Stories indexed with the term ‘capital improvements plan’

Council Rejects City Hall Renovation

The Ann Arbor city council has passed a resolution that asks the city planning commission to remove a “reskinning” project for the city hall building from the capital improvements plan (CIP) for FY 2017 and FY 2018. The vote came at the council’s June 2, 2014 meeting, over dissent from Margie Teall (Ward 4).

The item had been postponed from the council’s May 19, 2014 meeting.

According to a staff memo written in response to a councilmember question, reskinning of the Larcom City Hall building would mean replacing the existing exterior walls and windows of the building. The result would be new squared-off exterior, eliminating the inverted pyramid design. The new exterior would hang vertically from the sixth floor.

The focus of … [Full Story]

Commission Works on Public Art Planning

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Jan. 29, 2014): In a three-hour session, the public art commission worked on prioritizing capital improvement projects that might be suitable for public art.

Kristin "KT" Tomey, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

On Jan. 29, Kristin “KT” Tomey attended her first regular meeting of the Ann Arbor public art commission since being appointed by the city council on Jan. 6. (Photos by the writer.)

Some commissioners expressed frustration that they had insufficient information on which to base their evaluation. And after about two hours of discussion – using a scoring rubric with seven criteria – commissioners had evaluated only a few projects: artist-designed street access (manhole) covers, art for the Springwater subdivision, and art for the corridors of Main Street and Plymouth Road. Because there were still several other items on the agenda, they voted to postpone further evaluation of possible capital projects until their next meeting.

In other action, commissioners discussed and approved a draft annual public art plan that’s officially due to the city council on Feb. 1, for projects to be undertaken in the fiscal year that begins July 1. It includes projects that are underway – like artwork for East Stadium bridges and Argo Cascades – as well as a proposal to add some enhanced capital projects, like street access covers on resurfaced roads.

The draft annual plan had been prepared by Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. Commissioners asked for some revisions and designated commissioner John Kotarski to work with Seagraves on a final version that will likely be presented to the council on Feb. 18. Kotarski praised the draft, saying “It has as much meat as anyone wants. It shows a lot of work. It shows an art commission that gets the message from an impatient city council.”

Commissioners also discussed a proposal from the Clean Energy Coalition to select and fund an artist who would help incorporate art into a new bike share program. They tabled action on this item, wanting additional information about the CEC’s expectations for funding.

This was AAPAC’s first regular meeting since Oct. 23, 2013, although they held a retreat in December and a planning session earlier in January. Throughout the evening, concerns were raised about the future of the public art program, in light of recent city council discussions. The council had postponed a requested six-month extension of Seagraves’ contract, and will be taking up that item on Feb. 3.

Also on the council’s Feb. 3 agenda is an amendment to the city’s public art ordinance. The amendment would allow the council to return about $800,000 accumulated under the city’s former Percent for Art program to the funds from which that money was drawn, such as the street millage or sanitary sewer fund. It’s the latest in an ongoing transition for the city’s public art program – a transition that’s been unsettling for public art commissioners.

The Jan. 29 meeting marked another transition for AAPAC, which has seen considerable turnover during the past year. It was the first regular monthly meeting for the newest commissioner, Kristin “KT” Tomey, who was appointed by the city council on Jan. 6. And it was the last meeting for Malverne Winborne, whose term ended on Dec. 31. He did not seek reappointment, and was serving until the position was filled. His replacement, Jim Simpson, is expected to be confirmed in a vote at the city council’s Feb. 3 meeting.

Winborne has served as vice chair of AAPAC – but the group held new officer elections on Jan. 29. Bob Miller was re-elected to another one-year term as chair, and John Kotarski was elected vice chair. There were no competing nominations, and both votes were unanimous.

Noting that the Jan. 29 meeting had been especially challenging, Miller thanked commissioners for their work. “This is probably the most belabored meeting I think we’ve ever gone through, aside from maybe one of the retreats,” he said. “I’m tapped out.” He jokingly cajoled commissioners: “Please do come back.”

Miller also encouraged students to return, as about two dozen students from Skyline High School – and some parents – attended the Jan. 29 meeting. “It’s the most amount of people we’ve ever had at any of our meetings,” Miller noted. One student pointed out that they were all from the same government class, facing a Jan. 31 deadline to attend a public meeting. [Full Story]

Recommendations Set for Downtown Zoning

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Dec. 3, 2013): Following months of public input and review by a consultant hired by the city, Ann Arbor planning commissioners finalized a set of recommendations to revise parts of the city’s downtown zoning. Those recommendations will now be forwarded to the city council, possibly at its Jan. 20 meeting.

