Archive for May, 2012

West Park

Young hatchlings at pond edge. [photo] Other changes: About 2-3 weeks ago, the pond fence came down. A week or so earlier noticed fairly fresh tennis court blacktop.

A2: Concordia

Concordia University Wisconsin will take over the “troubled” Concordia University campus in Ann Arbor, according to a report in the Business Journal of Milwaukee. The move was approved this week by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. From the report: “The two campuses will continue to operate in their current locations, but will be managed by the CUW board of regents and led by CUW president Rev. Patrick Ferry. The resolution still requires the approval of the Higher Learning Commission.” [Source]

City Council Expands North Main Task Force

Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 21, 2012) Part 1: Although the council’s meeting did not conclude until around 1:30 a.m., the late hour was not attributable to the relatively heavy agenda. It was due to the extensive deliberations on the fiscal year 2013 budget, which the council finally approved over dissent from two of its members. A breakdown of amendments to the budget is included in The Chronicle’s report filed from the meeting. Deliberations on those budget amendments are covered in the forthcoming Part 2 of this meeting report.

Left is Sandi Smith (Ward 1). Right is Sabra Briere (Ward 1). The two had co-sponsored a resolution establishing a task force to study the North Main Street and Huron River corridor.

From left: Councilmembers Sandi Smith (Ward 1) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1). The two had co-sponsored a resolution establishing a task force to study the North Main Street and Huron River corridor. (Photos by the writer.)

In addition to the budget, the council efficiently dispatched with a fairly packed agenda of regular items, which are covered in this part of the meeting report. The item generating the most discussion was a follow-up to action taken at the council’s previous meeting on May 7, to establish a task force to study the North Main Street and Huron River corridor.

That resolution had provided for nine task force members representing different constituencies. At the May 21 meeting, a resolution was brought forward to add three members. A debate unfolded about whether to add a fourth member – from the Ann Arbor public art commission – to the mix. Ultimately that addition was approved narrowly on a 6-5 vote on the 11-member council.

While the North Main task force is meant to develop a vision for future land use in the corridor, the council took action on several current land use items too. Winning easy approval were a site plan for Allen Creek Preschool on Miller Avenue, and a rezoning and site plan for Michigan AAA on South Main Street. The council also quickly approved six routine rezoning requests associated with annexation from a township into the city of Ann Arbor.  And councilmembers gave initial approval to revisions of the planned unit development regulations for a Shell service station on Ann Arbor-Saline and West Eisenhower Parkway.

Associated with these land use items were a total of 10 separate public hearings. However, no one addressed the council during any of those hearings.

The city’s park system made it onto the agenda in a few different ways. First, a consent agenda item was pulled out for separate consideration to highlight the fact that renovations to South University Park were being funded with a $50,000 gift that had been made by a couple – Leslie and Michael Morris – who previously lived next to the park. The council also approved the lease of a 40-space parking lot near Argo Canoe liveries to meet additional demand for river trips that has been generated by construction of the Argo Cascades bypass around the dam.

Related to open space outside the city were the reappointments of two members of the greenbelt advisory commission – Peter Allen and Catherine Riseng. The commission overseas a portion of the city’s open space and parkland preservation millage.

Financial issues considered by the council included initial approval to increase water, sewer and stormwater rates that will together generate an additional $1.7 million in annual revenue. The council also approved a tax abatement for Sakti3, a battery technology company in Ann Arbor that is looking to expand its operation here.

Other items on the agenda included receipt of a federal grant to develop a strategy for improved energy efficiency in rental housing, as well as a grant administered for laptop computers to be used as electronic pollbooks. The computers are used for election record-keeping, not for casting ballots. The council also gave initial approval to an ordinance revision that relieves homeowners of responsibility for maintaining sidewalks adjacent to their property for the duration of the sidewalk-repair millage, which voters approved in November 2011. [Full Story]

Column: Learning How To Lose

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Remember Field Day? For most of us, it was a hallowed year-end school tradition, right up there with ice cream socials, and signing yearbooks. The kids loved it, of course, and looked forward to it every year.

