Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (August 3, 2019)

Aug 3, 2019 | Newsletter

Hello neighbors!

This week at Ann Arbor City Council, we have a medium sized consent agenda, one public hearing, amendments to our Unified Development code, resolutions about FOIAs, and several proposed road configuration changes. Since our last meeting, my family travelled to Florida to visit Disney World and Sanibel Island. Now that I have confirmed it as fact, I can share: 1) the Tiki Room remains the very BEST attraction at Disney resorts, 2) Sanibel Island has fabulous multimodal paths for bicycling, and 3) Florida is quite hot in July (though not as hot as Art Fair!)

Before I jump into my summary of items on the agenda, I’d like to invite you to my coffee hours tomorrow (Sunday) from 3-4:30 p.m. at RoosRoast on Rosewood. I hope this is a convenient opportunity for us to meet in person and hear perspectives.

A2ELNEL coffee hours Aug 4 2019

Council Caucus

Some of us on City Council have decided to resume a tradition of “Council Caucus” on Sunday nights. I am looking forward to this opportunity for additional open, public conversation around the issues that matter to you!

Council Caucus
Sunday Aug 4  (7:00-9:00pm)
City Hall 2nd Floor
301 E Huron St


  • Public comment general time. (Three minutes, no need to signup in advance and speakers will be assigned in the order of arrival.)
  • Discussion, primarily topics on the next day’s Council agenda.

More Information:

  • One or more council members will be present for each caucus.
  • Children are welcome. (Books and crayons provided)

If there is public interest, then the caucus sessions will continue every Sunday before regular Council meetings. 

For more information about Council Caucus, see the city website at:

Boards and Commissions Applications

Membership on Ann Arbor Boards and Commissions is constantly changing as terms end and appointees step down. We need you! You can find openings at the following link (or contact me directly)

Road Construction Updates

It’s the season for road construction, and I post regular updates on my website about projects that affect Ward 4 residents. My posts include links to the City’s website, so that you can find more information and contact info.

For information about these and other projects, the City has a page of road and lane closures, and a page of scheduled construction projects:

South State Street Traffic Control Plan Aug 2-29
Due to multiple projects, there are traffic control plans on South State Street between Granger and Stimson and between Arch and Hoover.

Hill Street Traffic Control Plan Aug 5-13
A traffic control plan on Hill Street between South Forest Avenue and Church Street

ITC State-Pioneer Transmission Line Project Update July 31st
An update from ITC on the project connecting the State and Pioneer substations

Maywood Ave Construction Update Aug 1st
An update on the Maywood Ave construction project

Road Closures and Parking Restrictions near Michigan Stadium Aug 10th for Soccer Event
There will be parking restrictions near Michigan Stadium for the Soccer game on Aug 10th (same restrictions as during UofM Football home games)

This detour is still in place:

Stone School Road lane closures July 8th to Aug 9th (I-94 to E Eisenhower)
Stone School Road is closed southbound between I-94 and East Eisenhower Parkway.

Additional Website Updates

In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.

You can see a listing of all my posts here:

City Council Voting Chart for July 15, 2019

Greenbelt Advisory Commission public engagement session Aug 15th
The Greenbelt Advisory Commission (GAC) is leading the 2019 review of the program’s strategic plan, with opportunities for the community to provide input. Six public engagement sessions have been scheduled between July and October 2019. The first meeting was on July 29th – the next meeting is scheduled for Aug 15.

Greenbelt Advisory Commision Public Engagement
Thursday, Aug 15, 2019 (5:30–7:30 PM)
Ann Arbor District Library – Traverwood Branch
3333 Traverwood Drive
Ann Arbor

A reminder about a few city resources:

A2 Fix It  This is an online system for alerting the city to problems in your neighborhood (e.g. potholes, graffiti, garbage pickup). This is the city’s preferred method for hearing your complaint so they can direct appropriate staff to address it. I’m happy to hear from you, too, but city staff tell me that the online A2FixIt system is actually the quickest and fastest way to get a response to the problem. Information about A2FixIt (and explanation of more urgent issues and appropriate numbers to call) is here:

City News and Announcements  This is a helpful link to updates on events and opportunities in Ann Arbor through City Hall:

City Department Updates  If you have specific interests related to the city’s work, e.g. construction projects, deer management, recycling, you can subscribe to receive emailed updates on various topics found here:

Ann Arbor Council Meeting Agenda

Below is my summary of some 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, feel free to email me.

The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda) can be found on the A2Gov Legistar website:

Ann Arbor City Council
Monday Aug 5, 2019  (7:00pm)
City Hall 2nd Floor
301 E Huron St

City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99). They are also streamed live on YouTube and Viebit:

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-5 (19-1473) August 5, 2019 Council Agenda Response Memo and eComments
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.

Consent Agenda

Below is the list of items included on tomorrow’s 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. I encourage you to look at this list and offer suggestions to me about anything you would like to see pulled for discussion.

CA-1 (19-1265) Resolution Authorizing Water Capital Recovery Charges for 2 Maple Village Ct. ($2,696.00)

CA-2 (19-1266) Resolution Authorizing Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 2 Maple Village Ct. ($5,982.00)

CA-3 (19-1293) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office for Weapons Screening Services in the Ann Arbor Justice Center ($180,000.00)

CA-4 (19-1310) Resolution to Approve 5-year Agreement (FY2020 – FY2024) for Software, Support, and Maintenance with Granicus, LLC for the City’s Legislative Management System and Communications Platform ($286,750.86)

CA-5 (19-1340) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office for Judicial Information System Costs for FY 2020 ($47,250.00)

CA-6 (19-1302) Resolution to Authorize an Increase to the Sole Source Purchase Order with Jack Doheny Companies for the Rental of a Vactor 2100i Combination Sewer and Catch Basin Cleaner ($62,500.00)

CA-7 (19-1311) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 1 to the Professional Services Agreement with GEI Consultants of Michigan, P.C. for the Hydroelectric Dams FERC Part 12 Inspection and Report – RFP #17-31 ($47,850.00)

CA-8 (19-1415) Resolution to Approve a Grant Agreement with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for the PFAS Removal Project ($1,317,264.00) and to Appropriate Grant Proceeds to the Existing Backwash Infrastructure Improvements Project ($457,880.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-9 (19-1333) Resolution Recognizing Girls Group as a Civic Nonprofit Organization Operating in Ann Arbor for the Purpose of Obtaining a Charitable Gaming License

CA-10 (19-1365) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to Professional Services Agreement with Varnum LLP for Legal Services Relative to MPSC Case No. U-18091 ($15,000.00)

CA-11 (19-1366) Resolution to Approve Professional Services Agreement with Varnum LLP, for Legal Services Relative to MPSC Case No. U-20471 ($45,000.00)

CA-12 (19-1384) Resolution to Release an Easement for Water Line Recorded in Liber 2218, Page 40 of Deeds, Washtenaw County Records (8 Votes Required)

CA-13 (19-1413) Resolution to Partially Release an Easement for Storm and Sanitary Sewers Recorded at Liber 628, Page 226 of Deeds, Washtenaw County Records (8 Votes Required)

CA-14 (19-1379) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Anglin Civil to Renovate the Pathway at Riverside Park ($213,182.50)

CA-15 (19-1381) Resolution to Appropriate Funds for Fieldwork, Soil Samples, Laboratory Testing, and Development of a Remediation Plan at Leslie Science and Nature Center ($96,800.00) (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/DB-1 (19-1014) Resolution to Approve the Wilson-Barry Annexation, 0.5 Acre, 614 Riverview (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A property at 614 Riverview will be annexed into the city. It is already within sewer and water service area and its use is consistent with adjacent zoning, land uses and master plan. Zoning of R1B (Single Family District) is proposed and would happen after annexation.

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.

There are no ordinances up for second reading this week.

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 approval. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting, where it will also be subject to a public hearing.

C-1 (19-1223) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15, Table 5-15 and Section 5.16.6 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Office District Permitted Uses, Accessory Restaurant/Bar/Food Service Use Specific Standards)
The city Unified Development Code would be amended to allow accessory restaurant, bar, and food service use in the O (Office) district, up to 10% of the total floor area of the site or 12,000 sq. ft. An earlier draft of this amendment (first requested by Oxford Properties) would have provided this allowance to only two privately held properties, both of them at S. State Street Commons (owned by Oxford). Staff developed this amendment to apply to all buildings zoned O. See my questions to the agenda on pages 3 and 4 of the attachment to this agenda item: 19-1473

C-2 (19-1225) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.17.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Mixed Use Zoning District Dimensions)
The city Unified Development Code would be amended to correct an error and clarify the standards in the mixed use zoning districts (C1, C1B, C2B, and C3). A maximum front setback is currently blank in Table 5:17-4 and references footnotes B, C, and G. The maximum front setback on the table should indicate 25 feet and reference footnote A. Maximum front required setback in C1, C1B, and C2B districts should also refer to footnote A.

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 (19-1443) Resolution for Community Events Fund Disbursements from the FY 2020 Budget
The Ann Arbor Community Events committee recommends granting funds to support activities of the following community groups:

  • Ann Arbor Jaycees, $4,000 for Summer Carnival
  • Cobblestone Farm Association Farmers’ Market, $1,000 for Farmers’ Market
  • Ann Arbor Jaycees, $4,000 for Fourth of July parade
  • Main Street Area Association, $1,000 for Ann Arbor Art Fair Townie Street Party
  • Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, $9,000 for Ann Arbor Street Art Fair
  • Ann Arbor Active Against ALS/Ann Arbor Track, $1,000 for Electric Bolt
  • Ann Arbor Council for Traditional Music and Dance, $1,000 Dancing in the Streets event
  • Veterans for Peace, $125 for Veterans Day Memorial
  • Standing Tough Against Rape Society, $1,000 for 2020 Standing Tough Against Rape Event
  • WonderFool Productions, $1,500 for Fool Moon Event
  • WonderFool Productions, $1,500 for FestiFools Event
  • Leslie Science and Nature Center, $450 for Earth Day Festival
  • A2 Cultural and Community Events Coalition, $700 for African-American Downtown Festival
  • Main Street Area Association, $2,000 for Taste of Ann Arbor
  • Ann Arbor Summer Festival, $28,000 for Top of the Park Event and Relocation
  • Ann Arbor SPARK, $725 for Tech Trek Mobility Row Event

DC-2 (19-1451) Resolution to Direct the City Administrator to Review the City’s Policies on Assessing Fees for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Provide Alternatives and Recommendations to Council that Promote Transparency and the Public Interest
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) makes public records available and also allows the city to charge fees according to the amount of city staff time required to collect those records. This resolution asks the City Administrator to work with the City Attorney to review current policies and research current and applicable best practices; they would consider the public interest of waiving FOIA fees under limited circumstances such as requests from sitting Council Members and members of the media from reputable sources. Recommendations and alternatives for revisions would be offered within 90 days.

DC-3 (19-1452) Resolution to Waive Fees Associated with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request 2147
This resolution would specifically waive the FOIA fees ($217) attached to a request by CM Hayner for all email correspondence to and from Mayor Taylor for the period from June 16, 2019 to July 8, 2019. The resolution states that the results of this specific FOIA are in the public interest and should be waived.

DB-1 (19-1014) Resolution to Approve the Wilson-Barry Annexation, 0.5 Acre, 614 Riverview (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-1 above.

DS-1 (19-0913) Resolution to Proceed with a Road Reconfiguration and Safety Enhancement Project for Earhart Road, from US-23 to South Waldenwood Drive and Appropriate $34,500.00 and $40,500.00 Respectively from the General Fund and Alternative Transportation Fund Balances (8 Votes Required)
Earhart Road (from US 23 to S. Waldenwood Dr.) would be reconfigured to reduce lanes, add buffered bike lanes and two roundabouts. Lanes would be removed, reducing vehicular travel lanes from four to two. Roundabouts would be added at the intersections of Earhart/Glazier and Earhart/Waldenwood/Greenhills. New crosswalk painting and lighting would be added, also.

DS-2 (19-0956) Resolution to Proceed with a Road Reconfiguration Pilot for Traverwood Drive, from Huron Parkway to Plymouth Road
Traverwood Drive (from Plymouth Rd. to Huron Parkway) would be reconfigured to narrow lanes, create a bike lane, and add street parking. Vehicular lanes would be narrowed to 10’, vehicular lanes would be reduced from three to two. Parking and a northbound bike lane would be added.

DS-3 (19-0985) Resolution to Proceed with a Road Reconfiguration Pilot for Green Road, from Burbank Drive to Plymouth Road
Green Road (from Burbank Drive to Plymouth Rd.) would be reconfigured to narrow lanes, reduce lanes, and create buffered bike lanes. One lane would be removed between Burbank Drive and Commonwealth Boulevard (reducing from four to three lanes). One northbound lanes would be removed between Plymouth Road and Burbank Boulevard (reducing from two to one). Lanes would be narrowed between Burbank Boulevard and Plymouth Road to maintain a buffered bike lane.

DS-4 (19-1245) Resolution to Approve Fairview Cemetery Rules and Regulations
The rules for Fairview cemetery would be amended to prohibit dogs in the cemetery. (This agenda item was postponed from the July 15 meeting.)

Additional thoughts…

Last week, CM Griswold led a public meeting to present data on pedestrian safety trends and discuss city efforts to improve pedestrian safety. Many topics were discussed, but what I found most interesting: the formula used to prioritize the filling of sidewalk gaps in the city. In just the last few months, Council has been asked to vote on filling sidewalk gaps that were opposed by neighborhood residents; the people living next to the proposed sidewalks had concerns, did not welcome the city’s efforts. Meanwhile, in other parts of Ann Arbor, neighborhood residents are begging the city to fill sidewalk gaps. There are many places where you can find paths where sidewalks should be— the ground is worn away from where people walk every day. 

CM Hayner recently asked for information about all the sidewalk gaps filled in the last ten years. Below is the table of data he received in response:

Ann Arbor sidewalk gap projects 2009-2019

In the past 10 years, there have been only 15 projects to fill sidewalk gaps, and nearly half of the gaps filled were part of other planned projects, not stand-alone improvements based on resident-request or demonstrated needs.

The problem of under-investment in infrastructure is not new, it’s been allowed to fester for years. However, several of us on Council are committed to addressing it. There are approximately 150 miles of of sidewalk gaps, some of them in areas of high pedestrian traffic. The list of crosswalks in need of equipment improvements is huge. There was a period of years when the city made the deliberate decision not to fund any new street lights outside of major projects. Our city’s existing network of multi-modal paths and sidewalks are often impassable because of poor surface conditions or overgrowth that isn’t cut back frequently enough.

Like so many challenges facing our city, with a limited amount of resources there’s no easy answer to how we best direct those resources. There is a logic to coordinating improvements with other planned city work, but that often means that streets most desperate for intervention have to wait years. If every potential new sidewalk or bike lane is just “tacked on” to adjacent sewer work or road surface work, we will often prioritize and pursue projects that are not necessarily the best solution for a given area.

This week, City Council will consider three traffic reconfigurations: Earhart Road, Green Road, and Traverwood. One of these proposed traffic reconfigurations is “tacked on” to other city work already occurring, the other two represent relatively small investments of paint/street markings. In considering these reconfigurations, I talked to area residents about what they see every day, what they think of the potential changes. The changes are meant to improve non-motorized safety in the area, so I biked to all these locations, too.

When I biked to that neighborhood with my son, I had a harrowing experience using the bike lane on the north side of Plymouth Road between Green and Upland. Further west, the multi-modal paths on the south side of Plymouth are not much better, with overgrowth and gaps leading into town. On Earhart Road, where the proposed reconfiguration shifts bike traffic to the street, I found multimodal paths that would be functional if the city maintained them and cut back overgrowth. There is much work to be done and we need to be strategic in our choices. 

I’ve seen some people earnestly characterize the proposed reconfigurations as “science.” Anyone with questions or skepticism about the proposals— so the argument goes— is “anti-science.” Each of the traffic reconfigurations happens in a specific environment with its own set of trade-offs, unique potential benefits and consequences. Instead of debating or even discussing the pros/cons of each proposal (most especially among residents who know the area or travel the area, the people most likely to be impacted), Council has been urged vaguely to “support science.” I’ve seen this style of argument on other topics Council has considered, but not quite so boldly. The charge of “anti-science” in this situation is the equivalent of abandoning debate altogether and simply calling people stupid. 

I look forward to serious conversation at the Council table Monday night that takes into account the broader needs of that area on the north side of town. I look forward to conversation that includes all appropriate detail and context, the conditions specific to each of those three locations. The results of our decisions will have a real (not theoretical) impact. City Council is the forum where we weigh what some people HOPE will happen against what some people FEAR will happen and arrive at our best guess of what is LIKELY to happen. Ultimately, the goal is to make our city safer for everyone, whether you are walking or biking or driving.

On another topic: many residents have reached out to us about potential regulation of short-term rentals (a.k.a. AirBnB) in the city. Short-term rentals are a concern to neighborhoods but more importantly they are, city-wide, an affordability issue. An explosion of short-term-rentals — particularly those rented year-round, i.e. not primarily owner-occupied— will deplete the supply of housing available for long-term-rental. Anyone who has ever pitched theories of supply and demand around our affordability challenges should be concerned about unrestricted short-term rental in Ann Arbor. I introduced a resolution in March of this year, asking staff to provide input and feedback on this issue by July 31st. (19-0528, passed Mar 18, 2019, enacted as R-19-112) The whole of the update we received was this: 

Council budgeted funds in support of this work beginning in FY20. Staff has solicited consultant assistance for this work, and is currently working to refine the proposed study scope. The initial stage is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2019, which will include community engagement on short-term rentals in the community, including identification of goals for any regulation.

CM Ramlawi and I asked for more detail in our questions to the agenda (see pages 1-3 of the attachment in this link: 19-1473). Among the answers, we were told: “Discussion with Council and the public will take place over the next 30 – 90 days with recommendations/options provided to Council within 90 – 180 days.” 

I look forward to more community conversations on this topic and I continue to be hopeful about our ability to address it. Last week, the city attorney assured me that his department will provide information to Council re: what is legally permissible in terms of regulation, so I look forward to that update as well.

Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson