Fuller Road Station MOU Formally Terminated

The Ann Arbor city council has officially terminated a four-year-old memorandum of understanding between the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan on Fuller Road Station. The action took place at the council’s Jan. 6, 2014 meeting.

Fuller Road Station was a planned joint city/UM parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical campus. The council had approved the MOU on the Fuller Road Station project at its Nov. 5, 2009 meeting on a unanimous vote. [.pdf of Nov. 5, 2009 MOU text as approved by the city council] However, a withdrawal by UM from the project, which took place under terms of the MOU, was announced on Feb. 10, 2012. So it’s been clear for nearly two years that the MOU was a dead letter.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) sponsored the resolution, which first appeared on the council’s Dec. 16, 2013 agenda, but was postponed at that meeting. The idea to terminate the MOU has its origins in election campaign rhetoric. He had stated at a June 8, 2013 Democratic primary candidate forum that he intended to bring forth such a resolution to “kill” the Fuller Road Station project. From The Chronicle’s report of that forum:

Kunselman also stated that he would be proposing that the city council rescind its memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan to build a parking structure as part of the Fuller Road Station project. Although UM has withdrawn from participation in that project under the MOU, Kunselman said he wanted to “kill it.” That way, he said, the conversation could turn away from using the designated parkland at the Fuller Road Station site as a new train station, and could instead be focused on the site across the tracks from the existing Amtrak station.

The city continues to pursue the possibility of a newly built or reconstructed train station, but not necessarily with the University of Michigan’s participation, and without a pre-determined preferred alternative for the site of a new station. At its Oct. 21, 2013 meeting, the council approved a contract with URS Corp. Inc. to carry out an environmental review of a project called the Ann Arbor Station. That review should yield the determination of a locally-preferred alternative for a site.

Kunselman led off deliberations at the Dec. 16 meeting saying he would like to postpone the resolution. He indicated that he thought he’d managed to add the item to the agenda on the Friday before the Monday meeting, but it turned out he had not done so. In light of the council’s discussion at their Dec. 9 budget planning session – when councilmembers had said they’d strive to avoid adding resolutions at the last minute – Kunselman said he wanted it postponed.

Mayor John Hieftje and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) both indicated at the Dec. 16 meeting that they’d vote for the resolution – but also said they didn’t think the resolution was necessary. They indicated they were willing to vote for the resolution without postponing. Kunselman nevertheless wanted to postpone it, because it was added late to the agenda.

At the Jan. 6 meeting, Hieftje said the resolution was like digging someone up who died a couple of years ago and re-burying them, but he was not opposed to it. The resolution passed unanimously.

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]