<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> First December 14 sec

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Caucus

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 the basement at City Hall through December, 2014.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.

early snowfall

November 29, 2014


Dear neighbors

Every year for the last 30 or so years, we’ve invited neighbors and friends to share the Thanksgiving meal with us.  The list grows and wanes; one year there will be 22, the next 14.  But our lives are richer for having the company of old friends and new.  And of course, this way I get someone to eat my food – which is a plus for me.

As we cleaned up after the meal, I encouraged my guests to scrape their plates into the compost.  “Bones, too?”  “Even the meat?”  “What, everything?”  The answer to each of these questions is a resounding YES.  The City has been accepting a broader variety of compostable items since April 1.  The City’s website lists acceptable compostables as including: “materials such as: properly-contained leaves, garden prunings, weeds, crab apples, Halloween pumpkins, and tree branches up to 6 inches in diameter. Grass clippings, plate scrapings (including meat and bones), and fruit and vegetable food wastes are accepted only in compost carts.”

This is the last week for compost collection until next April.  I will continue to compost kitchen waste and plate scrapings over the winter, though.

But Thanksgiving isn’t about food and feast and fine friends.  It is about giving thanks for the bounty we receive in life.  So I wanted to take a moment to be properly thankful to you and our neighbors.  Your insights, comments, ideas, challenges and reports make this job interesting and rewarding. 

On another, but still seasonal note, the snow is beginning.  Each year we note slippery spots and wonder where the plows and de-icer are.  If you didn’t use it last year, I recommend you look at the City’s Snow page and then make note of the website that lets you track the snow plows.


On the calendar

Sunday, November 30th (and Sunday, December 14th)

Come to the 4th annual Homegrown at the Cobblestone show Sunday, November 30th and Sunday December 14th from 10 am to 5 pm held in the big barn on the grounds of Cobblestone Farm, 2781 Packard Rd in Ann Arbor. This holiday show offers a wonderful variety of quality, handcrafted gifts all made by local artists. The eclectic offerings include ceramic art tile, jewelry, edibles, glass work, textiles, paintings, photographs, ceramics, wood carvings, ornaments, and more.
FREE ADMISSION, FREE PARKING, FREE FUN and food on site for purchase.

Tuesday, December 2nd
Planning Commission meets at 7 pm at the County building (220 N. Main Street)
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and may vote on whether to recommend approval of a zoning change and site plan for the proposed new apartment building at 221 Felch.  This rezoning (from light manufacturing to multi-family housing) and site plan would add 51 residential units to this near-downtown neighborhood. 

Another residential development is proposed for Ann Arbor Saline Road.  This 75-unit development requires annexation, zoning and approval of the site plan before it can move on to City Council.

Friday, December 5th
Midnight Madness – shop from Mainstreet to Kerrytown to State Street and South U.  Many stores will be open to midnight.

Wednesday, December 10th
On Wednesday, December 10th at 7 pm, join me and our neighbors in the first City-wide discussion that could lead to a deer management plan.  This meeting takes place at Huron High School in room 5101.

Thursday, December 11th
On Thursday, December 11th at 6 pm, join me and our neighbors at Clague Middle School to meet about the Nixon/DhuVarren/Green intersection and potential improvements being planned.  This meeting takes place in the Auditorium.


Updates

Surveys

Deer!  Can you imagine that we need to talk about deer?  Well, we do, and part of that conversation will be generated by your responses to this survey, which will be open until January 2, 2015.

I have not learned to love the “Open City Hall” program, but I have learned to use it.  Maybe you have trouble figuring out how to take the survey – so the trick is to click on the blue ‘POST’ button after the introductory paragraph.  Don’t ask me why.  And annoying as it may be (and is to me) you can click ‘POST’ without signing in, but you must sign in for your response to count.

The Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force also asks for your assistance in identifying areas in the City that need to have improved pedestrian design (but it isn’t using Open City Hall).  The survey and map (below) offer ideas on how to prioritize both problems and solutions – your engagement will help produce a plan that is proactive rather than reactive.  Please take the survey! 
Web Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PSATF
Interactive Map: http://www.communityremarks.com/AnnArbor/

Development on Nixon and Pontiac

The Planning Commission agenda for Tuesday, December 2nd does not include discussion or a vote on the Nixon Road or Pontiac Trail developments.  The Nixon Farms north and south developments and the North Sky development are not yet ready to come before Planning Commission.  And this means that it continues to be likely that aspects of these developments will change.  To follow the plans as they are submitted, go to eTrakit, select Properties, and search on the street name.

A2 Fix-it

I heard back from folks that they were excited about A2-Fix-it as a mechanism for reporting non-emergency problems.  If you haven’t added this link to your smartphone and computer, I encourage you to.  It’s very useful for helping the City maintain a record of and respond to our concerns – whether it’s your neighbor’s trash containers sitting out all week, a poorly-installed pedestrian ramp, or a street light out.

Road work

The good news is that road construction season is over.

Pontiac Trail is now open both ways.  A final layer of asphalt and some related work will be completed next spring, as soon as the frost laws allow.  Some of the delay on this project was caused by an unrelated (but close) problem: the culvert on DhuVarren collapsed, causing a pavement failure.  Since DhuVarren was part of the detour for Pontiac Trail, work on the culvert had to be completed before work on Pontiac could begin.  Had that two-week delay not occurred, and if everything else had gone smoothly, the work could have been completed on time.  As it is, the City and the contractor are determining exactly how much penalty the contractor faces because of the delays. 

The State of Michigan Department of Transportation should also have closed its construction season on Ann Arbor Saline and Jackson/Huron.  This work will continue into next spring, as well.

Snow removal

Just a reminder:

Residents have 24 hours after the snowfall ends to remove snow from the public sidewalk in front of their home.  If they live on a corner or, in some neighborhoods, at a T-intersection, they are also responsible for removing snow from the curb cuts.  Some of us find this task a burden - due to age or infirmity.  Others don't think it is important.  But I hope you understand the value to the community - and the cost to all of us if we expect the City to perform this task.

The City is responsible for removing the snow on public land - including park paths, bridges and crosswalks.


On the Horizon

Meeting Relocations
City Council (Dec. 1 and Dec. 15) and City Planning Commission meetings (Dec. 2 and Dec. 16) will be held at the County Administration Building, 220 N. Main St., County Board of Commission public meeting room. Meetings will continue to be cablecast live on CTN Comcast Channel 16 and available live online and via video on demand. 

The following public meetings will be relocated to the basement conference room at Larcom City Hall. These meetings will not be cablecast live on CTN, but will be taped for later replay and available via video on demand. 

The Cable Communications Commission and Commission on Disability Issues will meet at CTN, 2805 S. Industrial, Suite 200.

More development news
The Design Review Board met in November to discuss a proposed development on First (near Kingsley) – a new, 25-unit apartment building with parking underneath.  This project is in the D2 zoning district and the Kerrytown character district.  This area – Kingsley, Felch and First – currently has three residential projects under consideration – Kingsley Lane, which begins construction next spring; 221 Felch, which will be discussed at the December 2 Planning Commission meeting; and this one.  These three projects could add 98 new residential units to this area.  And, unless something interesting happens, none of these projects will help create the Allen Creek Greenway – which should be a goal.


Agenda highlights

City Council meets Monday, December 1.  Planning Commission meets Tuesday, December 2.  Both meetings will be held in the County Commission meeting room (220 N. Main, the old post office).  Council chambers are closed while the asbestos is being removed.

Various items

At the first meeting in November, the Council postponed discussion and action on a set of revised Council rules until December 1.  Most of the proposed changes are directed at the City Council, but there are possible changes to the ways in which the public signs up for public comment at the beginning of the meeting. 

There are other items on the agenda that address the Council’s organization as the term year begins: DC2 establishes the 2015 City Council committee appointments; DC-3 sets the meeting calendar for 2015; DC-4 establishes the order of succession for Acting Mayor.  (Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the links to these items lead to blank pages.  They will be updated on Monday, December 1).

