<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> First October newsletter 2012

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.  Lately I've met with neighborhood groups to talk about utility issues. 

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.


Sometimes I write about words, or food, or my garden. Sometimes I muse about politics. Maybe this would interest you.


Dear Neighbors,

It seems to me as if the pace of life just picks up once September comes. That’s no different this year.  My calendar gets crowded, and I have to triage as I decide where I should spend my time.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve met with City staff to talk about storm water solutions and with school staff members about sidewalk gaps.  I’ve gone to meetings about affordable housing and met with some residents of some of the City’s own affordable housing units.  I sat in on the Technical Advisory Group’s meeting about 721 N. Main (the old City yards) and attended Fire Department Restructuring meetings. I keep reminding folks that you cannot really learn if you aren't in the room.

But it's my goal, when I can, to bring you the information from those rooms. Please ask questions about any issue or meeting. In the meantime, there are a number of events and opportunities in the Calendar and Events section that might interest you.

To give me your feedback or ask any questions, just send me mail or call me (995-3518 at home; 277-6578 to my cell).

Survey about public funding for art <click here>

The November election includes a question on whether to fund public art through a millage. Whatever the outcome of that election, the Council will be thinking about whether the existing ordinance should be amended, and if so, how. I'd like your feedback now, so I can plan ahead. This survey will close on October 10th; I'll have the results in my next newsletter.

Pesticide use by the City

I serve on the Environmental Commission. I recently requested that the commission look at the use of pesticides by City staff, and consider what is used and how it is used. The policy the staff follows is outlined in a 1991 Council resolution; I'm confident things can change in 20 years.

At the last Enviornmental Commission meeting (Thursday, September 27), the members heard from City staff about current practices at the golf courses and on city lands. That presentation (a PowerPoint document) is here.

On the same night, I began hearing from residents that an herbicide - one that's not on the City's approved list - was sprayed in West Park. I've asked for an explanation, and will make that available to anyone who wants to see it. Just let me know.

What's happening at the river? - an update

Today, one of my neighbors stopped me and asked what MichCon was building down by the river. I assured him that they were just cleaning up the site for now.

On Friday, September 28th I took a second tour of the work currently under way at the MichCon/DTE property across the river from the new Argo Cascades. This time, the folks who shared in the tour were down from Lansing and represented the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources.

This is a photo of the Huron River just upstream of the new Argo Cascades. DTE/MichCon remediation of pollution left in the soil from the old coal gasification plant continues through October and November.The pollution stretches into the sediment in the river bed and can be found several feet down in the soil.

Here's a link to the presentation Council heard in March, and to the MichCon/DTE website about this project. (These links work!) AnnArbor.com ran an early story, and recently ran an updated report on the work being done. Michigan Public Radio covered it, as well.

This is an ongoing project that won't finish this year, although river-bank stabilization and replanting is expected to be final before January. So don't look for new construction, new ownership or new uses of this land in 2013. Many of us are hoping for public access to at least some of this site, but those details have not been arranged.

North Main Vision Task Force

I attended the 721 N. Main Technical Advisory Group's meeting on Monday, September 24. I saw a preview of the presentation you can see at the October 10th meeting on proposals for how the City should treat 721 N. Main (Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main). This meeting starts at 6:30. For information on the TAG's work to date, click here to link to the website. Please keep in mind that the various ideas presented in this report are to illustrate concepts, not to create a plan. The TAG and the North Main Vision Task Force will offer recommendations about the use of 721 N. Main, not about whether - or how significantly - it should be a park. The City has already designated this site as part of the Allen Creek Greenway Trail system.

The next meeting of the North Main Vision Task Force is October 3rd in the basement meeting room at City Hall. The members of the task force will preview the presentation; members of the task force - and the audience - will be able to ask questions.

Sidewalk gaps

At the last Council meeting, Council member Anglin introduced a resolution that would have tasked the staff to develop a program to fill sidewalk gaps within 5 years. Although this resolution didn't pass, it came close - 6-5, with all Council members present.

Over the past few years I've met with staff members several times to encourage them to plan to build sidewalks. There are many residents who want them - but I understand why others might not want them in front of their homes. I've encouraged the City staff to meet with School and AATA staff to try to devise some solutions, especially as transit between home and school is the responsibility of parents.

The Council has accepted the non-motorized transportation master plan, but hasn't identified any funding source for filling the 'sidewalk gaps' identified in that document. I've attached a brief document that presents my understanding of sidwalks and sidewalk gaps, with maps of the First Ward. I continue to work toward a better plan for filling those gaps and providing safe walking routes to parks, schools and commercial centers.

On the Agenda

The agenda can (and frequently does) change on the day of the Council meeting. This information is as complete as I can make it.

Ordinances and Public Hearings

There are several public hearings connected to resolutions rather than ordinances. I cover both in this section.

Public Hearings and Ordinances

A developer has requested that his proposed building site, on Catherine between Ingalls and Glen, be downzoned from PUD to R4C. This proposed development is also on the agenda and will also have a public hearing. A new residential use, the project has been approved by the Historic District Commission, Planning Commission, and the ZBA (it needed a variance).

There's also a public hearing on a staff-initiated rezoning of a strip of land from PL (public land) to C3 (fringe commercial). This staff-initiated rezoning doesn't reflect a change in ownership; this land has never belonged to the City, the University, the schools or otherwise been in public ownership.

Public Hearings and Resolutions

Up for public hearing is a resolution about granting an Industrial Facilities Exemption Certificate to Barracuda Networks for work they intend to complete at 317 Maynard. The City had previously granted an Industrial Development District designation for this address; the amount of the request has changed.

According to the documentation included in this resolution,

On or before January 20, 2014, Barracuda Networks shall provide the City Assessor with the actual costs of Real Property Improvements and the New Personal Property identified in Exhibit A. If those costs are less than the estimated cost on the Application by more than ten percent (10%), Barracuda Networks shall have materially breached the terms of this Agreement and the City shall have the right to recommend revocation of the Certificate subject to provision 10 of this agreement to the State Tax Commission or taking other appropriate lega/ action in connection with the default.

By December 31, 20 14, Barracuda Networks will add not less than one hundred forty four (144) jobs at the facility named on the Application as compared to its number of employees as of the effective date of the Certificate. If Barracuda Networks adds less than one hundred forty four (144) additional jobs by December 31,2014, Barracuda Networks shall have materially breached the terms of this Agreement and the City shall have the right to recommend revocation of the Certificate subject to provision 10 of this agreement to the State Tax Commission or taking other appropriate legal action in connection with the default.

Ordinances at First Reading

A potential change to the Medical Marijuana Licensing Ordinance is back on the agenda - the Council had previously postponed this issue until the first meeting in October. However, the several pieces of legislation going through the Michigan house and senate have still not passed. And several significant court cases remain pending. Because any outcome could affect whether it's appropriate to amend the ordinance, I will move to table it at the Council meeting.

According to Council rules, I will have six months to pick this ordinance back up from the table before it is considered 'demised'. Love these terms.


Consent Agenda

On the Consent Agenda is a resolution to study whether it's feasible to open an access (for both water and pedestrians) under the railroad tracks that parallel Depot. Studies take time; this study is being conducted in conjunction with the North Main Vision Task Force's mandate to determine the best possible route from the south to the north side of the tracks, connecting with the Border to Border trail. Because there are several entitites involved - including the railroad, which is still not owned by MDOT, as near as I can tell - even if the study recommends a solution, construction may not start in the next year or so.

Also up for consideration is a contract to look at the current AAPD staff and recommend a mechanism for promotion, ensuring that there's an appropriate list of potential sargeants and lieutenants as officers retire. I've asked, but have not yet learned, what the current mechanism for promotion is, and how this proposal affects union contracts.

Council Resolutions

At the last Council meeting, Council member Anglin brought foward a resolution to establish a committee - two representatives from each ward - that would make recommendations about the best use of public lands in the downtown. Several Council members raised questions about the proposed committee. It's still not clear to me when this group would be expected to make that recommendation, or to whom, or to what effect.

Board and Commission Resolutions

The planning staff have brought forward to resolution to amend site plans - one for Fiat on Stadium and the other for the Food Gatherer's warehouse PUD on Carrot Way. There's also a resolution from the Energy Commission asking that Council support the 25-by-25 (renewable energy) proposal on the November ballot.

Staff Resolutions

As we all know, the City stopped picking up loose leaves in the street - you know, the ones we raked there - a couple of years ago. But picking up all the bagged leaves has created some problems, too. On the agenda is a resolution to rent some trucks that can pick up those bagged leaves more efficiently (our current trucks pick up two bags at a time, which really doesn't make sense in some neighborhoods). When the City was still picking up loose leaves, it often rented equipment. This $117,200 expense is in the budget.

The ongoing battle with storm water continues. One creative solution that the staff are recommending is that we partner with the Washtenaw County Water Resources Department to create some detention basins under Miller Road as part of the Miller Road (between Maple and Newport) reconstruction project scheduled for next year. The Water Resources staff would design and construct the detention system. According to the resolution:

The total cost of the Miller Avenue Improvements Project is estimated at $6,505,000.00.  The stormwater quality management portion of this project that is being financed with State Revolving Funds (SRF) is $300,000.00 and has been approved for a low interest (2.5%) (SRF) loan, which will be secured by the County in response to this petition.  The reason for financing a portion of the stormwater improvements with SRF, is the potential eligibility for 50% loan forgiveness. The City's apportionment of this stormwater work within the drainage district is 100% of the district. Therefore, the City's share will be $300,000.00 for financing the stormwater improvements through the County to the SRF. 


At the end of the agenda are minutes and reports from various organizations, board and commissions. You might be interested in the AATA memo on the transit plan or in the new version of the 5-year plan, itself. The packet also contains the survey results on transportation that SEMCOG (South East Michigan Council of Governments) shared.

And although it's not on the agenda, the next Council meeting will include a reconsideration of the Connector Study. Here's the AATA resolution on the Connector Study, which is most recent information I've received. And I have heard that the DDA is willing to provide $30K toward the Connector Study, as they want it to have a focus on moving folks to downtown.

There are always other items on the agenda that I don't highlight. If you have questions or concerns about any item, please let me know.

On the Horizon

The election in November

Here's the text of the two Ann Arbor City millage proposals on the ballot. These are just two of several proposals: at least 6 from the State of Michigan, 1 from the District Library, and 2 from the City of Ann Arbor.



Shall the Charter be amended to authorize a tax up to 1.10 mills for park maintenance and capital improvements for 2013 through 2018 to replace the previously authorized tax for park maintenance and capital improvements for 2007 through 2012, which will raise in the first year of the levy the estimated total revenue of $5,052,000?



Shall the Charter be amended to limit sources of funding for art in public places and to authorize a new tax of up to one-tenth (0.10) of a mill for 2013 through 2016 to fund art in public places, which 0.10 mill will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $459,273?

Absentee Ballot Applications

If you meet one of the following criteria, you are eligible to appy for an absentee ballot:

Call the City Clerk for more information about absentee ballots or complete the attached request form and return it to the City Clerk at PO Box 8647, Ann Arbor, MI 48107, email:cityclerk@a2gov.org;  or fax: 734-994-8296.

Calendar and Events

Larcom Building, Basement Conference Room A
301 East Huron, Ann Arbor
Wednesday, October 3, 2012, 5 - 7 p.m.

Wednesday, October 3: 6:30–8:30 p.m. Urban and Community Forest Management Plan Public Meeting — Cobblestone Farm, 2781 Packard Road. The city will be gathering input on the draft recommendations for the plan. Details:  www.a2gov.org/urbanforestry.

Ann Arbor residents may take solid waste survey and be eligible for prize drawings

Ann Arbor residents are encouraged to lend their voices to the city’s updating process of the five-year Solid Waste Management Plan by filling in an survey before October 5th . The survey is posted online at www.a2gov.org/recycling and is being mailed to residents in the fall WasteWatcher newsletter.  All survey participants have the option to include their address and be eligible for three random drawings for a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant or grocery store, iTunes or Ann Arbor Canoe Livery. Just respond by Oct. 5, 2012 to be included in the survey summary and prize drawings.

Tuesday, October 9: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Last day to register to vote in the election on Nov. 6, 2012. Registrations are accepted at all Secretary of State branch offices and the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s office (second floor of Larcom City Hall). Mailed registrations with a postmark by the deadline are also accepted. Details: 734.794.6140 / www.a2gov.org/elections.


The City of Ann Arbor is holding a public meeting to discuss city-owned property located at 721 N. Main Street, and we would like your input. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main Street, Ann Arbor.

The 721 N. Main project, a component of the City Council-appointed North Main-Huron River Vision Task Force, is intended to determine the best use of this site as part of the overall vision for the North Main-Huron River area. More information can be found on the project webpage

Downtown Design Guidelines Review Board will meet in two sessions on Wednesday, October 17 in the Basement Conference Room of City Hall. 

First, next door and above the Pizza House Restaurant at 624 Church Street, a fourteen story residential tower of 83 units is proposed. They are asking for off-site parking under the city's "contribution in lieu" provisions through a hoped for contract with the DDA/City. The project at 624 Church Street will be considered from 1:30-3:00 p.m. 

Then, a fifteen story mixed-use housing and retail development  is proposed on East Huron between Sloan Plaza and North Division. There will be 213 dwelling units with two levels of underground parking. This project at 413 E. Huron will be considered from 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Public meetings on the proposed Solid Waste Plan

What am I reading?

I finished reading all the storm water reports I received from the City of Ann Arbor (dating from 1974 through 2010). Most are focused on the Allen Creek, but some include the entire city. I'm grateful that I had sense enough to first read The Politics of Urban Runoff, by Andrew Karvonen.

I'm still reading Great American City : Chicago and the enduring neighborhood effect (2012) by Robert J. Sampsom. But, just to help me get all I can out of this and Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery (2012) by Daniel P. Aldrich, I've picked up Connected: the surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives (2009), by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. It's difficult to actually learn about social networks (also called social capital) without having enough of the specialized language in hand. I love the charts.