<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Second January newsletter 2013

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.  


Caucus is cancelled for January 20th.  But in general, 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.


Dear Neighbors,

This month has been mild so far.  But as I write this update, I understand that the temperature will drop in the next day, and that severe cold is on the way.
Of course, that means snow may follow.  To remind you of snow, the photo above was taken December 26th by my son at Argo Cascades. 

If it does snow, here’s a reminder.  The City doesn’t plow streets all the way down to the pavement.  But if your street is slippery or dangerous, please let me know.  Also, please tell me if your street hasn’t been plowed within 24 hours of the snow fall’s end.  I want to hear about cul-de-sac issues as well as hilly streets that are too slippery for safe travel.

Strong Communities

Some things the City does for us – at our request, like enforce the laws.  Other things, we do for ourselves – because we can, like shopping for groceries.  But there are things that we, as a community, can do together – things a bit more engaging than watching football.
Monday, January 21 is Martin Luther King Day of Service.  Rather than reading a book or taking the day to lounge in our pjs, some of us will be volunteering for a special project – like renovating a house, or providing guidance to young people interested in careers in health care, or removing invasive brush from Furstenberg Park.  If you would like to know more about volunteering in our community, go to VolunteerWashtenaw.
Several of our neighbors have created neighborhood associations and registered them with the City.  Neighborhood groups registered with the City automatically receive notices about events, meetings and surveys.  Neighborhood groups also receive notices about public hearings that specifically concern that neighborhood.  Here’s a map of Ann Arbor with the various neighborhood groups and their boundaries.
If you haven’t yet established an electronic mail group for your neighborhood, or you are thinking about improving yours, I recommend that you look at Nextdoor.com

Connecting William Street

The DDA presented its draft plan (links to both the draft plan and supplemental information) to the City Council at a working session on January 14th.  And while that plan is . . . interesting, no decisions on the use of these lots should be considered in isolation.  PAC (the Parks Advisory Commission) has been discussing parks in the downtown and the proposed Allen Creek Greenway for months (and years).  The most recent PAC meeting was focused on the discussion of downtown parks.

North Main Huron River Vision Task Force (NMHRV)

The City Council charged the NMHRV task force with developing a vision to create/complete/enhance pedestrian and bike connection from downtown Ann Arbor to Bandemer Park and Huron River Drive; increasing public access to the river-side amenities of existing parks in the North Main–Huron River corridor; easing traffic congestion at Main and Depot streets at certain times of day; and recommending the best use of the MichCon property at Broadway and the former City Yard at 721 N. Main.  Deadlines for the first four items are July 31; the deadline for the last item was December 31.  The task force submitted its recommendation for the use of 721 N. Main in December, and presented it at the first Council meeting in January.
The remediation work at the MichCon site is over for the winter – or so I’ve heard.  But MichCon is looking at possible uses for the site, including using a portion for businesses, residential construction and/or restaurants.
Meeting of the NMHRV occur every three weeks.  The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 23rd from 5-7 pm in the basement of Larcom.

Public Art Task Force

The Council appointed a task force of Council members to “to recommend amendments to the Chapters 8 and 24 relative to [the] public art program, including but not limited to the percent for art program.”  I am on this task force.  Over the past month, members of the task force have met three times and discussed their concerns about the public art program (and the percent-for-art mechanism for paying for public art).  They will now begin to consider amendments.  I anticipate that the City will also place at least one question on Open City Hall for community feedback.

Planning Commission

Over the last few weeks I’ve had several emails about a proposed development at the corner of Huron and Division.  Although this proposal was part of the Planning Commission agenda on January 15th, the commission adjourned without discussing the project.
In the course of reading the proposal and considering the documents provided, I learned that the Planning staff provides very thorough guidance to prospective developers about the Citizen Participation Ordinance, what measures the developer should take to involve us and our neighbors in discussing any proposed development, and how the developer should prepare the report on the Citizen Participation meetings for Planning Commission and the Council.  I also saw that compliance with this ordinance is spotty.
The City is undertaking a review of the Citizen Participation Ordinance.  I hope you will provide your insight into how this ordinance has worked for you – if you’ve participated, of course – and what improvements you would like to see.

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

On the Agenda

The agenda for January 22 is remarkably light.


The Volunteer of the Month (actually, there are two people receiving this award) is for maintaining the traffic islands on Liberty. 

Ordinances and Public Hearings

There will be a public hearing and vote about a resolution to annex a lot on Geddes Rd.
In response to a petition from several property owners, the Planning Commission has evaluated and recommended rezoning several parcels from R1B to R1C (both a single-family residential zonings).  The difference between R1B and R1C is the number of square feet in the lot: R1B (the current zoning) requires a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet, with a front setback no smaller than 30 feet.  R1C (the desired zoning) requires a minimum lot size of 7,200 square feet, with a front setback no smaller than 25 feet.  The lots in question are between 8,774 square feet and 17,553 square feet.  There is no maximum lot size.


The Council will consider whether to use $15K from the general fund reserves to fund preliminary engineering and design work for a sidewalk along Newport Road from Riverwood to Wines elementary.  The neighborhoods off Newport (both west and east) have requested this sidewalk as a minimum, to allow their children to walk safely to school.  This sidewalk would connect pedestrians from the south side of the M14 overpass to Skyline high school and Bird Hills Park.  It would also connect pedestrians from the Newport Creek and Newport Hills neighborhoods to Wines and Forsythe schools.  Although it’s a bit premature, this item fits into the ‘improve infrastructure’ priority approved by the City Council for the 2014 budget year.
The City Council will vote on a resolution that requests the City repair any broken or deteriorating sidewalks in the DDA district, and requires the DDA to provide the millage dollars - .125 mills that were authorized in November, 2011 – for the City to perform this maintenance.  As the City is responsible for repairing all other broken or deteriorating sidewalks in the City, this arrangement seems economically appropriate.  This item does not add any expenses to the City’s budget.
The residents of the North Ives Woods neighborhood have requested residential permit parking.  The costs for this program ($1,800) would be allocated from the General Fund Reserves.  Residents of North Ives Woods have indicated that their neighborhood is severely impacted by non-residential cars – possibly associated with students and employees at the UM – parking in the area to take the bus to the campus area.


You might like to read the latest DDA Annual Report.

As always, there are other things on the agenda.  If you have any questions or concerns about an agenda item – or about a service the City provides – please contact me.

On the Horizon

The police will be closely monitoring crosswalks between January 22 – January 26.  In addition to their regular attention, they will focus on known problem areas, including Fuller Road by the VA, North Division by Community High School, the North Division end of the Broadway Bridges and Plymouth Road by Bishop.

Martin Luther King Day of Service (Monday, January 21): join other volunteers at Furstenburg Park to help remove invasive brush.

The Environmental Commission will host a public hearing about the draft Solid Waste Plan on Thursday, January 24th (7 pm, City Council Chambers).

Building on the public forums from last year, the 2013 sustainability forums will focus on planning for change in the community. The series will include four events organized around four of the City’s sustainability goals (www.a2gov.org/sustainability). The events will be held monthly from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Ann Arbor District Downtown Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave. from January through April 2013. Dates and topics for the events are listed below:

Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 — Economic Vitality, including opportunities to invest in the local economy and to build a strong sense of place in the community

Thursday, March 21, 2013 — Diverse Housing, including how to meet the current and future needs of the community with changing housing demographics, such as older residents, a high rental population, and affordability

Thursday, April 18, 2013 — Transportation Options, including the transition to more fuel efficient modes of transit, such as electric vehicles, and non-motorized planning efforts in the community

The AARP, the City’s Planning staff, the Office of Services to the Aging and the Michigan Municipal League will host a symposium on AGE FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES: GREAT PLACES FOR ALL AGES on February 28th at Palmer Commons from 9 am to 4 pm.

What am I reading?

I’ve been reading some pleasurable trash, some knitting books, and most particularly Thinking Statistically, by Uri Bram.  For those who are interested, I continue to recommend The Walkable City by Jeff Speck.  On my bookshelf, waiting for me, is a two-book set: On Politics: A History of Political Thought from Herodotus to the Present, by Alan Ryan.  I thank our neighbor who recommended this set.