Stories indexed with the term ‘land acquisition’

Ann Arbor to Ask: Would You Sell That Land?

As a result of city council action on July 21, 2014, Ann Arbor’s city administrator will inquire with the respective owners about the availability of two parcels for purchase by the city – 2805 Burton Road, located just west of US-23, and 312 Glendale Road, on the city’s west side, just south of Jackson Road.

[Full Story]

3401 Platt Road Purchase OK’d

Authorization has been given by the Ann Arbor city council to purchase the parcel at 3401 Platt Road. The transaction, made on behalf of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, was approved at the city council’s July 21, 2014 meeting.

Purchase of the blue-highlighted parcel could be authorized by the city council at its July 21 meeting.

Purchase of the blue-highlighted parcel could be authorized by the city council at its July 21 meeting.

The parcel is adjacent to Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC) properties that AAHC is planning to reconstruct.

Four units currently stand at … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Commission Works on Outreach

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (May 1, 2014): During a meeting that lasted less than an hour, commissioners were briefed on a draft communications plan aimed at raising awareness of the city’s greenbelt program.

Stephanie Buttrey, Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Stephanie Buttrey, a member of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission’s communications and outreach committee. (Photos by the writer.)

The hope is to increase support of the program among Ann Arbor taxpayers, landowners who might be eligible to preserve their property as part of the greenbelt, and elected officials and policymakers at the local, regional and federal levels.

The committee is also thinking longer-term, looking at what might happen when the 30-year millage expires. The millage that supports the greenbelt program was passed by voters in 2003. The 0.5 mill tax for land acquisition is called the open space and parkland preservation millage. On the summer tax bill, the line item appears as CITY PARK ACQ.

The committee will continue its work and eventually bring forward a completed plan for the full commission to approve.

Also on May 1, commissioners received a brief update from Ginny Trocchio, who provides staff support for the greenbelt program. She reported on proposed federal legislation related to tax incentives for donating conservation easements. Landowners who want to donate easements or who agree to sell their easements for less than market value have in the past received a tax deduction. But legislation allowing for that deduction expired at the end of 2013. Congress is considering an extension for 2014 and 2015, Trocchio said.

The meeting also included a closed session to discuss possible land acquisitions, which lasted about 30 minutes. The topic of land acquisition is one allowed as an exemption by the Michigan Open Meetings Act for a closed session. When commissioners emerged, they voted on one resolution that will be forwarded to the city council – a recommendation to pursue the purchase of development rights on a property in Pittsfield Township, using matching funds that Cherry Republic had previously donated to the city. [Full Story]

Council Delays Edwards Brothers Decision

The Ann Arbor city council has again postponed a vote on its right of first refusal to purchase a 16.7-acre piece of property from Edwards Brothers Malloy, located at 2500-2550 South State Street. The University of Michigan has offered $12.8 million for the land.

The council will next take up the question at a special session on Feb. 24, 2014, which will also possibly feature a closed session.

The council voted to postpone the question at its Feb. 18, 2014 meeting after a closed session that lasted about 25 minutes. The resolution delayed by the council would approve the exercise of the city’s right of first refusal, appropriate necessary funds, and direct the city administrator to notify Edward Brothers Malloy about the exercise … [Full Story]

Special Session on Edwards Brothers: Cancelled

The special session on Feb. 10 that had been called for the Ann Arbor city council – to convene a closed session and to consider the purchase of the Edwards Brothers property on S. State Street – has been cancelled. According to a message sent out to councilmembers by the city clerk at 11:12 a.m., mayor John Hieftje has withdrawn his request to convene the special session.

The next opportunity to take up the Edwards Brothers item at a regular meeting will be at the council’s Feb. 18, 2014 meeting.  The council had postponed the question at its Feb. 3, 2014 meeting.

The question is whether to move ahead with the purchase of the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street. The … [Full Story]

Council to Decide Edwards Brothers Question Feb. 10

Update: On Feb. 10, 2014 the city clerk announced that the special session had been cancelled.

The city of Ann Arbor has announced a special session of the city council for Feb. 10, 2014 at 6 p.m. in city council chambers. The purpose is to consider the question of exercising the city’s right of first refusal to purchase the 16.7 acres of land owned by Edwards Brothers Malloy on South State Street. The session will include a closed session to discuss land acquisition.

The 6 p.m. start time is different from the council’s regular 7 p.m. start time. The council has a budget working session scheduled for 7 p.m. on the same day.

The council had considered the question at its most recent … [Full Story]

Vote Postponed on Edwards Brothers Land

The Ann Arbor city council has delayed a vote on the purchase of the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street. The University of Michigan made an offer to Edwards Brothers to purchase the property for $12.8 million, but the city council considered a resolution on Feb. 3, 2014 to exercise the city’s right of first refusal.

The vote was postponed until the council’s next regular meeting on Feb. 18. The vote to postpone was unanimous, and came after a roughly hour-and-forty-minute closed session. The council did not discuss the item before voting to postpone.

The resolution would approve the exercise of the city’s right of first refusal, appropriate necessary funds, and direct the city administrator to notify Edward Brothers Malloy about … [Full Story]

Feb. 3 Agenda: Edwards Brothers Land Buy

Now on the Ann Arbor city council’s Feb. 3, 2014 agenda is a resolution to move ahead with the purchase of the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street. The University of Michigan has made an offer to Edwards Brothers to purchase the property for $12.8 million, but the city has a right of first refusal.

The item was added to the agenda on Thursday, Jan. 30 and is grouped with staff-generated items. City administrator Steve Powers is indicated on the council’s agenda as the originator of the item. The resolution approves the exercise of the city’s right of first refusal, appropriates necessary funds, and directs the city administrator to notify Edward Brothers Malloy about the exercise of the city’s right. As … [Full Story]

Council Gathers Data on Edwards Brothers Land

The Ann Arbor city council is moving ahead with its exploration of the possibility of purchasing the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street.

