Stories indexed with the term ‘meeting agenda’

Council Preview: Marijuana, Art, TIF

The Ann Arbor city council’s April 2, 2012 agenda will touch on three areas that have previously generated substantial debate on the council and throughout the community: (1) medical marijuana; (2) funding of public art; and (3) calculation of the tax increment finance (TIF) capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Ann Arbor city council agenda screenshot

Screen shot excerpt for April 2, 2012 Ann Arbor city council's online agenda. Image links to online agenda.

Medical marijuana is the subject of three different agenda items. The first has previously been postponed twice – at the council’s March 19 and March 5 meetings. It would direct the city attorney to delay enforcement of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, as well as the city’s licensing and zoning ordinances (with one exception), until the city council has acted on possible amendments to the city’s local ordinances on medical marijuana.

Amendments to those ordinances, as recommended by the city’s medical marijuana licensing board at its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting, are covered in two other items on the April 2 agenda. One item includes a series of amendments to the licensing ordinance, which in part help clarify the role of city staff, as compared to the licensing board, in the licensing process. The council will be considering the amendments for the first time at the April 2 meeting. If approved, the amendments would require a second and final approval by the council at a subsequent meeting before taking effect.

The other agenda item regarding the city’s ordinances on medical marijuana is not itself a proposed amendment. Instead, the council resolution would give direction to the city planning commission to review the recommended revision to the zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses. That’s because it’s the purview of the city planning commission to review changes to the zoning code. The planning commission would then forward its recommendation to the city council.

Added to the agenda on Friday were two items that Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) had announced at the council’s previous meeting, on March 19, that he would be bringing forward. The first is a resolution that would direct the city attorney to prepare a written opinion on the transfer of funds from the street millage fund to the city’s public art fund. It’s a point of contention that has a history going back at least two and a half years. Kunselman’s resolution refers to the context of the fiscal year 2013 budget, which the council will be presented by the city administrator on April 16. The council will need to act on that budget by the end of May.

Another item on the agenda that’s related to public art is the approval of a $150,000 sculpture for the interior of the new municipal center, in the Justice Center building. And finally, the report from the public art commission’s planning retreat, held on Feb. 26, 2012, is attached to the council’s agenda as a communication.

The second item added to the agenda by Kunselman on Friday directs the city staff to analyze the compliance of the Ann Arbor DDA with Chapter 7 of the city’s code, which is the legislation that established the DDA in 1982. Kunselman’s resolution asks for an analysis by Ann Arbor city staff of the DDA’s capture of taxes in its tax increment finance (TIF) district. The DDA is slated on April 9 to present its board-approved FY 2013 budget at a city council working session.

Chapter 7 appears to impose a limit on the amount of TIF capture, based on the rate of growth of property valuation inside the DDA district. Last year, when the relevance of the ordinance was pointed out by city financial staff, the DDA returned over $400,000 to other taxing authorities in the district. The city of Ann Arbor waived its share of over $700,000.

However, the DDA subsequently has contended that the money it reimbursed to other taxing authorities was not required. The DDA claims that Chapter 7 does not impose a limit on TIF capture, but rather addresses how money would be returned to other taxing authorities, if the DDA did not use the money. At stake this year and in future years is several hundred thousand dollars, depending on how the calculations are done. The Ann Arbor District Library, one of the taxing authorities whose taxes are subject to DDA capture, has publicly stated that it has not changed its original legal position – which interprets Chapter 7 as a limit on TIF capture and questions the methodology used by the DDA to calculate the excess.

The April 2 Ann Arbor city council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in city council chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. The meetings are broadcast live on Channel 16 of the Community Television Network. The Channel 16 broadcast is also streamed live on the Internet. [Full Story]

County Board to Eliminate Admin Briefings

Conan Smith, chair of the county board, began Wednesday’s meeting with an announcement: “This will be the last administrative briefing.”

Washtenaw County commissioners and staff at the Feb. 23, 2011 administrative briefing

Washtenaw County commissioners and staff gather around a conference table at the Feb. 23 administrative briefing.

Administrative briefings have been held for about a decade, taking place a week before the board’s regular meetings, which are scheduled for the first and third Wednesday of each month. They are public but informal, held in a small conference room at the county’s downtown Ann Arbor administration building – not in the boardroom. The meetings, which usually last no longer than an hour, are focused on reviewing the upcoming agenda for the back-to-back Ways & Means Committee meeting and regular board meeting the following week.

Several commissioners say they benefit from the discussions that emerge at these briefings. But Ronnie Peterson, who has never attended because of his objections to the format, has been a vocal critic, calling them “backroom” meetings where deliberations occur that he believes are too far out of the public eye – even though they conform to the Open Meetings Act.

He raised the issue again at the Feb. 16 board meeting, which resulted in a lengthy debate about whether administrative briefings and the board’s budget retreats are sufficiently accessible to the public. The outcome of that debate was a vote at the Feb. 16 meeting to hold future retreats after the board’s regular working sessions – both would be televised. However, an attempt to relocate and televise administrative briefings failed, with support only from Peterson, Kristin Judge and Wes Prater.

On Wednesday, Smith – who on Feb. 16 argued for keeping the administrative briefings unchanged – said that after discussions with county administrator Verna McDaniel, they had decided to eliminate the briefings in favor of a weekly agenda-setting meeting with staff and just three commissioners: Smith, as board chair; Rolland Sizemore Jr., chair of the Ways & Means Committee; and Yousef Rabhi, chair of the working sessions. Because the meeting will not involve a quorum of commissioners, it will not be required to be open to the public. [Full Story]

Meeting Watch: Preview – UM Board of Regents (18 Sept 2008)

The University of Michigan Board of Regents will meet this Thursday, Sept. 18, at 3 p.m. in the Fleming Administration Building, 503 Thompson St. A limited number of public comment slots are available. You get 5 minutes, but you need to sign up by 9 a.m. the day before the meeting. The sign-up form is here.

Here are some items on their agenda:

  • A $48.6 million project to 1) build a parking structure on Wall Street to provide 550 new spaces and a small transit center “to encourage the use of buses and shuttles”; and 2) build a 40,000-square-foot office building to house the Michigan Business Engagement Center. The center “is to function as the gateway to the university for … [Full Story]