Bonnie Bona, Wendy Rampson, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor planning commissioner Bonnie Bona talks with city planning manager Wendy Rampson before the start of the commission’s Dec. 3, 2013 meeting. Bona was successful in advocating for the downzoning of a parcel at the southeast corner of Main and William. (Photos by the writer.)

In general, the recommendations aim to create more of a buffer between downtown development and adjacent or nearby residential neighborhoods.

Three of the recommendations relate to specific parcels: (1) Rezone the parcel located at 336 E. Ann from D1 (downtown core) to D2 (downtown interface); (2) Reduce the maximum height in the East Huron 1 Character District (on the north side of Huron, between Division and State) to 120 feet. Include a tower diagonal maximum and consider a step-back requirement to reduce the shading of residential properties to the north; (3) Rezone the parcel at 425 S. Main, at the southeast corner of Main and William, from D1 (downtown core) to D2 (downtown interface) and establish a maximum height of 60 feet for D2 zoning in the Main Street Character District.

Several other recommendations focused on the issue of “premiums” – certain features that a developer can provide in exchange for additional square footage. Those recommendations are: (1) Revise the premium conditions to require mandatory compliance with core design guidelines for a project to receive any premium in the D1 or D2 districts; (2) Reduce the residential premium with the goal of encouraging the use of other existing or proposed premiums to compensate for this reduction, such as increased energy efficiency certification, open space with landscape, active ground floor use, balconies and workforce housing; (3) Review options in D1 and D2 districts, with the housing and humans services advisory board (HHSAB), for providing additional affordable housing within mixed income projects or through other funding mechanisms; (4) Eliminate the affordable housing 900% FAR (floor area ratio) “super premium”; and (5) Evaluate the downtown real estate market to determine the effectiveness of premium incentives every 2-5 years.

On Dec. 3, commissioners heard from three people during the public hearing – all three of them addressing the issue of zoning at 425 S. Main, including one of the property owners, Andy Klein. Speaking on behalf of the owners was Scott Bonney of Neumann/Smith Architecture, who suggested a third option to consider: Keep the D1 zoning on that site, but reduce the maximum height to 122 feet and add a tower diagonal maximum of 50% of the maximum diagonal dimension of the site. Ted Annis, who lives near that location, called for D2 zoning there.

Bonnie Bona, who’d been involved in the original A2D2 zoning process that’s now being partially reviewed, advocated for downzoning the entire site at 425 S. Main, to provide a buffer between D1 zoning and the nearby residential neighborhood. Some commissioners, including chair Kirk Westphal, wanted more density in the downtown, and noted that the site has allowed for denser development since the 1960s. The final vote on the recommendation for that site was 5-4, with support from Bona, Eleanore Adenekan, Sabra Briere, Jeremy Peters and Wendy Woods. Voting against it were Westphal, Ken Clein, Diane Giannola and Paras Parekh.

Also, because of feedback received from the city’s design review board, commissioners revisited a recommendation that they’d previously settled regarding compliance with design guidelines. They unanimously voted to change the recommendation – so that it would require mandatory compliance with some of the design guidelines. The intent is to develop a process that will clarify the design compliance that will be required in order to receive premiums.

The vote on the full resolution with all of the recommendations, as amended, passed unanimously.

The next step is for the council to review the recommendations and give direction back to the commission about which recommendations to implement. At that point, the commission’s ordinance revisions committee would work with city planning staff to craft actual ordinance language. Any specific ordinance changes would be reviewed by the full planning commission and ultimately would require city council approval before taking effect. That process would include additional opportunities for public input.

Also on Dec. 3, commissioners reviewed the 2015-2020 capital improvements plan (CIP). After about an hour of discussion – touching on street lights, sidewalks, the rail station, public engagement, and other issues – they voted unanimously to adopt the updated CIP as a supporting document for the city’s master plan, and to recommend that the city council base its FY 2015 capital budget on the CIP.

