Dragons in the garden

Sabra Briere


First Ward, City Council



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 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,


Before I get too far into this newsletter, I want to remind everyone that Tuesday, August 4th is primary election day.  If you are not certain you will have time to vote on Tuesday – but you might on Monday – please head to the City Clerk’s office (at City Hall) to vote absentee.  You can get your ballot and vote right then.


If you meet one of the following criteria, you are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot:


  • 60 years of age or older
  • absent from the community on Election Day
  • physically unable to vote at the polls without assistance of another person
  • unable to attend the polls because of religious beliefs
  • appointed a poll worker in a precinct other than your own
  • confined to jail awaiting trial or arraignment


If you don’t know where to vote, here’s a link to the list of polling places.


I am surprised to wake up to August.  I like August – but it means summer is nearly over.  August can be hot – but generally, the temperatures drop at night and there are just enough cool days that we can anticipate autumn without feeling winter breathing cold air down our backs.  Saturday morning at the Farmer’s market, everything from apricots to zucchini was on display.  It looks like a great harvest.

Every so often, I find myself grateful to live in Ann Arbor.


  • There are no highways through town, elevated or below grade, separating neighborhoods and making walking/driving more difficult and less present.
  • The Farmer’s Market remains a market where farmers bring their crops.  Other markets in other communities have few farmers and many ‘food producers’ – so, not much fresh produce and lots of preserved food.  Our fresh produce / eggs / meat / chees market is a big plus in our community – and it’s spawned several other markets that help bring fresh food near to neighborhoods, such as the Cobblestone Farm Market and the West Side Farmer’s Market.
  • There are parks and green spaces all over – in every neighborhood, along the river and points in between.  These are public spaces that are available for me to enjoy.  I can sit on a bench, walk on a path, read a book in the sun.
  • We are a community of gardeners.  And while everyone doesn’t have a garden, so many of us grow flowers, fruit, vegetables and herbs that the air is brightly perfumed.  As I walk in various parts of town, these small areas of wild space and paradise* create rich and wonderful neighborhoods.  Although we share these gardens with various fauna, I am regularly impressed by how lush our neighborhoods are.  Thank you to all the gardeners.
  • It’s possible to stay home and relax, but it’s easy to find things to do in the community, day or night, for all ages and interests.
  • And most of all, for the endlessly interesting people who choose to live here.


*Middle English: from Old French paradis, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek paradeisos‘royal (enclosed) park,’ from Avestan pairidaēza ‘enclosure, park.’






Every so often, the issue of traffic speed returns.


There’s a speed monitor on Newport right now that indicates your speed if you exceed 25 mph.  This isn’t a contest to make it blink – the goal is to keep it off.


A similar speed monitor will be placed back on Pontiac (it’s been there before) this month.  Traffic speed remains an issue.


Several people would like to see all street speeds reduced to 25 mph.  To imagine what that would look like, I’ve attached a map of the currently posted speeds.  Please keep in mind that all neighborhood streets, whether posted or otherwise, are limited to 25 mph.


Paving on Newport Road between Sunset and Miller starts this week.  The paving should take about a week – including lane striping.


Work on Depot has not yet begun, in part (I suspect) because the water main replacement on Fourth Ave. and Summit – which is disrupting Wheeler Park – has not yet been completed.

Construction continues on Jackson.  This work is being done by MDOT.  And construction on the bridges at Fuller is ongoing.


Events sometime close roads, too.  If you want to know which streets will be closed and why, here’s a link to the City’s website.




I ought to point out that I heard concern voiced about people living under the bridges at Fuller / Glen / Maiden Lane.  And about the items that were visible from the bridges.  So here is some good news.  Volunteers from MISSION and several local churches worked together to remove unwanted items from beneath the bridges.  They were able to do this because Washtenaw County, working with a variety of service providers, has focused on finding permanent homes for veterans and the chronically homeless.  Here’s an update on their progress so far.  Pretty impressive.




I like to be fully informed, and then to share that information.  Several development and transportation concepts are pending; I don’t have more information on:


  • The proposed new train station.  Although I understood that a report would be available by the end of June, it wasn’t.  Whatever the report states, before a final design for the station is prepared, the public will have an opportunity to vote on whether to move forward with the project.


  • Construction on the Library Lot.  At some point – and I hope it’s in early September – the final two or three recommended development concepts will be made public, and the public process can begin.  I don’t completely know what that process will look like, but believe that the finalists will be invited to come to Ann Arbor (if out-of-town concerns) and hold design mettings to address the public space (design, use, and management) and the building design (aesthetics, form, and function).


  • Broadway village at Lowertown.  This dormant project is not going anywhere soon.  The majority investor in the project is the State Pension Fund.  The land is not on the market, although I know of several who have expressed interest in it.  One recent question I was asked is, ‘why is this land still zoned a PUD?  Doesn’t that make it harder for a developer?’  I understand – from asking several times about rezoning the land – that the PUD zoning could be changed at the request of the land owner / developer at any time, but that the PUD zoning increases the variety of uses possible on the land, and therefore increases its value.


On the Agenda


City Council meets on Thursday, August 6th; Planning Commission meets on Wednesday, August 5th.  These are date changes caused by the primary election schedule.  Both meetings begin at 7 pm in City Council Chambers at City Hall.






Back on the agenda is a public hearing and discussion of whether to approve a site plan for South Pond Village.  The Council reviewed the site plan in July, but postponed a decision because members wanted to see an alternative route for emergency access.  While that route has been proposed and designed, the work on the alternative site plan may not be complete.  This item may be postponed again.

The revised plans are not on the agenda, but they are available to review.  Here are some worth reading:


Natural Resources review, which documents the likely effect on the wetlands;

NAP review, which does the same;

Storm Water Review by the Malletts Creek Coordinating Committee;

The stormwater and floodplain management review by City staff;

The traffic engineering evaluation, which documents the effect of having a Huron River Drive only access point;

Review from the Fire Marshall of the revised plan;

Staff engineering evaluation of the revised plan;

The revised plan itself (large file);

Of course, there are other files for this development on eTrakit, too.




The Housing Commission has been (admirably quickly, in my view) preparing to upgrade, renovate and expand all of its properties.  On the agenda is a request to transfer $450,000 from the Affordable Housing Fund to the Housing Commission budget to help pay for improvements (demolishing old buildings, constructing new housing units, and expanding the number of housing units).  This Platt Road site is located across the street from Verle Ave. and near Lorraine; housing units would increase from 6 to 32.  The Henry site is located at State / Henry / White, and would increase the number of units from 28 to 32.  Both site plans have been approved by City Council.  (Neither of these locations is related to any proposal for the land owned by the County near Platt Road.)






The City Council will hold public hearings and then discuss the special assessment districts (which houses and at what cost) that are being established as part of the Geddes Avenue improvements.  These special assessment districts reflect new curb and gutter costs as well as new stormwater system controls.






On the agenda is a resolution that establishes a public hearing on deer management for August 17 at 7 pm.  This public hearing will be held in the Council Chambers as part of the City Council meeting.  The resolution is sponsored by Mayor Taylor and Council members Lumm and Briere.  On August 17, the Council will also discuss and vote upon a resolution that directs staff to develop and implement a deer management plan (no, the City doesn’t have one yet).  I believe that this resolution – which will allow Council to set the general terms of the plan and its implementation – will also be sponsored by Mayor Taylor and Council members Lumm and Briere.  I drafted both resolutions.




The City Council will discuss whether to approve a partnership agreement with the Michigan Recreation and Park Association and accept a grant ($38,000) to fund a variety of activity-related parks programs, including a teen camp, senior exercise classes and a program (Pathway to our Parks) that will introduce residents to the many recreational opportunities the parks afford.  These programs would begin in the winter of 2016.



There are always other items on the agenda, including street closures for UM move-in.  If you see issues that I have not addressed about which you have questions or concerns, please give me a call or send me an email.


