Stories indexed with the term ‘city ordinances’

Ann Arbor Taxi Board Reacts to Uber

Ann Arbor taxicab board meeting (April 23, 2014): In its one action taken at the meeting, the board approved making a request of the city attorney’s office to come up with a draft of an ordinance amendment – that would require all drivers for hire to be registered in the city.

April 23, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor taxicab board.

April 23, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor taxicab board at city hall. (Photo by the writer.)

The action comes in response to Uber‘s entry into the Ann Arbor market. Uber is a service, based on a mobile app, that coordinates prospective passengers with drivers who are willing to make the trip. Currently the city’s taxicab ordinance covers only taxicab drivers – not limousine drivers or any other drivers for hire. The board wants to see a draft ordinance that would include all drivers for hire – so that Uber’s drivers would need to be registered in the city of Ann Arbor.

Stephen Kunselman, who serves as the city council’s representative to the taxicab board, put it this way at the meeting: “The number one issue of regulating drivers in the industry is for public safety, alright? I want to know who these drivers are who are driving around picking up people in our town, okay? Number one issue.”

A change to the city’s ordinance could come only after approval by the city council.

The action requesting the city attorney’s office to begin work on an ordinance amendment was not actually on the board’s meeting agenda. The one item for discussion had been to consider possible deregulation of taxicab fares in the city – a topic the board has been considering for about a year. As board chair Michael Benson put it, “It’s time to address it one way or the other.” Currently the maximum rate is $3 to get in, $2.50 per mile, and $0.40 a minute waiting time.

Those rates were last adjusted upwards on May 16, 2011, in response to gas prices that had nudged past $4 per gallon. With one exception, representatives of taxicab companies at the April 23 meeting were not looking for the kind of $0.25 adjustments that have been made in the past. Instead, they’re looking for a high maximum – along the lines of $5 to get in and $5 per mile – so that a competitive market could develop under that cap.

Benson and Tom Crawford – the city’s CFO and an ex officio member of the board – steered the conversation toward identifying ways to measure success of any change in the city’s approach to regulating fares: “What is it that you want to achieve? Let’s get some clarity on that so that we can identify whether we have succeeded or not. That’s the real point,” said Crawford.

What came out of that board discussion was that the measurement of success should include the number of taxicabs being operated in the city. At the meeting, Ann Arbor police officer Jamie Adkins told board members that for the three years from 2008 to 2010 there were 177, 193, and 179 taxicabs operating in the city, respectively. But when Yellow Car converted all but one vehicle to limousine, that number dropped to 111 in 2011. In 2012 there were 132 taxicabs, she said, and the current figure is 124.

The board’s past effort to regulate the entire livery industry – including limousines, which are supposed to take only pre-arranged, not hailed rides – has included recommendations to revise the city’s ordinance so that limousine companies cannot hold themselves out as taxicab companies. And the city council enacted those changes in 2011. But according to officer Adkins, AAPD has learned that those aspects of the ordinance can’t be the primary reason for a police traffic stop. [.pdf of Ann Arbor taxicab ordinance] [Full Story]

Outdoor Smoking Regs Get Initial OK

A new local Ann Arbor law regulating smoking in some outdoor locations has been given initial approval by the city council. The law would regulate smoking outside of public buildings and also potentially in areas of some city parks.

Action to give the ordinance initial approval came at the council’s April 7, 2014 meeting, after it had been postponed on March 3, 2014, and before that on Feb. 3, 2014. The initial approval came over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Jack Eaton (Ward 4).

To be enacted, the new law will need a second vote from the council at a future meeting.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), sponsor of the proposed new local law, appeared before the city’s … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor’s Public Art Saga Continues

Four separate agenda items related to public art received action by the Ann Arbor city council at its Feb. 18, 2014 meeting – but three of those actions were to postpone. The end result was that no Percent for Art money was transferred from the public art fund back to its funds of origin.

Back on the council’s March 3 agenda will be two resolutions – or possibly just one – that would make such a fund transfer. Also back on March 3 will be a resolution extending the part-time public art administrator’s contract for six months and appropriating $18,500 for that purpose.

The council’s actions on Feb. 18 began with final approval to an amendment to the city’s public art ordinance. That … [Full Story]

A2: Crosswalk Law

The Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition has posted information on its website advocating against a pending change to the city of Ann Arbor’s crosswalk ordinance. The post includes a document with crash diagrams – extracted from official reports – of pedestrian accidents at non-signalized crosswalks over the last four years. [.pdf of crash diagrams] Instead of revising the ordinance, the WBWC wants to allow time for a recently established pedestrian safety task force to make a recommendation: “WBWC urges Council to utilize the newly formed Pedestrian Safety Task Force as a place to begin looking at all the crash data and prioritizing engineering, enforcement and educational measures that will enhance walkability in our community.” [Source]

Sidewalk Issue Paused, Video Law Stopped

Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 1, 2013): In a meeting that featured land use and planning as a main theme, the council chose to put off final decisions on two significant issues.

