Archive for April, 2011

Revised Soil Erosion Ordinance Gets Final OK

At its April 20, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval to changes in the county’s grading/soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinance. In Washtenaw County, the office of the water resources commissioner handles the program for local governments in Augusta Township, Lodi Township, Webster Township, Northfield Township, York Township, Salem Township, Superior Township, Scio Township, Saline Township, the cities of Saline and Ypsilanti, and the village of Dexter.

One of the major changes of the proposed ordinance revision relates to the fee schedule. In the past, fees were charged on a per-acre basis. New fees are set at a flat rate, with additional charges for staff time spent on projects, at a rate of $95 an hour. Fees would increase for many applications, depending on the size of the project. A new transfer fee – ranging from $100 to $200 for developments less than 10 acres, and more for larger developments – is also imposed for inspections when property changes ownership.

This brief was filed from the boardroom in the Washtenaw County administration building, 220 N. Main St., Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

A2: Iggy Pop

The Rolling Stones published a review of Tuesday night’s concert by Iggy Pop and the Stooges: “Near the end of the Stooges’ tribute concert to their late guitarist Ron Asheton at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater last night, Iggy Pop did something virtually unprecedented: he sat down, hushed the crowd, and addressed them in a calm, measured tone that was clearly the voice of Jim Osterberg – and not his psychotic alter-ego. ‘I need to thank Ron,’ he said. ‘He sort of peed this beautiful music all over me. When I started a band Ron was the first guy who got behind me. I owe him…I know he’s trying to flick ashes on my head from heaven right now.’” [Source]

UM: Editorial

The Detroit Free Press reports that Lazar Greenfield, a University of Michigan emeritus professor who recently resigned as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, is defending himself against accusations of sexism over a Valentine’s Day editorial. From the report: “The editorial cited research about the mood-enhancing benefits of semen on women and said ‘there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.’ Greenfield said he considered the editorial lighthearted and ‘intended to amuse readers.’ He called it ‘an opinion-piece written for a monthly throw-away newspaper, not a scientific journal.’” [Source]

A2: Film

Writing in the Detroit Metro Times, Jeff Meyers reviews “My Heart Is an Idiot,” a documentary about Ann Arborite and Found magazine publisher Davy Rothbart: “In its early going, you can’t help but be sucked into the guy’s self-effacing honesty. Rothbart, who’s from Ann Arbor, has an aw-shucks charm and heart-on-his-sleeve sincerity that softens even his most boneheaded moves. The movie is filled with plenty of raw, courageously unflattering and even amusingly batshit crazy moments.” The film premieres on Friday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor. [Source]

UM: State Funding

Michigan Live political columnist Peter Luke reports on a state Senate subcommittee’s rejection of a cut in university funding that Gov. Rick Snyder had previously proposed. While Snyder initially proposed a 22% cut to funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities, a higher education budget bill approved in subcommittee on Tuesday calls for a maximum of 15% in cuts next year. The Senate bill also scrapped a clause that would have forced universities, including the University of Michigan, to file reports with the legislature on their stem cell reasearch activities. [Source]

North U. & State

Michigan Book and Supply’s curved window is back after being taken out by an SUV. [photo]

Ann Arbor Delays Medical Marijuana Votes

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council postponed votes on both the zoning and licensing ordinances that were before the body for their final votes. The number of amendments that had been proposed by councilmembers and the city attorney’s office as late as the afternoon of April 19 led the council to delay the votes on both measures until May 2. If proposed amendments are passed on May 2, it would likely reset both ordinances to their first reading, which would require that they receive an additional second reading.

The medical marijuana zoning ordinance received its initial approval by the council at its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting.

The delay since the initial Oct. 18, 2010 zoning vote stems from the city of Ann Arbor’s strategy in legislating zoning and licensing of medical marijuana businesses – that strategy has been to bring both licensing and zoning before the city council at the same time for a final vote.