But not at Burns Park, one of Ann Arbor’s oldest, most desirable and most educated neighborhoods – and occasionally, one of its kookiest. There is a reason many townies jokingly refer to it as “The Republic of Burns Park.”

The Burns Park PTO might be the most active one in the state. In the late ’90s, some parents, led by a social work professor, decided the competitive spirit of Field Day was too much for the kids, and changed “Field Day” to “Friendship Day” – replacing foot races, long jumps and tug-of-wars with games that emphasized cooperation over competition.

A noble notion – but the kids hated it. During one event, a cross-section of students from all grades had to walk together on two long boards. The big kids kept yelling at the little ones to lift their left foot, then their right – but the first graders didn’t know which was which. They all fell over, and the first graders burst into tears.

I suspect that’s not exactly what the parents had in mind. [Full Story]

W. Liberty & Third

Road crews working on Liberty between First and Fifth – one lane closed. [photo] Service-alert signs on AATA bus stops, indicating the buses might be unable to stop because of road construction, starting May 29 through the end of June. [photo]

Budget Items Dominate County Board Session

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (May 16, 2012): Budget issues threaded through most topics raised at the recent county board meeting. Some were obvious, like the first-quarter budget update, and some less direct, like the stalled effort to develop a policy for animal control services.

Alicia Ping, Wes Prater

Republican Alicia Ping and Democrat Wes Prater currently serve Districts 3 and 4, respectively, on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. They will face each other in the Nov. 6 general election due to redistricting of the board that takes effect in the next election cycle. They’ll both vie for the new District 3. The filing deadline for candidates was the day before the board’s May 16, 2012 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The 2012 budget update covered the first three months of the year, but also looked at projections for the full year. Overall revenues for the general fund are now projected to be about $1.165 million more than budgeted  in 2012 – thanks in large part to about $2.5 million more in property tax revenues than originally anticipated, but offset by revenue shortfalls in other areas. Total revenues for the 2012 general fund are expected to reach $99.9 million.

But expenditures for the general fund are $893,527 more than budgeted, primarily due to $669,000 in higher-than-expected costs in the sheriff’s office from greater use of part‐time temporary workers and overtime, operating supplies, and jail medical/food contracts.

The 2012 budget had anticipated a surplus of $1.889 million, but the administration is now projecting a surplus of just $272,238. That surplus is intended to carry over into the 2013 fund balance – so the county faces a $1.617 million shortfall in the amount it had budgeted for the fund balance contribution in 2013. Currently, the county has a $14.5 million fund balance.

Tina Gavalier, the county’s finance analyst, told commissioners that she’ll have a much clearer picture of the budget outlook when she gives a second-quarter update at the board’s Aug. 1 meeting. She listed out several areas that the administration intends to monitor closely, including medical costs, state revenue-sharing, personal property tax reform, and actuarial valuations for the retirement plan and retiree health benefits.

The board also took an initial vote to set the 2012 county general operating millage rate at 4.5493 mills – unchanged from the current rate. Several other county millages are levied separately: emergency communications (0.2000 mills), the Huron Clinton Metroparks Authority (0.2146 mills), two for county parks and recreation (0.2353 mills and 0.236 mills) and for the natural areas preservation program (0.2409 mills). That brings the total county millage rate to 5.6768 mills, which is also unchanged from 2011. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.

This is an annual procedural action, not a vote to levy new taxes, and it’s typically passed without discussion. But this time Wes Prater raised concerns about a $29 million fund balance for the parks and recreation department, saying it was too high and wondering whether it indicated that the tax levy for parks should be lowered. Several other commissioners – including those who serve on the parks & recreation commission (which oversees those funds) – defended the fund balance, noting that several major capital projects are in the works that will tap that money.