In action taken at the council’s Jan. 21, 2014 meeting, councilmembers approved a $25,550 contract with Atwell LLC for environmental site assessment services to evaluate the property. The University of Michigan has made an offer to Edwards Brothers to purchase the property for $12.8 million, but the city has a right of first refusal.

At its Jan. 6, 2014 meeting, the council directed the city administrator and the city attorney to explore options and gather information. So the site assessment by Atwell is part of that effort. The council is working within a 60-business-day window that … [Full Story]

Liquor, Land Items Added to Council Agenda

A total of three items have been added on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 to the Ann Arbor city council’s Jan. 21, 2014 agenda since its initial publication earlier in the week.

One of the items is the approval of a $25,550 contract with Atwell LLC for environmental site assessment services to evaluate 2500 S. State St.  That’s the Edwards Brothers Malloy property for which the council is currently exploring options to purchase. The University of Michigan has made an offer to Edwards Brothers to purchase the property for $12.8 million, but the city has a right of first refusal. At its Jan. 6, 2014 meeting, the council directed the city administrator and the city attorney to explore options and … [Full Story]

Cold City Cash for Edwards Brothers Land?

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Jan. 6, 2014): On a bitter cold night, Ann Arbor city councilmembers ended their first regular meeting of the year with an item not originally on their agenda. They passed a resolution that directs city administrator Steve Powers and city attorney Stephen Postema to gather information to help the city council determine whether to purchase the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street.

Graph from showing the -12 F temperature at the start of the city council meeting.

Graph from showing the -12 F temperature at the start of the Jan. 6, 2014 city council meeting. (Image links to

The direction came after the city council met in a closed session for about half an hour. Councilmembers emerged to craft and then pass the resolution. It gives direction to explore options to make the purchase financially feasible. That means finding a way to finance a $12.8 million deal. The sale of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street is currently pending to the University of Michigan for $12.8 million, in an agreement that was announced in a Nov. 27, 2013 press release. The business – a fourth-generation Ann Arbor publishing and printing firm – had signaled its intent to put the property on the market in late July.

The topic of the possible land acquisition ties in to an upcoming Jan. 13 city council work session about economic development.

At the start of the Jan. 6 meeting, the council got an update from three key staff members about the city’s response to the snowstorm that had hit the entire Midwest over the weekend.

From public services area administrator Craig Hupy they heard an update on snowplowing, which was continuing during the meeting. From police chief John Seto, they heard an update on the police department’s support for relocating residents of a housing complex after a water pipe burst. And from Mary Jo Callan, Washtenaw County’s director of the office of community and economic development, they heard an update on efforts to address the needs of the homeless population during the freezing weather.

Concern for how the homeless were faring was the topic of eight out of nine speakers who signed up for public commentary reserved time.

In its regular business agenda, the council dispatched two items leftover from its last meeting of 2013. One of those items was the official termination of a four-year-old memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan for construction of the Fuller Road Station project. That item was voted through with little controversy, although mayor John Hieftje compared it to digging someone up who died a couple of years ago and re-burying them.

Fuller Road Station was a planned joint city/University of Michigan parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical campus. The council had approved the MOU on Fuller Road Station at its Nov. 5, 2009 meeting on a unanimous vote. However, a withdrawal of UM from the project, which took place under terms of the MOU, was announced on Feb. 10, 2012.

The other item delayed from last year was a resolution assigning a specific cost to the removal of on-street metered parking spaces, in connection with future developments: $45,000 per space. That amount was based on the cost of constructing a new parking space in a structure. After the policy was amended during the Jan. 6 meeting, it included a requirement that lost revenue also be compensated, based on projections of revenue for the space for the next 10 years. An average parking meter in the system generates $2,000 in annual income.

Apart from those previously delayed items, the rest of the council’s agenda was mainly filled with future development.

Accounting for two of the council’s Jan. 6 voting items was Traverwood Apartments – a First Martin development on the city’s north side. The site is located on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. The council gave final approval of some rezoning necessary for the complex of 16 two-story buildings. And on a separate vote, the council gave site plan approval and a wetland use permit associated with the apartment complex.

The council also approved the upward expansion of the Montgomery Ward building on South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. The estimated $3.8 million project will expand the existing 17,273-square-foot building – a former Montgomery Ward’s department store – to 38,373 square feet, with housing on the second through fifth floors.

And finally, the council approved the site plan and development agreement for two restaurants at Briarwood Mall. The restaurants – one at 6,470 square feet, the other at 7,068 square feet – will be constructed on the east side of the Macy’s building. The restaurants would be operated by two chains: P.F. Chang’s and Bravo! Cucina Italiana.

As part of the consent agenda, the council approved agreements with Sprint for placing antennas at four facilities: the Plymouth Road water tower, the Manchester Road water tower, the Ann-Ashley parking structure, and the water treatment plant on Sunset Road. The contracts are being revised upwards to $45,000 a year at each location, with 4% annual escalators.

The council also approved appointments to the Ann Arbor Summer Festival board of directors.

Members of a pedestrian safety task force, established late last year, were also nominated at the meeting. A confirmation vote will come at the council’s meeting on Jan. 21. Related at least indirectly to that, city administrator Steve Powers has provided the council with the first part of his response to the council’s direction in connection with the city’s updated non-motorized transportation plan. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Eyes Edwards Brothers Land

Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers and city attorney Stephen Postema have been directed to gather information to help the city council determine whether to purchase the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street.

The direction came after the city council met in a closed session for about half an hour during its Jan. 6, 2014 meeting, and then emerged to pass the resolution. [amended Edwards Brothers resolution on Jan. 6, 2014]

The resolution provides direction to explore options to make the purchase financially feasible. That means finding a way to finance a $12.8 million deal. The sale of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street is currently pending to the University of Michigan for $12.8 million, in a deal that was … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Commission Starts New Year

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Jan. 2, 2014): Commissioners spent more than half of their first meeting of 2014 in closed session to discuss possible land acquisition.

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Stephanie Buttrey asks a question during a discussion at the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission’s Jan. 2, 2014 meeting. Other commissioners in this photo are Peter Allen, Shannon Brines and Jean Cares. (Photos by the writer.)

