<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> First Aug newsletter 2013

Sabra Briere

First Ward, City Council
995-3518 (home)
277-6578 (cell)

Coffee wakes some of us up

I hold office hours 7:30 to 9 am on Mondays at the Northside Grill. 

While I'm there, I meet with neighbors from all over our community to discuss the issues that concern them.  

The folks at the Northside put up with political talk early in the morning.  If you see me there, please wave, and if you have time, please, join me for coffee and a chat.  


The City Council holds a caucus meeting each Sunday prior to a Council meeting.  This meeting is an opportunity for members of Council to discuss agenda items -- and pending issues -- with each other in public view.  Members of the public are welcome to attend to bring issues to the attention of Council members.  Caucus is held in Council Chambers and starts at 7 pm.
I go to almost all Caucus meetings.


Dear Neighbors,

Just a couple of weeks ago we were complaining about the heat and worrying about storm water issues.  But the end of July and beginning of August have been pleasantly cool – so some of us may be thinking more about  getting the kids ready for school and considering bringing out the wool sweaters for those cooler nights.

Update on current concerns

I’ve spent some time over the last three years meeting with school board members and talking about transportation to schools.  (Just so you know – my child graduated in 1987, and this isn’t a personal issue.)  Those discussions led to a joint school / city / AATA working group that created a list of areas where sidewalk gaps need to be filled.  This group also defined some new bus routes that will serve the high school transportation needs.  Last year AATA began running buses that will reliably take students to and from PioneerHuronand Skyline.  While students have always received a reduced fare (it is currently $0.75 per trip) the schools are encouraging students to get a bus pass.  Those bus passes can be found at the office of each high school.

One of the most significant sidewalk gaps is along Newport Road.  The project engineering staff are completing the design phase of this project, and expect to hold a community meeting to confirm that the design is one that works for the residents who live adjacent to Newport Road between M14 and the city limits.  The proposed route is between Forsythe Middle School and Riverwood Drive.  Although the date for that meeting isn’t yet final, the staff have told me to set aside time in September.  The construction phase of the project is scheduled for 2014 – the same time as resurfacing Newport is anticipated.

(After the September meeting about Newport sidewalks, look for a meeting about Barton sidewalks.)

Speaking about resurfacing and street reconstruction, those of us who live near Barton have discovered – once again – that there is real pain associated with street work.  Residents living along and near the intersection of Pontiac Trail and Barton Road have confronted significant difficulties getting out of and into side street neighborhoods.  The traffic control plan calls for folks heading into town to continue on Barton, and folks heading out of town (down Pontiac, or west on Barton, or to M14) to drive Plymouth Road / Broadway to Swift to Pontiac Trail.  But the Pontiac Trail / Barton intersection is getting overwhelmed with traffic.  If this is your route, or your neighborhood, please let me know what you are experiencing. 

Another issue – work on the intersection itself is scheduled for later this month (August).  Right now, the City has preliminary plans to route all inbound and outbound traffic through Chandler on the last three Sundays of August.  Please note: these plans are preliminary, but could affect residents along Chandler, Indianola, Amherst and Argo.

Today (Saturday, August 3) there are several artists in town to talk about their proposed art and artistic style – and how all that would work with the Argo Cascades.  I missed the artists this morning, but went to Argo at 4:30 to hear what they have to say about the location and their art.


I don’t want to get into a long discourse on whether a it’s a survey, a scientific survey, a questionnaire, or just an opportunity to say something.  But the City is trying to solicit your views, opinions and advice on a number of things.  And since I read all the responses and think about what I read, I’d love to have you participate – so I can hear from you.

Current surveys include: Downtown Zoning (ends on Monday, August 5 – and you need to sign in before taking the survey); Downtown Parks (ends Monday, August 5); and Dog Parks (ends Monday, August 12).

Upcoming meetings

Please note: the City Council will meet on Thursday, August 8th.  The Democratic Primary will be held on Tuesday, August 6th in the Third and Fourth Wards.  The winner of these primary elections could face challengers in November, as petitions to run as independents have been pulled for all wards.

The City Council told the Planning Commission to review D1 zoning (that’s the zoning that allows the tallest building opportunities in downtown).  Part of that process has been to invite the public to meet with a consultant to talk about the zoning; several meetings have taken place over the last two weeks.  The next step is for the consultant to check back in with the public to confirm that she has identified all of the major concerns that can be addressed at this time.  That workshop will take place on Monday, August 5th at 7 pm.  Please come to the lower level of 200 N. Main (the County Building) to help refine a set of selected (from public input) priorities for this D1 review.

The Planning Commission will hold two public hearings on Wednesday, August 7th (the meeting has been postponed from its usual Tuesday evening).  These two hearings cover a rezoning on Packard from R1 (single family residential) to R2 (duplex) and a rezoning on Huron River Drive from R1 (single family) to PL (public land).  The proposed multi-family project for Glendale is not on the agenda for Wednesday, August 7th.

On the Agenda

Council agendas for the week of any election are worth scrutiny.  There are sometimes real surprises that some of us didn’t see coming.  This August, the agenda is predictable so far, although Council members may always add something to the agenda up to the day of the Council meeting.

Public Hearings

On the agenda are two rezoning (each gets a separate public hearing) and two related resolutions (on the site plans for these areas – also getting separate public hearings).