In another budget-related action, commissioners gave final approval to the Urban County’s annual plan for July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 with a $3.59 million budget. The Urban County is a consortium of local municipalities that receive federal funding for projects in low-income neighborhoods. In a separate vote, the board approved adding Webster Township to the consortium, which includes the city of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and several townships.

Two residents spoke during public commentary, objecting to funding for Planned Parenthood that was included in the annual plan. That particular funding had already been approved last year by the board, as part of a coordinated funding model that pools includes money from the county, the Urban County, Washtenaw United Way, and the city of Ann Arbor to fund several dozen human services nonprofits.

Two commissioners commented on issues related to animal control services during the May 16 meeting. Barbara Bergman noted that there had been a “failed meeting” of a task force on May 9 – only she and board chair Conan Smith had attended from the board, although the task force is open to all commissioners. [See Chronicle coverage: "Low Turnout for Animal Control Task Force."] The intent is to set policy that will guide a request for proposals that the county plans to issue later this year, for its next contract to provide animal control services. Those services are currently handled by the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV), in a contract that expires at the end of 2012. [A subsequent task force meeting on the morning of May 23 drew five of the 11 commissioners, and will be reported in a separate Chronicle article.]

A separate work group on animal control services is being led by the sheriff’s office. That group is tasked with developing a methodology to determine the cost of providing animal control services. It includes representatives from HSHV, the county, and other municipalities that have animal control ordinances. Commissioner Rob Turner, who serves on the group, reported that the HSHV has agreed to work with the county’s finance department to come up with a cost breakdown for the services it currently provides.

The May 16 meeting also included a brief swearing-in ceremony for Felicia Brabec, who won a May 8 special election to represent District 7. Brabec had been appointed to the board last October following Kristin Judge’s resignation. [Full Story]

A2: Media

David Carr of the New York Times reports on changes in the works at the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Newhouse Newspapers, which owns the Times-Picayune, will apparently be working off a blueprint the company used in Ann Arbor, Mich., where it reduced the frequency of the Ann Arbor News, emphasized the Web site as a primary distributor of news and in the process instituted wholesale layoffs to cut costs.” [Source]

Brown Recommended for N. Main Group

At its May 23, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor public art commission (AAPAC) unanimously recommended that Connie Rizzolo Brown be nominated for a position on a task force to study the corridor along North Main Street and the Huron River. That recommendation will be forwarded to mayor John Hieftje.

The task force was established by the city council at its May 7, 2012 meeting, with membership to include the following: one member of the park advisory commission, one member of the planning commission, one resident representing the Water Hill neighborhood, one resident representing the North Central neighborhood, one resident from the Old Fourth Ward, one resident representing the Broadway/Pontiac neighborhood, two business and property owners from the affected area, and one member of … [Full Story]

AATA Board OKs Key Countywide Documents

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (May 16, 2012): At a gathering that combined a retreat with a regular monthly meeting, the AATA board voted on business items necessary for a possible eventual transition of the AATA to a broader countywide governance structure and expanded service area.

CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority handed the microphone around to board members so their commentary could be more easily heard. Board member Anya Dale had just finished speaking.

Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, handed the microphone around to board members at a May 16 meeting so their commentary could be more easily heard. Board member Anya Dale had just finished speaking. (Photos by the writer.)

The two key documents approved or endorsed by the board were the articles of incorporation for a possible new transit authority, and a four-party agreement establishing a framework for possibly transitioning AATA to that new authority – now with the working name of “The Washtenaw Ride.” The four parties to the agreement are the AATA, Washtenaw County, the city of Ann Arbor and the city of Ypsilanti. [.pdf of articles of incorporation]

Board action came in the context of various unknown factors, including continued federal funding, pending state legislation on a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan, and the number of Washtenaw County municipalities that will participate in a possible countywide authority. Another uncertainty relates to the status of the four-party agreement, which the Ann Arbor city council approved on March 5, 2012, after amending (several times over multiple meetings) the version that the AATA had first presented.