Land acquisition is one topic that’s allowed as an exemption in Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, which allows a public body to meeting in a closed session. Emerging after about 30 minutes, commissioners voted to recommend that the city partner with Scio Township for the purchase of development rights on a property in that township, just west of Ann Arbor. Until properties are put on the council agenda, they are identified only by application number, not by specific location or ownership.

Also on Jan. 2, commissioners got an update on Preserve Washtenaw, a group of local governments and organizations – including the city of Ann Arbor – that are involved in long-term land preservation efforts. The goal of Preserve Washtenaw is to provide a forum for discussing how these various entities can collaborate and coordinate.

Commissioners also voted to approve GAC’s 2014 meeting schedule, and created a new committee focused on outreach. Members include John Ramsburgh, Stephanie Buttrey and Jean Cares.

No one spoke during the meeting’s two opportunities for public commentary. [Full Story]

County Renames Park for Nelson Meade

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Dec. 10, 2013): WCPARC’s December meeting included appreciation and thanks to retiring commissioner Nelson Meade, who has served on WCPARC from its formation in 1973.

Nelson Meade, County Farm Park, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A mock-up made by WCPARC staff of the proposed sign to rename County Farm Park in honor of Nelson Meade.

To commemorate his service, commissioners passed a resolution to rename the County Farm Park in Meade’s honor. The 141-acre park is at the southwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Platt Road in Ann Arbor, where WCPARC’s Meri Lou Murray recreation center is located. The meeting also included a video of remarks by county commissioner Ronnie Peterson, who described Meade as “a man of few words but unquestionable commitment.”

Applications are being accepted for Meade’s replacement on WCPARC, with a deadline of Jan. 12. The appointment will be made by the county board of commissioners.

Most of WCPARC’s other main action items related to potential acquisitions through its natural areas preservation program. The commission took the first step toward acquiring title or conservation easements on five parcels of land. Those properties include: (1) the 6.4-acre Heumann property on the west side of Sylvan Township, west of the Chrysler proving grounds with access from Sylvan Road south of old US-12; (2) 129 acres of the Bloch-Vreeland Road property, at the southeast corner of Leforge and Vreeland Roads in Superior Township; and (3) three parcels on Marshall Road in Scio Township, in partnership with the Scio Township land preservation program.

Action to finalize acceptance of a donation of the 10-acre Geddes Mill Ltd. property in Ann Arbor Township – valued at $1.27 million – was postponed pending completion an environmental assessment. The property is on the north side of the Huron River, immediately east of the US-23 northbound off ramp. There is a bit of frontage on both Dixboro Road to the east and Geddes Road to the north.

Items not requiring action included updates on the proposed Eastern County Recreation Center on Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti, with details about terms of a development agreement as well as the latest proposal for site development. Updates also included a status report on the Ann Arbor skatepark. Construction is now 65% complete, but work has ceased for the winter. [Full Story]

Deja Vu: Special Meeting, Planning Session

The annual budget planning session of the Ann Arbor city council will start sometime after 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 9 in the jury assembly room of the Justice Center adjoining city hall. The uncertain actual start time of the planning session is due to a special meeting of the council that has now been called to start at 4 p.m. in city council chambers.

City administrator Steve Powers, Jane Lumm (Ward 2)

City administrator Steve Powers and Jane Lumm (Ward 2) just before the Nov. 18, 2013 council meeting started – a conversation Lumm wrote about after the meeting in an email thread to other councilmembers.

The special meeting will include a closed session – based on written attorney-client privileged communication and land acquisition. The land acquisition likely relates to the pending sale of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street to the University of Michigan for $12.8 million, which was announced in a Nov. 27 press release. The business had signaled its intent to put the property on the market in late July.

A right of first refusal on the property is held by the city of Ann Arbor as a condition of a tax abatement granted by the city council almost three years ago, on Jan. 18, 2011. Purchase by the university would remove the property from the tax rolls. Washtenaw County records show the taxable value of the property at just over $3 million.

The closed session to be held on Dec. 9 follows some friction among councilmembers about the way information was shared with the council about the sale. That friction resulted from comments overheard by Jane Lumm (Ward 2) just before the council’s Nov. 18 meeting started, which prompted her to email her council colleagues expressing her dissatisfaction that not all councilmembers had been kept in the loop.

The email thread, provided to The Chronicle in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, goes on to include a query by Lumm to UM director of community relations Jim Kosteva for information about the status of the Edwards Brothers property, followed by an admonishment to Lumm from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) that there were scenarios under which Lumm’s inquiry could potentially be detrimental to the city’s interest. The thread includes a note from Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) that indicates concern that the issue should appropriately be discussed in a closed session under the state’s Open Meetings Act, not in an email thread among all councilmembers.

The email thread includes a clarificational inquiry to Taylor from Jack Eaton (Ward 4), as well as a note from Sabra Briere (Ward 1) about news coverage of the Edwards Brothers property sale. Eaton, Briere and Lumm signed the call to the Dec. 9 special meeting, which any three councilmembers can do under the city charter.

After the special meeting and its closed session, the council will move to the jury assembly room at the adjoining Justice Center for its annual budget planning session. That session could include an airing out of the issue of shared information – under an agenda item labeled “Articulating Mutual Expectations.” More specifically, the item indicates that the council will “identify and discuss mutual expectations for governing together” with the following desired outcome: “Articulate and agree on mutual expectations for members of the governing body.”

The background materials that have been provided to the council in preparation for the planning session include draft copies of reports with results from the National Citizens Survey that was conducted in the fall of 2013 by mailing a questionnaire to a random sample of 3,000 city residents, 778 of whom completed surveys. [.pdf of draft Ann Arbor National Citizens Survey report] [.pdf of responses, benchmarks, methodology and questionnaire]

The survey covered a broad range of topics. For example, 55% of survey respondents indicated that they rely at least somewhat for their news and information on online newspapers and media. That compares to 37% who said they rely some for news on printed newspapers. More respondents than that said they rely on news from the city website specifically (44%) or on radio stations (41%).

