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.
This week’s agenda includes a relatively short consent agenda, three public hearings, millages for sidewalk construction and affordable housing development (to be put on the ballot in November), and an ordinance to license and regulate short-term rentals. I am cosponsoring the Affordable Housing Millage (DC-6) – for more on this resolution, see my “Additional Thoughts” section at the bottom of this newsletter.
This week is a good time to remind everyone: please wear masks in any situation where you are near people outside of your own household. Over the last month, Council has received a number of emails from residents concerned about this issue. I am hopeful that recent directives from our Governor will clarify recommendations and expectations. Ann Arbor is doing what we can to raise awareness about the need to wear masks in our public places.
Ward 4 Virtual Coffee Hours
Ward 4 Council Members are hosting a virtual coffee hour this Monday (July 20th) at 9 a.m. via Zoom. If you would like to chat with CM Jack Eaton or myself, send one of us an email to get the link (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sunday July 19th 7:00pm
We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are holding Caucus via Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Monday July 20th 7:00pm
This Monday, Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. As with the previous meetings, public comment will be audio only using Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Local COVID-19 Information and Links
City of Ann Arbor COVID-19 Updates
Washtenaw County COVID-19 Updates
State of Michigan COVID-19 Updates
Ann Arbor Public Schools are starting to plan for 2020-21 school year
School district homepage: https://www.a2schools.org
School district COVID-19 Updates: https://www.a2schools.org/COVID-19
Reimagine Learning Framework: https://www.a2schools.org/reimagine
Ann Arbor District Library branches are re-opening in phases
Library homepage: https://aadl.org
Re-opening Updates: https://aadl.org/reopeningplans
University of Michigan – Fall classes to be delivered in variety of formats
University homepage: https://umich.edu
University COVID-19 Updates: https://coronavirus.umich.edu
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 July 6, 2020
Scio Church Service Drive Traffic Calming Survey due July 24th
The City has mailed a survey to residents along the Scio Church Service Drive with questions about the resident requested traffic calming devices installed last year.
South Main Street Intermittent Lane Closures (July 20th – Aug 19th)
Due to asphalt path construction, there will be intermittent lane closures on South Main Street (between West Eisenhower Parkway and Ann Arbor-Saline Road) starting July 20th
Boardwalk Drive Temporary Detour (July 20th – Aug 29th)
Boardwalk Drive (from East Eisenhower Parkway to Northerly End) will have traffic detours starting July 20th. A map of the detour is attached.
Ward 4 Construction Notices
Below are the recent Ward 4 construction notices that I have been forwarded by City staff. Additional information is available at the City’s website:
South Main Street Asphalt Paths Construction starts July 20th
Rehabilitation of the asphalt paths along South Main Street between West Eisenhower Parkway and Ann Arbor-Saline Rd will begin July 20th. A copy of the construction notice sent to affected residents is attached.
Boardwalk Drive (East Eisenhower Parkway to Northerly End) Construction starts July 20th
Boardwalk Drive (East Eisenhower Parkway to Northerly End) will begin major reconstruction on July 20th. A copy of the construction notice sent to affected residents is attached.
South Blvd Water Main Construction starts July 27th
Water main construction along South Blvd begins the week of July 27th – a copy of the construction notice sent to affected residents is attached.
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.
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:
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) https://a2gov.granicus.com/boards/w/fe6c5e22e6f4a331/vacancies
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 July 20, 2020 (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-1 (20-1105) July 20, 2020 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.
