Stories indexed with the term ‘sidewalks’

Council Acts on Infrastructure Items

The Ann Arbor city council’s July 21, 2014 meeting featured action on a raft of infrastructure items – from street and sidewalk construction and bridge inspections to the purchase of pumps for the wastewater treatment facility.

The council approved a $1,537,608 construction contract with Bailey Excavating Inc. for the Springwater subdivision improvements project. That work will cover the reconstruction of streets and some utilities – on Butternut Street from Cardinal Avenue to Springbrook Avenue, and Nordman Avenue from Packard Road to Redwood Avenue.

Funding for the project will be drawn from the street millage fund ($883,316), stormwater fund ($903,065), and drinking water funds ($489,574) for a total project cost of $2,275,955.

Funding from the drinking water and stormwater funds is based on the … [Full Story]

July 7, 2014: Council Live Updates

Editor’s note: This “Live Updates” coverage of the Ann Arbor city council’s July 7, 2014 meeting includes all the material from an earlier preview article published last week. The intent is to facilitate easier navigation from the live updates section to background material already in this file.

The Ann Arbor city council’s first meeting of the fiscal year is also the next-to-last one before the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections for city council and mayor.

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber, installed in the summer of 2013, includes Braille.

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber includes Braille.

A month before the dog days actually begin, the council will be considering as part of its July 7 agenda a resolution that would pay Washtenaw County $135,570 for animal control services. The county in turn contracts with the Humane Society of Huron Valley for those services. This is a new arrangement, based on recommendations from a 2012 county task force. The idea is that local governments in the county with their own dog licensing programs, which generate revenue through licensing, should shoulder part of the cost of the county’s animal control contract. Ann Arbor has its own dog licensing program.

The July 7 agenda is heavy with items related to infrastructure. Three special assessments for the construction of new sidewalks are on the agenda for final approval: Stone School Road, Barton Drive and Scio Church Road. And the council will be considering approval of contracts for street repair associated with utilities work, the replacement of a clarifier at the drinking water treatment plan, the replacement of liners for the swimming pools at Buhr and Fuller parks, and for monitoring work at the now-dormant Ann Arbor city landfill.

Several development items also appear on the July 7 agenda. The rezoning of three Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC) properties will be given final consideration in connection with major renovations and improvements the commission is making to its inventory – at Baker Commons, Green/Baxter Court Apartments, and Maple Meadows. Initial approval for rezoning of another AAHC property is also on the council’s agenda: North Maple Estates.

In addition to the AAHC properties, the council will consider rezoning for parcels on Research Park Drive, in the southern part of the city, and a site plan for the expansion of Rudolf Steiner High School on the city’s north side.

The council will give initial consideration to changes in the ordinance that defines how city boards and commissions are appointed – changes that focus on the environmental commission. The changes involve clarifications of the nomination process and other housekeeping issues. The council will also consider confirmation of three appointments to the environmental commission: Allison Skinner, Benjamin Muth and Mark Clevey.

The summertime theme of the agenda is reflected in the approval of temporary outdoor sales and consumption of alcohol for several downtown businesses during the art fairs, which run from July 16-19. A permanent liquor license for Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse also appears on the council’s agenda. The theme of transition from summer to fall is reflected on the council’s July 7 agenda in the set of street closing approvals, which include closings around the University of Michigan stadium for home football games.

This article includes a more detailed preview of many of these agenda items. More details on other agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. The meeting proceedings can be followed Monday evening live on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network starting at 7 p.m.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article below the preview material. Click here to skip the preview section and go directly to the live updates. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Four Sidewalk Projects Move Forward

Four different special-assessed sidewalk construction projects appeared on the Ann Arbor city council’s June 16, 2014 agenda: Two public hearings were held, for projects on Scio Church and Barton Drive. In addition, two resolutions were approved, setting public hearings for future meetings – for Pontiac Trail on July 21 and Stone School Road on July 7.