But questions about public safety – one of the top three priorities identified at last year’s planning session – will likely be of greater interest for councilmembers who will be weighing budget decisions at this year’s session. In general, under the community characteristics portion of the survey, 89% of Ann Arbor survey respondents rated their overall feeling of safety as good or excellent, with ratings for neighborhood safety at 97% and for downtown/commercial area safety at 92%. Those numbers are similar to the set of benchmarked communities that participated in the survey. The council’s measure of success for public safety includes the idea that residents should perceive the community as safe.

For the open-ended response survey item, which asked respondents to identify the city leaders’ top three priorities to maximize the quality of life in Ann Arbor, public safety was one of the top three items, with 19% of the open-ended responses identifying safety, crime and police as a concern. Also cited in 19% of responses were government, taxes and communication. However, the dominant concern in the open-ended responses was mobility issues – as 57% of responses were coded as related to roads, transportation, traffic, traffic enforcement, bikes and pedestrians.

That survey result mirrors the wide participation by the community in the recent debate about the repeal of the city’s crosswalk law. That debate ended in a city council vote on Dec. 2, 2013 to modify significantly the existing ordinance. But mayor John Hieftje announced immediately following the vote that he intended to exercise his power of veto.

The priority placed on the topic by the public and by councilmembers will also be reflected in two anticipated agenda items for the council’s Dec. 16 meeting. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) is expected to bring forward a resolution directing the city administrator to present a plan for funding elements of the recently adopted update to the city’s non-motorized transportation plan. And Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) has told The Chronicle he expects to bring forward a resolution on Dec. 16 that would allocate $500,000 from the general fund reserve this year to pay for police overtime to conduct traffic enforcement.

How police officers use their time while on duty is part of a report the council has been provided in preparation for the Dec. 9 budget planning session. Initial results from a newly implemented (Jan. 1, 2013) electronic timesheet logging system appear to indicate that police officers have at least 40% of their time that’s either unassigned or dedicated to proactive policing and community engagement. At last year’s planning session, the council had defined a success statement for public safety that included a goal of 25-30% time available for proactive policing.

The sequence of a special city council meeting followed by the budget planning session was also played out last year in mid-December. That’s when the council convened a special meeting to take a vote protesting the establishment of the southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority. Like last year, the council’s budget planning session will be led by Julia Novak of the Novak Consulting Group.

Material presented in this article includes an annotated email thread about the Edwards Brothers property sale – which started in the Nov. 19 early morning hours, after the council meeting ended. [Full Story]

City Council Special Meeting: Dec. 9, 2013

A special meeting of the Ann Arbor city council will be held starting at 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 in the council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. The special meeting is being called for the purpose of holding a closed session under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. In the call for a special meeting, two exceptions to the OMA are cited as the purposes for holding the closed session: discussion of attorney-client privileged communication, and discussion of land acquisition issues.

The land acquisition component of the closed session likely relates to the pending sale of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street to the University of Michigan for $12.8 million, which was announced in a press release … [Full Story]

County Takes Action to Preserve 250+ Acres

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Nov. 12, 2013): The agenda for WCPARC’s November meeting was short but included four major items of business in addition to the usual reports on finances and activities of staff.

Geddes Mill, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map showing the location of the Geddes Mill property, which is being donated to the Washtenaw County parks and recreation’s natural areas preservation program.

The commission received a report on properties under consideration for acquisition and took the first step to acquire two properties for the natural areas preservation program: (1) a conservation easement on the Koenn property, 264.4 acres in Sylvan Township’s extreme southwest corner, adjacent to the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Goose Lake State Game Area; and (2) about 10 acres owned by Geddes Mill Ltd., valued at $1.27 million and located south of Geddes Road just west of Dixboro Road. The owner is interested in donating the land to WCPARC, with the stipulation that the property be available for public use.

Two other major items were related to ongoing projects: (1) upgrading infrastructure at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center in Ann Arbor; and (2) shepherding the proposed Eastern County Recreation Center in Ypsilanti. WCPARC director Bob Tetens reported that planning continues for the rec center, proposed for the south side of Michigan Avenue, just east of downtown Ypsilanti on the east bank of the Huron River. This is a joint project with the city of Ypsilanti, as that city seeks to redevelop its 38-acre Water Street site. Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber also briefly reported on efforts to coordinate planning for the rec center with changes brought by Ypsilanti’s master plan revisions, which are ongoing.

Other actions at the November meeting included approving reports on finances and the use of WCPARC’s major facilities; and getting updates on activities and projects, including a major new award and work on the Ann Arbor skatepark, which WCPARC is helping to fund.

Commission members also heard an unexpected announcement from WCPARC member Nelson Meade: he plans to leave WCPARC after the December 2013 meeting. Meade has been on WCPARC since its inception in 1973, and has served on many other public boards. Tetens announced there will be an open house on Dec. 6 at WCPARC headquarters to honor Meade. [Full Story]

AAATA to Appoint Subcommittee on Y Lot

The board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority has voted to establish a subcommittee to meet with whatever party might make a successful purchase proposal for the city-owned parcel on William between Fourth and Fifth avenues in downtown Ann Arbor, known as the old Y lot. The action took place at the board’s Oct. 17, 2013 meeting.

The resolution to form a subcommittee – whose members aren’t yet identified – is an alternative to simply purchasing the property, which board member Roger Kerson described as not practical right now. Kerson chairs the AAATA’s performance monitoring and external relations committee.

The AAATA has historically been interested in the property, which is immediately south of the AAATA’s downtown Blake Transit Center. The city’s … [Full Story]

County Parks Group OKs Land Deal, Budget

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Sept. 10, 2013): WCPARC’s September meeting had only three action items, but they were each significant.

County Farm Park, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of County Farm Park, located in Ann Arbor south of Washtenaw Avenue, between Medford and Platt. The county parks & recreation commission has budgeted $250,000 in 2015 to put in a dog park on the west side of the park. (Photo by Victor Banta, included in the WCPARC Sept. 10, 2013 meeting packet.]

