<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Second January 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,

The first significant snow of the season always catches me unprepared.  I’ve placed a bag of kitty litter in the back of the car (good if I get stuck).  But I haven’t dug out my boots, and we don’t have the holiday lights up yet.  I always intend to do that Thanksgiving weekend – but we never have.
That first snow seems to catch the rest of us unprepared, too.  If you watched the snowfall from the warmth of your living room yesterday, I know you had a lovely afternoon.  If – like me – you had promises to keep, you will have likely done as I did, and grumbled about the condition of the streets.  I tracked the snow plows, too. 
If you feel inclined to refresh your understanding of City snow plowing / deicing practices, here are some links to the City’s website:
Frequently Asked Questions, like “How can I avoid having a city plow truck push snow into my driveway after I clean it?
A fact sheet on “White Snow / Green Streets”.
A program that maps the current location of all snow plows (which is rather cool.  As I typed this, I could see plows on Barton, Indianola and Chandler).

If none of this makes you happy - and the website is only so good - here's the phone number for the SNOW desk (734.794.6362), which should be answered by a live person during every snow event.


At the most recent Council work session (Monday, January 13th) the Council (and the viewing public) heard from a number of folks about one of the policy priorities for this year – economic development.  The Council also received a short update from the Economic Development committee.
Lou Glazer spoke on ‘Making the Case for a Healthy Michigan’ – in which he primarily focused on increasing urbanization in order to retain young college-educated people.
Paul Krutko, Executive Director of SPARK, provided an update on SPARK activities in the last year.
The current chair of the LDFA (Local Development Finance Authority), Carrie Leahy, presented an update on the ways the LDFA had helped start-up businesses and how those businesses had created new jobs during the past year.  The City has a web page with lots of LDFA information; the update for City Council included the presentation, the annual report, the financial report for 2013, and the current agreement among the City, the LDFA and SPARK.
There are some interesting things to note about all of these presentations.  First, although the LDFA is funded, in part, through tax increment financing, the school budget is not affected by the LDFA.  The State holds schools harmless – which means that the State calculates how much should come from schools, and provides that from other State funding.  If the LDFA were eliminated, no money would return to the taxing authorities (City, County, Schools, Library, WCC) – the money would all go back to the State.  Another interesting aspect of the presentation is that neither SPARK nor the LDFA are job-creating organizations.  They are business-creating/supporting organizations.  The expectation is that SPARK and the LDFA will provide training, mentoring and support to nascent businesses, and that these businesses will grow and provide more jobs.
And then, of course, there are those companies already well established elsewhere that are encouraged to move to our community.  Those companies create jobs locally – but it’s difficult for me to state how much of the decision to move here relies on work done by SPARK or the LDFA.

On the Agenda

Sometimes I get my newsletter finished before The Chronicle publishes its preview of the Council agenda.  Not this week.  For a different view of agenda items, click here
And please note: Martin Luther King Day is Monday, January 20th.  City Council will meet on Tuesday, January 21st; City offices will be closed in honor of the holiday.

Public Hearings


The Council will hold a public hearing on a resolution to direct the Planning Commission about zoning for downtown.  Approval of the resolution is not the same as approval of any zoning changes, or any changes to the master plan.

The Council will also hold a public hearing on the revised design for 624 S. Church before considering approval.  This project has been redesigned with a larger lot and more units than originally approved.


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

The Council will determine whether to approve a rezoning on S. State Street (from TWP to C1) on the Hoffman properties (1643 and 1645 S. State) – this is the Biercamp site.  The owners had petitioned for rezoning in 2011, but were rejected because of the pending State Street Corridor Plan.  If approved at first reading, the Council will hold a public hearing and second (final) vote in late February or early March.


Resolutions from Council

The Council will consider two resolutions about liquor licenses: the Lunch Room (for a new downtown district license) and Silvio’s Pizza for a change in license (from Tavern to Class C).  Council members Anglin, Kailasapathy and Lumm are on the Liquor License Review Committee.

A more interesting resolution is one that requests approval of a contract with Atwell LLC for environmental site assessment services ($25,500).  Although this item doesn’t have the most compelling title, it reflects a request that the City establish a contract with Atwell to assess the Edwards Brothers site on S. State Street for contaminants and other impediments to development.  The City Council is considering whether to exercise its right of first refusal and purchase the land for the amount already offered by the University of Michigan.

Resolutions from Boards and Commissions

Two resolutions from the Planning Commission will be considered – after public hearings.

