December ice fog

Sabra Briere

 

First Ward, City Council

sbriere@A2gov.org

sabra.briere@gmail.com

995-3518 (home)

277-6578 (cell)

 

Coffee wakes some of us up

 

I hold office hours 7:30 to 9 am on most Mondays at the Northside Grill.

 

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.

 

Caucus

 

Caucus is held at 3:30 pm on the Sunday prior to each Council meeting.

 

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.

 

Help us by helping the community move forward!

 

Volunteer for our parks.

Volunteer for a non-profit or community organization.

 

And consider serving on a City Board or Commission.

 

It's better when you are there.

Dear Neighbors,

 

It’s nearly time to bring the boxes of ornaments and lights up from the basement.  I don’t know how people live without a place to store those ‘use once a year’ items like turkey roasters and holiday decorations.  Those of us who don’t accumulate much must still acquire a few things that need to spend most of their useful lives in storage.  I find myself thinking of basements and attics, closets and garages – and being grateful that I only have a couple of small closets and a basement for storage.  I can just imagine how much more I would have accumulated in the categories of ‘use once a year’ or ‘use very rarely, indeed.’

 

Updates

 

Events

 

This will be a busy week for many of us.  The first night of Hanukkah is Sunday, December 6th.  This year, I have sufficient candles.  Traditional foods are made with oil – including potato pancakes (latkes) and doughnuts.  (I made doughnuts earlier this year, and learned that the entire house would smell of hot oil for days.  I’ll stick with latkes.)

 

Sunday is also St. Nicolas Day.  There should always be another day for treats and sugar.  And for coal.

 

Monday is December 7th – Pearl Harbor Day.  I struggle to understand how our world can again be on the brink of war – not just local wars, but wars that engage so many powers fighting against each other.  I’ve concluded that countries, like individuals, seek short-term gains without seeing long-term consequences.

 

Nixon Road

 

It’s not my favorite way to get things done – waiting until there’s no choice.  But it’s often the only way to deal with a large and expensive issue.  That’s the case with the efforts the City is undertaking to address traffic congestion, safely and development pressures on Nixon Road.

 

The timing of nearly all the future actions (as opposed to planning) is partially dependent on whether and when proposed developments on Nixon Road are approved.  But the need to address increasing traffic congestion coming into Ann Arbor from north of the City with all the attendant improvements to street design and intersection design – that already exists.

 

The City will host a neighborhood meeting to talk about the impact of proposed developments to the neighborhoods adjacent to Nixon Road at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, December 9th in the cafeteria at Huron High School.  City and County staff will be present to respond to questions about the proposed intersection, area storm water impacts, and water system impacts.  A series of FAQs is being created and posted on the City’s website; the first FAQ addresses city services and city infrastructure impacts.

 

City Council members have established budgets and addressed policy and ordinance changes; as a result, the City staff have been working to address traffic congestion, street design, intersection design, park dedication, pedestrian and bicycle safety, street lighting, safe walks to school, wetland and natural feature protection.  This will continue without regard to any future development approvals.

 

City staff changes

 

The City is going through a transitional period, with many senior staff members at or nearing retirement.  The new police chief has been hired and will begin on January 1.  Several positions in Community Services are currently vacant or being filled by temporary staff.  One of the most important is the community services area administrator.

 

On Thursday, December 10th, the City will host an open house for the public to meet candidates for this position.  Please come to the lobby of the Justice Center between 5:30 – 7:30 to meet the candidates – and if you are able, please give me your feedback.  Council members do not hire the community services area administrator, but do interact closely with that department.

 

The community services area administrator has oversight of Parks, Planning and Building, and Community Development (economic development, human services).  Most people in our community interact with staff in this area – by signing up for a Parks and Recreation class, renting a park shelter for an event, getting a building permit for a new deck or a new roof, or seeking an inspection of rental property.  Effective leadership in Community Services improves our experiences in this vital area.

 

On the Agenda

City Council meets on Monday, December 7th; Planning Commission meets on Tuesday, December 8th in a working session.  The Council meets in City Council Chambers; the Planning Commission meets in the City Hall basement meeting room.

 

At some point, the Council meeting will be temporarily relocated; the Council Chambers are undergoing a redesign that – I hope – will result in a more accessible and more open space that will meet a variety of needs.

 

Council organization

 

The Council establishes committee membership, a calendar for Council meetings, and adopts a set of governing rules (for the Council) each December.  On the agenda for December 7th are resolutions appointing members to a broad variety of boards and commissions as well as a revised set of rules, a set of ‘ethics’ policies, and a calendar for Council meetings.

 

Boards and Commissions nominated by the Mayor

Environmental Commission (a Council nomination)

Greenbelt Advisory Commission (a Council nomination)

The 2016 calendar of Council meetings

The Council rules and ethics policies.  Council rules address the organization and conduct of Council meetings, and may continue to evolve as new issues arise and new interpretations are necessary.  In addition, for the past several years, Council members on the Rules Committee have endeavored to draft ethics rules that meet current and future needs, and that clarify the role Council members may play in City governance.

 

Development

 

The Council will consider whether the contract with Carlisle/Wortman may be expanded to cover an enlarged Planning role.

 

State Legislation

 

Many members of Council would wish for a more positive relationship with the State government in Lansing.  When bills come to the legislature that Council members feel may negatively affect our community, the Council may choose to voice their opposition.  On the agenda are two resolutions that the Council may decide to forward to Lansing.

 

House Bill 4425 would amend the Michigan Vehicle Code, effectively requiring local governments to establish speed limits based on the prevailing speed of 85% of drivers.  If this were to be passed by the legislature in Lansing, the Council would not be able to establish lower traffic speed limits on some essential streets – streets with many pedestrians and bike riders.

 

The State legislature is currently considering a series of bills that would affect Michigan’s Energy Policy and renewable energy planning - HB 4171, HB 4297, HB 4308, HB 4518, HB 4519, HB 4055, HB 4878, HB 4880, HB 4881, SB 295, SB 297, and SB 438.  The City is intent on reducing the municipal carbon footprint as well as the carbon footprint in the private sector by encouraging investment in alternative fuel sources and greater energy efficiency.  This intent would be negatively affected if this package of bills were to pass.

 

Water

 

The City’s storm water system is – to some extent – under the purview of the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner.  The benefit to the City includes access to WCWRC staff and financial resources.  One the agenda are three resolutions regarding that partnership with the WCWRC.

 

The Council will consider a resolution to contract stormwater services with the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner ($110,000).  The Council will also consider whether to petition the water resources commissioner for support of the Stadium Boulevard Project in the Allen Creek Drainage District (cost: $1.315 million).  Finally, the Council will consider whether to petitions the water resources commissioner for support of the FY17 annual Tree Planting Project in the Huron River Green Infrastructure Drainage District (cost: $400 thousand).

 

Other

 

There are always other items on the agenda.  If any of these interest you or cause you concern, please let me know.

On the Horizon

On Monday, December 21, the City Council will consider approval of proposed zoning and site plans for Nixon Farms North and Nixon Farms South.  If the proposed development has changed significantly between the November 17th Council meeting (when the decision on these developments was postponed) and the December 21 Council meeting, the public hearings will be resumed.

 

The Ordinance Revisions Committee will meet on Tuesday, December 22, 2015, at 7pm in the Basement Conference Room (basement, Larcom City Hall Building):  The ORC will meet with County and City planners to continue their discussion on the scope of work for amendments to Zoning Ordinance Section 5:10.2(3)(e) Accessory Apartments.

 

Anticipated updates:

 

 

The Council will receive the recommendation from the City regarding which proposed development the Council should consider for the Library Lot.  Selling the Library Lot requires eight (8) votes.  The Council is not required to move forward with either proposal.  This recommendation ought to be available before the end of the year.

 

The Council will - at some point - receive the environmental assessment from the Federal Rail Administration regarding where a new train station ought to be located.  Once that report is received, the Council could decide to move forward with the project - including the required public vote.

 

There is continued interest in increasing a commercial and residential presence in the Lowertown area.  Not only is the State Pension Fund looking at what they might want to have built on the site of the failed Broadway Village at Lowertown, DTE is considering what they might build on their site by the Broadway Bridge.  Recently other developers have been exploring possibilities for other areas in the Lowertown area - areas not (yet) owned by the University.  Development pressure has not decreased.  As new proposals come forward, I will provide informaiton about how you can influence the outcomes.

On the Calendar

Tuesday, December 8th

 

 

7 pm, Planning Commission, Basement Conference Room, City Hall.

The Planning Commission will meet to continue its discussion of downtown area (D1 and D2) zoning premiums.

 

Wednesday, December 9th

 

615 South Main Street Site Plan - A citizens’ participation meeting for a proposed 6-story development at 615 South Main Street has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 9th, 6:30-8pm at the Ann Arbor Library Main Branch.   615 S Main Citizen Participation Invitation.pdf

 

The City will host a neighborhood meeting to talk about the impact of proposed developments to the neighborhoods adjacent to Nixon Road at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, December 9th in the cafeteria at Huron High School.  City and County staff will be present to respond to questions about the proposed intersection, area storm water impacts, and water system impacts.  A series of FAQs is being created and posted on the City’s website; the first FAQ addresses city services and city infrastructure impacts.

 

Thursday, December 10th

 

The City will host an open house for the public to meet candidates for the position of community services area administrator.  Please come to the lobby of the Justice Center between 5:30 – 7:30 to meet the candidates – and if you are able, please give me your feedback.  Council members do not hire the community services area administrator, but do interact closely with that department.

 

The Historic District Commission will meet at 7 pm in Council Chambers to discuss a resolution regarding a proposed new hotel (The Glen) in the Old Fourth Ward Historic District.

 

Monday, December 16

 

The Council will meet in the Fourth Floor Jury Room in the Justice Center for a six-hour planning session, outlining goals for the next few years and considering how the goals for the current year have been met.

 

603 East Huron Street Site Plan - A citizens participation meeting for a proposed 12-story development at 603 East Huron Street has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 16th, 7-9pm at the Michigan League.   603 E Huron Citizen Participation Invitation.pdf

 

Tuesday, December 17

 

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and discuss the FY 2017 – 2022 Capital Improvements Plan (CIP).  Each year, by State law, the Planning Commission adopts a 5-year capital improvement plan; the City Council establishes the budget for each year of the CIP as part of the budgeting process.

 

The Planning Commission will also hold public hearings on two proposed developments.  NorthSky, a proposed residential development on Pontiac Trail, has been before the Planning Commission recently.  Planning Commission members were not satisfied with the proposal’s storm water management plan and requested some reconsideration by the developer.

 

At the last Planning Commission meeting, the Planning Commission voted to approve a redesign of a proposed hotel (the Hyatt Place) on S. Street.  Documents given to the Planning Commission to help them reach this decision were in error.  Back in front of the Planning Commission is a corrected petition outlining accurately the changes proposed for this amended site plan.  Because the revised site plan would not go for approval to the City Council, having the correct information to reach an informed decision is vital.

What am I reading?

I’ve been reading Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It, by Arthur Lupia.  Dr. Lupia is an Ann Arbor resident who teaches political science at the University of Michigan.

 

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