Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (January 4, 2020)

Jan 4, 2020 | Newsletter

Hello neighbors!

This week’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting is peculiar, with only two items on the regular agenda and everything else on the consent agenda.

Since our last meeting, I’ve been on a vacation in the Pacific Northwest with my family — seeing the sites in San Francisco, visiting state capitals (Sacramento, CA; Salem, OR; Olympia, WA), and driving the Oregon/Washington coast. Fun fact: our family has now toured over 30 state capitals. Another fun fact: California/Oregon/Washington may be far away from Ann Arbor, but I visited communities that wrestle with the same issues we do. See my “Additional Thoughts” section below.

A2ELNEL trip Sacramento, CA, Salem, OR, Olympia, WA Jan 2020

Because there is so little on the regular agenda to be summarized this week, below are a couple items on the consent agenda worth noting:

CA-7 (19-2259) Resolution to Accept the Revised Solid Waste Resources Management Plan (SWRMP)
This plan is quite lengthy, but includes specific proposals for residential services such as year-round compost pickup, curbside textile collection, limited bulky item collection (on a monthly schedule or at request and for a fee), and possible consolidation of waste, recycling, and compost collection services. 

For commercial services, this plan proposes a new ordinance requiring operating standards and reporting for management of fats, oils, and grease. It is also recommended that commercial waste collection include compost twice a week (at least once on Saturday or Sunday), increased collection during student move-in/move-out time, better data/tracking of construction and demolition debris, ongoing inspection and enforcement to ensure compliance with waste/recycling collection requirements, and consolidation of waste, recycling, and compost collection services.

If approved, the recommendations of this plan would guide the terms of future City contracts around solid waste. Consolidation of services would be a significant change from how waste is managed currently. Collection services are now divided by material rather than customer class; Recycle Ann Arbor collects our recyclables and for most customers, the City collects both waste and compost.

CA-18 (19-2390) Resolution Directing the City Administrator to Develop Ordinance Amendments for the Purpose of Regulating Short Term Rental Properties
As requested by City Council in March 2019, we are now offered potential options for regulation of short-term rentals in Ann Arbor. Consultant Carlisle/Wortman conducted three public meetings this past fall, researched peer cities, and discussed the practicalities of enforcement with City staff; they now present their report.

Many communities regulate by type, such as primary residence homestay (where owner is present during guest stay) and primary residence whole house (where owner temporarily vacates a primary residence). In the Carlisle/Wortman report, properties dedicated primarily to short-term rental — those that do not exist as a primary residence for anyone — are referred to as “non-owner occupied.”

Ideas for regulation/requirements include:

  • Increased enforcement of noise/nuisance ordinances
  • Clarification/enforcement of occupancy limits
  • Code inspection requirements
  • Registration and licensing
  • Local contact person/agentLimited advertising
  • Limit on number of days rented
  • Fees
  • Spacing/distance/location (for non-owner occupied)

In the Carlisle/Wortman report, each of these strategies were described in terms of enforcement (easy/difficult) and what was needed. E.g. Several options — registration/licensing, limiting the number of days, requiring inspections — would mean hiring additional city staff.

Council is offered three options, the least restrictive of which (“Option One”) would simply increase enforcement of current nuisance ordinances, enforce occupancy limits, create a licensing/registration program, require a local agent, and limit advertising. A second (more restrictive) option would impact only those properties where an owner is not present during guest stays. In addition to the strategies of Option One, this second option would impose fees, limit the number of days rented, require inspection, and regulate non-owner occupied properties by spacing/distance/location. The most restrictive option (Option Three) would completely prohibit non-owner occupied STR’s and add fees and inspection requirements for even those properties where owners are present for guest stays.

City staff recommends that Council move forward with Option Three, directing the City Administrator and any applicable Boards and Commissions to pursue the development of appropriate ordinances. I wrote more about this topic in my “Additional Thoughts” section below.

Lastly, for those of you who regularly visit my coffee hours (or anyone who might be considering it), I am returning to my usual location: RoosRoast on Rosewood tomorrow (Sunday) from 3-4:30 p.m. I hope this is a convenient opportunity for us to meet in person and hear perspectives.