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (20-0979) Nominations and Appointments
This nomination from the Mayor is being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting. (Edit: this was introduced at the June 1st meeting as part of 20-0789 – and will therefore be voted on at this meeting)
- Ji Hye Kim – Downtown Development Authority
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 (20-0918) Resolution Authorizing Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 640 Riverview Dr. ($19,972.00)
CA-2 (20-0967) Resolution to Approve Ongoing Subscription with Zoom Video Communications, Inc for Meeting and Webinar Services ($50,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-3 (20-0969) Resolution to Approve Increasing the Purchase Order for Alternative Communication Services, LLC ($27,111.25)
CA-4 (20-1034) Resolution to Approve Changes to Traffic Patterns and Parking on Certain City Streets for the 2020 University of Michigan Student Move-In Program from August 24 – August 30, 2020
CA-5 (20-0811) Resolution to Approve the Purchasing Agreement for Utility Infrastructure Materials from Core and Main LP, ITB-4629 ($1,240,461.69)
CA-6 (20-0956) Resolution to Approve Amendment Number 4, to the Professional Services Agreement with Tetra Tech, Inc. for the Ann Arbor Landfill Monitoring and Maintenance Program and Appropriate ($124,907.73) (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (20-0954) Resolution to Approve the First Amendment and Extension to the Lease Agreement between the City and AvFuel Corporation for a Corporate Hangar Located at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport
CA-8 (20-0971) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Purchase Order Request to Cummins Bridgeway LLC for Additional Spending for the Repair of a Front Load Refuse Truck ($25,000.00)
CA-9 (20-0927) Resolution to Approve a Services Agreement and Land and Building Lease with Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA) for Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) Transloading, Re-Equipping and Recyclables Processing (10-Year term, with two Potential 3-Year Extensions)
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 (20-0657) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district), MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Rezoning, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays) (Ordinance No. ORD-20-19)
A 4.5-acre parcel at 3611-3621 Plymouth Road would be rezoned from PUD (Bolgos Property Planned Unit Development district) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district) to allow the site to be redeveloped with a new hotel and renovated restaurant. The original PUD was established in 1973, updated in 1982 and 1986. In 2015, it was rezoned in part to C3 to allow for redevelopment of a Plum Market.
PH-2 (20-0658) Resolution to Approve MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Planned Project Site Plan and Development Agreement, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A site plan for 3611-3621 Plymouth Road proposes demolition of what is currently a Red Roof Inn building, construction of a new, six-story, 126-bed Hampton Inn, and renovation of a now-closed Big Boy restaurant. Maximum height will increase by two stories (current zoning allows four stories, the PUD will permit six stories) and the front setback will increase beyond the maximum allowed (it will be set back more than 200 feet from Plymouth Road and more than 80 feet from the nearest private street).
PH-3 (20-0984) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:312(20) of Chapter 14 (Purchasing, Contracting and Selling Procedure) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-20-21)
A City Ordinance would be amended to include extensive definition of the term “responsible bidder” which would apply in cases where the City receives bids for construction projects in excess of $25,000. As amended, bidders would (among other things) be required to verify appropriate licensing for all contractors and subcontractors and state what percentage of their workforce (contractors and subcontractors) resides in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw county. Bidders would also have to document pay rates/benefits, insurance coverage, references from the last five years as well as completed projects from the last five years. A list of any litigation or arbitration (current or from the last five years) also must be submitted. Additional requirements would attach to bidders on contracts in excess of $100,000 and $250,000 (Tier 2 and Tier 3, per ordinance).
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 (20-0657) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district), MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Rezoning, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays) (Ordinance No. ORD-20-19)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
DB-1 (20-0658) Resolution to Approve MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Planned Project Site Plan and Development Agreement, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-2 above.
B-2 (20-0984) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:312(20) of Chapter 14 (Purchasing, Contracting and Selling Procedure) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-20-21)
This is the same as PH-3 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.
C-1 (20-0810) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:265 of Chapter 11 (Risk Fund) of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor
This amendment would permit the Chief Financial Officer to approve expenditures from the Risk Fund of over $10,000 without approval from the Insurance Board. The CFO is authorized to fund health and employee benefits (required by contract) or cover emergency expenditures that would otherwise be appropriated from general funds. Service area administrators will be required to report such expenditures to the Board of Insurance Administration within 120 days of the expense.
C-2 (20-0942) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from R5 (Hotel District) to C3 (Fringe Commercial District), 2800 Jackson Road Hotels, 2800 Jackson Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A 4.5-acre parcel at 2800 Jackson Road would be re-zoned from R5 (Hotel District) to C3 (Fringe Commercial District) so that the site can be redeveloped with two hotels. The former site of the Michigan Inn (demolished in 2009) is currently vacant. The C3 district is recommended as most appropriate current zoning designation as it allows all types of commercial uses including hotels and restaurants. Public sidewalks will be installed as part of the project.
