Stories indexed with the term ‘parking meters’

DDA OKs Development Grant, Parking Leases

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (June 6, 2012): The board’s action items this month covered both of the DDA’s functions – as the administrator of tax increment finance (TIF) revenues within its geographic district, as well as the manager of the city’s parking system.

Ann Arbor Public Parking System

Excerpt from a Chronicle chart constructed with DDA parking data from the Ann Arbor public parking system. The vertical scale represents hourly patrons per parking space in a given parking facility. The lines correspond to four facilities in the system: Maynard, Liberty Square, Fourth & Washington, and Huron/Ashley. Pop quiz: Which line corresponds to which facility? Answer in the full report.

On the TIF side, the board first adopted a formal policy to guide its allocation of grants to new private developments. The board then acted to authorize a $650,000 TIF-capture-based grant to the 618 S. Main project. The policy applies to developments that are seeking to leverage support from the state’s brownfield and Community Revitalization Program, or other matching programs.

Highlights of that policy include a priority ranking of benefits that a development must offer. At the top of that list: A requirement that the project fills a gap in the existing market. The DDA board concluded that the 618 S. Main project filled such a gap – by targeting residential space for young professionals. The $650,000 would be distributed over four years, with the amount in any one year not to exceed the estimated $250,000 in TIF capture that would ordinarily be retained by the DDA as a result of the completed construction.

The board was interested in achieving a unanimous vote of support for the 618 S. Main grant, and not all board members agreed with covering bank carrying costs and the full amount of streetscape improvements. So the $650,000 reflected a reduction from a $725,000 grant in the original resolution before the board.

On the parking side of the DDA’s responsibilities, routine business was mixed with issues involving the imminent opening of a new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue. In the routine category was the board’s authorization of three-year leases for two properties from companies controlled by First Martin Corp., which the DDA manages as surface parking lots – at Huron/Ashley and Huron/First. Per space, the Huron/Ashley lot generates more revenue per month than any of the other public parking facilities in the city.

The board was also presented with a demand-management strategy for encouraging the use of the new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue, which is scheduled to open in mid-July. Highlights of that strategy include a reduced rate for monthly permits of $95/month – a $50/month savings over the $145/month rate set to take effect in September this year, and a $60 savings over the extra increase that the DDA is planning for two structures. The special $95/month permits are available only to current holders of permits in two other parking structures in the system: Liberty Square and Maynard Street. The DDA wants to free up spaces in those two structures for people who do not hold permits, and pay the hourly rate instead.

The DDA board also heard public commentary from advocates for some kind of public park to be constructed on top of the new underground parking structure – instead of using the space for additional surface parking, with the eventual possibility of allowing development of a significantly-sized building there.

In the board’s final action item, routine adjustments were made to the current fiscal year’s budget in order to assure that actual expenses did not exceed budgeted revenues for any of the DDA’s four funds. Last year, the routine adjustment did not adequately cover construction invoices that arrived after the final budget adjustment, something that was pointed out in the DDA’s audit for that year. [Full Story]

Council: Art Key to Ann Arbor’s Identity

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Dec. 21, 2009) Part I: Ann Arbor’s city council meeting lasted past midnight, as the council concluded the evening with a closed session on labor negotiations. The apparent focus of that closed session was the possibility that an agreement could yet be struck with the firefighter’s union that would prevent the layoff of firefighters who’ve already received letters of termination that would end their service to the city on Jan. 4, 2010.

public art line up for public hearings

Members of the public line up for the public hearing on the Percent for Art program. (Photos by the writer)

What pushed the council meeting into the wee hours, however, were the topics of art and parking.

Several members of council backed off their previous support for a reduction in public art funding. The Percent for Art program was left at its full funding level. The council also approved a contract for management services for the Dreiseitl art project to be installed as a part of the new municipal center – amid legal concerns raised by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Also, the council ultimately approved a heavily amended version of a resolution on parking that Sandi Smith (Ward 1) had added to the agenda on the previous Friday, which left the intent of two key “Resolved” clauses largely intact: (i) the city will get revenues from a surface parking lot, and (ii) the city’s plan to install its own meters has been braked indefinitely. A third clause that would have extended downtown meter enforcement to 10 p.m. was swapped out in favor of one that is less specific.

The council attended to a variety of other matters, including its new committee organization, authorization of purchases connected to single stream recycling, and acceptance of an energy grant. Councilmembers and the city administrator also made robust use of the communications section of the agenda to provide status updates on their recent work.

In Part I of our council report, we focus on art and parking. [Full Story]

City-DDA Parking Deal Possible

At the Dec. 16 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee, DDA board member Sandi Smith previewed a city council resolution on parking she said she expected would be on the Dec. 21 city council agenda. Smith also serves on the city council.

Ann Arbor parking meter

Ann Arbor parking meters are currently enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday. (Photo by the writer.)

Key elements of the draft resolution that Smith shared with fellow DDA board members included: (i) net revenues from the Fifth and William (old YMCA) lot would go into city rather than DDA coffers, (ii) downtown parking meters would operate and be enforced until 10 p.m., which is later than their current cutoff of 6 p.m., and (iii) the city would discontinue its plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near the downtown.

The city’s plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near downtown was formulated as part of the city’s FY 2010 budget (the current fiscal year), but implementation was not immediate. Reference to the city’s installation of “its own meters” alludes to the fact that the DDA manages the public parking system via an agreement with the city – the new meters would not fall under that agreement.

Although the specific wording of the draft differed in parts from the resolution that was added to council’s agenda on Friday, the key points remained.

Within hours of its appearance on the agenda, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce had sent a memo to city councilmembers asking for postponement of the resolution.

Smith’s resolution puts one question that’s been simmering for nearly a year closer to the front burner: Will the parking agreement between the city and the DDA be renegotiated as part of the FY 2011 budget? [Full Story]

Council Acts on Greenbelt, Housing

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Dec. 7, 2009) Part II: In Part I of the council report, The Chronicle covered a resolution regarding the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP), the Percent for Art program, and budget issues, including a possible 3% across-the-board wage cut and firefighter layoffs.

Christopher Taylor

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) at the start of the meeting, clearly thinking outside the box. (Photos by the writer.)

Councilmembers spent considerable time on those topics, during a meeting that lasted until nearly midnight. But they also acted on a range of other items – Part II of this council report will focus on that remaining part of the agenda.

Two items were postponed – the appointment of council members to various committees, and a resolution to buy new parking meters for Wall Street. The council, with no discussion, also sent the area, height and placement (AHP) project back to the planning commission for further consideration.

Several funding requests were approved, including the purchase of new accounting software, two greenbelt acquisitions and funds for remodeling the city’s 911 dispatch center to accommodate co-location with Washtenaw County’s dispatch center. Council also signed off on additional funds for a Buhr Park ice rink project.

Affordable housing issues came up in two different ways. Councilmembers approved a resolution exempting eligible nonprofit housing providers, such as Avalon Housing, from paying property taxes for up to two years. Council also passed a resolution supporting the efforts of the University of Michigan’s Inter-Cooperative Council to secure federal funding.

At the end of the meeting, council went into closed session to discuss a pending lawsuit the city faces over the underground parking garage next to the Library Lot. When they emerged, they authorized action recommended by the city attorney.

Finally, long-time Pioneer track coach Don Sleeman was honored – over the years, his work has touched the lives of several people connected to city hall. [Full Story]

Zoning, Design Guides on Council’s Agenda

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday Caucus (Nov. 15, 2009): Around two dozen residents came to city council chambers Sunday night to convey their thoughts on two major planning issues on the city council’s agenda for Monday.

two women leaning over a drawing discussing it

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) confirms with an Ann Arbor resident at the city council's Sunday caucus that the map she's sketched reflects accurately the block bounded by Huron, State, Washington, and Division streets. In the background, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). (Photo by the writer.)

The downtown zoning ordinance package – known as A2D2, which the council has approved on two prior occasions at a “first reading” – will be given a public hearing, with a vote also scheduled for Monday night. In addition, the downtown design guidelines will have its public hearing continued, which started on Oct. 5. No vote on design guidelines is scheduled for Monday.

Also receiving discussion at caucus were the six projects that were submitted before last Friday’s Nov. 13 deadline, in response to the city’s request for proposals to use the space on top of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage.

Also the council’s agenda, but not receiving discussion among councilmembers who attended the caucus, is the council’s formal acceptance of the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP) from the city’s environmental commission – but not the plan’s recommendations related to Argo Dam.

And a consent agenda item that requests funds to purchase additional electronic parking meter equipment contains in its description a plan to install meters in new areas that have not been previously identified.

Finally, there’s a whole new category of item on Monday’s agenda – a category that raises questions. [Full Story]

Mandatory Process Likely for Design Guides

over the shoulder shot of someone reading a newspaper with the headline How Michigan can find  billions for the budget

While state Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-District 53) addressed the Ann Arbor city council, laying out the budget situation in Lansing, a meeting attendee read the Detroit Free Press editorial: "How Michigan can find billions for the budget." (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 5, 2009): State Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-District 53) addressed the city council at the start of the meeting, bringing the council up to date on the state budget that had passed, but which she’d voted against. Over the next year, there will be $1.16 million less in  revenue sharing paid to the city of Ann Arbor, starting with an October check that will be around $200,000 less than last year. This outcome is on the optimistic end of the projected range provided to the city council several weeks ago by Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer.

Before the public hearing began on the proposed new building design guidelines for downtown, Mayor John Hieftje indicated his and other councilmembers’ strong preference for a set of guidelines that were integrated into a required process as a part of a project review. So the several members of the public who spoke on the issue knew there was support on council for their view.

And University of Michigan student life was a part of the meeting in several ways – seen and unseen. The seen part included students who spoke against recent increased ordinance enforcement activity in the Hoover Street area on homecoming weekend. They announced a protest march.

The unseen part included an item stricken from the agenda that would have allowed the city to generate revenue from parking cars in Frisinger Park on home football Saturdays. And it included a closed session on a lawsuit stemming from the tasering of a UM student by Ann Arbor police in 2005. The incident arose out of the student’s arrest for having an open container of alcohol. A recent opinion from the U.S. District Court (Eastern Division) on a motion from the city for summary judgment found that the police officer was entitled to qualified immunity on the first application of the taser, but not on the second. [Full Story]

Budget Deliberations Focus on Small Items

Doodle showing comparison of Project Grow versus Police Discussion

Doodle by city council meeting audience member showing comparison of Project Grow versus police discussion. "Time spent on Project Grow – $7,000; On cops – $6.8 million."

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting (May 18, 2009): Ann Arbor’s city council approved the budget for fiscal year 2010 at its Monday meeting, spending little time discussing a separate resolution key to that budget, which approved an early-retirement inducement for police officers involving a one-time payment of around $6 million – depending on how many officers take advantage of the incentive.

The fact of the lengthy discussion over much smaller items was acknowledged around the council table, with councilmember Sandi Smith (Ward 1) making a note of it when she made an unsuccessful bid to eliminate or delay the introduction of parking meters into near-downtown residential neighborhoods. Smith was comparing the relatively short discussion of parking meters (involving potential additional revenues of $380,000) to the previous deliberations on Project Grow’s funding. And in the course of the more than 45-minute deliberations on Project Grow’s $7,000 grant, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) noted: “The least expensive ones are the ones we fight the hardest over.” Briere lost her fight for the community gardening nonprofit.

The approved budget did include amendments to allocate funds for the Leslie Science and Nature Center. Also related to the budget, the two resolutions to approve fee adjustments for the community services and public services areas were approved with no deliberations by council, leaving the issues raised at the previous night’s caucus by the chair of the market commission undiscussed publicly.

In other budget business, city council passed a resolution to create a taskforce to study options for the Ann Arbor Senior Center, which is slated for closure under the FY 2011 budget plan (i.e., not the budget approved by council at this meeting).

Council also approved an extension to the purchase-option agreement with Village Green for the First and Washington parcel, gave final approval to a completely new liquor ordinance, approved increased water/sewer rates, approved grant applications for multiple properties under the greenbelt program, and asked planning commission to review the C3 zoning regulations regarding the kind of temporary outdoor sales conducted in previous years at the Westgate farmers market.

The funding of the north-south connector study was again postponed, pending coordination with the Downtown Development Authority. [Full Story]

Senior Center Could Be Cut as Population Ages

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (May 17, 2009): At its Sunday night caucus, city council heard from several residents, many of them opposed to the closing of the senior center in FY 2011. They also heard from the chair of the city’s market advisory commission, expressing that body’s opposition to proposed fee increases for farmers market stall rental. Opposition to the plan to introduce parking meters in residential areas close to the downtown was also well represented.

Also related to parking, the author of a recent letter from the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, which raised the possibility of an environmental lawsuit based on the planned underground parking structure, came to caucus to respond to any questions councilmembers might have. And the developer for City Apartments, a residential and parking project approved for the First and Washington site, attended caucus to ask for an extension to the option agreement.

In the course of the evening’s conversation, council heard again the criticism from a resident that the focus on smaller budget items costing as little as $7,000 distracted from the focus on the bigger picture.

Councilmembers had no issues among themselves they wanted to discuss publicly at caucus. [Full Story]

DDA to City on Meters: We’re Skeptical

Downtown Development Authority board meeting (May 6, 2009): At its regular Wednesday meeting, the DDA board passed a resolution expressing skepticism about a new city plan aimed to generate an additional $380,000 in parking revenue. The plan, which was introduced to the board by Mike Bergren and Pat Cawley of the city, would achieve the additional revenue by installing more parking meters in residential areas adjoining downtown.

The resolution was amended in a way that, for the time being, headed off a direct confrontation between the DDA and the city over control of DDA dollars.

Another theme running through multiple parts of the meeting – including a discussion among interested parties afterward – was the issue of access to data, and the use of technology to share information.

In other business, the board heard a presentation on a city pilot plan to install automated trash cans in the downtown area, plus heard the usual reports from its subcommittees, including one from the operations committee that portrayed the DDA’s finances still in good order, despite the gloomy economy. [Full Story]

Where People Park Their Stickers

This is actually one of the tamer stickers

This sticker will soon be removed from a metal coin collection bin that's due for a paint job.

A couple of weeks ago, The Chronicle ran into Cheryl Clifton and Jim Musser walking along Liberty Street near Ashley. They work for Republic Parking as meter collectors – you’ve probably  seen them making the rounds as they transfer coins from the city’s 1,900 or so parking meters into portable metal collection bins.

What they also transfer, it turns out, are stickers. Namely, stickers that people affix to parking meters. Rather than throwing them away, Clifton and Musser (and others who’ve done this job previously) have slapped them onto the 21 collection bins. The day we chatted, the bin they were using had stencil-style stickers of a smiling Ronald Reagan. Apparently, it’s one of the tamer ones they’ve come across. [Full Story]

E-Park Stations to Replace Parking Meters

Parking space markers

It's not the final design, but something like this will replace parking meters. Parkers will need to remember their space number so that they can enter it at the E-Park station where payment will be made.

On Wednesday morning, the Downtown Development Authority board operations committee got an update on the new parking payment kiosks which will soon begin replacing downtown Ann Arbor parking meters. The plan to install the devices, which will allow flexibility for payment and for rate-setting, has been reported in The Chronicle at least as long ago as last October.

The bases of the existing meters will remain in place, but they’ll be decapitated, with the coin receptacle to be replaced with a sign indicating a number for each parking space. The numbers are needed when parkers pay for their spaces.

On Wednesday, Joe Morehouse, deputy director of the DDA, said that the first of 25 units will be shipped on April 1 for deployment in the State Street and Liberty Street area. The 25 units represent an initial phase of assessment, with the idea that as many as 150-175 of these “smart meters” could eventually be installed. [Full Story]