Resolution on D1 zoning:  Last March, I brought a resolution to Council calling for a moratorium on new development downtown until the zoning was re-evaluated.  While the moratorium was defeated, the Council did approve a re-evaluation of downtown zoning on certain sites.  That re-evaluation process is complete – and each of the specified sites is being recommended for less-intense development (two changing to a maximum height of 60 feet; one changing to a maximum height of 120 feet).  Also recommended are changes to the qualifications for premiums.  One additional recommendation is to define core design guidelines and use these guidelines to determine whether premiums should be available to a developer.

Several recommendations from the consultant are not included in this resolution.  I may be offering amendments on Tuesday, January 21st to include those recommendations.

Resolution on revised site plan for 624 S. Church:  When first approved, the project occupied the site of the Pizza House (leaving the restaurant intact and building above it).  As revised, the project extends to Willard Street – as the owner of the adjacent parcels offered to sell them for the project.  The resulting site plan is larger and provides a mix of unit sizes, bringing the total number of units to 123 and the number of bedrooms to 232.  Parking will primarily be provided off-site, in the Forest Street Parking Structure, using the payment-in-lieu-of-parking process that was approved by Council in 2012.

One resolution from the Public Art Commission is up for consideration.

Resolution to extend the contract for the staff person working with the Public Art Commission: This resolution would extend the contract an additional six months (through June 30, 2014) at a cost of $20,500; the money would come from those funds remaining in the Percent for Art fund.  (The final project supported by Percent for Art dollars is proposed for Argo Cascades.  None of the proposals has been approved, and the Public Art Commission has restarted the selection process.)

Resolutions from Staff

Consent Agenda
The sobriety court (which helps those folks who have problems with alcohol and drug addiction) could benefit from two separate contracts: one with Community Support and Treatment Services (CSTS) to provide mental health treatment services, and another with the Sheriff’s office to provide drug screening.


Two items on the agenda deal with filling sidewalk gaps.

The first is a resolution to build – and pay for – a short sidewalk on Waldenwood, linking a 4-way intersection with King School.  Approval requires 8 votes.

The second is a resolution to establish a special assessment district along Pontiac Trail in order to build a sidewalk from Cloverdale / Arrowwood to Dhu Varren Road (and therefore, to Olson Park).  (see the map) Approval requires 8 votes.

This is part of the planned reconstruction of Pontiac Trail (extending from just north of Skydale Drive to just south of the bridge over M-14). In addition to the street reconstruction, the project includes extending the water main north from Dhu Varren Road to just south of the bridge over M-14, extending sanitary sewer north from Skydale Drive to just south of bridge over M-14, and striping for bike lanes. The project will also include stormwater improvements such as bioswales or rain gardens and the addition of a small section of curb and gutter.

Approximately 1,000 feet of new curb and gutter just north of Skydale on each side of Pontiac Trail is being proposed to protect an existing wetland.  City staff also recommend that the project include the addition of sidewalk along the east side of Pontiac Trail to fill in existing sidewalk gaps and to provide pedestrian access to Olson Park and Dhu Varran Road.


There are always other items on the Agenda that might interest you, such as street closings for several different ‘runs’ through Ann Arbor, or the sign inventory and pavement assessment project, or the lease with the University for a city-owned parking lot off Mary Street (increasing the lease from $225/month to $4,000/month).

On the Calendar

City staff will hold a neighborhood meeting on January 22nd at 7 pm to discuss the planned sidewalk along Newport Road from Forsythe middle school to Riverwood.  Please come to the Media Center at Forsythe.

The Planning Commission meets on January 23rd (Thursday) to consider rezoning 515 Oxford from R4A (multifamily) to R2B (which allows sorority and fraternity uses).  If recommended by Planning Commission and approved by the City Council, this change would allow for an addition (for an additional 20 residents) to an existing building.

On the Horizon

Interested in the health of the City’s creeks?  The Millers Creek Sedimentation study will be presented on February 5th at 6:30 pm in the Gallup Park conference room.
And if you’ve been following the Sanitary Sewer Wet Weather Project, the next meeting will be held on February 6th.  Mark your calendars – and stay tuned, as the time and place are not yet finalized.
The Environmental Assessment for a new / improved train station
On January 10th, City staff met with representatives from the Federal Rail Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation, AAATA and the consulting team to review the overall project goals, discuss near-term milestones and immediate action items. The project will be conducted in accordance with FRA and Amtrak requirements, which include complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These requirements include the development of several key documents, creation of a conceptual design and the environmental review.
The initial public meeting has not yet been scheduled; I’ll make certain to include information in this newsletter about that as it comes to me.


What am I reading?

Atlantic Cities digital daily report recently highlighted a new book: Happy Cities by Charles Montgomery.  Several neighbors sent me the link – and since I subscribe to Atlantic Cities, I read about it, too.  It’s now resting comfortably on my electronic bookshelf.
I'm still reading Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks by Barbara McCann.  Much of this book is about the rationale and history of the Complete Streets national policy.