<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> First March newsletter 2014 sec

Sabra Briere

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

Coffee wakes some of us up

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

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.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.


Dear Neighbors,

Perhaps you woke up today or yesterday to another lovely white world.  It was necessary, clearly – the snow on the ground had become gray and dirty over the past week, with no fresh layer of snow.

Like that matters.

But I’ve watched a bird busy building its nest in our bird house.  And each morning I see a train of deer following, one after the other, past our neighbor’s house and into the woods behind mine – pausing in their delicate fashion to nibble on trees and bushes.  If I could get close enough, I’d see the buds on the witch hazel bush, waiting for those three warm days to open and perfume the neighborhood.

Spring really is coming.  I can tell by the changes in the length of days – although the weather reports indicate that the cold air and snow will be with us through March.  At least, Easter isn’t early this year.


Urban Forest

Ann Arbor’s Urban forestry management plan was developed to provide a tool to effectively manage the urban and community forest as an asset. The development of the draft plan included numerous public meetings and public feedback opportunities. You may also ask for a printed copy by contacting Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Planning Coordinator Kerry Gray at 734.794.6430, extension 43703.  Please submit comments by Friday, March 28th to Ms Gray (kgray@a2gov.org ).  Of course, you may always mail those comments to her at 301 E. Huron, PO Box 8647, Ann Arbor, MI  48107.


Last summer the City Council approved expanding the compost program to include all ‘plate scrapings’ – meats, fats and other leftovers included.  This year, compost operations begin implementing this change.  As of March 31, you may place any plate scrapings directly into your compost cart.  If you have a compost cart, you qualify for a free 1.9 gallon kitchen composter – which you can get at the customer service center on the first floor of City Hall. 
Look for a postcard in the mail with information on how to claim a new composter.  It fits on the counter, is dishwasher safe, comes with an ergonomic handle, a vented top, and has a locking lid designed to stay closed even if it falls from the counter. You can also use BPI-certified compostable bags with your kitchen composter. These bags are available for $2 per box at the customer service center. Go online for more information as compost season draws near: www.a2gov.org/compost.  

Pot holes

You may always report a pot hole – but sometimes, I’m tempted just to report streets (all of East Huron River Drive; Fifth Ave. from Beakes to Ann, and so on).  We know that it’s bad out there – and we also know that any repair done in winter is temporary at best.  While we wait for the weather to improve, I still want to encourage you to let the City know about any serious problem areas.

If you see a wheel-eating pothole – one big enough to jerk a wheel off a car – please call 734.99.HOLES or submit an on-line request. The staff will concentrate on those holes in the drive lanes first, to try to minimize damage to vehicles.

I’m still waiting to learn what our state government intends to do, and how the many road and street repairs will be funded.

Speeding and traffic issues

Perhaps you live on a quiet street with no cut-through traffic.  If so, please tell me where that is – and I’ll promise not to use your street.  But if, like the rest of us, you face daily traffic issues and people try to get around a traffic light or stop sign by using the street in front of your house, you may want to report problems with chronic speeders.  Here’s the best way to report.


Sidewalk along Barton Road; Traffic Calming for Northside

On February 25th, residents living along Barton Drive and nearby Northside Ave. met with City staff to learn more about the plans for a new stretch of sidewalk along Barton Drive and for traffic calming measures to be installed on Northside.

The new stretch of sidewalk, which will be roughly from near Chandler to the entrance to the boardwalk along Barton, will be installed this summer.  There may be some need to block a lane of the street for a few days while the work is completed.  But if you live along Barton, you may not be deeply upset that traffic will have to go more slowly.

However, that traffic might try to use your street as a way to avoid construction, the stop light at Pontiac Trail, or just because the drivers think it’s faster.  Residents of Northside Ave. have found that people use this quiet street with no sidewalks constantly.  They petitioned the City for traffic calming measures to be installed, and now have heard that they could have this work done during FY15.