The Council will hold a public hearing and then discuss whether to change the ordinance governing the Taxicab Board by removing the Chief Financial Officer from the list of non-voting board members and adding the City Administrator’s designee as a new, non-voting member.

The City Council will vote on whether to approve the Scio Township Wastewater Capacity and Services Agreement.  This item was postponed to the December 1 meeting in order to allow time for meetings with Scio Township elected officials to discuss issues related to increased development (which is one of the reasons for timing of the revised agreement).

From the resolution:
“The [initial] contract was for 2.05 million gallons per day (mgd).  Scio Township constructed sanitary sewers within the City of Ann Arbor to create the capacity necessary within the City's collection system.  Scio Township also paid the City for purchase of capacity in the City's collection system and at the wastewater treatment plant.

After 30 years of service, Scio Township continues to maintain the sewers that were built within the city.  Currently, the Township is using 1.03 mgd of the 2.05 mgd of capacity that the Township has purchased.  At this time, the City and Scio Township agree that the wastewater treatment agreement between the City and the Township should be revised and restated to define the relationships, rights and obligations of the City and Scio Township going forward.

Scio Township plans to eventually use the capacity that it has purchased.  The Township desires to "smooth" out the boundaries of the areas within the Township that are and will be served by the City's sanitary sewage system and wastewater treatment plant.  These boundary adjustments also will account for areas where sewer lines have been built outside the original boundaries of the areas.”

The release of public records could be simple, but it isn’t.  The City – and the State – have been discussing changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and its implementation policies for some time.  Some members of Council (myself included) believe that public records should generally be made available to the public; sometimes it feels as if the general governmental policy is to withhold records whenever possible rather than release them whenever possible.  On the agenda is a resolution directing the City Administrator to revise the FOIA administrative policy.  I am co-sponsor of this resolution.

Development

The City Council will hold a public hearing and then vote to decide whether to annex a parcel on the corner of Nixon Road and M-14 (the proposed site of the Woodbury Club Apartments).  If approved, this annexation clears the way for later discussion of whether to approve the site plan for this proposed development.

Because traffic on Nixon/DhuVarren/Green is both heavy and complex, the City will hold a public meeting to discuss potential (and alternative) improvements on December 11th at 6 pm in the Clague Middle School auditorium (see below).

The City Council postponed approval of changes to the Main Street Overlay district (in the zoning ordinance) in order for the City planning staff to work with the property owner on the changes.  A revised ordinance is on the agenda for first reading.  This revision applies to a single parcel – where the DTE building is currently, on the corner of Main, William and Packard.

There are some implications to this revision that we should talk about.  First, the Council established a maximum height for D2 zoning in the Main Street Character district of 60 feet; the revised ordinance would establish a maximum development height of 150 feet – but only near the corner of Main and William.  The rest of the site would have a maximum development height of 60 feet.  Second, the revision moves any new development further away from the residentially zoned housing on S. Fourth – so no new development could be closer than 30 feet to the rear lot line of these houses. 

D2 zoning is intended to be a transition between residential and the urban core.  In many areas of the downtown, though, such transition is exceedingly narrow or non-existent.  That is the case with this parcel.  So – is it urban core or buffer?  And if it is both (which is what the proposed changes reflect) do these changes protect the adjacent residential neighborhood?

If you have questions about this proposed change – and I look forward to learning that you do – please email me

There are always other items on the agenda that I haven’t highlighted.  To learn more about what the Council will discuss on Monday, December 1, please look at the general agenda information.


What am I reading?

I just gave myself Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, by Peter Calthorpe.

I am creating a ‘wish list’ of books that others (hint, hint to John Briere and David Cahill) could give me.  It’s gift giving season, after all.  So, here’s a list of things I think I should be reading:

Town and Gown Relations: a Handbook of Best Practices, by Roger Kemp.

Town-Gown Collaboration in Land Use and Development, by Yesim Sungu Eryilmaz.

Urban Street Design Guide, by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Do you have suggestions for things I should add to my list?  (There are other books I’d like to read, but of course, they aren’t about the City.)