Prunus in April, 2016

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,


It has been a glorious few days, with temperatures exceeding 70 degrees, and my plum, cherry, and forsythia are all in bloom at the same time.  The daffodils and hyacinths are achieving their peak, and I have a tulip!  (You may have more; this one is hiding under a hedge of bridal veil spirea, and has not be loved by the deer.)  The quince is showing color, the birds are singing, and courting ducks are, well, flocking to the neighborhood.


I’ve begun planning changes to the garden and entirely more work than I will finish – but it’s good work, and makes me happy to think about it.


The City has launched its second Deer Impact Survey, using its A2OpenCityHall utility.  Over 1,800 responses have been received.


In order to take the survey, you will need to be willing to accept cookies (and I don’t mean chocolate chip cookies), provide your (general) location, and your name.  You may always request that your survey responses be anonymous.  You may, if you choose, fill out the survey and send it in by mail, too.  The utility seeks this information to limit the number of times any individual can respond, and to provide general location information – so the responses can be tabulated according to their location.


All surveys through A2OpenCityHall are ‘opt-in.’ As is the practice, this survey will be open to all.  Those who live outside Ann Arbor will be recorded as living outside the City.  Equally, those who live in the First Ward may have a different viewpoint on deer management and deer impact than those who live in the Fourth Ward.  Any different viewpoints will be important.


Anyone can download the file of responses, and sort the data to see what type of support or concern is representative of the First Ward.  Although many would prefer a strong public opinion on one side of this issue or another, the results at this moment indicate that opinion is very mixed city-wide, with 60.4% supporting or strongly-supporting non-lethal population control measures, and 57.4% supporting or strongly supporting continued lethal population control measures.


The survey closes on April 29.


Although I don’t know the reason(s), so far most people taking the survey say that they live in the Second Ward.  The order of participation after that is: Fifth Ward, First Ward, Fourth Ward, Third Ward, and out of the City.  This isn’t a contest, of course, and there is no prize for greater participation – except perhaps having a louder voice in the outcomes.


The Budget impact


In recent weeks, I’ve mentioned the budget as a factor in determining the direction of the deer management plan.  (See below for more information about the proposed budget.)  The City Administrator’s budget recommends $35,000 to create the non-lethal deer population management plan, and another $35,000 for a deer cull in 2017.  Last year’s budget requested $35,000 for deer management; this was increased to $90,000 during the budget approval process.  The Council is required to approve the budget by the conclusion of the second Council meeting in May.


More information about Ann Arbor’s Deer Management Program is available at


Please send me your questions and comments –





On Monday, April 18, the Council will hear a presentation from the (acting) city administrator on his proposed budget for FY2016/17.  There are some interesting changes to highlight.


When the Council amended the DDA ordinance, it placed a cap on the revenue the DDA could receive from the tax increment financing (TIF) district.  That cap went into effect this year (2016) and has resulted in an increase of property tax revenue for the City of over $4 million.  Proposed increased expenditures include additional staff, funding for a street-light inventory and new street lights, and funding for winter shelter.  In all, both the revenue and the expenditures for the City increase.


I’ll be evaluating the budget and its recommendations; I hope you will, as well.




It’s a good thing that Argo Park, and especially Argo Cascades, is such a popular destination.  It isn’t always a good thing for the neighborhood, however, as people eager to get to the water park across driveways, picnic on lawns, and in some ways behave rather rudely.  The City has been trying to address the impact of Argo Park on the neighborhood in a variety of ways – and has some new ideas to offer for discussion.


On Tuesday, April 26th, I’ll host a neighborhood meeting about Argo and parking at 6:30 pm at the Northside Grill.  City park staff and systems planning staff will be there to offer their most recent recommendations and hear feedback from residents.


This is a single-issue meeting – staff won’t be prepared to talk about anything other than Argo and parking.  If you would like to meet with staff about other issues related to the parks, please let me know.  I’ll make arrangements.




