Stories indexed with the term ‘Ann Arbor Energy Commission’

Sustainability Action Plan Takes Shape

Ann Arbor planning commission and energy commission joint working session (April 8, 2014): Continuing a process that began more than four years ago, members of the city’s planning and energy commissions received an overview of the draft sustainability action plan and gave feedback toward finalizing the document.

Jamie Kidwell, Wayne Appleyard, Ann Arbor energy commission, sustainability, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jamie Kidwell, the city’s sustainability associate, and Wayne Appleyard, chair of the Ann Arbor energy commission. (Photos by the writer.)

The action plan identifies steps to implement 16 broad goals in a sustainability framework that was added to the city’s master plan last year. The goals are organized into four categories – resource management; land use and access; climate and energy; and community – that were culled from existing city plans and reorganized into this new framework.

The intent is to track efforts toward achieving the 16 goals, which cover a wide range of issues – from increasing renewable energy use and developing a resilient local economy to eliminating pollutants and maintaining Ann Arbor’s unique sense of place. The action plan includes specific indicators that measure progress in each area.

Jamie Kidwell, the city’s sustainability associate, is taking the lead on this project, and fielded questions from commissioners. Part of the goal is for each of the city’s commissions to incorporate these sustainability efforts into their own work plans, she noted. But the action plan is primarily to guide staff efforts. The action plan is also coordinated with the city’s budget process, tying in to the city council’s budget priorities.

Commissioners expressed interest in more collaboration – both among the city’s various commissions, and with other jurisdictions. One start will be to share their work plans, though not all commissions have those.

Commissioners also discussed the idea of holding an annual joint meeting of multiple commissions, possibly in September. Planning manager Wendy Rampson noted that the kick-off for developing the sustainability framework had begun with a joint meeting – with the planning, energy and environmental commissions – in April 2010. [Full Story]

Concordia Takes Step in Campus Upgrade

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (March 4, 2014): A gym addition at Concordia University in Ann Arbor is moving forward, following action by planning commissioners to recommend approval of the project’s site plan.

Curt Gielow, Concordia University Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Curt Gielow (right), campus chief executive for Concordia University Ann Arbor, talks with Ann Arbor planning commission chair Kirk Westphal before the commission’s March 4, 2014 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The project signals a larger effort to double the size of the current institution’s enrollment of 740 students and return Concordia – which was near bankruptcy in recent years – to financial stability.

Curt Gielow, Concordia University Ann Arbor’s CEO, told commissioners that because of its distressed financial state, the Ann Arbor campus was absorbed by Concordia University Wisconsin last year. Plans are in place to invest between $10 million to $20 million in the coming years on a variety of improvements, he said.

Gielow estimated Concordia’s economic impact on Ann Arbor is in excess of $10 million annually. “I don’t think anybody wants this university to close.”

The 187-acre campus is located at 4090 Geddes Road, just west of US-23 and north of the Huron River. The Ann Arbor campus is one of the smallest of the 10 Concordias nationwide, which all are owned by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The LCMS Michigan district offices are located near the Ann Arbor campus, at 3773 Geddes.

The site plan will now be forwarded to the city council for consideration. Planning commissioners also granted a special exception use for the project, because the private university is located on a site zoned R1B (single-family residential district). No additional city council approval is required for that.

In other action, commissioners voted to support a resolution passed by the city’s energy commission and environmental commission, recommending that the city fill a vacant full-time position to focus on implementing Ann Arbor’s climate action plan.

During the March 4 meeting, energy commission chair Wayne Appleyard explained the rationale behind the recommendation, noting that one of two positions in the energy office has been vacant for about two years. While the office has been short-staffed, he said, climate change continues. “Greenhouse gases are cumulative, so the faster we can move to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the better off everybody’s going to be.”

Near the end of the meeting, planning commissioner Diane Giannola announced that she and Bonnie Bona would be bringing a resolution forward on March 18 related to the Library Lane site. At recent city council meetings, she noted, there has been discussion about potentially selling the air rights for the Library Lane underground parking structure to a developer. So the resolution would describe the kinds of uses that the planning commission would like to see on top of that site, she said. Giannola likened it to a similar resolution that the planning commission passed prior to the sale of the former Y lot. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor OKs Fossil Fuel Divestment

A resolution on divestment from fossil fuel companies has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council on a 9-2 vote.

Dissent came from Ward 2 councilmembers Jane Lumm and Sally Petersen. Petersen was not in favor of a resolution that had no “teeth,” and would have been inclined to support a proactive resolution that provided direction for investment in clean energies.

The action came at the council’s Oct. 21, 2013 meeting, which was the third time the resolution had been in front of the council. When it was initially considered on Sept. 3, 2013, the council voted it down. But on Sept. 16, 2013 the resolution was brought back for reconsideration, then postponed until Oct. 21.

The resolution was amended … [Full Story]

Building a Sustainable Ann Arbor

About two dozen members of three Ann Arbor commissions gathered last week for a rare joint meeting, a two-hour, wide-ranging discussion focused on the issue of sustainability. Bonnie Bona, chair of the city’s planning commission, said the working session was meant to start a conversation, with the goal of moving the city toward a sustainable future.

David Stead, Jean Carlberg, Fulter Hong

From left: David Stead, Jean Carlberg, and Fulter Hong at an April 13 working session on sustainability. They are members of the environmental, planning and energy commissions, respectively. (Photos by the writer.)

The discussion touched on the conceptual as well as the concrete, with some commissioners urging the group to tackle practical considerations as well. The chairs of each commission – Bona, the energy commission’s Wayne Appleyard, and Steve Bean of the environmental commission – set the stage by talking about the roles of their appointed public bodies, and how sustainability might be incorporated into their work.

Specific ideas discussed during the session included financing energy improvements in households through a special self-assessment on property tax bills, and tapping expertise at the University of Michigan.

More than midway through the meeting they were joined by Terry Alexander, executive director of UM’s Office of Campus Sustainability. He described UM’s efforts at implementing sustainable practices on campus as well as creating a living/learning environment for students, teaching them what it means to be a “green citizen.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Bona noted that the issue extended far beyond the three commissions gathered around the table. Housing, parks and other areas need to be involved as well, she said, if they were truly to tackle the three elements of sustainability: environmental quality, social equity, and economic vitality. Bean said he and the other chairs would be meeting again and come up with some specific examples for what steps might be taken next. “You’ll be hearing from us,” he said. [Full Story]

Hydropower at Argo Dam?

Members of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission look at a hybrid plug-in Ford Escape after their Tuesday evening meeting.

After their Tuesday evening meeting, members of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission checked out a hybrid plug-in Ford Escape parked outside the county administration building on North Main. From left: Fulter Hong, Charles Hookham, Bill Verge, David Wright, Mike Delaney and Jason Bing. The car was brought by Delaney, who works for DTE Energy Ventures in Ann Arbor.

At the start of last Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission, Bill Verge commented that for the first time since he’s been on the commission, people in the audience outnumbered commissioners. “I’m quite happy about that,” he said.

The reason for the interest? Argo Dam.

The dam has been at the center of a heated debate over whether to repair it or remove it completely – the latter option would result in the elimination of Argo Pond. The city’s Park Advisory Commission and Environmental Commission have both weighed in with recommendations to city council, the body that will ultimately decide the dam’s future.

Because Argo Dam has the potential to generate electricity, as Barton and Superior dams already do, the Energy Commission decided to look at the issue, too. Nearly a dozen people showed up on Tuesday night to see what the commission would recommend. (As soon as the commission finished with that segment of its meeting, all but a couple of people in the audience departed.) [Full Story]