First, the commission gave final approval for a natural areas preservation program purchase: $390,005 to buy 13 acres from members of the Harwood family, located along Michigan Avenue in Pittsfield Township. The property is primarily high quality native woodland, nearly devoid of invasive species. In addition, it is proximate to the Pittsfield Preserve, owned and operated by Pittsfield Township, so existing trails can be extended, and there is a possibility of using a single parking lot for both sites.

Parks & rec commissioners also gave permission to spend up to $100,000 at the Meri Lou Murray Rec Center to replace the HVAC system’s pneumatic controls with digital controls. The project has been delayed because of a recent court ruling related to construction unity board (CUB) agreements.

The final major agenda item was approval of proposed budgets for 2014 and 2015 and projected budgets for 2016 and 2017. Bob Tetens, director of WCPARC, presented the budgets in the context of WCPARC’s millage history and developments since the mid-1970s, as well as budget strategies underlying all the proposals. The budget contains separate sections for the natural areas preservation program (NAPP) and for parks operations & development, because they are supported by separate millages. [.pdf of WCPARC budget document]

The 2013 operations & development budget of $13.79 million in expenditures drops to $10.417 million next year. The staff is proposing a budget of $13.574 million in expenditures for 2015. The projected budgets in 2016 and 2017 are $12.672 million and $10.009 million, respectively. Over the four years from 2014-2017, the operations & development budget – which does not include NAPP – will draw from its fund balance. At the end of 2012, the operations & development fund balance was $12.95 million. By the end of 2017, the fund balance is projected to drop to $2.8 million.

Expenditures for NAPP are projected to remain flat in the 2014-2015 budgets, at around $3.7 million annually, then drop to about $3.5 million in 2016 and 2017.

Commissioners discussed renewing the parks operating millage, which expires in 2016. It’s possible that staff will recommend putting a renewal on the November 2014 ballot. Other discussion focused on efforts to make WCPARC’s operations more self-sufficient, and whether personnel expenditures could be reduced.

The budget section on capital improvements generated discussion about dog parks. In 2015, a dog park is tentatively slated for the Medford Road side of the 141-acre County Farm Park, at a projected cost of $250,000. Some commissioners expressed concerns about WCPARC’s existing Swift Run dog park, which was developed in partnership with the city of Ann Arbor at the southwest corner of Platt and Ellsworth. Complaints focused on the lack of shade and water, but Tetens explained there are constraints about what can be done on that site, stemming from the dog park’s location on a former landfill.

Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr. suggested that WCPARC should invest in the Swift Run dog park “or give it to Ann Arbor.” The city of Ann Arbor is currently exploring the possibility of adding another dog park that would be more centrally located. A public forum for that effort is set for Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 7-9 p.m. at the Traverwood library, 3333 Traverwood Drive. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Buys Land By Bluffs Nature Area

On a 10-1 vote of the Ann Arbor city council, the purchase of a parcel located on the west side of the Bluffs Nature Area has been approved. The cost of the roughly 0.357-acre piece of vacant land located at 1240 Orkney – with a current SEV (state equalized value) of $49,200 – was $115,000. [SEV is based on 50% of market value.] Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) cast the lone dissenting vote.

Parcel on Orkney proposed for acquisition

Map showing a parcel on Orkney approved for acquisition by the city – the narrow parcel that’s highlighted in yellow.

The parcel is located … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Group Praises Year-End Efforts

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Feb. 7, 2013): At their first meeting of 2013 – because the January session had been canceled – commissioners formally thanked individuals who’d made an extra effort on end-of-year land deals for the greenbelt program.

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, Laura Rubin, Archer Christian, Ginny Trocchio, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commissioners Laura Rubin and Archer Christian, and Ginny Trocchio (standing) of The Conservation Fund, who provides staff support for the greenbelt program. (Photos by the writer.)

A resolution of recognition was presented to Mary Fales, senior assistant attorney for the city of Ann Arbor; Matt Keir, vice president of Liberty Title; Rosanne Bloomer, a lending officer for Greenstone Farm Credit Services – and wife of GAC commissioner Tom Bloomer; and Ginny Trocchio of The Conservation Fund, who provides staff support for the greenbelt program.

GAC chair Dan Ezekiel praised their work, noting that certain factors – including a change in tax law – had added pressure to complete the deals before Dec. 31. The transactions protected a total of about 320 acres in Webster, Salem and Superior townships.

Trocchio also reported that the purchase of development rights for part of the Donald Drake farm – 124 acres of farmland in Lodi Township – had closed earlier this year, making it the first deal of 2013. More than 4,200 acres have now been protected under the greenbelt program, she noted.

Another topic highlighted at the Feb. 7 meeting was the need to recruit new members for the commission. Liz Rother resigned earlier this year, though her term runs through June 30, 2014. Ezekiel also pointed out that he and two other commissioners – Laura Rubin and Tom Bloomer – will be leaving the commission this summer, when their terms expire. All three are term-limited. He urged members of the public to consider applying.

The meeting ended with commissioners voting to approve recommendations for additional land preservation deals. Two of those items – seeking approval to apply for grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) – are now on the agenda for the Ann Arbor city council’s Feb. 19, 2013 meeting. The properties are both in Lodi Township: (1) another part of the Drake farm – 72 acres along Waters Road; and (2) the Carol Schumacher farm – about 100 acres along Pleasant Lake Road. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Preserves Superior Twp. Site

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Dec. 11, 2012): At their December meeting, commissioners took action on properties for the county’s natural areas preservation program. They gave final approval to spend $500,000 for 65 acres on Berry Road in Superior Township, in an area that’s known as the Superior Greenway.

Ford Road Property LLC, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, natural areas preservation program, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map showing two Ford Road Property LLC parcels (encircled) that the county is purchasing for its natural areas preservation program. A third parcel, which fronts Ford Road, is not part of this deal. The land is located in Superior Township.

