Ann Arbor City Council meeting (July 19, 2010): On Monday night, Zingerman’s Deli partners enjoyed complete support with no dissent from the city council, or the community at large, for their plans to expand the Detroit Street location. The council approved the site plan for the 10,000-square-foot addition, as well as a brownfield application.
Intended as an extra measure of support for Zingerman’s was a third resolution communicating to the city’s historic district commission (HDC) the council’s view that the project represents a substantial benefit to the community. The proposal includes demolition of one house and the integration of another house into the architecture of the proposed new construction. Because the site is located in the Old Fourth Ward, the HDC will need to give its approval, in order for the project to be built. The message sent by the council to the HDC was clear: We want this project approved.
The council also sent a clear message to its firefighter and police unions, which the city hopes will soon ratify contracts that will save the city money. At the meeting, the council approved labor agreements with two other groups – the Teamsters civilian supervisors and the Teamsters police professional assistants. That added to bargained changes with the police deputy chiefs union that were approved at the council’s previous meeting on July 6. All three agreements reflected cost savings to the city through greater contributions by union members to health and retirement benefits and no increase in wages.
The implicit message to the firefighter and police unions was given explicit form through a position statement from the council’s labor committee and read aloud by Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), the chair of that committee. The statement calls on those unions to follow the example of the three who have already ratified contracts.
The council also gave final approval to a new pedestrian safety ordinance, which requires motorists to stop for pedestrians who are in, or even approaching, crosswalks that lack any traffic control device. During deliberations, the council swapped in “stop” to make the ordinance stronger than the originally proposed “yield.”
In other business, the council authorized the specific allocation of over $1 million in already-budgeted funds to nonprofits providing human services, approved liquor licenses for two downtown businesses, authorized the hire of a community energy coordinator using federal funds, got an update on the future of the Library Lot, and heard public commentary on a range of issues.
Zingerman’s Deli Expansion
Before the council were three resolutions involving the proposal by Zingerman’s Deli to expand their facility, located at Kingsley and Detroit streets in the Kerrytown district of downtown Ann Arbor.
Zingerman’s first brought forward a proposal in June 2008 that was submitted to the city’s historic district commission (HDC) – it called for the demolition of two houses. One of the houses, at 322 E. Kingsley, was fire-damaged. The other house is the Zingerman’s Annex, also known as the “orange house.” The city’s HDC turned down that proposal.
This time around, Zingerman’s met twice with the HDC during working sessions, but started the approval process with the city’s planning commission, followed by the city council. The planning commission has already given the project its unanimous recommendation for approval by the city council.
The site plan still calls for tearing down a house at 322 E. Kingsley, but would integrate the Annex into the design of the new construction. The new building is planned as a two-story, 10,340-square-foot addition that would be connected to the 5,107-square-foot deli building via a glass atrium. They’ll add underground tanks for stormwater detention and several environmentally-friendly design elements, including a green roof on the deli’s existing one-story wing. Phoenix Contractors of Ypsilanti is the project’s construction manager and general contractor.
All along, Zingerman’s executives have cited concerns over the project’s expense, particularly the cost of renovating the Annex. The overall project is expected to cost about $6.7 million. Roughly $500,000 is associated with renovating the house, which is relatively small – less than 900 square feet. Renovation will entail moving the Annex off its existing foundation, replacing the foundation, renovating the house, then moving it onto the new foundation and incorporating the structure into the new deli addition.
Previous Chronicle coverage:
The three Zingerman’s resolutions covered: (i) approval of the the site plan, (ii) approval of a brownfield application, and (iii) encouraging the HDC to grant a “notice to proceed.”
Zingerman’s Public Comment: Site Plan and Brownfield Plan
Around a dozen letters of support accompanied the city council’s electronic agenda. One representative sample is from Jeremy Peters, director of creative and business affairs for Ghostly Songs:
We have come to know many members of the staff, management, and ownership over the course of the past few years, and can speak volumes to what we have learned from them as a “good” business who invests in their staff and community. Zingerman’s has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to this community and its citizens through continued investment in our area and generous philanthropic support of efforts aimed at community betterment. Zingerman’s is, in every sense, a community partner and one of Ann Arbor’s most valuable assets.
We hope to follow in their model of success as much as possible.
Allowing Zingerman’s to grow its business at its present location will be of substantial benefit to the community. It will inject capital into our local economy by creating both temporary construction and permanent retail jobs.
Grace Singleton, a managing partner with the deli, led off the public hearing by reiterating much of the same material she’s previously presented to the planning commission and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The deli has grown quite a bit since it started in 1982. In the first year, they’d sold 2,000 sandwiches, she said, but last year they estimate they made over 300,000. They’d begun with three employees and have now grown to employ 180. But they still have the same kitchen, she said.
Singleton stressed how they’d made improvements in one-off, “hodge podge” fashion, adding some seating capacity in a tent behind the Annex, and adding some outside storage units. What they are now proposing, she said, is a large upgrade that would last a long time into the future. There are inherent challenges in the project, she said, which include the removal of one house, the construction of a two-story building, plus the restoration of another house, all while keeping the deli open for business, she said.
Next up for the Zingerman’s project team was Christy Summers of Beckett & Raeder Inc. She described Zingerman’s as an “iconic” business of Ann Arbor. She described the project as providing Zingerman’s with more flexibility. She also stressed the greater accessibility the project would afford Zingerman’s patrons, citing the ramps, slopes and handrails that would be a part of the project. She noted the stormwater management system that would re-use some of the water and allow some to infiltrate into the ground naturally.
