Stories indexed with the term ‘easements’

Aug. 8, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: Final

The Ann Arbor city council’s meeting on Thursday – shifted from its usual Monday slot due to the Democratic primary elections held on Tuesday – marks the beginning of a transition. After serving 14 years on the city council, Marcia Higgins will represent Ward 4 for just seven more meetings, counting Thursday. Jack Eaton prevailed on Tuesday and will be the Ward 4 Democratic nominee on the Nov. 5 ballot. He is unopposed.

New sign on door to Ann Arbor city council chamber

The new sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber, installed in the summer of 2013, includes Braille.

The council’s agenda for Thursday includes a relatively uncontroversial downtown development project. It’s also dominated by several items that relate to the way people move around inside the city. Some other agenda items relate to land outside the city.

Four different items appear on the council’s agenda related to developer Tom Fitzsimmons’ Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development proposed for the site of the former Greek Orthodox church on North Main Street. Nestled between Main Street on the west and Fourth Avenue on the east, the project is divided into two pieces – the Main Street frontage and Fourth Avenue frontage. Each piece of the project includes a rezoning request and a site plan proposal – and each of those constitutes an agenda item unto itself. The rezoning requested is from PUD (planned unit development) to D2 (downtown interface).

Three items relate to a piece of infrastructure closely associated with people walking as a way to get around town – sidewalks. Two resolutions involve the acceptance by the city of easements for sidewalks – one as part of a mid-block cut-through for The Varsity, a residential high-rise downtown, and the other in connection with a Safe Routes to School project near Clague Middle School on the city’s northwest side. Another sidewalk on the agenda with a school-related theme is a request for the council to approve a $10,000 design budget for about 160 feet of new sidewalk near King Elementary School, which would allow for a mid-block crosswalk to be moved to a four-way stop intersection.

More people might be able to get around the downtown and University of Michigan campus area by bicycle – if the council approves the use of $150,000 from the alternative transportation fund as requested on Thursday’s agenda. The money would provide the local match on a $600,000 federal grant obtained by the Clean Energy Coalition to establish a bike-sharing program through B-Cycle.

Getting around inside the city this fall will include the annual wrinkles due to University of Michigan move-in – and those traffic control measures are included in the council’s consent agenda. New this year will be additional traffic controls around Michigan Stadium on football game days – including the closure of Main Street between Pauline and Stadium Blvd. for a period starting three hours before kickoff until the end of the game. At its Thursday meeting, the council will be asked to give approval of the football game day traffic controls.

In matters outside the city, the council will be asked to authorize the receipt of $202,370 from the Federal Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) to help the city purchase of development rights on land in Lodi Township, southwest of the city. That federal grant comes in connection with the city’s greenbelt program. The council will also be asked to confirm the nomination of John Ramsburgh to the greenbelt advisory commission.

Also on the council’s agenda is the extension of a contract for the city’s part-time public art administrator through the end of the year – to handle projects in the works at locations the Kingsley rain garden, East Stadium bridges, and Argo Cascades.

Added to the agenda late, on Tuesday, is a resolution that calls upon the state legislature to repeal Michigan’s version of a “stand your ground” law as well as to repeal legislation that prevents local municipalities from regulating the sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of firearms and ammunition. The agenda item comes in response to public commentary after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case was handed down in mid-July.

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]

Greenbelt Grows by 170+ Acres in December

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Jan. 5, 2012): At Wednesday’s GAC meeting – the first of the new year – commissioners got an update from staff on three deals in December that added more than 170 acres of protected land within the city’s greenbelt boundaries.

Tom Bloomer, Mike Garfield

From left: Greenbelt advisory commission members Tom Bloomer and Mike Garfield. (Photos by the writer.)

The properties include 32 acres in Northfield Township along US-23, 30 acres in Scio Township near Wagner and Scio Church roads, and 111 acres in Lodi Township along Pleasant Lake Road. By year’s end, the new additions brought the total of property protected by the city’s greenbelt program to 3,430 acres since its inception in 2007.

Most of Wednesday’s meeting was spent in closed session to discuss possible future land acquisitions, but the main action item involved land that’s not part of the city’s greenbelt program. Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution urging Webster Township to strictly enforce all of its conservation easements – the resolution will be forwarded to township officials as they weigh a request from the Dexter Area Historical Society to amend an easement that would loosen restrictions on parking.

The society wants permission to allow spectator parking for Civil War re-enactments on a site where the historic Gordon Hall is located. Land preservation activists are concerned that parking would damage the land, and that amending the easement would set a bad precedent, calling into question the trustworthiness of regional land preservation efforts. The resolution was brought forward by Tom Bloomer, a GAC member who also serves on Webster Township’s land preservation board. [Full Story]

Stadium Bridges Get Second Special Meeting

Ann Arbor City Council special meeting (April 11, 2011): This week the Ann Arbor city council held its second special meeting in the last two months, both in connection with the city’s planned East Stadium bridges replacement project. At the April 11 meeting, a provision common to three separate easements granted by the University of Michigan, and previously approved by the city council at its April 4 meeting, was deleted from those easement grants by request of the Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Dept. of Transportation.

The easements are necessary for the city to proceed with its plan to replace the East Stadium bridges over State Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks. The city has been awarded a total of $13.9 million in TIGER II federal grant funding to pay for the project, which has an estimated total cost of $23 million. Factoring in $2.87 million in state funds, that leaves the city of Ann Arbor’s share for the bridge replacement at $6.2 million. The federal funds require that at least 20% of the funding for the project come from non-federal sources.

