Ann Arbor Delays on Land Sale Policy

A question about whether net proceeds from the future sale of city-owned land in Ann Arbor will be allocated to the city’s affordable housing trust fund has been postponed and referred to the city council’s budget committee. The action to postpone the issue until Oct. 15 was taken at the city council’s Sept. 17, 2012 meeting.

The policy has a long history dating back to 1996. A previous policy of directing proceeds of city-owned land sales to the affordable housing trust fund was rescinded by the council in 2007. More detailed background is provided in previous Chronicle coverage: “City Council to Focus on Land Sale Policy.”

Resolutions urging the city council to adopt such a policy were approved by the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority at its Sept. 5, 2012 and by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners later that same day.

The key resolved clause of the city council’s resolution reads: “Resolved, That proceeds from the sale of public land in the City of Ann Arbor be directed first to reimburse any funds expended relating to the disposition of the property. Of the remaining proceeds, if the property is in the Downtown Development Authority District 5% are to be directed for public plaza or open space creation, renovation or improvements within the DDA District; 10% are to be directed to any project designated in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, and 85% are to be directed to the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund, all regardless of budget year.”

Smith’s resolution appeared to have only mixed support on the council. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated he would only support the resolution if the proceeds from land sales were put toward the Ann Arbor Housing Commission specifically. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) said she could not support a percentage as high as 85%. Other councilmembers expressed skepticism at the value of a non-binding council resolution that future councils would not need to honor.

A somewhat related and in some ways competing resolution was added to the council’s agenda by Mike Anglin (Ward 5), via an email sent to the city clerk on the morning of the Sept. 17 meeting. It would have established a committee of 10 residents – two from each ward, to be selected by councilmembers from each ward – and other city officials to address the issue of city-owned parcels in downtown Ann Arbor.

Anglin’s resolution was not specific about how the committee was supposed to address the issue or in what time frame, and generated several clarificational questions from councilmembers. However, the council voted unanimously to postpone the resolution until Oct. 1 instead of voting it down.

Anglin’s resolution would have, in part, established a parallel process for one that the DDA has undertaken at the previous direction of the city council, under the moniker of Connecting William Street. That process focuses on five city-owned parcels in the area bounded by Ashley, Liberty, Division and William streets. For Chronicle coverage of a recent presentation on the project to the city’s planning commission, see “Planning Group Briefed on William Street Project.”

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]