The Pontiac Trail project was the subject of two agenda items – one to direct the assessor to prepare an assessment roll, and another to set a public hearing on the special assessment for July 21. The assessable cost is $72,218. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, sidewalk construction would be done as part of the reconstruction of Pontiac Trail beginning just north of … [Full Story]

Newport Road at Riverwood

Critically needed roadwork is slowly starting as the “sidewalk gap” gets filled first. Trees previously flagged for removal in green have new red X’s today. [photo 1] Several previously unmarked trees have red X’s as the sidewalk area gets flagged, including an otherwise healthy tree that provides shade and seating at the bus stop. [photo 2] Yet no red or green could be found on the tree held up by phone lines. [photo 3]

[photo 4] is looking north on Newport at corner of Riverwood. Drainage from Riverwood to Alexandria is almost non-existent as the road levels out. We have not gotten any word as to what will be done to improve that when the sidewalks will add more impervious area uphill. We also have gotten no information on when the actual roadwork will start. The tree held up by phone lines is right over the edge of our property line at 2053 Newport. We think it may have started as a city tree but now leans back far enough to not look like it is.

Ann Arbor OKs Sidewalk Design, Construction

Approval of a design contract for two stretches of new sidewalk in two parts of the city – Barton Drive and Scio Church Road – has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council. Also approved at the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting was a $30,000 budget allocation for the construction of a sidewalk as part of the Ann Arbor-Saline road reconstruction project.

As part of a contract to design urgent repairs to the sanitary sewer pipes and structures in Huron Street near the intersections of Glen Street and Zina Pitcher, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc. was tapped to provide the designs for two sidewalk projects that could ultimately result in special assessments for adjoining property owners.

By way of background, … [Full Story]

Liberty near Seventh

It is annoying when someone clears their drive but ignores the sidewalk. It is really a problem when they clear the drive and throw up more obstacles for pedestrians. If I had hired this snow removal firm, I would be firing them. [photo] It was even worse earlier, before walkers had climbed over the snow boulders to try and pass safely.

Aug. 8, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: Final

The Ann Arbor city council’s meeting on Thursday – shifted from its usual Monday slot due to the Democratic primary elections held on Tuesday – marks the beginning of a transition. After serving 14 years on the city council, Marcia Higgins will represent Ward 4 for just seven more meetings, counting Thursday. Jack Eaton prevailed on Tuesday and will be the Ward 4 Democratic nominee on the Nov. 5 ballot. He is unopposed.

New sign on door to Ann Arbor city council chamber

The new sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber, installed in the summer of 2013, includes Braille.

The council’s agenda for Thursday includes a relatively uncontroversial downtown development project. It’s also dominated by several items that relate to the way people move around inside the city. Some other agenda items relate to land outside the city.

Four different items appear on the council’s agenda related to developer Tom Fitzsimmons’ Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development proposed for the site of the former Greek Orthodox church on North Main Street. Nestled between Main Street on the west and Fourth Avenue on the east, the project is divided into two pieces – the Main Street frontage and Fourth Avenue frontage. Each piece of the project includes a rezoning request and a site plan proposal – and each of those constitutes an agenda item unto itself. The rezoning requested is from PUD (planned unit development) to D2 (downtown interface).

Three items relate to a piece of infrastructure closely associated with people walking as a way to get around town – sidewalks. Two resolutions involve the acceptance by the city of easements for sidewalks – one as part of a mid-block cut-through for The Varsity, a residential high-rise downtown, and the other in connection with a Safe Routes to School project near Clague Middle School on the city’s northwest side. Another sidewalk on the agenda with a school-related theme is a request for the council to approve a $10,000 design budget for about 160 feet of new sidewalk near King Elementary School, which would allow for a mid-block crosswalk to be moved to a four-way stop intersection.

