Stories indexed with the term ‘Library Green Conservancy’

Parks Group Weighs Fuller Parking Lease

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (July 15, 2014): The main action item at the July Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting related to renewal of a lease for parking at a Fuller Park surface lot.

Gwen Nystuen, Eric Lipson, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Former park advisory commissioner Gwen Nystuen and former planning commissioner Eric Lipson of the Library Green Conservancy spoke during public commentary. They advocated for integrated planning of public space in the Library Block, which includes Liberty Plaza and the Library Lane site. (Photos by the writer.)

An existing lease to the University of Michigan expires on Aug. 31, 2014. PAC recommended that the city renew the lease for two years, with an additional two-year option for renewal beyond that. Annual revenue will be $78,665, and will be included as part of the parks and recreation general fund budget.

The three lots are: (1) the parking lot south of Fuller Road, next to the railroad tracks (Lot A); (2) the paved parking lot north of Fuller Road at Fuller Park (Lot B); and (3) the unpaved parking lot north of Fuller Road at Fuller Park (Lot C). The lots are used by UM during restricted hours.

Three people spoke during public commentary regarding Fuller Park, though most of their focus was on the possibility of locating a train station at that site, which they opposed.

Responding to concerns raised during public commentary, commissioners discussed and ultimately amended the recommendation, adding a whereas clause that stated the “resolution does not commit PAC to support or oppose the use of Lot A as a rail station.”

The July 15 agenda also included two items related to Liberty Plaza: (1) extension of a fee waiver for events held at Liberty Plaza; and (2) feedback in response to city council action, which addressed Liberty Plaza and the potential park atop the Library Lane underground parking structure.

The existing fee waiver, which had been in place for a year, expired on July 1. The feedback to the city council related to action at the council’s June 16, 2014 meeting, which took place after a contentious debate over a resolution co-sponsored by Christopher Taylor, who also serves as an ex officio member of PAC.

On July 15, the commission also heard public commentary related to this area, as Library Green Conservancy members advocated for PAC to consider the entire block – both Liberty Plaza and Library Lane – when making recommendations to the council.

But because three PAC members were absent, chair Ingrid Ault suggested that the two items be put off until more commissioners could participate in a discussion. Absent on July 15 were PAC vice chair Graydon Krapohl, Alan Jackson, and Bob Galardi, who also serves as chair of the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy board.

There was no formal vote to postpone, but it’s likely that the items will appear on PAC’s Aug. 19 agenda. That date falls after the Aug. 5 primary elections. Krapohl, a Democrat, is the only candidate running for Ward 4 city council. Christopher Taylor – a councilmember who serves as an ex officio member of PAC – is one of four Democrats running for mayor.

During the July 15 meeting, PAC also received a briefing on activities at Mack Pool, the city’s only indoor pool. Although the city had considered closing it just a few years ago, new programming has resulted in increased revenues for that facility. [Full Story]

Concerns Voiced over Urban Park Proposal

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (Feb. 25, 2014): Of the four briefings given at PAC’s February meeting, drawing the most discussion was a proposal to build an urban park on top of the Library Lane underground parking structure.

Will Hathaway, Library Green Conservancy, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Will Hathaway gave a presentation about a proposal to build an urban park at the Library Lane site. He spoke on behalf of the Library Green Conservancy, which is working with some city councilmembers on the proposal. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners were briefed by Will Hathaway on behalf of the Library Green Conservancy, which has been advocating for a large section of the site to be designated as a park. He described a resolution that was later brought forward by Jack Eaton (Ward 4) at the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting.

Hathaway highlighted aspects of the proposal that drew on recommendations made by PAC to the city council last fall. He said he wasn’t asking for PAC to take any specific action on this proposal, but asked for feedback. Several commissioners raised concerns, including some that focused on the process of bringing this resolution forward without specific direction from the council. Hathaway noted that the resolution is intended to start the process, with council direction, to begin working with stakeholders, PAC, the public and others in the design and development of this park.

Subsequently, at the March 3 council meeting, PAC chair Ingrid Ault and former chair Julie Grand both spoke during public commentary and urged postponement of the resolution. Mayor John Hieftje, responding to the initiative, gave his own presentation on March 3 with a different vision for connected urban spaces downtown.

And Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) told councilmembers that he wanted a postponement to have time to meet with Ann Arbor District Library board members about moving the library over to the surface of the Library Lane structure. He also plans to bring forward a resolution that would move towards hiring a broker to list development rights on the Library Lane surface for sale.

