The planning commission next meets on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of local government and civic affairs. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

]]> 0
County Board Briefed on Washtenaw Corridor Tue, 14 Jun 2011 14:02:11 +0000 Mary Morgan Transportation issues, regional cooperation and economic development were the focus of two presentations at a working session for the Washtenaw County board of commissioners earlier this month.

Ann Arbor planning commissioners and staff on Washtenaw Avenue

Ann Arbor planning commissioners and staff on a late April bus tour along Washtenaw Avenue, focusing on a project to improve that corridor between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. The iconic Ypsi-Arbor Bowl sign has since been removed. (Photos by the writer.)

The board got an update on the Washtenaw Avenue corridor improvement project, an effort to revitalize the county’s most congested – and, in many sections, blighted – commercial stretch. The project is focused on the roughly five miles between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, which also crosses land within Pittsfield and Ypsilanti townships. All four communities are involved in the project and several government leaders from those jurisdictions attended the working session, including Ypsilanti city councilmember Pete Murdock, Ann Arbor councilmember Tony Derezinski, Ypsilanti Township supervisor Brenda Stumbo and clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe, Ypsilanti Township planning commissioner Larry Krieg, and Craig Lyon, director of Pittsfield Township utilities and municipal services.

Anya Dale, the Washtenaw County planner who’s been coordinating the project, briefed commissioners on both the history and the current status of efforts along the corridor. One of the main questions – how the four communities will formally partner on the project – remains undecided. One option would be to form a corridor improvement authority (CIA), a tax increment finance (TIF) district that would provide revenues to fund improvements. Though governing boards and councils for each jurisdiction have passed resolutions of intent to form a CIA, Dale said they’re waiting on possible state legislative changes that would allow for one CIA to be formed along the entire corridor.

Another uncertainty relates to staff: Commissioners learned that Dale is leaving the county to take a job at the University of Michigan’s Office of Campus Sustainability. She’s been spending about a third of her time on the Washtenaw Avenue project, and it’s unclear who will pick up that work.

The same meeting also included an update from Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, on a possible countywide transit system. That presentation will be included in an upcoming Chronicle report.

Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Project: Overview

Anya Dale’s presentation covered familiar ground for anyone who’s attended other public forums on this project. [See Chronicle coverage: "What Does Washtenaw Corridor Need?"]

She began by describing the project’s genesis three years ago as an outgrowth of the planning effort called Ann Arbor Region Success, which involved about 70 community leaders. [The group was formed in response to news that Pfizer was pulling out of Ann Arbor and closing its large drug research complex here.]

Out of that effort, recommendations were made to focus on six major areas: (1) business acceleration and attraction; (2) secondary school options; (3) regional transit; (4) workforce housing; (5) workforce/talent development; and (6) revitalizing the eastern side of the county.

One major deficit identified was a lack of affordable housing options that are connected to vibrant parts of the county via high quality public transit. It’s especially difficult for young people who are starting their careers – they can’t find affordable housing that’s close to where they work and to the services and amenities they need, or that provides high quality public transit options.

With these things in mind, Dale said, the four communities along Washtenaw Avenue decided to focus on redeveloping that corridor. The goal is to use “smart growth” principles to enhance the quality of place for current residents, encourage efficient transportation, and accommodate the needs of the creative economy – which generally includes professions like architecture, graphic design, software development, film and music, among other fields.

In addition to the local governments of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield Township and Ypsilanti Township, the project involves other public and private sector partners too, Dale said, including the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT), the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA), the University of Michigan, and the real estate developer and property manager McKinley, among others.

Dale said public outreach has engaged many others, and has included multiple community forums, presentations to local government boards and councils, landowner and business meetings, and an online survey.

Anya Dale

Washtenaw County planner Anya Dale, prepping for a presentation to the county board of commissioners on the Washtenaw Avenue corridor improvement project. At the June 2 working session, commissioners learned that Dale is leaving the county to take a job with the University of Michigan.

Dale described several challenges found along the five-mile stretch. In many places, there are no sidewalks for pedestrians, and no safe way for people to get to bus stops or to cross the busy five-lane road. It’s the most congested corridor in the county, with high crash rates – both car-to-car, and car-to-pedestrian. Vacancy rates in buildings along Washtenaw Avenue are also high, Dale noted.

There are also opportunities, she said. It’s located close to major employment centers, residential neighborhoods, retail and service businesses, and provides access to a major highway: US-23, with a nearby connection to I-94. There’s already high public transit use along the corridor, and ample land for redevelopment – more than 100 acres that’s either vacant or severely under-utilized, Dale said, including some that’s eligible for brownfield redevelopment.

So the four communities along the corridor realized they had common goals, she said. Among them:

  • Creating a mixed use corridor, with housing, retail and office space all accessible via high-quality transit.
  • Connecting vibrant neighborhoods to commercial areas via pleasant, safe walking and biking options.
  • Modernizing plans and regulations to encourage infill and development.
  • Removing barriers and creating incentives for development.
  • Increasing the local tax base.
  • Coordinating efforts to fund improvements for pedestrian, bike and vehicle uses, and enhanced transit service.

The vision is to attract people to the corridor – these goals aim to enhance the quality of life for residents and workers, Dale said. It includes providing more choices for transit, and making housing more affordable. One way to increase affordability is through improved public transit, she said – it’s not cheaper to live somewhere if you’re forced to use a car.

The corridor project also aims to reduce sprawl and pollution, Dale said, cut infrastructure costs and increase property values. From an economic development perspective, it could enhance the county’s competitiveness to attract businesses and workers, provide investment stability, and connect low- and moderate-income people to jobs through improved transit access.

The corridor hasn’t realized its potential for business investment, and it’s currently dragging down the taxable values for some of the communities there, Dale said.

Partners in the project spent much of 2009 doing public outreach and developing a vision, Dale said. In 2010, they developed recommendations for land use, transportation, and governance models, such as a corridor improvement authority (CIA). She pointed commissioners to the Reimagine Washtenaw website for more details on these recommendations.

Some University of Michigan graduate students did a redevelopment feasibility study of the corridor – their market analysis found that there’s demand for compact, mixed-use development near transit, Dale said, and that Washtenaw Avenue is an appropriate location for workforce housing.

Dale outlined several transportation improvements suggested for Washtenaw Avenue. For public transit, those include extended service hours, faster and more frequent service, Park-and-Ride options, and improved infrastructure including bus stops and pull-offs, signs and sidewalks. Improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians include  pedestrian refuge islands, intersection improvements, and connections to existing bicycle pathways. And traffic congestion could be addressed by improving access to sites, reducing curb-cuts and coordinating traffic signals.

Several improvements are already underway, Dale said. They include:

  • Pedestrian improvements at the US-23 interchange – part of a broader MDOT project there that will likely start construction next year.
  • Sidewalks built in the Pittsfield Township section.
  • Construction of a multi-use path up to Tuomy Road in Ann Arbor.
  • New developments proposed at Golfside in Ypsilanti Township, and at Platt in Ann Arbor.
  • A conversion from four to three lanes on Golfside Road from Packard to Clark, with bike lanes and sidewalks.
  • Improvements at the Oakwood intersection.
  • AATA transit improvements to Route #4.
  • Improved Night Ride service.
  • A Glencoe Crossings park-and-ride lot.

Washtenaw Corridor Improvement: Governance

Dale described steps that have been taken regarding the governance piece of the project, much of it related to a corridor improvement authority (CIA). She noted that the four communities have all passed resolutions of intent to form a CIA, but they’ll continue to look at whether a CIA is the best approach.

Pedestrian crossing Washtenaw Avenue

A pedestrian crossing heavy traffic on Washtenaw Avenue, south of Arborland. She eventually made it safely to the opposite side, where an AATA bus stop is located.

A CIA is a financing mechanism that would provide a way for the four communities to fund improvements to the corridor. CIAs would allow for tax-increment financing, similar to a downtown development authorities but specifically designed for commercial corridors. A tax-increment finance (TIF) district is a mechanism for “capturing” certain property taxes to be used in a specific geographic district – taxes that would otherwise be used by the entity with the authority to levy the taxes.

The benefits to a CIA are that it creates a formal partnership that allows the entity to pursue more funding options, Dale said. In addition to TIF revenues, those funding options could include federal grants, donations, special assessments, and the ability to issue bonds. Working via a CIA would bring regional consistency to development standards. It would also coordinate public investment, as well as marketing, promotion and incentives that might be offered, Dale said.

Like a downtown development authority, the CIA would be governed by a board with representatives from each community, as well as local property owners, residents, and business owners.

There are 16 CIAs in Michigan, Dale said. The Washtenaw Avenue group is using the CIA formed by Lansing, East Lansing and Lansing Township as a model, because of the multiple jurisdictions involved.

