Welcome to my Ann Arbor City Council newsletter, where you can connect with primary sources to understand the work of your local government. My goal is to provide clear explanations of all the issues your elected representatives will be discussing at their next meeting and alert you to local policy and decisions that have been assigned to unelected Mayoral appointees.
This week’s Council meeting includes five public hearings for final approval of ordinance changes: eliminating premiums that incentivize the development of affordable housing units downtown, amending the Transit Corridor zoning district to expand setback requirements, and a rezoning/site plan for redevelopment at Briarwood Mall. Additionally, Council will revisit first reading of an ordinance – postponed at their last meeting – to regulate use of and eventually ban the use of gas-powered leafblowers.
POLICE CHIEF INTERVIEWS
When I sent my last newsletter one week ago (Sunday), a big piece of news had not yet been announced. On Monday, November 27th, the City announced an open house and interviews for a new City Police Chief, which took place this past Thursday and Friday. You can learn about the candidates here:
MLive published a story about the candidates:
You can watch video of the City Council’s meeting to interview the candidates:
Three Council Members – Dharma Akmon (Ward 4), Travis Radina (Ward 3), and Chris Watson (Ward 2) – did not attend the public interviews for the candidates.
ANN ARBOR DEMOCRACY
Shirley Beckley is a life-long Ann Arbor resident and activist in the local black community. She grew up in Ann Arbor during the 1950s and 1960s. As an adult, she worked a variety of jobs in public schools, at City Hall, and for other community programs providing legal aid, public housing, and youth activities.
Yesterday I posted part 3 of my interview with Shirley:
On my YouTube channel, you can find recordings of public meetings that are open to attend live (online or in-person) but are not made available by the City to view later. Please reach out if you have suggestions about public meetings that should be recorded. Subscribe to my YouTube channel if you would like to be alerted to new content as it gets added.
Save Pinball Pete’s
Learn about a proposed development that would displace Pinball Pete’s. Local residents have compiled all relevant public documents around this development.
Note: a public engagement meeting for this proposal will take place on Tuesday, December 5th at 6 p.m. at the downtown branch of the public library. Link to the public engagement notice on the City’s website:
Line It Up A2 (Sports Illustrated Resorts)
Learn about both private and public City communications (the results of a Freedom of Information Act – FOIA – request) planning for a “Sports Illustrated Resort” at William and Ashley, behind the Art Center. This location was previously designated for affordable housing and City-funded public engagement found support for the development of affordable housing on this site. Local resident Michael Watts created this site and he previously created the helpsaveourwells.com website, about mining activities at the Vella Pit in Ann Arbor Township. That mine was depleting the aquifer, drying up wells and impacting others up to 2 miles away. As a result of Watts’ work raising awareness, the community banded together and the mine received 8 EGLE violations; an emergency court order put a stop to mining activities that were causing environmental damage.
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Agenda
Below is my summary of issues on the City Council Agenda this week, with links to more information about each of them. If you have comments about any of these issues, you can email all of Council at CityCouncil@a2gov.org
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting
Monday December 4, 2023 7:00PM
Ann Arbor City Hall (2nd Floor)
301 E Huron St, Ann Arbor 48104
The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda, and instructions for dialing into the meeting) is on the A2Gov Legistar website:
City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99) and online at a2gov.org/watchCTN
Meetings are also streamed live on the CTN YouTube channel:
How to reserve public comment
People that wish to comment at a City Council meeting must sign up with the City Clerk’s office in advance. Speakers are allotted 3 minutes, with the first 15 speakers allowed to speak in a 45 minute session near the beginning of the meeting. Remaining speakers will speak at the end of the Council meeting. Public comment can be made either in person or remotely via phone/Zoom audio.
To sign up for public comment, please go to or call the City Clerk’s Office at 734-794-6140 on the day of the meeting between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. At 4:00 PM, all speakers that have signed up are randomly ordered in “priority groups”. After 4:00 PM, speakers are added to the end of the applicable priority group in the order received. No new speakers will be added to the list after 5:00 PM. For more information, visit the City Clerk’s webpage about electronic meetings, section “City Council Public Commentary Time”
Questions to the Agenda
In preparation for a Council meeting, Council members can ask questions of staff about scheduled agenda items. Questions must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday before a Council Meeting, and answers are returned the next day (Thursday) by 5pm.
AC-1 (23-2011) Agenda Response and eComments – December 4, 2023
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (23-1966) Appointments – Confirmations
This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. Note that this nomination was not added to Legistar until November 20th (the day of the previous Council meeting) and was therefore not included in my previous newsletter.
