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.
It’s turned cooler in the past few days, but I really cannot consider the weather ‘cold’. The first time I visited Ann Arbor – in March, 1973 – I experienced the (once famous) St. Patrick’s Day Blizzard. I’d been living in the south for the past year, and in the tropics for the two years before that. I came to attend a wedding – and clearly remember standing in high heeled, open-toed shoes in 18 inches of snow. Good times.
This week, with snowdrops, crocus and winter aconite in full bloom, I’ve watched the swelling buds on the daffodils with renewed hope. The bright yellow blossoms of Cornus Mas have opened, and I’ve watched the buds on the cherry bushes with a little caution – because early spring killing frosts are not uncommon. I’m used to seeing the cherry bloom in April, though, so if the mild weather continues (not too hot, not too cold) I ought to see cherries and tree peonies in bloom in a month.
And yes – the deer don’t ever seem interested in Nanking Cherries, peonies or daffodils, although they have munched on the occasional rosebush and the crab apple. (Please let me know if you would want a Nanking Cherry or Redbud seedling.)
With both construction season and event season starting, there are a number of street closures already in the works.
Geddes Avenue: March 14 through November 1, 2016. Geddes Avenue will be closed to through traffic between Washtenaw and Huron Parkway for road reconstruction and utility work. Local residential access will be maintained.
Between Washtenaw and Huron Parkway, eastbound through traffic will be detoured at Washtenaw to Huron Parkway. Westbound through traffic will be detoured at Huron Parkway to Washtenaw. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic should avoid using Geddes Avenue due to uneven terrain, construction vehicles, and deep utility trenches.
Please see the detour map (PDF) for alternative routes
Barton Drive: The entrance to M14 headed east will remain open, as will the exit from M14 headed west, through the summer. Traffic under the M14 Bridge will be reduced to one-way. A temporary stop light has been installed. Temporary road closures on Maple, Miller, Newport and Beechwood will also occur during the summer. For more information, a link to MDOT.
Street closures for events
Friday, April 1 from dusk until midnight, Main, Washington and Ashley streets will be closed for the FoolMoon luminary procession. This year, the event will start at three different locations. Luminary carriers will assemble at the Farmers’ Market at Kerrytown, the Museum of Art on the UM campus, and Slauson Middle School on 8th Street. Meet there at 7:45 and make your way to Main Street.
If you want to make your own luminary, here’s a link to more information.
Saturday, April 2, from 9 am to 7 pm, Monroe Street will be closed between Tappan and State Street for the Monroe Street Fair. (On the diag, starting at noon, the annual Hash Bash will offer many political speakers.)
Sunday, April 3 from 6:30 am to 1:30 pm, streets will be closed for the Ann Arbor Marathon. So many streets that they are difficult to list. However, here’s a map.
After the marathon, head over to Main Street for FestiFools. From 4 pm to 5 pm, the streets will be filled with fools.
I’ve asked some City residents for their feedback on possible non-lethal population control methods for deer. Non-lethal population control does not result in an immediate reduction in the number of deer. It does reduce the growth of the herd by reducing the number of does giving birth. Its impact is slow; its effects are gradual. But – and for some this is significant – it does not generally result in the death of a deer.
I recently read a (now decade-old) article on deer management that I want to share with you.
Please let me know whether you have any feedback on the following methods:
Contraception: The State of Michigan has not yet approved any plans for deer contraception. They would entertain a research project proposal – because deer contraception is still considered a concept to be studied. If the City engages in such a research study, we will need to be clear that contraception does not affect population – it affects population growth. Deer will continue to be in the City, and the City will need to maintain a contraceptive program, for the future. There will be no immediate improvement in deer damage (on residential or public property).
Because the same does must be inoculated with contraceptives each year – or every two years – some find the labor of this intervention too onerous. In some cases, contraceptives fail and does get pregnant and give birth.
The cost of implementing a contraceptive program of deer management is not yet known; some have suggested that individual contributions could be used to offset the cost to the City.
Sterilization: The State of Michigan has not yet approved any plans for deer sterilization. Sterilization is not experimental; the results of sterilization programs are well known. In general, the mechanism for sterilization is to remove a doe’s ovaries. Once a deer has her ovaries removed, she no longer goes into season, and no longer gives birth to fawns. There are some surgical failures. Some ovarian tissue may remain in a doe and regenerate; the doe may subsequently give birth. Some does die from the shock of the surgery, from errors in surgery, or from anesthesia.
Because this mechanism requires more skills and a greater level of intervention in the lives of deer, it is quite expensive. Some have suggested that individual contributions could be used to offset the cost to the City.