If the four communities decide to pursue a CIA, Dale said, they’d need to act within 60 days of the last public hearing focused on it. A public hearing was held earlier this year, but more than 60 days ago – and no action was taken. That means another public hearing would need to be held, if the CIA approach is pursued.

If tax increment financing is sought for this corridor, they’d need to draft a TIF plan and have it approved by the governing bodies for each of the four communities.

They’d also need to hold public hearings on the TIF plan. Taxing entities would have 60 days from those public hearings to decide whether to opt out of their revenue being captured for the district.

Aside from the decision about a CIA and TIF, next steps in 2011 and 2012 include: (1) incorporating a corridor strategy into the master plans for each jurisdiction; (2) updating zoning, parking and design standards in each jurisdiction; (3) selecting a method for an expedited permitting/review process for developments; (4) developing a project list; and (5) making a joint application for a transportation enhancement grant.

Washtenaw Corridor Improvement: Commissioner Discussion

Commissioners asked a range of questions about the project, and generally seemed supportive of it.

Barbara Bergman asked Dale how much the county was paying to support the project – what’s the funding source? It’s mostly a contribution of staff time, Dale said, adding that about a third of her time is spent on the corridor. They’ve also received small grants, she said, which were either spent internally or paid for contract work.

In response to a query from Bergman about what kind of additional support is needed, Dale said it would be good for the county to continue to provide staff time. It’s helpful to have an outside entity like the county involved in moving the conversation forward, she said, as well as to make grant applications. The project has great momentum, which Dale hoped would continue.

Leah Gunn asked about the tax increment finance (TIF) district that’s one possible funding option. Would it capture taxes from only the four jurisdictions involved in the project? Or would the TIF capture include other taxing units, like the county, the Ann Arbor District Library and Washtenaw Community College?

Leah Gunn, Tony Derezinski

Washtenaw County commissioner Leah Gunn, whose district covers part of Ann Arbor, talks with Ann Arbor city councilmember Tony Derezinski at the county board's June 2 working session.

Dale said it would be possible for taxing entities like the county to opt out. The percent of tax increment capture could also be negotiated, she said – it wouldn’t have to be 100%.

Yousef Rabhi noted that when the county board had held a working session on intergovernmental cooperation earlier this year, the turnout hadn’t been great. By comparison, the turnout for this corridor working session is huge, he said, and that’s a testament to how concrete the project is, and the value that multiple communities see in it.

Noting that the board had been discussing the issue of brownfields recently, Dan Smith asked Dale to identify the location of brownfields along the corridor. Dale didn’t have an exact number, but said that many of the sites have underground storage tanks at gas stations. In addition, there are many buildings along the corridor that have been vacant for more than five years, and are functionally obsolete.

D. Smith said the brownfield component would be one obvious place where the county might be involved in the corridor project – brownfield plans submitted through the county’s brownfield redevelopment program require board approval. Would the county be asked to join a corridor improvement authority?

Dale said she thought that anyone could join a CIA, but so far, the 16 authorities in Michigan all have fewer than four members. They’re working on state legislation to broaden the language in Public Act 280 so that there could be greater representation in the CIA, she said.

County commissioners understand the complexities of tax increment financing, D. Smith said. TIF districts have benefits, but also short-term downsides. They divert tax revenues at a time when revenues are declining anyway – the county is facing a $17.5 million two-year deficit in 2012-2013, he noted. “It’s a difficult trade-off to make sometimes,” he said, and one they should be aware of.

Ronnie Peterson observed that this is one of the few times he can remember when people from Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township “came in peace.” That reflects their commitment to work together on this project, he said, and he hoped they would come back again.

Peterson asked Dale whether they would have to wait until legislation was passed in Lansing. Dale replied that the CIA was only one of the tools they’re considering. It would be possible right now for each of the four jurisdictions to form their own CIA, she said, but they’d rather form just one – and that requires changing the CIA enabling legislation. State legislators aren’t likely to act on it until the fall at the earliest, however. Until then, there’s work on master plans and grants that can be done, Dale said.

Peterson said he’d hate for Dale’s departure to cause the project to lose momentum. Tony VanDerworp – director of the economic development & energy department, and Dale’s boss – told commissioners that they’re still working out details of staff assignments as part of a proposed merger of three county departments: economic development & energy, the office of community development, and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. [For background on this reorganization, see Chronicle coverage: "Three County Departments to Merge"]

The county has applied for a grant that would cover administrative costs to manage the corridor project, VanDerworp said. If they don’t get the grant, they’d likely need to talk to partners in the four Washtenaw Avenue jurisdictions to find other ways to move the project forward.

Brenda Stumbo

Brenda Stumbo, Ypsilanti Township supervisor, spoke to Ann Arbor planning commissioners on a bus tour of Washtenaw Avenue in late April.

Peterson complained about how the reorganization and merging of departments would bury economic development efforts within a human services department – he’s not in favor of that approach, given that the county invests significantly in economic development. He felt like the government leaders who attended that night’s working session were looking for the county to make a clear commitment – they weren’t there for just a pat on the back, he said. He asked Rabhi, who chairs the working sessions, to schedule one on the status of state legislation affecting this project, and to make sure the board gets updates on work in the corridor as it progresses. ”I don’t want us to be the dragging link to this chain,” Peterson said.

Wes Prater asked about the project’s timeline. Dale said there are several things in the works. Most communities are updating their master plans to include language related to the corridor improvement – Pittsfield Township is the farthest along in that. There are monthly meetings with a large group that includes elected officials, as well as monthly meetings of just the planners from each jurisdiction. [.pdf of tentative timeline through 2012]

If the grant doesn’t get approved, Prater wondered if the communities involved in this project would be asked for funding. Dale said the project would likely move along at a slower pace, as funding allowed. Having a staff person who could coordinate efforts of the four communities, as well as with the Michigan Dept. of Transportation and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, would move things along more quickly, she said.

Washtenaw Corridor Improvement: Local Communities Weigh In

Several people from other municipalities who attended the working session spoke to commissioners about the project.

Tony Derezinski, an Ann Arbor city councilmember who also serves on the city’s planning commission, reported that the city council had passed a resolution of intent to work with Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township and the city of Ypsilanti to explore establishing a corridor improvement authority (CIA) along Washtenaw Avenue. [The council acted on this resolution at its Dec. 20, 2010 meeting.]

Derezinski pointed out that the city’s planning commission has put a priority on transportation corridors. Included in the planning staff’s work plan is a focus first on Washtenaw Avenue, then South State Street, Plymouth Road and North Main.

At the planning commission’s retreat in late April, the group combined its interest in corridors with an emphasis on regional planning, Derezinski said, which they see as crucial to the area’s future. That resulted in the group doing a “corridor crawl” on an AATA bus along Washtenaw Avenue, with stops along the way in each of the jurisdictions: Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township, and the city of Ypsilanti. [The Chronicle attended the five-hour retreat, and rode along with planning commissioners and staff during the bus tour.]

Mandy Grewal, Al Berriz, Matt Kowalski

Ann Arbor city planner Matt Kowalski, right, shakes hands with Al Berriz, CEO of McKinley, during a stop at Glencoe Hills as part of the planning commission's April 26 retreat. In the foreground is Mandy Grewal, Pittsfield Township supervisor. Glencoe Hills is an apartment complex owned by McKinley that's along a stretch of Washtenaw Avenue in Pittsfield Township.

At many of those stops, the planning commissioners talked with staff, elected officials and others who have a vested interest in that stretch of Washtenaw Avenue. One of the longer stops was at Glencoe Hills, a McKinley-owned apartment complex east of Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township. There, the group heard from McKinley CEO Al Berriz and Mandy Grewal, Pittsfield Township supervisor, who each spoke about the importance of the corridor project.

The retreat also included a stop across from Arborland, and at the intersection of Golfside and Washtenaw, where planning commissioners talked with Ypsilanti Township supervisor Brenda Stumbo and Pittsfield Township planner Paul Montagno. [Ann Arbor planner Jeff Kahan told the group that this intersection "is where the communities kiss."] The final stop was at the western edge of Ypsilanti, at Mansfield and Washtenaw, and included a discussion with Ypsilanti city planner Theresa Gillotti.

At the June 2 county board working session, Derezinski told county commissioners there’s an exciting air of collaboration regarding the Washtenaw Avenue project – it’s the first major project where regionalism has a chance to succeed, he said.

Stumbo also spoke briefly to commissioners, calling the corridor project a great opportunity for economic development and a chance to break down some of the barriers between the east and west sides of the county. [Carpenter Road is itself a major commercial corridor running north/south and intersecting with Washtenaw Avenue near the US-23 interchange. It is considered by many to be a de facto dividing line between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.]

