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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.

Glorious maple tree

October 18, 2014


Dear neighbors

Everyone has at least one favorite season in Michigan.  Mine varies between Spring and Fall, though I love watching snow fall in the winter, and enjoy a hot and steamy Art Fair.  Now that we are fully into October, things happen quickly.  Overnight, my golden maple has become a nude – and almost all the leaves are on the ground.  The hills, which were green just last week, are ablaze with golds, russets, and bright yellows. 

Fall harvest is also here – recipes for green tomatoes and other unripe produce appear in my newsfeed.  And Hallowe’en is just around the corner. 

Perhaps you leave home on October 31st, because the last thing you want is to be jumping to answer the door.  Perhaps you spend hundreds decorating your home and yard, recording ghostly and ghoulish sounds.  Maybe you dress your dog like a giant spider.  However this night affects you, here are events and tips from the City:

Trick or Treat down the River – Gallup Park, Sunday, October 19 between noon and 5 pm. (Costumes encouraged)

Hallowe’en at the Farmer’s Market, Saturday, October 25, between noon and 3 pm.  (Face painting, pumpkin carving, costumes!)

Annual Family Hallowe’en Party, Sunday, October 26 between noon and 5 pm at the UM Natural History Museum.

Olson Dog Park Hallowe’en Party, Tuesday, October 28 from 6 to 7 pm.

And on Hallowe’en proper:

Click here for Hallowe’en safety tips from the Ann Arbor Police Department
One thing to note: if the weather is bad on Friday, October 31st, Trick or Treat will be postponed to Saturday, November 1st and notice will be posted on the City’s website.  But I’m looking forward to seeing monsters and troubadours – and everyone in between – on Friday.

AADL Hallowe’en Party (best for pre-schoolers) from 9 – 11 am at the downtown library.

Hallowe’en Treat Parade, Friday, October 31st from 11 – 5 pm.  This Main Street Area activity invites you and your children to wear a costume visit local merchants and pick up a treat.

Trick or Treat in Ann Arbor, Friday, October 31st from 5 – 8 pm

Hallowe’en Teen Night at Mack Pool ($10), Friday, October 31st starting at 8 pm.


On the calendar

Tuesday, October 21
The Stormwater Advisory Group will meet at 4 pm in the DDA offices (3rd floor of 150 S. Fifth Ave.) to provide an update on the City’s Stormwater Modeling and Analysis Project and discuss preliminary results as well as opportunities for improvement.

A new staff member joins the City and you can welcome her!  Please stop by and welcome Cynthia Redinger, a new Traffic Engineer, between 5:30 and 6:30.  She will be in the City Hall lobby. 

And while you are in the building, consider attending the Planning Commission, which will meet at 7 pm in Council Chambers.  This will be one of your last opportunities to see Council Chambers for a while, as the City will be closing it to remove asbestos and install improved video and audio systems.

Thursday, October 23rd at the Morris Lawrence Building on WCC campus, elected officials, representatives of various groups, governmental organizations and concerned residents will meet to discuss Affordable Housing and Homelessness.  Registration starts at 7:30 am; the program begins at 8:30 am and continues until 1 pm.


Updates

Preparing for winter: emergency shelter

Last winter’s harsh weather reminded us that many people live here without permanent shelter.  Although the City, the County, the Library, the churches and the hospitals all provided emergency shelter, several members of the community felt such shelter was haphazard and reflected a lack of planning.

I recently attended a meeting that included County, City and non-profit representatives, planning ahead for this coming winter.  Although the plans are not finalized, I know that more doors than ever will be opened to provide for emergency shelter, warming centers and the opportunity to find help.  I look forward to a full report on what measures can be taken in the short term, and what needs should be addressed in the long term.  Look for this presentation in front of Council at the first Council meeting in November.

Survey on redesign for Seventh Street

Have you taken the survey on possible changes to Seventh Street?  This is your opportunity to offer your response to the ideas.  Please take the survey!  You have until November 25th.  (And for those of you who had problems with the web page – I am sorry.  I hope it works better for you now.)