A wrinkle emerged on May 15, 21012, when the Ypsilanti city council approved the four-party agreement, but amended it in a way that requires reconsideration by the Ann Arbor city council. In response to an emailed query from The Chronicle, mayor John Hieftje indicated that the four-party agreement would be back on the Ann Arbor council’s agenda for its June 4 meeting. [.pdf of red-lined four-party agreement as amended by Ypsilanti city council]

The Ypsilanti amendment relates to a 1% municipal service charge that the agreement originally allowed the two cities to impose on their millages, before forwarding the millage money to the new transit authority. The Ypsilanti council struck the municipal service charge from the agreement. At its Feb. 6, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council had already contemplated – and rejected, on an 8-3 vote against it – an amendment of the language related to the municipal service charge.

Balanced against that set of uncertainties was a generally very optimistic tone during the meeting, with board chair Jesse Bernstein indicating that he felt that no matter what happened on a variety of fronts, the AATA was well-positioned for the future.

Bernstein and the board’s optimism was based in part on positive reports on several fronts. The doubling of frequency on the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Route #4 has resulted in 20-25% ridership gains on that route. The new Ann Arbor-Detroit Metro airport service had double the number of passengers in the last week of April compared to the first week of April, when it was first launched. AATA’s vanpool service is poised for implementation. And results of a survey conducted on board AATA buses late last year indicate a high level of customer satisfaction among AATA riders.

On the budget front, AATA controller Phil Webb also delivered positive news, in the context of an approved budget this year that was expected to absorb additional expenses in order to pay for some of the new service initiatives. Through the first six months of the fiscal year 2012 (which began Oct. 1, 2011) the AATA is under budget by around $500,000. The board had approved a budget on Sept. 15, 2011 that called for tapping fund reserves for $1 million. Now, Webb said, the AATA could finish the year breaking even, depending on how things play out in the second half of the fiscal year.

The board voted to support three other resolutions at the meeting: (1) approval of a contract for vanpool and rideshare matching software; (2) approval of a contract for construction of additional bus shelters; and (3) approval of revisions to the AATA’s procurement manual. The board also got updates on a number of other projects, including the construction of the new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Annexation Rezonings Get Final OK

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to six separate rezoning requests associated with annexation into the city of Ann Arbor from Scio Township. The zoning change in all cases is from the township to a residential category. The requests had received initial approval at the council’s April 16 meeting.

Five of the properties were annexed into the city on Oct. 3, 2011 – in connection with the expansion of a well-prohibition zone due to 1,4 dioxane groundwater contamination caused by the Pall Corp.’s Wagner Road facility, formerly owned by Gelman Sciences. Those five properties are: 305 Pinewood St.; 3225 Dexter Rd.; 427 Barber Ave.; 545 Allison Dr.; and 3249 Dexter Rd.

Annexation into the city … [Full Story]

AAPS Begins Superintendent Evaluation

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole meeting (May 16, 2012) Part 2:  Besides the budget, the AAPS board discussed several other issues at its committee meeting.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green at a fall 2011 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

The board is beginning its first evaluation of the one employee for whom it is directly responsible – superintendent Patricia Green. Green joined the district on July 1, 2011, and will undergo her first formal evaluation by the board during an executive session scheduled for June 20, 2102.

At the May 16 board meeting, trustees agreed to a process for soliciting input on Green from members of the AAPS community, including parents, principals, staff, board associations, bargaining groups, and specific people invited by trustees to participate.

The board also tentatively agreed to direct the AAPS administration to form a committee representing a wide range of stakeholders to study the sustainability of transportation services in the district. And board members affirmed the “differentiated instruction” approach to teaching used throughout the district, in lieu of maintaining a separate “gifted and talented” program.

This report covers the non-budget portions of the May 16 school board committee of the whole meeting. The budget discussion during this meeting was covered in an earlier report. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Sets 2012-13 Budget

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (May 21, 2012): The board’s main action items related to the 2012-13 budget, for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012. The public portion of the meeting lasted 45 minutes, following an executive session to discuss a written opinion of legal counsel and director’s evaluation.