A cross-lot path that leads from Roon the Ben in the Turnberry neighborhood to the ballfields for Scarlett-Mitchell schools. A pending ordinance change could eventually place responsibility for capital repairs on the city, but give homeowners the responsibility of shoveling snow.

A cross-lot path that leads from Roon the Ben in the Turnberry neighborhood to the ballfields for Scarlett-Mitchell schools. A pending ordinance change could eventually place responsibility for capital repairs on the city, but give adjacent property owners the responsibility of shoveling snow. (Photos by the writer.)

First, councilmembers postponed a decision on a change to the definition of “sidewalk” in the city code – which would have implications for the adjacent property owners of “cross-lot paths.” While the definitional change would allow the city to take responsibility for capital repairs on such cross-lot paths – using sidewalk repair millage funds – it would place the burden of winter snow shoveling on adjacent property owners.

That division of responsibility for repair and maintenance is one that’s now familiar to owners of property adjacent to sidewalks that run next to a road or a street. Given the number of open questions about how logistics would actually work, and concerns expressed during the public hearing on July 1 as well as at a previous public meeting on the topic, the council decided to postpone a final vote until Oct. 7, 2013.

Second, the council postponed a vote on adding the South State Street corridor plan to the city’s master plan, which consists of several separate documents. The city planning commission has already voted to adopt the corridor plan as part of the master plan. It’s one of the few issues on which the planning commission does not act just as an advisory body that makes recommendations to the council. For the master plan, the council and the planning commission must adopt the same plan. The postponement came in deference to a request from Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). The area of the study lies in Ward 4, which she represents.

Despite the postponement, the South State Street corridor plan still had an impact on a decision made by the council – to deny a rezoning request for the parcel at 2271 S. State St. The change in zoning would have allowed the parcel to be used for car sales. That use isn’t consistent with the recommendations in the corridor plan, and the planning commission had recommended against rezoning on that basis. Even though it was just the initial vote on the rezoning – an occasion when councilmembers sometimes will advance an ordinance change to a second reading in order to allow a public hearing to take place – the rezoning request got no support on the council.

In contrast, the initial rezoning requested for the Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development at the location of the former Greek Orthodox church on North Main Street – received unanimous approval at the council’s July 1 meeting.

Also related to land use, the council reconstituted a 12-member citizens advisory committee to study the R4C zoning area. The re-establishment of the group, which was originally appointed in 2009, comes after the planning commission had voted at its April 16, 2013 meeting to send recommendations to the city council for revisions to the R4C zoning areas. The recommended revisions were not the actual ordinance language. That language would need to be written after councilmembers sign off on the general recommendations. No action is expected by the council until the committee has met two or three times.

Another committee reconstituted by the council on July 1 was a group to sort through some contentious issues between the council and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The council has postponed until Sept. 3 a final decision on a change to Chapter 7 of the city code, which regulates the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture. The four councilmembers on the committee are: Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2). Two days later, at its regular monthly meeting, the DDA’s complement was appointed: Roger Hewitt, Bob Guenzel, Joan Lowenstein and Sandi Smith.

A proposed video privacy ordinance that was on the council’s July 1 agenda did not win sufficient support to advance to a second reading. The proposal would have regulated the way that public surveillance cameras could be used by local law enforcement officials. Although the vote was 5-4 in favor, that fell short of the six-vote majority it needed on the 11-member body. So the council voted down the video privacy ordinance on its initial consideration – having postponed the issue several times previously.

The council also decided to delay adoption of amendments to its own internal rules – out of deference to two councilmembers who were absent from the meeting: Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4). Highlights of the rule changes include the addition of a public commentary opportunity at council work sessions, and reduction in the time per turn for the public from three to two minutes. A change in councilmember speaking times equates to a reduction from eight minutes to five minutes total per item for each councilmember.

The council handled a number of other items during the meeting, including the adoption of the 2009 International Fire Code, a location change for the Ward 2 Precinct 8 polling place, approval of a special assessment to help pay for sidewalk and curb improvements along Miller Avenue, and confirmation of appointments to boards and commissions. [Full Story]

July 1, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: Final

Land use is frequently a dominant theme of Ann Arbor city council meetings – and the July 1, 2013 meeting agenda fits that pattern.

Door to Ann Arbor city council chambers

Door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber.

The council will be giving final consideration to an ordinance change that expands the definition of “sidewalk” – to include any sidewalks the city has formally accepted for public use. The change has implications for owners of property adjacent to several “cross-lot paths” in the city – which are on the meeting agenda for acceptance for public use.

One consequence of the definition change is that those property owners will not be responsible for the repair of those paths – because the paths will be eligible for sidewalk millage repair funds. But the adjacent property owners would become responsible for clearing snow from the paths.

Also related to land use on the meeting agenda are rezoning requests associated with two proposed developments. Up for an initial vote is the rezoning from PUD (planned unit development) to D2 (downtown interface) for the parcels on North Main and Fourth Avenue where Kerrytown Place is planned. The 18-unit townhouse development is much smaller than The Gallery, for which the PUD zoning had originally been approved.