A2ELNEL coffee hours Jan 5 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 Jan 5 (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)

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)

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 Dec 16, 2019

A2Zero Climate Initiative Survey open until Jan 6th
The City’s new A2Zero initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 has a new website, with a survey that’s open until Jan 6th.

South Maple Traffic Control Plan (Jan 6-15)
South Maple Road between Pennsylvania Avenue and Pauline Boulevard will be detoured from Jan 6-15, 2020.

South State Street detour Jan 8th
South State Street between Hill Street and Packard Street will be closed with a detour on Jan 8, 2020.

Granger Ave resurfacing public meeting #2 Jan 16th
A second public meeting to discuss the resurfacing of Granger Avenue between South State and Packard Street is scheduled for Jan 16, 2020

Dicken Drive Turnaround public meeting Jan 23rd
The City is holding a public meeting on the possible construction of a turnaround for solid waste trucks and snow plows at the north end of Dicken Drive by the entrance to Dicken Woods.

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 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
Monday Jan 6, 2020 (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.

Agenda Response Memo and eComments
Because of the holidays, answers to questions raised by Council Members will not be published until Monday at 5pm (two hours before the meeting begins). It will be posted in the Agenda as an “AC” item.

Communications from the Mayor

There are no Mayoral nominations to Boards and Commissions this meeting.

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 (19-2346) Resolution to Approve November 21, 2019 Recommendations of the Board of Insurance Administration

CA-2 (19-2252) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Kennedy Industries, Inc. to Remove, Refurbish, and Install a Vertical Turbine Pump at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, ITB No. 4604 ($28,590.00)

CA-3 (19-2333) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Amerinet to Upgrade the Water Treatment Plant’s Network ($45,320.62)

CA-4 (19-2263) Resolution Authorizing Water Capital Recovery Charges for 485 Riverview Dr. ($18,275.00)

CA-5 (19-2264) Resolution Authorizing Water Capital Recovery Charges for 442 Huntington Pl. ($20,971.00)

CA-6 (19-2311) Resolution to Approve a Grant Application to the USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) for Purchase of a Conservation Easement on Property in Salem Township

CA-7 (19-2259) Resolution to Accept the Revised Solid Waste Resources Management Plan (SWRMP)
I wrote about this agenda item at the top of this newsletter.

CA-8 (19-2262) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Stantec Consulting Michigan Inc. for the Engineering for Huron West Park Sanitary Sewer Project ($443,794.00)

CA-9 (19-2329) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of a Vehicle from Gorno Ford (MiDeal Bid – $26,382.00)

CA-10 (19-2330) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from Berger Chevrolet (Oakland County Bid, MiDeal Bid – $114,492.00)

CA-11 (19-2331) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of a Vehicle from LaFontaine Chrysler Dodge (MiDeal Bid – $39,772.00)

CA-12 (19-2336) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with Washtenaw County on Behalf of Its Sheriff’s Office to Provide Drug Abuse Screening Services to Sobriety Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court Participants ($38,431.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-13 (19-2337) 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 ($117,465.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-14 (19-2338) Resolution to Approve an Agreement with Washtenaw County Community Mental Health to provide Mental Health Treatment Services to Sobriety Court and Mental Health Court Participants ($102,538.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-15 (19-2364) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 1 to the Agreement with Domestic Violence Project, Inc., a.k.a. SafeHouse Center, for Confidential Victim Support Services ($29,322.59 amendment; $145,197.59 total contract) (8 Votes Required)

CA-16 (19-2369) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to CDW Government, LLC for Licenses for Duo Multifactor Software protection ($25,056.00)

CA-17 (19-2332) Resolution to Increase One FTE in the FY20 Housing Commission Budget to Administer Additional Housing Vouchers (8 Votes Required)

CA-18 (19-2390) Resolution Directing the City Administrator to Develop Ordinance Amendments for the Purpose of Regulating Short Term Rental Properties
I wrote about this agenda item at the top of this newsletter.

CA-19 (19-2419) Resolution to Approve the Extension of Temporary Employment Agreement between Abigail Elias and the City of Ann Arbor ($25,000.00)

CA-20 (20-0002) Resolution to Amend the FY20 General Fund Budget by Adding One Full Time Equivalent Position and the Related Funding to the Ann Arbor Police Department (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.

There are no public hearings at this Council meeting.

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 ordinance second readings at this Council meeting.