There have been several meetings recently where The Connector has been the topic.  This is a planned transportation system – most likely a light-rail/streetcar system – that would be routed from Plymouth Road / US 23 to downtown – with a later route planned from downtown to the Briarwood area.  A partnership involving four different bodies, the plan has been discussed for several years.  Proposed by the University of Michigan, it needs support from the City of Ann Arbor, AAATA, and the DDA in order to move ahead.  In the 2016/17 budget, the city administrator proposes providing $184,000 for the City’s share of the environmental assessment for this transportation system.  Identical amounts would be expected from both the DDA and AAATA.  These amounts, taken together, represent 25% of the cost of the environmental assessment.  The City has already allocated $30,000 toward this project; that work has been completed and the next phase has not begun.




On Thursday, April 14th, the City held a reception for four candidates for city administrator.  On Friday, City staff and some members of the public met with each candidate as part of the interview process.  On Saturday, from 9 am until 3:30 pm, the Council met as a group with each candidate.  MLive covered this series of interviews.  Council members have been asked to submit their comments and evaluations to the City by 10 am on Monday, April 18th; the Search Committee will review all evaluations on Monday at 4 pm, and will then make a recommendation to the City Council at the Council meeting that night.


If you met with the candidates or read the reporting in MLive, and you want to offer your recommendation, please contact me ( or 734-277-6578)




State Representative Jeff Irwin will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on 1,4 dioxane on Monday, April 18th at 6 pm.  Council meets that same night at 7 pm; this is the night the Council will see the proposed budget for the first time.  If you can, please attend the Town Hall at Eberwhite Elementary School.




South State Road: Monday, April 18 - Friday, April 22: Southbound South State Road from the West Ellsworth Road roundabout to Airport Drive will be closed beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 18 for water main repairs. Work is expected to be completed, and the road reopened to traffic, by Friday, April 22.


Traffic on southbound South State Road at the roundabout will be routed west on West Ellsworth Road to south on Lohr Road and east on West Textile Road.


Pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be maintained. Please see the detour map(PDF) for more information.


Glen Avenue: Monday, April 18-Friday, April 22, 2016: portions of Glen Avenue between East Huron Street and Catherine Street will be closed during a project which includes the lining of the sanitary sewer along Glen Avenue from Ann Street to the south side of Huron Street, and a repair of a sanitary sewer manhole located at the intersection of Glen Avenue and Huron Street.


Eastbound traffic on Ann Street at Glen Avenue will be routed south on Glen Avenue to east on Huron Street to north on Zina Pitcher Place and west on Catherine Street. In addition, the turn from westbound Ann Street to southbound Glen Avenue will be directed north on Glen Avenue to west on Catherine Street and south on State Street. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be maintained between East Huron Street and Catherine Street.


On the Agenda

CITY COUNCIL MEETS ON MONDAY, APRIL 18 AT 7 PM.  Planning Commission meets until April 19th.  Each meeting is in the Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall.




The Council will hold a public hearing and then consider whether to approve the site plan for Sun Baths, a proposed infill building at 319 N. Main (D2 zoning) that would create a public bath house – another old idea refreshed for the 21st Century.  At the Planning Commission meeting, the required quorum (6 members) were present, but one member had to recuse herself.  At the vote, 5 members recommended approval of this site plan; it takes 6 or more affirmative votes for a recommendation of approval to be forwarded to council.  As a result, although this project was supported by the members of Planning Commission who voted, it comes to Council with a recommendation of denial.


The Council will hold a public hearing and then consider whether to approve the site plan for The Calvin, a proposed building at 603 East Huron (D1 zoning) that would create a residential tower 120 feet tall between Sloan Plaza and The Graduate hotel (formerly, the Campus Inn).  The site plan has been modified, in part, to address concerns from residents of Sloan Plaza regarding window placement.


The Council will hold first reading for a proposed rezoning of properties at 816 S. Forest and 815 Church Street from R2B to R4C with conditions.  The Planning Commission recommended denial of this petition.  If the petition is approved at first reading, the Council will hold a public hearing on the petition at a meeting in May or June.


The Council will hold first reading for a proposed rezoning for a newly annexed parcel at 3355 Geddes Road, rezoning it from TWP (township) to R1A (single family.  If approved at first reading, the Council will hold a public hearing on the petition at a meeting in May or June.




All of the focus on Flint and lead poisoning has had several unintended – and positive – outcomes.  In addition to creating an atmosphere where MDEQ is more willing to work with the County and find solutions for the 1,4 dioxane pollution in our area’s groundwater, the Council asked about whether there are lead water lines in our community.  The staff responded quickly, directly confirmed each lead line, and proposes completely replacing all lead water service lines this year.  This is a budget amendment; it takes 8 votes.


With more and more people living in the near-downtown and downtown, there are also more dogs – and dogs need to be walked as well as an opportunity to run and play off leash.  The Council will consider whether to approve a new, off-leash dog play area at Broadway Park.  Broadway Park has no parking; this proposal will not increase traffic in the area.


The Council will consider, at first reading, an amendment to the water, sewer and stormwater rates, to adjust water, sewer, and stormwater rates due to debt service coverage, operating and maintenance costs, and capital improvement requirements in all three systems.  The amendments will provide revenue increases of 5.5% in water, 6.0% in sewer and 6.50% in stormwater.  If this ordinance is approved at first reading, there will be a public hearing on the ordinance, most likely in May.




There are two significant resolutions on the agenda for Council consideration.


The first resolution would direct the city administrator and city attorney to develop a draft ordinance to require activation of closed captioning on televisions used in places of public accommodation – such as, City Council meetings.


The second resolution would redirect staff resources from the Morehead-Delaware Pedestrian Bridge Project – which is budgeted at $450,000 – and use the currently unspent balance ($438,000) for the completion of a study on changing driving culture and the installation of additional rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) at crosswalks.


Both of these resolutions involve the Council in making decisions on values and costs – as each has a budget implication.


Council watchers will remember that the Morehead-Delaware pedestrian bridge was funded during the last Council budget session.  The Council had previously committed to reconstructing that bridge as part of a larger project; estimates for the cost of construction came in considerably higher than the original estimate of $150,000.




There are always other items on the agenda, including street closures, vehicle purchases and easements.  If you have questions or concerns about any item, please let me know.

On the Horizon

As an important reminder, the Ann Arbor Art Fair will be held from THURSDAY, July 21 through SUNDAY, July 24.  This change in the schedule will close streets downtown through Sunday night – but they ought to be open on Monday morning.  For information, click here.


On the Calendar

April 19, 7 pm.

The Planning Commission will hold public hearings on two significant changes to the City’s zoning:


Proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 55) and Off-Street Parking Ordinance (Chapter 59) of the Ann Arbor City Code to revise the premium floor area options in downtown zoning districts and supporting regulations to the planned project modifications and the off-street parking requirements. Amended sections include §5:10.19 (Downtown Zoning and Character Overlay Districts), §5:64 and §5:65 (Premiums), §5:68 and §5:70 (Planned Projects), and §5:169 (Special Parking District). The proposed amendments change the required conditions to acquire premium floor area; create a two-tiered program to acquire bonus floor area in the D1 and D2 districts; offer incentives for residential uses, workforce housing, energy efficiency and certifications; introduce building design requirements; allow design requirement modifications with planned projects; and, limit the maximum amount of private off-street parking. A complete draft of the proposed amendments is available at


Proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 55) of the Ann Arbor City Code. Accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) are proposed to be a permitted use in part of the existing home (in the basement, attic or addition), as well as in an existing detached accessory structure such as a garage or carriage house located in the R1A, R1B, R1C, R1D, R1E (Single-Family Dwelling) or R2A (Two-Family Dwelling) Districts. To build an ADU, the minimum lot size would have to be 5,000 square feet for an ADU with a maximum size of 600 square feet. If a lot is 7,200 square feet or greater, the ADU could have a maximum size of 800 square feet. More information of the proposed amendments is available at


What am I reading?


Sometimes I hear about books and want to read them; sometimes I hear about them, feel obligated, but just have trouble getting started.


I’ve finally started Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,, by Matthew Desmond.  As we continue to discuss housing affordability and what we – as a City – can do about it, we will also need to consider ways to keep people in their housing and ways to continue to keep that housing safe.  I quite enjoyed hearing from one of the candidates for city administrator a confident statement that housing affordability is an issue here in Ann Arbor and a stated belief that creating large concentrations of affordable, supplemented housing does not create the opportunities that improve diversity in the community.

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