She noted that some people are leery of TIF (tax increment finance) districts, but the township is looking at it as an opportunity to stabilize its tax base through economic development. She said her understanding is that while a 50% tax capture is typical, other amounts are possible. Stumbo noted that Ypsilanti Township’s board had passed a resolution of intent regarding the corridor. If there’s a positive side to the economic downturn, she said, it’s that barriers are coming down and people are starting to work together.

Also addressing the board was Larry Krieg, a member of the Ypsilanti Township planning commission and author of the blog Wake Up, Washtenaw, which focuses on transportation issues. Krieg told the county board that he has two grandchildren living in the city of Ypsilanti, and he’s interested in building a community in which they can grow and prosper. What encourages him is that local communities are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Everyone knows that Washtenaw Avenue needs help, he said. Often times, people take one of two attitudes – either seeking outside help, such as federal grants, or saying “Why bother?” and giving up. For this project, Krieg said, he sees communities coming together and saying that they can do it themselves – they can improve the corridor, attract jobs and retain young talent. He said he hoped every county commissioner would support it.

Present: Barbara Levin Bergman, Leah Gunn, Ronnie Peterson, Wes Prater, Yousef Rabhi, Rolland Sizemore Jr., Dan Smith, Rob Turner.

Absent: Kristin Judge, Alicia Ping, Conan Smith

Purely a plug: The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.


]]> 0
Arbor Hills Crossing Site Plan Postponed Wed, 08 Jun 2011 01:06:31 +0000 Chronicle Staff At its June 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission postponed action on site plan approval for Arbor Hills Crossing at 3100 Washtenaw Avenue. The  property at the southeast corner of Washtenaw and Platt is owned by Campus Realty. The plan calls for demolishing several commercial buildings and constructing a 90,700-square-foot retail and office center with four buildings and 310 parking spaces on a 7.45-acre site. Retail space would primarily include smaller stores that would be visible from Washtenaw Avenue.

The city’s planning staff recommended postponement, citing several unresolved issues: (1) a formal decision from the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) regarding a traffic signal at the Washtenaw/Platt intersection; (2) approval from the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner; and (3) resolving issues related to a 23-foot easement along Washtenaw Avenue, including which parties will be involved and what mechanism would be used to handle that easement. In addition, several commissioners raised other issues they’d like to see addressed before the site plans come back to the commission for approval.

Separately, the developer has filed a brownfield plan for the site that’s currently being considered by the city’s brownfield plan review committee. The plan would allow for a TIF (tax increment financing) to reimburse the developer for removal of contaminated soil, caused by an auto repair shop previously located at the site.

In 2006, the city had approved a site plan for a retail development at that location, but it was never built.

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

]]> 0
AATA OKs Bus Stop Deal with Ann Arbor Fri, 01 Apr 2011 15:33:44 +0000 Dave Askins Ann Arbor Transportation Authority special board meeting (April 1, 2011): At a special meeting, announced in advance on March 28, the AATA board voted unanimously to authorize its CEO to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the city of Ann Arbor to construct a bus pullout as part of a bus transfer center on eastbound Washtenaw Avenue, east of Pittsfield Boulevard.

bus pullout Ann Arbor Saline Road

This is a bus pullout area constructed on northeastbound Ann Arbor-Saline Road next to the Woodland Plaza where, among other retail stores, Busch's Fresh Food Market is located. The bus pullout to be constructed on Washtenaw Avenue will be similar in concept. (Photo by the writer.)

The bus pullout is part of a larger project – a transfer center on the south side of Washtenaw Avenue at Pittsfield Boulevard, opposite Arborland mall – which will include a “super shelter.” The project is being paid for with federal stimulus money granted to the AATA. For now, only a center on the south side is being contemplated, because topographical and right-of-way issues pose challenges on the north side.

The city of Ann Arbor has already conducted the bid, and is preparing to award the construction contract. The city will oversee construction activities on the AATA’s behalf, using funds provided through the AATA. The rationale for the city’s oversight of the project is that the city regularly carries out similar projects, and it’s expected there will be fewer problems and a better final product. At its April 4 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council will vote on awarding a construction contract to Fonson Inc.

The MOU had been discussed at the AATA board’s regular monthly meeting on March 17, but board members were reluctant to vote on it without a final draft of the MOU itself in front of them. That led to the need for a special meeting on April 1.

Construction on the bus pullout is to begin in April and be complete by June of this year.

The need for a transfer center at that Washtenaw Avenue location, of which the bus pullout is a part, stems from the termination in July 2009 of a previous arrangement with Arborland shopping center, which provided for a bus stop and transfer center in the Arborland parking lot.

Bus Pullout: Board Deliberations

Board chair Jesse Bernstein and Anya Dale were the first to arrive at the 9 a.m. meeting, and had to wait a few minutes until other board members appeared. By 9:06 a.m. they’d a achieved a quorum and two minutes later the board had all members present.

David Nacht stressed that the arrangement with the city of Ann Arbor follows in a long line of collaboration with the city. In the past, much of that collaboration had focused on planning, but this particular project, he said, showed collaboration on the actual construction. He concluded by saying it was a “perfect use of community resources – exactly what taxpayers expect.”

By way of background, estimated costs of the construction include:

Construction Contract                   $159,107
Street Light Relocations                 $15,000
Construction Engineering and Inspection  $26,500
Construction Materials Testing            $5,500
Contingencies                            $17,500
Miscellaneous Expenses                   $13,500
TOTAL                                   $237,107

Anya Dale wanted to know if there were plans for other pullouts. Chris White, manager of service development for the AATA, explained that the AATA is pursuing opportunities as they come up, as opposed to tackling Washtenaw Avenue systematically.

Bernstein stressed that while right now it might just be a matter of taking advantage of opportunities, down the road at some point, the AATA is interested in a more systematic approach. [Transit infrastructure like shelters with more amenities and pedestrian improvements are part of the improvements associated with a corridor improvement authority that's currently under discussion. Chronicle coverage: "What Does Washtenaw Corridor Need"]

Nacht asked Sue McCormick – who in addition to serving on the AATA board also serves as the city of Ann Arbor’s public services area administrator – if she needed to abstain. She didn’t think so.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to authorize CEO Michael Ford to sign the memorandum of understanding with the city of Ann Arbor to construct a bus pullout.

Present: Charles Griffith, David Nacht, Jesse Bernstein, Sue McCormick, Rich Robben, Roger Kerson, Anya Dale

Next regular meeting: Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor [confirm date]

]]> 3
What Does Washtenaw Corridor Need? Tue, 15 Mar 2011 18:47:56 +0000 Dave Askins At the Ann Arbor city council’s March 7, 2011 meeting, a visitor from the east – Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber – spoke during a public hearing, calling Washtenaw Avenue a “lifeline” between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. The road cuts through four jurisdictions: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township. The four local governmental units have been collaborating over the last two years to find ways to improve how the Washtenaw corridor functions – in terms of traffic flow, and future business/residential development.

City of Ann Arbor Planner Jeff Kahan Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority

City of Ann Arbor planner Jeff Kahan explains that even though the proposed district boundaries of a Washtenaw Avenue corridor improvement authority would, at its western end, not include properties adjoining the right-of-way, the right-of-way could still receive the benefit of improvements. (Photos by the writer.)

That’s what the public hearing was about. The Ann Arbor city council is considering whether to work with the other three communities to establish a corridor improvement authority (CIA) along Washtenaw Avenue. Schreiber was at Ann Arbor’s meeting to encourage the council to consider forming a CIA, thus joining with his city and the two other municipalities along Washtenaw. The council took no action on March 7 – by state statute, they cannot take the step to establish a CIA until 60 days after the public hearing.

A corridor improvement authority is a tax-increment finance district, similar to a downtown development authority – but specifically designed for commercial corridors instead of downtown areas. [.pdf map of proposed Washtenaw Avenue CIA district ] At the March 7 public hearing on establishing a Washtenaw Avenue CIA, Schreiber was one of only two people to speak.

But five days earlier, on March 2, around 20 people attended a presentation by city of Ann Arbor planners at Cobblestone Farm. And they were joined late in the meeting by Stephen Rapundalo, who represents Ward 2 on the Ann Arbor city council. Washtenaw Avenue is a boundary between Ward 2 on the north and Ward 3 on the south. Some of those 20 residents aired their criticisms as well as support of the CIA proposal. In addition to some concerns about the administration of the authority, attendees expressed disagreement with each other about the kinds of solutions the corridor needs.

Some agreed with the conclusions of a joint technical committee that’s been working on the issue: The corridor would benefit from added transit infrastructure and greater accessibility to non-motorized transportation, as well as increased residential density. Others saw that stretch of Washtenaw Avenue as needing mainly additional lanes in the roadway to improve traffic flow.