Also up for initial consideration is a rezoning request for 2271 S. State St., where the owner would like to be able to sell automobiles. The planning commission recommended denial of that request, in part because that land use was not felt to be consistent with the draft South State Street corridor plan. At its July 1 meeting, the council will also be asked to adopt that corridor plan.

The re-establishment of a citizens advisory committee on changes to R4C zoning in the city also appears on the meeting agenda. The origins of that committee date back to 2009. The reconstitution of the 12-member committee comes as the planning commission has recommended changes to R4C zoning that the council will be weighing – to decide if ordinance language should be drafted to reflect those changes.

Another committee with its origins in 2009 is set to be reconstituted at the council’s July 1 meeting, but it’s not related to land use. The council will be asked to re-establish a “mutually beneficial” committee to work through recommendations to changes in the city ordinance that regulates the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture. The council has already given initial approval to some ordinance changes. Committee members will be working with their DDA counterparts with a two-month window of time – because the council has postponed final action on DDA ordinance changes until Sept. 3.

The council will also be asked to take an initial vote on a video privacy ordinance, having postponed that initial vote several times previously.

And finally, Ward 2 will not have a city council primary election a month from now, but it appears on the agenda in connection with polling places. The Precinct 2-8 polling location will be changed for all future elections to the First United Methodist Church on Green Road.

Details of other meeting agenda items are available on the city’s Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article “below the fold.” The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Friction Emerges Between Council, Court

Ann Arbor city council meeting (June 17, 2013): Budget items for the 15th District Court drew more attention than any other single topic, taking up more than an hour of the council’s deliberations. The council also devoted more than a half hour to an item related to a Department of Energy grant that could lead to the installation of a wind generator on the property of Pioneer High School.

From left: judge Christopher Easthope and 15th District Court administrator Keith Zeisloft.

From left: 15th District Court judge Christopher Easthope – a former Ann Arbor city councilmember – and 15th District Court administrator Keith Zeisloft at the council’s June 17 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The main court-related item was part of an annual adjustment to the current fiscal year’s budget (FY 2013), which ends on June 30. The adjustment is made on a routine basis in order to bring the budget in line with actual expenditures. The general fund budget adjustment that was eventually approved by the council increased it by $567,000.

And of that amount, a significant part was attributable to the 15th District Court – including $112,000 in salary increases based on an interest in retaining employees, $203,000 due to a “catch up” payment to the law firm that provides indigent representation, and a back-bill for security from Washtenaw County for two fiscal years for $110,000. None of the salary increases went to judges, whose compensation is set through state statute.

The council was essentially being asked to approve the accounting adjustment for money that had already been spent this year.

The city’s budget for the next fiscal year – approved by the council last month, on May 20, 2013 – already incorporated the court workers’ salary increases going forward, and councilmembers had been apprised of the raises before their budget deliberations in May. The council’s deliberations on May 20 had not focused on those raises, but rather on the possibility of reducing the court’s budget in order to fund additional police officers for the city.

At the June 17 meeting, all three judges of the court plus the court administrator were on hand – as some councilmembers drew out a disagreement regarding how the wage increases should have been approached. At least some councilmembers felt the court should have asked the council before awarding wage increases to its workers.

Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer, indicated at the meeting that if the council had not approved the budget adjustment for the court, it would likely have generated a note in next year’s audit.

Other court-related items on the council’s agenda included a new $240,000 annual flat-fee contract with Nassif and Reiser – the firm that provides indigent representation for the court. The council also approved a $160,000 contract with the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office for weapons screening at the Justice Center, the building next to city hall that houses the 15th District Court.

The council approved two items related to the court’s special Sobriety Court, one of which was a $65,000 grant program contract with the nonprofit Dawn Farm to provide in-patient and out-patient drug abuse counseling to 15th District Court defendants. It was approved over the dissent of Sabra Briere (Ward 1), who objected to the accompanying provision that waived a requirement that Dawn Farm adhere to the city’s living wage ordinance.

The wind generator item was originally on the consent agenda, but was pulled out for separate consideration. The council had previously voted unanimously at its Jan. 7, 2013 meeting to accept a roughly $950,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant for installation of the wind generator. The council was asked on June 17 to spend about $50,000 of the grant proceeds on an initial environmental assessment, required before the project can move forward. Three councilmembers balked at the request, but the resolution was ultimately approved.

In business related to revisions of local laws, the council gave final approval to an ordinance change that limits use of fireworks to between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight. And the council gave final approval to the city’s outdoor sign ordinance that limits the incorporation of digital technology into outdoor signs – in a way that prohibits such use for billboards. However, the council again delayed taking an initial vote on an ordinance that would regulate how local law enforcement officials can use public surveillance cameras. The council did give initial approval to adopt the new fire code into the city’s ordinances.

In land use and development business, the council approved a revised development agreement for The Varsity. The agreement now incorporates a total of seven monthly parking permits that will be purchased at a premium cost under the city’s contribution in lieu (CIL) program. The council also gave approval to site plans for two projects: the State Street Center and 544 Detroit St. The 544 Detroit St. project included a brownfield plan, which was also approved. Another brownfield plan was on the council’s agenda – related to the Packard Square development on the site of the former Georgetown Mall. That plan had previously been approved, but an additional council vote was needed to change the set of activities that are eligible for reimbursement.

