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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.

My frog

October 4, 2014


Dear neighbors

I treasure the few, warm days we have had this autumn.  That autumn started on September 1 according to the National Weather Service, however, is a fact I mourn.  I feel inclined to complain again to the weather gods.

I’ve written a couple of recent, very dry blog posts that are more about the City and less about me.  If you are interested, please read these posts about  various Truths about Planning for Development in Ann Arbor or about how the City spends the Greenbelt Millage.


One of the meetings I recently attended included discussion of whether the DDA should hire ambassadors to walk through the downtown, report problems with graffiti, panhandler behavior and other issues, and provide directions and a friendly face for those new to our community.  Do you have an opinion on whether this is an appropriate way for the DDA to allocate funds?

Garbage collection remains an issue for some of our neighbors.  Commercial operations inside and outside the downtown have contracts with private haulers – but those haulers must be approved by the City.  I recently heard that one hauler might be starting trash collection well before 7 am – and if so, that is not allowed.

I also continue to hear about downtown restaurant employees who fail to properly dispose of such waste as oil, grease and (this was new) beer fixings.  Disposing of these items where they can run into the storm sewers pollutes the Huron River. 

Please let me hear of any concerns with waste management, and I will make certain the City learns more about the problems.


On the calendar

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 7:00 p.m.

Lessons from Ferguson: Local Responses to Militarization of the Police

How can we have safe neighborhoods while not ignoring the injustices inherent in the criminal justice system?
Resource speakers include Ann Arbor Chief of Police John Seto, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton and American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan Field Director Rod Monts
At the Church of the Good Shepherd UCC, 2145 Independence Blvd. Ann Arbor
More Info. and Link to Download Flier: http://www.icpj.net/2014/lessons-from-fe...
Co-Sponsors: Church of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, New Vision Ministries – COGS, Veterans For Peace Chapter 93, Challenging Racism/First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, New Beginnings Community Church, Brown Chapel AME, Faith Assembly Church, and the Student Advocacy Center.

Monday, October 6th

The Ordinance Revisions Committee of the Planning Commission will meet to discuss downtown zoning amendments on Monday, October 6, 4:30 pm, in the 1st Floor South Conference Room of Larcom City Hall. 

Tuesday, October 7th

Planning Commission, 7 pm, in Council Chambers

Thursday, October 16

Citizen Participation Meeting for a new hotel and retail project on S. State Street

Stellar Hospitality Mixed Use Development - 3850 Research Park Drive (Stellar Hospitality) is holding a Citizen Participation Meeting to discuss rezoning 3850 Research Park Drive from RE (Research District) to C3 (Fringe Commercial District ) in order to redevelop the site for an extended stay hotel and free-standing retail building. 6 pm at Service Brands International, 3948 Ranchero Drive, Ann Arbor 48018
Meeting Notice:  Stellar Hospitality Citizen Participation Meeting PDF

Tuesday, October 21

at 7 pm in Council Chambers, the City Planning Commission will consider several potential projects, including Nixon Farm North, Nixon Farm South, and Woodbury Club Apartments (links are to site plans).  These three developments, if they meet zoning and are approved, would add almost 800 new housing units to the City and to the Nixon corridor.
The City staff are working to develop a plan for an improved intersection at Nixon / DhuVarren / Green.  Any updated information I receive I will share.


Updates

Report a problem: Streetlight out?  Pothole growing?  Bushes that need to be trimmed back so you can see oncoming traffic?  The dreaded blue cups left on your neighbor’s lawn?  The City has an app for that.

Check out A2FixIt – and then, use it!  (Yes, you and your smart phone can take a photo of the problem and send the report in.  Cool.)

(A2Fixit – and see/click/fix are great tools – but they aren’t a way to report traffic violations or police emergencies.  In emergency situations, call 9-1-1.  For non-emergency reports, call 734.994.2911 or send an email to police@a2gov.org.)