Ultimately, the council voted to postpone action until its March 17 meeting. At that meeting, it’s likely that Eaton will bring forward a revised resolution, a copy of which was provided to The Chronicle on March 13. The revised resolution indicates that the area designated as a park would be 12,000 square feet, compared to 10,000 square feet in the original resolution. That square footage reflects the actual dimensions of the proposed boundaries, according to a staff memo. The revised resolution also eliminates an October 2014 deadline for making design recommendations to the council, and deletes any reference to PAC. [.pdf of revised resolution for March 17 council meeting]

In other action at PAC’s Feb. 25 meeting, commissioners heard three other presentations related to city parks. Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) described a proposed ordinance that he’s brought to council regarding outdoor smoking in public places, including parks. Elements of the ordinance include authorizing the city administrator to have signs posted designating certain parks or portions of parks as off limits for outdoor smoking.

Kerry Gray, the city’s urban forest & natural resources planning coordinator, gave a presentation to PAC about the urban and community forest management plan. The city recently released a draft and is seeking input. And Doug Kelly, Ann Arbor’s director of golf, gave an update on the city’s two golf courses at Huron Hills and Leslie Park.

In voting items, PAC recommended approval of an amendment to the city’s golf cart lease with Pifer Inc., and supported approval of contracts for work at Windemere and Clinton parks.

Commissioners also got a brief financial update for the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2014. Bob Galardi, chair of PAC’s budget and finance committee, summarized the status this way: “Basically, we’re in great shape.” [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Delays on Downtown Urban Park

A resolution that proposes to build an urban park on top of the Library Lane underground parking structure has been postponed until March 17, 2014 by the Ann Arbor city council. Postponement came at the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting.

Library Lane, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Library Lane park proposal.

In arguing for postponement, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) said he wanted time to bring forward a companion resolution that would involve putting the development rights for the top of the Library Lane parking structure up for sale. He also indicated he wanted to discuss the issue with members of the Ann Arbor District Library board and … [Full Story]

Parks Group Briefed on Urban Park Proposal

A proposal to build an urban park on top of the Library Lane underground parking structure was presented at the Feb. 25, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission.

Library Lane, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Library Lane park proposal

The presentation by Will Hathaway, on behalf of the Library Green Conservancy, included a draft proposal of a resolution for the city council to reserve about 10,000 square feet on the surface of the Library Lane Structure for an urban park, to be “bounded by the Fifth Avenue sidewalk on the west, the Library Lane Street sidewalk to the south, the western entry to … [Full Story]

Survey Drafted for Input on Downtown Parks

At a May 28, 2013 meeting interrupted by a tornado warning, members of the Ann Arbor downtown parks subcommittee reviewed a draft survey to gather input as the group develops recommendations for the city council.

Alan Haber, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Alan Haber takes notes on a draft survey about downtown parks. He was attending the May 28 meeting of a subcommittee of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission, which is putting together a survey that will be released in June. The subcommittee will be making recommendations regarding downtown parks and open space. (Photos by the writer.)

In a variety of ways, the survey attempts to gauge interest in downtown parks and open space, and to identify the types of activities and features that people might want, such as playgrounds or performance space. The survey also includes questions about assessing the existing downtown parks, including the farmers market, Liberty Plaza at Liberty & Division, and Sculpture Plaza at Fourth & Catherine.

This subcommittee of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission has been meeting regularly since early February. Their work relates in part to a request that mayor John Hieftje made last summer. It’s also meant to supplement the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s Connecting William Street project. For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: “Parks Group To Weigh In On Downtown Need,” and “Committee Starts Downtown Parks Research,” as well as coverage included in the PAC meeting reports for March 19, 2013 and May 21, 2013.

Several leaders of the Library Green Conservancy attended the May 28 meeting, and gave input on the survey throughout the discussion. The conservancy previously has criticized a survey conducted by the DDA as part of Connecting William Street, saying that the DDA survey did not give respondents the option of supporting downtown parks and open space.

Based on feedback at the May 28 meeting, parks staff will revise the survey for final review at the subcommittee’s June 11 meeting. The intent is to launch the survey soon after that meeting. The goal is to incorporate survey results as recommendations are developed for downtown parks/open spaces, which will likely be delivered to the city council in August. [Full Story]

Park Updates: Roof, Rain Garden, Parking Lot

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (May 21, 2013): The meeting featured a briefing on a project to install rain gardens at Arbor Oaks Park, part of a broader effort to address drainage and flooding problems in the Bryant neighborhood in southeast Ann Arbor.

