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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 Council Chambers.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.

Harvest moon

September 14, 2014


Dear neighbors

Perhaps the gales of November are coming early, but it certainly has been a bit wet and blustery for mid-September.  Not to mention the temperature.

But it is a perfect time for soup.  I came home from the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market with peppers, tomatoes, apples, potatoes, corn, bacon and some other stuff.  So I made a simple corn chowder for dinner, with almost all of the ingredients locally sourced.  (Sea salt and black pepper are imported, but I grow my own thyme.)  Now I’m longing for some sautéed apples.

This fall weather always re-energizes me.  Most of the garden work is over, and there’s enough time to enjoy the last of the flowers.  But if you are one of the many people concerned about deer – well, the City is working on it.  The deer population increased slowly until one day, they seemed to be anywhere.  (I saw triplet fawns the other day.)  And if you are thinking of the damage deer have done or could do to your perennial and annual plantings, consider planting things the deer are much less likely to eat.

And here’s a flyer for that, straight from the Washtenaw County website.

In the meantime, if you have a pond in need of a few fish, I have some baby ornamental carp on offer.  (Who knew those five koi would winter over and have more than 20 babies?)  Just let me know that you are interested – we really want to find them new homes.

On the calendar

Monday, September 15

The City of Ann Arbor will host a tour of possible sites for a new Ann Arbor Station from 10 am – 1 pm (Meet at Blake Transit Center).  I do not know whether space remains, but hope you will consider learning more about the possible sites under discussion for a train station.

Tuesday, September 16th

Planning Commission, 7 pm, in Council Chambers

Wednesday, September 17th

The City of Ann Arbor will host a meeting on the footing drain disconnection program at 6:30 p.m. at Slauson Middle School, 1019 W. Washington St. in Ann Arbor, to update the status of the Footing Drain Disconnection (FDD) Program issue investigation resulting from the 2013 FDD Survey.  

The City of Ann Arbor launched the FDD program in 2001 in response to repeated sewer backups. About 1,800 homes have had their footing drains disconnected from the sanitary sewer system, and sump pumps were installed to route storm water to storm drains instead of sewer lines.  

A committee comprised of members of the FDD program Citizens Advisory Committee and Sanitary Sewer Wet Weather Citizens Advisory Committee has developed recommendations following the FDD Survey investigation, which will be presented at the Sept. 17 public meeting.

Citizen Participation Meeting for a new Plum Market - 3601 Plymouth Road

Plum Market will hold a Citizen Participation Meeting at Cleary University (3601 Plymouth) at 6 pm in order to discuss rezoning 3601 Plymouth Road from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to C3 (Fringe Commercial) in order to renovate and expand the existing building to a retail use.  A site plan is proposed that will increase the existing building 6,223 square feet and upgrade existing landscaping and install a storm water management system.
Meeting Notice: Plum Market Citizen Participation Meeting PDF

Sunday, September 21

Anonymous 4, one of my favorite vocal groups, will be performing Marie et Marion: Motets and Songs from the Montpelier Manuscript at 3:30 pm at St. Andrews Episcopal Church.  With their recent announcement that the ensemble will retire at the end of the 2015-16 season, this will likely be their final performance in Southeast Michigan.

Sunday, September 28

Bring your chocolate bars, cookies, graham crackers and other s’mores fixings to the Leslie Science and Nature Center bonfire (marshmallows will be provided).  The bonfire starts at 6:30 pm, and you can enjoy the great outdoors and still get home in time to help any children to bed.


Updates

Report a problem: Streetlight out?  Pothole growing?  Bushes that need to be trimmed back so you can see oncoming traffic?  The dreaded blue cups left on your neighbor’s lawn?  The City has an app for that.

Check out A2FixIt – and then, use it!  (Yes, you and your smart phone can take a photo of the problem and send the report in.  Cool.)

Survey on redesign for Seventh Street

The City is continuing the process of considering changes in the design of Seventh Street.  Some community goals for this redesign include traffic calming and added pedestrian safety measures.  The results of the survey will provide guidance for City engineers while they prepare for an updated Capital Improvement Plan. 

This is your opportunity to offer your response to the ideas.  Please take the survey!

Road work

Fuller Street will be closed until September 19th to westbound traffic between North State Street and Glen Avenue while eastbound traffic will be maintained. This traffic control is necessary for utility work being performed by the University of Michigan. Pedestrian traffic will be maintained on the south side of Fuller Street. Please see the map (PDF) for alternative routes.

Eighth Street between West Washington and West Liberty will be completely closed to all traffic until September 17 for removal and replacement of two sanitary sewer manholes and approximately 60 feet of sewer pipe.  Please see the map (PDF) for alternative routes. 

Pontiac Trail continues to be closed between Skydale and M14 – work is expected to be complete by October 31.  So, a month and a half to go.

For more information about street closings, check out the City’s website.


On the Horizon

Wednesday, October 1

5 pm, the Pedestrian Safety and Access Task force will meet in the basement at Larcom.