- Julie Grand – Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA)
MC-2 (23-1868) Nominations and Appointments for December 4, 2023
This appointment from the Mayor is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Therese Perlowski – Leslie Science & Nature Center Board of Directors
Below is the list of items included on the Consent Agenda. If no one on Council specifically requests that an item be pulled for discussion, the whole of this list will be approved in a single vote.
CA-1 (23-1835) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to the Professional Services Agreement with Black & Veatch Ltd of Michigan to Design the Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection System Replacement Project at the Water Resource Recovery Facility, RFP 22-22 ($493,969.00 Amendment, $898,798.00 Total Contract)
CA-2 (23-1834) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Commercial Contracting Corporation for the Water Resource Recovery Facility Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection System Replacement Project (RFP No. 23-50, $5,030,600.00)
CA-3 (23-1837) Resolution to Appropriate $346,000.00 in Developer Contributions to Amend the 2023 SCOOT Expansion Project (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (23-1809) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with E.T. MacKenzie Company For Public Works On-Call Construction Services in the Amount of $500,000.00 for a Period of Two Years (RFP# 23-55)
CA-5 (23-1952) Resolution to Accept Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Funds from the U.S. Department of Energy for Turning the Bryant Community Center into a Carbon Neutral Building and Living Learning Laboratory of Climate Action and Approve an Assistance Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy ($182,360) (8 Votes Required)
CA-6 (23-1940) Resolution to Revise the Early Voting Center Availability for the 2024 Election Cycle to Include Citywide Access at All Locations
CA-7 (23-1949) Resolution to Approve the Location and Hours of City Clerk Satellite Offices on the University of Michigan Campus for the February 27, 2024 Presidential Primary Election at the Museum of Art (UMMA) and Pierpont Commons
Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.
PH-1/B-1 (23-1609) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Amendment to the approved PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Lockwood of Ann Arbor PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 2195 East Ellsworth (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 6 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-23-30)
The PUD zoning and site plan for the Lockwood development (2195 E. Ellsworth) would be amended to reflect how a newly constructed foundation was mis-placed. The PUD zoning and site plan for Lockwood was originally approved in December 2020. The development is currently under construction and a foundation was built four feet too far into the east and south side setbacks. The requested amendment would reduce both of these setbacks by four feet, to match the foundation built by the developer: 144 feet reduced to 140 feet (east side) and 68 feet reduced to 64 feet (south side). To the south, this places the building four feet closer to Ellsworth. To the east, this places the building four feet closer to homes on Shadowood Drive.
PH-2/B-2 (23-1631) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.17.4 and 5.18.6 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Premiums, D1 and D2 Floor Area Ratio) CPC Recommendation: Approval (7 Yeas, 0 Nays) (ORD-23-32)
Amendments to the UDC will rescind a policy of premiums to developers to incentivize the building of affordable housing units or payments to the affordable housing fund as part of new developments downtown. Prior to changes in 2019, premiums to developers more generally incentivized the building of residential units in D1 and D2 zoning districts (downtown). Changes made in 2019 were based on ten years of data starting in 2009 and can be found here:
2019 Affordable Housing Premiums (D1/D2 districts)
The staff memo for this week’s amendments explains: “Because of these changes, some downtown buildings (those that previously used premiums) will no longer achieve a minimum of two particular LEED points. There is also expected to be fewer buildings with on-site affordable housing units or providing payments in lieu.” Consultants hired to analyze these amendments explain: “The proposed amendments will make it easier for petitioners to reach maximum height, since they would no longer need to navigate the premiums process.”
When these amendments were considered (and approved) by Mayoral appointees on the Planning Commission, Commissioner Lisa Sauve was recused due to her “active participation of a petition in the D1 Zoning District.” According to LinkedIn, Lisa Sauve is the Principal/CEO and Co-founder of the Synecdoche architecture firm, which also actively participated in the recently approved rezoning for Southtown.
PH-3/B-3 (23-1635) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.10.2 and 5.17 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (TC1 Front Setback) (CPC Recommendation: Denial, 5 Yes, 3 No) (ORD-23-33)
Amendments to the UDC will establish a minimum front setback in the TC1 zoning district of 18 feet, as measured from the street curb; the amendment includes a maximum setback of 28 feet. City staff recommended amendments establishing minimum/maximums of 20 feet/40 feet but this was changed to 18 feet/28 feet by mayoral appointees on the Planning Commission.
When these amendments were discussed and approved at the City’s Planning Commission, the current chair – Wonwoo Lee – was recused due to conflicts of interest, as he is Chief Real Estate Officer for Oxford Companies. In past discussions of TC1 zoning districts, Commissioner Lisa Sauve has recused herself due to owning property in the TC1 district (meeting minutes reflect her participation in discussion of these amendments).
