Welcome to everyone who is new to this newsletter! Before every Ann Arbor City Council meeting, I write up my own summary of each agenda item and try to pull details that I think are most relevant to understanding them. My hope is that these summaries can help residents keep track of what City Council is doing. For issues that matter to you, I encourage you to follow links (next to each agenda item) to the City’s Legistar website, where you can find all the background information.
Council meets on Tuesday (instead of Monday) due to the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. This week’s agenda includes a relatively short Consent Agenda plus four public hearings (two of them for zoning changes), a budget amendment to support design of Healthy Streets for 2021, and a resolution (from a previous agenda) to join the regional waste management authority (although I expect this item to be pulled – see DC-7). I added an item to this week’s agenda asking for a legal memo to clarify the intersection of Council rules and First Amendment rights for public commenters (see DC-8).
In my “Additional Thoughts” section at the bottom of this newsletter, I’ve written in more detail about Agenda item DC-3, a resolution removing Council review of traffic reconfigurations.
In the last couple of weeks, many of us have felt shock at national events, a sense of profound disappointment in our national leadership, and extreme anxiety about the security and stability of our federal democracy. In other forums, I have expressed gratitude for our local representation in Congress (Representative Dingell, Senator Stabenow, and Senator Peters) and it’s worth repeating here: I want to do everything I can to support them. In all of what is happening, they are voices of reason.
Residents in need of financial help during this crisis (e.g. to avoid eviction, pay utility bills, cover emergency medical expenses) can find resources at this link:
Virtual Coffee Hours
Sunday Jan 17th 3:00pm
During the COVID-19 crisis I have been holding “virtual” coffee hours with Zoom on Sunday afternoons before scheduled City Council meetings. Please email me for a link:
Sunday Jan 17th 6:00pm
We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. All Council Members are invited to participate. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are holding Caucus via Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information
Tuesday Jan 19th 7:00pm
Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
A2ELNEL.com 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: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/
City Council Voting Chart for Jan 4, 2021
Response to National Events
I am anxious (like everyone else) about events at our nation’s capital.
Our local process of decision making matters – we should talk about the best ways to support resident engagement and participation.
Sidewalk Gap Prioritization
At the Jan 11, 2021 Council work session, City staff presented a ranked list of sidewalk gap projects to be filled in 2021 and 2022, along with an interactive “dashboard” to view all 144 miles of existing sidewalk gaps.
COVID-19 Vaccination in Washtenaw County Update Jan 11, 2021
Ann Arbor City Hall building closure extended to Jan 30th
To comply with new State orders, City Hall will be closed through Jan 30, 2021.
Sidewalk Snow/Ice Removal Reminder from the City
The City is sending out postcards to remind residents, businesses and property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks.
A2COUNCIL Updates (A2COUNCIL.com)
For anyone interested in understanding and analyzing the recent work of Council, I have created a resource at A2COUNCIL.com with summaries of issues and direct links to City documents. For each City Council meeting since November 2018, you can find links to the City’s Legistar website, CTN’s YouTube video, and links to my newsletters and voting charts. I have listed agenda items of interest from each meeting, along with articles I’ve written and articles published on MLive.