On the administrative side, city planner Jeff Kahan explained that the possibility of establishing a CIA along Washtenaw Avenue would be greatly helped by a revision to the relatively new state statute that allows such CIAs to be created – a revision that would explicitly articulate that the four jurisdictions could form a single authority. As the statute is currently written, four separate authorities would need to be formed, and then operated under some kind of inter-governmental agreement.

So where did this idea come from that four separate units of government might collaborate on creating a corridor improvement authority for Washtenaw Avenue? It pre-dates by at least two years Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent call for greater collaboration among government entities. But Snyder was at least indirectly involved in providing some impetus behind the effort.

Origin of Concept: Ann Arbor Region Success

City planner Jeff Kahan began his presentation to the Cobblestone Farm audience by describing how the Washtenaw corridor improvement concept had evolved out of a planning effort called Ann Arbor Region Success. The effort involved 70 different community leaders, he said.

By way of additional background, the group of 70 people formed back in 2008 and divided into smaller work groups to focus on specific areas to develop long-term success strategies for the region. The group was led by six co-chairs: Martha Bloom, vice president of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation; Jeff Irwin, then chair of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners; Mark Ouimet, then a Washtenaw County commissioner; Rich Sheridan, president and CEO of Menlo Innovations; and Larry Voight, executive director of the nonprofit Catholic Social Services.

In November 2010, Irwin, a Democrat, and Ouimet, a Republican, were elected to represent District 53 and District 52, respectively, in the Michigan state House.

Also now in Lansing, and listed on the “leadership team” of the Ann Arbor Region Success group (as CEO of the venture capital firm Ardesta) is Rick Snyder – a Republican who was elected governor of the state of Michigan in November 2010.

The Ann Arbor Region Success initiative included a housing and land use work group. Richard Murphy, who was then a planner with the city of Ypsilanti and now works for the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, was part of that work group. Responding to a Chronicle emailed query, Murphy reported that the work group had identified several themes that eventually worked their way into the concept for the Washtenaw corridor: walkability, high-quality transit, and a range of choices for housing, transportation mode, and destinations. Infill development was identified as a tool for achieving some of those goals.

[Murphy's colleague at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, Sam Offen, attended the Cobblestone Farm meeting. Offen's name is possibly recognizable to readers as a member of the city's park advisory commission; he also serves on the Library Lot RFP review committee.]

An “action team” then took the Washtenaw Avenue corridor as a specific area of focus, which led to the formation of a joint technical committee, composed of around 30 members of various governmental and private groups drawn from the four communities crossed by Washtenaw Avenue. [.pdf of the action team report on Washtenaw Avenue]

The joint technical committee, which included many of the members of the action team, eventually recommended that the four communities along Washtenaw Avenue collaborate in forming a corridor improvement authority under the state’s enabling legislation [.pdf of Public Act 280 of 2005] [.pdf of the joint technical committee report]

At its December 20, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution of intent to collaborate with the three other municipalities along Washtenaw Avenue to form a CIA.

Problems with Washtenaw Corridor

At the Cobblestone Farm meeting, Kahan reviewed the characteristics of the corridor that the joint action team and the technical committee had identified as problematic. They include:

  • Expansive, carless parking lots
  • Frequent traffic congestion
  • Higher-than-average crash rates
  • Inadequate pedestrian crossings
  • Missing sidewalks
  • No amenities for bicyclists
  • Numerous vacant parcels
  • High vacancy rates of commercial storefronts

Formation of the Authority: TIF

Kahan explained to the group at Cobblestone Farm how the joint technical committee had proposed a Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) as a financing mechanism to pay for solutions to the various problems it had identified along Washtenaw Avenue.

A CIA, Kahan explained, is a tax-increment finance district – similar to a downtown development authority, but specifically designed for commercial corridors. A tax-increment finance (TIF) district is a mechanism for “capturing” certain property taxes to be used in a specific geographic district – taxes that would otherwise be used by the entity with the authority to levy the taxes. [In the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority TIF district, for example, a portion of the property taxes that would otherwise be collected by the Ann Arbor District Library and other taxing entities are instead used by the Ann Arbor DDA for improvements within the geographic district of the DDA.]

Not all the taxes in a TIF district go to the TIF authority. Instead, as Kahan explained, upon creation of a TIF district, a baseline is defined for the current taxable value, and it’s only the difference (the increment) between the baseline value of a property and the increased value of a property in the future – say, through redevelopment – that would be subject to tax capture through a TIF authority like a CIA.

In discussion with the Cobblestone audience, Kahan indicated that the exact definition of the TIF capture for a Washtenaw CIA was somewhat of an open question. It’s not settled, for example, whether the increment to be captured would include the increased value of a property due to simple appreciation (inflation), without any investment or improvement in the property. The enabling legislation would allow inflation to be included or not, depending on the exact tax increment financing plan of the CIA. [The Ann Arbor DDA tax capture is defined so that the initial increment between the baseline property value and the value due to an external improvement is captured by the DDA, but subsequent appreciation on that added value reverts to the original taxing authority.]

Corridor improvement authorities cannot capture certain kinds of taxes. For example, taxes collected under the state education act (Public Act 331) or by an intermediate school district are exempt from capture by a CIA. In addition, the governing body of an entity that levies taxes in a CIA’s district has the opportunity to opt out. From the state enabling legislation for CIAs [.pdf of Public Act 280 of 2005]:

(5) Except for a development area located in a qualified development area, not more than 60 days after the public hearing on the tax increment financing plan, the governing body in a taxing jurisdiction levying ad valorem property taxes that would otherwise be subject to capture may exempt its taxes from capture by adopting a resolution to that effect and filing a copy with the clerk of the municipality proposing to create the authority. The resolution shall take effect when filed with the clerk and remains effective until a copy of a resolution rescinding that resolution is filed with that clerk.

Forming an Authority: Cooperation Required

Before the Cobblestone meeting started, Kahan told The Chronicle that using the existing state statute, which is relatively new, could pose a challenge to the kind of CIA that Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township would like to form. The act provides for a way for each of these local units to form a CIA and a way for them to operate them jointly. From the statute:

A municipality that has created an authority may enter into an agreement with an adjoining municipality that has created an authority to jointly operate and administer those authorities under an interlocal agreement under the urban cooperation act of 1967, 1967 (Ex Sess) PA 7, MCL 124.501 to 124.512.

What is not completely clear is how the interlocal agreement would work. For example, under the statute each CIA needs to have a governing board with at least five, but no more than nine members. If a governing board for all four CIAs were formed as the simple union of all the boards of the four municipalities, then the resulting board would consist of at least 20 members, exceeding the limit of nine specified in the statute.

Kahan said the joint technical committee has been working with Jeff Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat who now represents District 53 in the state House, to explore the possibility of an amendment to the statute. An amendment could provide for the direct formation of an authority by multiple municipalities.

In a followup phone interview, Irwin told The Chronicle that he’d forwarded an amendment request to the House Legislative Services Bureau, and that it had been returned with further questions. Right now, his understanding is that there’s a dual-track approach: (1) amend the statute – which would move only at the pace of the state legislature; and (2) sort out the board membership issue with respect to collaboration between the four municipalities.

Forming the Authority: Upsides, Downsides

At the Cobblestone Farm meeting, Kahan sketched out the basic advantages and disadvantages of using the CIA as a tool to address problems in the corridor. The mechanism of the TIF district keeps the additional tax revenue generated by increased development inside the corridor’s district, and the idea is that this helps to attract additional private investment as well. While this helps to focus funds on the area where problems have been identified, Kahan allowed that these funds could otherwise go to municipalities where the challenges in balancing budgets are getting greater every year.

Kahan continued by saying that the collaboration and cooperation required by this particular CIA would likely be looked on favorably by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration. Snyder’s administration has sent a clear message to local units of government that the state expects them to demonstrate efforts to collaborate and consolidate in order to qualify for various kinds of state aid.

In a phone interview with The Chronicle about the CIA, Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber remarked that this kind collaboration has been happening long before Snyder started talking about it. In addition to the four-way collaboration on the CIA, he pointed to the Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority (YCUA), which provides drinking water or sanitary sewer services to the city of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield Township, Augusta Township, Sumpter Township and Superior Township.

Schreiber also pointed to the current discussions between the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township to collaborate on police services.

As one of the initial downsides to a CIA, Kahan cited the increased layer of administration – it could take a while for the TIF to generate much money for the CIA. And during that initial lean period, there would be costs – perhaps for an executive director, for legal services, office space, secretarial services and the like. It might be necessary for the four municipalities to provide financial support for the CIA’s administrative needs until the CIA started receiving enough revenue from its TIF to become self-sustaining, Kahan said.

What’s an Improvement?

The kind of infrastructure improvements the joint technical committee has recommended for the corridor include many projects that could be summarized under the general rubric of “complete streets.”

