Stories indexed with the term ‘energy’

Council: No on Fossil Fuels, Yes to Solar

Only one of two resolutions sponsored by the city’s energy commission was given approval by the Ann Arbor city council at its Sept. 3, 2013 meeting. The first called on the city’s employee retirement system to divest from fossil fuel companies – but it failed on a 5-4 vote, with two councilmembers absent. The second directed city staff to work with DTE to create a community solar pilot project. That resolution was approved unanimously without discussion.

An energy commission resolution passed on July 9, 2013 recommended that the city council urge the city’s employee retirement system board to cease new investments in fossil fuel companies and to divest current investments in fossil fuel companies within five years. The resolution defined a “fossil … [Full Story]

On Ann Arbor’s Energy Agenda: Carbon, Solar

Two energy-related items will appear on the Ann Arbor city council’s post-holiday agenda next week.

solar panels ann arbor

From a recent application to Ann Arbor’s historic district commission to allow the addition of photovoltaic panels, possibly in conjunction with existing thermal panels. A resolution on the council’s agenda would direct city staff to work with DTE to develop a pilot program that would benefit people who, unlike this homeowner, don’t have solar access.

One of those items calls on the city’s employee retirement system to divest from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

The second resolution would direct the Ann Arbor city staff to work with DTE to develop a pilot program for a “community solar” project – an initiative that would allow a group of people or businesses to purchase shares in a solar energy system, not located at the site of their electric meter.

The items appear on the council’s tentative agenda for Sept. 3, 2013, which is shifted to Tuesday from its regular Monday slot due to the Labor Day holiday.

Both resolutions were sponsored by the city’s energy commission, a 13-member group with the responsibility of overseeing city policies and regulations on energy and to make recommendations to the city council. [Full Story]

Council’s Meeting Dominated by Downtown

Ann Arbor city council meeting (March 4, 2013): The council had five items on its agenda related geographically to downtown Ann Arbor – but delayed voting on two of them.

Architect Brad Moore (left) talks with resident Ray Detter. Moore is architect for two projects that were on the council's March 4 agenda – Blue Heron Pond and 624 Church St. The councils approval of both site plans indicates the council is not contemplating imposing a Moore-atorium on site plans.

Architect Brad Moore (left) talks with resident Ray Detter. Moore is architect for two projects that were on the council’s March 4 agenda – Blue Heron Pond and 624 Church St. The council’s approval of both projects indicates the governing body is not contemplating a Moore-atorium on site plans. (Photos by the writer.)

On one of those items, the council voted to postpone its initial consideration of changes to Chapter 7 of the city code, which governs the way the tax increment finance (TIF) capture is calculated for Ann Arbor’s downtown development authority. The revisions to Chapter 7 would also affect the composition of the DDA board, excluding elected officials from service.

The council also postponed until its next meeting, on March 18, a possible moratorium on site plan review for projects in the downtown. The possible moratorium previously had been postponed from the council’s Feb. 19 meeting. After hearing extensive public commentary on the topic on March 4 – from residents and representatives of the developer of a proposed 14-story residential project at 413 E. Huron – the council went into closed session.

On emerging from the closed session, the council voted, without deliberation, to postpone the item. The wording in the resolution provides an exemption from the moratorium for site plans that already have a recommendation for approval from the city planning commission. If enacted, the moratorium as worded would still apply to the 413 E. Huron project, because the planning commission’s 5-3 vote for approval fell short of the six it needed for a positive recommendation. The 413 E. Huron site plan is now expected to be on the same March 18 meeting agenda when the moratorium will be re-visited.

Eluding the impact of the proposed moratorium’s wording was another downtown project, which appeared on the March 4 meeting agenda. The site plan for a 14-story apartment building at 624 Church St. was approved at the council’s meeting – but that project would not have been impacted by the moratorium as it’s currently proposed. That’s because it had received a recommendation of approval from the city planning commission.

The council also voted to reconstitute a task force to re-evaluate the downtown design guidelines, which supplement the city’s zoning regulations.

