A warm and sunny January morning
First Ward, City Council
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 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.
Like many of us, I got to spend time with my family – my immediate family (husband, son, and daughter-in-law,) and some extended family members. Time with family is always a treat for me. And in a way, it’s charming to have my son sometimes treat me as the ‘non-adult’ by asking questions about how well I’ve planned for the future.
The answer, of course, is ‘never well enough.’
That’s always one of the challenges we face. We frequently plan for the future to be just like the past, and I mean this on both a personal and a Council level. Like the designers of the Maginot Line, we imagine that technology and tactics will remain the same, that the goals and dreams of future generations will mirror our own goals and dreams when we were, well, young. We plan for the last change, not the next one.
That is certainly the case with the City’s infrastructure. And it’s certainly the case with my plans for the next 30 years.
January is a time for looking backward as well as looking forward, though. So I hope each of you feels 2015 was a positive year in many ways, and that 2016 – Presidential election and all – will provide you with success and happiness.
One of my friends decided – last year – that she was going to keep a list of things that would make her feel better each time she had a rough day. It’s an interesting and positive idea. (Her family joined in, reminding her how grateful they are to have her in their lives.)
With all the frustrations city government can bring, I remain grateful to each of you.
I continue to update information about the deer cull. The latest iteration is here.
The City of Ann Arbor's Deer Management Page contains many useful and informative links, including a link to the permit granted by the State of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources. The permit application from the City is here.
The City is continuing its efforts to kill – through a supervised and controlled cull – as many as 100 deer. As a general statement, this controlled cull involves attracting deer to a specific site on public land and shooting them. Because shooting deer requires the use of weapons – and because even an authorized and supervised activity involving firing weapons can pose a risk – the City has established hours when entering public land could be dangerous.
Initially, the City established 26 parks for culling activities – by which I mean, firing weapons. By Council action (I drafted the resolution) the number of parks was reduced to 24 (keeping open Bandemer, Argo and the Olson dog park). The permit from the State of Michigan to allow the cull established further limits on the duration of culling activities (must end by March 1) and the areas of the cull (must not be closer to an occupied building than 450 feet unless the resident / owner of that building have agreed in writing to allow activities to be closer).
I urged the City staff to remove even more parks from the list where culling activity might take place. On Wednesday, January 13, the staff announced that a further 10 parks had been removed from the list of parks. I am pleased with this change.
Had the Council been offered the opportunity to discuss and approve the initial implementation plan, I would not have supported it.
PARK CLOSURES AND HOURS
The following parks, originally on the list, HAVE BEEN REOPENED FOR THEIR USUAL HOURS.
1. Arbor Hills Nature Area
2. Braun Nature Area
3. Dhu Varren Woods Nature Area
4. Foxfire South Nature Area
5. Foxfire West Nature Area
6. Narrow Gauge Nature Area
7. Oakridge Nature Area
8. Oakwoods Nature Area
9. Onder Nature Area
10. Traver Creek Nature Area
Deer cull activities will continue as planned in the following 14 City of Ann Arbor parks and nature areas (PDF), which will remain closed for all purposes from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday until March 1, 2016. All parks will remain open during regular park hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
1. Barton Nature Area
2. Bird Hills Nature Area
3. Black Pond Woods Nature Area
4. Bluffs Nature Area
5. Cedar Bend Nature Area
6. Furstenberg Nature Area
7. Huron Parkway Nature Area
8. Kuebler Langford Nature Area
9. Leslie Park Golf Course
10. Leslie Woods Nature Area
11. Olson Park [The dog park will remain open during regular hours.]
12. Ruthven Nature Area
13. South Pond Nature Area
14. Stapp Nature Area
On the Agenda
CITY COUNCIL MEETS ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 19TH. The Planning Commission meets on Wednesday, January 20th. City Hall is closed on Monday, January 18th in recognition and honor of Martin Luther King Day.
There are two significant development items on the agenda.
The Council will hold a public hearing and then consider whether to establish zoning for, and approve a site plan on, two parcels on North Nixon Road near M-14 (Woodbury Club). The proposed zoning (R4A) allows a density of up to 10 units per acre and a maximum height of 35 feet (45 feet if there is underground parking). The developer is requesting approval of the proposed site plan, using both lots in the density calculation, as a planned project (buildings up to 39 feet because all the units are concentrated in one area).