Easements approved by the council include: a road right-of-way easement from the University of Michigan for $563,400; two utilities easements from UM totaling $426,650; and an unrecorded water utilities easement.

The deleted provision in the easements had provided for a relocation of facilities, but only if it were allowed by law and specifically approved by the Michigan Dept. of Transportation – otherwise, relocation was prohibited. Because relocation is prohibited by law in any case, MDOT took the view that the provision should not appear in the contract; hence, the change to the wording was requested. It is an administrative change, not a substantive one.

By holding a previous special meeting on March 16, 2011 to sign necessary documents, the council was able to get $800,000 of TIGER II federal funds formally “obligated” for the first right-of-way phase of the project. The remaining $13.1 million in TIGER II funds is expected to be obligated sometime in May. [Full Story]

Special Council Mtg: East Stadium Bridges

A special meeting of the Ann Arbor city council has been called on the topic of the East Stadium bridges project. The meeting is to be held on Monday, April 11, at 7 p.m. in city council chambers. The city council already has a work session scheduled at the same time and venue, when city administrator Roger Fraser will be presenting his proposed fiscal year 2012 budget to the council.

Reportedly, the purpose of this second special meeting for the bridge replacement project is to consider revised wording for at least one of the easements that the city council already approved at its April 4 meeting in connection with this project.

Easements approved by the council on that occasion were: a road right-of-way easement from the University of Michigan for $563,400; two utilities easements from UM totaling $426,650; and an unrecorded water utilities easement.

The city was able to get $800,000 in TIGER II federal funds formally “obligated” for the first right-of-way phase of the project. The city council held a previous special meeting on March 16, 2011 to sign the necessary agreement to get those funds obligated.

The approval of the easements at the April 4 meeting was supposed to allow the city to proceed with getting $13.1 million in TIGER II grant funds obligated. Those funds have already been awarded for the second phase of the bridge replacement project. A continuing federal budget resolution passed by the U.S. Congress – which would preserve the TIGER II funding – expired on April 8, threatening to shut down the entire federal government. Previous proposals by House Republicans have included cuts that would have eliminated the TIGER II funding. However, a last minute deal was struck to keep the federal government operating.

The council is acting with some urgency to get the funds obligated before the TIGER II program is eliminated – if, in fact, it were to be eliminated. One measure of that urgency was that on April 4, immediately after council approved the easements, a recess was called so that the documents could be signed and forwarded to the Michigan Dept. of Transportation. [Full Story]

Council Absences Delay Some Business

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Feb. 22, 2011): In a meeting that wrapped up in less than two hours, the council handled several agenda items, including: an affordable housing site plan from Avalon Housing at 1500 Pauline; authorization of increased golf fees; reappointment of the golf task force; an appointment to the environmental commission; and the purchase of new police cars.

Sandi Smith Dennis Hayes Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana

Before the Feb. 22 council meeting, Sandi Smith (Ward 1) chatted with Dennis Hayes about the medical marijuana licensing ordinance. The council delayed taking action on the ordinance. (Photos by the writer.)

However the council chose to delay some of its business due to the absences of four members – Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2). By way of explanation for the four absences, mayor John Hieftje offered the fact that it’s vacation week for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

The delayed business included a set of proposed licensing rules for medical marijuana businesses. The council heard from advocates of medical marijuana during public commentary at the start of the meeting, but when they reached the item on their agenda, the seven councilmembers who attended the meeting decided to postpone their vote on the issue without deliberating on or amending the licensing proposal. It marks the fifth time the council has decided not to take an initial vote on the licensing, dating back to Dec. 6, 2010. The council must take two votes on any new ordinance.

Also delayed were two easements – one for pedestrian access and one for public utilities – from Glacier Hills Inc., a retirement community. Under the city charter, eight votes are required for approval of such easements. Rather than have the easements fail on a 7-0 vote, the council chose instead to postpone action.

During his communications, city administrator Roger Fraser gave the council a broad-strokes overview of potential impacts that Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed state budget could have on the city of Ann Arbor. In a roughly $80 million general fund city budget, the $2.4 million projected shortfall – on which current reduction targets are based – could increase by $0.5 million (to $2.9 million) or by $1.7 million (to $4.1 million), depending on how state revenue sharing and state fire protection grants are handled in the state budget. The state’s fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, but the city of Ann Arbor must finalize its own budget in May, for a fiscal year starting July 1.

During public commentary, the council heard a suggestion that Ann Arbor follow the example of Ypsilanti and add parking lots to its snow-clearing ordinance. And during its communications time, the council scrutinized the city’s snow removal performance in connection with a recent storm. Snow began falling the previous Sunday afternoon, accumulating to at least six inches – and more, in many areas – by early Monday morning, when the snow stopped. Highlights from city administrator Roger Fraser’s report on the snow removal effort included the fact that two of the city’s 14 large plowing vehicles were down for maintenance and the fact that forecasted amounts of snow were much lower than what actually fell.

During public commentary, the city also heard from Douglas Smith regarding a Freedom of Information Act appeal that involved redaction of police reports. Over the last several months, Smith has addressed the University of Michigan regents and the Washtenaw County board of commissioners on a range of specific cases that all relate to the general issue of civilian oversight of police power. [Full Story]