In connection with government-controlled land, the council approved $382,000 in additional operating support for the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. The council also passed a resolution committing up to $750,000 in general fund money to convert city-owned property at 721 N. Main to a greenway park. However, if the grants that the city expects to be awarded are actually received, none of that $750,000 would need to be spent on the project.

The council again heard public commentary about a homelessness outreach ministry in one of the city’s established parks – Liberty Plaza in downtown Ann Arbor, at Division and Liberty streets.

The council also approved revisions to collective bargaining agreements with the six unions in the police department, which gave members a 2% wage increase.

In a symbolic effort, the council voted to oppose expansion of I-94 in Detroit and I-75 in Oakland County – a proposal that’s part of SEMCOG’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan with an estimated cost of $4 billion. SEMCOG subsequently adopted the plan.

The council put off voting on proposed changes to its internal rules, which could result in adding public commentary time at the council’s work sessions, but reducing the time allowed per turn from three minutes to two minutes. The council is expected to vote on the full set of rule changes at its July 1 meeting.

The proposed changes to the rules would move nominations and confirmation of appointments to a slot near the start of the meeting, instead of its current position near the end. For the June 17 meeting, the council’s confirmations came after midnight – and included reappointment of Bonnie Bona to the planning commission, and LuAnne Bullington to the taxicab board. [Full Story]

DDA Ramps Up PR After First Council Vote

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (April 3, 2013): The board had no voting business on its agenda, but still dealt with serious business: the city council’s initial approval of changes to the DDA ordinance. The changes are meant to clarify the authority’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture, as well as place restrictions on board composition. [.pdf of Chapter 7 amendments]

DDA board chair Leah Gunn

DDA board chair Leah Gunn at the April 3, 2013 board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The proposed amendments to Chapter 7 of the city code, given initial approval at the council’s April 1, 2013 meeting, would reduce the DDA’s TIF capture by roughly $931,000 for FY 2014 – compared to the amount the DDA would receive based on the DDA’s current interpretation of the ordinance. But in adopting its two-year budget recently, DDA did not factor in recent building projects in the downtown – which add to the increment on which the DDA can capture taxes, starting in FY 2014.

So compared to the amount of TIF revenue in the DDA’s adopted FY 2014 budget, the clarified calculations would result in only about $363,000 less TIF revenue for the DDA. And compared to the DDA’s adopted FY 2015 budget, the clarified calculations would result in about $74,000 less revenue than budgeted. The clarified calculations would result in TIF revenue to the DDA in FY 2014 and FY 2015 of $3.570 and $3.682 million, respectively.

A dispute on the clarity of the existing Chapter 7 language had emerged in May 2011 just as the DDA and the city were poised to sign a newly renegotiated agreement under which the DDA manages the public parking system. At that time, the city’s financial staff reportedly first noticed the implications of an existing Chapter 7 paragraph that appears to place a cap on the DDA’s TIF capture – a cap that’s calibrated to projections in the DDA’s TIF plan. The TIF cap rises each year based on forecast growth in the DDA’s TIF capture district.

Several board members weighed in on the issue during the April 3 meeting. The idea of any kind of cap – let alone one that’s based on estimates contained in the appendix of the DDA’s TIF plan – was sharply criticized by Joan Lowenstein, who characterized the approach as based on “a fallacy.” She also called the idea of a cap poor public policy. However, both the cap and its basis are already in the existing ordinance language that the city council’s ordinance amendment seeks to clarify.

Roger Hewitt took the board’s meeting as an opportunity to question whether the ordinance amendments actually clarify how the calculations are to be done, contending that he’d come up with different results than the city treasurer, starting from the same ordinance language. He cautioned that the DDA’s financial planning and the DDA’s budget would need to be re-evaluated – allowing for no “sacred cows” – if the council gave final approval to the ordinance changes.

Russ Collins contrasted the amount of net revenue received by the city from the geographic area of the DDA district before the DDA was established back in 1982, compared to today. The net proceeds from taxes and the public parking system (which lost about $250,000 a year during that era) came to about $1.25 million 30 years ago, according to Collins. Today, the city receives nearly $8 million annually – around $4 million in taxes, $3 million in parking revenue, and a grant to the city of roughly $0.5 million a year toward debt on the city’s new Justice Center building.

Bob Guenzel focused his remarks less on the financial side and more on the aspects of the ordinance change that would restrict future board membership. He saw no benefit to the proposed DDA term limits, noting that the city council has an opportunity to end a DDA board member’s service by deciding not to re-appoint someone to the board. John Mouat was critical of the proposed ordinance changes that would prevent elected officials of taxing jurisdictions from serving on the board, saying he’d found the participation of politically-connected people to be beneficial to the board.

The extended remarks by board members on the topic came in the context of a 7-3 vote by the city council on April 1, giving initial approval of the ordinance changes. [Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) was absent from the meeting of the 11-member council.] A second vote, expected at the council’s April 15 meeting, would be required to enact the changes. Based on their remarks made at the council table, two of the seven votes in support of the changes – by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) – were widely read as likely to change at the second vote. Ordinance changes require a six-vote majority.