Cobblestone Farm inside the barn CIA

A public meeting on the possible formation of a corridor improvement authority held at Cobblestone Farm on March 2, 2011. Standing is city of Ann Arbor planner Jeff Kahan. Seated, in blue vest with white sleeves, is Wendy Rampson, head of planning for the city.

At its March 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution affirming its commitment to “complete streets” – the idea that streets should be constructed to accommodate a full range of users, from pedestrians, to bicyclists, to public transit vehicles, to privately owned automobiles.

For Washtenaw Avenue, that would include a bike lanes, installation of sidewalks where they are missing or broken, and creation of transit nodes with bus stops that have amenities like benches, shelters and arrival information.

These are the kind of improvements that resonated with several people in the audience at Cobblestone Farm, including Larry Krieg. As a planner with Ypsilanti Township, Krieg is a member of the joint technical committee. Krieg has also championed the idea of Washtenaw Avenue as an important corridor in remarks he’s made while addressing the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board. Krieg maintains the blog Wake Up, Washtenaw!

Krieg told the group gathered at Cobblestone Farm that Washtenaw Avenue was seen as a potential talent corridor, a geographic location with the potential to attract 20-40 year olds to stay in the area. Krieg described how many younger people can’t imagine why they should be required to have an automobile in order to do ordinary things in life, and are interested in living in places where they can get where they want to go by using public transit.

Responding to Krieg was resident Vic Elmer, who said that what Krieg was describing was simply not reality – “that’s not the way America works right now,” he said. If a road has been properly designed, he contended, traffic will flow smoothly. What Washtenaw Avenue needs is an expansion of car lanes, not additional bike lanes. He characterized the configuration of some local bike lanes as poorly engineered, saying that he’d witnessed several near-accidents. If bike lanes were considered all that important, he said, why doesn’t the city plow snow all the way to the curb? [The city of Ann Arbor's snow plowing strategy is not curb-to-curb, but its goal includes clearing snow from bike lanes.]

Bing Maps Birdseye view Huron Parkway and Washtenaw

Bing Maps Birdseye view of Huron Parkway and Washtenaw intersection. The bus in the righthand lane is likely a #7 AATA bus ready to turn east onto Washtenaw Avenue from Huron Parkway.

Elmer, along with others who attended the Cobblestone Farm meeting, pointed to the intersection of Washtenaw and Huron Parkway as particularly problematic. Cars stack up there, they said. They suggested that what’s needed is a larger right-of-way at that intersection.

Some at the meeting saw the introduction of transit nodes and pedestrian amenities like crossings and sidewalks as just more obstacles for cars to traverse, slowing down automobile traffic. The joint technical committee’s report actually concurs with the view that there are too many bus stops along the corridor – but they are necessary because the lack of sidewalks makes it unreasonable to expect bus passengers to get very far by walking. So part of the proposed concept is to install complete sidewalks along the corridor, which would allow the consolidation of multiple bus stops into single transit nodes. These nodes would then have better amenities – benches, shelters, and arrival/departure information.

One step towards providing pedestrian access along the corridor will start construction this year, without a CIA. That project is for a non-motorized path along the north and east sides of Washtenaw Avenue, from Tuomy to Glenwood. The Ann Arbor city council approved a special assessment on adjoining property owners to construct the path late last year. At the Cobblestone meeting, Kahan explained that a special assessment can be used only to construct a new amenity like the non-motorized path, but not to repair an existing one like broken sidewalks along other parts of the corridor.

The role of US-23 in the corridor was drawn out by someone in the audience who asked the rhetorical question: What kind of vehicles would be exiting from US-23 onto Washtenaw Avenue – bicycles and pedestrians? The point was that key to the corridor’s economic health is automobile traffic. When another attendee somewhat whimsically posed the question of what it would take to relocate the exit ramps to some location other than Washtenaw Avenue, Wendy Rampson – head of planning for the city of Ann Arbor – said she didn’t think businesses currently located along Washtenaw Avenue would appreciate that.

Beyond Improvements

While much of the focus of the conversation at Cobblestone Farm focused on the kind of infrastructure improvements that might be undertaken to help the corridor, Kahan and Rampson also pointed to the possibility that a CIA could help create a more uniform zoning and permitting process along the entire corridor, to help expedite development. The city of Ann Arbor recently approved revisions to its area, height and placement (AHP) zoning code that are intended in part to help support the kind of pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented development that the joint technical committee has recommended for the corridor.

Revisions to Ann Arbor’s AHP zoning includes provisions that encourage increased residential density through mixed use – something that was met with some resistance at the Cobblestone Farm meeting. Wouldn’t more people living along the corridor translate into even more congestion and curb cuts? Kahan explained that part of the goal of the zoning and planning piece of the joint technical committee’s recommendation is to reduce the number of curb cuts by providing appropriate zoning regulations.

In his phone interview with The Chronicle, Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber said that coordinating the zoning and permitting requirements along the corridor was something worth pursuing in itself, even if infrastructure improvements might be a longer time coming.

]]> 9
Ann Arbor Puts CIA Into First Gear Thu, 23 Dec 2010 23:51:01 +0000 Dave Askins Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Dec. 20, 2010): The city council’s last meeting of the year included a somber piece of news, delivered by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4): Peter Pollack, familiar to many in the community as a landscape architect and stalwart public servant in various capacities, had entered hospice care. Pollack passed away later that night.


During a break in the meeting, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) – seated at the right of the frame – came across the table to work on the wording of the Washtenaw CIA resolution. Standing, from right to left, are city attorney Stephen Postema, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Terri Blackmore of WATS (Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.) (Photos by the writer.)

In its main business of the evening, the council approved a resolution of intent to coordinate with Pittsfield Charter Township, Ypsilanti Charter Township and the city of Ypsilanti to explore the establishment of a corridor improvement authority (CIA) along Washtenaw Avenue.

The initiative would take advantage of Michigan’s Corridor Improvement Authority Act to create a tax increment finance (TIF) district. A possible timeline for establishing the CIA would include public hearings in early 2011, formation of the CIA and appointment of its members in mid-2011, with development and approval of the corridor development plan by late 2011.

The vote on the resolution of intent came after intense scrutiny of the resolution’s wording to ensure that it conformed with the requirements of the state enabling statute, while also addressing councilmembers’ concerns that the language not inappropriately suggest that the establishment of the CIA was further along than it actually is.

Several members of the public addressed the council at the public hearing on the adoption of the Michigan Vehicle Code and the Uniform Traffic Code. The adoption of the two codes is motivated by the city’s desire to make its speed limits legally enforceable. As the extensive public commentary and council deliberations reflected, the challenge is to set speed limits in a way that is legally enforceable but has adequate consideration for non-motorized users of roadways.

The council voted to adopt the two codes, after having given initial approval at its Dec. 6, 2010 meeting. However, amendments to the language used to adopt the two codes made at Monday’s meeting were substantial enough that the proposed ordinance revision was reset to its first reading stage. All ordinances must be approved at a first and second reading before the council.

Attached as a communication to the council’s agenda was an item that will likely receive a great deal of discussion early next year – a draft of a city council resolution that would specify how the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority will go about facilitating development of downtown Ann Arbor surface parking lots. A key resolved clause of the draft resolution, apparently meant to address a historical point of friction between the city and the DDA, would require the city to reimburse the DDA for some of its expenses under certain scenarios.

Also at the meeting, in response to a report from the Environmental Working Group that the carcinogen hexavalent chromium had been detected in Ann Arbor’s drinking water – along with that of several other communities – city administrator Roger Fraser gave the city’s take on the study. [Chronicle coverage of that issue: "Context for Chemical in Ann Arbor Water"] 

Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA)

Before the council was a resolution of intent to work together with Pittsfield Charter Township, Ypsilanti Charter Township and the city of Ypsilanti to explore the establishment of a corridor improvement authority (CIA) along Washtenaw Avenue. The initiative would take advantage of the state of Michigan’s Corridor Improvement Authority Act to create a tax increment finance (TIF) district. [.pdf of Public Act 280 of 2005]

Washtenaw CIA: Background

At a Sept. 13, 2010 work session, the Ann Arbor city council had received a presentation about establishing a CIA for the Washtenaw Avenue corridor. A technical committee consisting of over 20 different planning professionals and representatives of the four municipalities that are involved has worked on the initiative over the last year. The technical committee was formed out of efforts by an action team that produced a report on the corridor in 2009. Work on the project can be traced back at least three years.