The CIP includes a list of major capital projects, both those that are funded and those for which funding hasn’t yet been identified. [.pdf of staff memo and CIP for FY 2015-2020] Most of the updates relate to FY 2015, which begins on July 1, 2014. This year reflects the first-time inclusion of projects undertaken by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Ann Arbor housing commission. [Full Story]

Planning Commission OKs Capital Plan

The city of Ann Arbor’s capital improvements plan (CIP), which provides a roadmap for investments in a wide variety of infrastructure projects, was approved by Ann Arbor planning commissioners at their Dec. 3, 2013 meeting. The CIP is prepared by city staff and is the basis for budget decisions made by the city council, but the council does not approve the CIP. That’s the purview of the planning commission.

The planning commission’s meeting also included a public hearing on the CIP, but no one spoke.

Required by state statute, the CIP must be developed and updated each year, looking ahead at a six-year period, to help with financial planning for major projects – permanent infrastructure like buildings, utilities, transportation and parks. It’s … [Full Story]

Public Art Commission Plans for Future

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Oct. 23, 2013): The most recent AAPAC meeting focused on an ongoing transition for Ann Arbor’s public art program.

Mags Harries and Lajos Heder, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rendering of “Bucket Cascade” proposal by Mags Harries and Lajos Heder. It’s one of two finalists for public art at the city’s Argo Cascades.

Commissioners were briefed about the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP), which will now be integral to the public art program. AAPAC and city staff will identify projects in the CIP that might be candidates for public art “enhancements” – if the council agrees and provides additional funding for that purpose. It’s a change from the previous Percent for Art program, which the city council eliminated earlier this year.

Deb Gosselin, who oversees the CIP process, attended AAPAC’s meeting and described a decision-making matrix that’s used to help city staff prioritize capital projects. AAPAC plans to use that matrix as a model for developing its own method of prioritizing potential public art projects.

Commissioners also briefly discussed four possible capital projects that might include public art enhancements, including an enclosure of the farmers market, and a retaining wall to be built as part of a Stadium Boulevard reconstruction.

Some of these issues will likely be picked up during a retreat that’s set for Nov. 20. The idea of a retreat was proposed by one of the newer commissioners, Ashlee Arder, as a way to get to know each other better, as well as to discuss the creation of AAPAC’s annual plan, which is due to the council in early 2014. Arder also hopes to assemble a “curated team” from different sectors of the community, to help AAPAC develop ideas for fostering public art as well as the broader creative sector.

Also at their most recent meeting, commissioners acted on a specific project that’s already underway. They authorized applying for a $40,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan to fund a public art project in the Arbor Oaks/Bryant neighborhood on Ann Arbor’s southeast side. But they tabled another proposal – for artwork at the roundabout on South State and Ellsworth – until their February 2014 meeting, allowing time for commissioners to see how it might fit into an overall public art plan.

Updates were provided during the meeting on several other projects, including the Coleman Jewett memorial at the farmers market, finalists for artwork at Argo Cascades, and a plan to add an artistic element to the city’s new bike share program. [Full Story]

Art Commission Updated on Program Revamp

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Feb. 27, 2013): Much of this month’s public art commission meeting was spent discussing the work of a city council committee that’s developing recommendations for changes to Ann Arbor’s public art program.

Marsha Chamberlin, Deb Gosselin, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Marsha Chamberlin, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission, and Deb Gosselin, who handles the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP). Gosselin attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting to talk about the CIP process, which the commission is using as a planning tool for future public art projects. (Photos by the writer.)

Sabra Briere, who’s one of five city councilmembers on the committee, updated AAPAC on possible revisions to the city’s public art ordinance, as well as more general recommendations that are being prepared for the full council. Those proposed changes are likely to include eliminating the Percent for Art funding mechanism, creating a structure to solicit private donations and grants to support public art, directing staff to “bake in” artwork and architectural enhancements as part of overall city capital projects, and providing more administrative support – perhaps by contracting out those services.

AAPAC members had questions about the possible new approach, including questions about the commission’s own role. Briere advised them to continue working on existing projects that are funded through the Percent for Art approach, but noted that they should focus on future opportunities that don’t rely on Percent for Art funds.

The council committee continues to meet, and will eventually deliver recommendations and draft ordinance changes to the full council. This Chronicle report includes highlights from the committee’s most recent meeting on March 1. The committee next meets on March 15, before the council’s March 18 meeting. A moratorium on spending unallocated Percent for Art dollars expires on April 1.

In other action at AAPAC’s February meeting, commissioners heard from Jason Frenzel, stewardship coordinator for the Huron River Watershed Council, about a project that would raise awareness of how the city’s stormdrain system connects to the river. The project is proposed in two stages, starting with a chalk art contest at the June 14 Green Fair, during which artists would draw images and messaging around stormdrains on Main Street.

