Stories indexed with the term ‘public notice’

Column: Dear Historic District Commission

Dear members of the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission,

On behalf of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, I’m writing to encourage to you to take a specific step to help guarantee future public access to all of your meetings. This step would serve to make sure the deliberations and decisions of the HDC are fully open, transparent, and documentable by third parties like The Chronicle – as part of the independent public record of our city’s governance.

What prompts us to write is a recent occasion when HDC deliberations on an important decision, and the vote itself, were inadvertently shielded from public view.

The decision related to the Glen Ann Place project, located in the city’s Old Fourth Ward historic district. In 2007, the developer of the project and the city signed a consent agreement, in order to settle a lawsuit that had been filed against the city, when the HDC declined to give Glen Ann Place its approval.

On Nov. 30, 2010, the HDC convened a special meeting to consider extending the agreement. The Chronicle was aware that the special meeting would be taking place, pending the scheduling of a time when all HDC members could attend. And we had taken measures to ensure that we would be notified of the special meeting’s scheduling – some of those options are outlined in a recent column by’s lead blogger, Ed Vielmetti.

But despite our best active efforts, we did not find out about the special meeting time until after it had taken place. The outcome, we later learned, was a 5-2 vote in favor of the extension. We were not able to find out about the scheduled meeting time, because the city did not follow its own policies and procedures that are in place to ensure public access to meetings, and to ensure compliance with the Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA). The conclusion of our analysis is that the failure of the city to conform to its noticing requirements impaired the public’s rights under the act.

Of course, a court might not agree with us. Indeed, we’ve had recent experience challenging – with no success, at least initially – what we believe is a separate OMA violation, by the Ann Arbor city council. But on Wednesday last week, Judge Melinda Morris ruled that even though we had stated a claim, there was insufficient evidence filed in our initial complaint even to warrant further collection of evidence.

The situation with the Glen Ann Place special meeting does not have the same ramifications as the city council case that prompted our lawsuit, which we think likely involves problematic patterns and practice. The Glen Ann special meeting situation was clearly that – special and likely unique.

But in this case, we believe the HDC has the opportunity to undertake voluntarily a specific initiative that could serve as a model of openness and transparency for other boards and commissions of the city. [Full Story]

Heritage Row Likely to Need Super-Majority

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (June 7, 2010): Speculation that the vote on the Heritage Row project would be delayed was borne out on Monday night. Without discussion, the council postponed votes on the development’s rezoning and site plan until June 21.


Left in the frame, scanning through the protest petition documents, is Scott Munzel, legal counsel for Alex de Parry, developer of the Heritage Row project. De Parry is seated in the row behind with his arms resting on the bench back. In the foreground is Bradley Moore, architect for Heritage Row. (Photos by the writer.)

Councilmembers were also informed that a protest petition had been filed on Heritage Row Monday afternoon, which – once validated – would bump the requirement for approval from a simple six-vote majority to eight out of 11 council votes. Petition filers have calculated that they’ve collected signatures from 51% of adjoining property owners, weighted by land area. That exceeds the 20% required for a successful petition, but as of late Wednesday, the city had not completed its verification process for the signatures. [Update: Early Thursday afternoon, the city confirmed the 20% threshold had been met.]

In other business, the council approved increases in water and sewer rates and gave initial approval to changes in the city code language on the placement of recycling carts.

A wording change in the list of permissible uses for public land was also given initial approval, but not without discussion. Thematically related to land use was a presentation during the meeting’s concluding public commentary in response to a request for proposals (RFP) for the privatization of the city-owned Huron Hills golf course.

Also receiving discussion was an item pulled out of the consent agenda that authorized $75,000 for Ann Arbor SPARK, for economic development.

Criticism during public commentary on the appointment and nomination process used by the mayor to fill seats on boards and commissions stirred mayor John Hieftje to defend shielding individual members of those bodies from public demands.

Public commentary also elicited from Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 1) an update on the development of the Library Lot – he chairs the committee charged with overseeing the RFP process. [Full Story]

Caucus: Heritage Row, Public Notice, Grass

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (June 6, 2010): The council’s Sunday night caucus continued to draw little interest from the council itself, with only Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) attending.

The meeting, which is scheduled for the Sunday evening before Monday council meetings, is described on the city’s website as an opportunity “to discuss and gather information on issues that are or will be coming before them for consideration.”


Developer Alex de Parry hams it up with councilmembers Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) before the Sunday caucus got started. (Photo by the writer.)

Yesterday evening, what was on the minds of residents Ethel Potts, Tom Whitaker, Scott Munzel and Alex de Parry was an issue coming to the council for consideration today, Monday, June 7 – the Heritage Row project proposed for South Fifth Avenue, south of William Street. De Parry is the developer for that project and Munzel is legal counsel.

Kathy Griswold gave a report out from a recent meeting on the city’s urban forestry plan, which she had attended from the perspective of sight lines for traffic at intersections – vegetation can interfere with visibility.

During the discussion about vegetation on lawn extensions, John Floyd, who’s running for the Ward 5 seat currently occupied by Carsten Hohnke, arrived at the meeting. And Floyd was able to settle a point of good-natured disagreement on the status of corn as a grass. [Full Story]