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 quite short, though additional items may still be added at the last minute prior to the meeting (as happened before the last meeting). Council will consider two items at first reading: a rezoning at Pontiac Trail and an ordinance banning use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the summer months. There is one public hearing, on final approval for a rezoning at Traver Road.
WASHTENAW COUNTY SHERIFF
This week, there was a community forum among the candidates for Washtenaw County Sheriff. You can read about it here:
Next month, I look forward to attending a winter fundraiser for Alyshia Dyer. You can learn more about that event at this link!
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.
In Case You Missed It…
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.
TC-1 Washtenaw Ave Rezoning Public Meeting of November 16, 2023
This is my recording of a public engagement meeting held by the City of Ann Arbor on November 16, 2023 at 6:30 PM to discuss TC-1 (Transit Corridor District) rezoning of Washtenaw Ave. The meeting was held in person at Pittsfield Elementary School.
MLive published two articles about the meeting:
Council Administration Committee: November 14, 2023
This is a recording I made of a Zoom audio meeting held on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 by the Ann Arbor Council Administration Committee. Video was not made available. Note that the Zoom audio quality is poor.
Discussed in this meeting (starting at timestamp 4m 21s) is a request from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for Ann Arbor to establish a Sister City partnership with a city in Ukraine.
Link to USAID website: https://www.usaid.gov
MLive published a story about this meeting:
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 November 20, 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 (23-1948) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – November 20, 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 (23-1789) Appointments – Confirmations
These appointments from the Mayor were presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
- Anthony J. DiGiovanni – Retirement System Board
- Jordan Schreier – Retirement System Board
- Emma Hardy – Public Market Advisory Commission
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 (23-1707) Resolution to Approve a Two (2) Year Construction Contract with Saladino Construction Co., Inc. for As-Needed Miscellaneous Concrete Repairs RFP 23-45 (up to $358,452.00 over two years)
CA-2 (23-1713) Resolution to Approve Amendment No.1 to the Annual Software Support, Maintenance and License Fees Agreement for AclaraONE with Aclara Technologies LLC ($19,420.82, Total Contract not to exceed $240,028.18)
CA-3 (23-1774) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Seven Western Star Swap Loader Chassis with Underbody Snowplows and Eleven Swap Loader Bodies from D & K Truck Company and Appropriate Funding from the Stormwater Fund Balance (State of Michigan MiDeal – $2,384,164.69) (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (23-1806) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 721 S. Forest Avenue from Ann Arbor Forest Ave Properties KP6, LLC (8 Votes Required)
CA-5 (23-1807) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 715 S. Forest Avenue from 715 S. Forest L.L.C. (8 Votes Required)
CA-6 (23-1820) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 2195 E. Ellsworth Road from Lockwood of Ann Arbor Limited Dividend Housing Association Limited Partnership (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (23-1830) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone PLC for Bond and Disclosure Counsel Services, and General Municipal Finance Advice
CA-8 (23-1864) Resolution to Approve the City’s Participation in Proposed Class Settlements by 3M Company and DuPont to Resolve Claims by Public Water Systems Affected by PFAS Contamination in the matter In re: Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation, Multi-District Litigation No. 2:18-mn-2873-RMG
CA-9 (23-1793) Resolution to Rescind R-23-182 for a Single Construction Contract with Melink Solar, LLC for the Purchase and Installation of Solar at City Facilities and its Appropriations and to Approve Four Construction Contracts with Melink Solar, LLC for the Purchase and Installation of Solar at City Facilities, and to Appropriate Necessary Funds (8 Votes Required)
CA-10 (23-1798) Resolution to Approve a Subrecipient Agreement with Midwest Geothermal, LLC for Technical Support and Design Guidelines as Part of the Bryant District Geothermal Project ($97,000)
CA-11 (23-1823) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate a Community Project Funding Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Enhancing Solar, Battery Storage, and Electric Vehicle Charging at Municipal Facilities ($2,500,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-12 (23-1855) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with NOVA Consulting, Inc. to Design Solar and Energy Storage Systems at Multiple City Facilities ($135,000)
CA-13 (23-1858) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Michigan Office of Highway Safety Grant Funds and Approve the Subcontract Grant Agreement with the State Court Administrative Office ($99,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-14 (23-1901) Resolution to Adopt the Board of Review Guidelines for Poverty Exemptions from Property Taxation of Principal Residence Pursuant to MCL 211.7u
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 (23-1475) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 5.23 Acres from TWP (Township) to PL (Public Land District), Vacant Traver Road (ORD-23-29)
Previously annexed parcels at 2282 and 2290 Traver Road will be rezoned PL (Public Land). The 5.23 acres were purchased by the City in 2020 for parkland purposes, to be maintained as a natural area adjacent to the Leslie Park Golf Course.
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 (23-1475) 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 (23-1696) 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, Zoning of 5.9 Acres from TWP (Township District) to R4A (Multiple-Family Dwelling District), 2520 Pontiac Trail and 2540 Pontiac Trail (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
Two parcels at 2520 and 2540 Pontiac Trail will be rezoned from TWP (Township) to R4A (Multiple-Family Dwelling District, to be added to the Village of Ann Arbor Site Plan. Rezoning the additional 5.9 acres will allow the construction of 120 more housing units, as part of a larger project totaling 78.5 acres and 604 dwelling units.
C-2 (23-1930) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 75 (Leaf Blowers) to Title VI of City Code
A new 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 the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weekdays) and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weekends). The ordinance proposes to ban gas-powered leaf blowers entirely by 2028.
This week’s ordinance includes no details about input or feedback received in preparation of the ordinance. Council Members submitted no questions to the agenda about it.
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 (23-1938) Resolution to Approve 2024 Council Calendar
Dates for City Council meetings (24) and work sessions (4, plus “as needed”) will be set with the approval of a 2024 Calendar.
I also published this on my website:
One Full Year of Unanimous Government
This week marks a full year since the installation of a City Council in which all elected members were approved and endorsed by Mayor Taylor. In the last twelve months, 97% of all agenda items have been approved unanimously, most notably on issues of controversy. In just the last year, Council has unanimously approved:
Eliminating Council consideration of private claims against the City by disbanding the Insurance Board
Waiving a requirement for affordable housing units in order to award $5 million in brownfield tax breaks to a developer
Reducing Council review of brownfield tax breaks for future developments by disbanding the Brownfield Fund Review Committee
Re-zoning multiple properties as requested by developers, including a rezoning for the benefit of a campaign donor in order to add 64 full-time AirBnB units south of Burns Park (SouthTown)
- Video: Airbnb in Ann Arbor “The Absence of Community”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LLslDzWkOg
Transferring over $6 million in affordable housing millage dollars back into the City’s General Fund so it could be used for other City initiatives
- Video: “A Financial Shell Game” Affordable Housing Funds: https://youtu.be/kLRCGhvJ-1Q
Allocating over $800,000 of the transferred affordable housing millage dollars toward the purchase of an election center from Oxford Companies, whose CEO is Taylor campaign donor, Jeff Hauptman.
Changing policy so that neighborhood traffic reconfigurations can happen even when over 50% of local residents oppose them
- Video: “Mandate” Transportation Policy: https://youtu.be/jWYivppBn_A
Directing the City Administrator to plan lane reductions on all multi-lane roads in Ann Arbor, while explicitly removing a requirement for traffic studies prior to implementation
Repealing affordable housing premiums downtown to facilitate larger developments without the provision of affordable housing units or payments in lieu to the affordable housing fund
- Video: Taller & More Lucrative – “Fewer Affordable Housing Units”: https://youtu.be/w6BHROyd6sQ
Every one of the issues above prompted questions and concerns from Ann Arbor residents who care about transparency, accountability, and integrity in government, but there was not a single vote of dissent to speak to those values. By unanimous vote this past year, Council has consistently diminished its own responsibility, dismissed the value of data and resident input, and prioritized the desires of profit interests ahead of community interests.
Thank you for taking the time to be informed about our local government!