Commissioners also discussed how to move forward with a proposed memorial to Coleman Jewett – a bronze Adirondack chair at the Ann Arbor farmers market. A private donor has already committed $5,000 to the memorial, but details are still being worked out about how to manage the project. AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin indicated that she might call a special meeting in early March for commissioners to act on the proposal, which hasn’t formally been accepted by AAPAC. Update: The special meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, March 7 at 4:30 p.m. in the fifth-floor conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron.

Other project updates were made via a written report from Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. The report stated that a task force has selected four artists as finalists for artwork on the East Stadium bridges, and they have been invited to an April 1 site visit/open house. The finalists are: Volkan Alkanoglu, based in Atlanta, Georgia; Sheila Klein of Bow, Washington; Rebar Group of San Francisco; and Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. The project has a budget of $400,000.

Only four commissioners attended the Feb. 27 meeting, and when one commissioner left early, the meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum – before all agenda items were addressed. In part because of attendance issues, officer elections – which AAPAC bylaws state should happen in January – have not yet occurred. Ballots were mailed to commissioners last week, and results will be announced at AAPAC’s March 27 meeting. It’s expected that vice chair Malverne Winborne will be elected chair.

And although it was not discussed at the meeting, Cathy Gendron resigned from AAPAC in late February. She had been reappointed to AAPAC at the city council’s Jan. 7, 2013 meeting for a term through Jan. 20, 2016, but had not attended the commission’s January or February meetings.

Responding to a Chronicle query, Gendron stated in an email that she had agreed to stay on the commission through March, but would be unable to attend AAPAC meetings and decided to resign. ”It’s time for someone else to take my place.” There are now three vacancies on the nine-member commission. [Full Story]

Round 2 FY 2014: Capital Improvements

At the first of three work sessions scheduled on next year’s budget, the Ann Arbor city council was briefed on about $95 million worth of capital improvements to be undertaken over the next two years. That amount is roughly evenly split over fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Capital Improvements Plan: City of Ann Arbor

An excerpt from the city of Ann Arbor’s capital improvements plan. TR-AT-12-04 is a pedestrian crossing of Ellsworth at Research Park Drive, near the Center for Independent Living. TR-AP-10-04 is a runway extension at the municipal airport – the brown shaded area.

Generally, about 58% of funding for these projects comes from utility fees and dedicated millages, and 39% from state or federal funds, leaving about 3% to be covered by the city’s general fund. In dollar figures, the amount of improvements that will tap the city’s general fund – or for which funding is otherwise not yet identified – is greater for the second year of this two-year budget cycle. For FY 2015, about $3.4 million of the needed capital improvements will either need to come from the general fund or have some other yet-to-be-determined funding source.

For FY 2014, the amount needed from the general fund or as-yet-undetermined sources is closer to $1.3 million. The city of Ann Arbor’s total general fund budget is around $80 million.

The projects range across the broad categories of: (1) municipal facilities (buildings, parks); (2) transportation (streets, sidewalks, paths, parking decks, train station); and (3) utilities (sanitary, storm, and drinking water).

Cresson Slotten – a city engineer and manager for the city’s systems planning unit – gave the capital improvements briefing to the city council on Feb. 11. The presentation was based on the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP), which was approved by the city planning commission on Dec. 18, 2012.

Slotten also briefed the council on three significant study initiatives related to water systems – a city-wide stormwater study, a more focused study on the Malletts Creek watershed, and a sanitary sewer flow study. Those studies are part of the current year’s work.

In the course of Slotten’s presentation, councilmembers had questions about specific projects, including the footing-drain disconnection (FDD) program. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) noticed the FDD program has no funding indicated beyond the $2.5 million that’s called for next year, in FY 2014. Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, explained that the contract recently authorized by the council to study sanitary sewer flows would inform possible funding in future years.

Another project that drew scrutiny from councilmembers was a $540,000 for interim parking to support a possible commuter rail demonstration project. The city of Ann Arbor has told the Michigan Dept. of Transportation that it expects MDOT to pay for that parking. And Mike Anglin (Ward 5) asked for clarification of the $2.6 million slated for FY 2015 for the design of the “Ann Arbor Station.” City staff clarified that the location of a possible new Amtrak station is currently still the subject of a council-approved $2.75 million study, 20% of which the city is funding, with the remaining 80% covered by a federal grant.