In addition to discussion of the possible ordinance changes, the DDA heard its usual range of committee reports, including the monthly parking update. Public commentary related to a possible artificial ice-skating rink atop the Library Lane underground parking garage. [Full Story]

Public Art Spending Pause Extended

The Ann Arbor city council has extended a temporary halt to spending money set aside under its Percent for Art ordinance.

The city’s public art ordinance requires that 1% of all capital project budgets be set aside for public art. Originally set to run through April 1, 2013, the temporary halt on spending – except on projects already in the works – will now be extended until May 31. The extension was approved by the council at its April 1 meeting. The three projects currently in the works are installations for East Stadium Bridges, a rain garden on Kingsley Street, and Argo Cascades.

The council had originally enacted the moratorium on spending at its Dec. 3, 2012 meeting. The action came in … [Full Story]

DDA Tax Capture Change Gets Initial OK

Several revisions to Chapter 7, a city ordinance governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA), have received an initial approval by the city council. One of the revisions could result in roughly $559,000 in additional annual revenue for the city of Ann Arbor – compared to what it would receive under the DDA’s current interpretation of the ordinance.

The 7-3 vote came at the council’s April 1, 2013 meeting. In order to be enacted, the changes will need to receive approval from the council at a subsequent meeting, following a public hearing.

The revisions considered by the council fell roughly into two categories: (1) those involving board composition and policies; and (2) calculation of tax increment finance (TIF) capture in the … [Full Story]

City To Seek Feedback On Public Art Program

Ann Arbor city council public art committee meeting (Jan. 7, 2013): The five councilmembers on a committee looking at the future of Ann Arbor’s public art program will likely seek feedback on public art funding using the city’s online A2 Open City Hall.

Sabra Briere, Sally Petersen, Ann Arbor city council, public art, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor city councilmembers Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Sally Petersen (Ward 2) at the Jan. 7, 2013 council public art committee meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The group discussed this approach at its second meeting since being appointed by the full council on Dec. 3, 2012. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) had proposed a survey at the committee’s first meeting on Dec. 11, but the idea had gained no traction then. She reintroduced the proposal on Jan. 7, saying she felt the committee needed better direction about public art and the types of funding residents might support.

A2 Open City Hall allows users to give open-ended responses to questions, to select priorities, and to give votes of support to comments left by others. It’s a relatively new system, and committee members talked about the need to promote it so that more people will participate. They plan to invite Lisa Wondrash, the city’s communications manager, to come to the next committee meeting and give advice on crafting questions for Open City Hall, as well as ways to publicize it. The Open City Hall system wouldn’t be the only way to get input, Petersen stressed.

Committee members include Peterson, Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). At this point, the consensus of the committee appears to be for a continued public art program that would not rely exclusively on the current Percent for Art funding model. That approach sets aside 1% of the budget for each of the city’s capital projects – up to a cap of $250,000 – for public art. The ordinance was enacted in 2007, but has been controversial for a variety of reasons. [.pdf of public art ordinance] It is now being evaluating in light of a public art millage that was rejected by 56% of voters on Nov. 6, 2012.

The council has asked this committee to make recommendations about the city’s public art program by Feb. 15, 2013. The group is exploring several options, including possible public/private partnerships and hiring a full-time administrator. There seems to be general agreement that if a Percent for Art approach is kept in place, it should be modified and only provide a portion of funding for public art. Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer, attended the Jan. 7 meeting and reported that the accounting for Percent for Art is “very detailed and very difficult. It’s very administratively heavy.”

Moving away from Percent for Art funding would also give the city more flexibility on the types of public art it can pursue. Currently, because funding comes from capital projects, the artwork must be permanent and linked thematically to the fund paying for the project. That means that temporary installations, or events like the annual FestiFools parade, can’t be funded in this way.

Taylor wasn’t confident that the committee could craft a new plan by its February deadline. Instead, he suggested that the committee could provide concrete direction, but perhaps the city should hire a consultant or ask city staff to review the current program and make further recommendations.

During the Jan. 7 meeting, Kunselman gave a brief update on his plan to make a request of the state attorney general’s office for an opinion about the legality of Ann Arbor’s current Percent for Art program. The request must come from a state legislator, and Kunselman said that state Rep. Jeff Irwin – a Democrat from Ann Arbor representing District 53 – has “reluctantly” agreed to help if the council passes a resolution to seek the AG opinion.

Also at the meeting, committee members heard from four people during public commentary, who gave suggestions on how to proceed: Marsha Chamberlin and John Kotarski of the Ann Arbor public art commission; former AAPAC chair Margaret Parker; and Sarah Gay, an arts administrator who grew up in Ann Arbor. Kotarski, Parker and Gay all recommended hiring a full-time administrator for Ann Arbor’s public art program.