On the Horizon



The homes and businesses near the Huron River by Broadway and Pontiac Trail comprise an eclectic neighborhood, and the River Hop is an eclectic celebration:  the weekend of Aug. 29-30th will be chock full of a variety of fun events! Whether you’re into garage sales, home-grown music, area history, local artists, nature, gardening, boating or bicycling, there’s something for you.


If you live in the area and would like to offer an event, please sign up here: www.riverhop.org.  Especially consider offering a garage sale Saturday August 29th!  If you don't have enough stuff, consider going in with some neighbors, or your whole street even.  The River Hop will publicize it for you!  Go to www.riverhop.org to sign up.




At the last Council meeting, the Council postponed discussing a site plan for the east side of Nixon (the Woodbury Club apartment complex).  The Council also gave preliminary (First Reading) approval to zone the two parcels on the west side of Nixon (Nixon Farm north and Nixon Farm south).

These developments ought to be on the August 17 Council agenda.  There will be public hearings for all, but those who spoke on July 20th (on the Woodbury Club project) might be unable to speak again, if the site plan is not changed.




The Planning Commission will be discussing the Zoning Ordinance(s) Reorganization plan in August and September.  This long-delayed plan has required more work than initially anticipated, as the City has many overlapping ordinances that have required review and coordination.  Areas where the overlapping controls are in conflict have been highlighted, but no changes have been made (as amending ordinances is the role of City Council).  There will be public meetings and public hearings on the recommendations; please stay tuned.

This process is separate from any changes to downtown zoning, and is also separate from the Master Planning efforts (both for the Allen Creek Greenway and for the City as a whole) that will begin this year and next year.

On the Calendar

Tuesday, August 4th


7 am – 8 pm: Primary election day, First, Third, Fourth and Fifth wards


Wednesday, August 5


5 pm: The Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force will meet in the basement conference room at City Hall.

This is the antepenultimate meeting of the task force (next two meetings are on August 17 and August 26).  The agenda is, as usual, full.  The task force is in the final steps of completing their report for Council, and will discuss the recent public meeting and the survey results.


7 pm: The Planning Commission will meet in City Council Chambers.


The Madison on Main site plan is on the agenda for a recommendation to Council.  This project has changed since initially presented, and the developer is seeking a recommendation that the project be built as a Planned Project rather than one that fits the D2 zoning.  The developer requests that the street-wall height be allowed at 4 stories (rather than the three stories allowed in the First Street character district); the absolute height of the building is 60 feet, which fits D2 zoning.


Thursday, August 6th: City Council meeting (moved from Monday, August 3rd).


Friday, August 7


6 pm: the Grand Opening of RIVER ART, starting at the Gallup Park Canoe Fan site (remarks at 6:30 pm).  There are three different sites for the art: Broadway Park, Island Park and Gallup Park.  Take a walk along the Border to Border trail, see the art, and come to the Grand Opening!


Monday, August 10


3 pm: The Plumbers and Pipefitters block party, and


6:50 pm: The Plumbers and Pipefitters annual 5K race (awards based on age group, revenues donated to the Semper Fi Fund charity, which provides grants to service members and their families), and


7:30 pm: the Plumbers and Pipefitters annual pub crawl.

Yes, this includes street closing on Monday.  All events take place on Main Street at Liberty.


What am I reading?

Sometimes I manage some heavy reading.  Sometimes it is good just to sit down with books for pleasure.  Right now, I have two books out from the Library:


Inventing Freedom: How the English Speaking Peoples made the Modern World by Daniel Hannan, and

Inventing the Individual: the Origins of Western Liberalism, by Larry Siendentop.


I’m also reviewing Zoning Rules!: The Economics of Land Use Regulations, By William Fischel, and I continue to recommend A Better Way to Zone: Ten Principals to Create More Livable Cities, by Donald Elliott.  Mr. Elliott’s book includes recommendations on how to think about already-built communities.



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