Ann Arbor City 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
Tuesday Jan 19, 2021 (7:00pm)
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-4 (21-0123) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – January 19, 2021
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
Communications from the Mayor
There are no board or commision nominations from the Mayor on the 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. 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 (20-1992) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Dell Marketing L.P. for Maintenance and Support for Dell Compellent Storage Area Network (SAN) ($75,880)
CA-2 (20-1993) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Azteca Systems, LLC for CityWorks Enterprise License and Annual Maintenance and Support Agreement for FY2021 – FY2023 ($198,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-3 (21-0007) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 3401 Platt Road from the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Swift Lane Limited Dividend Housing Association Limited Partnership (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (20-1966) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 1 to the Professional Services Agreement with Wade-Trim Associates, Inc. for General Civil Engineering and Surveying Services ($168,729.00)
CA-5 (20-1783) Resolution to Amend the Existing 2019 Sidewalk Gap Elimination Project Budget and Appropriate $235,000.00 (8 Votes Required)
CA-6 (20-1822) Resolution to Establish the 2021 Sidewalk Gap Elimination Project Budget and Appropriate $50,000.00 (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (21-0053) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance 20-33 – An Ordinance to Add Sections 5.14.2 And 5.27 And Amend Sections 5.18.4, 5.18.6.D, 5.23.4, 5.29.1, 5.29.3.F, 5.29.8.C, 5.29.12.D, 5.37.2.B, 5.37.2.C, 5.37.2.F, 5.37.2.L, 5.37.2.N, 5.37.2.M, And 5.37.2.S of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Floodplain Management Overlay District and Regulations)
CA-8 (21-0006) Resolution to Accept Grant Funds from Michigan Saves and Appropriate to the Office of Sustainability and Innovation for Aging in Place Efficiently Program ($14,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
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 (20-1431) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.16.6.D, 5.17.4, 5.17.6.C, 5.26.2.A, and 5.28.8, and Tables 5.15-1, 5.15-2, and 5.15-3 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Marijuana Processor, ADU, Security, Building Materials, FAR Determination, Fence Graphic, Use Tables) (ORD-20-34)
The local Uniform Development Code would be amended to clarify, correct, and modify content in sections related to the Marijuana Processor, ADU, Security, Building Materials, FAR Determination, Fence Graphic, and Use Tables. Right-of-ways for public sidewalks will be included in the lot area for the purpose of calculating FAR. Use of fiber cement board on primary and secondary streets will be restricted. The City’s Planning Manager will have more discretion to allow temporary certificates of occupancy for buildings and developments not yet completed. Marijuana processing will be permitted in M-2 zoning districts. Use tables for Accessory Dwelling Units will be added, to clarify standards for required lot areas and building size.
PH-2/B-2 (20-1631) An Ordinance to Add a New Section to 5.19, Amend Sections 5.19.1, Table 5.19-1, in Section 5.19.2, Section 5.19.3, and Section 5.37.2.E, and to Add a New Section 5.19.11 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of The City of Ann Arbor (Electric Vehicle Parking) (ORD-20-35)
This new section of city code would establish new parking standards for site plans requiring City Council approval. Parking requirements would define apportionment (by percentage) of spaces equipped in three categories for electric vehicle chargers (EVC): EVC “capable,” EVC “ready”, and EVC “installed.” Members of the Energy Commission and the department of Sustainability prepared these new standards.
PH-3/B-3 (20-1777) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 7.23 Acres from R1C (Single-Family Residential District) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Lockwood of Ann Arbor PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 2195 East Ellsworth (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A 7.92-acre vacant site at 2195 East Ellsworth would be re-zoned from R1C (Single-Family Residential District) to PUD (Planned Unit Development) to construct a three-story, 168,130 square foot residential building and a 154-space surface parking lot (“Lockwood”). The PUD will include 154 independent senior residential apartments – 89 one-bedroom units and 65 two-bedroom units – in a single building. The building will also contain a commercial kitchen and dining area, small barber shop, activity room, movie room, fitness room and small clinic.
PH-4/B-4 (20-1779) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 0.9 Acre from P (Parking) to C3 (Fringe Commercial), 2111 Packard Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-20-37)
A 0.9 acre portion of a 1.69 acre parcel at 2111 Packard would be re-zoned from P (Parking) to C3 (Fringe Commercial) to allow for development of a mixed use development: a 72 unit, 3-story apartment building. The project will include 118 bedrooms, 84 surface parking spaces, and 3,642 square feet of retail space at each corner of the building that fronts Packard Street. (This commercial location is currently a BGreen Restaurant Supply and Mathnasium.) The proposed zoning is consistent with the adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City’s Master Plan.
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 (20-1431) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.16.6.D, 5.17.4, 5.17.6.C, 5.26.2.A, and 5.28.8, and Tables 5.15-1, 5.15-2, and 5.15-3 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Marijuana Processor, ADU, Security, Building Materials, FAR Determination, Fence Graphic, Use Tables) (ORD-20-34)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
B-2 (20-1631) An Ordinance to Add a New Section to 5.19, Amend Sections 5.19.1, Table 5.19-1, in Section 5.19.2, Section 5.19.3, and Section 5.37.2.E, and to Add a New Section 5.19.11 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of The City of Ann Arbor (Electric Vehicle Parking) (ORD-20-35)
This is the same as PH-2 above.