Development on Nixon and Pontiac

On Tuesday, October 21st, the City Planning Commission will have a very heavy agenda.  If you are planning to attend the meeting, please note: the Planning Commission has several rules that are different from those at City Council meetings.  The motions always recommend approval, even for proposals that may be postponed or rejected.  The public hearing immediately precedes discussion of the proposal.  If the item you care about is last of four proposals, you will need to wait through the discussion and decision process for the other three before you can speak at the public hearing.

This agenda includes public hearings and votes on Nixon Farm North, Nixon Farm South, and Woodbury Club Apartments – these public hearings include issues of annexation (each parcel would need to be annexed), zoning, and approval of site plan.  (Please note that the planning staff recommend the annexation petitions for both Nixon Farm North an Nixon Farm South, but that all other petitions be postponed.  If these additional petitions are postponed, there will be further opportunities for the public to speak.)  These three developments are on Nixon Road near the intersection of Nixon / DhuVarren / Green.

Still on the tentative schedule for November 5th Planning Commission is a public hearing and recommendation to Council for the revised North Sky project – including rezoning and site plan.

These developments cumulatively add about 1,100 new housing units to the north side of town.

Road work

Division Street is closed to through traffic from Packard Street to Jefferson Street until Friday, October 24, 2014.  The roadway is completely closed to northbound traffic at the intersection with Packard Street.  Northbound traffic is routed on Packard Street eastbound to State Street, northbound to William Street and westbound back to Division Street. Local traffic will be permitted access to affected properties. The pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks will be detoured around the construction area.  Please see the detour m​ap (PDF) for alternative routes.

Pontiac Trail: Pontiac Trail from just north of Skydale to the bridge over M14/US23 remains closed to through traffic.  Residents who live along Pontiac Trail and the west half of Dhu Varren will continue to have access to their homes.  The road is scheduled to be open to through traffic by mid-November.  The contractor paved the first layer of asphalt on the east side of Pontiac Trail; the second layer of asphalt is scheduled to be placed on Monday, October 20th, weather permitting.  If the paving is completed on Monday, then local traffic will be switched to the newly paved east side of Pontiac Trail.  The contractor will then begin building the west side of Pontiac Trail.

Drivers should be prepared for delays due to construction, though, and will need to exercise both caution and patience. 

For more information on road closures, here’s a link to the City’s page, with detour maps.

Leaf collection

Yes, I know this hasn’t changed from the last newsletter.  But it seems a constant question, and I want to get the answer out there.  At the last Council meeting, the City Council agreed to rent additional trucks to help removed all the bagged leaves from our neighborhood streets.  This is a regular and planned expense; the City used to rent even more trucks to collect the loose leaves each fall.

Why doesn’t Ann Arbor store bulk leaves in the streets?

In 2010, the City of Ann Arbor transitioned away from providing two bulk street leaf pickup days per neighborhood, instead expanding the weekly curbside compost pickups to accommodate unlimited bagged leaves through the first week of December. The benefits include:

 


On the Horizon

Have you licensed your dog?  New dog license options take effect NOVEMBER 1.  Stop by City Hall on the 3rd during business hours and, well, take care of business and pick up that Dog Park license while you are there.

Tuesday, November 4: Election Day from 7 am to 8 pm at a polling place near you.  If you want to talk politics before that, just call or drop me a note.

Wednesday, November 5, the Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force will meet in the basement of City Hall at 5 pm.  The agenda is routinely crowded, but this meeting includes a briefing from State Rep. Adam Zemke on proposed changes to the State’s crosswalk regulations.

City Council meets on November 6th – the first Thursday after Election Day.  This is the last meeting for several current Council members; the new Council will be sworn in on November 18th, although new Council members will take their seats at the work session on November 10th.


Agenda highlights

City Council meets Monday, October 20th.  Planning Commission meets Tuesday, October 21st. 

Various items

On the agenda for second reading is a proposal to repeal the Human Rights Ordinance and replace it – entirely – with new language.  The Council will hold a public hearing on this ordinance.

If you walk around the older parts of Ann Arbor – the downtown, the Broadway Bridges, Lowertown – you might have noticed a series of images on glass showing historic Ann Arbor.  You might also have noticed numerous ceramic plaques placed on buildings that describe that building’s past.  These are Ann Arbor’s Historic Street exhibits.  And while I’ve always thought they belonged to the City of Ann Arbor, ownership of the actual markers has not been that clear.  The Council will consider a resolution that establishes the City of Ann Arbor as the owner of these markers, and sets out responsibilities to maintain them.

At the last Council meeting, the resolution to adopt policies regarding the Living Wage ordinance was amended and then postponed.  That amended resolution returns to the agenda.

On a similar topic – related to human services and affordable housing – the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board is recommending some clarifying amendments to the Affordable Housing Fund policy document.

Development

The City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on whether to petition the State of Michigan to allow it to annex several residential and utility-owned properties within City boundaries from Ann Arbor Township.  This resolution is part of the City’s overall plan to complete annexation of township islands.

The attachments include a map of these township islands.  And here’s a map of all the township islands in our City, circa 2007 (there have been a number of annexations since.)

Transportation and infrastructure

The Council will consider approval of a contract with MDOT to construct a sidewalk and install a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) as part of the Safe Walks to School federal program at Clague school.  This project includes installing about a quarter mile of sidewalk from Clague to Haverhill Court on Nixon, and constructing an RRFB at Green Road near Kilburn Park Circle.  Funding for this construction project comes primarily from a Federal grant, with additional funding from the alternative transportation budget.

The City sold the old Y lot to Dennis Dahlmann, a local developer and hotel owner.  When it did so, the DDA, which had been using the lot for parking while the Library Lot was being constructed, also closed this parking lot.  On the agenda is a resolution to allow parking to resume on the old Y lot, for no longer than two years.  (Mr. Dahlmann’s sales agreement included the requirement that a building be constructed on this site by the end of 2017.) (Here’s a link to the ‘rider’ that specifies the conditions of the sale.) This resolution also asserts that Republic Parking will manage the parking, and that half of the net proceeds will be given to the City specifically for the Affordable Housing Fund.

Communications

The Planning Commission provided an update on downtown rezoning.  Actual amendments to the zoning ordinance ought to be on the agenda in November or December.

There are always other items on the agenda that I haven’t highlighted.  To learn more about what the Council will discuss on Monday, October 20, please look at the general agenda information.


On Tuesday, October 21st, the City Planning Commission will address several large housing project proposals

This agenda includes public hearings and votes on Nixon Farm North, Nixon Farm South, and Woodbury Club Apartments – these public hearings include issues of annexation (each parcel would need to be annexed), zoning, and approval of site plan.  (Please note that the planning staff recommend the annexation petitions for both Nixon Farm North an Nixon Farm South, but that all other petitions be postponed.  If these additional petitions are postponed, there will be further opportunities for the public to speak.)  These three developments are on Nixon Road near the intersection of Nixon / DhuVarren / Green.

Still on the tentative schedule for November 5th Planning Commission is a public hearing and recommendation to Council for the revised North Sky project – including rezoning and site plan.

A new proposal for single family homes at South Pond (adjacent to US 23 and behind Arborland) has been submitted to the City.  New housing is being build - to a previously approved plan - at Plymouth Road and Upland.

All this new development is a reflection of how attractive developers believe Ann Arbor remains for new residents.  Developers are eyeing opportunities all over town, trying to determine what types of projects might be economic successes.

As we see these changes - mostly outside the downtown this year - we need to think about the effect new developments will have on existing neighborhoods.  I'd love to hear your ideas about ways to keep that 'Ann Arbor' thing going outside the downtown.


It is my turn with Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21st Century.  I’ve waited months, but now fear it will be unopened for a while.  Too many other things going on this week.

For instance, I’m still reading Small Change, the art of practice and the limits of planning in cities.  And I continue quoting and showing people some of the chapters in Effective Council Meetings.  This book – along with Start with Why – is helping me think through my approaches to problem solving.