Ken Clein of Quinn Evans Architects continued the presentation for the project team, and talked about how the project was designed to fit into the historical context of the neighborhood, partly through the choice of appropriate materials. He also discussed various acoustical controls that would help damp down possible noise from mechanical systems. He said the project was planned to achieve LEED certification on either the silver or gold level. Among the environmental features he mentioned were green roofs, a highly-insulated building envelope and heat recapture. Clein noted that city council approval was the “last hurdle” before historic district commission approval.
Jim Mogensen began by noting that the Star Wars episodes were not released in chronological order. He was alluding partly to the fact that the proposal was getting approval from the planning commission and city council, before seeking approval from the city’s historic district commission.
By way of background, the sequencing was explained in a recent memo prepared by Jill Thacher, a city planner specializing in historic preservation issues:
All [other] approvals are required so that the HDC has as many assurances as possible that the applicant seriously intends to build the project and is in a position to do so. This is necessary since the Notice to Proceed will result in the permanent removal of historic resources. In order to apply to the HDC for a notice to proceed, the project must have an approved site plan from City Council, have proof of financing, and have any other zoning or environmental approvals that may be necessary to build the project. In order for the HDC to grant the project a Notice to Proceed, Zingerman’s must prove that their project will be of substantial benefit to the community. How that benefit is defined and whether it is substantial enough to warrant the removal of contributing resources is determined by the HDC.
From the city code on issuance of a notice to proceed:
8:416. Notice to proceed.
(1) Work within a historic district shall be permitted through the issuance of a notice to proceed by the commission if any of the following conditions prevail and if the proposed work can be demonstrated by a finding of the commission to be necessary to substantially improve or correct any of the following conditions:
(a) The resource constitutes a hazard to the safety of the public or to the structure’s occupants.
(b) The resource is a deterrent to a major improvement program that will be of substantial benefit to the community and the applicant proposing the work has obtained all necessary planning and zoning approvals, financing, and environmental clearances.
(c) Retaining the resource will cause undue financial hardship to the owner when a governmental action, an act of God, or other events beyond the owner’s control created the hardship, and all feasible alternatives to eliminate the financial hardship, which may include offering the resource for sale at its fair market value or moving the resource to a vacant site within the historic district, have been attempted and exhausted by the owner.
(d) Retaining the resource is not in the interest of the majority of the community.
Mogensen, however, was also using the topic of chronological sequence as an opportunity to riff on some of the zoning history of Ann Arbor. First, he said, it was thought to be beneficial for students to be able to live off campus – so the R4C zoning district was created, which he suggested stood for “residential for cash.” When matter-of-right apartment buildings started to get built, he said, historic districts were established to preserve the character of the neighborhood. The zoning, together with the historic districts, combined to allow students to live off campus in multi-unit houses in a way that preserved the neighborhoods.
Mogensen urged the council to approve Zingerman’s proposal, but asked councilmembers to reflect on what might happen several years down the road. What if the Ann Arbor Public Schools decided that Community High School – on the property adjoining Zingerman’s – was no longer needed? What if that parcel, too, became a part of a huge Zingerman’s project?
Thomas Partridge drew a connection to the project and the need for increased affordable housing and a transportation system that so that Zingerman’s workers would have a place to live and a way to get to work.
Jared Belka, part of Zingerman’s legal team, spoke to the issue of the brownfield redevelopment plan. He described Zingerman’s total investment in the project as amounting to $6.7 million. He reviewed with the council how the brownfield application was being made under the provision that allowed for redevelopment of functionally obsolete buildings. The plan would cover up to $817,000 in eligible activities, Belka said, including site preparation [$534,800], demolition [$100,000], infrastructure improvements [$41,300] and lead and asbestos abatement [$25,000].
Also a part of Zingerman’s legal team, Gary Bruder indicated that the reason Zingerman’s was applying for brownfield financing was that the project is very expensive because it’s being undertaken in a historic district. But Zingerman’s is committed to Ann Arbor, he said, and to that site in particular. They’ll be using a surgical, even “micro-surgical” process in the construction, Bruder added. A specific example is that they’ll use pile and timber lagging in the course of construction, he said.
Singleton returned to the podium for the second public hearing, on the brownfield plan, to reiterate her earlier point about past growth at Zingerman’s and to suggest that in the next five years, they expected to add as many as 65 more jobs, having added 35 over the previous five years. She also mentioned the philanthropic work done by Zingerman’s, having founded Food Gatherers and the Delonis Community Kitchen, and donating 10% of profits to local nonprofit organizations. Singleton said she realized that the tax capture mechanism of brownfield development was not popular with some in the community, but she pointed to the return to the city’s nonprofit community as something that helped to counterbalance that.
Zingerman’s: Council Deliberations
Sandi Smith (Ward 1) led off deliberations on the brownfield plan, which had been reordered at the start of the meeting to appear first on the agenda. She urged support of the plan, saying Zingerman’s is an excellent corporate citizen, noting that they gave back to the community. They are good neighbors with the North Central Property Owners Association and the Old Fourth Ward, she said. Zingerman’s is the second most-requested location when visitors are seeking directions, she said – first is the University of Michigan hospital. The brownfield plan would allow Zingerman’s to stay in the city, she said.
Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) described the Zingerman’s project as exactly the kind of project meant for non-environmental brownfield plans. He noted how there were a lot of things going on in a tight space.
Margie Teall (Ward 4) echoed the sentiments of Smith and Hohnke.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) said that as a member of the brownfield committee, he supported the plan because the buildings in question were functionally obsolete. He also noted that the implementation of stormwater detention is an important use of the tax credits.
Kunselman also reflected on the fact that Zingerman’s had existed for 28 years – he remembered a time when it was not there. He’d attended Community High School, before Zingerman’s was located there, and noted that it was not as “likeable” an area as it is now. He recalled how the entire area had been planned for urban renewal – everything had been planned for demolition. Alluding to Jim Mogensen’s speculation that Community High might be eliminated by the school system, Kunselman said that there was active speculation when he was in school there that the school would be eliminated, and fortunately, that had not taken place.
Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve Zingerman’s brownfield plan.
Deliberations on the site plan were brief. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) acknowledged that Zingerman’s was a valued community member. She noted that it was a sensitive site plan for a difficult site.
Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve Zingerman’s site plan.
While the site plan and the brownfield plan for Zingerman’s were before the city council for consideration as a standard part of the approval process, a third resolution fell outside that process. The measure called upon the city’s historic district commission to take note of the city council’s support of the Zingerman’s project:
RESOLVED, That City Council respectfully requests that the Historic District Commission consider this resolution during its deliberations as some evidence that the Zingerman’s Deli site expansion will be of substantial benefit to the Ann Arbor community; and
RESOLVED, That City Council directs the City Clerk to transmit this resolution to the Historic District Commission.
In deliberations on the resolution, Christoper Taylor (Ward 3) noted that in order for the project to move forward and grant a notice to proceed, the city’s historic district commission must reach the conclusion that the project will be a substantial benefit to the community. Taylor acknowledged that the HDC would come to its own conclusions on the matter, but contended that the city council, as elected representatives of the citizens of Ann Arbor, is competent to speak to the issue of what constitutes a benefit to the community.
So the resolution, Taylor contended, seeks to “affirm for all the world, not that it requires our affirmation, but nonetheless” that it’s the HDC that will make the determination on the community benefit. But the resolution also seeks to affirm, he continued, that it’s the city council’s judgment that the proposal constitutes a substantial benefit to the community.
Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) echoed the sentiments of Taylor and noted the “iconic” status of the business as expressed during the public hearing. Sandi Smith (Ward 1) indicated that when asked what would happen if the project did not go through, Zingerman’s had indicated that they would have to move from that location. Smith said that would be devastating to the area, but that Zingerman’s would be fine – their fans would follow them, she said.
Outcome: The council voted unanimously to pass the resolution communicating to the historic district commission the council’s support of Zingerman’s.
The city council also communicated a clear message to its firefighter and police unions, with whom the city is currently bargaining.
Before the council were labor agreements with two other groups – the Teamsters civilian supervisors and the Teamsters police professional assistants. That added to bargained changes with the police deputy chiefs union that were approved at the council’s previous meeting on July 6. All three agreements reflected cost savings to the city through greater contributions by union members to health and retirement benefits and no increase in wages.
Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), who chairs the city council’s labor committee, indicated that the previous council meeting had run so late [concluding just past 1 a.m.] that he did not think many people noticed the approval of the agreement with the police deputy chiefs union.
Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) said that as chair of the council’s labor committee, he was pleased to see the agreement and the resolution come forward. The terms provide savings to the city, he said, specifically in the area of increasing their own contributions to health care benefits. The health care plan they were voting on, Rapundalo said, is the same one enjoyed by the city’s non-union workers, with the same contribution level. Rapundalo also highlighted the fact that there’ll be an increase in the pension contribution made by employees and no across-the-board increase in wages.
Rapundalo thanked members of the union for stepping up and making sacrifices to help the city work within its budgetary constraints.
Ann Arbor is not unique in the need to achieve savings, Rapundalo reminded his council colleagues. He ticked through several other Michigan cities where safety services personnel had accepted significant percentage decreases in total benefits.
With the council’s approval of the two additional bargained agreements, with similar terms to the previous one, Rapundalo made the implicit message to the police and firefighter unions explicit. From the position statement by the council’s labor committee:
Currently, the firefighters, the police officers and the police command officers pay only a deductible of $250 per person or $500 per family. They do not pay a monthly premium or co-insurance. The new plans ratified tonight include an increased deductible, a 20% co-insurance and the option of a monthly premium for lower deductibles and out of pocket maximums.
We are hopeful that negotiations with the remaining groups will be successful and lead to the type of savings that other bargaining units have already achieved and ratified. However, if negotiations are unsuccessful, we are supportive of staff pursuing Act 312 binding arbitration to resolve these contracts.
The collective bargaining units which have not yet ratified contracts should be aware of the current economic conditions facing the City and we hope they will act accordingly. We encourage all members of the remaining bargaining units to become more engaged in their respective negotiations and especially in learning the specific details of what is being bargained on their behalf.
Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the agreements with the Teamsters civilian supervisors and the Teamsters police professional assistants.
Crosswalks: Pedestrian Ordinance
Before the council for its second reading was a proposed change to the pedestrian crosswalk ordinance.
Before the change, it read:
[Old Language] 10:148. Pedestrians crossing streets.