The committee’s next meeting is set for Monday, Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the first-floor conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron. These meetings are open to the public. This Chronicle report also provides links to online resources that are being used by the committee, including information about public art programs in other cities nationwide. [Full Story]

Towing the Line on Vehicle Street Storage

Inoperable vehicles will be a bit more difficult to store on the streets of Ann Arbor, as a result of the city council’s final approval of ordinance changes on Dec. 3, 2012.

The city’s strategy – of placing notices on cars that give owners 48 hours to move their vehicles – was being thwarted by people who simply push their vehicles a few feet. The change in the ordinance addresses directly the issue of whether a vehicle is operable, in part by adding the following language: “If a vehicle appears to be inoperative based on outward appearance or otherwise appears to not have been driven after a 48 hour notice has been affixed to the vehicle pursuant to section 10:136, the … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor’s Noise Law Firmed Up

Changes to the city of Ann Arbor’s noise ordinance received final approval at the city council’s Dec. 3, 2012 meeting. The amendments to the ordinance, sponsored by Ward 3 councilmember Christopher Taylor, were related to the now-completed construction of The Landmark at 601 S. Forest, an apartment building located in Ward 3. Construction noise was one of several aspects of the construction activity that came under sharp criticism at the council’s Oct. 1, 2012 meeting from nearby resident Eleanor Linn, who also addressed the council at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting, when the changes were given initial approval.

The revision adds language to the text of the ordinance to make clear that the ordinance can be enforced against those … [Full Story]

Proposed Revisions to Public Art Law Postponed

Two separate proposals about Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art program were tabled by the city council at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting. One proposal would have terminated the program, while the other would have narrowed the range of eligible projects.

The council also postponed a resolution added to the agenda during the meeting to appoint a task force of five councilmembers to study the issue and to suspend the expenditure of funds – with several exceptions – currently allocated for public art. The resolution on the task force and temporary suspension, which was brought forward by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), was postponed until Dec. 3. The timeframe for a recommendation on how to move ahead with either revision or termination of the Percent … [Full Story]

Towing Ordinance Change on Council Agenda

According to the preliminary online agenda for the Ann Arbor city council’s Nov. 19, 2012 meeting, initial consideration will be given at that meeting to a change to the city’s towing ordinance. The change is meant to address the problem of inoperable vehicles being stored on city streets.

The city’s current strategy of placing notices on cars that give owners 48 hours to move their vehicles appears to be thwarted by people who simply push their vehicles a few feet. The proposed change in the ordinance would address directly the issue of whether a vehicle is operable, in part by adding the following language: “If a vehicle appears to be inoperative based on outward appearance or otherwise appears to not have … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to Consider Noise Ordinance Revision

Based on the preliminary online agenda, the Ann Arbor city council will give initial consideration to a revision to the city’s noise ordinance at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.

The amendment to the ordinance, sponsored by Ward 3 councilmember Christopher Taylor, is related to the now-completed construction of The Landmark at 601 S. Forest, an apartment building located in Ward 3. Construction noise was one of several aspects of the construction activity, which came under sharp criticism at the council’s Oct. 1, 2012 meeting from nearby resident Eleanor Linn.

The proposed revision would add language to the text of the ordinance to make clear that the ordinance can be enforced against those in a supervisory capacity – people who are causing … [Full Story]

Action Postponed on New Retail Development

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Nov. 7, 2012): Planning commissioners took a range of actions at their most recent meeting, and said farewell to one member.

The Shoppes at 3600 Plymouth, retail, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of a proposed retail development on Plymouth Road west of US-23 – The Shoppes at 3600. The site is in the complex where the Holiday Inn North Campus is located, visible on the right side of this image. This document was included in the planning commission’s Nov. 7 meeting packet.

Citing concerns over placement of the building on the site, commissioners postponed making a recommendation for a proposed retail development at 3600 Plymouth Road, immediately west of US-23. Called The Shoppes at 3600, the building is oriented with its back facing Plymouth. Commissioner Bonnie Bona, acknowledging the difficulty of positioning the building on this parcel, suggested that “perhaps this development is not right for this site.”

Also during the meeting, the commission continued the city’s ongoing annexation of township property by recommending the annexation of a Pittsfield Township parcel at 2503 Victoria, east of Packard Road. The recommendation includes zoning it for single-family residential (R1C) – a house is already under construction there.

An amendment to the city’s off-street parking ordinance was also recommended for approval. The change would allow more flexibility for temporary off-street parking for special events, such as hockey games at Michigan Stadium. Planning manager Wendy Rampson noted that there was not as much urgency to this amendment now, in light of the recent cancellation of the NHL’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.

The commission also passed a resolution retroactively enabling three commissioners to attend the Michigan Association of Planning’s annual meeting, held on Oct. 17-19. The action enables commissioners to be reimbursed for their expenses.

The meeting closed with remarks of appreciation about and from commissioners Tony Derezinski and Evan Pratt, who are ending their terms. Derezinski, the commission’s representative from Ann Arbor city council, is leaving council after being defeated in the August Ward 2 Democratic primary by Sally Petersen. [Derezinski was subsequently, on Nov. 8, appointed by the council to planning commission as a citizen representative. It's expected that Sabra Briere (Ward 1) will be joining the commission as the council's next representative.] Pratt, elected as Washtenaw County water resources commissioner in the Nov. 6 general election, will be required to attend Tuesday evening meetings of the Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission, precluding membership on the planning commission, which also meets on Tuesdays. Pratt has served on the planning commission since 2004.

