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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 Council Chambers.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.

August 31, 2014


Dear neighbors

Late summer is often hot and humid.  At a time when the harvest is coming in – and some folks are confronting too many tomatoes and zucchini – it’s too hot to cook.  But not this year.

While it isn’t a great year for peaches, and some of the tomatoes may suffer from ‘late blight’, the weather is perfect for eating, preserving, cooking and even freezing some of that wonderful local produce.  At the market on Saturday, I could get corn, potatoes, onions, beans, basil, melons, berries, apples, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts – the best of the August harvest.  If you grow your own, even better.

I made pie.  I hope you enjoy your Labor Day celebrations.

I will not hold office hours on Monday, September 1, but will be at the Northside Grill from 7:30 am to 9 am on Tuesday, September 2. 

On the calendar

Wednesday, September 3rd

DDA Board meeting
12 noon, DDA offices
Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force
5 pm, Basement meeting room, City Hall
Planning Commission meeting
7 pm, Council Chambers

Thursday, September 4

Dog swim at Fuller, Buhr and Veteran’s Park pools
3-8 pm at the pool of your choice
Ordinance Revisions Committee
First floor, south conference room


Updates

Platt Road Charette

The County held a three-day charette in an effort to gather views and feedback on whether the County should encourage the development of housing on the site of the former Juvenile Detention Center.  This site, adjacent to the County Farm Park, is located on Platt Road just south of Washtenaw.

The end result of the charrette can be seen here, in this presentation.

The Council does not determine what the County Board of Commissioners will decide.  But in the event the County Board of Commissioners decides to go forward with the recommendations that resulted from this charrette, I hope the City will participate in the creation of additional affordable housing.

Northside STEAM school

The official ribbon cutting for the Northside school STEAM program is Friday, September 5th at 5:30 pm.  I visited the school recently, spoke with teachers and parents, and am excited that this magnet program is beginning at my neighborhood school.

Barton and Newport Sidewalks

There’s good news and not-so-good news about sidewalks.

The City will have completed a new sidewalk to Wines elementary school from Riverwood Drive.  This improvement was paid for by the adjacent neighborhoods and City/State funding (Newport in this area is being repaved, too).

The City has not built a sidewalk on Barton Drive to connect to Argo Park.  This construction project is delayed because the State – which is funding the project – did not get a qualified bidder in response to the RFP.  A new RFP process should result in a qualified bidder, but there won’t be adequate time between the completion of the bidding process and the onset of winter weather to construct the sidewalk.

The sidewalk on Scio Church Road is delayed for the same reason.


On the Horizon

Monday, September 15

Ann Arbor Station Site Tour
10 am – 1 pm (meet at Blake Transit, RSVP by September 10)
Additional project information, including notes and presentations from previous meetings, can be found at www.a2gov.org/annarborstation.


Agenda highlights

City Council meets Tuesday, September 2.  Planning Commission meets Wednesday, September 3.  These meetings have been delayed a day in order to recognize Labor Day.

DhuVarren, Nixon and Green Roads

The DhuVarren / Nixon / Green intersection has been troublesome for years.  This year, irritation peaked as construction began on Pontiac Trail, routing traffic to Nixon.  The City removed stop signs at the intersection in the expectation that traffic would flow more smoothly; that expectation was dashed by human behavior.  The stop signs were reinstalled, but many in the neighborhood remained upset.
Compounding that upset is the possibility of new housing developments in this area.  Proposed for Nixon Road near M14 is a 234-unit development; across the street and a little further south – right at the intersection with DhuVarren – is a proposed 491-unit condo complex.  In addition to any other concerns, adding nearly 800 new dwellings to this area could mean adding over 1,500 more cars.  And those cars will be trying to get through the intersection.
The agenda includes a contract to study the intersection at DhuVarren / Nixon / Green.  This is a planned expenditure; the City Council put the funds in the budget.  First, the City must determine the best possible solution for what we all see as a problem.  Then, the City will move toward correcting the problem.

Stadium

One of those areas that a lot of people talk about is that stretch of Stadium between the new bridges and Main Street.  Good news – the process to reconstruct that stretch is likely to start soon.

On the agenda is a resolution to approve an agreement to design the reconstruction of Stadium Boulevard. 

From the resolution: “The complexity of the Stadium Boulevard Reconstruction Project requires that City staff be assisted by a design engineer. NCI will assist with public engagement and community involvement; roadway and underground utility design; coordinating all needed work with the private utility companies, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Public Schools, and AAATA; structural engineering to design retaining walls; creating  project schedules and analyze anticipated construction durations and impacts and identify schedule milestone dates compatible with the Community's needs; identifying potential construction staging areas; and other related tasks to ensure the successful completion of the project.  