Looking down and to the north from the fourth floor of the Ann Arbor District Library downtown building, overlooking the underground parking structure.

Looking down and to the north from the fourth floor of the Ann Arbor District Library downtown building, overlooking the city-owned underground parking structure being built by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The black area in the foreground will be the small road called Library Lane, running between Fifth Avenue and Division. (Photos by the writer.)

In three separate, unanimous votes, the board approved the $12.183 million budget, set a millage rate at 1.55 mills – unchanged from the current rate – and designated the budget as a line-item budget with a policy for disbursements. There were no amendments, and minimal discussion. No one attended a public hearing on the budget.

Several trustees noted that the millage rate is below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy. If set at that higher rate, the library would see an additional $1.6 million in property tax revenues. The lower rate has been in place since fiscal 2009-10.

Monday’s meeting also included a report on the performance evaluation of AADL director Josie Parker, which was overwhelmingly positive. Parker’s salary will remain unchanged at $143,114.

Board president Margaret Leary read aloud a letter to Parker that praised her accomplishments, and highlighted an upcoming challenge: “The Ann Arbor District Library has increasingly been central to our community and its growth and prosperity. Now AADL has to decide whether its downtown facility is up to providing what the community deserves.”

The reference to a downtown facility reflects a decision by the board and top staff to resume exploring the possibility of a new building, in place of the current four-story structure at 343 S. Fifth Ave. A recent survey commissioned by AADL – and presented to the board at its April 16, 2012 meeting – indicates voter support for a tax increase to pay for major renovations or reconstruction of that building.

In another action item at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a one-year extension to the space-use agreement with Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library (FAADL). The nonprofit operates a used bookstore in the lower level of AADL’s downtown building. Proceeds of the store – about $90,000 annually – are given to the library.

Most of the board’s questions and discussion at the meeting related to a non-action item brought up during Parker’s report on the recent Vision 2012 conference, which drew 400 people from across Michigan and nearby states. The event featured three dozen exhibitors of products and services for the blind and visually impaired. It was hosted by AADL, which administers the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled. Ed Surovell speculated that there might be an opportunity to grow the event even more. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor City Council OKs FY 2013 Budget

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, which adjourned around 1:30 a.m., the Ann Arbor city council approved the city’s fiscal year 2013 budget, for the period from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. As required by the city charter, the budget had been proposed by city administrator Steve Powers a month earlier on April 16.


In the couple of weeks leading up to the May 21, 2012 meeting, councilmembers had their hands literally full with the FY 2013 budget. (Photo by the writer, taken on May 18.)

The amendments approved by the council included modifications that added a secretary position to the 15th District Court, increased human services funding by $46,899, added $78,000 to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission budget, and eliminated a contract with RecycleBank to administer a coupon program to encourage residents to recycle.

One resolution – which did not actually modify the budget – simply directed the city administrator to bring a future mid-year budget amendment to add up to six firefighters to the budget – if a federal grant and increased state fire protection allocations materialize.

Amendments that were brought forward, but that did not win council approval, included a proposal to leave money in various city funds, totaling $307,299, instead of transferring that amount to the public art fund. Also failing to win approval was an amendment that would give a specific interpretation to the city’s downtown development authority tax increment finance (TIF) capture ordinance – that would have benefited the city’s general fund by around $200,000. Both of those amendments were brought forward by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Another amendment that failed would have restored loose leaf collection service in the fall, as well as holiday tree pickup. And an amendment to fund additional police officers also did not succeed. Both of those amendments were proposed by Jane Lumm (Ward 2). Lumm was joined by Mike Anglin (Ward 5) in dissenting on the final budget vote.

The total expenditure budget for FY 2013 as proposed – across all funds, including utilities, solid waste and the like – came to $404,900,312 in revenues against $382,172,603 in expenses.

The originally proposed budget for the much smaller general fund – out of which the city pays for services like fire and police, planning, financial services, administration, parks and recreation – showed $79,193,112 in revenues against expenses totaling $78,869,750 for a planned surplus of $323,362. The following year, FY 2014, had been projected to be basically a break-even year.