However, FY15 can mean this year between July and October, or next year between March and June.  And the residents along Northside want this work done – well, yesterday.

I’ve learned that no one comes to City Hall to ask for something when they feel patient.  Whether it’s traffic calming or speeding or potholes or – for instance – a new park! – by the time City staff and members of Council hear from them, they are past patient and well into upset. 

The good news, from my perspective, is that the staff at the public meeting heard the residents’ desire for more rapid measures, and have agreed to see whether it’s possible to get all this work done this calendar year.  I hope to hear an update on their efforts in the next few weeks.

For those counting, this means that the City will fill the gap along Barton (funding this is on the agenda for March 3) and along Newport this construction season.  I’ll look forward to next fall’s Walktober along Newport.

On the Agenda

This Agenda is crowded, but there are some items that I want to highlight.  Here’s what the Chronicle finds significant on the agenda, and of course, there’s lots there to read about if you are interested..

Public Hearings




New and amended ordinances require two readings.  A public hearing is held at the time of the second reading.  Public hearings may be held over if the ordinance is postponed at second reading.

Ordinances, second reading


Ordinances, first reading                                                                                                         

Back on the agenda, still for First Reading, is an ordinance that would establish certain areas outside as ‘no smoking’ areas.


Resolutions from Council


Two different resolutions on the agenda address the Percent for Art funds.  One of these resolutions is sponsored by Councilmembers Anglin, Eaton, Kailasapathy and Lumm; the other resolution is sponsored by Briere, Petersen, Taylor, Teall and Warpehoski.  Of course, this means that nearly every member of Council is concerned about how the City moves forward with a program for art in public places.  These resolutions have been revised from those on the agenda at the last Council meeting.  One deals only with returning Percent for Art funds to the original sources.  The other confronts the need to plan for a way to implement the current ordinance – which does not include Percent for Art.

Over the past few years, the Percent for Art funding mechanism and public art in general have become quite divisive.  Before I decided what I would offer to Council, I returned to the various ‘survey’ responses I’ve received from you.  The two most recent are from fall, 2012 – this one from September and this one from December, after the public art millage proposal was defeated.  As always, the comments are the most interesting to me.

The Housing and Human Services Advisory Board recommended allocating $600,000 from the Affordable Housing fund toward the renovation of several Housing Commission public housing projects.  This resolution, postponed from the last Council meeting, is again on the agenda.  The resolution will not result in the transfer of any funds until the sale of the Old Y lot is final; it does establish a route toward that transfer, however.

The Council will consider whether to approve a resolution that would establish a designated area for an urban park on top of the Library Lane underground parking structure.  This resolution has its proponents and objectors.  We each may have our own image of what such a park might look like.  At least one of my friends opposes this resolution because it doesn’t designate the entire site as a public park.  Another objects because it sets aside land that is potentially high value and saleable.  What do you think?

Resolutions from Boards and Commissions


Resolutions from Staff

The Council will consider whether to increase the budget by about $122,000 in order to provide staff support for the Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force while repurposing $75,000 from the current budget to use toward a contract with an outside company to facilitate meetings.  (The facilitator is not a consultant – the purpose of a facilitator is to keep things moving and get information disseminated while a consultant is generally expected to produce a product.)

The Council may approve an amendment to a construction contract that includes funding for the engineering design of both the Scio Church and the Barton sidewalk gap projects.


There are other items on the agenda that might interest you.  The Safety Services Area Administrator will present an update at the beginning of the meeting, although there are no documents currently available to give you a preview.  Street closings include closing for Take Back the Night and the Monroe Street Fair.

As always, if any issue on the agenda is a specific concern, please let me hear from you.