Contained in the technical committee’s report is a possible timeline for eventual establishment of the CIA that would include public hearings in early 2011, formation of the CIA and appointment of its members in mid-2011, with development and approval of the corridor development plan by late 2011. [Background documents available on the Reimagining Washtenaw website]

Washtenaw CIA: Council Deliberations

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) introduced the measure, describing the corridor authority as an example of an opportunity for collaboration among different municipalities to address an area in need of improvement. At Derezinski’s invitation, Terri Blackmore, executive director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS), described the proposal in somewhat more detail. She said that establishing an authority would allow for transportation improvements. Examples she gave include installing additional sidewalks to fill in gaps, adding bus stops, and adding queue-jump lanes that would allow buses to navigate through the corridor more quickly than other traffic.

Blackmore stressed that establishing a corridor authority is a process and that over the next few months, they’d be able to get a better idea of the feasibility and the costs involved.

At the request of Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), Blackmore identified as key transit recommendations: eliminating sidewalk gaps; creating mid-block crossings and 5-foot in-street bike lanes; constructing “super” bus stops with more elaborate shelters and information systems; and forming neighborhood connectors.

Asked by Hohnke to comment on the land use recommendations associated with the project, city planner Jeff Kahan indicated that they generally included intensified land use consistent with the area, height and placement revisions on which the council would take final action on Jan. 3, 2011. [Recent Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Council Focuses on Land Issues"]

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) identified a “whereas” clause that was of concern to her, because it seemed to indicate that the city was already engaged in the process that the resolution was meant to start. The clause in question [emphasis added]:

Whereas, The Ann Arbor City Planning Commission has begun the process of integrating recommendations from the “Washtenaw Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Strategy” into the City Master Plan;

Derezinski stressed that the resolution was simply a recognition that the corridor authority is a good idea and that the city should look at it – the city could back out at any step. The resolved clauses were taken straight out of the enabling statute, he said.

After further deliberations, the whereas clause of concern to Higgins was removed by “friendly” amendment, which did not require a vote. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) clarified with the city attorney that the clause was not essential from a statutory point of view.

Higgins also expressed some concern that business owners along the corridor hadn’t all been notified in a timely fashion about some of the meetings that had been held by the technical committee. Blackmore said there would be two additional meetings scheduled – with residents and businesses.

At Blackmore’s suggestion, the date specified in the council resolution for the council to take action next year was changed from early February to early March.

Having dispatched with one of the “whereas” clauses, Higgins focused on the “resolved” clauses and asked that the clause specifying the boundary be removed. She allowed that a boundary would need to be adopted eventually, but not necessarily that evening.

Differing views were aired by city attorney Stephen Postema and Terri Blackmore about the need for the boundary clause under the statute. Postema’s view that it was necessary prevailed. From the statute [emphasis added]:

(2) In the resolution of intent, the governing body shall state that the proposed development area meets the criteria in section 5, set a date for a public hearing on the adoption of a proposed resolution creating the authority, and designate the boundaries of the development area.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) expressed concern about use of the word “endorse” in one of resolved clauses, saying that he was hung up on that. He said he was not going to support the resolution if what the clause meant to express that the council “agreed” with the strategy. After a brief recess to clarify what was absolutely essential in the resolution from a statutory point of view, the resolved clause was amended as follows [deleted material in strike-through, added material in italics]

RESOLVED, That City Council endorses accepts receipt of the Washtenaw Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Strategy and its recommendations for land use, transportation improvements, and continued community cooperation.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) expressed reservations about the boundary as designated in the resolution of intent, in particular the way it included land along Platt off of Washenaw Avenue, as well as along Huron Parkway. Those areas have a different character from the corridor, Kunselman said. Postema clarified that the statute allowed for contraction of the boundary area after the resolution of intent.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reminded her colleagues that what they were talking about is a tax increment finance (TIF) district. If they eventually approved it, it would mean the appointment of a board and that board would make decisions about how money gets spent. [By its nature, a TIF district captures the increment between taxes collected based on current property values and those resulting from improvements, and allocates the money to the TIF authority for decisions on spending.] It’s a big deal, she cautioned.

Derezinski picked up on Briere’s phraseology and said that yes,  it’s a “good big deal.” He stressed the importance of collaboration, saying that the authority could become more than the sum of its parts. The corridor right now, he said, is a “mess.” Mayor John Hieftje concurred that the corridor right now “doesn’t work.”

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) offered her wholehearted support of the resolution, saying that a TIF is a tool for achieving improvements.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution of intent to collaborate with the three other municipalities to establish a corridor improvement authority along Washtenaw Avenue.

Michigan Vehicle Code (MVC), Uniform Traffic Code (UTC)

Before the council for a second reading was a measure that proposed to adopt the complete Michigan Vehicle Code (MVC) and the Uniform Traffic Code (UTC) as part of the city code – Chapter 126 Traffic. In early 2008, the council had adopted the MVC, but excluded portions of the MVC addressing speed limits in an attempt to reserve for itself local authority for setting speed limits. [.pdf of corresponding Michigan Vehicle Code]

Part of the background to the proposal is that the city of Ann Arbor lost an August 2008 court case in which two speeding tickets issued in late 2007 were thrown out, because the city of Ann Arbor’s posted speed limits did not conform to state law with respect to the number of access points in a half-mile stretch of road, or a guideline that stipulates posted limits not be lower than the travel speed of the 85th percentile of traffic.

The two sets of codes provide for the various legal means by which a city can lawfully set speed limits. By adopting the full MVC and adding the UTC, the city’s position is that it might be able to retain some flexibility with the way it sets local speed limits.

Although the council eventually approved the change to its traffic ordinances, amendments were undertaken that reset the ordinance change to its first reading. The proposal will need to be approved at an additional reading by the council in order to be enacted.

MVC and UTC Adoption: Public Hearing

All changes to city ordinances require a public hearing. Several people addressed the council on the issue, with most of them recognizing the need for the council to adopt the two sets of codes. However, a clear difference in perspective was displayed between those advocating for speed limits that do not unfairly punish motorists, and those who wanted to make sure that safety concerns were addressed with respect to non-motorized users of the transportation system – pedestrians and bicyclists.

Characterizing himself as an unwilling expert on the subject, Charles Loucks described how he’d received a speeding ticket and had used state laws to challenge the ticket. As a result, Loucks said, the city attorney’s office had elected not to pursue it. The way current speed limits are set on some sections of roads, he said, makes rule-breakers out of most motorists. The speed limits, he said, need to be benchmarked against reality. If the rules are set up in a way such that 95% of motorists become rule-breakers, people will start to think the city is playing games with them.

briere walker

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) with James Walker before the meeting started.

Also addressing the council was James Walker, who had filed the lawsuit that had resulted in the 2008 court decision against the city of Ann Arbor. Walker allowed that he had “put some of the fire” behind the issue. Walker spoke for the National Motorists Association. He contended that when the city recently lifted limits from 30 to 35 mph in some areas and from 40 to 45 mph in others, the actual travel speed did not change. He noted that there was not necessarily a relationship between the number on the speed limit signs and the speed of the traffic.

Walker said that the city should be following state law, which includes an access point formula for setting speed limits. He also advocated for the use of the 85 percentile standard for setting speed limits. [The federal "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices" stipulates this as a standard: "When a speed limit is to be posted, it should be within 10 km/h or 5 mph of the 85th-percentile speed of free-flowing traffic."]

Jeff Gaynor introduced himself as a Ward 3 resident who also teaches at Clague Middle School and participates in the Safe Routes to School Program. [By way of background, at its Sept. 7, 2010 meeting the city council authorized application for a grant to fund infrastructure improvements as a part of Thurston Elementary's Safe Routes to School Program. The city announced recently that $160,840 had been awarded to help construct pedestrian refuge islands, flashing traffic beacons, crosswalk markings, and increased signage. Thurson is located just south of Clague Middle School, where Gaynor teaches. Nixon Road is a major north-south artery located just west of the two schools.] Gaynor cautioned that the speed limit on Nixon Road would likely be increased, when the council enacted the ordinance change.

Gaynor explained that for the last three years, he’s been carless. And he pointed out that cars are simply bigger and faster than pedestrians and cyclists. Faster traffic is less safe, he said, and increases the risk of fatality. In the U.S., he said, we sacrifice around 40,000 people a year to our “god, the automobile.” Although he understands the issue with the need for the city to adopt the state law, he said he hoped that  there could be some kind of compromise.

Erica Briggs spoke on behalf of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, which has developed a position on the issue. [.pdf of WBWC position on speed limits] From the statement, portions of which she read aloud:

We urge Council and city staff to take special measures to ensure safety for all road users in any cases where speed limits must be raised. In addition, we ask that the City continue working with the Michigan Municipal League and other cities to seek reforms to the Michigan Vehicle Code, with the goal of promoting the safety of all road users and the vitality of our communities.

Briggs was critical of the National Motorists Association, which Walker represented, for its opposition to mandatory seatbelt laws, texting-while-driving bans, zero-tolerance DUI policies, and traffic calming.