The project is expected to present certain design challenges.  The City will be including public involvement and alternative option analysis during the design phase of the project.  During the public involvement and alternative option analysis, several options will be evaluated to determine the most feasible option from the viewpoint of community expectations and desires, constructability, and probable cost. All options considered will be tested with the public through community workshops, stakeholder meetings, information packets, and other tools designed to provide information about the project and request the public's input in a proactive manner and obtain feedback regarding our understanding of the project.  At the end of this phase, the "most feasible" option will be chosen.”

Uber and Lyft and taxis reprise

At the last Council meeting, an ordinance amendment that would have added Uber, Lyft, and limousine restrictions to the Taxi ordinance did not pass.  I voted against the ordinance amendment because the restrictions were aimed at drivers, not the companies.  On the agenda for Monday is a resolution that – if approved – directs the City Administrator to negotiate an operating agreement that can be used with Uber, Lyft, and other similar companies.  Included in this resolution is a set of principles that should be used to guide the discussion, were the City Council to approve the resolution.
The reason I had for voting against the ordinance is the same reason why I drafted (with others) the proposed resolution: the burden of meeting reasonable governmental restrictions should be firmly placed on the company, not the drivers.

Expanding the LDFA / Smart Zone

The City established a Smart Zone / Local Development Financing Authority in 2002.  The LDFA is a state – not a local – effort.  The purpose of all LDFAs is to increase the number of jobs.  Our local LDFA has focused on efforts to “help guide entrepreneurs and startup teams through early stage development, and to assist existing small businesses in positioning themselves for growth.” 
The resolution in front of Council isn’t about LDFA financing or whether the State does its job of ensuring sufficient funding for our schools.  The resolution will determine whether the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti LDFA will enter into an agreement with the Adrian/Tecumseh Smartzone, which would officially recognize a host/satellite relationship with Adrian (home of Adrian College, Siena Heights University and Jackson Community College).  This is a concept the State is encouraging.
The Ann Arbor City Council (on June 2) and the Ypsilanti City Council (on June 3) both supported the application to extend the LDFA by 15 years.

Affordable Housing – upgrading Public Housing units

Last December the Council approved a resolution to allocate the proceeds of the sale of the Old Y lot to affordable housing.  After paying the debts, about $1.3 million was set aside to pay for affordable housing. 
Over the past two decades, the City has not maintained its public housing stock.  While there are many reasons for that, it’s past time for the City to fix the properties – and the Housing Commission has  found ways to do this.
On the agenda are three issues related to the City’s public housing.
There is a public hearing and discussion of the North Maple Road site plan and development agreement.  This site plan will result in additional housing units properly sited above the flood plain.  The Council will vote on whether to approve the site plan and development agreement.
First reading of an ordinance to change the zoning for a public housing site on Platt Road is also up for discussion.  This rezoning, if approved, would be followed by a resolution to approve a new site plan for this site – a plan that could result in more units of affordable housing.
Both of these projects are part of Phase I of a three-phase program to upgrade public housing.
The Housing Commission is also seeking $$729,879.00 from the Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  If approved, this resolution would allocate those funds to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission’s Phase III Rental Assistance Demonstration Project.  The affordable housing fund currently has a balance of $1,580,799.00; approval of this resolution will result in a balance of $850,920.00.

Communications

The City Council recently referred a resolution to the Park Advisory Commission (PAC) that would have established a budget to redesign Liberty Plaza  PAC was asked to evaluate the resolution.  That group recently met, and have prepared this document.  PAC had previously prepared a report on downtown parks in general, and the Council had already approved a public park / plaza on the top of the underground parking structure at the Library. 
Because this is a communication, no action by Council is required.


To learn more about what the Council will discuss on Tuesday, September 2, please read this (final?) preview from the Ann Arbor Chronicle, look at the general agenda information, or consider reading this new posting created by Vivienne Armentrout and (hopefully) written by a broad variety of Ann Arbor residents.




There are quite a few new homes proposed around our community.  Some of them - such as those proposed on Nixon Road near Green and DhuVarren - are high-end and suburban in design.  Some - such as those proposed for Kingsley or those near the Farmer's Market - are more urban, and designed to appeal to both young professionals and empty nesters.

But there aren't many new units that anyone would consider 'affordable' - and this is an issue and an opportunity that many of us are discussing.

As the Planning Commission is considering revisions to the downtown zoning, some residents are returning to an idea that was rejected more than a decade ago - accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  Traverse City has approved overlay zoning for ADUs and is testing whether this opportunity will help people stay in their homes while they get income from a single rental.

If you live in a single family (R1) zoned neighborhood, any change in whether ADUs are allowed could affect you.  Would you like to more about ADUs?  We should talk.


From the Public Library: From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America, by Walter Trattner.

I am number 39 of 55 people waiting to read Think Like a Freak, by the authors of Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephan Dubner.  My Kindle is still full of things to think about, though, so I am not impatient.