Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (March 3, 2024)

Mar 3, 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’s agenda is relatively short, with three public hearings: one for amendments to the Early Leasing Ordinance (B-1) and two regarding fee structures for fire department ambulance and lift assist services (DS-1, DS-2). Significant procedural changes are proposed for use and administration of greenbelt millage funds (C-1). A budget amendment for the leasing of gasoline powered golf carts – defeated at the previous meeting – has been brought back for reconsideration (DC-2).


Ann Arbor Democracy

In the 1970s, activists in Ann Arbor participated in a leftist, political alternative called the Human Rights Party or HRP. Locally and across the state of Michigan, the HRP fielded candidates and led ballot initiatives around progressive causes. During this period, the HRP met regularly to debate policy, craft platforms, and promote candidates. They successfully won three Ann Arbor City Council seats, two in 1972 and one in 1974. Many more HRP members were active behind the scenes and participated in other campaigns as candidates.

In 1973, Phil Carroll ran for City Council in Ward 4 as a member of HRP. In that race, a republican, Richard Hadler, won a plurality of the vote, beating both Carroll and democrat Ethel Lewis. In that race and the mayoral race of 1973, the HRP was widely seen as splitting the vote and causing republican victories. In Part 3 of our conversation, Phil and I talk more broadly about the impact of a third party, how a third party finds support, and the challenges of current politics.


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 4, 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=1141233&GUID=8A928EF6-9508-435A-90F0-DF5BC453680C

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-4 (24-0304) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – March 4, 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 (24-0237) Appointment – Confirmation
This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Robert Boley – Housing and Human Services Advisory Board

MC-2 (24-0307) Appointments and Nominations for March 4, 2024
This appointment from the Mayor is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next 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 (24-0214) Resolution to Approve Participation in the Purchase of a Conservation Easement on the Fletcher Property in Scio Township, Approve a Participation Agreement with Scio Township, and Appropriate $50,000.00 (8 Votes Required)

CA-2 (24-0215) Resolution to Approve Participation in the Purchase of a Conservation Easement on the Heller Property in Webster Township, Approve a Participation Agreement with Webster Township, and Appropriate $78,400.00 (8 Votes Required)

CA-3 (24-0216) Resolution to Approve Participation in the Purchase of a Conservation Easement on the Heydon Property in Webster Township, Approve a Participation Agreement with Webster Township, and Appropriate $128,250.00 (8 Votes Required)

CA-4 (24-0178) Resolution to Approve a 2024 Land and Water Conservation Grant Application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Grants Management for Improvements at the Buhr Park Ice Arena and Commit $500,000.00 in Local Matching Funds if the Grant is Awarded

CA-5 (24-0161) Resolution to Approve a Declaration of Restrictive Covenant for a Restricted Nonresidential Remedial Action at 2000 S. Industrial Highway, Ann Arbor

CA-6 (24-0266) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Spence Brothers for the Supportive Connections Office Space Renovations Project (RFP 23-68) ($135,000.00)

CA-7 (24-0160) Resolution to Approve a One-Year Extension of the Contract with Washtenaw County for Police Dispatch Services ($1,012,534.00)

CA-8 (24-0258) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the 2024 Take Back the Night/Standing Tough Against Rape (Rally and March) – Wednesday, April 3, 2024

CA-9 (24-0257) Resolution to Approve the Closing of Monroe and Tappan Streets for the Annual Monroe Street Fair, Saturday, April 6, 2024

CA-10 (24-0259) Resolution to Approve Street Closings for the Burns Park Run – Sunday, May 5, 2024 from 5:30 AM until 11:00 AM

CA-11 (24-0012) Resolution to Close Streets for the Time to Teal 5K and Fun Run to Benefit the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MIOCA) on Sunday, May 12, 2024

CA-12 (24-0235) Resolution To Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Stantec Consulting Services Inc. for Geothermal Advisory and Design Services ($689,200.00)

CA-13 (24-0283) Resolution to Approve a Grant of Easement for a Private Sanitary Sewer Lead at 519 Eighth Street (8 Votes Required)

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 (24-0212) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 8:530 and 8:531 of Chapter 105 (Housing Code) of Title VII (Building Regulations) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-24-03)
Amendments are proposed for what is sometimes referred to as the Early Leasing Ordinance. That ordinance also includes a right to renew for current tenants.