PH-4/B-4 (23-1720) An Ordinance to Amend the Zoning Map, Being a Part of Section 5.10.2 of Chapter 55 of Title V of The Code of The City of Ann Arbor, Rezoning of 8.3 Acres from P (Parking District) to C2B (Business Service District), 900 Briarwood Circle (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-23-31)
The rezoning of 8.29 acres at Briarwood mall will permit redevelopment of the empty Sears department store and some of the surrounding parking lot. Current zoning is P (parking) and new zoning would be C2B (commercial). The redevelopment plan includes demolition of the Sears store and construction of a four story residential building (354 units) with a two level grocery store, retail store, and adjacent athletic field. A four level parking garage will include 301 spaces.
Note that the developers held a public engagement meeting about this project in February:
PH-5/DB-1 (23-1857) Resolution to Approve 900 Briarwood Circle Site Plan and Development Agreement at 900 Briarwood Circle (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 6 Yeas and 0 Nays).
Approval of this site plan will permit the demolition of the former Sears department store at Briarwood Mall and construction of a four story residential building (354 units) with a two level grocery store, retail store, and adjacent athletic field. A four level parking garage will include 301 spaces. Eight foot sidewalks and five foot bike lanes (with painted buffer) will be added to the ring road of Briarwood Circle. See PH-4/B-4 above.
Ordinances – Second Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances were approved at a previous Council meeting, and are also subject to a public hearing as listed above.
New Business – Boards and Commissions
DB-1 (23-1857) is the same as PH-5 above
Ordinances – First Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances are being introduced for “first reading”. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting (“second reading”), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.
C-1 (23-1930) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 75 (Leaf Blowers) to Title VI of City Code
First reading of this ordinance was postponed at the Council meeting on November 20, 2023 when concerns were raised about the restricted hours and fines for violation. A revised version is now attached to the agenda, which will presumably be substituted in the meeting.
The ordinance will ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 to September 30. Use of all leaf blowers (gas and other) will be restricted to time of day and days of the week, with the goal of eventually banning gas-powered blowers entirely by 2028. Below is a comparison between the original version and the new revised version:
PERMITTED HOURS OF USE
Original: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weekdays) and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weekends).
Revised: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weekdays) and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weekends).
These hours differ from current standards in the City’s Noise Ordinance. For example, most noisy activities (power tools, musical instruments, loudspeakers, etc) are permitted 7 a.m. through 10 p.m. every day of the week. Noise related to construction and demolition work is only permitted from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
This is a link to the City’s Noise Ordinance:
FINE FOR VIOLATION
Original: not less than $500
Revised: not less than $100 for a first offense, not less than $250 for a subsequent offense
Citations for violation of the ordinance will be issued by the Ann Arbor Police Department and community standards within AAPD
Gas powered outdoor equipment was regulated by a previous Council. In a 2019 ordinance, all two-stroke engines used for blowing, removing, or trimming debris and vegetation were banned in the DDA district (downtown).
In preparation of the 2019 ordinance, City staff explained the community outreach that took place:
“The DDA shared the draft ordinance with the four downtown area associations so they could share it with their members, as well as with a variety of large downtown property owners, and included a mention in its monthly newsletter. DDA also reached out directly to a contractor who provides maintenance services for several downtown clients, and he indicated that he will acquire electric leaf blowers by the deadline. A single business owner contacted the DDA to express his concern that 2- stroke gas engine leaf blowers are the most effective way to clean debris like cigarette butts and wrappers, and by outlawing them there may be an added accumulation of debris on downtown sidewalks.”
Motions and Resolutions
The following agenda items are motions and resolutions, which are approved or rejected in a single meeting. Agenda items marked “DC” are proposed by Council members, items marked “DB” are proposed by City boards and commissions, items marked “DS” are proposed by City staff.
DC-1 (23-1995) Resolution to Approve 2024 Council Committee Appointments
Appointments for 2024 include just a few changes from 2023. In 2023, Council Member Briggs served as liaison to the Housing Commission; in 2024 Council Member Akmon will assume that role. In 2023, Council Member Akmon served as liaison to the Transportation Commission; in 2024, Council Member Briggs will assume that role.
In the last calendar year, three commissions have been dissolved:
Board of Insurance Administration: DISSOLVED
Council members will no longer vote as part of this Board, which considers and decides claims against the City (primarily small claims from residents who have been harmed or damaged by City operations).
Brownfield Plan Review Committee: DISSOLVED
Council members will no longer participate in the Brownfield Plan Review Committee, which considers millions of dollars in tax abatements for new developments prior to a vote of Council.
Both the Board of Insurance and the Brownfield Plan Review Committee will be managed by staff and no longer include elected representatives.
Council of the Commons: DISSOLVED
This Council — tasked with implementing a City charter amendment approved by voters in 2018 — has been dissolved.
2024 Council Committee Appointments
- Airport Advisory Committee: Chris Watson, Erica Briggs
- Ann Arbor Public Schools Transportation Safety Committee: Linh Song
- Ann Arbor Summer Festival Liaison: Christopher Taylor
- Audit Committee (Mayoral appointments): Erica Briggs, Jenn Cornell, Lisa Disch, Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, Linh Song
- Budget and Labor Committee (Mayoral appointments): Christopher Taylor, Dharma Akmon, Erica Briggs, Jen Eyer, Travis Radina
- City/County Community Corrections Advisory Board: Cynthia Harrison
- City/Schools Committee: Jenn Cornell, Ayesha Ghazi Edwin
- Commission on Disability Issues: Ayesha Ghazi Edwin
- Community Events Funds Committee (Mayoral appointments): Lisa Disch, Travis Radina
- Council Administration Committee (Mayoral appointments): Christopher Taylor, Erica Briggs, Jen Eyer, Travis Radina, Chris Watson
- Council Policy Agenda Committee (Mayoral appointments): Jen Eyer, Cynthia Harrison, Travis Radina, Linh Song, Chris Watson
- DDA Partnerships Committee: Jen Eyer, Jenn Cornell
- Downtown Development Authority (DDA): Milton Dohoney Jr., City Administrator
- Economic Development Corporation (EDC): Jenn Cornell (Nonvoting, term ending May 31, 2028), Jen Eyer (Nonvoting, term ending May 31, 2027)
- Energy Commission: Erica Briggs, Travis Radina
- Environmental Commission (City Council appointment): Dharma Akmon, Lisa Disch
- Greenbelt Advisory Commission (City Council appointment): Travis Radina
- Housing Commission Liaison: Dharma Akmon
- Housing, & Human Services Advisory Board: Linh Song, Chris Watson
- Human Rights Commission: Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, Linh Song
- Huron River Watershed Council Liaison: Lisa Disch
- Human Services Partnership Leadership Team: Milton Dohoney Jr., City Administrator, Erica Briggs, Cynthia Harrison, Linh Song, Chris Watson
- Independent Community Police Oversight Commission: Cynthia Harrison, Linh Song
- Liquor License Review Committee: Dharma Akmon, Lisa Disch, Travis Radina, Chris Watson
- LDFA (City Council appointment): Jenn Cornell – Annual confirmation of appointment to term ending June 30, 2024
- Michigan Theater Foundation Board Liaison: Christopher Taylor, Dharma Akmon
- Park Advisory Commission: Travis Radina, Chris Watson
- Planning Commission: Lisa Disch – Noting prior appointment to a term ending June 30, 2022 (serving until a successor is appointed per MCL 125.3815)
- Public Art Commission: Cynthia Harrison
- Recreation Advisory Commission: Jen Eyer, Lisa Disch
- Renters Commission: Cynthia Harrison, Travis Radina
- SEMCOG: Erica Briggs (delegate), Dharma Akmon (alternate)
- Student Advisory Council: Ayesha Ghazi Edwin
- Transportation Commission: Erica Briggs
- Urban County Executive Committee: Chris Watson, Ayesha Ghazi Edwin – (alternate)
- Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS): Erica Briggs, Dharma Akmon (alternate)
- Zoning Board of Appeals: Dharma Akmon
DC-2 (23-2022) Resolution to Launch Educational and Engagement Initiatives in Support of Transition to All-Electric Leaf Maintenance
This resolution “seeks to support” the ordinance in C-1, regulating leaf blowers. The City Administrator is directed to create and distribute educational materials about the new ordinance to residents and businesses. He is further directed to launch a bulk buy program for electric lawn equipment. Moneys collected from violation of this ordinance will “support low-income residents and small businesses with transitioning to all-electric leaf blowers.”
DS-1 (23-1633) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance 23-32 – An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.17.4 and 5.18.6 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Premiums, D1 and D2 Floor Area Ratio)
Once approved, the ordinance amendment in PH-2/B-2 must be publicized. This resolution permits an abbreviated summary publication in order to spare expense.
DS-2 (23-1636) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance 23-33 – An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.10.2 and 5.17.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (TC1 Front Setback)
Once approved, the ordinance amendment in PH-3/B-3 must be publicized. This resolution permits an abbreviated summary publication in order to spare expense.
Thank you for taking the time to be informed about our local government!