<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Second March 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.  

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.


Dear Neighbors,

I just watched a small gathering of deer ease their way from my garden, across the street, and on to another neighbor’s garden.  I’m reminded of the folks who think that the best way to improve Ann Arbor is to do something about the deer.
I missed a few meetings this week – I caught a virus – so this report may not be as complete as I’d like. 
I did want to thank the single, brave soul who came to the Town Hall that Council member Kailasapathy and I hosted on February 26th.  We really appreciate your willingness to come out in that heavy snow.  Council member Kailasapathy and I are trying to fix an alternative date in April to hold an additional Town Hall.

I did bring the preliminary report from the Budget and Community Satisfaction survey to the Town Hall.  I’ve attached the full report here.  You may also see it by going to my web site, where you can find all the survey results from previous budget surveys.

On the agenda

Public hearings: ordinances

The Council will consider whether to annex a parcel on Ellsworth near Stone School Road, bringing it into the City as R3 (townhouses).  This annexation and zoning was previously returned to the Planning Commission, as the Council wanted to be confident the proposed zoning was best.  The Planning Commission again approved the zoning on February 21st (R3 doesn’t require multiple driveways, as single family homes might, and is lower density that any of the other options).  
The Council will also consider a site plan for this parcel.  There are, as a result, two public hearings; one on the annexation and zoning, the other on the site plan. 

The Council will consider whether to rezone land on Plymouth Road (near the US23 exit) from hotel to fringe commercial.  The Council will also consider a site plan for a commercial development on this parcel.

Public hearings: resolutions

Many people became used to having a first and second reading on proposed new development; that’s because, for several years, many controversial proposed developments were Planned Unit Developments (PUDs).  PUDs change the zoning, and therefore are ordinance amendments.

However, many developments come to City Council without a required zoning change.  These are presented as resolutions.  They still require a public hearing, but there’s only one reading.

The Council will consider whether to approve a new, 14 story building for the corner of East Huron and North Division.  413 E. Huron, a controversial development plan.
I’ve had quite a bit to say about this proposed development, and my own concerns that the D1/D2 zoning for downtown needs to be evaluated.  For my comments at Planning Commission, the best source is The Chronicle.

Ordinances, first reading

Figuring out how the DDA is funded can be a full-time hobby.  Some in the community question the need for a DDA (the downtown seems pretty healthy to them); others question whether the DDA is functioning to benefit the community.  And of course, still others support the DDA as a community benefit and as a volunteer board.  On the agenda for First Reading is a change to the ordinance authorizing the DDA that, if passed as written, would alter the membership of the DDA board affect how the DDA allocates funding, and affect the amount of incremental taxes the DDA captures (TIF capture).  This ordinance amendment is sponsored by Council members Kailasapathy and Kunselman.


While the Council and the Planning Commission were discussing rezoning downtown several years ago, there were some areas – and some recommendations – about which several of us were particularly concerned.  Some members of Council wanted firm height limits, or incentives to increase downtown residential use, or incentives to improve environmental design.  There were concerns about specific areas adjacent to residential neighborhoods, and discussion about how those residential areas could be protected from intensive development.  And there was a verbal commitment by Council to reconsider the zoning – to assess its affects on downtown construction and near-downtown neighborhoods – within a limited time period.  On the agenda is a resolution directing the Planning Commission to conduct an evaluation of the zoning for downtown.  This resolution includes a moratorium on all new site plans for the six months the evaluation of downtown zoning should take.  It includes in that moratorium all projects ‘in the pipeline’ that have not yet been approved by the Council.  I drafted this resolution and am sponsoring it, as is Council member Kunselman.


Of course, there are other resolutions on the agenda.  There are resolutions to close one or more streets (Summer Festival’s Top of the Park, Mayor’s Green Fair, Box Cart/Soap Box Derby, Taste of Ann Arbor).  There’s also a resolution to approve a contract with Terra Firma Landscape to maintain and improve plantings at parks and recreation areas and one to lease a parking area on Longshore to expand parking options for users of Argo Canoe Livery and Argo Park.  Click here to learn more about these and other items on the agenda.

On the Budget

The City continues to work toward a budget for next year as well as a planned budget for the year after that.  At the Council’s most recent working session, Council members discussed the preliminary budget information with a focus on the community priorities, as identified at the Council’s retreat in December.  This information is in these PDFs: The Draft Work plans and The Budget Summary

The Council could have one or two additional working sessions on the budget (March 25th and April 8th); the schedule isn’t yet final.

First Ward Town Hall

Council member Sumi Kailasapathy and I will host a Town Hall meeting in April - we're still working on the date.

I anticipate no snow, and no tornadoes.  Please look for the updated information about time and place.


On the Horizon

The City will be holding a neighborhood meeting about sidewalk gaps on Barton.  Right now, the date is planned for sometime in the first two weeks of April.  More details to follow.

The North Main Huron River Corridor Vision Task Force is finalizing draft recommendations on several topics.  According the resolution by Council, “This task force's efforts should result in a recommendation to Council for the best use of 721 N. Main as part of the Allen Creek Greenway trails by December 31, 2012.  This task force's efforts should <also> develop a vision to create/complete/enhance pedestrian and bike connection from downtown to Bandemer and Huron River Drive, increase public access to the river-side amenities of existing parks in the North Main-Huron River corridor, ease traffic congestion at Main and Depot at certain times of a day and recommend use of MichCon property at Broadway”.  Once the draft report is finished, the task force will hold two public meetings – one in May, one in June.  The final report for Council will incorporate the ideas, suggestions, concerns and comments raised at these meetings.  This report should be complete by the end of June.

The public art task force – made up of members of the Council – has been meeting regularly since December.  These meetings are open to the public.  The task force is considering changes to the ordinance that would eliminate the Percent for Art funding mechanism.  The task force members would like to increase public engagement and public involvement in the funding, selection and location of public art.  The staff (from Public Services, Finance and the City Attorney’s Office) has been working with the task force to most effectively write the ordinance in order to achieve the goals set. This ordinance revision may appear on the agenda on April 15th.

What am I reading?

One of our neighbors made certain I had the latest edition of Michigan Zoning, Planning and Land Use.  Of course, this is just a reference book, not something I’d read forever.

Because I sit on Planning Commission, I receive copies of the Magazine of the American Planning Association; the March issue just arrived.  My favorite quote: “[APA charges us to] encourage planning that will contribute to public well-being by developing communities and environments that meet more effectively the needs of people and society.”  This month’s articles include a focus on diversity and aging in housing.