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 (19-1887) Resolution Supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Active Involvement with the Gelman Site and Encouraging its Listing of the same as a “Superfund” Site
Note: this was first presented at Council on 10/7/19, and was postponed to this meeting.
City Council would express its support of the EPA’s active involvement in cleanup of the Gelman plume and encourages the EPA to list the site of the Contamination a “Superfund” site on the National Priorities List under CERCLA. The City Administrator would convey this resolution to the Governor, soliciting a Concurrence Letter to USEPA in support of making the Gelman Site into a National Priorities List site. This resolution (and any other state concurrence) would also be sent to the Washtenaw County delegation to the Michigan Legislature, the Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

DC-2 (20-0012) Resolution Authorizing Appeals of the Denials of the City’s Petitions to the State Boundary Commission to Annex Various Parcels from the Charter Township of Ann Arbor and the Charter Township of Pittsfield
A number of “township island” parcels were previously approved for annexation into the City. Council approved the annexations which included assessments for the cost of connecting to City water and sewer. Multiple property owners submitted petitions of protest to the state regulatory body (LARA), challenging these annexations and the assessments. In response, LARA rejected most of the City’s proposed annexations. In order to implement the policy of annexation (specifically for those properties approved for annexation), the City’s next course of action is an appeal to the circuit court. This resolution formally authorizes our legal department to proceed with an appeal to defend the City’s plans for annexation.

Additional thoughts…

I am writing this paragraph from a dining room table at an AirBnB in Olympia, Washington. In addition to a few hotels, our family has stayed at a number of short term rentals this past week (AirBnB and Vrbo): several of them as a “primary residence homestay” and one as a “non-owner occupied” (a home in Northern California which was a vacation home for someone living in Southern California). The night we spent in Newport, Oregon was most relevant to discussions we are now having in Ann Arbor.

On the outside of our AirBnB in Newport, I was surprised to see a highly visible notice which provided a number for “SHORT TERM RENTAL HOTLINE.” Inside, the house binder included an actual license and receipt for that property’s registration with (and fees paid to) the city. The city of Newport’s website includes a complete list of STRs with owner/agent contact information, as well as a complaint form to be used by anyone wanting to report concerns about a short-term rental. There is a wealth of well-organized information on Newport’s website about how they tackled the challenge of regulating STRs in their city (see link below). In addition to registration requirements, Newport employs zoning overlays, density limits, and conditional zoning:

Newport’s regulation of STR’s is not the only example in the state of Oregon. Communities all along the coast are recognizing how the seasonal business of rentals is impacting the availability of housing for anyone who wants to live and work there year round. Several have begun regulating.

This trip, I have encountered a couple of reminders of how politics differ, regionally. E.g. In California (and starting this year, Oregon), stores can not provide “single use” bags, and must charge customers a small fee (at least 5 or 10 cents) for “reusable” bags. On my second day in California, I felt my own resistance to paying that fee — the first time I paid for a bag, I spent the rest of the day making use of it until it was overflowing! At the Oregon state capital, I bumped into a fellow tourist from Missouri, who shared an assessment of how his state was “backwards”: he described the exact scenario that played out in Michigan, when Ann Arbor attempted to ban plastic bags but the state legislature intervened to prevent it. Politically, California/Oregon are clearly very different from Michigan/Missouri.

Ann Arbor is not dominated by tourists in the same way as a beach community in Oregon. Unlike a beach town, the seasonality of our tourism is perhaps measured in days and weekends, rather than full weeks of vacation. Still, the concerns expressed by Oregon residents are similar to those currently expressed by Ann Arbor residents. How do we preserve housing supply for people who want to live in our town year-round? How do we protect the availability of year-round housing, when the economics are so strong/favorable for investment as short term rentals?

I have received a number of emails this week from residents landing on both sides of this issue — either urging us to leave well enough alone, or urging us to consider how to reign in (or restrict growth of) the STR market in Ann Arbor. I have told everyone: I expect our discussion of this issue to be thorough. Everyone on Council is aware that this issue is not simple or straightforward and that whatever we do will have an impact. Some wards include more STRs than others. Some of us are hearing more about this issue from residents who either use their homes as STRs or feel impacted by neighbors who do. I look forward to hearing perspectives from my colleagues.

Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson