Outside the Larcom Building around 6 p.m., Ann Arbor Police Lt. Michael Logghe was using a “slim Jim” to try to gain entry to a citizen’s car. The woman had locked herself out of her vehicle with the engine running.
She was there to pay a $15 parking ticket. She was hoping to avoid a call to the tow truck. Logghe had not achieved success by the time The Chronicle headed inside for the reception for new members of council.
Later, inside Larcom, the newly constituted city council with four new members began its year of work by approving the transfer of a liquor license to Quickie Burger, three drainage projects to be implemented to reduce phosphorus load along Allen Creek, plus a contract with Dawn Farms to provide in-patient and out-patient drug abuse counseling and rehabilitation services to the 15th Judicial District Court.
A well-attended reception for new councilmembers preceded the meeting Monday, and The Chronicle spent part of that time chatting with Bob Snyder, president of the South University Neighborhood Association. As that reception blended into folks settling in for the meeting, Snyder offered his view of the agenda item concerning Quickie Burger’s liquor license. “Quickie Burger with a liquor license is like a Montessori School with a liquor license,” he laughed.
Councilmember Stephen Rapundalo reiterated the sentiments he expressed at the Nov. 6 council meeting, indicating that he would not support the transfer of the license to Quickie Burger, citing suitability and fit at its 800 S. State St. location. Specifically, he noted that while there are three party stores with licenses, no restaurant-type establishments had them. Rapundalo said that his concern – which he reported was shared by a number of other restaurateurs in the area – stemmed from the implications of the liquor license for policing that area, which he characterized as “in the heart of student country,” with residential areas immediately across the street, not just in the general vicinity.
Councilmember Margie Teall led off several supporting comments by saying that she’d “gone back and forth on this, but I think will be supporting it.” She said that part of town could use some vibrancy and attention and that she wanted to see some more activity in this little area.
Councilmember Mike Anglin couched his support in terms of supporting a business decision on the part of the owners. “It’s a large decision on their part, a major move that a business in our community is making,” he said. He said that we needed to be very careful that we don’t drive businesses out and that we needed to treat them with a welcoming approach. Anglin pointed out that licenses would be subject to annual review under the liquor committee’s revitalized commitment to bringing Ann Arbor’s process in compliance with state requirements, and that if there were any complaints they could be dealt with in that review process.
Councilmember Leigh Greden said he supported the analysis of Anglin and Teall. He said he wanted to confirm for the public that alcohol sales stop at 2 a.m. with only food served from 2-4 a.m. Greden requested and received confirmation from Quickie Burger’s counsel, Dan Dever, that staff at Quickie Burger would continue to be thoroughly trained to enforce service times as well as the age requirement.
For councilmember Carsten Hohnke, what convinced him to support the license transfer was that police and fire services departments at the city had approved the application, there were no objections from city staff, and he didn’t see any objective criteria on the basis of which he could object.
Councilmember Tony Derezinski echoed the same sentiments as Hohnke.
Councilmember Marcia Higgins sought clarification about the location of the outdoor service component of the Quickie Burger application. As discussion with Quickie Burger’s legal counsel and its owner, Kerope Arman, revealed that the outside service area was along Hill Street – contrasting with the language of the resolution, which talked about State Street – Higgins asked that the language be amended. After the clarifying amendment was passed, discussion continued.
Rapundalo addressed specific points made by his colleagues. “I don’t want my view to be misconstrued as trying to stifle local businesses,” he said, in response to Anglin’s comments. In response to Teall’s comments, he questioned the notion that the area needs more activity, saying that having ridden “party patrol” with the AAPD, he’d observed that it was extremely popular. In response to Hohnke and Derezinski, Rapundalo stressed that what the fire and police department had signed off on is simply that there are no violations on record. He assured his colleagues that there are concerns on the police force about having a liquor license there, but it’s not something they can legally state. He concluded by reiterating that suitability and fit are criteria by which a decision can be made.
Councilmember Sandi Smith weighed in with her support for the license transfer, saying that Quickie Burger serves food from 2-4 a.m. now catering to a post-bar crowd. She said that having a liquor license on site gives more control and more incentive to curb any rowdiness.
When the vote was taken, Rapundalo was joined in voting no by councilmembers Marcia Higgins and Christopher Taylor, who said after the meeting that he had based his vote on the same suitability and fit criteria as Rapundalo.
After the approval, owner Kerope Arman said he was happy with the support from council, and described the role the license would play in a Quickie Burger family dining experience: with a meal, a mom can enjoy a glass of wine, a dad can enjoy a beer, and kids can enjoy one of the recently introduced milkshakes. He described the enterprise as the brainchild of his son, Varujan, in much the same way as he did for David Erik Nelson, writing for “Current” back in September.
At councilmember Sabra Briere’s request, Molly Wade, water quality manager with the city of Ann Arbor, gave some background on the three drainage projects, all designed to comply with a directive from the state to reduce phosphorus loading in the Huron River by 50% and to reduce E coli levels to those safe for bodily contact. The three projects on the agenda are a part of the 2007 Allen Creek Initiative, which is an effort to achieve the reductions in phosphorus loading. Mayor of the city of Ann Arbor, John Hieftje, elicited from Wade the consequences for not achieving the reductions, which range from state-mandated specific remedies to fines of up to $25,000 a day.
