Stories indexed with the term ‘SEMCOG’

Grant Request in Works for Gallup Pathway

The Ann Arbor park advisory commission has recommended that the city apply for a grant to help renovate the Gallup Park pathway, which is part of the countywide Border-to-Border trail. The grant application is to the federal transportation alternatives program (TAP), which is administered in this region by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and statewide by the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT).

Gallup Park, Border to Border trail, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing location of trail improvements at Gallup Park. (Links to larger image.)

Funds would be used to renovate the path from the Geddes Dam at the east end of … [Full Story]

Regional Transit: Where Does Ann Arbor Fit?

An Ann Arbor city council work session held Oct. 14, 2013 provided a roundup of several transportation initiatives.

Regions of Transportation

Sub-regions on the national (blue), state (red) and local (green) scales were highlighted at the Ann Arbor city council’s Oct. 14, 2013 work session on regional transportation.  (Image by The Chronicle.)

The projects all fit into the general rubric of regional transportation – relative to different scales of the concept of “region.” Eli Cooper, the city of Ann Arbor transportation program manager, led off the session with some introductory remarks that framed the session in those terms – regions defined on a national, state and more local scale.

Nationally, Amtrak provides rail service between major cities like Chicago and Detroit. And it’s to support that service that the city of Ann Arbor is currently planning for a new or reconstructed Amtrak station. A contract for a required planning study, 80% of which is funded with a federal grant, appears on the council’s Oct. 21 agenda. [Legistar file 13-1128]

On a smaller regional scale, SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) is the lead organization for a possible new kind of future service on the same tracks as the Amtrak inter-city service: an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail service. That would be at least two years out, partly because no operating funds for the service have yet been identified. Those funds could eventually come from the nascent southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA), which could ask voters in a four-county region – Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne – to approve either a transit property tax or a vehicle registration fee dedicated to supporting transit.

On the smallest regional level, voters in member jurisdictions of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority could be asked as soon as May 2014 to approve additional transportation funding. The AAATA currently includes the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township – provided that the Ann Arbor city council approves the township’s membership at its Oct. 21 meeting. [Legistar file 13-1267]

As AAATA staff stressed at the Oct. 14 work session, the board of that organization has not yet made a decision to place a millage request in front of voters. If approved by voters, the additional funding – likely to be 0.7 mills – would be used to increase frequency and time of service in the local region.

Details about the service improvements are the subject of a series of public meetings, which is set to start this Thursday, Oct. 17 from 4-6 p.m. That first session takes place just before the AAATA board meeting at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to SEMCOG on Highways: No Thanks

A resolution opposing the proposed expansion of I-94 in Detroit and I-75 in Oakland County has been passed by the Ann Arbor city council. The council’s symbolic action came at its June 17, 2013 meeting. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners passed a similar resolution at its June 5, 2013 meeting. The interstate highway expansion is a part of SEMCOG’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan with an estimated cost of $4 billion.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]

Ann Arbor DDA Board Addresses Housing

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Sept. 5, 2012): The only agenda item requiring a vote by the board was a resolution encouraging the Ann Arbor city council to adopt a policy that would direct proceeds from the sale of city-owned land to support affordable housing. The mechanism for that support would be the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

Left to right: DDA board member Sandi Smith, Ann Arbor Housing Commission executive director Jennifer L. Hall, and DDA board chair Leah Gunn.

Left to right: DDA board member Sandi Smith, Ann Arbor Housing Commission executive director Jennifer L. Hall, and DDA board chair Leah Gunn. (Photos by the writer.)

And board members voted unanimously to support the resolution, which DDA board member Sandi Smith had brought forward. Smith, who also represents Ward 1 on the Ann Arbor city council, is planning to bring the policy resolution to the council for consideration at its Sept. 17 meeting.

DDA board members were positively inclined toward their own resolution, but sought to clarify that the “proceeds” meant net proceeds – that is, whatever is left after any debt associated with city-owned land is paid off. The loan for the city’s acquisition of the former YMCA lot, for example, still has a principal of $3.5 million associated with it. Smith indicated at the meeting that the resolution she brings to the council might involve the DDA forgoing the repayment on investments it has made in city-owned property – like interest payments on the former YMCA lot or the demolition costs associated with that property.

The board also made an amendment to the resolution during the meeting, adding the phrase “a percentage of [proceeds].” The change gives the council flexibility to adopt a policy that doesn’t require the entire amount of the net proceeds to be directed to the affordable housing trust fund.

At the Sept. 5 meeting, the board also heard a request from the executive director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, Jennifer L. Hall, for a $260,000 allocation from the DDA’s own housing fund. The DDA has a housing fund that’s not necessarily dedicated to affordable housing. But the request Hall was making was for Baker Commons, a public housing project located within the DDA’s geographic district, at Packard and Main. The money would primarily go toward replacing the roof with one made of metal.

The board also got its regular update on the parking system. The basic message: revenue is up, and usage is up. The board also had a look at the unaudited financial figures for the end of fiscal year 2012, which concluded on June 30. Except for capital expenses, which were less than budgeted, most categories were on target. The DDA had budgeted all expenses for the new Library Lane parking structure for that fiscal year, but not all invoices have come in yet.

The board was also updated on a possible change to the way that transportation planning and funding takes place in Washtenaw County. Discussions by the policy board of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) suggest the  possibility that Washtenaw County could form its own metropolitan planning organization (MPO). Currently, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), which includes a total of seven counties, serves as the MPO  for Washtenaw County. The change would affect how federal transportation funding is administered locally. [Full Story]

City Planners Preview SEMCOG Forecast

A widely used forecast of population, employment and other community indicators – prepared by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) – is being revised through 2040. At a working session on Tuesday, Ann Arbor planning commissioners were briefed on the preliminary results of that work, which will likely be finalized and released in March.