In a separate vote, WCPARC authorized staff to undertake due diligence toward a sales offer on 473 acres on the border of Jackson and Washtenaw counties. This deal – for the Trolz property in Manchester Township – is a project that could result in a new state recreation area that includes the southwest corner of Washtenaw County. [See Chronicle coverage: "County Pursues Major New Parks & Rec Deal"]

Commissioners also bid adieu to Jimmie Maggard, who has served on WCPARC for over 30 years, and to outgoing county commissioner Barbara Bergman. Janis Bobrin, who has served on WCPARC for more than two decades by right of her position as Washtenaw County water resources commissioner, did not run for re-election but will continue on WCPARC as a public member. [She was appointed by the county board at their Dec. 5 meeting.] Evan Pratt, who was elected water resources commissioner on Nov. 6, will join WCPARC in January – he attended the Dec. 11 meeting.

In the hour before the meeting started, commissioners and WCPARC staff held their annual holiday party. The highlight was a first viewing of a 30-minute video history of WCPARC, created by county staff over the past several months. The video will be available to the public soon, according to WCPARC deputy director Coy Vaughn. It will run on monitors at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, on cable television, and in smaller segments on the WCPARC website.

Also at the Dec. 11 meeting, the commission approved spending $33,375 to buy grooming equipment for cross-country skiing trails at Independence Lake and Rolling Hills parks. Staff provided reports on finances, highlighted by expenditures to maintain and improve Rolling Hills Water Park and Independence Lake Park; reported on recent projects, including the proposed East County Recreation Center in Ypsilanti; and reviewed WCPARC’s accomplishments in 2012.

An item not on the Dec. 11 agenda will likely receive attention in early 2013: An application from the city of Ann Arbor for up to $300,000 in Connecting Communities funds. If awarded, the grant would be used as matching funds for additional state support to improve the city-owned 721 N. Main property. Applications for WCPARC’s Connecting Communities must be received by year’s end, and the Ann Arbor city council is expected to authorize the application at its Dec. 17 meeting. [See Chronicle coverage: "Grant Applications Recommended for 721 N. Main."] [Full Story]

Regents OK Several Real Estate Deals

Several real estate deals – including one involving the building that houses Blimpy Burger on South Division – were authorized by University of Michigan regents at their Dec. 13, 2012 board meeting.

The university is buying three properties on the east side of South Division Street, north of Packard – at 545, 549 and 551 S. Division – for a total cost of $1.5 million.

The two properties at 549 and 551 S. Division are being purchased for $1.075 million. Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, which has been in business since 1953, leases the building at 551 S. Division. The deal is expected to close on Dec. 31, but the lease to Blimpy Burger will run through Aug. 31, 2013. Tenants will … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Commission Wraps Up 2012

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Dec. 6, 2012): Commissioners ended the year with a relatively brief meeting, which included a vote to smooth the way for land preservation in 2013.

Christopher Taylor, Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, Ann Arbor city council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Christopher Taylor, a Ward 3 Ann Arbor city councilmember, was recently appointed to the city’s greenbelt advisory commission and attended his first meeting on Dec. 6. (Photos by the writer.)

GAC members authorized staff to proceed with property appraisals, as needed, to prepare for possible grant applications to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP). There’s some uncertainty about how much grant funding will be available, but Ginny Trocchio – who provides staff support for the greenbelt program – anticipates the deadline to apply will be in early March. She is seeking landowners who might be willing to sell their property’s development rights in deals that would be eligible for FRPP grants.

Trocchio also noted that the city hopes to close on five pending deals by the end of 2012. If that happens, it would bring the total amount of land protected through the greenbelt to about 4,200 acres. The program is funded by a 30-year millage approved by Ann Arbor voters in 2003, and organizers at that time hoped to preserve between 3,500 to 4,500 over the life of the millage. Land prices have fallen since that time because of the economic downturn, allowing the program to protect more land than originally anticipated. The land is protected primarily through the purchase of development rights.

The Dec. 6 meeting also included some housekeeping tasks: the election of officers, and approval of GAC’s 2013 calendar. Current officers were re-elected – Dan Ezekiel as chair, and Catherine Riseng as vice chair. Ezekiel noted that his term ends in mid-2013 and he’ll be term-limited at that point, so a new chair will be needed then. Laura Rubin will also be cycling off GAC next summer . She and Ezekiel are the last of the original commissioners who were appointed in 2004, when the greenbelt program was formed.

The meeting was the first for Ann Arbor city councilmember Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who was appointed to GAC at the council’s Dec. 3 meeting. Taylor also serves as one of the council representatives on the city’s park advisory commission. Ezekiel noted that it will be good to have a “direct pipeline” between the two groups. At least a couple of greenbelt commissioners also commented to Taylor that they were glad to have a city councilmember again on GAC. The previous city council appointee, Carsten Hohnke, attended only one GAC meeting in 2012. Hohnke did not run for re-election to the council and ended his council service in early November. [Full Story]

Greenbelt, Park Commissions Strategize

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission and park advisory commission’s land acquisition committee – joint meeting (Nov. 1, 2012): Two city advisory groups – for parks and the greenbelt – have a common link, in addition to their land-related focus: Both oversee programs funded by a 30-year millage that voters approved in 2003.

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Staff and members of the Ann Arbor greenbelt and park advisory commissions at a joint meeting on Nov. 1, 2012. From left: Colin Smith, Shannon Brines, Archer Christian, Peter Allen, Tim Doyle, Laura Rubin, Alan Jackson.  (Photos by the writer.)

Earlier this month, members from both commissions met in a joint session to get a financial update from staff and learn more about the roles and priorities of the greenbelt and parks.

The greenbelt program uses about two-thirds of the millage proceeds. By the end of 2012, about 4,200 acres will have been protected around the outskirts of Ann Arbor. When the program began, the expectation was that it would fund protection for between 3,500 to 4,500 over the life of the 30-year millage. But because the economic downturn has lowered the cost of land, the program has protected more land – primarily through the purchase of development rights – than originally anticipated. Land that previously was valued at about $16,000 per acre is now closer to $4,000, with the likelihood of even lower costs in the coming year.