More people might be able to get around the downtown and University of Michigan campus area by bicycle – if the council approves the use of $150,000 from the alternative transportation fund as requested on Thursday’s agenda. The money would provide the local match on a $600,000 federal grant obtained by the Clean Energy Coalition to establish a bike-sharing program through B-Cycle.

Getting around inside the city this fall will include the annual wrinkles due to University of Michigan move-in – and those traffic control measures are included in the council’s consent agenda. New this year will be additional traffic controls around Michigan Stadium on football game days – including the closure of Main Street between Pauline and Stadium Blvd. for a period starting three hours before kickoff until the end of the game. At its Thursday meeting, the council will be asked to give approval of the football game day traffic controls.

In matters outside the city, the council will be asked to authorize the receipt of $202,370 from the Federal Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) to help the city purchase of development rights on land in Lodi Township, southwest of the city. That federal grant comes in connection with the city’s greenbelt program. The council will also be asked to confirm the nomination of John Ramsburgh to the greenbelt advisory commission.

Also on the council’s agenda is the extension of a contract for the city’s part-time public art administrator through the end of the year – to handle projects in the works at locations the Kingsley rain garden, East Stadium bridges, and Argo Cascades.

Added to the agenda late, on Tuesday, is a resolution that calls upon the state legislature to repeal Michigan’s version of a “stand your ground” law as well as to repeal legislation that prevents local municipalities from regulating the sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of firearms and ammunition. The agenda item comes in response to public commentary after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case was handed down in mid-July.

Details of other meeting agenda items are available on the city’s Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article “below the fold.” The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

July 15, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: Final

After its Monday, July 15, 2013 session, the Ann Arbor city council will depart from the more familiar rhythm of meeting every two weeks – by pausing 24 days before its next meeting on Aug. 8.

Door to Ann Arbor city council chambers

Door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber.

The longer-than-usual break stems from the regular meeting schedule, which actually calls for a meeting on the first and third Monday of the month, not every two weeks. The traditional shift from Monday to Thursday to accommodate the Tuesday, Aug. 6 Democratic primary will add three more days to the break.

Two councilmembers have primary challenges this year – incumbent Stephen Kunselman is competing with Julie Grand for the Democratic nomination in Ward 3; and incumbent Marcia Higgins is competing with Jack Eaton for the Ward 4 nomination.

At its last meeting before the Aug. 6 election, the council’s agenda is relatively full. Dominant themes cutting across several agenda items are concrete and water.

In the category of concrete, the council will be asked to approve $15,000 for the design of a section of sidewalk along Barton Drive. The council approved similar design budgets for a sidewalk on Newport Road at its Jan. 22, 2013 meeting and for a sidewalk on Scio Church Road on Nov. 19, 2012. The interest in having sidewalks was supported by petitions submitted by adjoining property owners.

The council will also be asked to accept some easements and the dedication of right-of-way near the intersection of Platt Road and Washtenaw Avenue – in connection with the Arbor Hills Crossing development, where construction is well underway. A sidewalk is to be built along Platt Road as part of the intersection work.

Sidewalks also appear in connection with an agenda item that would approve a $212,784 engineering services contract with CDM Smith Michigan. The contract covers design for a street reconstruction project in the Springwater subdivision, located southeast of Buhr Park, south of Packard Road. The work is scheduled for FY 2014-16, and includes the construction of new sidewalks.

The council will also be asked to approve a $965,990 contract with MacKenzie Co. for street reconstruction between South University Avenue and Hill Street on Forest Avenue. The scope of the project includes the reconstruction of sidewalk.

Adding to the concrete on the agenda is the $1,031,592 construction contract with Krull Construction to build a concrete skatepark at Veterans Memorial Park. Among the features of the skatepark will be pools and bowls.

Although they won’t be skate-able, bowls show up in another agenda item that asks the council to approve $216,000 for renovations of 13 restrooms in the old city hall building. The bathrooms are 50 years old.

In the category of water, the council will be asked to approve a $33,743 annual contract with the Huron River Watershed Council to assist in compliance with the city’s stormwater permit from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality. HRWC’s work includes public education efforts, water quality monitoring and reporting assistance.

Stormwater is also on the agenda in the form of a Stone School Road reconstruction project. Of the $4 million project total, $1.2 million of it involves stormwater work on the county drain north of Ellsworth Road between Varsity Drive and Stone School Road. The council will be asked to approve a petition to the office of the county water resources commissioner for a loan under the state’s revolving fund (SRF) program. If approved by the state, the loan repayment would come from the city’s stormwater fund.

A loan that’s already been secured through the SRF will pay for another item on the agenda – a $509,125 contract with Margolis Companies Inc. for the purchase and planting of trees, as well as stump removal along city streets. The stormwater fund is used for this work because of the positive impact trees have on stormwater runoff.

Water also shows up in a consent agenda item that asks the council to approve a $43,788 annual contract with the Ecology Center to give tours of the city’s materials recovery facility (MRF). The cost of the contract is split 60%-40% between the solid waste fund and the drinking water fund. The drinking water funding is related to a Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources requirement that the city engage in source water protection educational efforts.

Leftover business from the council’s July 1, 2013 meeting includes changes to the council’s rules and the approval of the State Street corridor plan. Rules changes include reductions in speaking times for public commentary as well as for councilmembers.

Details of other meeting agenda items are available on the city’s Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article “below the fold.” The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Sidewalk Issue Paused, Video Law Stopped

Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 1, 2013): In a meeting that featured land use and planning as a main theme, the council chose to put off final decisions on two significant issues.

A cross-lot path that leads from Roon the Ben in the Turnberry neighborhood to the ballfields for Scarlett-Mitchell schools. A pending ordinance change could eventually place responsibility for capital repairs on the city, but give homeowners the responsibility of shoveling snow.

A cross-lot path that leads from Roon the Ben in the Turnberry neighborhood to the ballfields for Scarlett-Mitchell schools. A pending ordinance change could eventually place responsibility for capital repairs on the city, but give adjacent property owners the responsibility of shoveling snow. (Photos by the writer.)

First, councilmembers postponed a decision on a change to the definition of “sidewalk” in the city code – which would have implications for the adjacent property owners of “cross-lot paths.” While the definitional change would allow the city to take responsibility for capital repairs on such cross-lot paths – using sidewalk repair millage funds – it would place the burden of winter snow shoveling on adjacent property owners.

That division of responsibility for repair and maintenance is one that’s now familiar to owners of property adjacent to sidewalks that run next to a road or a street. Given the number of open questions about how logistics would actually work, and concerns expressed during the public hearing on July 1 as well as at a previous public meeting on the topic, the council decided to postpone a final vote until Oct. 7, 2013.

Second, the council postponed a vote on adding the South State Street corridor plan to the city’s master plan, which consists of several separate documents. The city planning commission has already voted to adopt the corridor plan as part of the master plan. It’s one of the few issues on which the planning commission does not act just as an advisory body that makes recommendations to the council. For the master plan, the council and the planning commission must adopt the same plan. The postponement came in deference to a request from Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). The area of the study lies in Ward 4, which she represents.

Despite the postponement, the South State Street corridor plan still had an impact on a decision made by the council – to deny a rezoning request for the parcel at 2271 S. State St. The change in zoning would have allowed the parcel to be used for car sales. That use isn’t consistent with the recommendations in the corridor plan, and the planning commission had recommended against rezoning on that basis. Even though it was just the initial vote on the rezoning – an occasion when councilmembers sometimes will advance an ordinance change to a second reading in order to allow a public hearing to take place – the rezoning request got no support on the council.

In contrast, the initial rezoning requested for the Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development at the location of the former Greek Orthodox church on North Main Street – received unanimous approval at the council’s July 1 meeting.

Also related to land use, the council reconstituted a 12-member citizens advisory committee to study the R4C zoning area. The re-establishment of the group, which was originally appointed in 2009, comes after the planning commission had voted at its April 16, 2013 meeting to send recommendations to the city council for revisions to the R4C zoning areas. The recommended revisions were not the actual ordinance language. That language would need to be written after councilmembers sign off on the general recommendations. No action is expected by the council until the committee has met two or three times.

Another committee reconstituted by the council on July 1 was a group to sort through some contentious issues between the council and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The council has postponed until Sept. 3 a final decision on a change to Chapter 7 of the city code, which regulates the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture. The four councilmembers on the committee are: Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2). Two days later, at its regular monthly meeting, the DDA’s complement was appointed: Roger Hewitt, Bob Guenzel, Joan Lowenstein and Sandi Smith.

A proposed video privacy ordinance that was on the council’s July 1 agenda did not win sufficient support to advance to a second reading. The proposal would have regulated the way that public surveillance cameras could be used by local law enforcement officials. Although the vote was 5-4 in favor, that fell short of the six-vote majority it needed on the 11-member body. So the council voted down the video privacy ordinance on its initial consideration – having postponed the issue several times previously.

The council also decided to delay adoption of amendments to its own internal rules – out of deference to two councilmembers who were absent from the meeting: Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4). Highlights of the rule changes include the addition of a public commentary opportunity at council work sessions, and reduction in the time per turn for the public from three to two minutes. A change in councilmember speaking times equates to a reduction from eight minutes to five minutes total per item for each councilmember.

The council handled a number of other items during the meeting, including the adoption of the 2009 International Fire Code, a location change for the Ward 2 Precinct 8 polling place, approval of a special assessment to help pay for sidewalk and curb improvements along Miller Avenue, and confirmation of appointments to boards and commissions. [Full Story]

July 1, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: Final

Land use is frequently a dominant theme of Ann Arbor city council meetings – and the July 1, 2013 meeting agenda fits that pattern.

Door to Ann Arbor city council chambers

Door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber.

The council will be giving final consideration to an ordinance change that expands the definition of “sidewalk” – to include any sidewalks the city has formally accepted for public use. The change has implications for owners of property adjacent to several “cross-lot paths” in the city – which are on the meeting agenda for acceptance for public use.

One consequence of the definition change is that those property owners will not be responsible for the repair of those paths – because the paths will be eligible for sidewalk millage repair funds. But the adjacent property owners would become responsible for clearing snow from the paths.

Also related to land use on the meeting agenda are rezoning requests associated with two proposed developments. Up for an initial vote is the rezoning from PUD (planned unit development) to D2 (downtown interface) for the parcels on North Main and Fourth Avenue where Kerrytown Place is planned. The 18-unit townhouse development is much smaller than The Gallery, for which the PUD zoning had originally been approved.

Also up for initial consideration is a rezoning request for 2271 S. State St., where the owner would like to be able to sell automobiles. The planning commission recommended denial of that request, in part because that land use was not felt to be consistent with the draft South State Street corridor plan. At its July 1 meeting, the council will also be asked to adopt that corridor plan.

The re-establishment of a citizens advisory committee on changes to R4C zoning in the city also appears on the meeting agenda. The origins of that committee date back to 2009. The reconstitution of the 12-member committee comes as the planning commission has recommended changes to R4C zoning that the council will be weighing – to decide if ordinance language should be drafted to reflect those changes.

Another committee with its origins in 2009 is set to be reconstituted at the council’s July 1 meeting, but it’s not related to land use. The council will be asked to re-establish a “mutually beneficial” committee to work through recommendations to changes in the city ordinance that regulates the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture. The council has already given initial approval to some ordinance changes. Committee members will be working with their DDA counterparts with a two-month window of time – because the council has postponed final action on DDA ordinance changes until Sept. 3.

The council will also be asked to take an initial vote on a video privacy ordinance, having postponed that initial vote several times previously.

And finally, Ward 2 will not have a city council primary election a month from now, but it appears on the agenda in connection with polling places. The Precinct 2-8 polling location will be changed for all future elections to the First United Methodist Church on Green Road.

Details of other meeting agenda items are available on the city’s Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article “below the fold.” The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Planning Group Highlights Pedestrian Issues

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (June 18, 2013): The desire to make a proposed Hampton Inn more accessible to pedestrians and bicycles resulted in a unanimous vote by planning commissioners  to postpone the project, located on Jackson Avenue near Weber’s Inn.

Tony Derezinski, Eric Mahler, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Tony Derezinski and Eric Mahler attended their last meeting as planning commissioners on June 18. Mahler has been appointed to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Derezinski was not re-appointed to the commission, and is expected to be replaced by Jeremy Peters. Mahler’s replacement is Paras Parekh. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners had been asked to recommend approval of a “planned project” site plan, amended development agreement and modifications to the city’s landscaping requirements. This kind of project requires a public benefit, and commissioner Bonnie Bona argued strongly that the benefit should be a site that’s pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented. It’s especially important given Ann Arbor’s standing as one of the top 10 cities in the country for bicycle use, she said, and given that demand for pedestrian amenities will only increase. But as designed, sidewalks are an afterthought and their configuration within the site doesn’t make sense, Bona said. “There has got to be a better way.”

Bona said she couldn’t support this project unless the site plan addressed that design deficit. She proposed postponing it so that modifications could be explored, and other commissioners agreed – despite urging from the design team to recommend approval.

The meeting’s other main agenda item entailed adopting a master plan resolution and list of resource documents used to support the master plan. This is part of an annual evaluation of the master plan that’s required by the commission’s bylaws. Commissioners had held a public hearing on suggestions related to the master plan at their May 21, 2013.

Bona again brought forward a pedestrian-oriented issue, proposing to amend the list of resource documents to include the Allen Creek Greenway task force report from 2007. Commissioners unanimously approved that addition, along with two others: (1) the Downtown Vision and Policy Framework (known as the Calthorpe study), adopted in 2006; and (2) the Huron River Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP), as adopted in 2009. [.pdf of resource document list]

In other action, commissioners approved a work plan for the fiscal year starting July 1, identifying short-term as well as long-range projects. [.pdf of FY 2013-14 work plan] One high-priority project is the review of A2D2 zoning as directed by the city council, with a deadline of Oct. 1 to deliver recommendations to the council. The primary focus of that directive is the downtown D1-D2 zoning – especially in light of the controversial 413 E. Huron development, which the council recently approved. The plan is to bring in a consultant to manage that zoning review.

June 18 was the last meeting for planning commissioners Tony Derezinski and Eric Mahler. Mahler has been appointed to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, and attended his first board meeting for that group on June 20, 2013. Commissioners praised the two attorneys, citing their combination of practicality and forward thinking. “I feel like our ballast is leaving,” Bona said.

Mahler will be replaced by Paras Parekh, who was confirmed by the city council at its May 20, 2013 meeting. Parekh attended the planning commission’s June 18 meeting as an observer, and will be joining the group after July 1. Jeremy Peters has been nominated to replace Derezinski, and is expected to be confirmed by the council on July 1. Peters works in creative licensing and business affairs with Ghostly Songs. [Full Story]

Proposal for Scio Church Sidewalk on Agenda

Based on the preliminary online agenda for its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council might authorize a $15,000 budget at that meeting to study alternatives to filling a gap in the city’s sidewalk system along Scio Church Road. The area of study would extend from Maple Road to Delaware Drive. [.pdf of map showing area to be studied]

Around 75 residents submitted a petition to the city in August requesting that the lack of sidewalks along the stretch be addressed. Margie Teall (Ward 4), in whose ward the stretch is located, mentioned the lack of sidewalks along Scio Church during deliberations at the council’s Sept. 17, 2012 meeting. At that meeting the council considered, but rejected, a … [Full Story]

Public Art Rehashed by Ann Arbor Council

Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 7, 2012) Part 2: Public art was one of two highlighted themes of the council meeting, along with possible future additions to the park system. The future additions to public parks and open space are handled in Part 1 of this meeting report: “Council Parcels Out Tasks: Open Space.”