The context for development of zoning regulations was set at the council’s Aug. 5, 2010 meeting, when councilmembers voted to impose a moratorium on the use of property in the city for medical marijuana dispensaries or cultivation facilities. The council also directed the city’s planning commission to develop zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses.

Subsequently, the city attorney’s office also began working on a licensing system. The council undertook several amendments to the licensing proposal at four of its meetings over the last three months: on Jan. 3Feb. 7March 7 and March 21. The council finally gave initial approval to the licensing proposal at its March 21 meeting. [.pdf of Michigan Medical Marijuana Act]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

City to DDA: We’d Like More Parking Money

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council instructed its “mutually beneficial” committee – which is currently renegotiating a new contract under which the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority would continue to operate the city’s public parking system – to change its position, by escalating its request for additional parking revenues. The council voted to direct the committee to now ask the DDA for 18% of gross parking revenues in each year of a 10-year contract. The vote was 9-2, with dissent from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Sandi Smith (Ward 1).

The city’s negotiating team had previously been insisting that in the first two years of a 10-year contract, 16% of gross revenues to the public parking system would be allocated for use by the city at its discretion, with that amount rising to 17.5% of gross revenues in remaining years.

The DDA’s position had been consistent with the city’s previous request for the first two years of the contract, which would have the city withdrawing 16% of gross revenues from the public parking system in each of those years. But the DDA’s position is that for remaining years of the contract, the city’s share of gross parking revenues should remain at 16% instead of rising to 17.5%.

The city’s chief financial officer, Tom Crawford, said on the flat-16% scenario, he would recommend cutting four police or firefighters this year and two additional police or firefighters next year – the first two years of the proposed parking contract.

The decision to bring a resolution of instruction to the council had come at a meeting between the respective mutually beneficial committees of the city council and the DDA on Monday morning, April 11. [For detailed previous coverage: "City, DDA Continue to Talk Parking, Taxes"]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron St. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor’s Interim City Admin: Crawford

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted unanimously to appoint Tom Crawford as interim city administrator. Crawford currently serves as the city’s chief financial officer. He will begin service on April 28.

The job for permanent city administrator will now be posted and advertised. Affion Public will be contracted to assist the city’s human resources department with the search – for a flat fee of $18,000 plus addition travel expenses expected to total less than $25,000. The targeted salary range for recruitment will be $145,000-$150,000.

Affion’s work will begin with a visit to Ann Arbor in the first week of May to meet with councilmembers, city employees, and members of the public to get a clearer idea of the intangible qualities that are desired in an applicant. An ideal timeline would include closing the application window after 30 days, using late May and June to winnow the field and interview candidates, with an offer to be made in early July. On the ideal timeline, the new administrator would start work in early August.

Although the city’s public services area administrator Sue McCormick had been widely assumed to be a natural choice for interim, a condition on the interim appointment was that the person would not be a candidate for the permanent job. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Fills City Administrator Job"]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Adopts Loan Forgiveness Policy

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a policy that grants to the city administrator the authority to forgive certain loans made by the city on affordable housing units that have affordable housing covenants. The city administrator would need to determine that loan forgiveness is necessary to protect the long-term affordability of the housing, and that loan forgiveness would facilitate the transfer of ownership to other income-qualified purchasers.

The request to have such a policy came from the office of community development. It arose from two recent foreclosures on properties in Stone School Townhomes, one of three housing developments where the city currently has affordable housing covenants. The other two are Ashley Mews and Northside Glen.

When a property is foreclosed, the affordable housing covenant automatically terminates.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Near North PUD Revisions OK’d

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized revisions to the elevations of the Near North PUD affordable housing development on North Main Street. The city council originally approved rezoning for the project – a four-story, 39-unit mixed use residential building on a 1.19-acre site – on Sept. 21, 2009.