(a) No pedestrian shall cross a street at a location other than at a crosswalk into which vehicle traffic is then restricted by a traffic control device unless such crossing may be done safely and without interfering with motor vehicle and bicycle traffic on that street.
(b) When traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger, but a pedestrian shall not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into a path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
The ordinance revision provides greater protection for pedestrians approaching crosswalks. The revision requires motorists to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians not just in crosswalks, but also approaching them. Previous language was stricken, which limited the requirement on motorists to yield only to pedestrians in the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling.
In the course of deliberations, the “yield” language was strengthened to include “stop.” Additional language amended at the council table is in italics.
[New Language] 10:148. Pedestrians crossing streets.
(a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to every pedestrian approaching or within a crosswalk.
(b) A pedestrian shall not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into a path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
(c) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
The ordinance change came at least in part due to advocacy from Ann Arbor resident Matt Grocoff, who contacted Ward 5 councilmembers Mike Anglin and Carsten Hohnke as early as Jan. 9, 2009 alerting them to the relatively weak protections that Ann Arbor’s ordinance provided to pedestrians, compared with other communities. From an email he sent to them and posted on the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition‘s GoogleGroup:
The recent conversation about Roundabouts and neighborhood Mini-Roundabouts raised questions about pedestrian crosswalk and cyclist safety at both types of roundabouts. Roundabouts have been proven to be among the safest traffic tools available.
However, I strongly urge that these conversations MUST include revising the current Ann Arbor pedestrian right-of-way ordinance. Without absolute pedestrian right-of-way and strict enforcement of the rule, NO crosswalk, roundabout, or any other traffic device will make our roads as safe as those in other states. [...]
The fact is, Ann Arbor’s ordinance does not give true right-of-way to pedestrians. It is overly broad, complex, and ambiguous. When read carefully, drivers need to yield to pedestrians only if they are about to hit them.
In communities with clearly stated rules (Essex, NJ; Sarasota, FL; Boulder, CO, the entire State of California, Seattle, Portland, etc), cars come to a FULL STOP when a pedestrian APPROACHES a crosswalk in a roundabout or mid-roadway.
Crosswalks: Public Comment
Kathy Griswold spoke specifically about the mid-block crosswalk at King Elementary School, which she has for more than a year advocated be moved to a four-way stop intersection. She reviewed the history and work of the Transportation Safety Committee, which had evaluated the King School crossing. She indicated that the project had been engineered, funded, and staked out, with part of the expense for an asphalt path to be provided by a $500 contribution from an anonymous donor. She characterized the halt to the project as due to “good-old boy cronyism.”
On the more general issue of the proposed crosswalk ordinance, Griswold said during the public hearing that she fully supported it, but noted that she’d been unable to read the text of the proposed ordinance online as of 10 a.m. that morning. [According to the city clerk's office, the issue related to how that agenda item was submitted to the online Legistar system by the community services department – it had been marked as "not viewable via the web." By 2 p.m. the status of the item had been changed by the clerk's office to be visible.]
But Griswold likened the ordinance to giving a kid a bicycle and telling them we’d buy them a helmet later. She called for greater attention to sight-line issues at intersections and at other points along the roadway. Sight-lines, she said, can be obstructed by vegetation as well as utility boxes. A specific example she gave of utility boxes causing sight-line problems is eastbound Glazier Way at Huron Parkway.
Calling the council’s attention to the crosswalks like the one at State and William was Jim Mogensen during the public hearing. He said that due to limitations on his mobility, he only crossed when the walk signal indicated it was okay for him to go. But at that intersection, he pointed out, the walk signal coincided with a conflicting left-turn arrow for motorists. [A related column on the timing of walk signals was published almost two years ago in The Chronicle: "Column: Waiting Too Long for the Go"]
Speaking during the public hearing on behalf of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, board member Kris Talley indicated the group had been working on the issue for more than a year. She pointed the council to a video that they’d created to illustrate what motorist behavior is like towards pedestrians who are trying to enter crosswalks. What had been particularly striking, Talley said, was a forum attended by city transportation staff, a city attorney, a police officer and advocates for non-motorized transportation where there’d been a lack of consensus about what was required by the city’s current pedestrian ordinance – for pedestrians and motorists alike. The proposed revision, she said, is language that makes crosswalks meaningful.
Crosswalks: Council Deliberations – Stop versus Yield
Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), who co-sponsored the ordinance change along with mayor John Hieftje, led off deliberations by saying that the change had come about through their work with a number of city staff and community members. He characterized the ordinance as one tool among many to help improve the environment for pedestrians in Ann Arbor – other tools include targeted enforcement, education, and engineering solutions [e.g., traffic islands].
Under the current ordinance, Hohnke said, a pedestrian has to actually “take ownership” of the crosswalk by entering it, before a motorist is required to yield. Hohnke described the video, to which Kris Talley had alluded during her remarks, as “scary to see.” He talked about how it depicts people trying to cross streets around Ann Arbor with motorists failing to yield and included images of young children dashing across the street after first hesitating but noticing other kids in their group crossing.
Hohnke identified the specific challenges that they had to work through as: (i) ambiguity – how do you know when someone is approaching a crosswalk? and (ii) change in culture – how are motorists supposed to know something different is expected? He said they’d concluded that the kind of ambiguity that might be present was no different from other kinds of ambiguity in traffic laws – like that associated with yellow lights, he said. And the changes in behavior that will be required, he concluded, would likely be similar to the adjustments that are necessary when a new stop sign is installed somewhere. He thanked the WBWC for their work on the issue.