Bob Galardi, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Bob Galardi was elected chair of the budget & finance committee for the Ann Arbor park advisory commission at PAC’s May 21, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Jerry Hancock, the city’s stormwater and floodplain programs coordinator, described the project, which is being paid for out of the city’s stormwater utility fund – not the parks and recreation budget. It will involve regrading the perimeter of the park in the fall, then putting in native plants next spring. Soil excavated to create the rain gardens will be used to elevate the park’s central lawn area, which often has standing water following heavy rains. The work will be done prior to improvements planned for the park’s playground next year.

Later in the meeting, commissioners voted to recommend awarding a contract for roof replacement at the Mack indoor pool, located within the Ann Arbor Open school near the corner of Miller and Brooks. The recommendation is to select Pranam GlobalTech Inc., which put in the low bid of $193,000. A 10% construction contingency brings the project’s budget to $212,300, with a portion of that amount to be paid for by the public schools.

Also recommended was using $8,280 from the public market fund to upgrade a surface parking lot – known as the “sand lot” – on the Fourth Avenue side of the farmers market. The paving is viewed as a short-term solution, pending longer-term improvements expected at the market in a few years.

Commissioners also elected Bob Galardi as chair of PAC’s budget & finance committee. He replaces Tim Doyle as committee chair, following the end of Doyle’s term on PAC earlier this month. Jen Geer – Doyle’s replacement on PAC – was confirmed by the city council the previous evening but did not attend PAC’s May 21 meeting. Geer has worked with Galardi and councilmember Christopher Taylor – an ex-officio member of PAC – in another capacity, in the performing arts. Most recently, she was executive producer for the Ann Arbor in Concert production of Ragtime, performed at Michigan Theater on May 18. Both Taylor and Galardi were lead performers in that show.

Updates during PAC’s May 21 meeting covered a range of topics, including news that bids for construction of the new skatepark came in a little higher than anticipated. Parks staff and skatepark designer Wally Hollyday will be reviewing the bids to see what options are available. Parks and recreation manager Colin Smith reported that at PAC’s June 18 meeting, commissioners will be presented with a resolution to award a construction contract, as well as an agreement between the city and the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark related to operating the skatepark.

Other updates from Smith included the fact that parks staff is gearing up for Memorial Day weekend, with the opening of the city’s outdoor pools. He also highlighted the completed renovations of ball fields at Veterans Memorial Park, West Park and Southeast Area Park, and improvements made at Liberty Plaza. In addition to removing some bushes there, he said, “we also removed all sorts of things that were in the bushes, which are no longer there – and I’m glad they’re not.”

Other brief reports were given regarding work of PAC’s dog park and downtown park subcommittees, and public forums for the North Main-Huron River task force. Public commentary focused on input from the Library Green Conservancy, which is advocating for a park or public space atop the city’s Library Lane parking structure. [Full Story]

Parks Group Applauds “Status Quo” Budget

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (April 16, 2013): After several years of cuts, the city’s parks system anticipates no significant budget changes in fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1, 2013.

Graffiti, Argo Pond, Ann Arbor parks & recreation, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Graffiti at Argo Pond. Parks and recreation manager Colin Smith reported that there’s been an increase in graffiti in the parks system. (Photos by the writer.)

Park commissioners were briefed on budget details at their April meeting, and voted unanimously to recommend the budget for approval. The parks budget will be a component of the overall budget that the city council will vote on in mid-May. The public hearing on that budget will be held on May 6. “The message is status quo,” parks and recreation manager Colin Smith told commissioners.

In a separate vote, commissioners recommended raising fees – ranging between 4-9% – for rentals at the Gallup Park meeting room and Cobblestone Farm. It was the first fee increase at these facilities since 2007 and 2006, respectively.

In other action, commissioners unanimously recommended approval of a five-year contract with Coca-Cola Refreshments for cold beverage concessions. It will replace the 10-year contract with Pepsi that expires this summer. Pepsi was the only other bid received by the city for a new contract, but missed the deadline and was disqualified.

Commissioners also recommended that the city award a $535,000 contract to Pranam Global Tech Inc. to replace the nearly 40-year-old roof at Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena. The project includes a 10% construction contingency of $53,500, bringing the total project budget to $588,500.

Public commentary included an update from advocates of an ice-skating rink at the city-owned Library Lane site, as well as a report from the Library Green Conservancy, which hopes to make the parking lot into a park. [.pdf of Library Green Conservancy report]

Updates from commissioners included ongoing efforts to find a new centrally located dog park, as well as more information-gathering work by the downtown parks subcommittee.