The changes include modification of the locations where the exterior materials – glazing, panelized exterior cladding materials, plus accent materials – will be used. Roof lines have also been proposed, but the building is still under the maximum height permitted. The changes, which were prompted by alterations to the interior layout of the building, were presented to the surrounding neighbors at a meeting on March 17, 2011.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor OKs Purchase of Chevy Police Cars

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved the purchase two police cars totaling $54,625 – a Chevy Caprice for $25,604 and a Chevy Tahoe for $29,021 from Shaheen Chevrolet. At the council’s Feb. 22, 2011 meeting, it had authorized the purchase of five police cars – Crown Victoria Police Interceptors – for $20,730 each, a total of $103,650.

But at that meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser had indicated that the city might opt not to purchase all five. From The Chronicle’s report of that meeting: “The city might decide not to buy all five Crown Victorias, and instead purchase a new model that Chevrolet is making available in late summer or early fall, Fraser said.”

The two purchases authorized on April 19 will replace cars under the police union’s contract that stipulates cars cannot exceed 80,000 miles or a six-year life. Adding the Caprice to the Dodge Charger that the department purchased previously will allow the Ann Arbor Police Department to assess how it wants to stock its fleet in the future, given that the Crown Victoria is going out of production. A third option besides the Caprice and the Charger would be whatever model Ford uses to replace the Crown Victoria.

The Chevys that were authorized by the Ann Arbor city council would be purchased under the cooperative bidding programs of the State of Michigan, Oakland County, and Macomb County. Shaheen Chevrolet in Lansing was the lowest bidder under the State of Michigan’s program.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Residential Site Plan for Former Bindery OK’d

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council unanimously approved a site plan for 215 N. Fifth Ave. – formerly the site of the Bessenberg Bindery, which has moved to the Thomson-Shore Inc. facility in Dexter. The Fifth Avenue property is now owned by Jon and Lisa Rye. Jon Rye, a University of Michigan alumnus, is president and chairman of Greenfield Partners and Greenfield Commercial Credit, both located in Bloomfield Hills.

The plan calls for tearing down the one-story building and constructing a two-story, single-family, owner-occupied house with an attached two-car garage. The entrance will be oriented to the north, and the garage will be accessed from the public alley on the west side of the site. The site is directly north of the Armory condos and south of a two-story residential rental property.

The project requires a site plan because the single-family house is on property that’s not zoned solely for residential purposes. It’s zoned D2 (downtown interface) and is located in the Old Fourth Ward Historic District. The Ann Arbor historic district commission already reviewed the site plan and issued a certificate of appropriateness at its Feb. 10, 2011 meeting. The Ann Arbor city planning commission had given its recommendation for approval of the site plan at its March 15, 2011 meeting.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron St. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Sets Energy Goals

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution setting a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Ann Arbor’s municipal operations by 50%. The baseline standard for the percentage reduction would be emission levels in 2000, which measured 46,435 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CDE). The city’s goal is to achieve the 50% reduction target by 2015. The city’s most recent figures, from 2010, put CDE emissions for municipal operations at 34,445 tons, which is roughly a 26% reduction from 2000 levels.

As part of the same resolution, the council also set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 8% throughout the community for the same time period. In 2000 the city estimates the entire city produced 2,087,463 tons of CDE, which has improved little in the most recent year for which figures are available, 2009: 2,054,221 tons.

The resolution also updated goals on renewable energy use. The city had previously had a goal of 20% renewable energy for municipal operations by 2010, which was subsequently increased to 30%. The 20% target was met – when the figure was rounded upward only slightly. The resolution approved on April 19, 2011 reset the goal of 30% renewable energy in municipal operations and 5% community-wide by 2015.

The resolution also directs city staff to consider options to purchase long-term, fixed-rate renewable electricity from Michigan wind turbines.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Final OK for Ann Arbor Panhandling Law

At its April 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to a revision to the city’s code on disorderly conduct – the part dealing with solicitation, which is more commonly known as panhandling.

The revised ordinance prohibits panhandling in one generally-defined additional location (in or within 12 feet of a public alley) and one specific location (within 12 feet of the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library.) [.pdf of revisions to existing ordinance as they were drafted at the start of the April 19, 2011 meeting] Sabra Briere (Ward 1) stressed that the ordinance change is just one of three “legs in the stool,” the others being education and community commitment.

