Stories indexed with the term ‘Monroe Street’

DDA Wraps Up Parking Rate Hearing, Audit

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Dec. 7, 2011): At its last monthly meeting of the year, the DDA board continued a public hearing on proposed parking rate changes that it had begun at its November meeting. Only two people appeared for the continued hearing on Wednesday – nine people had addressed the board for its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting.

Nassif, Gunn, Hieftje

Front to back: Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board members Nader Nassif, Leah Gunn, John Hieftje. (Photos by the writer.)

The board will not vote on the rate increases until its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting. Some of the rate changes are scheduled for implementation in February 2012, but the increases affecting most downtown Ann Arbor parkers would not be implemented until September 2012. The September changes include an increase from $1.40 to $1.50 per hour for on-street metered spaces and an increase from $1.10 to $1.20 per hour for spaces in parking structures.

Some insight into the DDA’s interest in raising parking rates can be found in the DDA’s finances, as reflected in its annual audit. Acceptance of its annual audit report was the one action item on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. The board voted to accept its audit report done by the firm Abraham & Gaffney, P.C. for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

Auditor Alan Panter had presented the report to a subset of DDA board members at a Nov. 30 meeting of the DDA’s operations committee.

The report notes an instance of expenditures exceeding the amount of funds appropriated that is inconsistent with Michigan’s Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act (UBAA) of 1968. At Wednesday’s meeting, DDA board members characterized it as a “technical violation.” At the operations committee meeting, the $337,478 overage was attributed by DDA staff to the submission of a bill forwarded to the DDA in June by its construction management consultant (Park Avenue Consultants Inc.) – connected to the underground parking garage and streetscape improvement projects currently under construction.

For the fiscal year 2011, the DDA showed $18,806,765 in revenues against $20,796,665 in expenses, drawing $1,989,900 from the fund balance reserve. The planned draw on fund balance is related to the underground parking garage construction payments as well as a new contract, signed this year, under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system. That contract assigns 17% of gross parking revenues to the city of Ann Arbor. At the Nov. 30 committee meeting, DDA board member Newcombe Clark was keen to confirm the inclusion of the new contract as a note in the audit.

In his presentation to the operations committee on Nov. 30, Panter highlighted the fund balance reserve for the parking fund as a concern, saying that the fund was near deficit – it shows a fund balance reserve of less than 1% of operating expenses. A recommended fund balance level, said Panter, is 15-20%.

Another still outstanding issue for the DDA’s finances is the correct interpretation of the city’s ordinance (Chapter 7) specifying how the DDA tax increment finance (TIF) capture works. At Wednesday’s meeting, the board held its third closed session on the topic since July, to discuss the written opinion of its legal counsel on the issue. Taxing authorities that have their taxes captured under the Ann Arbor DDA TIF district have questioned the DDA’s legal position – the DDA contends that Chapter 7 does not place limits on its TIF capture. Depending on how the issue is resolved, it could mean as much as $600,000 less per year in TIF capture, compared with the budget planning the DDA is currently doing.

Also at the Dec. 7 meeting, during the opportunity for public commentary, the DDA board heard from Jim Kosteva –University of Michigan director of community relations – about a request to eliminate two on-street parking spaces on Monroe Street. With the imminent opening of the newly constructed South Hall, on the south side of Monroe, it’s anticipated that students will attempt to cross mid-block. The elimination of the parking spaces would be intended to make students who are crossing mid-block more visible to motorists. Based on the verbal exchange with Kosteva at the podium, it appears possible, but not guaranteed, that some kind of arrangement could be reached before the start of the next semester. [Full Story]

Column: Ann Arbor’s Monroe (Street) Doctrine

On the northeast corner at the intersection of State and Hill streets in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan’s Weill Hall stands majestically as a landmark building, establishing the southwest corner of the UM campus.

Monroe Street University of Michigan Law School

Looking east down Monroe Street, across State Street. This section of Monroe Street is flanked by two University of Michigan law school buildings: Hutchins Hall to the north, and South Hall. (Photos by the writer. )

Following State Street north up the hill towards downtown will lead you to the intersection with Monroe Street. Turn right on Monroe, and you’ll wind up at Dominick’s, a local watering hole, majestic in its own right.

One parking option for patrons of Dominick’s is that first block of Monroe Street east of State. And what better topic to discuss over a pitcher of beer, sitting at a Dominick’s picnic table, than Ann Arbor parking rates. How much should it cost to use an on-street parking space on Monroe in that one block between State and Oakland?

Here’s a different question: How much for the whole damn block? I don’t mean just the parking spaces. I mean the whole right-of-way.

That question is part of a current conversation among public officials from the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. The university is not interested in parking cars on that block. In fact, it’s the university’s desire that the thoroughfare be blocked to vehicular traffic. Permanently.

By tackling this topic, I’d like to achieve a two-fold purpose. First, I’d like to promote the daylighting of conversations now taking place out of public view. Second, I’d like to provide a rational way to approach calculating the value of city right-of-way, specifically in the general context of city-university relations.

Otherwise put, I’d like to sketch out a kind of Monroe Doctrine for Ann Arbor, which might in some ways mirror the message in the original Monroe Doctrine, set forth by President James Monroe in his address to Congress, on Dec. 2, 1823.

I’m not going to suggest including the part that talks about when “our rights are invaded or seriously menaced …” [Full Story]

Monroe Street Fair: Temporary Street Closing

Inadvertently omitted from the report on the last city council meeting was a resolution authorizing the closing of Monroe Street between Oakland and Tappan Avenue for the Monroe Street Fair. The fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 2009. This is a section of the street that runs directly in front of Dominick’s. [Full Story]

Expansion of Campus onto Monroe Street?

Monroe Street Vacation

Sketch of the proposed Monroe Street closure. About this sketch, planning commissioner Eppie Potts remarked that it showed only university property and that it appeared that nothing else existed around it. She said that when the proposal came formally before the commission, it would need to include surrounding properties.

At planning commission’s working session on Tuesday night, held in the 6th floor conference room of the Larcom Building, representatives of the University of Michigan described a request for permanent closure of Monroe Street, between Oakland and State streets. Previously, The Chronicle covered the proposed Monroe Street closure as part of UM’s early December 2008 meeting with neighbors, which is now required under the city of Ann Arbor’s citizen participation ordinance.

Sue Gott, university planner, and Jim Kosteva, director of community relations, made the presentation to the commission’s working session for the permanent street closure, which would not come before the commission as a formal request until April 21 at the soonest, according to Connie Pulcipher, senior planner with the city of Ann Arbor, who attended the working session. [Full Story]

UM Pitches Plan to Close Monroe Street

proposed area

Yellow: new law school building to be constructed in place of surface parking. Blue: student commons to be renovated. Monroe Street is the road just north of the new law school building. (Click image for larger view.)

Glimpsing through the door of room 116 of Hutchins Hall at UM Law School on Tuesday evening, The Chronicle could see what seemed like a late-evening class in session. Not sure of the room number we wanted, it was with some caution that we nosed further into the room. Ah. The familiar faces of Tony Derezinski, newly elected Ann Arbor city council representative of Ward 2, and Dave … [Full Story]