Sabra Briere (Ward 1) noted that she’d seen people trying to cross Plymouth Road – they know they have the right-of-way, but nobody stops. How will we get them to stop?
Chief of Ann Arbor police, Barnett Jones, told Briere that they’d need to “hit the community hard” with education. He said he would actually prefer language that was somewhat more blunt than “yield,” saying that the interpretation of “stop” is universal and clear.
Jones then cited the Canadian cultural practice of pedestrians standing on the curb and simply pointing to the cross walk, which prompted motorists to stop for them. The remark had earned a thumbs-up from Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), who is a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. Jones said it was important that citizens are “not playing Frogger” trying to cross the roadways.
Hieftje noted that the educational effort was made difficult by the fact that half the motorists on Ann Arbor roadways at any given time do not live in Ann Arbor.
Margie Teall (Ward 4) asked from a motorist’s perspective whether the new law meant they would need to yield to pedestrians at the second crosswalk of a four-way stop if they’d already begun through the intersection – she noted that at an intersection like Forest and South University Avenue, the pedestrians just “stream across.” Jones indicated that yes, you need to yield in that situation. Hohnke also pointed out that the new ordinance applies to crosswalks were there is no traffic control device.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) picked up on the remark by the police chief to the effect that the chief would prefer the ordinance say “stop” and pointed out that the current ordinance had similar language, which the revision proposed to strike: “slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield.”
Kunselman proposed that the new ordinance be amended to include the “slowing down or stopping” language. Hieftje was not inclined to entertain the possibility of changing the language, saying that he and Hohnke, along with the WBWC and the city attorney’s office, had worked on it. Rapundalo weighed in for keeping things simple. He didn’t see the need for “stopping or slowing down” if that’s what “to yield” means. Teall contemplated removing “yield” and simple using “slowing down or stopping.”
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) responding to Hieftje’s remarks, said that just because the language was vetted didn’t mean it isn’t ambiguous. She focused away from “yield” to the question of “approaching,” asking how close someone needed to be to the crosswalk to be considered to be “approaching” it. Hieftje responded by saying that under the old ordinance, a pedestrian would have to “dance out into the intersection” in order for a motorist to be required to yield. He contended that “approaching” isn’t ambiguous.
Rapundalo inveighed against “overthinking” the question, saying that currently “the car rules” and the ordinance should simply state that the pedestrian gets the right-of-way, period. There should not be language available, he said, that would allow a motorist to “worm their way out of it.” He concluded that no further massaging of the language was necessary. Sandi Smith (Ward 1) said she’d been impressed by her visit to Calgary nine months ago, when she’d been a curb and a car had stopped for her as a pedestrian, even though the car had a green light. Briere echoed Rapundalo’s sentiments.
Higgins then brought forward an amendment that won the day, which she suggested reflected the council’s real intent: insert “stop and” before “yield.” The resulting line, which Hohnke accepted as a friendly amendment, reads: “the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to every pedestrian approaching or within a crosswalk.”
Outcome: The council unanimously adopted the pedestrian ordinance requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians approaching crosswalks.
Downtown Liquor Licenses
Before the city council were two recommendation to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission that downtown development district liquor licenses be approved for two downtown businesses: @Burger, which will open at 505 E. Liberty St.; and Revive, located on the ground floor of Zaragon Place at 619 E. University.
The liquor licenses were recommended under Public Act 501 MCL 436.1521A(1)b, which enabled the MLCC to grant additional licenses to businesses located in development districts.
The city council’s liquor license review committee consists of Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2).
From Chronicle coverage of the city council’s May 17, 2010 meeting:
Before the council was a resolution to approve issuance of a downtown development district liquor license to the New York Pizza Depot. It came before the council on a 2-1 vote from the council’s liquor license review committee. Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), who chairs that council committee, indicated that he had been the dissenting vote and would not be supporting the issuance of the license. He noted that such licenses are meant to be an economic development tool and that he had tried to make his decisions on such licenses consistent across applications.
Specifically, such licenses are meant to provide a benefit to the community. In the case of the New York Pizza Depot, he contended, the petitioner could not show any anticipated growth in employment due to the issuance of the license. In addition, Rapundalo said, a consideration for issuance was the location – is it unique? The existing density of licenses in the area, he said, did not indicate to him a dire need for an establishment of that kind.
Liquor: Council Deliberations
At the request of Mike Anglin (Ward 5), representatives from @Burger gave a presentation to the council on how the business would work at the East Liberty location.
Outcome: The council unanimously approved the recommendations that @Burger and Revive be granted downtown development district liquor licenses.
Human Services Funding
Before the council were the specific allocations to various nonprofits providing human services funding for FY 2011. The city funds for the allocations were approved as part of the city’s FY 2011 budget, which was adopted at the city council’s May 17, 2010 meeting.
The city allocates funding to these nonprofits based on a formal request for proposals (RFP). The RFP for this year’s funding cycle, as well as for last year’s funding, was issued in January 2009. The RFP indicated that the funding would be allocated for both FY 2010 and FY 2011. A total of 47 nonprofits applied, making 67 proposals for grant funding totaling $3,773,435.
Making the recommendations was the human services review committee – a nine-member body consisting of three members appointed by the Ann Arbor city council, three members from the Urban County and three community development staff members. In addition to making recommendations for the city’s allocation of human services funding, the review committee made recommendations on county funds as well as HUD’s community development block grants (CDBG).