Survey on redesign for Seventh Street

There is still time to provide feedback to the City on possible design elements for Seventh Streets via a survey on Open City Hall.  The results of the survey will provide guidance for City engineers while they prepare for an updated Capital Improvement Plan. 

This is your opportunity to offer your response to the ideas.  Please take the survey!

Development on Nixon and Pontiac

On Tuesday, October 7th, the City Planning Commission will have a very light agenda, as there are no projects listed for public hearing and recommendation to Council. 

Public hearings and recommendations for several projects, however, will be on the Planning Commission’s October 21 agenda.  This agenda includes public hearings and votes on Nixon Farm North, Nixon Farm South, and Woodbury Apartments – these public hearings include issues of annexation (each parcel would need to be annexed), zoning, and approval of site plan.  These three developments are on Nixon Road near the intersection of Nixon / DhuVarren / Green.

Still on the tentative schedule for November 5th Planning Commission is a public hearing and recommendation to Council for the revised North Sky project – including rezoning and site plan.

These developments cumulatively add about 1,100 new housing units.

Road work

Newport Road & Huron River Drive: Monday, October 13 - Monday, October 20. The Washtenaw County Road Commission will be closing several roads for repaving around and within the City of Ann Arbor beginning on Monday, October 13 with work expected to be finished by Monday, October 20. The closures will include:

For more information about street closings, check out the City’s website.

Park land acquisition

A recent resolution at Council directed the City Administrator to see whether the property owners of developable land on Burton Road and on Glendale Road would be willing to sell these properties to the City.  The City Administrator’s response is attached to the Agenda for October 6th, and linked here.  The property owner on Burton is willing to sell, but the property does not meet the PROS Plan criteria for land acquisition.  The property owner on Glendale Road did not respond to requests from the City.

Greenbelt

I wrote a FAQ on the Greenbelt (responding to questions I’m frequently asked), based on a report from City staff on the Greenbelt.  This report includes maps and sheets showing how much the City spent to purchase development rights outside the City and how much has been spent on park acquisition inside the City.

Leaf collection

Why doesn’t Ann Arbor store bulk leaves in the streets?

In 2010, the City of Ann Arbor transitioned away from providing two bulk street leaf pickup days per neighborhood, instead expanding the weekly curbside compost pickups to accommodate unlimited bagged leaves through the first week of December. The benefits include:


On the Horizon

Sunday, October 19: Trick or Treat down the River from 12 noon to 5 pm: By canoe or kayak, encounter creatures along the river handing out treats and candy. Feel free to dress up, too. Cost: $18/boat; no pre-registration required; all ages welcome (children must be at least 1 year old to be in a boat). Bring a bag for your candy. Event details: www.a2gov.org/canoe / 734.794.6240. Interested in volunteering at this event? Be a volunteer with Give 365 to dress up and hand out candy. Details/to volunteer: www.a2gov.org/volunteer.

Friday, October 31

Trick or Treat in neighborhoods from 5 pm to 8 pm. 
If you will not be home, be certain to leave your outdoor lights OFF.

Tuesday, November 4: Election Day from 7 am to 8 pm at a polling place near you.


Agenda highlights

City Council meets Monday, October 6th.  Planning Commission meets Tuesday, October 7th. 

Other items

I don’t usually start with a miscellaneous grab-bag of resolutions and ordinances, but the agenda is unusually diverse.

Up for second reading is an amendment to the Dog Licensing ordinance and a resolution establishing revised dog license fees.  There are public hearings on both of these matters.  If these changes affect you, please let me know.

On the agenda for first reading is a proposal to repeal the Human Rights Ordinance and replace it – entirely – with new language.  Related to this ordinance change is a resolution urging the Michigan legislature to amend the Elliott-Larsen act and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  (The City Council often urges other legislative bodies to act – from funding road maintenance to modifying governmental policies.)