A new station has been controversial in part due to an initially proposed location on Fuller Road near the University of Michigan hospital – on land designated as city parkland. In the CIP, the construction of such a new station is $44.5 million, slated for FY 2016. That cost was not included in the figures presented by Slotten, which went only through FY 2015.

The city council chambers appear in the CIP in connection with two capital projects. A renovation to the chambers – pegged at $300,000 in FY 2015 – seemed to meet with scant enthusiasm from councilmembers. Likely to have a bit more traction with the council is the remaining asbestos abatement in the city hall building. Asbestos abatement was partly completed when renovations were done in connection with construction of the adjoining Justice Center. For the city council chambers portion of city hall’s second floor, abatement would cost about $200,000, and is included in the CIP for FY 2014.

A query from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) about Barton Dam projects drew out the fact that two projects listed for the concrete and steel portions of the dam  – a two-year total of about $1.65 million – could be joined by additional work that might be required on the adjoining earthen berm. The berm is part of the dam that holds the water in Barton Pond, the main source of the city’s drinking water. The possible berm project depends on the outcome of investigatory work that’s being done at the behest of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

A runway extension at the municipal airport – included in the CIP for FY 2014 at a cost of $2.14 million – was met with the observation from Sabra Briere (Ward 1) that an environmental assessment (EA) had not yet been acted on by the Federal Aviation Administration. The council had approved the last bit of funding for that study on Aug. 20, 2012. Without the finalized EA in place, Briere ventured, it would be difficult for her to vote for a capital budget that included the runway project.

The budget on which the council will vote this year will include a separate breakout of capital spending. The substantive conversation about the capital budget as it relates to the council’s established priorities is expected to begin to unfold at the council’s March 11 work session. Before then, a second work session is scheduled for Feb. 25, with an additional session slated for March 25, if necessary. Other topics discussed at the Feb. 11 work session included the 15th District Court and the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. Presentations on those topics are covered in separate Chronicle reports.

City administrator Steve Powers is required by the city charter to submit his proposed budget to the council by the second meeting in April, with any council amendments required by the second meeting in May. The city’s fiscal year begins July 1. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Budget Process Starts Up

A short meeting of the Ann Arbor city council’s budget committee – just before the full council’s Jan. 22 session – resulted in a consensus on an approach to budget planning for the next two-year cycle.

The Ann Arbor city council is beginning a budget planning process that will likely result in a council vote to adopt a budget at its second meeting in May, which falls this year on May 20, 2013.

The Ann Arbor city council is beginning a budget planning process that should culminate in a council vote to adopt a fiscal year 2014 budget at its second meeting in May, which falls this year on May 20, 2013.

City administrator Steve Powers and chief financial officer Tom Crawford sketched out three kinds of topics they could explore with the full council at work sessions through the spring: (1) funding for items in the capital improvements plan (CIP); (2) budget impact analysis, broken down by service unit; and (3) additional resources required to support the city council’s five priority areas, which were  identified in a planning session late last year.

The top three priority areas are: (1) city budget and fiscal discipline; (2) public safety; and (3) infrastructure. Two additional areas were drawn from a raft of other possible issues as those to which the council wanted to devote time and energy over the next two years: (4) economic development; and (5) affordable housing.

Possible city council work session dates are the second and fourth Mondays of the month. Regular meetings fall on the first and third Mondays.

The city council will be adopting a final budget for fiscal year 2014 by its second meeting in May. FY 2014 starts on July 1, 2013. Although the council approves an annual budget for the next fiscal year, the city uses a two-year planning cycle. This year starts a new two-year cycle, the first complete one for city administrator Steve Powers, who started the job about a year and a half ago, in September of 2011.

During some back-and-forth with the budget committee about the staff’s ability to provide all the information to the council that the committee had been describing – within the timeframe of the budget season – Powers joked: “Tom and I aren’t rookies!” Powers was previously Marquette County administrator for 16 years. Crawford has served as Ann Arbor’s CFO for more than eight years.

The council’s five-member budget committee consists of: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

An interesting wrinkle that emerged during the budget committee’s discussion was the role to be played by the city council in shaping the capital improvements plan (CIP). In response to some interest expressed by committee members to amend the CIP, Powers encouraged them to think in terms of allocating funds (or not) for elements of the plan. That’s because the content of the CIP is the statutory responsibility of the planning commission, not of the city council. The city council’s role is to determine which projects should be funded, Powers explained. But it’s for the city planning commission to finalize the content of the CIP itself.