And in his manager’s report, Smith informed commissioners of an increase in spray-painted graffiti in the parks. The staff is collecting data on how much time they spend repairing areas that are hit with graffiti, “and it’s substantial,” he said. Even trees have been tagged, which is unusual, Smith reported. “There have been some rather inappropriate things painted on some very nice trees.” He added: “It’s extremely frustrating … We’re not in the business of providing spray-painting opportunities any more than we are in the business of providing apothecary options for people in the parks. I’ll leave it at that.” [Full Story]

Parks Group Discusses Skating Rink Proposal

At their March 19, 2013 meeting, Ann Arbor park advisory commissioners discussed a proposal to build an ice-skating rink atop a portion of the city-owned Library Lane underground parking structure. They took no action on the item, but were briefed on the proposal by two advocates of the effort: Alan Haber and Stewart Gordon.

Commissioners have been lobbied about the project during public commentary at previous meetings, most recently on Feb. 26, 2013. At that meeting, Haber – one of the organizers of the Library Green Conservancy – told commissioners that he hoped PAC could make a statement as a body or individually to the city council, urging them to give the rink a try for just two months. … [Full Story]

“Connecting William” To Be Resource Plan

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (March 5, 2013): Despite protests by members of the Library Green Conservancy and hesitation by some commissioners, the city planning commission voted unanimously to add the Connecting William Street plan to its list of resource documents that support the city’s master plan. After the vote, Wendy Woods tried to reopen the item for reconsideration, but she was unsuccessful in garnering support from the majority of commissioners, so the initial decision stands.

Sabra Briere, Jack Eaton, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jack Eaton talks with Sabra Briere before the start of the Ann Arbor planning commission’s March 5, 2013 meeting. Briere serves on the commission as the representative from city council. Eaton spoke during a public hearing on the Connecting William Street plan.

The Connecting William Street project was undertaken by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority at the behest of the city council. It focuses on recommendations for coordinated development of five city-own sites in the William Street area, on the south side of downtown. By becoming a resource document, the CWS plan carries less weight than it would if it were part of the city’s master plan.

Amber Miller of the DDA gave a presentation during the March 5 commission meeting, similar to those previously given to the council and the DDA board.

Much of the discussion among commissioners focused on the issue of open space. Miller noted that recommendations on that issue have been deferred to a committee of the city’s park advisory commission. That downtown parks committee is in the early stages of its work – it was scheduled to meet earlier in the day on March 5, but that meeting was canceled.

Commentary during a public hearing on the CWS plan also focused on open space, with several members of the Library Green Conservancy advocating for a centrally located park atop the Library Lane underground parking structure. They criticized the DDA’s process for developing the plan, and felt the planning commission had not adequately publicized the fact that a public hearing on Connecting William Street would be held that evening.

Additional public commentary came after the commission’s vote. Woods said her decision to ask for reconsideration of the item was prompted by concerns raised during this final public commentary. She felt it wouldn’t hurt to wait two weeks until the commission’s next meeting, so that more people could have the chance to weigh in, if they wanted.

Sabra Briere, who had expressed strong reservations before casting her original yes vote, said she supported Woods in her effort to reconsider the item, suggesting that postponement would be appropriate. She expressed concern that the commission was deciding to use the CWS plan as a future planning document – which would be referenced when the planning staff and commission make their recommendations to the city council on site plans and other planning and development actions. Given that importance, Briere – who also serves on city council – wanted to be absolutely certain before accepting it.

Other commissioners disagreed. Kirk Westphal, the planning commission’s chair, also served on a DDA leadership outreach committee (LOC) that helped craft the Connecting William Street plan. He said he felt extremely comfortable with the public process that had led to these recommendations. Eric Mahler also argued against reopening the item for another vote, saying the commission needed to bring closure to this long process. He was satisfied that sufficient public notice had been provided.

It’s unclear whether the city council will take any action on the Connecting William Street plan. As to what happens next, Susan Pollay, the DDA’s executive director, told planning commissioners that the DDA will be following the council’s guidance. Councilmembers have already taken a first step related to one of the five parcels – the former YMCA lot. At their meeting on March 4, 2013, councilmembers voted to direct the city administrator to prepare an RFP (request for proposals) for brokerage services to sell the lot. A $3.5 million balloon payment on the property is due at the end of 2013. [Full Story]