B-3 (20-1777) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 7.23 Acres from R1C (Single-Family Residential District) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Lockwood of Ann Arbor PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 2195 East Ellsworth (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-3 above.
B-4 (20-1779) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 0.9 Acre from P (Parking) to C3 (Fringe Commercial), 2111 Packard Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-20-37)
This is the same as PH-4 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 approval. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting, where it will also be subject to a public hearing.
There are no ordinance first readings at this Council meeting.
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 (20-1801) Resolution to Adopt the Board of Review Guidelines for Poverty Exemptions from Property Taxation of Principal Residence Pursuant to MCL 211.7u
(This was postponed from the 12/21/20 meeting)
Board of Review guidelines establish the poverty exemptions for property taxes on a principal residence. These guidelines will set the income level for poverty exemption at the maximum: 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Additionally, the maximum asset level is set at $50,000 plus a person allotment of 1.2 per additional household member.
DC-2 (20-1999) Resolution to Appoint 3 At-Large Members to the Council of the Commons, and Confirm the PAC Appointment to the Council of the Commons
(This was postponed from the 12/21/20 meeting)
This resolution will appoint three at-large members and confirm appointment of a representative from the Parks Advisory Commission to the Council of the Commons.
DC-3 (20-1683) Resolution to Rescind R-19-139 (Community Engagement and Approval Processes for City Related Improvement Projects)
Resolution to Rescind Council resolution R-19-139, requiring Council approval for lane reductions on major streets/corridors. See my “Additional Thoughts” section below.
DC-4 (21-0056) Resolution in Support of a Notice of Violation to Gelman for Violation of the Prohibition against 1,4-Dioxane Infiltration into the Allen Creek Drain
Rising levels of 1,4 dioxine have been detected in the Allen Creek drain, in violation of County requirements. County drain commissioner Evan Pratt has the regulatory authority to issue a Notice of Violation to Gelman Sciences, Inc. for causing the seepage of contaminated water into the drain. By this resolution, City Council directs the County Drain Commissioner to issue a Notice of Violation to Gelman Sciences, Inc.
DC-5 (21-0055) Resolution to Direct the City Administrator to Proceed with the Design of a Healthy Streets Deployment for Spring of 2021, and to Appropriate $40,000 from the General Fund Fund Balance (8 Votes Required)
This is a budget amendment that requires 8 votes, to allocate $40,000 from the General Fund for design of a spring deployment of Healthy Streets for 2021. Additional funding will be requested in the future for implementation. Recommendations include “identifying locations where previous Healthy Streets reconfigurations could be made permanent.”
DC-6 (20-1997) Resolution to Appoint Makiah Shipp to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (One-Step Appointment – 8 Votes Required)
Appointment of Makiah Shipp to Independent Community Police Oversight Commission.
DC-7 (20-1841) Resolution to Approve the City of Ann Arbor Membership in the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA)
(This was originally on the 1/4/21 agenda, but was pulled before the meeting started, and rescheduled for the 1/19/21 meeting. On 1/15/21, staff indicated a preference for moving it to a later agenda. It remains on the agenda, but I do not expect Council to vote on it at this meeting.)
If approved, the City Administrator will take the necessary steps for Ann Arbor to join the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA). The current members of WRRMA are: Ann Arbor Township, the City of Dexter, Pittsfield Charter Township, the City of Saline, the Township of Scio, the City of Ypsilanti, and the Charter Township of Ypsilanti. I wrote about this resolution in my Jan 2, 2021 newsletter when it was originally added to the agenda: https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-jan-2-2021-regional-solid-waste-authority
DC-8 (21-0100) Resolution Requesting Legal Memo for Public Release
The City Attorney would be directed to provide a memo appropriate for publication, on the topic of Council Rules and Constitutional First Amendment rights. I am bringing this resolution to support public understanding of the validity of rules governing Council meetings. Relevant parts of this memo would be included on the City’s website with other information about how to participate in Public Comment.
Note: I have also published this here: https://www.a2elnel.com/post/council-responsibility
Agenda item DC-3 will specifically rescind a policy from 2019 that required a Council vote to approve traffic lane reductions on major streets and corridors. In answer to written questions about this agenda item, written responses from staff have helped clarify the impact of the 2019 resolution, also what it would mean to rescind it.