The proposal to revise the law grew out of a street outreach task force, which was appointed at the council’s Sept. 20, 2010 meeting and charged with developing cost-effective recommendations for addressing the issue of downtown panhandling and the needs of those who panhandle. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Task Force Consults Panhandlers"]

At the council’s March 21, 2011 meeting, the council received a report from two members of the task force – Maggie Ladd, executive director of the South University Area Association, and Charles Coleman, a project coordinator with Dawn Farm. A recommendation contained in the report included revising the city’s ordinance on solicitation to prohibit panhandling in additional locations. [.pdf of street outreach task force report]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall located at 301 E. Huron St. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

UM: Flash Mob

A video posted on YouTube shows the April 14 flash mob by dozens of University of Michigan students, dressed in blue graduation gowns and caps, dancing on the Diag to Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way.” [Source] Other related videos feature Erik Heitz, a UM musical theater major who coordinated the event, which was sponsored by [Source] [Source]

Public Gives Input on County Redistricting

About a dozen people attended Saturday’s public hearing to give input on redrawing districts of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. The meeting was held at the Ypsilanti Township hall, and was the second of three public hearings scheduled by the county apportionment commission, a five-member group charged with adopting a redistricting plan based on 2010 census data.

Cleveland Chandler, Catherine McClary, Mark Boonstra

Three members of the Washtenaw County apportionment commission, which is tasked with redrawing districts for the county board of commissioners based on 2010 census data. From left: Cleveland Chandler, Washtenaw County Democratic Party chair; county treasurer Catherine McClary; and Mark Boonstra, Washtenaw County Republican Committee chair. Other members are county clerk Larry Kestenbaum and Brian Mackie, the county's prosecuting attorney. (Photos by the writer.)

Eight people addressed the commission during the hearing, which lasted about an hour. Some argued for a reduction in the current 11 districts, saying it would save costs and make for a better functioning board. Others suggested keeping the same number or increasing the number of districts slightly, for better representation.

It’s likely there will be some changes of district lines, even if the number of districts remains the same. The county’s population grew 6.8%, from 322,895 people in 2000 to 344,791 people in 2010, with some parts showing dramatic population shifts. Ypsilanti’s population decreased 12.6%, while several townships – including Saline, Scio and Webster – saw double-digit growth. The city of Ann Arbor accounts for about a third of the county’s population – its population dropped 0.6% to 113,934. [.pdf file of population data for Washtenaw County]

Commission members indicated that they haven’t yet completed any redistricting proposals, though Larry Kestenbaum – the county clerk and chair of the apportionment commission – said he’s developing one for 12 districts. One speaker at the hearing expressed disappointment that proposals weren’t yet available, saying he had hoped to give feedback on specific redistricting plans.

The apportionment commission met for the first time on March 31, when members set a schedule for the process. Its members, determined by state statute, are: The county clerk (Larry Kestenbaum), county treasurer (Catherine McClary), county prosecuting attorney (Brian Mackie), and the chairs of both the county Republican and Democratic parties (Mark Boonstra and Cleveland Chandler). All but Boonstra are Democrats.

Saturday’s public hearing had a lower turnout than the first hearing, which took place on April 9 at the Pittsfield Township hall – 16 people addressed the commission then, according to draft minutes of the meeting.

The next public hearing is set for Thursday, April 21 at 5:30 p.m. at Webster Township hall, 5665 Webster Church Road. A week later, on April 28, the commission meets again and is expected to present redistricting plans and possibly select one. That meeting, which will include time for public commentary, begins at 5:30 p.m. at the county administration building’s lower-level conference room, 200 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Ann & Fifth

City hall entrance has moved from Ann Street to the opposite side of the building, off of Huron. Covered walkway on Ann Street side is gone – path to former entrance is a mud pit today. [.pdf map]

Snyder Recall Language Submitted

The Washtenaw County clerk’s office has received proposed petition language for a recall of Gov. Rick Snyder, who was elected in November 2010. The petition must be filed in the county where the subject of the recall lives – Snyder is an Ann Arbor area resident. According to the county clerk’s office, the petition was filed by Gerald D. Rozner from the city of Monroe. The effort is being organized by a group called Michigan Citizens United.

The petition states the reason for the recall: “Richard D. Snyder has requested from the legislature, approved and signed various laws that take authority and funds from local governments and school districts and vest them with the state. He has obtained for himself, through his appointed Emergency Financial Managers, the power to invalidate legal and binding contracts entered into by properly elected local authorities. He has sought tax increases upon retirees and lower income families, but instead of addressing the deficit, he has sought large new tax cuts for corporations and businesses.” [.pdf of proposed recall ballot language]

A clarity hearing to evaluate the petition language has been scheduled for April 29 at 11:30 a.m. in the Washtenaw County board of commissioners boardroom, 220 N. Main St., Ann Arbor. The hearing will be conducted by the county board of election commissioners: (chair) Donald E. Shelton, chief judge of the Washtenaw County Trial Court; (secretary) Larry Kestenbaum, county clerk; and (member) Catherine McClary, county treasurer.

If the petition language is approved, the recall effort would need to collect signatures equal to 25% of the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the general election – about 800,000 signatures would be required. By law, the petition itself can’t be submitted until six months after the recall subject takes office – that means the recall petition could be filed no earlier than July 1, 2011. [Full Story]

UM: Matt Kelley

The Friends of Matt Kelley blog has announced plans for a day-long reading marathon on Friday, April 22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to raise funds for his family. Kelley, a University of Michigan lecturer in the Sweetland Center for Writing and Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, was 41 when he died earlier this year soon after one of his graduate classes. Students will read from one of his favorite books, The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, at 2435 North Quad. The readings also will be broadcast live on the group’s website. [Source]

Main & Liberty

8:15 p.m. Honey locust tree on east side of Main just north of Liberty fell into street – a windy day. City crews finishing the last of the chipping. [photo] Police vehicles blocking off Main between Liberty and Washington.

Liberty & Ashley

A large portable bike rack has been set up in the street in front of Old Town Tavern.

Art Commission Votes Again on Mural Sites

Ann Arbor public art commission special meeting (April 13, 2011): Because a March 11 special meeting did not conform with noticing requirements under the state’s Open Meetings Act, AAPAC held another special meeting on Wednesday to vote again on the selection of two sites for a new mural program.

Drawing of location for a proposed mural along Huron Parkway

A sketch by Cathy Gendron of the location for a proposed mural along Huron Parkway, on Ann Arbor's east side. The mural site is indicated with a thin rectangle near the letters "G.C.", which mark the Huron Hills Golf Course.

At the March 11 meeting, which was covered by The Chronicle, AAPAC member Jeff Meyers had presented recommendations from a public mural task force he chairs. The two sites – a building at Allmendinger Park, and a retaining wall along Huron Parkway – will be the first for a pilot mural project spearheaded by Meyers.

At the previous special meeting, commissioners had held a lengthy discussion before voting to approve the sites. The meeting on Wednesday was far shorter, with Meyers giving a brief summary of the selection process. Two of the five members who attended Wednesday had not been present at the March 11 session, however, and they had some questions about the sites.

Meyers also reported that since March, city staff have advised him to make a presentation at the next meeting of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission, since the sites are near or within city parks. Two public meetings – one for each site – will also be scheduled, to get input from residents. [Full Story]

A2: Environment

An Ann Arbor nonprofit and business are among the 2011 Michigan Green Leaders – awards given by the Detroit Free Press to recognize efforts in environmental sustainability. Local winners include The Ecology Center and Meadowlark Builders. The Freep quotes Mike Garfield, The Ecology Center’s executive director: “Sustainability has gone beyond the hippies and environmentalists and reached about every corner of society.” [Source]