The cumulative impact of the amendments approved by the council on Monday night increased expenditures to $79,070,842 against revenues of $79,193,112, for a surplus of $122,270. Below is a detailed list of proposed amendments and outcomes. [Full Story]

Water, Sewer Rate Bumps Get Initial OK

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council  gave initial approval to increased rates for drinking water, sanitary sewer and stormwater. According to the staff memo, the impact of the increases on an average single family customer come to 3.21% across three different rate increases – assuming the same level of consumption as last year. That 3.21% increase works out to $19.40 per year.

Because the water and sewer rates are part of a city ordinance, the council will need to vote a second and final time on the rates, after a public hearing.

By way of illustration of the rates, the drinking water rate for the vast majority of residential customers is tiered, based on usage. For the first 7 … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Accepts Sustainability Grant

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized receipt of $256,000 to create a community-scale energy strategy to increase energy efficiency improvements in rental housing.

The rationale for the project, according to a staff memo, is to address energy costs that are regressive, because renters often pay more on utilities due to the condition of rental housing stock. That is, higher energy costs affect poorer renters more. The grant will be used to develop a strategy to address inefficiencies in rental housing and thereby increase the affordability of rental housing stock.

The money was awarded to the city as part of a larger $3 million grant given last year to Washtenaw County through the U.S. Housing and … [Full Story]

Allen Creek Preschool Site Plan OK’d

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a site plan for the Allen Creek Preschool, located at 2350 Miller Ave.

The site plan had been recommended unanimously for approval by the Ann Arbor planning commission at its April 17, 2012 meeting. The commission also granted a special exception use for the project.

The project entails building a one-story, 929-square-foot addition onto the west end of an existing 3,111-square-foot preschool building, for a new total of 4,040 square feet. The preschool has an agreement with the Korean Methodist Church at 1526 Franklin Street to use eight parking spaces at the church lot. On-street parking is available on Miller Avenue and Franklin Street.

The special exception use is required because the project … [Full Story]

Positions Added to North Main Task Force

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council added four positions to a task force to study the corridor along North Main Street and the Huron River – a member of the city council, someone from the boating/fishing community of river users, a representative from the Huron River Citizens Association, and a member of the Ann Arbor public art commission (AAPAC).

The member from AAPAC was added by a 6-5 vote that amended the original resolution. Voting for the additional member were Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4), Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), and mayor John Hiefjte.

When the task force was established at the council’s May 7, 2012 meeting, … [Full Story]

Council Gives Initial OK for Sidewalk Repair Law

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to a revision to the city’s sidewalk repair ordinance – in light of the voter-approved sidewalk repair millage, passed in November 2011. The basic idea is that for the period of the authorized millage – through fiscal year 2016 (which ends June 30, 2017) property owners will not be responsible for repairs to sidewalks abutting the property on which they pay taxes.

There are various wrinkles and contingencies in the revised ordinance for properties located within the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority tax increment finance (TIF) district.

Ann Arbor voters authorized an additional 0.125 mill to be levied as part of the street repair millage, which was also … [Full Story]

Council OKs Greenbelt Reappointments

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council unanimously approved the reappointment of Peter Allen and Catherine Riseng to the city’s greenbelt advisory commission. The group is responsible for overseeing the use of the city’s open space and parkland preservation millage.

The greenbelt advisory commission is one of the few boards and commissions for which the nominations to serve come from the city council as a body, not from the mayor. The item had been on the council’s agenda at its May 7 meeting – but only inadvertently. It had been intended only as a communication item. The council voted to postpone consideration of the reappointment until the May 21 meeting.

The commission’s membership is defined in terms of … [Full Story]

Shell Station Rezoning Gets Initial OK

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to a request to revise the zoning regulations associated with the parcel on the northeast corner of Ann Arbor-Saline and West Eisenhower Parkway, where a Shell service station is located.