Since April 2019, only three traffic reconfigurations were subject to specific Council approval: Earhart Road, Green Road, and Traverwood Drive. Of the three, two were rejected. I participated in each of those decisions and vividly remember what it meant to have them appear on our agenda. I think it’s important for the public to understand the significant of DC-3 in terms of Council responsibility and Council accountability to you as residents.
When Council has a decision on our agenda that will dramatically change traffic patterns in a neighborhood, we hear from many residents offering opinions. Sometimes, an issue will prompt residents from all parts of town to offer theories and advice about traffic and road design, generally. Mostly, though, Council hears from residents who can describe the specific situation and context that is relevant to the proposed change. These residents understand current challenges and can predict the likely consequence of a change because they see it every day.
When proposals for Earhart Road, Green Road, and Traverwood Drive appeared on the Council agenda, residents knew who to contact with concerns: the Council members who have been elected to make decisions in the best interest of the community. In anticipation of each of those three decisions, I read staff reports, met with several area residents, and also biked across town to each of the locations. I wrote about it here:
An agenda item of controversy puts a responsibility on Council members to study staff reports and hear resident perspectives. Where there is disagreement, we must reconcile the two and take a position that we believe is in the best interest of the community. I welcome this responsibility and take it seriously. I believe every member of Council should accept this responsibility as part of our elected position.
In response to written questions to this week’s agenda, staff offers the 2020 Healthy Streets program as an example of where Council approval delayed or hindered implementation. I co-sponsored and supported the 2020 Healthy Streets program that ultimately included 43 city streets. A Council resolution ended three of those 43 implementations – Packard, Broadway/Swift, and S. Main – a few weeks early due to safety concerns reported by residents and acknowledged by staff.
Staff recently produced a comprehensive report on 2020 Healthy Streets Program which can be found here:
The 2020 Healthy Streets Program is, I think, a good example of where and how Council can and should be accountable to residents. I am comfortable explaining how and why I voted in support of this program, and also why I voted to end the experiment early at three of the locations. I offered extensive explanation here:
It surprises me that this resolution – taking away Council accountability – happens so soon after campaign promises to vote differently than the previous Council. Presumably, a vote on issues like these would result in swift and immediate approval. Now is the opportunity for Council to publicly vote in support of their values.
From the 2019 resolution that DC-3 would rescind:
“City Council [believes] lane reductions/”road diets” are quality-of-life policy decisions requiring tradeoffs that should be decided by the elected officials (not city staff) and City Council directs the City Administrator to seek Council approval prior to implementing any lane reduction actions on major streets/corridors”
I did not write the statement above and, for me, the phrasing “quality-of-life” is a poor description of these policy decisions. E.g. During the 2020 Healthy Streets program, few of the complaints I heard about Packard, Broadway/Swift and S. Main were about “quality-of-life” or convenience. Rather, complaints centered around safety. Most of the people raising concerns about these lane closures reported safety hazards that they viewed from a unique vantage point on-the-ground. Residents walking, biking and driving through their own neighborhoods see how their local streets and roads are used by others passing through.
Local neighborhood residents also know better than anyone how their own smaller side streets can become secondary routes for traffic, when major streets and corridors are compromised. This tradeoff is real and worthy of meaningful discussion. E.g. Since I moved into my own neighborhood, a lane reduction on Stadium Boulevard caused an increase in traffic on Pauline. This is an observation, not necessarily a problem. In some neighborhoods, the likely routes for traffic diversion are more problematic — residents describe a very real quality of life (and safety) issue when traffic diverts to previously quiet side streets where children play.
On this week’s agenda, Council will vote to fund planning for a 2021 Healthy Streets program. The resolution for this funding includes the “strong” recommendation that 2020 Healthy Streets implementations be made permanent. Approval of DC-3 means that decisions like that would never land on a public agenda for City council. Council members will never be asked to take a position as your representative. The input of residents will be limited to a “public engagement component” of the project.
Summer political campaigns included a lot of criticism of past Council decisions, characterizing them as generally contrary to and “against” community values. A new majority of Council pledged to do things differently. Margins of victory have been presented as evidence of community support for a different perspective and different decisions. Now is an opportunity for the new Council to vote differently and publicly support the issues they campaigned on. Instead, resolution DC-3 passes the buck onto staff so that no Council member ever has to take a public position. This resolution guarantees that such votes will never happen.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!