Over a year ago the Council directed the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board (HHSAB) to review the impact of the Living Wage Ordinance on non-profit, human service organizations.  The report – conducted by UM students and faculty (thank you, Ian Robinson) – revealed that the living wage ordinance has less impact on non-profits than anticipated.  One thing that was clear was that non-profits had difficulty developing budgets and delivering services when the amount of any increase in the living wage was out of sync with the funding process. 

A resolution is on the agenda directing HHSAB to work with staff and revise the Living Wage ordinance.  Council member Lumm and I are both on HHSAB as non-voting members.

Last April the Council directed the City Attorney to issue an opinion – and file that opinion with the City Clerk’s office – on the mechanism for establishing homeowner tax assessments.  Since that date, a court issued a ruling on the way in which homeowner taxes should be established.  A resolution directing the City Attorney to update his opinion, taking into consideration the findings of the court, is on the agenda.

Trees and vegetation

The ordinance governing trees and vegetation maintenance on private property and lawn extensions has been modified fairly regularly.  The last modification was in 2005.  A revision to the ordinance is on the agenda.

The proposed changes would modify the allowable height for vegetative plants and bloom, restricting plants at intersections, curves, crosswalks and midblock crossings more significantly.  The process remains complaint-driven.  The purpose of this ordinance is, by-and-large, about safety.  If this ordinance revision is approved, staff will prepare a list of plants that are salt-resistant and could be planted in the lawn extension without causing conflict.  They will also prepare information that clarifies view hazards.  Please let me know your concerns about these changes.

Development

The Council will hold a public hearing on whether to rezone City property (the public housing site on Platt Road) from R1C (single family) and R2A (duplex) to R4B (multiple family).  After the public hearing, the Council will vote on this issue.

Transportation and infrastructure

Residents of Northside Avenue successfully petitioned for traffic calming measures to be installed on their street.  After months of meetings and discussions, votes and further refinements, the City Council will consider the installation of four traffic humps and two bump-outs on Northside to discourage dangerous cut-through traffic.

The City Council will again discuss whether to lease parking at Fuller Park to the University.  PAC has supported this lease.

The ordinance governing traffic interactions at un-signaled crosswalks and mid-block crosswalks could be amended to include clarifying language that indicates drivers must stop and yield “if the driver can do so safely.”  Many of us never read local ordinances or consider Michigan traffic rules.  I found this handy refresher on the internet.

Communications

The City Administrator provided an update on park land acquisition.

There are always other items on the agenda that I haven’t highlighted.  To learn more about what the Council will discuss on Monday, October 6, please look at the general agenda information.


Thursday, October 16

Citizen Participation Meeting for a new hotel and retail project on S. State Street

Stellar Hospitality Mixed Use Development - 3850 Research Park Drive (Stellar Hospitality) is holding a Citizen Participation Meeting to discuss rezoning 3850 Research Park Drive from RE (Research District) to C3 (Fringe Commercial District ) in order to redevelop the site for an extended stay hotel and free-standing retail building. 6 pm at Service Brands International, 3948 Ranchero Drive, Ann Arbor 48018
Meeting Notice:  Stellar Hospitality Citizen Participation Meeting PDF

Tuesday, October 21, at 7 pm in Council Chambers, the City Planning Commission will consider several potential projects, including Nixon Farm North, Nixon Farm South, and Woodbury Club Apartments (links are to site plans).  These three developments, if they meet zoning and are approved, would add almost 800 new housing units to the City and to the Nixon corridor.
The City staff are working to develop a plan for an improved intersection at Nixon / DhuVarren / Green.  Any updated information I receive I will share.


One of our neighbors suggested that Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21st Century, is, well, overrated.  I’ll still read it when it comes up at the Library.

I continue to find gems of wisdom (to my surprise and pleasure) in Effective Council Meetings.  I would love to share this with others who work on process and policy.

I’ve just begun renting Kindle books – and Small Change, the art of practice and the limits of planning in cities is just expensive enough to buy that I’d rather rent.