Ordinances (second reading)

The Council will hold public hearings on the rezoning of 401 N. Fourth Avenue and 414 N. Main.  The current zoning for these parcels is Planned Unit Development (PUD).  The developer wishes to have them zoned D2 (maximum height, 60 feet).  These two parcels were previously zoned PUD so that a developer could build an 11-story condominium; that project was not built, the property owner failed to keep the property taxes current, and the property was sold last year to a local developer.


The Council will also hold public hearings on the site plans for 401 N. Fourth Avenue and 414 N. Main.  The site plans call for a total of 16 dwelling units, with 12 carport spaces and 24 surface lot spaces for the use of the residents.

Ordinances (first reading)

There are no ordinances on the agenda for First Reading.

Resolutions from Council

Not yet on the agenda, but likely to be added on Monday, is a resolution from Council members Warpehoski and Kailasapathy, urging the state legislature to amend existing laws, removing the ‘Stand Your Ground’ language.  Michigan laws differ from Florida laws, but both assert that someone who believes they are being threatened can use a gun as a means of dealing with that threat.  The Michigan law used to require that a person fearing violence had a duty to retreat from that violence before using a gun in defense.  I’ve asked to co-sponsor this resolution.

Resolutions from Boards and Commissions

The Council will consider whether to accept a grant of $202,370 to fund the purchase of development rights for a total of 226 acres in Lodi Township.  This grant is part of the Greenbelt Commission’s work.

Resolutions from Staff

The University of Michigan has been seeking a means to close Main Street to all traffic during football games since – oh, at least 2010.  They see this street as an opportunity for acts that would involve Homeland Security.  Nearby residents see this street as the means to get from their homes to anywhere else.  The UM held a meeting on July 25 (see coverage) to discuss their plans prior to submitting the plan for approval to City Council’s agenda for August 8.  This proposal is currently supported by the Chief of Police, John Seto.

People who live without cars in our community often use ZIP cars and bikes to get from place to place.  ZIP cars are rental cars – but more than that, they require that one purchases a membership in order to use a car.  A similar business model is proposed for a bike-share program.  The City would help with start-up and capital costs ($150,000, and in the budget); the University has pledged up to $200,000 a year for three years to help cover administrative (operating) costs.

Residents adjacent to King School have been seeking a means to fill a sidewalk gap for several years.  On the agenda is a resolution to set the budget for the planning phase of the work at $10,000.  Establishing the budget doesn’t guarantee that a sidewalk would be built, but completing the sidewalk would eliminate the need for a mid-block crosswalk and crossing guards, helping to ensure that students feel safe as they walk to school.

When the Council amended the ordinance governing public art and established new goals for using public dollars on creating a more interesting and attractive community, it allowed three projects that were in the works to be completed: Stadium Bridges, the Rain Garden and Kingsley and First, and the Argo Cascades.  Completing these projects requires administrative support.  On the agenda is an extension – with no increase – of the contract for public art administration for five additional months.  The funds ($49,000) will come from the General Fund (1$8,500) and the Public Art Fund Balance ($20,500).


Of course, to me each item on the agenda is interesting, but some seem more controversial or significant than others.  I’ve tried to highlight those I think might interest you but, the agenda contains things I didn’t highlight.  For instance, there is a water main easement and two sidewalk easements.  There are also some really valuable items under ‘communications,’ including this report on the City’s investment portfolio.

I’m also keeping track of the City Council’s priorities on each agenda.  By my count, this agenda includes 11 items that address infrastructure, 1 item that addresses safety services, and 7 items that are more general, from administrative decisions to closing streets for Dancing in the Streets on September 1.

Errors and Omissions

I write this newsletter by myself, although I have others read it to catch typos and grammatical errors.  But errors of fact – those times I don’t remember something, or don’t remember it correctly – those are my fault.  And things that I don’t mention – those events or meetings or surveys – may not seem valuable to me, but could be valuable to you.  I apologize for all errors in advance, and will list my (known) mistakes here.

I didn’t alert folks living along Longshore that there would be an early-morning run through their neighborhood.  But the real problem seems to have been that the organizers were very loud in getting started at 6:15 am on Sunday, July 28th.  I apologize for that, and will work to ensure the meaning of a residential neighborhood becomes part of the discussion when runs are planned.

On the Horizon

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Farmer’s Market.  I celebrated by buying peaches, green gauge plums, and fresh white corn.

Tuesday is Election Day.  If you get my newsletter and live in the Third or Fourth Ward, please remember to vote.

In France, you could take the entire month of August off.  Take some time to get to the river or your closest park, and just relax.

And when September starts, don't forget to come to the River Hop.

What am I reading?

One of our neighbors suggested I learn more about ‘Clear Zoning’ – an effort to write zoning laws that make sense and are easy to understand.  I’m starting by reading this series of planning briefs.  One of the tools recommended is Form-Based Zoning.  Ann Arbor’s D1 / D2 zoning is a hybrid of form-based and use-based zoning, but many folks are recommending looking at how buildings work and how they are designed to fit within their environment more than who uses the building to do what.

I continue to work my way through City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form.  I’ve added Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design by Timothy Beatly to my figurative pile of reading materials.  (Biophilic should mean ‘friend of nature’ or ‘life-friendly’.)  And when I can, I’m going to get my own copy of Rethinking a Lot: the design and culture of parking.