City of Ann Arbor $ 25,500 Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, Inc. 5,850 Ann Arbor YMCA 80,750 Avalon Housing, Inc. 20,000 Barrier Busters Action Group 9,000 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County 12,100 Fr. Patrick Jackson House (CSS) 10,000 The Oaks (CSS) 22,000 Maximizing the Independence (CSS) 6,300 Emergency Food Program (CSS) 17,550 Employment Skills/Goal Setting Workshops (CSS) 50,000 Neighborhood Senior Services (CSS) 210,000 Child Care Network 20,400 Preventing Evictions (CAN) 23,800 School Comes First! Hikone and Green Baxter (CAN) 8,500 Food & Health Care Hikone and Green Baxter (CAN) 8,500 Community Housing Alternatives 19,295 COPE 38,250 Domestic Violence Project, Inc. 26,076 Family Learning Institute 123,200 Food Gatherers 13,200 HIV/AIDS Housing Assistance Program (HIV/AIDS RC) 5,000 Harm Reduction Program (HIV/AIDS RC) 25,000 Home of New Vision 38,500 Interfaith Hospitality Network of Washtenaw Co. 10,000 Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County 73,000 Legal Services of South Central Michigan 34,000 Housing Supports Team (MAP) 18,121 Representative Payee (MAP) 38,250 Packard Health Inc. 15,000 Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan 10,000 Meal Delivery to Under Age 60 (Meals on Wheels) 16,000 Weekend Meal Delivery (Meals on Wheels) 16,250 UM Nurse Managed Centers/Maple Meadows 24,000 UM Housing Bureau for Seniors 19,500 The Student Advocacy Center of Michigan 30,000 The Women's Center of Southeastern Michigan 117,700 Washtenaw County CSTS/Project Outreach (PORT) 27,500 Washtenaw Literacy 1,268,092 SUBTOTAL 7,652 Human Service Contingency 1,275,744 TOTAL
CDBG Public Service Funds $ 40,885 Northfield Human Services 51,700 Ozone House, Inc. 58,300 Shelter Association Service Center (SAWC) 151,015 Night Shelter Program (SAWC) 32,500 Delonis Center Health Clinic (SAWC) 8,600 SOS Community Center 343,000 TOTAL Washtenaw County General Funds 46,400 Housing Crisis Services (SOS) 13,200 Homeless School-Aged Children's Program (SOS) 20,000 The Corner Health Center 20,400 Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels 100,000 TOTAL
Human Services: Public Comment and Deliberations
Jim Mogensen’s red ribbon presentation has become an annual event associated with the allocation of human services funding. It includes the unfurling of a red ribbon as a bar in a bar chart representing the rest of the city’s budget excluding human services allocations. As the ribbon is unwound and stretches across the council chambers, the point is illustrated that the amount spent on human services is relatively small.
Coverage of last year’s red ribbon presentation: “Ann Arbor Allocates Human Services Funding.”
Though Mogensen attended the council meeting, he did not make the red ribbon presentation this year. When The Chronicle conveyed its disappointment after the meeting, Mogensen accepted the message with typical good cheer.
Outcome: The council unanimously approved its human services allocations.
Background for some public comment and councilmember communication at the meeting is the issue of what, if anything, should be built on top of the city-owned Library Lot – currently the construction site for an underground parking structure. The city issued a request for proposals last year, with the idea that if one of the proposals were approved, the underground garage design could be tweaked to accommodate certain design features.
The responses were all presented in a public forum, and the committee tasked with reviewing them subsequently winnowed them down to two proposals. Along the way, a citizen-generated proposal for a community commons was eliminated from further consideration, then added back to the pool, then finally eliminated. The two finalist proposals selected by the review committee were for hotel/conference center projects.
The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority authorized money to hire a consultant to evaluate the financial merits of the two proposals, but that consultant has not been hired. The committee has not met in several months. The window of opportunity to make any design tweaks in the underground parking garage passed back in the spring, and the sense of urgency that drove the committee’s initial work has ebbed. A starting point for Chronicle coverage: “Hotel/Conference Center Ideas Go Forward.”
Library Lot: Public Comment
Addressing the city council during public commentary reserved time was Alan Haber, who had helped put together the proposal for a community commons on the Library Lot. He ticked through a number of specific questions for the council:
- Will you call on the advisory committee to deliver its report?
- Will you allow the city council to consider the proposal for the community commons?
- Will you call for public hearings on the best use of the Library Lot?
- Do you think that paving the top of the garage for use as a surface parking lot is the best use of the land?
- Will you consider directing the DDA to re-allocate the bond funds allocated for paving the lot for landscaping materials like earth and bulbs?
- Will you consider the idea of a conservancy for a community commons, which would be the entity charged with the maintenance of the commons?
Library Lot: Update from Council
During his communications, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), who chairs the RFP review committee, gave an update on progress. He reviewed a recent update he’d given about a month ago at the council’s June 7, 2010 meeting. From The Chronicle’s report of that meeting:
Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) responded to Haber’s comments on the Library Lot by describing the process as being in a “holding pattern.” The committee had been prepared to engage a consultant to assist in the review of the two finalist proposals, and the potential consultant had been reviewed by city administrator Roger Fraser and executive director of the DDA Susan Pollay, but they’d stopped short of signing a contract with the consultant. An unanticipated change in personnel within the consultant’s organization had led them to re-evaluate the pool. Rapundalo said it was unfortunate that Fraser himself was not there at the meeting to provide more details.