The last joint meeting of these groups was held in June of 2011, but membership on the groups has changed over the last year and a half. The park advisory commission in particular has seen considerable turnover since then. Earlier this year PAC members Gwen Nystuen, David Barrett, Sam Offen and Doug Chapman left the commission, either because they were term-limited or did not seek re-appointment. New members are Ingrid Ault, Bob Galardi, Alan Jackson and Missy Stults. New to GAC this year is Archer Christian, replacing long-time member Mike Garfield, who was term-limited. Both Garfield and Christian are executives at the nonprofit Ecology Center.

The Nov. 1 discussion among commissioners was wide-ranging. Among the topics covered were the need to provide connections between existing parks, potential for recreational use of greenbelt-protected land, farming trends, and protections for both greenbelt property and parkland. For this report, the conversations are summarized and grouped thematically. The meeting began with a staff update – and that’s where this report begins, too. [Full Story]

County Parks Commission OKs $6M in Projects

Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission meeting, July 24, 2012: At its most recent meeting, WCPARC approved contracts totaling nearly $6 million.

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting

Members of the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission at their July 24, 2012 meeting. In the foreground from the left are Nelson Meade and Fred Veigel, who is also a member of the Washtenaw County road commission. At the right (white jacket) is Dan Smith, who also represents District 2 on the county board of commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

The bulk of the funding – about $5.73 million – is for improvements at three of the county parks facilities: the water park at Rolling Hills ($4,792,530); the River Terrace section of the county’s Border-to-Border (B2B) trail near Dexter ($877,740); and enhancements to the new entrance to the County Farm Park on Washtenaw Avenue (estimated $50,000).

Work at the Rolling Hills water park will dramatically change the entrance to that popular county facility, which employs about 85 workers at the peak of the summer season. Commissioners voted to award the $4,792,530 contract to Sorensen Gross Construction Services (SGCS) of Flint, which submitted the lowest of seven bids.

The commission also approved an expenditure of $267,500 to buy the Baker property in Lima Township for the county’s natural areas preservation program. The land is on the north side of Trinkle Road, between Lima Center and Fletcher Roads – about a mile to the west of the recently protected Trinkle Marsh Preserve.

Staff gave updates on a variety of other projects, including conceptual design work on a recreation center in Ypsilanti. A team of students and faculty from the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is working on that project. Director Bob Tetens reported that a couple of different approaches are being considered: a long linear facility along the Huron River, or a more traditional box-style building. Both would incorporate the B2B trail along the building, under overhangs, with a design that allows stormwater to flow under the building.

The meeting closed with shared memories of Meri Lou Murray, a former county commissioner who was largely responsible for creating the county parks system. Murray died on July 22. [Full Story]

Land Rezoned for Bryant Community Center

The Ann Arbor planning commission has unanimously recommended rezoning a 0.2-acre site at 5 W. Eden Court from R1C (single-family dwelling) to PL (public land). The vote came at the commission’s June 5, 2012 meeting.

This land was recently purchased for $82,500 using funds from the city’s open space and parkland preservation millage – a purchase approved by the Ann Arbor city council at its Sept. 6, 2011 meeting. It’s located next to the city’s Bryant Community Center.

The recommendation will be forwarded to the city council for its consideration.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers of city hall at 301 E. Huron, where planning commission meetings are held. A more detailed report will follow: [link]

City Council Parcels Out Tasks: Open Space

Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 7, 2012) Part 1: In Part 1 of this council meeting report, The Chronicle has collected those agenda items and discussion that relate to land use and open space, which was one of two dominant themes of the meeting. The other major theme was public art, which will be included in Part 2 of the report – along with other items not related to land use.

Three Parcels

Three parcels received discussion at the council's May 7 meeting, from south to north: 415 W. Washington, 721 N. Main, the MichCon property. (Image links to higher resolution file)

In connection with different agenda items, the council discussed the future of three major parcels within the city, two of which are city-owned: 415 W. Washington and 721 N. Main, and the MichCon site near Broadway bridges.

First the council heard an update on the possible future of the city-owned 415 W. Washington property, located across from the Ann Arbor YMCA, which opened in 2005. The Y replaced the old Ann Arbor Technology Center, which had been the home of the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, along with independent artists and musicians, who rented space at the center. It burned in the course of a 2003 demolition.

The 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios went on to re-locate in Detroit. The group has some experience re-purposing buildings as space for artists, recently hosting a fundraiser for an additional property it has acquired – the 3rd Police Precinct in southwest Detroit. Artists can rent literal jail cells there as work space.

On Feb. 1, 2010, the Ann Arbor city council had established a task force – consisting of greenway advocates and members of the arts community – to explore the future use of the 415 W. Washington property. The Ann Arbor Arts Alliance was the group identified to represent the arts community interests.

Now, the 555 group appears ready to take responsibility for the arts portion of planning for the site. That’s the portion that entails re-using the existing building on the site, which is located in the Old West Side historic district. Carl Goines, a representative of 555, addressed the council on Monday night. Goines had co-founded the group 10 years ago in the tech center.

Goines described how an investment of around $45,000 is needed for surveying and environmental analysis of the 415 W. Washington site. That investment would be required whether the building is preserved or demolished, he said. Mayor John Hieftje indicated in his comments at the meeting that he’d be willing to give the group perhaps a year to establish a viable way to re-purpose the building, but also indicated an eagerness eventually to apply to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for a grant to develop the entire parcel as a park. If the 555 group could not find a way to rehabilitate the structure within a reasonable time, Hieftje indicated a willingness to pursue the option of asking the city’s historic district commission for permission to demolish the structure.

The other city-owned parcel discussed by the council was 721 N. Main, former site of a city maintenance yard.  That came in connection with a council resolution to establish a task force to study the North Main corridor, and deliver a report in a year’s time, by July 31, 2013. Earlier than that, by the end of 2012, the task force is supposed to provide a recommendation on the use of 721 N. Main.

The city has an already-approved grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for demolition of two buildings on the site – but not the main building. The 721 N. Main parcel will also likely be part of a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application by the city in the spring of 2013.

