<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Second September newsletter 2013 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. But when there's a holiday - like Labor Day - on Monday, I wait until Tuesday to hold office hours.

So, I hope to see you on Tuesday morning.

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,

This week as I walked downtown I stopped to inhale.  Someone had concord grapes, and the aroma of those ripening grapes traveled a hundred feet.  Even with the suddenly cool weather, neighbors have an exotic harvest – peaches, pears, late raspberries, tomatoes, squash and herbs.  In some folks’ yards, all I can smell is basil; in others’ the pungent scent of fennel dominates.  I love this early autumn weather.

Not related to local politics

Yesterday I attended a meeting that provided an outline of the Affordable Care Act, and how that could affect me – and you, and our neighbors.  Because enrollment in a variety of insurance programs becomes available on October 1, and mandatory by January 1, I thought this booklet might help you.  There’s also lots of information about Michigan insurance plans on this site.

Pedestrian safety

The City recently completed a study of crosswalk design and safety devices.  This report - created at the request of members of Council in order to address continuing concerns about public safety - is available for your review.  Please share your comments with me.

Street lights

People in several areas of our community have voiced a desire for more - and better - street lights.  The City Council, in 2005, requested a moratorium on new street lights as a cost-saving measure.  Recently, Council members have requested more information on the logic behind that decision.  Here's the staff report.

Developing Downtown

The City hired a consultant to help organize a public process, and the Planning Commission will be making recommendations about the use of premiums in the downtown, and whether three specific areas are zoned D1 – or should be zoned D2 or something else. 

The consultant has held many public meetings, focus groups and casual discussions about downtown zoning.  Some of our neighbors think entirely too much attention is given to downtown – but what happens in the downtown seems to arouse passionate responses even in those who rarely shop or go to events there.  If you’ve missed the opportunity to come to any of these meetings, here’s the presentation for your review and here’s the workbook folks were given to use for feedback.

Do you hate all this talk about FAR and Premiums and D1?  Do you wish you understood where such ideas come from, and how they are expected to work?

If you have 60 minutes, I’ll walk you through the basics.  Since these things are all about working in three dimensions with a number of variables, I’ll let you see just what 400 FAR means, or 300 FAR in premiums, or 180 feet.  And ask you to build your own building for D1.  Just let me know, and I’ll bring the blocks to you.

And whether or not you are comfortable with your knowledge of zoning, please take a moment to answer the questions on this survey about zoning, FAR and premiums.  The more folks who respond, the better the results will be.  After you take the survey, consider coming to the final workshop on downtown zoning – Thursday, September 19th, 7 pm at the Workentile Exchange (118 S. Main).  This is the final public meeting before recommendations go to the Planning Commission; the Planning Commission will discuss the recommendations during their work session on Tuesday, October 8th at 7 pm.

Updates from the neighborhoods

Parking for Argo Park

The City Parks staff, confronting parking problems related to the popularity of Argo, attempted to solve those problems by first renting an adjacent parking lot and then by adding parking on Longshore Park.  The heavy use of the parking lot has resulted in some significant rutting and erosion; it wasn’t designed for so many vehicles.  And although Longshore was used for parking on only three days, the impact of that on neighborhood quality of life was severe.

I’ve continued to talk with neighbors and with the parks staff.  I don’t believe Longshore will be used for parking any more this season, and expect that the staff have heard clearly that they must find another solution by next spring.  I’ve also heard from staff about the major issue – enforcement – and how difficult enforcement of parks rules is for staff.

No date for a meeting in the neighborhood has be offered.  I anticipate an October date, but will keep neighbors posted. 

The North Main Huron River Vision Task Force

The task force presented its written report to Council on September 3rd.  This task force looked at an area that unites the First Ward – the Huron River Valley.  The task force focused on the barriers to connection – to the river from south and west Ann Arbor, to the Allen Creek Greenway, and to the many riverside attractions.  Members of the task force represented all the neighborhoods that touched the area.  The mandate did not extend to the north and east areas of our community; as a result, the task force didn’t address parking at Argo or links to the Border-to-Border Trail under the bridges along Fuller.  Please read the report; the Council will consider whether to accept the report and consider implementing it at the Council meeting on Monday, September 16.