The original ordinance approved in 2021 aimed to address early pressure to commit to leases (and renew leases) nearly a full year in advance.
https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5018056&GUID=E79E3457-BA68-4591-95B3-0F97B0710FFA

In 2022, further amendments granted current tenants a qualified “right to renew” (up until 150 days – five months – before the end of a lease). The 2022 amendments also established a right to relocation assistance (up to two months rent) in cases where landlords failed to make a good faith effort to renew a lease.
https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5780260&GUID=3AD4E464-CB82-43BD-B2B4-09AFC37FA7CE

After the enactment of the original ordinance, some landlords continued to collect “reservation” deposits in advance of prescribed timelines. Tenants also reported that some landlords collected these “reservation” deposits for apartments that were ultimately unavailable, due to current tenants choosing to renew. This week, a staff memo refers to articles published in 2021 and 2022 that reported on these loopholes.

Proposed changes combine some sections and measure timelines slightly differently: instead of measuring 180 days before the end of the current lease period, the amended ordinance would refer to “210 days into the current lease.” Explanation is added, clarifying that the timeline for offering an apartment to a new tenant applies except where the landlord has “good cause” not to offer a renewal to a current tenant.

PH-2/DS-1 (24-0083) Resolution to Approve Fees for the Fire Department Ambulance Transport and Lift Assists And Appropriate Funding (8 Votes Required)
This agenda item was postponed from the 2/5/24 meeting. A new proposed fee would be charged by the Ann Arbor Fire Department: $225.00 for lift assist. For businesses and medical facilities (e.g. assisted living facility, group home, skilled nursing facility, etc.) the first lift assist service is free. For lift assist service related to pick up and drop off of patients for medical appointment, the first assist is free. This fee schedule is amended from what was originally proposed on the 2/5/24 agenda; the original proposal included a fee schedule for lift assist calls to private residences.

PH-3/DS-2 (24-0186) Resolution to Approve Fees for the Fire Department Ambulance Transport and Appropriate Funding (8 Votes Required)
This agenda item was postponed from the 2/5/24 meeting. A new fee would be charged by the Ann Arbor Fire Department: $470.00 for basic life support transport (ambulance). The fee schedule for ambulance service considers various levels of insurance and for those lacking insurance, the fee is waived.

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 (24-0212) 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.

C-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
Staff proposes to amend policy around purchases and sales within the City’s “Greenbelt.” 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

The current cap on administrative spending (6%) would be lifted entirely. In questions to the agenda this week, Staff explain that in the past, administrative spending related to the Greenbelt program has been as high as 13.5% and could go higher.
https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12723569&GUID=A6BD8EE6-7777-49E9-BBD9-5D545ED2F12E

This week’s proposed amendments also change the definition of “Development Rights” that can be bought and sold within the Greenbelt. Reference to “intensive animal husbandry” is removed and “extractive” purposes are added:

Development Rights means the rights to develop real property, including the right to build structures and to use, divide, or subdivide the land for residential, office, commercial, research, industrial, or extractive, or other purposes.

Greenbelt policy allows a property owner who has previously sold Development Rights to the City to buy them back from the City. Under current policy, any request to “repurchase” development rights 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 within the Greenbelt requires a public referendum. Current policy also requires appraisal and assessment of fair market value of these development rights.

This week’s proposed amendments wholly remove requirements for GAC review, supermajority vote of Council, public referendum for larger parcels, and appraisal of fair market value. New proposed language regarding the terms for re-purchase of development rights:

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.

In 2022, the City adopted a new policy of “Buy-Sell-Protect” which permits the division and sale of greenbelt properties to create multiple (smaller) farming opportunities. You can read about that policy here:
https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=10527512&GUID=40648F9B-911B-4E6F-BBFC-C7C4E5EA0EEB

Current policy allows no more than 2% of impervious surface within a Conservation Easement. Proposed amendments allow this limit to be waived by the City Administrator on a case-by-case basis.

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 (24-0239) Resolution to Appoint Sean Duval to the Economic Development Corporation Board as a Non-resident Elector (7 Votes Required)
This appointment from the Mayor was presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. Seven votes are required because the nominee is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor.

  • Sean Duval – Economic Development Corporation Board

DC-2 (24-0305) Motion to Reconsider the February 20, 2024 Vote that Defeated the Resolution to Approve a Golf Cart Lease and Appropriate Funds for the Purchase of Lawnmowers
A budget amendment for $844,971 will fund a four year lease of 104 gasoline powered golf carts (64 with GPS units) and three utility carts as well as the purchase of two mowers for use at the Huron Hills and Leslie Park golf courses.

This agenda item was defeated at the 2/20/24 Council meeting. It has been brought back for reconsideration by CM Travis Radina, who previously voted against it. A member of Council who voted on the prevailing side may bring an agenda item back for reconsideration.

DS-1 (24-0083is the same as PH-2 above
DS-2 (24-0186is the same as PH-3 above


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