Stories indexed with the term ‘undgerground parking garage’

Council and Caucus: Pedestrian Agenda

 Looking west crosswalk of Liberty at Crest

The crosswalk on Liberty Street, looking west at Crest. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Aug. 16, 2009): Sunday evening’s lightly attended city council caucus reflected a light agenda for Monday. But light as that agenda is, it had not been published in the newspaper – as one caucus attendee pointed out to the three councilmembers present: Mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

Even though the agenda itself is dominated with items like perfunctory rezoning – pedestrian in the sense of “ordinary” –  there’s a presentation to be made at the start of the meeting by Sue McCormick, director of public services for the city, that should draw some community interest. She’ll be giving council an update on the East Stadium Bridge situation. The bridge needs to be repaired or replaced.

At caucus, then, residents and councilmembers were free to focus on some items not on Monday’s schedule. And one common theme cutting across two different resident concerns as well as council discussion were pedestrian issues – pedestrian in the sense of folks on foot.

In other brief discussion, councilmembers indicated, in response to a question, that they had not contemplated re-voting the issuance of bonds that would fund the underground parking garage. The legality of the council’s February vote authorizing the bonds has been challenged by a lawsuit filed last week, which contends that the council violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act on the evening it approved the bonds.

Also at caucus, councilmembers gave a public indication that they were contemplating possible council rules changes that would affect how email communications are handled during council meetings. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to Face Environmental Lawsuit?

In a letter to Ann Arbor’s mayor and city council, Noah Hall, executive director of the The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit, has raised the specter of an environmental lawsuit filed against the city of Ann Arbor. At issue is whether the city’s planned underground parking garage on Fifth Avenue violates the Michigan Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). The bond issuance for the project, for an amount not to exceed $55 million, was approved by city council at its Feb. 17, 2009 meeting. As of Friday, May 15, 2009, bonds have still not yet been issued, according to Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer. [text of Hall's letter]

Joining Hall as signatories to the letter are Henry L. Henderson (Natural Resources Defense Council), Stuart Batterman (environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan), David Yves Albouy (economics at the University of Michigan), Doug Cowherd (Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group), Tom Whitaker (Germantown Neighborhood Association), as well as two other Ann Arbor residents.

In an emailed response to The Chronicle reacting to a previous draft of Hall’s letter circulated two months ago (which covered substantially the same issues), Leigh Greden (Ward 3) stated: “A lawsuit alleging that the parking garage violates MEPA would be frivolous,” contending that the standard suggested by Hall would make any construction project non-compliant with the MEPA.

Still, based on background sources for The Chronicle,  the project has been slowed somewhat by the extra unknown of a lawsuit. We’ll track this dispute as it evolves, and will hopefully be able to gain some insight into any planned next steps from councilmembers at their Sunday night caucus.

Meanwhile, what exactly is the MEPA standard to which Hall appeals in his letter to the Ann Arbor city council? Two key aspects to consider in evaluating a MEPA claim are (i) standing, and (ii) cause. The first relates to those who are allowed to bring a suit in a MEPA case. [Full Story]

Underground Parking Garage Plans Reviewed

Last Friday afternoon in the sixth floor conference room of the Larcom Building, an aerial image of the block between Fifth and Division Streets was projected on the screen. The source of the image came from a computer in the back of the room, manned by Brad Ruppel, of the city’s land development review services. Throughout the meeting Ruppel zoomed, panned, toggled between mapping tools, and brought up various other images to support the back-and-forth between city staff and members of the project team for the South Fifth Avenue Underground Parking Garage and Street Improvement Site Plan. The meeting was an opportunity for city staff to explain what revisions to the plan would be required on resubmission, which is due on Sept. 24. [Full Story]