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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 the basement at City Hall through December, 2014.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.

all it takes is two days!

March 16, 2015


Dear neighbors,

Just a few days of warmer weather make such a difference in our moods.  Yesterday morning, there was about 5 inches of snow under the trees; today, the snow is gone and the snowdrops are clearly up. 

Of course, seeing the snow diminish means we see all the things that had been hidden by the more benign aspects of snow – the little gifts left in the garden by the random dog or wild animal, the remains of someone’s trash that blew into a corner, the broken pavement.

Ah, the broken pavement.

The City produced this nice flyer about spring, and its attendant issues: potholes and crumbling pavement, faded lane and crosswalk paint, and flooding.  In cases of both pavement and paint, permanent and semi-permanent fixes cannot begin until the ground is warm enough – which for us means early-to-mid-May.

As I travel through our community, I continue to report potholes and other issues to the City.  There is one type of problem, though, that I hope you will report to me: crumbling pavement.  In some areas, the top coat of pavement turns into crumbled asphalt.  Some situations occur only at pavement edges – between curbs and pavement and between pavement lanes.  Others occur in the driving lane.  If you see such problems – which tend to be hard for the City to fix, because the holes are not sufficiently deep – please share the location with me.  I’ll be reporting problems directly to City staff, so they can map and investigate.  Thanks.

The deer, the deer, the deer

The City deer management study will be released this spring, probably in April.  I do not know what the study will include in its fact-finding, data-centered materials or which potential interventions will be recommended.  Of course, that means that I don’t know what those interventions would cost, nor where the funding would come from.

I know the community has very different ideas about the problem(s).  Is it deer population numbers?  The effect of deer eating natural area vegetation?  The effect of deer eating ornamental yard plants?  Or small vegetable gardens in yards?  Or accidents between drivers (and their cars) and deer?  Or public health concerns over deer health and deer ticks? 

Because there are so many definitions of ‘the problem’ there are also many ideas about ‘solutions.’  Please make certain I hear from you on both the problem you see – if any – and the solution you support – if one is needed.  But I hope you will wait to learn more about the deer management study, too.

Possible resources for you to learn more:
Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance
Deer Damage Management Techniques in Maryland
A Citizen’s Guide to Deer Management in New York State
Non-Lethal Deer Population Control for Urban Environments
Urban Deer Management in Wisconsin
Stakeholder Acceptance of Urban Deer management
A Citizen’s Guide to the Management of White-tailed Deer in Urban and Suburban New York

And, if you really get into reading about this issue, I’ve been told Deerland: America’s hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness, by Al Cambronne, is worth the time to read.  So, onto the reading list it goes.


On the Agenda            

City Council meets on Monday, March 16th; Planning Commission meets on Tuesday, March 17th.  Both meetings begin at 7 pm in City Council Chambers at City Hall.

Sidewalks

With the weather warming up, it’s good news that any change in the sidewalk snow-removal ordinance will not have an immediate effect on our lives.  In the past two weeks, I’ve learned that many people were not aware of their snow removal responsibilities; the discussion has been a big benefit for the community.

The Council will hold a public hearing on the revisions to the sidewalk ordinance that deal with snow removal.  The provisions for snow and ice removal in the current ordinance have not been reviewed in over 20 years. 

One of the concerns Council members raised at the first reading of this ordinance is the removal of the 1-inch rule that, in the current ordinance language states “within 24 hours after the end of each accumulation of snow greater than 1 inch, the owner or occupant of every residentially zoned property shall remove the accumulation from the adjacent public sidewalk and walks and ramps leading to a crosswalk. The accumulation may be from any source including precipitation and drifting.

I have drafted a substitute ordinance that, if accepted by Council, would reinstate that 1-inch rule. 

The biggest issue with regard to snow removal that I have seen is the consistent difficulty City staff have in enforcing the ordinance.  Property owners who disregard their responsibility to clear the walks of snow and ice have made increased enforcement necessary.

Several people have asked whether the City can legally force adjacent property owners to clear the snow from their walks. I looked at several Michigan statutes that indicate to me that a village, town or city may, through resolution or ordinance, “require the owners and occupants of a lot or premises to remove all snow and ice from the sidewalks in front of or adjacent to the lot and premises, and to keep the sidewalks free from obstructions, encroachments, encumbrances, filth, and other nuisances.”  These laws date back to the late 19th century, and have been revised most recently in 1998.

Infrastructure (parks, bridges, and stormwater)

Street reconstruction season is nearly upon us – and that means, the City is preparing contracts for necessary work.  Up first:  a petition to the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner (WCWRC) for stormwater improvements as part of the Geddes Road reconstruction; a petition to the WCWRC for permission to seek a low-interest loan to cover the cost of storm water improvements, including a city-wide street tree planting plan; a contract for the reconstruction of the Island Park bridges; a pair of contracts for the reconstruction of the Fuller / Maiden Lane bridges; a contract for a new irrigation system in Olson Park.

And, although many of us would like to be done thinking about winter, the Council will consider a resolution asking the administration to prepare a cost estimate for the establishment and maintenance of three outdoor (free) skating rinks at Northside Park, Allmendinger Park and Burns Park.

Development

Monday, March  16th will be a busy night for public hearings.  In addition to the public hearing on the sidewalk snow removal ordinance, there are three public hearings on pending development.

The Council will hold a public hearing on whether to annex into the City two parcels of land on Nixon Road, one on the north side of DhuVarren and one on the south side.  Nixon Farms North, a 69-acre parcel, and Nixon Farms South, a 41-acre parcel, have been in the City’s master plan as the potential site of dense (7-10 units per acre) housing.  On the agenda is a pair of resolutions that could result in annexation, the first step toward considering a site plan for these parcels.

Until these parcels are annexed, the City will not move forward with any improvements to the Nixon/ DhuVarren/ Green intersection, as there is not sufficient in-City right-of-way available for the construction.  (DhuVarren Road in this area is also under jurisdiction of the township, and remains so until the parcels are annexed.)

At this time, the site plans for a variety of projects on the north side – off Nixon Road and Pontiac Trail – have not been discussed or approved by the City Council.  These site plans include: Woodbury Club Apartments (282 apartments); Nixon Farms north and south condominium townhomes (a total of 473 units); and North Sky on Pontiac (131 single family homes and 63 apartments).

Another public hearing will be held for proposed expansion of and construction of the athletic campus at Concordia University.  Adjacent neighbors have voiced concern about lighting in the new parking lot that is part of this project, because such lights might intrude significantly on their property.

That strip of detached buildings between Pittsfield and Yost on Washtenaw is the object of yet another public hearing.  The property owner is seeking approval of a site plan that unites all the buildings into one structure, improves storm water detention, adds more street trees, and improves the parking lot.

The Council will consider waiving the site-plan fee for the reconstruction of Thurston Pond.  This Ann Arbor Public School-owned nature area near Clague and Thurston schools has suffered a bit from longstanding drainage and sedimentation issues; waiving the fee will decrease the cost for this work to the public schools by over $8,000.

Chickens

The City Council will hold a public hearing and then consider a new fee structure for urban chicken permits.

Public Policy 

From time to time, the Council urges other governmental organizations and voters to act.  That is the case with a Council-sponsored resolution in support of the State Ballot Proposal 15-1, on the May ballot.  The best phrase I heard to describe support came from State Representative Jeff Irwin at a recent meeting on the issue: ‘unenthusiastic support.’  The funding from the State – which we all pay to the State as we buy gas – has been inadequate for years.  This ballot proposal does not solve the funding problems fully, and places a significant day-to-day burden on those with limited incomes, but is the only solution that will result in improvements to road and street funding in the near term.

Other

As always, there are other items on the agenda, including a number items to continue work on the Waste Water Treatment Plant.


Updates

Stadium reconstruction

When the City holds a meeting about a major reconstruction project early in the process, it can seem frustrating for some members of the public.  I was pleased with the attendance at the meeting on reconstructing Stadium (from Kipke to Hutchins), but recognize that many people could have been dissatisfied with the many statements of ‘we are looking at that’ and ‘we do not have those details yet.’  Here’s what I took away from the discussion:

What I heard residents say:

What I wish I had heard:

Traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, and bike safety should all improve once the road surface is replaced.  Storm water management will definitely improve.

Construction is anticipated to last two years – during the summer of 2016 and the summer of 2017.  I look forward to the next meeting and the opportunity to learn more.

Oh, Deer - again

In February, the City conducted the first-ever (baseline) aerial deer count.  Although I have not yet seen any data, I hope that the deer count reflects our individual experiences about where – and how many – deer are in our community.

I’ve heard from many individuals who are advocating for a specific vote on the deer management plan.  At this time, however, there is no plan; there is no item on the agenda, and there is no report to share.  As soon as I have information about the report and an indication of which solutions might be possible in our community, I will share it.

Yesterday, five rough-coated deer were in my yard.

Surveys

Up on the City’s A2OpenCityHall is a survey about dog parks.  Got a viewpoint?  Please share it via the survey.  (And yes, you must be willing to accept cookies.  That ensures that you are counted.)

The Ann Arbor Police Department now has two surveys available to gather citizen feedback on our services and perception on community safety.  The service satisfaction survey invites feedback from citizens that have had an interaction with Ann Arbor Police Department employees.  The community safety survey invites residents to share their perceptions of how secure they feel in Ann Arbor neighborhoods, parks and commercial areas.  Please take a few minutes to complete the surveys listed above under the Quick Links.  These surveys are anonymous.  The police department appreciates your feedback.


On the calendar

Greek Revival in America: Tracing Its Architectural Roots to Ancient Athens
Kempf House Museum, Wednesday, March 18, noon – 1 pm ($2 admission)
Ilene & Norman Tyler, Architects & Historic Preservationists will tell what they discovered about their home and the roots of the Greek Revival style. Their book will be available for purchase.

Water and Sewer Capital Cost Recovery Study Meeting, Wednesday, March 18, 4 pm, downtown Ann Arbor District Library

The City of Ann Arbor is planning the second public meeting to discuss information about the Water and Sewer Capital Cost Recovery Study. The meeting will take place Wednesday, March 18, 2015, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave. in Ann Arbor.

The agenda will include a review of the Capital Cost Recovery Charge approach used for the study and review of the draft recommendations on new capital charges for water and sewer. Please visit the project website for more information.

Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force Community Meeting: Wednesday, March 25, 6:30 – 8:30, downtown Ann Arbor District Library

Share input regarding potential task force recommendations for identified pedestrian safety and access issues. Details: a2gov.org/pedsafety. Contact person: Connie Pulcipher, cpulcipher@a2gov.org

No Fooling—35 Years of Historic Preservation Education at EMU
Kempf House Museum, Wednesday April 1, noon – 1 pm ($2 admission)
Ted Ligibel, Director, EMU Graduate Historic Preservation Program
Now in its 35th year, Dr. Ted will illuminate the evolution of EMU’s Historic Preservation Program, now the largest graduate program of its kind in the nation.

Fool Moon
Main Street Ann Arbor (between Washington and Ashley), Friday, April 10, dusk to midnight
This sublime moonlight event features enormous processions of community-made illuminated sculptures carried by dancing teams of merrymakers as they thread their way downtown to the heart of Ann Arbor. Pageant participants and revelers alike will enjoy delicious moonlit treats and craft brewed spirits; roving, shimmering, shadow puppet performances, building sized experimental films, and many more luminous surprises.

FestiFools, Sunday, April 12, 4:00–5:00pm, Main St., between Washington and William
(Come early for the best location!)
A new local tradition, kicking off Ann Arbor’s outdoor festival season, FestiFools is a gigantic public art spectacular, created by members of the community and U of M students. Magnificent, huge, bizarre, politically incorrect, human-powered papier-mâché puppets join thousands of Foolish friends frolicking about downtown for one fun-filled hour. Don’t miss out on this eight annual celebration of foolishness!

Make your own puppet?  Details here.  

Help others make puppets?  Email us!  

Make your own luminary, using the kit (you can get one at Ace Barnes Hardware and maybe other spots).  Workshops on Sundays at Workentile: 10 – 5, March 15, 22, 29 and April 5.


On the Horizon

Now that I can see the garden, I can also see the effects of the winter – downed limbs and all.  Compost collection starts officially on April 1 (a Wednesday).  My compost bin will be at the curb.

I routinely hear from people who want to know what plans the City has for the large lot at the corner of Maiden Lane and Broadway (the old Kroger’s lot, the site of the failed Broadway Village at Lowertown development).  This lot – in essence owned by the primary investor, the State of Michigan Pension Plan –  is zoned PUD (planned unit development, which allows for a variety of uses).  To the best of anyone’s ability to find anything out, the Pension Plan has not placed this parcel on the market for sale.  Until they decide whether to sell it for development or develop it directly, there are no plans in process for this lot.

There are still large lots for sale in the City.  A parcel on the corner of DhuVarren and Pontiac (also zoned PUD) is for sale for $1.8 million.  And several smaller township islands seem to be in play.  As I recently heard a speaker say, there’s a high demand for more housing in Ann Arbor, and this demand just drives up the cost of new and existing housing for all of us.

The budget

The City Council will be meeting every Monday this month.  The fourth and fifth Mondays (March 23 and March 30) will be budget working sessions, with presentations from the City’s Public Service staff (that’s roads, streets, sidewalks, sewers, drinking water, and water treatment plants).

The Administrator will present his budget to Council at the second Council meeting in April (April 20).  Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on May 4; the City Charter requires the Council to approve a budget no later than the second Council meeting in May.

The City continues to have very little budget flexibility – it can continue the projects and policies already underway, and meet those costs, but will not be able to add many recurring expenses for the next two years.  I’m looking for balance, thoughtfulness and judgment – characteristics I value.


I continue to read Mindwise, by Nicholas Epley.  It is at the Ann Arbor District Library.  I’m nearly done, you should check it out.

I’ve started reading Deerland: America’s hunt for ecological balance and the essence of wildness, by Al Cambronne.  It asks the question “Yes, it definitely is possible to have too many deer. The only question is: How many is too many?”

I am also digging into these books (all from the Ann Arbor District Library): Liberty’s First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson and the Misfits who saved Free Speech, by Charles Slack, Rebellion: the history of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution, by Peter Ackroyd, and Killers of the King, the men who dared execute Charles I, by Charles Spencer.