Wendy Rampson

Wendy Rampson, head of planning for the city of Ann Arbor, at the Ann Arbor planning commission's Jan. 10, 2012 working session. Behind her are students from Huron High School, who attended the meeting for a class assignment. (Photo by the writer.)

The forecast is used as a planning tool by local governments and regional organizations, and is updated every five years. A preliminary forecast from 2010-2020 has been distributed to communities in southeast Michigan, including Ann Arbor, to get feedback that will be used in making the final forecast through 2040. At a public forum in Ann Arbor last month, SEMCOG staff also presented an overview from its preliminary 2040 forecast for Washtenaw County.

For the county, the initial forecast shows the population growing from 344,791 in 2010 to 352,616 in 2020 – a 2.2% increase. By 2040, the county’s population is expected to reach 384,735, an increase of about 40,000 people from 2010.

The population in Ann Arbor is projected to stay essentially flat, while some of the county’s townships – including the townships of Augusta, Lima, Manchester, Saline and Superior – are expected to see double-digit growth.

Total employment for the county is expected to grow 20.6% through 2040, from 236,677 jobs in 2010 to 285,659 jobs in 2040. About 50% of all jobs in the county are located in Ann Arbor.

The forecast has implications for policy and planning decisions, including decisions related to transportation funding. For example, the forecast will form the basis for SEMCOG’s 2040 long-range transportation plan, which is expected to be released in June of 2013.

The transportation issue was highlighted during Tuesday’s planning commission meeting. And in a follow-up interview with The Chronicle, Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, expressed concerns that the forecast might underestimate population and household figures.

Cooper said he’s trying to ensure that SEMCOG has all the data it needs to inform good decision-making. For example, a list of recent and pending developments that SEMCOG is using doesn’t include some major new residential projects, he said, such as The Varsity Ann Arbor. [.pdf of development list used in SEMCOG draft forecast]

This forecast comes in the context of several major transportation projects that are being discussed within the county. That  includes a possible countywide transportation system and a potential high-capacity transit corridor in Ann Arbor that would run from Plymouth Road at US-23 through downtown Ann Arbor to State Street and southward to I-94.

The discussion at Tuesday’s working session centered primarily on SEMCOG’s draft forecast for Ann Arbor through 2020. The meeting covered other topics, including an update on the planning staff’s 2012 work plan. This report focuses on the SEMCOG forecast. [Full Story]

County Weighs Funding for Nonprofits, Dues

Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (Oct. 13, 2011): Supporters of the Humane Society of Huron Valley turned out to a special budget-focused working session on Thursday, urging county commissioners to maintain current funding levels for the nonprofit.

Supporters of the Humane Society of Huron Valley

Kate Murphy, left, and Anne Alatalo attended the county board's Oct. 13 working session to voice support for funding the Humane Society of Huron Valley. (Photos by the writer.)

HSHV, which is under contract with the county to provide state-mandated animal control services, is among several outside agencies that the county funds. The proposed two-year budget for 2012 and 2013 includes a total of $1.2 million in annual cuts to outside agencies – the county budget would drop HSHV’s annual funding from $500,000 to $250,000. HSHV’s current contract with the county ends on Dec. 31. Some commissioners expressed dismay, but indicated that in light of other pressing needs – like food and shelter for struggling families – the cuts to HSHV are appropriate.

The other outside agency item that received attention on Thursday was the county’s $125,000 membership with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, as well as $10,000 for water quality work provided by SEMCOG. Paul Tait, SEMCOG’s executive director, attended the meeting with two other staff members to answer questions and urge commissioners to retain their participation in the regional planning group. None of the six other counties who are part of SEMOG are withdrawing their membership, Tait said.

Several other budget cuts are proposed in this category, including a decrease in funding to the Delonis Center homeless shelter (from $160,000 to $25,000) and the Safe House domestic violence shelter (from $96,000 to $48,000). Money for the county’s coordinated funding of human services – targeting six priority areas, including housing and food – will drop by $128,538 (from $1,015,000 to $886,462).

But most of Thursday’s discussion by the board focused on the two areas that received attention during public commentary: SEMCOG and HSHV. In addition, Chuck Warpehoski, director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, spoke on behalf of 94 co-signers of a letter urging the county to continue funding human services.

The board will also hold a public hearing on the budget at its Oct. 19 meeting, and it’s likely that supporters from other groups will address the board at that time.

Setting the stage for the board’s discussion on Thursday, commissioners got a staff update on the need for basic assistance in the county. It was not encouraging news. [Full Story]

Infrastructure Outlook: “Train Wreck”

With revenues declining on several fronts and investments cut as a result, the infrastructure of southeast Michigan – its transit, water and sewer systems – is facing a “train wreck,” Washtenaw County commissioners were told at a recent working session.

A report from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, drafted by a task force on infrastructure led by county board chair Rolland Sizemore Jr., laid out steps that SEMCOG hopes to take to address the situation – including, most immediately, lobbying Lansing lawmakers to raise the state’s gas tax, which funds road construction and upkeep. The briefing prompted commissioner Jeff Irwin to express frustration at SEMCOG’s approach, which he indicated wasn’t bold enough to tackle the underlying problems that have fostered sprawl.

At their May 20 session, commissioners also got an update on what’s known as the Chevron project – a multi-year, multimillion-dollar effort to cut energy usage in county facilities. And staff of the county’s energy and economic development office asked for feedback from commissioners about what type of pilot project the county should pursue, as part of a recent federal energy grant. Some commissioners are leaning toward a solar photovoltaic installation.

The meeting also included a presentation by county administrator Verna McDaniel on a request for more funds to complete the county jail expansion and new 14A-1 District Court facility. The Chronicle covered that topic in a previous report. [Full Story]