Saturday, October 4th

Take a tour of the Greenbelt Program's protected farm and open-space properties Saturday, Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cost is $15, and light refreshments will be served. Please register by Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, by contacting Project Director Ginny Trocchio, 734.794.6000 ext. 42798 / gltrocchio@a2gov.org.

The tour will depart promptly at 10 a.m. from the Park & Ride stop at Pioneer High School (located on Main Street, just south of Stadium Boulevard in front of Pioneer High School).

The Greenbelt Program was approved by City of Ann Arbor voters in November 2003 to provide funding for the preservation and protection of open space, natural habitats and working landscapes both inside and outside the city limits. The program has protected more than 4,300 acres of farmland and open space surrounding the City of Ann Arbor, and has leveraged over $21 million through grants, landowner donations, and other locally funded programs. 
To learn more about the Greenbelt Program, visit www.a2gov.org/greenbelt.


Agenda highlights

City Council meets Monday, September 15.  Planning Commission meets Tuesday, September 16. 

Development

The Planning staff has revised the Character District Overlay for the Main Street area to recommend D2 zoning at a maximum height of 60 feet in the single parcel (the DTE building at Main, William and Packard) affected.  The Planning Commission was tasked with rezoning this parcel to protect adjacent residentially-zoned properties more effectively; the Council recommended D2 rather than D1.  When the revision initially appeared before Council, Planning Commission had recommended D2 with a maximum height of 100 feet.  The City Council voted to set the maximum height at 60 feet, in keeping with all other parcels zoned D2.

There are two ordinances involved – one on rezoning this parcel to D2 (from D1); one on the revisions to the Downtown Character Overlay Districts, including the Main Street Character District.  These two ordinances were held at second reading, which means that the public hearings have already been held.  At this time, there is no plan to build a new structure in this area.

There are two public hearings, though, on a proposed project on Kingsley.  Kingsley Lane is a development that was proposed and approved just before the 2008 recession; it was not built.  The parcel was rezoned as PUD, though, in preparation for construction.  The developer is back with a new plan and a new partner (Tom Fitzsimmons).  On the agenda are public hearings to rezone the parcel at Kingsley and Ashley to D2 from PUD, and approve the site plan for this completely redesigned project.  The Council will vote on these changes.

Transportation and infrastructure

At the last Council meeting, the Council approved a change to the Taxi Cab Ordinance altering the method for increasing fares.  The Council will now hold a public hearing and then vote on a proposed increase in taxi cab fares.

The Springwater subdivision improvements are costing a bit more than anticipated.  On the agenda is an amendment to the contract with CDM Smith.

The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner has been working toward a new set of stormwater management rules.  On the agenda is the first reading of an amendment to the City’s ordinance, referring to those now approved rules.  A public hearing will most likely be held at the first Council meeting in October.  New developments – including those currently in design and approval stages – must adhere to these rules.

Several of Ann Arbor’s major streets – Huron, Jackson, Washtenaw and North Main – are under the control of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  On the agenda is a resolution to establish a new agreement with MDOT for the City to maintain these streets.

Events

The Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning will close a number of streets.

Communications

Pittsfield Township has shared a notice that it will be holding a three-day workshop on new design requirements – including pedestrian orientation and form-based design.  This workshop takes place on the 17th, 18th and 19th.  See the notice for more information.

AAATA has provided financial data and ridership data for July.


There are always other items on the agenda that I haven’t highlighted.  To learn more about what the Council will discuss on Monday, September 15, please look at the general agenda information.


Several proposed developments will be coming to Planning Commission in the next month or so that impact the north side of Ann Arbor in a variety of ways.

The October 21st Planning Commission meeting agenda will (tentatively) include public hearings and votes on whether to recommend approval for the Woodbury Club Apartments (Nixon at M14) and Toll Brothers North and South (Nixon at DhuVarren).  Revised site plans for the Toll Brothers (North and South) and for Woodbury Club Apartments are on eTrakit

The October 7th Planning Commission meeting agenda is likely to include a public hearing and vote on whether to recommend approval for the revised North Sky project on Pontiac Trail.  I have not found the revised site plan for North Sky on eTrakit yet.  I hope to have a link to that site plan in my next newsletter.


The Council has been discussing its rules for some time – including rules about meetings and behavior.  Effective Council Meetings, by Robert K. Bush, addresses ways to preserve (or bring back) the level of respect, courtesy, and civility needed in council meetings to successfully conduct the public’s business. It addresses the need to adopt rules of procedure, whether formal or informal, that establish clear standards of behavior and ensure a proper level of decorum; offers a simplified and slimmed-down version of Robert’s Rules of Order, applies the salient points of parliamentary procedure to the conduct of public meetings; and introduces a values framework as a way to help elected officials identify what lies at the root of public problems and make wise decisions in response.  Anyway, that’s what the promotional statements say.  The Council Rules Committee is currently evaluating rules that govern conflicts of interest as well as meeting process.  I plan to learn something.

I am now number 34 of 54 people waiting to read Think Like a Freak, by the authors of Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephan Dubner.  And I may just take Thomas Piketty’s book on economics out of the library.  (Capital in the 21st Century, that is.)