The sites for the three projects are at Pioneer High School ($4,211,242.00), the city of Ann Arbor farmers market in Kerrytown ($572,018.00), and a section along Stadium Boulevard ($702,335.00).
The Pioneer site is on the northwest corner of the school property, which gets used for parking on UM football Saturdays. The project will entail installation of giant underground storage tanks for storm water detention. The location is ideal, said Craig Hupy, manager of the systems planning unit at the city, because it sits downstream from a large portion (10%) of the watershed.
Councilmember Hohnke asked how the 93 pounds of phosphorus that the Pioneer project was expected to remove from the Allen Creek watershed would translate as progress towards the goal of 50% reduction. Hupy said that the 93 pounds was consistent with the 10% of the watershed that the area represented.
Hohnke also asked Hupy and Wade to address the concerns raised by a speaker during public commentary at the start of the meeting. The speaker was Glenn Thompson, who asked council to vote against the farmers market drain project. Thompson pointed out that if the Allen Creek storm water (which is currently contained in an underground pipe) was so polluted that this provided a rationale for why it can’t be day-lighted, it would, therefore, also not be appropriate for a market setting. He likened the envisioned water-based, educational sculpture that has been discussed for the farmers market to a fountain with contaminated water in the produce section of a grocery store. The vision for the water-based art was also something Thompson found to date poorly articulated, characterizing it as a “magic marker sketch.” Based on the small percentage of the watershed to be treated at the farmers market and the project’s cost, Thompson calculated the cost to treat the entire watershed at $2 billion dollars.
In response to Hohnke’s query, Hupy and Wade acknowledged that the main benefit of the farmers market drain project was in the potential for educational benefit: it drew people from outside who could be exposed to the educational message. Hupy said that he felt that the upfront cost to put the appropriate signage in place would pay off in the ongoing education message.
After the meeting, Wade clarified that the water to be used in the water-based sculpture at the farmers market would not be pumped up from the underground Allen Creek, but would be drawn from underground detention tanks filled from rainfall on the farmers market site.
Councilmember Smith asked if modeling of the drains would result in any relief from the phenomenon of manhole covers blown off by miniature geysers during heavy rains. Hupy said it was unlikely that residents would notice an immediate visual impact, but that the the impact would be positive.
Councilmember Anglin pointed out that modeling means measuring and monitoring flow rates and he encouraged moving forward on installing gauges in the drains.
Councilmember Rapundalo sought clarification about the financing of the projects, which will be paid for initially out of the parks millage fund and reimbursed from the storm water fund. “What won’t we be able to do?” asked Rapundalo. Hupy assured him that the short term for reimbursement (30-60 days) would not have a negative impact.
In light of the increased construction activity near the farmers market for other reasons (Fifth Avenue, for example) in the coming year, councilmember Briere asked if there was coordination with the DDA. Hupy said that the DDA had been at the table through the entire process.
Hieftje elicited from Hupy the fact that there are partners on the projects in the form of the township, the road commission, and state highway department and the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
All three projects were approved unanimously.
Sobriety Court Grant Program
The contract with Dawn Farm to provide in-patient and out-patient drug abuse counseling and rehabilitations service to the 15th District Court totals $101,050. Councilmember Briere opened discussion by noting that the contract does not meet the conditions of the city’s living wage ordinance (which requires entities to pay their employees $10.33 an hour with health care, or else $10.96 without health care). But she asked that her colleagues consider the non-monetary room-and-board compensation as part of the equation. “I hope that we can bend the rules just a little bit on this one,” she said.
Councilmember Higgins noted that council had repeatedly adjusted the amounts with and without health care.
Higgins cast the lone vote against the contract. In her subsequent communications to council, she said that when we decide to bend our ordinances, we should think about changing the ordinance: “We should have an open policy discussion instead of bending ordinances.” Higgins noted that the issue of the living wage had come up in the last year in connection with summer festival grants.
A council rules committee was appointed, which will consist of Derezinski, Higgins, and Briere.
Other council appointments included: Derezinski to planning commission; Hohnke to greenbelt advisory commission; Teall and Hohnke to the environmental commission.
Richard Beedon was appointed to fill Mike Reid’s unexpired term through June 30, 2009 on the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA). Reid resigned over a disagreement concerning the amount and timetable that Ann Arbor SPARK, an economic development agency funded in part by the LDFA, would be required to reimburse monies it had claimed but was not entitled to.
In addition to Glenn Thompson, whose commentary is summarized above, two other members of the public spoke.
Tom Partridge: Partridge called for access to jobs for Michigan residents, universal health care, universal affordable public transportation, and access to affordable lifetime public-supported education, not just in public schools, but in institutions of higher education. He asked council to pass a resolution calling on Michigan’s congressional delegation to address these things, which he said Michigan sorely needs.
Jim Northrup: Northrup, of Ann Arbor Hydraulics, brought a role of lenticular lens material, and a Stirling engine as eye candy for “show and tell.” But what he was before council to request was access to the city’s recycling stream for fresnel lenses from televisons. He wants to use the giant magnifying lenses for research. City administrator Roger Fraser asked Northrup to leave his contact information.
Update on Keys
The vehicle was gone by the time the meeting ended. Either Logghe or a tow truck operator achieved success.
Present: John Hieftje, Sandi Smith, Sabra Briere, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Rapundalo, Leigh Greden, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins, Carsten Hohnke, Mike Anglin. Absent: none.
Next meeting: Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave.