Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (March 16, 2024)

Mar 16, 2024 | Newsletter

Hello neighbors!

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, City Council considers a very short regular agenda including one public hearing for ordinance amendments that will change policy for land acquisitions through the “Green Belt” program (B-1). City staff have offered further changes to these amendments, which Council may move forward at the meeting (see explanation below). Council will consider the issuance of capital bonds for the development of affordable housing at Catherine Street (DS-1) and two resolutions from Council: in support of options for the US-23 improvement project (DC-1) and directing implementation of new City hiring practices (DC-2). 

On the Consent Agenda, the City’s housing commission will pay $44,000 for a City-owned property at North Main and Summit (CA-8). The City will also receive and allocate $1 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to fund a new splash pad at Bicentennial (formerly Southeast) Park (CA-7). 


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 March 18, 2024 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:
https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1141234&GUID=C2088826-7FE4-4736-A98B-17F0A870AF85

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:
https://www.youtube.com/user/ctnannarbor

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”
https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-clerk/Pages/Virtual-Meetings-.aspx

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 (24-0382) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – March 18, 2024
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 (24-0307) Appointments – Confirmations
This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Sam Ankenbauer – Commission on Disability Issues

Consent Agenda

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 (24-0240) Resolution to Approve the Public Defender Services Contract with Washtenaw County ($208,123.35)

CA-2 (24-0281) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with Dawn, Inc., d/b/a Dawn Farm, to Provide Drug Abuse Counseling and Rehabilitative Services to Sobriety Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court Participants ($97,900.00)

CA-3 (24-0238) Resolution Approve a Purchase Order to Sesame Solar, Inc. for the Purchase of a Mobile Nanogrid and 3 Years of Maintenance ($333,000)

CA-4 (24-0147) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to the Professional Services Agreement with Wade Trim Associates, Inc. for the State and Hill Streets Improvements Project ($521,399.00 Amendment, $1,356,213.00 Contract Total)

CA-5 (24-0197) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Doan Construction Co. (RFP 24-05) for the 2024 Sidewalk Repair Project ($737,663.02)

CA-6 (24-0199) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Precision Concrete, Inc. (RFP 24-07) for the 2024 Sidewalk Repair Project ($255,450.00)

CA-7 (24-0312) Resolution to Accept a Michigan Economic Development Corporation Grant and Approve a Grant Agreement for the Bicentennial Park Splash Pad ($1,000,000.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-8 (24-0139) Resolution to Sell 123 W. Summit (formerly part of 721 N. Main) to the Ann Arbor Housing Development Corporation ($44,000.00) (8 Votes Required)

The City’s housing commission will pay $44,000 for a portion of the City-owned property at 721 N. Main. Most of the 5.26 acre parcel at 721 N. Main is not an appropriate location for housing, due to floodway and floodplain conditions. The property has been divided so that a 0.33 acre portion at the northwest corner (123 W. Summit) can be developed. The whole (undivided) parcel was appraised in 2019 at a value of $2,430,000. The City will receive $44,000 from the Housing Commission in exchange for the property. In response to questions to the agenda this week, staff explained that the property is a “Fleet Service Asset” and money must be transferred from the Housing commission in order to “avoid a loss to the Fleet Services Fund.”

This parcel was one of eleven City-owned properties designated by a previous Council (2019), for the location and development of affordable housing. You can find that resolution here:
https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3903308&GUID=38598520-B6EE-4907-878A-D523E72D50FD

Other City parcels designated for affordable housing have been on Council agendas in the last year:

MARCH 2023
Council approved the sale of 121 Catherine to the City’s housing commission for $1.
https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=6054969&GUID=86B00D73-B8C6-4014-B177-A662E1162C51
NOTE: the City plans to issue Capital Bonds to fund affordable housing at 121 Catherine (see DS-1 on this week’s agenda)

AUGUST 2023
Council approved the sale of 350 S. Fifth (the “Y lot) to the City’s housing commission, transferring $6.2 million of the Affordable Housing Millage revenue back into the City’s general fund.
https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=6279103&GUID=4486E780-AEC1-44F1-ACA2-38933844EB7D
See also: A2Council Update: “A Financial Shell Game” Affordable Housing Funds
https://youtu.be/kLRCGhvJ-1Q

SEPTEMBER 2023 to JANUARY 2024
The City engaged in negotiations for a conference center at First & William (the “Kline lot”) 
https://a2council.com/sports-illustrated-resorts-ann-arbor-public-meeting-january-29-2024/
See also: Few Things Considered: Sports Illustrated Resorts Ann Arbor
https://youtu.be/RpiwXgqymr8

Public Hearings

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 (24-0219) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 42 (Open Space and Parkland Preservation) of Title III of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-24-04)
Ordinance amendments will change City policy around purchases and sales within the City’s “Greenbelt.” These amendments were approved at first reading on March 4, 2024; this week, they are subject to a public hearing and final approval at second reading. Staff now propose an alternative version which, if adopted, will reset the process of approval back to first reading. If approved, the new changes will be the subject of another public hearing at a future meeting.

In 2003, Ann Arbor voters approved an Open Space & Parkland Preservation millage to fund the purchase of conservation easements to preserve open space and prevent urban sprawl. This millage generates approximately $3.4 million annually. Of these funds, two thirds may be spent on the purchase of conservation easements outside the City limits and one third of these funds must be spent on the acquisition of parkland within the City of Ann Arbor. Since its inception, this millage has facilitated the purchase of over 7,600 acres for conservation. 

Proposed amendments to Greenbelt conservation policy would expand the boundaries of eligible properties. A portion of Ypsilanti township is added as well as a “Sourcewater Protection Overlay District” as described as “All land that affects the City’s sourcewaters or drinking water supply, as determined by the City Administrator.” A map of current boundaries of the Greenbelt district can be found here: 
https://www.a2gov.org/greenbelt/Documents/Greenbelt%20Regional%20Map.pdf

Amendments would lift the current 6% cap on administrative spending. Staff have explained that administrative spending can sometimes be much higher. Current policy allows no more than 2% of impervious surface within a Conservation Easement. Amendments will allow this limit to be waived by the City Administrator on a case-by-case basis.

The Open Space and Parkland Preservation millage funds City purchases of either development rights under a term agreement or conservation easements in perpetuity. In the first twenty years of this millage, the City has not purchased development rights under term agreements. Since 2003, millage funds have been used to purchase conservation easements in perpetuity, only, in collaboration with neighboring townships and the County.

The current ordinance outlines a process for property owners to sell development rights to the City and also buy them back, after fifty years have elapsed. Any request to “repurchase” development rights from the City is first considered by the Greenbelt Advisory Commission and, if approved by the GAC, must be approved by a supermajority of Council (9 votes). For parcels larger than 100 acres a “repurchase” of development rights requires a public referendum. Current policy also requires appraisal and assessment of fair market value of these development rights before they can be sold back to a property owner. The City does not currently own any development rights that would be subject to these provisions.

As originally approved (3/4/24), ordinance amendments deleted process for the possible future purchase of development rights, eliminating the fifty year timeline and removing requirements for GAC review, supermajority vote of Council, public referendum for larger parcels, and appraisal of fair market value. At first reading, Council approved terms for re-purchase of development rights that would have granted Council “sole discretion” regarding both price and subsequent use of proceeds: 

City Council shall have the sole discretion whether to act on the request. If City Council determines to pursue a repurchase of Development Rights, City Council shall have the sole discretion to negotiate all terms of the repurchase, including price and conditions. City Council shall have the sole discretion to determine how to use the proceeds from any repurchase of Development Rights.

Ahead of this week’s meeting, staff has proposed alternative language that eliminates the option for repurchase of development rights by the original property owner:

Development Rights agreements shall not provide for repurchase of the Development Rights by an Owner of land from which Development Rights have been purchased by the City

Alternative language also clarifies that in exchanging land rights back and forth, any prior City investment will be restored as millage funds, rather than used at the “sole discretion” of Council:

When land or land rights that have been purchased entirely or partly with OSPP Millage funds are subsequently sold, any money received by the City for the sale shall be returned to the OSPP Fund and used for OSPP Millage purposes in equal proportion to the amount of OSPP Millage funds used for the purchase.

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.

B-1 (24-0219) is the same as PH-1 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.

There are no ordinance first readings on the agenda.

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 (24-0365) Resolution in Support of TheRide’s Proposal to Explore Alternative Options on the US-23 Corridor Project
By resolution, Council expresses its support for alternative, pro-transit options on the US-23 Corridor Project including high-occupancy vehicle lanes, shoulder-running transit lanes, and the development or expansion of park and ride lots outside the City. These options were presented to Council on February 20, 2024 and can be found here:
https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12694516&GUID=241562C9-88D6-4EDA-82BF-EF67951A2F25

The resolution will be sent to TheRide, Michigan Department of Transportation, the City’s state legislative delegation, Governor Whitmer, and Congressional representatives.

DC-2 (24-0385) Resolution to Implement Anonymous Hiring Initiative
By resolution, Council directs the City Administrator to implement anonymous hiring practices. In considering applicants for city jobs, recruitment and hiring staff would no longer see information such as legal, prior, and preferred names, prefix, suffix, personal email addresses, and home addresses. The City administrator is further directed to partner with Michigan Works!, parole boards, Supportive Connections, colleges, Neutral Zone and other agencies to diversify the City’s workforce.

DS-1 (24-0301) Resolution Authorizing Publication of Notice of Intent to Issue Capital Improvement Bonds to Fund the Development of 121 Catherine as Affordable Housing (Not to Exceed $9,000,000) (6 Votes Roll Call)
Council will approve publication of a Notice of Intent to Issue Capital Improvement Bonds to fund the development of affordable housing at 121 Catherine Street. Up to $9 million in bonds may be issued to fund the construction of a 64,529 square foot L-shaped building with 63 affordable housing units and 18 public parking spaces with access from North Fourth Avenue and the rear alley. All housing units will be affordable to households with incomes at or below 60% Area Median Income (AMI); half of the units will be supportive housing, affordable to those with income at or below 30% AMI. The Affordable Housing Millage will fund repayment of these bonds.


Thank you for taking the time to be informed about our local government!
Elizabeth Nelson