On the Calendar

Upcoming Citizen Participation Meetings

The developers of the Circle K Gas Station project at 1420 East Stadium have scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Tuesday, March 4, 2014 from 6-8 pm in the Pittsfield branch of the Public Library (2359 Oak Valley Drive).  The Circle K project will involve demolition of the existing gas station and construction of a new gas station/convenience store. The project will also involve rezoning a part of the parcel from P(Parking) to C3 (Fringe Commercial).  See the announcement in the link for more information:  Circle K Gas Station Project Meeting Notice

The developers of the Burton Commons Apartments project at 2559-2825 Burton Road have scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Wednesday, March 5, 2014 from 6-8 pm in the Pittsfield Elementary library (2543 Pittsfield Blvd).  The Burton Commons Apartments project proposes the construction of a residential apartment complex with 80 units in 5 residential buildings and a clubhouse.  This plan has a current site plan approval.  The only proposed addition to the plan is a sound wall that runs the entire length of the east property line, between the freeway and the apartment buildings.  See the announcement in the link for more information:  Burton Commons Apartments Project Meeting Notice

The developers of a new indoor tennis/recreation facility at Lots 26, 29, 30 and part of 31 Research Park Drive have scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm at the Burlington Office Building 2, ground floor atrium, at 315 East Eisenhower. See the announcement in the link for more information:  Research Park Rezoning Project Meeting Notice

The developers of a new residential project at 2250 Ann Arbor-Saline Road have scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Wednesday, March 12, 2014 from 6:30-8 pm at the Holiday Inn Express at 600 Briarwood Circle.  The project is proposed as a new "market rate", active adult, residential condominium building. The contemplated building would rise 3 stories on top of a single level of  a mostly below grade parking garage. The project would also include a regional storm water detention basin to help with flooding issues in the area. See the announcement in the link for more information:  2250 Ann Arbor-Saline Road Meeting Notice

On Wednesday, March 12, you might want to learn more about street reconstruction and stormwater improvements by going to the meeting at Mitchell Elementary School at 7-8 p.m. Springwater Subdivision Improvements Project Public Meeting — Multipurpose room, Mitchell Elementary School, 3550 Pittsview Drive. The project involves extensive street reconstruction and stormwater improvements in this neighborhood. The purpose of this meeting is to share feedback from neighborhood property owners and to discuss how input has informed the project design. Questions: contact project manager Anne Warrow, 734.794.6000, ext. 43639 / awarrow@a2gov.org.
Also on Wednesday, March 12, you could want to learn more about climate and adaptation, including how the community can develop strategies for change.  7–8:30 p.m. Sustainable Ann Arbor Forum: Climate and Adaptation. Ann Arbor District Library, Downtown Branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave.  This forum focuses on climate and adaptation, including a discussion of current adaptation and resiliency strategies within the community, an introduction of the newly launched Community Climate Partnership, a coalition of community stakeholders working to further support the city’s Climate Action Plan and how to take steps to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. Details: www.a2gov.org/sustainability


On the Horizon

Ann Arbor Station Environmental Review Meetings Announced

Citizen Working Group Meetings 
Wednesday, March 19 AND Tuesday, March 25, 2014
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Fourth floor meeting room, Ann Arbor District Library, Downtown Branch, 343 S. 5th Ave.

Leadership Advisory Group
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
8-10 a.m.
Council Chambers, second floor, Larcom City Hall, 301 E. Huron St.

Public Meeting 
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
4-5:30 p.m., 6:30-8:30 p.m. (presentations at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.)
Lower level multipurpose room, Ann Arbor District Library, Downtown Branch, 343 S. 5th Ave.



What am I reading?

Someone asked me how I manage to read as much as I do.  Habit, clean living and - of course - I read fast.  I've added two books to my 'read this' shelf:

The Undeserving Poor (revised) by Michael Katz, and 
City Bound: How State Laws Stifle Urban Innovation, by Gerald Frug.  I was caught by this descriptive sentence in the review: “Based on a study of the differing legal structures of Boston, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle, City Bound explores how state law determines what cities can and cannot do to raise revenue, control land use, and improve city schools.