Briggs was in the middle of giving some specific numbers to support Gaynor’s contention that likelihood of fatality increases with speed, when her three-minute time elapsed.

Karen Moorhead, who spoke later in the hearing, picked up the thread of increased fatality rates by clarifying that in pedestrian-car accidents, the probability of pedestrian death increases from 5% at 20 mph to 45% at 30 mph to 85% at 40 mph. Moorhead also reported a conversation she’d had with a school crossing guard who said that many motorists don’t realize he’s there, even when he’s standing with a stop sign in the middle of the road.

Bruce Geffen, a colleague of Gaynor’s at Clague Middle School, told the council that he has students who walk across Nixon Road to get to school. Increasing the speed limit there, he felt, puts his students in danger. He’d like to see some consideration along Nixon Road in terms of crosswalks, he said.

David Sponseller signed up to speak during public commentary reserved time on the topic of long-range transportation planning but had arrived late to the meeting and missed that opportunity. As the public hearing unfolded, however, he elected to weigh in on the topic. He told the council that he’d driven Huron Parkway 18,000 times – a four-lane road with no entrances – and could not figure out why the speed limit is only 35 miles an hour.

Tom Wieder told the council that they did not have a lot of choice – people have already challenged the city’s approach to setting speed limits and won. He urged the council to adopt the MVC and then do a legitimate traffic study. With respect to the safety issue, he assured the audience that he did not want to run down bicyclists or pedestrians. He urged recognition of the difference between the number on speed limit signs and actual traffic speeds. He cautioned against the false sense of security that can come from seeing a sign that indicates 25 mph as the speed limit.

MVC and UTC Adoption: Council Deliberations

Council deliberations began with solicitation of some remarks from Bob West of the city attorney’s office. He sketched out the history of the 2006 change to the Michigan Vehicle Code, which added an access point formula for the setting of speed limits. An access point is a driveway or intersecting roadway. It is, according to the MVC, prima facie lawful to operate a motor vehicle at speeds no faster than the following.

(d) 25 miles per hour on a highway segment with 60 or more vehicular access points within 1/2 mile.

(e) 35 miles per hour on a highway segment with not less than 45 vehicular access points but no more than 59 vehicular access points within 1/2 mile.

(f) 45 miles per hour on a highway segment with not less than 30 vehicular access points but no more than 44 vehicular access points within 1/2 mile.

The city had faced a legal challenge in 2008, West said, when Judge Julie Creal of the 15th District Court had ruled that the two sections of roadway where tickets had been issued were not in compliance with the access point formula. The circuit court had then upheld Creal’s decision, West said. The city had attempted to address the situation by  un-adopting specific sections of the MVC in 2008, but now West said he agreed with the two speakers during public commentary – Walker and Wieder – that the city needed to adopt the MVC and the UTC.

Bob West city attorney ann arbor

Bob West, of the Ann Arbor city attorney’s office.

Once the two codes are adopted, West said, the city can conduct further traffic studies.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) wanted  to know how the MVC interacted with the “complete streets” urban planning policies – which call for roadways to be accessible to all users. She noted that the faster cars drive, the less secure bicyclists and pedestrians are. West gave the new HAWK signal at the intersection of Huron and Chapin streets as an example of a measure that the city has enacted to mitigate against potentially unsafe crossings.

Later in deliberations, Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) elicited from West the statement that the 2006 change to the MVC was not undertaken in response to “complete streets” policies, but rather as a reaction to communities that tried to make a money-maker out of setting unreasonable speed limits and ticketing motorists for violations of those limits. Ann Arbor did not do that, said West.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) was concerned about the city’s ability to set speed limits in school zones. West indicated that Sections 257.627, 257.628, 257.629 of the MVC specifically address the ability to set speed limits in schools zones – which are defined in the MVC as extending  ”not more than 1,000 feet from the property line of the school in each direction.”

In a theme that West reiterated often throughout questioning from councilmembers, he told Teall that the ability to justify speed limits other than what are specifically laid out in terms of the access point formula would depend on studies conducted by traffic engineers.

Hohnke elicited from West a statement that the city does not set out to ticket drivers for the purpose of generating revenue. West said that a ticket is, in any case, not exactly a money-maker – some of the revenue goes to the state and helps fund libraries. [Penal fine revenue for libraries came up in a Dec. 20 meeting of the Ann Arbor District Library board. See Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Library Weighs in on Lawsuit"] The goal of issuing tickets, said West, is to get people to slow down and drive safer.

Hohnke wanted to know if either the access point formula or the 85th percentile guideline take pedestrians or bicyclists into consideration. West indicated that the access point formula does not, while the 85th percentile does, because presumably drivers adjust their driving accordingly to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) said he agreed that the Ann Arbor police department did not issue tickets for revenue purposes. He wanted to know from West, however, if it actually had an influence on driver behavior. West said he thought it did, but expressed concern that when violations were converted by the court from moving violations to non-moving violations, they had less of an impact. Anglin ventured that causing an actual accident had a greater impact that any fine.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) wanted to know what recourse the city might have if the speed limit along Newport Road, by way of example, were to be raised. West appealed to the possibility that a study by traffic engineers could provide some recourse. West said that accident rates might provide a mechanism on an after-the-fact basis.

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) ventured that under the codes the council was being asked to adopt, the setting of speed limits ceases be a political issue – a matter of the desire of the community – and instead becomes data-driven. West rejected the idea that somehow the values of the community would be forsaken under the code adoption. Mayor John Hieftje also interjected that in his experience they’d never been set on a political basis. Taylor clarified that he had not meant “political” is a grand sense.

Briere asked West to comment on the notion that motorists typically believe they can go 15 mph faster than the posted speed limit, so that a 35 mph zone might result in people thinking they can drive at 50 mph. If speed limits were set based on an 85th percentile standard, Briere wondered if that might result in limits ratcheting upward. West suggested there is a limit to everyone’s nerve.

Briere supposed that there could be increased requests for traffic calming measures in residential neighborhoods, which recent budget tightening had reduced to one or two per year. [Reduction of the traffic calming program was a part of the FY 2010 budget discussion.] West indicated that he didn’t think residential areas would be affected by increased speed limits. Briere countered that Pontiac Trail goes through a residential neighborhood and currently has a speed limit of 25 mph.

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) confessed that in 15 years of commuting to Lansing he’d received a speeding ticket. He thanked West for his work. Derezinski described a meeting that he’d attended with West and the state police on the 85th percentile guideline. He said that while there are outliers, the 85th percentile was a good standard to use. He urged the council to adopt the two codes.

Hohnke pressed West to clarify whether the city could enact its own speed limits as a result of other studies it might conduct, or if the city just hoped it could do so. West said there’s nothing in the MVC to preclude the city from using some other engineering study. He said that his reading of section 257.627 of the MVC was not that the access point formula is the only way to set speed limits. He allowed that the MVC was not explicit about what additional studies might be used for, but because it’s in the statute, it had to mean something. The relevant passage to which West was referring reads:

(11) Nothing in this section prevents the establishment of an absolute speed limit pursuant to section 628. Subject to subsection (1), an absolute speed limit established pursuant to section 628 supersedes a prima facie speed limit established pursuant to this section.

(12) Nothing in this section shall be construed as justification to deny a traffic and engineering investigation.

An amendment to the proposed ordinance change, which was brought forward by Derezinski, inserted language to clarify that the adoption of the MVC and the UTC was being made only to the extent that the codes did not conflict with city ordinances and codes. West explained that the need for the language was due to a 1985 court case involving a local law that was inconsistent with the UTC, even though the UTC had been adopted by the local municipality.

Outcome on the amendment: The council unanimously adopted the amendment inserting language on conflicts between local code and the UTC.

Outcome on the resolution: The council unanimously approved the resolution adopting the Michigan Vehicle Code and the Uniform Traffic Code. This was the second occasion on which the council had approved the adoption. However, due to the amendment, the status of the ordinance change was reset to a first-reading approval. The council will need to approve the change at an additional meeting, in order for the ordinance to be enacted.

Peter Pollack: “Looking over your shoulders”

At the conclusion of the public hearing on the Michigan Vehicle Code, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) announced that she’d received a message from Peter Pollack’s wife, Eleanor, that Peter would no longer be able to be a member of the design guidelines task force – he had entered hospice care and was not expected to live through the week.

Peter Pollack

Peter Pollack, chairing the Ann Arbor public market advisory commission at its Nov. 3, 2009 meeting. As the sticker he’s wearing suggests, that was Election Day.

[The design guidelines are the final piece of the A2D2 rezoning initiative for downtown Ann Arbor. The zoning provisions have already been approved by the council. Higgins is the council representative on the task force.]

The message from Eleanor Pollack passed along Peter’s pleasure that he’d been included on the task force and had been able to contribute to it. She said that as the task force completed its work, Peter would “certainly be looking over your shoulders.”