This report includes more on the Michigan Planning Enabling Act (Act 33 of 2008) and the city council’s recent history of amending the CIP. [Full Story]

Two Residential Projects Get Go-Ahead

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Dec. 18, 2012): Winning praise for its design, the site plan for a proposed three-story “flatiron-style” building at 544 Detroit received a recommendation of approval from planning commissioners at their most recent meeting.

544 Detroit, Rueter Associates Architects, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A rendering that shows the proposed design for 544 Detroit St., at the corner of Detroit and North Division.

The project is located at the triangle tip of Detroit and North Division, just southwest east of the Broadway bridge – the site of a long-abandoned gas station. The new building would include offices on the first floor and residences on the upper two floors.

It was one of two residential projects that will now move to the Ann Arbor city council for consideration. The other one – Blue Heron Pond – is a townhome development located at the northwest corner of West Liberty and South Maple. A previous project at that location had languished under a different owner after one building was constructed in 2006. The new project includes nine buildings with a mix of two- and three-bedroom rental units.

In other action, rezoning requests for two other projects did not get recommendations for approval. A rezoning request and area plan waiver for 2271 S. State St. – which would allow for auto sales on the site, where Pilar’s Tamales restaurant had been located – was postponed. Planning commissioners wanted to hold off until a South State Street corridor study is completed. That’s expected to happen by the spring of 2013.

And receiving a technical denial was a rezoning request for 490 Huron Parkway from R3 (townhouse district) to R1B (single-family dwelling). Of the six commissioners at the Dec. 18 meeting, only five supported the request. It needed six votes for a recommendation of approval. Bonnie Bona voted against it, saying she supported more dense development in that area, which is located near Huron High School along a bus line. No construction is proposed at this point.

Commissioners also approved the city’s proposed capital improvements plan (CIP). The plan covers the fiscal years 2014-2019, and includes a list of major capital projects, both those that are funded and those for which funding hasn’t yet been identified. [.pdf of CIP for FY 2014-2019] [Full Story]

Updated Capital Improvements Plan OK’d

At its Dec. 18, 2012 meeting, Ann Arbor planning commissioners approved the city’s proposed capital improvements plan (CIP), which will now be forwarded to the city council. No one attended a public hearing on the topic.

The plan covers the fiscal years 2014-2019, and includes a list of major capital projects, both those that are funded and those for which funding hasn’t yet been identified. [.pdf of CIP for FY 2014-2019] Required by state statute, the CIP must be developed and updated each year, looking ahead at a six-year period, to help with financial planning for major projects – permanent infrastructure like buildings, utilities, transportation and parks. It’s intended to reflect the city’s priorities and needs, and serves as … [Full Story]

No on Chalmers Parking, Maple Cove Delayed

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (May 1, 2012): A nearly 3.5-hour meeting was devoted in large part to public commentary – hearings on two projects drew two dozen speakers.

Len Nadolski, Tony Derezinski

Len Nadolski, left, talks with city councilmember Tony Derezinski before the start of the May 1, 2012 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting. Nadolski owns the Chalmers Place Retail Center on Washtenaw Avenue and hopes to add a parking lot behind the center. The proposal was rejected by the planning commission, on which Derezinski serves. (Photos by the writer.)

About half of those speakers came out to oppose a parking project for the Chalmers Place Retail Center on Washtenaw Avenue, located next to Paesano restaurant in the former Arbor Dodge lot. The owner – Len Nadolski of Howell – asked to rezone a vacant parcel behind the center to P (parking), from its current single-family residential zoning. He said the center has been unable to lease all of its stores because tenants are concerned about a lack of parking.

Commissioners expressed sympathy for the owner, but voted against recommending the rezoning. The majority of commissioners did not feel that the situation warranted overriding the master plan, which calls for that property to be zoned residential. Erica Briggs said the situation added urgency to plans to make the Washtenaw Avenue corridor more safe and amenable to walking and biking.

Eric Mahler cast the lone vote in favor of rezoning. He said he normally wouldn’t support a proposal that was essentially “spot zoning,” but in this case he voted for the plan because he didn’t see any viable alternatives for the owner.