Please send me your comments – firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE CITY ADMINISTRATOR
On Monday, March 21, the City Council’s Administrator Search Committee, will meet for two hours (mostly in closed session) to review candidates for the city administrator’s position. Members of this committee (Mayor Taylor, Council members Briere, Lumm, Krapohl, and Warpehoski) will review applications from which all identifying information has been removed, as at this stage of the process the applicants have all requested confidentiality. At the end of that meeting, the committee may have recommendations to bring to Council – recommendations that the Council and the City invite specific applicants, identified by number, to interviews. Right now, those interviews are most likely to occur in April, but no decisions have been firmly made.
If the committee makes such a recommendation, it’s likely that the Council will consider a resolution to issue invitations on Monday, March 21. Because all of this is contingent on there being candidates that the committee thinks the Council ought to consider, there is no resolution currently on the agenda.
THE LIBRARY LOT AND THE Y LOT
On Thursday, March 17, I attended a ‘stakeholder’ meeting held by CORE spaces on the Library Lot. The City Council is considering whether to sell the development rights to this developer. I don’t know how many people were invited, or which people were on the invitation list; this was not a meeting that was heavily promoted in advance.
There were about 20-25 people there, including three members of City Council. Only one of the people in the audience was a consistent advocate of intensive development or tall buildings. For me, the most interesting aspect of the meeting was the respectful manner in which everyone interacted.
I don’t expect to see a new design for the project prior to the vote on whether to approve the sale. If the Council moves forward with the sale, the developer will need to refine the design after a public meeting (the Citizen Participation ordinance requires this) and after meeting with the Design Review Board. While initially the Council was told that a resolution to sell the property would be on the agenda in April, there could easily be delays. I’m not in any hurry to make this decision. The motion to move toward an agreement with CORE passed with 7 votes. It will take 8 affirmative votes for the Council to agree to sell the property.
On Saturday, March 19, MLive carried a report that the Y Lot is being sold to a Chicago-based developer. When the City sold this parcel to Dennis Dahlmann, it retained the right of first refusal in the event that Mr. Dahlmann resold the property before it was developed. It may be that Mr. Dahlmann is retaining a percentage of the property ownership; if so, it is likely that there is no violation of that ‘right of first refusal’ clause. I have not spoken to the prospective developers, but know that there is no way they can fulfill the requirements in the sales agreement with the City (because the building would need to be complete in the next 12 months, and no design has been through the site approval process). As I learn more facts, I will update this section of the newsletter.
On Tuesday, March 15, I attended a meeting with the Attorney General’s staff in Lansing to talk about next steps with the 1,4 dioxane standards implementation. This followed the announcement (on Monday, March 14) that MDEQ had recommended setting the allowable amount of 1,4 dioxane in ground water at 7.2 parts per billion (ppb). Right now, the standards require cleanup if the level of 1,4 dioxane exceeds 85 ppb. Of course, some of us (County, Township, City, and CARD activists) would have preferred that MDEQ would set the standards to match the EPA recommendation – 3.5 ppb.
The Attorney General would need to bring a case before the Washtenaw Circuit Court in order to change the cleanup requirements (which were set by that court some years ago). While the new cleanup standards have not yet been set by law, many of us would like to know that the AG is ready to take the next step, and get a new agreement to clean up the 1,4 dioxane spill to 7.2 ppb.
State Representative Jeff Irwin will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on 1,4 dioxane on Monday, April 18th at 6pm. Council meets that same night at 7 pm. If you can, please attend the Town Hall at Eberwhite Elementary School.
On the Agenda
CITY COUNCIL MEETS ON MONDAY, MARCH 21 AT 7 PM. Planning Commission does not meet again until April 5th.
As part of its adopted rules (December, 2015) the Council waived the budgetary ceiling for which items could be placed in the consent agenda. The expected outcome was that the staff would not be required to remain until the early morning hours only to have the Council approve without comment or question an infrastructure item, and that Council meetings would be easier to complete in a timely manner – with a focus of Council attention on those items that are particularly important or controversial. These staff-sponsored items don’t deal with development; Council members also continue to introduce their own items on the agenda.
The Council will discuss whether to approve an amendment to the WeCare Organics contract to allow post-consumer organic material (plate scrapings) to be collected and brought to the composting site. This change has been requested by several private haulers, whose clients include the University of Michigan. If approved, this amendment would not change the funding in the contract.
The Council will discuss whether to approve a revised professional service agreement with Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. (OHM) for the design of the Nixon/Green/DhuVarren intersection and the Nixon Road Corridor Traffic Study. The discussion was postponed at the March 10 meeting after questions about the capacity of the subcontractor to conduct community outreach were raised. That same subcontractor was also conducting community outreach on two other contracts. This item returns with a different subcontractor.
The Council will hold a public hearing and then discuss changes to a variety of ordinances that cover capital improvement funding for water and sanitary sewer services and the cost of connecting to those services for newly annexed parcels and new construction.
There will be a public hearing on the rezoning – and another on the site plan – for a proposed development at NorthSky (2701 Pontiac Trail). After the public hearings, the Council will consider whether to approve rezoning this parcel (it’s currently zoned R4A and R1D, with a maximum allowable density of a total of 315 dwelling units. The new zoning – a mix of R1D, R1E (single family) and R4B (multi family) – and the site plan would have a total of 195 dwelling units. If the zoning change is approved, the Council will determine whether the new site plan for North Sky is appropriate and fits the proposed zoning.
The last time the voters in Ann Arbor approved a millage for street maintenance (2011), they added an additional .125 mills for sidewalk maintenance. This 5-year millage is set to expire in 2017. On the agenda is a resolution directing the City Administrator to prepare a resolution to place the millage on the ballot for the August election. This resolution is sponsored by Briere, Smith and Taylor.
About three years ago, members of the Taxicab Board requested that the DDA and the City designate certain downtown loading zones at taxi stands. By the time this request made its way through all the processes, and the designation was established with new signage, the situation had changed. There are significantly fewer taxis on the street, and more Uber and Lyft cars, as well as more limousines. The expanded number of taxi stands has not been beneficial to any of these transport options, and it has seriously annoyed a number of residents who believed that these loading zones were well-kept secret free parking spaces. On the agenda is a resolution requesting the DDA to reconsider its request the designation of these spaces as taxi stands after 6 pm. This resolution is sponsored by Briere, Eaton, Lumm, and Westphal.
Several states have challenged the EPA in court over its Clean Power Plan. Other states and municipalities have supported the EPA. On the agenda is a resolution to have the City of Ann Arbor join this support by filing an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the case. If approved, Ann Arbor would join the National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the cities of Baltimore (MD), Coral Gables (FL), Grand Rapids (MI), Houston (TX), Jersey City (NJ), Los Angeles (CA), Minneapolis (MN), Portland (OR), Pinecrest (FL), Providence (RI), Salt Lake City (UT), San Francisco (CA), West Palm Beach (FL), and Boulder County (CO) in support of the EPA’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan. This resolution is sponsored by Mayor Taylor.
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.
The Planning Commission did not have a quorum by the time the proposed 51-unit development on Kingsley / Felch (it runs between the streets) would have been discussed. As a result, the project will return to the Planning Commission agenda. I anticipate this item will be on the April 5 agenda.
The City Administrator will present the draft 2016-2017 budget on April 18th.
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.
The City will host a meeting on sump pump operation and maintenance on March 23rd at 6:30 in the cafeteria at Clague Middle School.
The City will also host a meeting on the Parks, Recreation, and Open Space (PROS) Plan on March 23rd at 7 pm in the Ann Arbor Senior Center at Burns Park.
Controlled Burns through May 27
The City of Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation (NAP) will be conducting controlled ecological burns in local natural areas between Feb. 29 and May 27. Burns are only conducted on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., weather permitting. On the day of a controlled burn, signs will be posted around the park, and staff will be available onsite for questions. The fire will be under control at all times.
Where will we burn?
During the spring 2016 season, NAP has permits to burn at the following city-owned sites: Argo Nature Area, Bandemer Park, Barton Nature Area, Belize Park rain garden, Bird Hills Nature Area, Bluffs Nature Area, Briarcliff rain garden, Buhr Park wet meadows, Cedar Bend Nature Area, Dolph Nature Area, Glacier Highlands Park rain garden, Huron Hills Golf Course, Hunt Park rain garden, Kuebler Langford Nature Area, Marshall Nature Area, Miller Nature Area, Oakridge Nature Area, Olson Park, Ruthven Nature Area, Scarlett Mitchell Nature Area, South Pond Nature Area, Sugarbush Park and West Park.
With years of discussing improving parks in the downtown, I have another book to read. Urban Green, Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities, by Peter Harnik (with a forward by Mayor Michael Bloomberg) is waiting for me at the Ann Arbor District Library. A new biography of Franklin Roosevelt that focuses on the impact he had on national parks is another item at the library – along with the earlier biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Douglas Brinkley, the author of both books, has also written a two-volume history of the Nixon Tapes. Maybe I’ll check those out, too.