At Monday’s meeting, Rapundalo indicated that concerns centered on the “glitch” that had arisen on the consultant’s part – the staffing change – had now been eliminated. They were in discussions with the consultant to develop a work plan, he said, and they’d determined that the DDA would also use an intern to provide additional comparative analysis. In the coming week, Rapundalo said, they would sit down with the two Library Lot finalists, Valiant and Acquest, and “with a little bit of luck,” he concluded, by late August the committee would be able to pick things back up and continue their work.
At a recent candidate forum, Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) expressed the view that the community conversation should begin anew with a completely clean slate.
A couple of items related to the impact of heavy rains in the area were brought up during the July 19 meeting.
Floods: Task Force for Bryant Neighborhood?
Speaking on behalf of the Community Action Network (CAN), during public commentary reserved time, Joan Doughty requested that the city council appoint a task force to address flooding in the the Bryant neighborhood. She asked that the charge of the task force specifically be to identify a remediation plan and a funding source. She allowed that nobody on the city council was responsible for causing the flooding, but noted that it was a long-standing and frequent problem. She cited the recollection of a civil engineer with the city 20 years ago who said it was already a problem back then.
Flooding is not a rare event in the neighborhood, Doughty said, but rather happens with every heavy rain, several times per month. She noted that Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) had some experience dealing with similar issues in the Orchard Hills neighborhood, while allowing that every neighborhood is unique. The Bryant neighborhood, she said, had lacked a political voice up to now.
Floods: Insurance Board of Review
Also tangentially related to floods and heavy rains was confirmation of Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) as a member of the city’s insurance board of review. At the city council’s previous meeting, there had been a call for a council volunteer to serve on the city’s board of insurance administration – a three-person body consisting of the city treasurer and two councilmembers. Rapundalo volunteered at the last meeting to accept the mayor’s nomination and to join his Ward 2 colleague, Tony Derezinski, on the board.
Before the council on Monday night was confirmation of Rapundalo’s nomination.
The function of the board is to supervise the city’s self-insurance fund, to review all employee worker’s disability compensation claims and to handle any claims by citizens filed against the city.
The board’s composition is governed by chapter 8 of the city code, which addresses the organization of boards and commissions:
1:193. Board of Insurance Administration.
The Board of Insurance Administration shall consist of 2 members of Council appointed by the City Council, and the City Treasurer, ex officio. Said board shall supervise the self-insurance fund of the city, also referred to as the risk fund of the city, shall make recommendations concerning the actuarial sufficiency of said fund and the investment of accumulated reserves.
The board meets on the fourth Thursday of every month, so its next meeting is July 22. At that meeting the board will hear claims from residents on Iroquois Place, who experienced backups of sewage in their basements as a result of the heavy rains in early June of this year.
State law lays out the specific conditions that must be met to overcome governmental immunity for sewage backups:
(3) If a claimant, including a claimant seeking noneconomic damages, believes that an event caused property damage or physical injury, the claimant may seek compensation for the property damage or physical injury from a governmental agency if the claimant shows that all of the following existed at the time of the event:
(a) The governmental agency was an appropriate governmental agency.
(b) The sewage disposal system had a defect.
(c) The governmental agency knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, about
(d) The governmental agency, having the legal authority to do so, failed to take reasonable steps in a
reasonable amount of time to repair, correct, or remedy the defect.
(e) The defect was a substantial proximate cause of the event and the property damage or physical injury.
Previous Chronicle coverage of the drain disconnect program, which is intended to ameliorate the basement sewage backup problem: “Drain Disconnect Time for Homeowners.” Ann Arbor has separate sanitary and stormwater sewers systems. Under the disconnect program, houses that have storm drains connected to the sanitary sewer are connected to the stormwater sewer system instead.
Outcome: The council unanimously approved Rapundalo as a member of the insurance board, with the mayor thanking Rapundalo for stepping up to serve even while his other committee obligations were already heavy.
Before the council was a $260,000 contract with Clean Energy Coalition (CEC), an Ypsilanti-based nonprofit, to hire a community energy program coordinator. The coordinator, to be hired by CEC with input from city staff, will be supervised by Andrew Brix, the city’s energy programs manager.
The contract also includes technical assistance from CEC to a community energy financing program such as a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. The funds for the contract come from a U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) worth $1,243,400.
Outcome: The council approved the contract without discussion.
Before the council was an amendment to the city’s solid waste management code related to regulations on trash left outside. As the cover memo describes it, this is the ordinance used to compel clean up after parties:
Community Standards officers often use this ordinance to compel the clean-up of any type of solid waste strewn about on the exterior premises of a property. Solid waste includes, but is not limited to, party-related debris, paper, cardboard, building materials, appliances, and other solid waste.
The substantive change to the ordinance was laid out by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). It was motivated by situations where there is a rental property, and it is tenants who have strewn the waste. Many landlords require tenants to pay fines associated with tickets issued under the ordinance. The fines are tiered based on the number of offenses at a property. However, a current tenant may not be guilty of every prior offense resulting in an increased fine amount. That inherent unfairness, said Taylor, can result in a “judicial downcharging” with lessor fines being imposed than they would otherwise.