In the final downtown-related item, the council voted to direct the city administrator to issue a request for proposals for brokerage services to possibly sell the city-owned parcel at Fifth and William streets – the location of the former Y building. It’s currently used as a surface parking lot in the city’s public parking system.

While the city is contemplating the sale of that site, which it purchased for $3.5 million, the council voted to buy a much less expensive parcel outside the downtown, near the Bluffs Nature Area. The council approved a purchase price of $115,000 for the parcel, which is located off Orkney Street.

The council also approved two other site plans for projects not in the downtown – although the four-unit project at 515 N. Fifth is near the downtown. The council also approved the Blue Heron Pond development, a 64-unit project on the western side of town, located at Liberty and Maple.

In other business, the council approved receipt of a federal grant to demolish two of the buildings on the city-owned property at 721 N. Main. The buildings are in the floodway. A third building, in the flood fringe, is being studied by the city for possible reuse.

The property at 721 N. Main is a former maintenance yard. So none of the 44 vehicles authorized for purchase by the council at the March 4 meeting will be maintained there. Total cost of the vehicles was $928,499.

None of the vehicles authorized for purchase was a plug-in electric vehicle. However, the council passed a resolution in support of preparing city infrastructure for plug-in vehicles. Two-other energy-related agenda items included one supporting the city’s participation in Earth Hour, and another one supporting use of the city’s energy fund for energy improvements in connection with community projects.

An item that drew considerable discussion before approval related to street closings associated with the June 9, 2013 Ann Arbor marathon. [Full Story]

Hearing Set For Energy Office Agreement

At its July 6, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners set a public hearing for its Aug. 3 meeting regarding a proposed interlocal agreement with the Southeast Michigan Energy Office Community Alliance (SEMRO). The Ferndale-based nonprofit (SEMRO) provides technical services to the county in identifying and implementing federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant projects.

The energy office is a division of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. County commissioner and board chair Conan Smith is CEO of the alliance. The board voted initially to join the energy office at its March 17, 2010 meeting. Smith abstained from that vote.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. … [Full Story]

Zingerman’s Moves on to HDC

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (July 19, 2010): On Monday night, Zingerman’s Deli partners enjoyed complete support with no dissent from the city council, or the community at large, for their plans to expand the Detroit Street location. The council approved the site plan for the 10,000-square-foot addition, as well as a brownfield application.


Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Ann Arbor chief of police Barnett Jones chat during a break in the July 19 council meeting just after passage of a new pedestrian ordinance. During deliberations on that ordinance, Jones had cited the Canadian cultural practice of pedestrians standing on the curb and simply pointing to the crosswalk, which prompts motorists to stop for them. The remark had earned a thumbs-up from Rapundalo, who is a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen.

Intended as an extra measure of support for Zingerman’s was a third resolution communicating to the city’s historic district commission (HDC) the council’s view that the project represents a substantial benefit to the community. The proposal includes demolition of one house and the integration of another house into the architecture of the proposed new construction. Because the site is located in the Old Fourth Ward, the HDC will need to give its approval, in order for the project to be built. The message sent by the council to the HDC was clear: We want this project approved.

The council also sent a clear message to its firefighter and police unions, which the city hopes will soon ratify contracts that will save the city money. At the meeting, the council approved labor agreements with two other groups – the Teamsters civilian supervisors and the Teamsters police professional assistants. That added to bargained changes with the police deputy chiefs union that were approved at the council’s previous meeting on July 6. All three agreements reflected cost savings to the city through greater contributions by union members to health and retirement benefits and no increase in wages.

The implicit message to the firefighter and police unions was given explicit form through a position statement from the council’s labor committee and read aloud by Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), the chair of that committee. The statement calls on those unions to follow the example of the three who have already ratified contracts.

The council also gave final approval to a new pedestrian safety ordinance, which requires motorists to stop for pedestrians who are in, or even approaching, crosswalks that lack any traffic control device. During deliberations, the council swapped in “stop” to make the ordinance stronger than the originally proposed “yield.”