The city planning commission had previously voted unanimously to recommend approval of the zoning changes at its  April 17, 2012 meeting.

Owners of the station are asking for revisions to the site’s planned unit development (PUD), which would allow them to build additions onto the existing 1,000-square-foot convenience store. The new additions would total 4,089 square feet, including 2,189 square feet to the north and east of the store. Their plan also calls for converting the 900-square-foot carwash area … [Full Story]

AAA Site Plan, Rezoning OK’d by City Council

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to a rezoning request from AAA Michigan and approved the site plans for two separate parcels that are part of the same project on South Main Street. The council had given initial approval to the rezoning request at its May 7 meeting.

The rezoning request was to change half of a parcel located at 1200 S. Main to the P (parking) zoning designation.

The rezoning to P (parking) is part of a two-parcel site plan proposal – for which the city planning commission provided a positive recommendation at its March 6, 2012 meeting. At that meeting, the commission took two votes on the 1200 S. Main parcel – … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council OKs Sakti3 Tax Abatement

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a tax abatement for Sakti3 – a battery technology spinoff from the University of Michigan. Sakti3 is led by UM professor Ann Marie Sastry.

The council had postponed their vote on the tax abatement at the council’s May 7 meeting – at the request of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who wanted the matter referred first to the council’s budget committee.

According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, the abatement would be on $151,433 of real property improvements and $1,374,861 of new personal property. According to a memo from city financial staff, the value of the tax incentive to Sakti3 over three years totals $36,000.

Reasons given in the staff memo for the abatement … [Full Story]

Electronic Pollbooks for All Ann Arbor Precincts

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a $32,850 grant from the state of Michigan, funded through the Help America Vote Act, to pay for 48 laptop computers and the peripheral devices needed to use the equipment as electronic pollbooks (EPBs).

The electronic pollbooks do not change the way voters cast their ballots; Ann Arbor voters will continue to use paper ballots. The electronic pollbooks are expected to make record-keeping at the precinct locations on election day more efficient and to reduce waiting time for voters.

The city had already accepted eight laptops and accessories, which were deployed at eight polling places for the May 8, 2012 election. That pilot program went smoothly, according to the staff memo accompanying … [Full Story]

Library Board Approves 2012-13 Budget

The Ann Arbor District Library board unanimously approved the $12.183 million budget for fiscal year 2012-13 at its May 21, 2012 meeting. In a separate vote, the board set a millage rate of 1.55 mills, unchanged from this year – and still below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy. The library’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the budget, held at the beginning of the meeting.

A draft budget had been presented at the board’s April 16, 2012 meeting. At that time, the budget had been developed with a 1% increase in projected tax revenues. The final budget projects just a 0.4% increase, with an estimated $11.132 … [Full Story]

AADL Director Praised in Evaluation

Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library, received a positive evaluation from the AADL board at its May 21, 2012 meeting. Parker’s salary remains unchanged at $143,114. A two-page letter to Parker from board president Margaret Leary, and vetted by all board members, notes that the board believes her salary to be equitable with comparable positions. [.pdf of evaluation letter]

The letter describes Parker’s performance as excellent, and lists several areas of accomplishment, including the attraction and retention of top talent, consistency in presenting a balanced budget, and creativity in providing new services.

The letter also points to challenges ahead: “We are aware that AADL’s community relations efforts have succeeded in creating demand beyond what our existing facilities can support. The … [Full Story]

Friends of AADL Space-Use Deal Renewed

A one-year extension to the space-use agreement with Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library was approved by the AADL board at its May 21, 2012 meeting.

Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library (FAADL) is a nonprofit that operates a used bookstore in the lower level of AADL’s downtown branch at 343 S. Fifth Ave. Proceeds of the store – about $90,000 annually – are given to the library. At its May 2011 meeting, the AADL board approved a one-year extension to the space use agreement. [.pdf file of FAADL space-use agreement] Essentially the same agreement was approved on Monday, for another year.

This brief was filed from the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth … [Full Story]