Another project that drew public commentary had previously been recommended for approval by the commission: Maple Cove Apartments & Village development, located on North Maple near Miller Road. The commission had approved the project at its March 20, 2012 meeting. But that vote was rescinded when it was discovered that Scio Township residents on Calvin Street had not been included in an original public notice mailed out for the commission’s March meeting.

Nearby residents voiced several concerns about the project – including density, flooding, aesthetics, traffic and a lack of sidewalks from North Maple back to the seven houses. Those issues were echoed by some of the commissioners, who also complained about the lack of responsiveness from the property owner, Muayad Kasham of Dynasty Enterprises. He has not attended the commission’s meetings to address concerns.

But it was the two proposed entrances off of North Maple – separate entrances for the apartments and the single-family homes – that prompted the most discussion among commissioners, and ultimately the move to postpone. Wendy Woods pointed out that the city’s traffic engineer had advised that a single entrance would be preferable. The city code allows for two entrances, however, based on the property’s lineal frontage. The owner has indicated a commitment to two entrances in order to market the apartments and single-family homes separately, and the city code allows for two entrances based on the property’s lineal frontage.

No date has been set for when the project will next appear on the planning commission agenda.

The commission also approved the city’s 2013-2018 capital improvements plan (CIP), with only minor modifications from the previous year. But commissioners voted to postpone action on a master plan update – they’re expected to discuss it at a retreat set for Tuesday, May 29.

The final item of the meeting was dispatched quickly, as commissioners recommended rejecting a proposed revision to the city’s medical marijuana zoning ordinance. The proposal – recommended by the medical marijuana licensing board – was to strike one sentence from the zoning ordinance: “Medical marijuana dispensaries and medical marijuana cultivation facilities shall be operated in compliance with the MMMA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act).” Commissioners expressed caution about the implications of eliminating the sentence, with Mahler stating that the change would authorize illegal uses, and would have severe consequences for the city. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Approves Capital Plan

At its Feb. 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved its capital improvements plan (CIP).  The plan covers the fiscal years 2012-2017, and includes a list of major capital projects – for projects that have identified funding sources as well as those that do not. The city code requires that the CIP be developed and updated each year, looking ahead at a six-year period, to help with financial planning. It’s intended to reflect the city’s priorities and needs, and serves as a guide to discern what projects are on the horizon.

Included in this year’s proposed CIP was a plan for a runway extension at the city’s municipal airport, an item that the council had voted to remove last year before last year’s CIP was finally adopted. This year, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) raised the same objection about the runway that he had voiced the previous year, and the council again removed the item by a narrow 6-5 vote.

The city’s planning commission recommended adoption of the CIP at its Jan. 4, 2011 meeting, when commissioners discussed in detail how the plan was developed and how public input was sought. [Previous Chronicle coverage of the possible airport runway extension: "Ann Arbor Airport Study Gets Public Hearing"]

This brief was filed from the boardroom in the Washtenaw County administration building, where the council is meeting due to renovations in the city hall building. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Planning Commission Approves Capital Plan

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Jan. 4, 2011): A presentation and discussion on the city’s proposed capital improvements plan – known as the CIP – was the main topic at the year’s first planning commission meeting.

Cresson Slotten

At the Jan. 4 planning commission meeting, Cresson Slotten, acting unit manager for the city of Ann Arbor's systems planning unit, explains the process of developing the proposed capital improvements plan (CIP).

Commissioners ultimately approved the CIP, which will now be forwarded to city council. No one attended a public hearing on the topic.

The plan covers the fiscal years 2012-2017, and includes a list of major capital projects, both ones that are funded and those for which funding hasn’t yet been identified. The city code requires that the CIP be developed and updated each year, looking ahead at a six-year period, to help with financial planning. It’s intended to reflect the city’s priorities and needs, and serves as a guide to discern what projects are on the horizon.

Projects high on the list include the recently approved Argo millrace reconstruction and whitewater feature, the reconstruction of East Stadium bridges, Stadium Boulevard construction between Hutchins and Kipke, a shared-use path at the US-23 underpass on Washtenaw Ave., and LED streetlight conversion, among others.

The presentation to commissioners didn’t focus on specific projects, but primarily outlined how the plan was developed. This year, that process included a new public input component: An online survey. Part of the staff presentation included an overview of the 283 responses to that survey, and a discussion about how to broaden citizen participation in future years.

The meeting took place at the Washtenaw County administration building. Like many other city entities, the planning commission is meeting at an alternate venue due to renovations at city hall. It was an iffy start, as the doors were locked tight when staff, commissioners and The Chronicle arrived a few minutes before the meeting’s scheduled time. A quick call by Wendy Rampson, head of the city’s planning staff, resulted in the arrival of a county employee to open the doors, and the meeting began on time. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Delays Vote on Pay Cuts

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Feb. 16, 2010): Looming budget decisions were a prominent part of the council’s meeting. Around a dozen speakers addressed the council during a public hearing on housing and human services needs – the input will be used by the office of community development in making recommendations for city general fund expenditures.

Jim Mogensen

Jim Mogensen, speaking about the University of Michigan shouldering a half-million-dollar cost for the Central Campus Transit Center that the city would ordinarily have paid: "Look, it's not free." (Photos by the writer.)

The approval of a contract extension for the city’s public art administrator generated a great deal of discussion – partly concerning the dollar amount of the contract – and was passed despite dissent from three councilmembers.

But the council postponed a resolution that would have cut the base salaries of the city administrator and the city attorney by 3%, and would have directed the administrator to cut the salaries of non-union employees by 3% as well.

Another prominent theme of the meeting was real estate and infrastructure. Council approved the acquisition of a property within the city limits – a portion of the Black Elk’s site on Sunset Road – using greenbelt millage funds. They also approved the capital improvements plan (CIP), modified to delete an item for the extension and shifting of a runway at the Ann Arbor municipal airport. [Full Story]

Council OKs Firefighter Deal, 911 Center

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Jan. 19, 2010): The Ann Arbor city council approved an agreement with the local firefighters union that reduces pay by 3% to ensure that no firefighters will be laid off before June 30, 2010.

Pam Byrnes and Karen Sydney

State Rep. Pam Byrnes, left, and Karen Sidney talk before the start of the city council's meeting, which included a presentation at the start of the meeting from Byrnes. (Photos by the writer.)

And, in a move that some councilmembers described as leadership, mayor John Hieftje announced that he was writing a check for $1,273 as a contribution back to the city, because that’s the equivalent of 3% of his annual salary – the same percentage conceded by the firefighters union. It’s also the same percentage Hieftje has suggested that all employees citywide accept as a wage reduction. Some councilmembers indicated they’d be making similar gestures, which they allowed were only symbolic.

The city council also approved a budget increase for the 911 call center modification, a project to facilitate co-location of the city and county 911 centers – it’s expected to be a cost-savings measure.

Council also directed the city administrator, Roger Fraser, to plan an event to honor volunteer members of various boards, commissions and committees that do much of the work required to make the city run.

In other business, the council approved without discussion a University of Michigan project for the soccer complex on South Main Street.

State Rep. Pam Byrnes (D-District 52) gave a presentation to the council at the start of the meeting outlining exactly how bleak the economic outlook is in Michigan.

Many of the items on council’s agenda were postponed: revisions to bicycling and pedestrian ordinances (including bicycle registration); revisions to parking fines; and the capital improvements plan.

And two of the items were pulled from the agenda at the start of the meeting: a revision to the ordinance on signs and outdoor advertising to allow portable signs; and a resolution to approve the transfer of a liquor license to BW&R GoBlue LLC, located at 640 Packard Street. [Full Story]

Fraser Acted Against Advice on Proposal

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 17, 2010): Conversation among councilmembers and residents on Sunday night yielded some additional historical insight into development plans for the Library Lot above the underground parking garage, which is currently beginning construction.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) revealed that when city administrator Roger Fraser mentioned an unsolicited development proposal at the city council budget retreat in January 2009, he had acted against the advice of members of the council’s budget and labor committee. The committee had become aware of the proposal’s existence prior to the retreat, Rapundalo reported, and when they did, “We said that should be put away on a shelf somewhere. … (but) Roger chose to mention it at the retreat.” Rapundalo also added that while some councilmembers had seen the unsolicited proposal, he had not.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) recalled a phase in the community conversation about the future of the city-owned Library Lot that predated the January 2009 budget retreat. It was a time when the discussion centered on leaving the top of the parking structure as a temporary surface parking lot while its eventual, more permanent fate was considered – still a possibility, based on Sunday’s caucus discussion.

Besides the Library Lot, residents who attended caucus touched on other issues – the city council’s role in city governance, and the capital improvements plan for the year, which is on the council’s Tuesday night meeting agenda. Council is meeting on Tuesday, rather than its usual Monday schedule, because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. [Full Story]