In the absence of chair Kirk Westphal, vice chair Wendy Woods led the Nov. 7 meeting. [Full Story]

Nonprofit CAN Gets Living Wage Exemption

For the next three years, the Community Action Network (CAN) will not have to pay its workers at the level required by the city of Ann Arbor’s living wage ordinance.

CAN is a nonprofit dedicated to improving communities in underprivileged Washtenaw County neighborhoods, and receives allocations from the city through the city’s coordinated funding process to support human services. For fiscal year 2013, CAN was allocated $105,809 by the city for its Y.E.S. You CAN! program. Because those annual allocations exceed $10,000, CAN is subject to the city’s living wage ordinance, which currently requires that a minimum of $12.17/hour be paid to employees by employers who provide health insurance and $13.57/hour by those employers not providing health insurance.

However, Ann Arbor’s living wage ordinance has … [Full Story]

Changes Floated for Public Art Program

The Ann Arbor city council’s post-election Nov. 8, 2012 session was its last meeting before new councilmembers are ceremonially sworn in on Nov. 19. And current city councilmembers used the occasion to announce some issues that the new edition of the council will be asked to consider.

At the Nov. 19 meeting, two proposals will be brought forward on the city’s public art ordinance. The changes stem from the fact that a proposed public art millage failed at the polls on Nov. 6 by a 10-point margin (55.8% opposed and 44.14% in favor).

So at the Nov. 8 meeting, two different proposals were floated on the city’s existing public art ordinance – based on possibly differing interpretations of the expressed voter sentiment. … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Tables Medical Marijuana Question

The Ann Arbor city council has tabled a resolution that would change its medical marijuana licensing ordinance. The  tabling, which is unlike a postponement to a date certain, leaves open the possibility that the council might not ever take the question up off the table. If the council fails to take the question up within six months, the item demises. However, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) indicated she intended to take it up off the table before the six months are up. The tabling took place at the council’s Oct. 1, 2012 meeting.

The ordinance amendments in question were recommended by the city’s medical marijuana licensing board at the start of the year. Representative of the revisions is a change that strikes … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Mulls No Living Wage for Nonprofits

Nonprofits that receive funding from the city of Ann Arbor to provide human services may in the future not be required to adhere to the city’s living wage ordinance. However, a resolution related to that issue was withdrawn from the city council’s Sept. 17, 2012 agenda, pending further review by the city’s housing and human services advisory board.

It’s expected that a recommended ordinance change will be brought to a future council meeting.

The living wage is defined by city ordinance Chapter 23, Section 1:815, and was increased slightly earlier this year in order to conform with the ordinance. The new wage was set at $12.17/hour for those employers paying health insurance and $13.57/hour for those employers not paying health insurance.

The city ordinance applies to … [Full Story]

Delay on Local Marijuana Pending State Action

At its June 18, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council again delayed a vote on revisions to its medical marijuana licensing ordinance – which it enacted a year ago on June 20, 2011. The postponement is until Oct. 1.

The proposed ordinance revisions, recommended by the city’s medical marijuana licensing board at its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting, had already been considered and postponed once before, at the council’s April 2, 2012 meeting. The licenses that the board recommended be granted to 10 dispensaries citywide – recommendations also made at the board’s Jan. 31 meeting – have not yet come before the city council for final action.

The board-recommended revisions to the medical marijuana licensing ordinance are laid out in detail in … [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]

Ann Arbor Pauses on Marijuana Issues

At its April 2, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council considered three separate agenda items involving medical marijuana: (1) revisions to the city’s medical marijuana licensing ordinance; (2) direction to the city planning commission to make a recommendation on revisions to the city’s medical marijuana zoning ordinance; and (3) direction to the city attorney to delay enforcement action against those dispensaries for which the city’s medical marijuana licensing board has recommended licenses.

The council unanimously postponed consideration of the licensing ordinance revisions until the council’s second meeting in June – June 18.

The council approved the  resolution that gives direction to the planning commission to review the medical marijuana zoning ordinance, on a 9-1 vote.

The council tabled the resolution directing the … [Full Story]

0.17 BAC as Separate Crime Gets Initial OK

At its April 2, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to a change in its traffic ordinance to adopt a provision of the Michigan Vehicle Code that establishes driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than 0.17 as a separate offense from operating under the influence.

The Michigan legislature had previously changed the MVC, which Ann Arbor has adopted, to include the separate charge for the very high BAC of 0.17. However, the legislature did not at that time change the Home Rule Cities Act to allow cities to impose the greater penalty of 180 days in jail and/or $700 fine that comes with the BAC 0.17 charge. But in February 2012, the legislature made the change … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Labor Benefits Get Initial OK

At its Oct. 17, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to revisions to the ordinances that govern the retirement and health care plans for two of its unions: the Ann Arbor Police Officers Association (AAPOA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

The revisions to the ordinances resulted from a collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME and a binding arbitration under Act 312 with AAPOA. The changes are similar to ordinance changes already enacted for non-union city workers.

The pension contribution for AAPOA and AFSCME workers will rise from 5% on a post-tax basis to 6% on a pre-tax basis. The vesting period for new hires will increase from 5 years to 10 years. Also for new hires, the final average compensation (FAC) calculation will be increased to a five-year period. The previous FAC was based on a three-year period.

On the health care side, the AFSCME and AAPOA employees would have the same access-only retiree health plan as non-union employees have. Like all ordinance changes, the city council will need to give these revisions a second and final approval no sooner than its next regular meeting.

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] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Taxicab Law Gets Initial Tweak

At its Oct. 17, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to changes in its taxicab ordinance. The changes make explicit how long a taxicab company license is valid (10 years) and spells out some additional conditions on revocation or suspension of the company license.

The revisions also add reasons that can be used for suspending an individual taxicab driver’s license, which include a city administrator’s view that a driver “has acted in an unprofessional, harassing or threatening manner to passengers, or others.”

Like all ordinance revisions, the taxicab licensing revision will need a second and final approval from the council in order to take effect.

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] [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Landscape Ordinance Approved

The Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (March 1, 2011): Conducting its business in front of an audience that included more than a dozen Skyline High School students on a class assignment, the planning commission quickly approved revisions to a landscape and screening ordinance that have been in the works for years. They had debated the ordinance extensively at a meeting in December, when they ultimately postponed a vote and asked the staff for additional changes.

Skyline High students at the March 1, 2011 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting.

A cluster of Skyline High students at the March 1, 2011 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

On Tuesday, the issue of screening for privacy came up as commissioners discussed a request from the Michigan Alpha Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, which had asked for a special exception use that would allow it to convert a church at 730 Tappan into a fraternity house. The building has been the home of the Memorial Christian Church, which plans to move.

Three people spoke during a public hearing on the issue, including a representative from the neighboring sorority, who raised concerns about lighting and privacy – specifically, about the fraternity having “visual access” to the sorority’s sleeping rooms, which face the current church. However, she said she supported the project overall, and commissioners unanimously voted to grant the request.

During her staff communications, Wendy Rampson – head of the city’s planning staff – noted that city administrator Roger Fraser had announced his resignation the previous evening, at a city council working session. His last day with the city will be April 29 – he’s taking a job with the state of Michigan as deputy state treasurer for local government services. Rampson said she’d alert commissioners as soon as a date is set for his farewell gathering.

Rampson also mentioned that at the city council’s March 7 meeting, they’d be voting on a resolution of support for the state’s Complete Streets policies, saying that the city had been following similar policies for decades. Later in the meeting, however, commissioner Erica Briggs expressed some disappointment that the city wasn’t taking additional steps beyond what’s set by the state. “It certainly doesn’t establish us as a leader,” Briggs said. [Full Story]

Changes to Landscape Ordinance Debated

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Dec. 7, 2010): Tuesday’s meeting drew no public commentary, but about a dozen University of Michigan graduate students watched the proceedings to fulfill a requirement for their “Legal Aspects of the Planning Process” class. The course, taught by urban planning professor Dick Norton, includes a final paper, which requires attendance at a public meeting. The paper is due on Thursday.

Wendy Woods, Tony Derezinski, Diane Giannola

Planning commissioner Wendy Woods, left, confers with city councilmember Tony Derezinski during the Dec. 7 planning commission meeting. Derezinski and Diane Giannola, right, also serve on the planning commission. (Photos by the writer.)

What they sat through was two hours dominated by a discussion on proposed changes to the city’s landscape ordinance, which the commission ultimately tabled. Several concerns were raised regarding required landscape buffers between multi-family dwellings and public parks or single-family homes. The ordinance would also increase the fines for violating the ordinance, from $500 to up to $2,500 – that change was not debated. Commissioners asked planning staff to revisit the draft.

During the time set aside for communications, Tony Derezinski – who also represents Ward 2 on city council – gave an update on actions at Monday night’s council meeting that touched on planning issues. Saying it was “like the corpse that would wink,” he reported that he and councilmember Sandi Smith had attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring back the Heritage Row project, a residential development on South Fifth Avenue that had been approved by the planning commission in March. Some modifications had been made to the proposal – which council has previously rejected in July – and Derezinski felt that might have persuaded enough councilmembers to support it. But before the project could be reconsidered, council needed to approve suspending their rules – and not enough councilmembers would vote to do that. “I needed one more vote,” Derezinski said, “and didn’t get it.”

Planning commissioner Wendy Woods asked whether there had been enough changes in the project to enable it to be submitted to the city as a new project. Derezinski said that was possible. However, he indicated that the developer, Alex de Parry, had already spent considerable time trying to move Heritage Row forward, and it wasn’t clear whether the financing he had lined up would allow further delays. Derezinski also noted that de Parry has another project, City Place, that’s already approved for that site – it’s possible he’ll build that instead. [Full Story]