Although not currently in the development agreement, on Friday, January 15th, the developer offered to provide a conservation easement to the City for that section of one of the two lots that is primarily unbuildable, as it is wetland. He wishes to preserve one corner of the lot as potentially a construction site for a future use. Conservation easements sound as if they are a good idea, but they require clear negotiations with the City in order to guarantee public access and future maintenance. This offer may encourage the City Council to delay until the details are clearly understood and stated.
The Library Lot
The City Council will decide whether to proceed with negotiating the sale of the development rights on the Library Lot to CORE development. If the Council approves this resolution, it is not agreeing to sell the land. It is agreeing to enter into negotiations. This resolution takes six (6) affirmative votes to pass. In the event that the Council agrees to move forward with the process, it will require eight (8) votes of City Council members in order for any development on this site to proceed.
The City staff and the broker (CBRE) have evaluated all development proposals submitted in response to the offering memorandum and have recommended that the City Council approve further negotiations with CORE regarding the sale of this space.
At this time, the Council is not deciding on the merits of the proposed design of the building or the public space. It is also not deciding on the community benefit (50% of the proceeds of this sale, were it to be approved, would be placed in the Affordable Housing Fund).
• Response to RFP (PDF, 10MB)
• Best and Final Offer (PDF, 6 MB)
• BAFO Civic Plaza Design (PDF, 1 MB)
History of this project:
Resolution Designating an Urban Park Location on the Library Lot Site -March 3, 2014 (PDF)
Boards and Commissions Documents:
Ann Arbor Planning Commission Resolution to Request City Council Utilize an RFP/RFQ Process for the Sale of the Development Rights Over the "Library Lot" Underground Parking Structure - Approved by Ann Arbor Planning Commission March 18, 2014 (PDF)
Communications from City Administrator to Council:
Memo to Mayor and Council - June 4, 2015 (PDF)
Memo to Mayor and Council - September 18, 2015 (PDF)
Other project documents:
Hotel Market Study - October 24, 2014 (PDF)
When we voted for ‘more buses, more often’ a couple of years ago, we approved more routes and more connectivity. Sometimes, those changes require other changes. On the agenda is a resolution to approve an agreement with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority for intersection improvements to the corner of South Maple Road and Scio Church. With this agreement, AAATA will fund – and the City will build – a right turn lane from Maple onto Scio Church, and the relocation of the traffic signal.
Nearly everyone who drives on Fifth or walks across Fifth to get to the Farmer’s Market, Community High School, the Kerrytown Shops, Zingerman’s or even to the businesses on Fourth Ave. has witnessed the poor quality of the street surface, the confusing and hazardous pedestrian access, and the irregular and (sometimes) inadequate street lighting. The City Council will discuss – and may approve – a resolution to establish an agreement with the DDA to design improvements to N. Fifth Avenue (including the Kerrytown area) between Kingsley and Catherine. The DDA has been planning improvements (rebuilding the brick streets, improving street lights, etc.) in this area for a number of years; the City has also been planning to make improvements (storm water systems, sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.). With this resolution, the DDA and the City would establish a budget for the design of specific elements; they will share these costs. Both the DDA and the City will be parties to the design contract; at this time, JJR is the presumed contractor.
There will be a public hearing and then Council will consider whether to make minor, textual changes to the ordinance that establishes developer contributions toward public improvement financing. At this time, the changes primarily extend the current ordinance; City staff are working on language to significantly change this ordinance in the next few months.
The Council will decide whether to approve a contract with OHM to undertake the next steps needed to improve the City’s sanitary sewer system. These steps include:
• Monitoring the sanitary sewer flows
• Updating the sanitary sewer system hydraulic computer model
• Conducting field work and analysis to identify sources of sewer inflow
• Developing an education and outreach program
• Evaluating alternatives for addressing sanitary sewer capacity constraints
• Preparing preliminary engineering plans
ENVIRONMENT (SOLID WASTE)
The Council placed the funds for a biodigester feasibility study (to deal with compostable materials most effectively) in the budget for 2016. The Council will consider whether to award a contract for this feasibility study. A feasibility study is necessary before determining whether to go ahead with a biodigester.
The Council will consider approving a contract with CB&I Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc. to develop draft changes to the Material Recycling Facility contract.
As (I hope) another step toward filling leadership positions at the City, the Council will decide whether to approve the appointment of Derek Delacourt as the Community Services Area Administrator (a position which oversees building, development, planning, parks, and human services). If approved, Mr. Delacourt would assume his position on February 29, 2016.
The Council will discuss a resolution, to be sent to the Michigan legislature and governor, encouraging the legislature to make changes to Public Act 269 regarding the role of local governments in local elections (the current language restricts local governmental speech within 60 days of an election; some assert that this places an unreasonable burden on information flow to the voting public).
The Agenda packet also contains important communications and notices, including a notice from the Michigan State Boundary Commission that they will hold a public hearing on February 3, 2016 regarding annexation of property from Ann Arbor Township to the City, and a report from the Ann Arbor Housing Commission Joint Policy and Financial Advisory Committee, making recommendations to the City Council.
There are always other items on the agenda, including reports and minutes from meetings. If anything raises your concern or invites questions, please contact me.
There is still no update on the FRA’s recommendation for where a new train station might be located. The Capital Improvement plan does not assume that a new train station will be at Fuller; it did, however, reflect the staff’s oversight in not updating the name of projects (the Fuller Road Station reference is to the Ann Arbor Station proposal – which does not identify a location, pending the recommendation from the FRA).
Jan. 18, 2016
All day: City Hall offices will be closed, in honor and recognition of Martin Luther King Day.
MLK Day activities at U-M. U-M hosts a big MLK Symposium each year on MLK Day, so these are just a few highlights. (All these lectures/talks are free.) Find a complete schedule at http://mlksymposium.umich.edu.
10-11:30 a.m. at Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University in Ann Arbor Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN political contributor and host of HuffPost Live and BET News, will give the keynote lecture.
10 am – 5 pm: Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, 220 E. Ann St., The AAHOM will offer a reduced admission rate and tons of fun. Kids can use toys to discover their inner engineer in the museum’s “pop-up makerspace” – and today, the challenge is to build a bell and make a ramp.
12 noon: Burton Memorial Tower in Ann Arbor This event is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium and features a performance by U-M carillonists performing music by various African American composers on the 54-bell carillon in the tower. You can listen outside, or climb the tower to see the bells.
1 – 3 pm: Barton Nature Area in Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation, an organization that works to protect nature spaces in Ann Arbor, encourages local residents to use their MLK Day off to volunteer. Head here and help remove invasive shrubs and clean up the area. Wear long pants and closed-toe shoes (dress for weather!). Tools, snacks and training provided.
2 – 3 pm: Ann Arbor District Library, Downtown Branch The Biakuye Percussion Group performs a special show for kids in grades K and older – plus adults.
2 – 3:30 pm: Stephen Henderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Detroit Free Press editorial writer will speak at the Michigan Union Ballroom, 530 S. State St., Ann Arbor
5 – 6:30 pm: Ndaba Mandela, Nelson Mandela's grandson, who was recently named one of the "28 Men of Change" by BET, will present a talk titled "The Power of One" at U-M Business School's Blau Auditorium, 701 Tappan in Ann Arbor
Sunday, January 17th through Friday, January 22nd:
Restaurant Week at many area restaurants. Restaurant Week is your opportunity to try as many great Ann Arbor restaurants as your schedule allows for one incredibly low fixed price. $15 for lunch and $28 for a three-course dinner with many restaurants offering 2-for-1 pricing! Reservations are strongly recommended.
Wednesday, January 20th
11:30 am: At the Ann Arbor City Club: “Saving American Democracy, one community at a time.” Mary Morgan, co-founder and publisher of the Ann Arbor Chronicle (2008-2014) is founder and executive director of the CivCity Initiative (civcity.org), a new non-profit organization intended to encourage resident participation in civic life. Reservations are required.
6:30 pm: at the County Board Room in the Administration Building at 220 N. Main Street: The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners will be considering a next step in the process to consider affordable housing on the Platt Road site. On January 20th, the Ways and Means Committee will consider a resolution that directs county staff to take steps toward sale (survey, title work, etc.) and to draft a request for proposals to solicit purchase offers for the property. Upon first consideration on 1/20, the action has the potential to move to the February 3rd meeting for Board of Commissioners approval. If approved on the 3rd, staff would draft a request for proposals, which would return to the Board of Commissioners for review before issuance to the development community.
Meeting materials are available on the Board of Commissioner Agenda Page. Additional information remains available at www.plattroad.org as well. If you have any questions, please contact Brett Lenart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m still reading Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars, by Samuel I. Schwartz and William Rosen and Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change, by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia.
Several people urged me to watch the TED talks on better city design, particularly this one by Amanda Burden on the value of public spaces.