Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 16, 2012): The bulk of the council’s recent meeting was related to parks – either directly or tangentially.
The council considered a resolution that would have placed a question on the Nov. 6 ballot about a charter amendment affecting city parkland. The amendment would require a voter referendum not just for the sale of parkland, but also for leases or other contracts that have a practical effect similar to a sale.
The majority of the council wanted to allow time for the city’s park advisory commission (PAC) to weigh in before taking council action. To facilitate that timeline, PAC is convening a special meeting on Aug. 8 to consider the matter. The council’s postponement was until Aug. 9 – its next regularly scheduled meeting. That’s a Thursday instead of the usual Monday, pushed back because of the Aug. 7 primary election.
Some supporters of the possible amendment had hoped to bring the matter to a council vote before the August primary, because they wanted incumbent council candidates to be judged by the electorate based on their vote on the parkland ballot question. That led Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who is not seeking re-election to a third term, to call the resolution on the ballot question a “poorly disguised political stunt.”
Other park-related items on the agenda included approval of a $89,560 contract with Wally Hollyday Skateparks for the design and construction oversight of a skatepark to be built in the northeast corner of Veterans Memorial Park. The council also gave initial approval to the rezoning of two parcels recently acquired by the city for expansion of the Bluffs Nature Area at 1099 N. Main St., north of Sunset Road. On final approval, both parcels will receive the PL (public land) zoning designation. The city expects the additional land to make the entrance to the nature area more accessible.
The Leslie Science and Nature Center will get $115,309 worth of improvements to create accessible pathways at the city-owned site – the council approved a contract with JB Contractors Inc. for that work. The center is operated by a separate independent nonprofit on land and buildings that are owned and maintained by the city of Ann Arbor.
The possibility of a mixed-use park and art center at the city-owned 415 W. Washington property was given a chance to move forward, with the council’s authorization of $50,000 in general fund money to pay for physical surveys of the building on the property. The building, which would potentially house a space for working artists, would need environmental, hazardous materials and topographic surveys done, even if a decision were ultimately made to demolish the building.
Open space outside the city got a boost from the council’s acceptance of $396,900 in federal funds for the purchase of development rights (PDR) on properties in Webster and Superior townships. The federal funds will be matched with city funds from the open space and parkland preservation millage, which supports the city’s greenbelt program.
The wetlands at Plymouth Parkway Park that were impacted by last year’s railroad embankment washout along Plymouth Road will be restored through a $97,687 contract with Fonson Inc. authorized by the council. The funds will come from the city’s park maintenance and capital improvements millage.
Only tangentially related to parks was the council’s approval of the site plan for the Maple Cove development. Located on 2.96 acres at 1649 N. Maple, north of Miller Road between North Maple and Calvin Street on the city’s west side, the plan calls for combining two sites – 1649 N. Maple and 1718 Calvin – and demolishing an existing single-family home and detached garages there. Two 3-story apartment buildings would be built with a 64-space parking lot. The project also includes building a private street to serve seven new single-family houses near Calvin Street.
The parks connection to Maple Cove is that the city requested a $26,660 contribution from the developer to support the city’s parks – a voluntary contribution, with the amount determined by formula. The developer has declined to make that contribution.
The council also voted to appoint John Seto as chief of police and head of safety services – he’s now permanently in charge of policing the city, including city parkland. Seto has served since April as interim in the wake of Barnett Jones’ retirement.
In other action, councilmembers voted to suspend the use of construction unity board (CUB) agreements in construction contracts – after voting to restore their use earlier this summer. On the CUB issue, the council has been responding to a changing landscape of law, as state legislation is passed and court decisions are handed down.