So the amendment prevents landlords from requiring tenants to pay any fine amounts due to offenses committed prior to their own tenancy at the property [emphasis added]:
(e) No property owner, landlord, or agent who incurs fines and costs for a violation of this section shall require tenant(s) or occupant(s) to pay fines and costs for or reimburse the owner, landlord, or agent for payment of fines and costs, except in keeping with the following requirements:
(1) For a first violation within the period of time that the tenant(s) or occupant(s) reside(s) on the property, the owner, landlord, or agent shall not require the tenant(s) or occupant(s) to pay more than $200.
(2) For a second violation within the period of time that the tenant(s) or occupant(s) reside(s) on the property, the owner, landlord, or agent shall not require the tenant(s) or occupant(s) to pay more than $400.
(3) For each additional or subsequent offense within the period of time that the tenant(s) or occupant(s) reside(s) on the property, the owner, landlord, or agent shall not require the tenant(s) or occupant(s) to pay more than $1,000.
Outcome: After brief discussion, the council unanimously approved the amendment to the city’s solid waste code.
Added to the council’s agenda the same day as the meeting was a resolution expressing support for development of high-speed and intercity passenger rail service in Michigan, as well as the city’s interest in participating in a municipal rail caucus. The resolution had been requested from Ann Arbor by the The Michigan Municipal League (MML). The league is trying to enlist the support of cities located on three Amtrak routes for railroad initiatives.
Outcome: The resolution expressing support of rail transportation was passed unanimously.
Rail Transportation: Public Comment
Jim Mogensen addressed the council at the conclusion of its meeting on the topic of transportation. Several years ago, he said, the Federal Transit Administration had issued a report on the civil rights implications of rail versus bus service, he said. There is no plan for what happens to people who live on MacArthur Boulevard or other areas of Ypsilanti, he said.
There’s an Aug. 3 ballot initiative in Ypsilanti to fund transportation, he said, but it “doesn’t count” – the state attorney general has ruled that the proposal must be voted on during a general election, not a primary election. Still, he said, if it fails, people might come to the conclusion that the voters have spoken.
In the June 23, 2010 AATA board meeting packet, he said, there was an indication that $75,000 of Ann Arbor millage money had been allocated for the commuter express service to Ann Arbor from Chelsea and Canton. What, he asked, are the demographic differences between Canton and Ypsilanti? This is something that will “vex this community, if we don’t get it right,” Mogensen cautioned.
He noted that the AATA had a large public engagement process going on, but feared that we would find ourselves in a situation where people don’t understand the impact that it will have if there is no bus service to Ypsilanti. He noted that everybody adjusts and everybody will try to figure out how to cope, and stressed that he is not against rail service. But there has to be both rail as well as bus service for those who use public transportation to get around, he suggested.
Other Comment and Communications
A variety of topics were brought up during the meeting.
Communication: Design Guidelines
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) indicated that the committee working on the design guidelines as part of the A2D2 downtown rezoning process was on schedule, had really gelled as a group and might even finish its work sooner than expected.
Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) reported on a field trip at night he’d made with neighbors of the Brockman area to assess the initial result of a city program to deenergize some streetlights in order to save money. The measure was approved as part of the city’s FY 2011 budget, adopted in May 2010, and is expected to save around $120,000. The reaction of neighbors, Taylor said, was uniform: “They did not care for it.”
Communication: Sidewalk Repair
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) read aloud a letter from a somewhat dissatisfied constituent who had repaired their sidewalks in accordance with the city’s sidewalk repair program, but whose neighbors had not all complied.
Kunselman asked what the status of the sidewalk repair program is, noting that the city’s advertising in The Ann Arbor Observer seemed to provide conflicting information about when it ends – 2009 or 2010. Kunselman noted that citizens who complied with the city’s requirements to replace defective slabs are wondering why “scofflaws aren’t being held accountable.”
In response to Kunselman’s query, city administrator Roger Fraser indicated that the follow-up is in process.
Communication: Misc. from the City Administrator
City administrator Roger Fraser told the council that the city’s park advisory commission (PAC) would be hearing a presentation on Argo Dam at its Tuesday, July 20 meeting. The consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as the request for proposals on repair and reconstruction of the earthen berm, would be discussed, Fraser said.
Fraser also gave an update on the city hall construction site. The DDA Fifth and Division streetscape project had come through the section of Fifth where the building is located and improvement in appearance is significant, he said. Interior work on the new building is continuing, as well as work in the basement of the old Larcom building, he reported.
Comment: Resolution Against Arizona’s Immigration Law
During public commentary reserved time, Joseph Miriani criticized the council’s resolution, passed at its last meeting on July 6, which opposed the law recently passed by the state of Arizona. The Arizona law requires local law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of a person, when there is reasonable suspicion they are in the country unlawfully. Miriani noted that the law explicitly prohibits racial profiling, and noted that there’s a difference between people who legally immigrate – like Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) – and those who enter the county illegally.
Thomas Partridge introduced himself as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for 18th District state Senate seat. He called for a “Washtenaw Promise” that would assure middle- and lower-income residents that they would be protected. He called on the city council to address significant issues like job creation, affordable housing, transportation, health care and education.
During his communications time, Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) indicated that Partridge’s comments had provoked a thought – there’s been a group studying the Washtenaw Avenue corridor with respect to transportation and development. The group includes Eric Mahler of the city’s planning commission, Derezinski said, as well as Washtenaw County planner Anya Dale, who was recently appointed to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
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: Aug. 5, 2010 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]