Chronicle readers will recognize Pollock’s name from past coverage – of the public market advisory commission of which he was a member, or public commentary on a variety of site plan proposals where he brought his expertise as a landscape architect to bear.

His remarks inevitably spoke to the rhythms and patterns of surrounding context, whether that context was the natural or the built environment. For example, his suggestion for the Fuller Road Station was that its design should more closely echo the contours of the river valley. From a March 2010 Chronicle report on the city’s park advisory commission:

[Pollack] noted that his office had been involved in designing the Fuller Road boulevard in the early and mid-1980s. It’s the only place in the city where you get a sense of being in the river valley. It’s a very difficult place to put a very active facility, he said. Though the Fuller Road Station concept plan has been approved, he acknowledged, there’s still time to rethink the design. He urged commissioners to consider a structure that would be long and low, stretching across the current two soccer fields to the east – rather than building the taller structure that’s being proposed. It can be designed to be part of the park, rather than an object that’s plopped into the space.

Pollack said that in some ways he felt like he was on a horse tilting at windmills. The current design team are “good folks,” he said, but there’s just one chance to design the facility at that location, and they should do it in the best way possible.

Pollack was a gentle man. He always had a kind greeting for The Chronicle’s reporters when he encountered us. But he was also tenacious. At a public meeting on the Near North development, which was eventually approved by city council, he objected to the speculation that some expressed about the developer’s motives – he wanted the conversation to be about the project design. From The Chronicle’s report of that meeting:

[Pollack] objected to discussion of what people believed the developer’s motive might be and rejected that line of thinking as narrow and unproductive. Pollack said that he had problems with some of the design features, but that they should focus on the challenge of whether the proposed design could be modified in a way that made it sufficiently integrated into the visual patterns and rhythms of the prevailing architecture of the neighborhood to win support from the community.

What Pollack thought mattered to people. His reaction was one standard against which people measured themselves. From a comment left on The Chronicle’s website, about the Near North meeting, by Ann Arbor Observer editor John Hilton, who also attended the meeting:

That’s the issue I and others were trying to get at with our questions about what 3 Oaks paid for the property. We must not have done a very good job, since two people I admire – Peter Pollack and Sandi Smith – spoke up to say that we shouldn’t question 3 Oaks’ motives.

Among his contributions to the community, Pollack will be remembered for his work chairing the Allen Creek greenway task force, which was appointed by the city council in 2005.

Higgins, at the conclusion of her announcement in city council chambers, characterized Pollack as an “amazing contributor” to the design guidelines task force.

Pollack passed away later that evening. He was 71.

Communications and Comment

There are multiple slots on every agenda 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: Mutually Beneficial Discussions with DDA

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) reviewed for his colleagues that the two committees from the council and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board – known as the mutually beneficial committees – had been holding discussions with two goals: (1) amending the contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system, and (2) creating a process for developing downtown city-owned surface parking lots. As originally conceived, the idea was to pursue the two goals at the same time, in parallel.

However, Taylor reported that the two committees had revisited their thoughts about timing. Because the two committees had arrived at a draft of a resolution for developing a parcel-by-parcel plan for redevelopment, Taylor said, the resolution had been attached to that night’s information packet. Given that it was ready, he quipped, why hold off on a good thing? The DDA board would review the resolution in early January, Taylor said, and he anticipated that the draft could be brought to the council for consideration at its Jan. 18, 2011 meeting. [.pdf of the draft resolution]

The resolved clauses of the resolution appear to be constructed to prevent a repeat of a scenario from 2005, when the DDA had brought forward a development proposal for three parcels – the so-called 3-Site Plan – but the city council had declined to ever place the proposal on its agenda. One resolved clause from the draft resolution requires placement of items on the council agenda [emphasis added]:

RESOLVED, that for items above requiring City Council approval, the City Administrator shall place such items on the agenda of City Council no later than thirty (30) days after the City Administrator’s receipt thereof and determination that such items comply with City requirements. In the event that such item is not voted upon within thirty (30) days of being placed upon the agenda, then at each subsequent meeting of the City Council where the item does not appear on the agenda, the City Administrator during Communications from the City Administrator shall provide a status report as to reasons for the item’s failure to appear on the agenda.

Another resolved clause of the resolution foresees the city reimbursing the DDA for costs, if a proposal reaches a point of city council approval, but the city council declines to approve the item for any reason other than a failure to comply with zoning [emphasis added]:

RESOLVED, that in light of the DDA’s expenditures of Phase IV monies in reliance upon City Council’s approval of the Parcel-by-Parcel Plan, any resulting RFP, and the DDA-proposal recommendation, if City Council declines to approve a Parcel site plan for any reason other than the site plan not complying with applicable zoning regulations, then the City of Ann Arbor shall reimburse the DDA for all direct DDA Phase IV costs related to such Parcel.

In his communications, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) expressed disagreement with an unspecified statement that had been made in connection with discussions between the city and the DDA, which had been to the effect that the DDA could serve the role of shielding the city council from citizens. He stressed that citizens should feel free to contact city councilmembers with respect to issues involving the DDA.

By way of background, the specific idea to which Anglin was alluding is that the DDA would – in connection with redevelopment proposals for the downtown – serve to remove some of the political dimension from the discussion. This idea has been a part of the conversation during the course of the “mutually beneficial” discussions that have taken place between the city and the DDA since early summer. From The Chronicle’s report on a September 2010 retreat held by the DDA:

[DDA board members] were, however, content to let the DDA “take the heat” and “provide political cover” for elected officials to absorb some of the community criticism that could arise against specific proposals.

Prior to that DDA board retreat, the two mutually beneficial committees had met twice in August 2010. From The Chronicle’s report of the second of the August meetings:

The idea, said [DDA executive director Susan] Pollay, was to put the DDA at the “edge of the sword” so that her organization would “take the heat” from the community.

Comm/Comm: Human Rights Commission

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) gave a report out from a city’s human rights commission, the first one  that had taken place since Smith was appointed to that body in November 2010. She reported topics of discussion as including marriage equality in Michigan and a privacy ordinance. [.txt file of a draft ordinance circulated earlier in the year by Students Against Surveillance at the University of Michigan]

Smith characterized the repeal by the U.S. Senate of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy for gays in the U.S. military as a “huge step forward” on the national stage.

Comm/Comm: Voting

As part of his city administrator’s report, Roger Fraser reminded the community of the participation by Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark in a $250,000 challenge sponsored by Pepsi.

Jackie Beaudry name badges

City clerk Jackie Beaudry distributes councilmember nameplates in preparation for the meeting.

[In the Pepsi Refresh challenge project, proposals compete for votes each month – one vote per project is allowed each day. The skatepark is competing for the month of December. To vote for the Ann Arbor Skatepark proposal, Chronicle readers can visit the website: Pepsi Refresh Project.] Fraser noted that it’s possible to vote more than once – you can vote once each day, unlike “the things that Jackie does.” The comment was an allusion to city clerk Jackie Beaudry, who handles election-related issues for the city.

Elections were also part of the consent agenda, which the council approved without comment. The election-related item was a resolution of acknowledgment meant to help publicize a change in federal and state law that overrides the city charter and has an impact on filing deadlines for Ann Arbor’s local elections. The filing deadline for city council candidates will change from late June  to early May. For 2011, the deadline to file is Tuesday, May 10 at 4 p.m.

Comm/Comm: Affordable Housing

Lily Au addressed the council on the topic of affordable housing, starting by wishing them a merry Christmas. She reiterated her concerns, which she has expressed at previous meetings, that human services funds not be co-mingled among the organizations that are distributing the funds. Next year, human services funding will be decided through a coordinated effort by the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Washtenaw United Way, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, the Washtenaw Urban County. Au criticized the approximately $400,000 per unit construction cost in a recent proposal made by Avalon to demolish existing apartments at 1500 Pauline Blvd. and build a new complex. [Chronicle coverage: "Low Income Housing Project Planned"] Au complimented Margie Teall (Ward 4), who attends meetings of the Urban County as the city council’s representative to that body. Au told the council that she had a lot of poor friends, and that $400,000 could provide a lot of benefit to them. Au closed by riffing on a Christmas tune with altered lyrics to reflect conditions in a local homeless encampment: “We wish we had running water …”

Comm/Comm: Nominations

At Monday’s meeting, former city councilmember Leigh Greden was nominated to replace Jayne Miller on the board of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. Council will vote on his appointment at an upcoming meeting.

Present: Stephen Rapundalo, Mike Anglin, Margie Teall, Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins, John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor, Carsten Hohnke.

Next council meeting: Jan. 3, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the boardroom of the Washtenaw County administration building, 220 N. Main St., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]

]]> 6