In other business, the council authorized the specific allocation of over $1 million in already-budgeted funds to nonprofits providing human services, approved liquor licenses for two downtown businesses, authorized the hire of a community energy coordinator using federal funds, got an update on the future of the Library Lot, and heard public commentary on a range of issues. [Full Story]

Transitioning Ann Arbor to Self-Reliance

Cecile Green blows air through a metal tube to start a fire in an earth oven at the July 19 Reskilling Festival.

Cecile Green blows air through a metal tube to fan a fire in an earth oven at the July 19 Re-Skilling Festival, organized by Transition Ann Arbor. Green taught a class in how to build these ovens, which are made of clay. She described this one as cupcake-sized. (Photo by the writer.)

“I want to demystify canning and make you feel powerful!” quipped Molly Notarianni, holding up a Mason jar full of jam. She was speaking to a group crammed into a room at the Rudolf Steiner High School, who’d come to learn about canning, oven building, medicinal plants and other skills of self-reliance.

This day-long event wasn’t just a dabbling into traditional domestic arts. Saturday’s Re-Skilling Festival – which drew about 150 people to Steiner’s bucolic campus on Pontiac Trail – fits into a broader effort, one that aims to strengthen the local economy and gird the community for a time of dramatically reduced resources.

Called Transition Ann Arbor, it’s led by a small group of residents who aren’t elected officials, aren’t business leaders, aren’t even all among the usual suspects of community activists. So who are they, and what exactly are they doing? [Full Story]

Earth Hour 2009: Ann Arbor

Looking north from the southwest corner of Main and William streets in downtown Ann Arbor at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Can you spot the evidence that Earth Hour is taking place? (Hint: Look closely at the street lights.)

Looking north from the southwest corner of Main and William streets in downtown Ann Arbor at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Can you spot the evidence that Earth Hour is taking place? (Hint: Look closely at the street lights.)

This year, Earth Hour fell on Saturday between 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., so The Chronicle decided to head downtown and see how much impact this international event was having in Ann Arbor.

It was hard to see the dark.

Street lights were off along Main Street between William and Huron (three blocks), on Liberty between Main and Ashley (two blocks) and, somewhat oddly, only on the south side of Liberty between Fourth and Main. What this seemed to reveal more than anything is how bright the downtown area is without street lights. [Full Story]

City Council and the Values of Ann Arbor

Iraq Water Project

Laura Russello, executive director at Michigan Peaceworks, presented background on the collaboration between the nonprofit she leads and Veterans for Peace on the Iraq Water Project.

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 2, 2009): Whatever chance for controversy that might have been present in the Ann Arbor’s City Council meeting agenda on Monday evening was eschewed in favor of values statements. These expressions of values were reflected in many of the agenda items themselves. We’ve organized our account of the meeting in terms of values related to the following topics: water, the arts, land, energy, history, and democracy. [Full Story]

UM’s Energy Fest Sparks Interest on Diag

Ann Arbor City Councilman Steven Kunselman, right, works his day job as one of the organizers of this year's UM EnergyFest. He was talking with Rick Richter, who coincidentally is the second person in Ann Arbor awarded a permit to keep backyard chickens.

Ann Arbor City Councilman Stephen Kunselman, right, works his day job as one of the organizers of this year's UM Energy Fest. He was talking with Rick Richter, who coincidentally is the second person in Ann Arbor awarded a permit to keep backyard chickens. That takes energy, too.

The sun was out for Tuesday’s 13th annual Energy Fest on the University of Michigan Diag, an event that drew students, faculty and other passers-by with the allure of giveaways (who doesn’t want another reusable grocery bag?) and information.

The centerpiece of the Energy Fest was the distinctive yellow Solar Car, parked prominently in the middle of the Diag.

Jeff Rogers, a senior majoring in computer science, has worked on the Solar Car Team four years, and was part of the crew that won this year’s North American Solar Challenge, a 3,862-km race from Texas to Calgary. His job was to ride in the lead support vehicle, monitoring data on a computer that was fed in from the solar car.

The data was important for both strategy and safety, he explained. With lithium-based batteries, “if you abuse them, they’ll explode.”

[Full Story]