Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 6, 2013 – May 6 session): Although the council did not take final action on many agenda items, it did complete eight public hearings and postponed some significant questions – before deciding to recess the meeting for a week. When the same meeting resumes on May 13, the first item to be confronted by the council is the site plan approval for the 413 E. Huron apartment project.
The council decided to suspend the proceedings around 11:30 p.m. – a different strategy than the one taken at the council’s April 15 meeting. On that occasion, councilmembers let the meeting continue until about 3 a.m. before deciding to end the session, postponing all remaining items until the next regular meeting on May 6.
At its May 6 meeting, the council voted unanimously to postpone until Sept. 3 one of the most controversial items on the agenda – revisions to the ordinance governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The most significant revision would clarify language from the original 1982 ordinance, which caps tax increment finance (TIF) revenue to the DDA. The clarifications would not allow for the kind of interpretation the DDA has given the ordinance for the last two years, which has resulted in no return of excess TIF to jurisdictions that have their taxes captured by the DDA.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) led off communications time early in the meeting by describing some further changes he was prepared to make to the DDA ordinance – which would earmark money to support affordable housing. During the public hearing on the ordinance changes, the council heard from speakers on both sides, including five members of the DDA board. A highlight was the apparent initial indication of a slightly moderated position by some opponents of the ordinance changes. The council’s relatively brief deliberations on postponement revealed only grudging support from some councilmembers for putting off the vote for four months. Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) made clear they did not support the proposed changes to the ordinance.
The council also postponed action on a revision to the city’s sign ordinance, which would allow only certain types of digital signs. The ordinance amendments would cap the total number of billboards in the city at 28 and allow them to remain in place as non-conforming signs. It would not allow for retrofitting any existing billboards with digital technology. The council has already given the ordinance initial approval, and will take up the issue again on June 17.
Another item postponed by the council was consideration of a video privacy ordinance, which has not yet been given initial approval. That will come back to the council’s May 20 meeting.
Receiving approval from the council was the site plan for Summit Townhomes, located on Ellsworth Road. The project has been working through the city’s review and approval process for more than a year.
The downtown section of Fourth Avenue was somewhat of a geographic highlight for the May 6 meeting. The council approved a $741,900 contract with E.T. MacKenzie Co. to make improvements on Fourth Avenue between Huron and Liberty streets this summer. And the council formally withdrew its objection to renewal of the liquor license for The Arena, a bar located at Washington and Fourth. The Arena finally paid back taxes, which led to the council’s vote – but not without complaint from some councilmembers.
Another highlight of the meeting was the general topic of appointments to city boards and commissions. A brief discussion of how appointments work was prompted by the observation during public commentary that none of the appointments are current for members of the downtown citizens advisory council. The city council put off voting to confirm Stephanie Buttrey’s appointment to the greenbelt advisory commission. And not reached on the agenda were nominations to replace Jesse Bernstein on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and Eric Mahler on the city planning commission – with Susan Baskett and Paras Parekh, respectively.