Left to right: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2)

Left to right: Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) are asking to be recognized to speak as Jane Lumm (Ward 2) gives her views on public art. (Photos by the writer.)

Public art was featured in two specific agenda items. One was a presentation of the annual public art plan given by Wiltrud Simbuerger, a member of the city’s public art commission. The council gave the presentation a basically positive reception.

But the second agenda item required a vote – on a $150,000 piece of art proposed by Ed Carpenter, to be hung in the lobby of the new Justice Center. The city’s public art commission had selected Carpenter from responses to a request for proposals. A vote on the artwork, a piece called “Radius,” had been postponed from the council’s April 2, 2012 meeting over concerns about public access to the Justice Center lobby, where the sculpture will be hung.

A nearly one-hour debate unfolded about the Carpenter piece, with the specific artwork serving as a kind of proxy for a rehash of previous council debates on the city’s Percent for Art ordinance. The ordinance requires that all city capital improvement projects include 1% for public art, up to a cap of $250,000 per capital project. For capital projects that aren’t suitable to have public art incorporated into them, the 1% is “pooled” for use in some other public art – which must be related to the purpose of the funding source. For example, the fountain outside the new Justice Center, designed by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, is funded with money pooled from 1% of some sanitary sewer projects, drinking water projects, and stormwater management projects.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) proposed an amendment that would have canceled Carpenter’s project and appropriated the art project funds to invest instead in the city hall building. That amendment failed, but piqued mayor John Hieftje into announcing that he’d be sponsoring a future resolution to take $50,000 from public art funds, and deposit that amount into the general fund. That move is susceptible to the same critique made by several councilmembers as well as the assistant city attorney against Lumm’s amendment: The public art ordinance prohibits transfer from public art funds to other funds. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) stated that he would be content for the council simply to violate that ordinance. Carpenter’s sculpture eventually was approved over the dissent of Kunselman and Lumm.

Besides public art, the council approved the city’s portion of the State/Ellsworth traffic roundabout project, which includes an improvement for a water main connection – to pipe water from a well on the property of Ann Arbor’s municipal airport to the city’s water treatment plant. The airport also made it onto the agenda in the form of a resolution that settled outstanding legal issues surrounding the construction of hangars on the property.

Prompting extended discussion by the council was a resolution that invalidates sidewalk occupancy permits for vendors in a specific area around Main Street between Huron and William, whenever Main Street is closed down for special events.

The council delayed action on a tax abatement for the battery technology company Sakti3, pending review by the city council’s budget committee. And the council authorized another five-year extension of its contract with Waste Management to haul the city’s trash to a landfill.

The council also heard its usual range of public commentary. The public hearing on the fiscal year 2013 budget enjoyed light participation. The council will vote on that budget, and any amendments, at its May 21 meeting. [Full Story]

Miller Avenue to Be Resurfaced and More

Potholes Along Maple Avenue in Ann Arbor

The poor condition of the pavement on Miller Avenue in Ann Arbor is the primary impetus behind the project, which could include many other improvements.

There was grumbling among some residents before the meeting even started: “They’re going to do what they’re going to do, it’s already a done deal.”

But the half-dozen city staffers who met with neighbors at Forsythe Middle School last Wednesday presented a variety of different options for how the resurfacing of Miller Avenue between Maple and Newport roads could be undertaken. Construction on the project could begin as soon as 2010, but far more likely is a 2011 start, according to project manager Nick Hutchinson, who’s a civil engineer with the city.

Some irritations from neighbors did surface in the course of the meeting. But reached by phone after the meeting, Hutchinson said he thought it was a healthy exchange and that the project team had been able to collect a lot of useful information. [Full Story]