The task force is also supposed to provide a recommendation on the future use of the MichCon property, between the Amtrak station and the Huron River. MichCon is currently undertaking an environmental cleanup of the land, and the standard to which MichCon remediates the parcel will depend on its intended future use. Hieftje has been clear about his preference – that the city acquire the land for a park. A possible source of funds the city could use for acquisition of such a park would be money generated by the open space and parkland preservation millage.

By administrative policy, a third of the revenue from that millage is overseen by the land acquisition committee of the city’s park advisory commission. The council confirmed a new appointment to that commission at Monday’s meeting – Ingrid Ault, who replaces the term-limited Gwen Nystuen. The other two-thirds of the millage revenues – for preservation of land outside the city as a greenbelt – is administered by the greenbelt advisory commission. And notice of two upcoming reappointments to that body was also on the agenda – for Catherine Riseng and Peter Allen.

Allen is a real estate developer, who might have alternatives in mind for MichCon’s property that include more than just a park. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Takes Late Bus to Transit Accord

Ann Arbor city council meeting (March 5, 2012): The council’s meeting did not conclude until almost 1 a.m., prompting resident Thomas Partridge to remark during public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, “It’s almost time to plan for breakfast!”

Sandi Smith, Sabra Briere, Tony Derezinski, Jane Lumm

Left to right: Councilmembers Sandi Smith (Ward 1), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2). (Photos by the writer.)

The issue driving the lengthy meeting was an agreement between four different entities, including the city of Ann Arbor, that would set up a framework for a transition of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to a new funding and governance structure. The intent of transitioning to a new authority would be to provide increased transportation service both within the city of Ann Arbor as well as throughout Washtenaw County.

The Ann Arbor city council approved the agreement on Monday night on a 7-4 vote, after postponing it three times previously. That sets the stage for the city of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA to approve it as well. Even after approval by those three entities, several steps would remain before a new transit authority, incorporated under Michigan’s Act 196, could take over transportation services from the AATA.

The council considered several amendments to the agreement, but approved only two relatively minor, clarificational items. [.pdf of agreement as amended]

Toward the end of the meeting, the nomination of University of Michigan planner Sue Gott to the AATA board was given spirited discussion by two councilmembers, but was ultimately confirmed on a unanimous vote.

Falling victim to the lengthy deliberations on the transit agreement was a resolution that would direct the city attorney to delay enforcement of medical marijuana laws for local dispensaries, except for zoning violations. A vote on that resolution was postponed without deliberation, due to the late hour. That resolution comes in the context of a recommendation from the city council’s medical marijuana licensing board, currently pending with the council, to award the first 10 medical marijuana licenses under local legislation enacted last year.

Related to a different kind of licensing, the council approved a resolution that recommends non-renewal of liquor licenses for two establishments in Ann Arbor – Dream Nite Club and Rush Street. A hearing on the two licenses will be held on March 19, with the city council’s final recommendation to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to be made that same day.

The council also passed several resolutions related to land and its use. The council approved the acquisition of another 58.85 acres under its greenbelt program, as well as the purchase of property on West Kingsley so that a long-vacant house there can finally be demolished. A rain garden is to be constructed on that parcel, because it’s situated in the Allen Creek floodway. In a related item, a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood map was also given final approval by the council on Monday night.

The council gave initial approval to a revision of parking regulations in open space at the front of land parcels, but postponed any action on a proposed revision that would eliminate a requirement on landscape buffers in areas zoned R4C (multi-family residential).

Receiving approval from the council were a total of nearly $1.7 million in renovations to several of the city parks. The funding includes improvements to ballfields at Veterans Memorial Park, Southeast Area Park and West Park, as well as upgrades to roads and paths at Buhr Park and Cobblestone Farm.

The council also approved the issuance of $120 million in revenue bonds for the reconstruction of the city’s sewage treatment facilities, long planned and in the works. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Housing Commission to Expand?

The Ann Arbor housing commission board’s last meeting of 2011 was the first one attended by Jennifer L. Hall in her new role as executive director of the commission. Hall – who previously served as housing manager for the Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development – was selected by the board in October to replace Marge Novak, who had resigned in July.

Jennifer L. Hall, Andy LaBarre

Jennifer L. Hall, the new Ann Arbor housing commission executive director, talks with commission board member Andy LaBarre before the board's Dec. 21, 2011 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Most of the Dec. 21 meeting focused on a presentation by Hall. She gave an overview of local affordable housing demand, and looked at how the housing commission’s operations might address some of those needs. In part, her talk set the stage for possible land acquisition. Later in the meeting, the commission entered into closed session to discuss two potential properties it might buy to add to the city’s public housing stock.

On one of the properties Hall suggested constructing a rental project consisting of 22-37 detached single-family units and duplexes, ranging between 1-5 bedrooms. For the other property, she proposed building a 15-unit complex of detached 2-4 bedroom condos and duplexes, which would eventually be sold to low-income homeowners for $140,000 each. Funding for these projects would come from a variety of sources, including state and federal grants and loans.

The locations of the properties weren’t disclosed in open session. But Hall said she was looking for direction from the board on pursuing the two projects. If the projects move forward, more details would be discussed in the public portion of upcoming meetings.

Hall also floated the idea of changing the format of board meetings and of the information that commissioners receive in their meeting packets. She proposed cutting back on staff reports, presenting them quarterly instead of monthly. That way, more of the board’s meeting time would be freed to focus on strategic planning issues, she said.

Hall also suggested changing the way that meeting minutes are written up. Instead of including a detailed description of the board’s discussions, she said, the minutes could provide a summary of the discussion and a note about the outcome, if a vote is taken. Some commissioners expressed concerns about truncating the minutes dramatically. Board president Marta Manildi said the AAHC board would like a richer level of detail than what’s provided in Ann Arbor city council minutes, which she described as too terse.

During the time available for public commentary, two residents of Miller Manor – an AAHC apartment complex on Miller Avenue – raised concerns about security issues in the building. Manildi told them that their comments would be forwarded to a working group of staff that’s addressing security problems at all AAHC properties. [Full Story]