Nixon/Green/DhuVarren intersection

Recently, land at the edge of town – on Nixon Road – sold, and a developer proposed multi-family housing for the site.  This proposal triggered a lot of concern about the design of the intersection of DhuVarren and Green with Nixon Road.  (If you don’t know, the roads don’t align properly.)  The many single family and multi-family neighborhoods along DhuVarren, Nixon and Green Roads generate traffic – as does the proximity to Clague and Logan schools.  Residents of this area have been seeking improvements to the intersection for years. 
To discuss those improvements and when they might (or should) occur, the City staff have arranged a neighborhood meeting on Wednesday, October 9th from 6:30 – 8:30 at Clague Middle School.  Your neighborhood might be affected by this intersection, but might not be close enough to get formal notification.  Please share this information widely.

On the Agenda




The Council will hold a public hearing, and later in the meeting consider approval of a site plan for a proposed expansion to the Honda testing facility on Research Park Drive.  If approved this facility would join several other automotive facilities in our area that have expanded.

Ordinances, Second Reading

The Council held a public hearing on the proposed revisions to the DDA ordinance in April, but postponed further discussion until the first meeting in September in order to allow staff time to work with members of Council and the DDA in order to bring a final draft of the amendment to the floor.  At the Council meeting on July 1, a committee of Council members (Kunselman, Taylor, Lumm, Petersen) was appointed to work with staff and the DDA to bring those changes to Council.  That committee met for the first time on August 26th.  The Council subsequently postponed further discussion of any ordinance revisions until the 16th of September; the committee met once since that but has still not resolved the possible language of any ordinance changes.
I do not know whether any changes will be proposed to the DDA ordinance on September 16th.

Ordinances, First Reading

At first reading is a rezoning of land along Huron River Drive from single family (R1A) to public land (PL).  The City purchased this parcel several years ago as a ‘life estate.’  The owners have moved away from the site, and are willing to allow the City to take possession.


From Council
Council Rules
At the July 15th Council meeting, the Council voted to postpone making changes to the rules until the September 3rd, 2013 meeting.  The Rules Committee had not met since mid-July, and the draft rules did not reflect all of the discussion in which Council members had participated at that meeting.  As a result, the item was postponed until September 16. 

The Rules Committee met on Tuesday, September 10th.  At that meeting, Council members agreed to remove several amendments from the draft they wanted to be adopted.  Amendments that remain in the draft rules include the requirement that public comment time be added to each Work Session.  Council will also consider whether to ask Council members to respond to personal email and phone calls – on their personal electronic devices – by stepping away from the Council table.

The North Main Huron River Vision final report was presented to Council on September 3rd.  On the agenda is a resolution accepting the report and directing the City Administrator to review the report and determine which recommendations are feasible.  (The appendix for the report is a review of the current conditions of the structure at 721 N. Main with some estimates for the costs that might be incurred to stabilize the structure, and to renovate it for future use.)  As a member of the task force, I placed this item on the agenda; all recommendations are from the task force, not from any single member of it.

From staff
Each year City staff begin preparing for fall leaf collection.  One of the steps toward that preparation is to lease trucks to hold and carry the leaves to the compost center, as the City’s compost collection rate increases significantly during the fall.  The City generally leases 8 trucks for the months of October and November to manage the seasonal increase.  This year, the cost of this lease is $117,200 and includes a contingency in case the leaves fall late; this amount is unchanged from a similar contract last year.


Of course, to me each item on the agenda is interesting.  I’ve tried to highlight those I think might interest you but the agenda always contains things I didn’t highlight.  For a complete look at the agenda and the included communications and reports, click here.

I’m also keeping track of the City Council’s priorities on each agenda.  By my count, this agenda includes 10 action items – 5 administrative acts, 5 infrastructure changes, 0 that address public safety needs, 0 investments in economic development and 0 that relate to affordable housing. 

Errors and Omissions

I write this newsletter by myself, although I have others read it to catch typos and grammatical errors.  But errors of fact – those times I don’t remember something, or don’t remember it correctly – those are my fault.  Things that I don’t mention – those events or meetings or surveys – may not seem significant to me, but could be valuable to you.  And those things that I'm working on, but haven't yet finished?  I'll try to keep those ideas fresh in this space.  I apologize for all errors in advance, and will list my (known) mistakes and pending projects here.

Someone pointed out to me that I'd written Rosh Hashanah when I meant Yom Kippur.  No excuse, just a mistake.

On the Calendar

Sunday, September 15th, the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues will host the dedication of the Ann Arbor Sensory Garden at Liberty Plaza.  Events begin at 1 pm.
East Washington will be closed from 5 – 11 pm for the Lite Bike event on Sunday, September 15th
The Planning Commission will meet on Tuesday, September 17th at 7 pm.  The item on the agenda that might interest you is the proposed rezoning of a parcel of land on Traverwood from ORL(office/research/limited light industrial) to R4D(multi-family) and the related site plan for 216 apartments.  This property adjoins Leslie Woods Nature Area and the Traverwood Branch Library as well as an office complex.
Wednesday, September 18th the Park Advisory Commission will host a meeting on Downtown Parks and Open Space.  Come to the basement of City Hall at 7.
Not tired yet of all the D1 zoning questions?  Come to the Workentile Exchange, 118 S. Main Street on Thursday, September 19th at 7 pm to share ideas about whether to change the zoning.
Saturday, September 21st is Sunset-Brooks Park Work Day: Meet at park entrance at Beechwood and Sunset at 9 am. Minors must either be accompanied by a guardian or must contact Natural Area Preservation in advance (NAP@a2gov.org) to obtain a release form. Please wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. Contact NAP for details at 734.794.6627
There may still be some places available on the Greenbelt Bus Tour (also on Saturday, September 21) will take you to many of the Greenbelt Program’s protected farm and open-space properties. (Catch the bus at the Miller Park ‘n’ Ride lot.) Fee: $10, and light refreshments will be served. Registration ended on Friday, Sept. 13 but you can check with Project Director Ginny Trocchio, 734.794.6000 ext. 42798 / gltrocchio@a2gov.org to see if there’s still a spot for you.
At 1:00 pm on Sunday, September 22, come to the Furstenberg Park’s (2626 Fuller Road) native garden for a free nature walk sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library.  Join Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation volunteer and master gardener Aunita Erskine and learn about the ecology of the park and the historical use of some of the plants for food and medicine and help identify autumn prairie plants. Meet in the parking lot near the native plant garden. Ann Arbor, MI (map)
Still thinking about dog parks?  The Park Advisory Committee will host a Dog Park Public Meeting on Tuesday, September 24th at 7 pm in the Traverwood Branch Library.
The R4C/R2A zoning committee will hold its final meeting on R4C zoning recommendation on Wednesday, September 25th at 7 pm in the basement at City Hall.
On Saturday, September 28th, the City joins the rest of the nation in celebrating National Public Lands Day with a day of work (times vary, but start about 9, end about 3, and work morning, afternoon, or all day).  Volunteer some time to help improve access and spruce up Argo Nature Area, Leslie Science & Nature Center, and Greenview Nature Area.

On the Horizon

At the last Council meeting, Council members rejected a resolution that would have urged the Employees’ Retirement System divest (rather than invest) from the top 200 traded fossil fuel companies.  Council members have received many communications asking that this item be reconsidered at the Monday, September 16th meeting.

Rules on reconsideration

While I don’t know whether any member of Council will seek reconsideration of the Energy Commission’s resolution, I want to make the rules on this action clear.  (You can read the rules in effect, here.)

  1. Any action may be reconsidered once.  This reconsideration must happen at the same or the subsequent meeting (unless Council votes to waive this rule).
  2. A Council member who voted on the prevailing side – that is, for approval if the item was approved, for rejection if the item was rejected – must introduce the request to reconsider.  The implication is that the requesting Council member is acknowledging an error and seeking to correct it.
  3. The Council may grant – or reject – the request to reconsider.  If reconsideration is granted, the Council may ultimately change its vote – or reaffirm it.

What am I reading?

I finished City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form.  I took my time, because the implications of some of the ideas were significant for the work of various Planning Commission zoning review projects.
Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Rethinking a Lot: the design and culture of parking will be a shift in focus, and much lighter reading.