C-3 (20-1042) An Ordinance to Amend Title VII (Businesses and Trades) of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor by Adding a New Chapter Which Shall be Designated As Chapter 97 (Short-Term Rentals)
If approved, short term rentals will be licensed and regulated by the City. Licensing will require payment of a fee and application that includes: address, type of property, number of bedrooms for rent, maximum permitted occupancy, and names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of two contact persons responsible for the Short-Term Rental Unit. A principal residence may be licensed as a short term rental (either host-stays or whole house rental) if the property owner submits a sworn statement that the licensed dwelling unit is a principal residence of the applicant. A non-principal residence short-term rental will only be permitted in Mixed Use Zoning districts. (See Legistar link for map.)
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 (20-0938) Resolution to Appoint Jason Boggs to the Greenbelt Advisory Commission
This nomination is from CM Grand, who serves on the Greenbelt Advisory Commission. This was introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
- Jason Boggs – Greenbelt Advisory Commission
DC-2 (20-0968) Resolution to Appoint Julian Singleton and Marie Gabrielle Buendia to the Environmental Commission (7 Votes Required)
These nominations are from CM Bannister and CM Smith, who serve on the Environmental Commission. 7 votes are required per City Charter because these “Youth Member” nominees are not registered electors of the City. These were introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
- Julian Singleton – Environmental Commission (Youth Member)
- Marie Gabrielle Buendia – Environmental Commission (Youth Member)
DC-3 (20-0994) Resolution to Appoint Stefani Carter to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission
This nomination is from CM Lumm and CM Ramlawi, who serve on the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission, and CM Grand and CM Nelson, who serve on the Human Rights Commision. This was introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
- Stefani Carter – Independent Community Police Oversight Commission
DC-4 (20-1018) Resolution to Implement a ‘Rooney Rule’ for Executive and Management Level Hires in the City of Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor would require that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for open non-union management and executive level positions with the City in order to promote the hiring and promotion of qualified and dedicated candidates from diverse backgrounds. The City Administrator would be directed to develop a policy around hiring for these positions in the City of Ann Arbor by September 1, 2020.
DC-5 (20-1082) Resolution Affirming Washtenaw County Resolution Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis in Washtenaw County
The City of Ann Arbor affirms the Washtenaw County Resolution Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis in Washtenaw County.
DC-6 (20-1096) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment for the 2021 Affordable Housing Millage (7 Votes Required)
A question would be added to the November 2020 ballot, asking residents to approve a new millage (1.0 mills) from 2021-2041 to fund building, maintaining, and acquiring housing permanently affordable to low-income households earning a maximum 60% of Area Median Income and social services to support those units. The millage would generate estimated revenue of $6,550,505 in the first year.
DC-7 (20-1109) Resolution to Encourage Governor to Optimize Michigan Executive Order 2020-134 – Eviction Diversion Program for COVID-19-related Debtors and Reconsider Rescission of Executive Order 2020-118
City Council would ask Governor Whitmer to extend the “Eviction diversion program for COVID-19-related debtors” (expired on 7/15/20) for as long as necessary to prevent mass eviction and homelessness and also streamline access as much as possible for those in need.
DS-1 (20-0980) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment for the 2022 Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage (7 Votes Required)
A 2016 millage (2.125 mills) for Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage for the repair and replacement of streets, bridges, and sidewalks throughout the City is set to expire in 2022. It would be added to the November 2020 ballot for renewal, to spare the expense of conducting a special election in an odd year. The millage renewal would last from 2022-2026.
DS-2 (20-0982) Resolution of Intent on the Use and Administration of the Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage Funds
This resolution explains that the 2022 Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage may be used for resurfacing or reconstruction of existing paved City streets and bridges, pedestrian crosswalks, street crossings and corner ramps, and repair and/or replacement of sidewalks. The Downtown Development Authority will continue to provide funds to the City for sidewalk repairs within the Downtown Development District.
DS-3 (20-0981) Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment for the 2021 New Sidewalk Construction Millage (7 Votes Required)
A new millage (0.2 mills) would cover the cost of constructing new sidewalks from 2021-2026. Expected revenue from this millage would be $1,300,411 in the first year, covering the cost of new sidewalks approved for construction (starting in 2021). The City may pursue one of two options: 1) completely eliminate all sidewalk special assessments on taxable parcels or 2) institute a cap on assessments (suggested cap: $2500 per parcel).
DS-4 (20-0983) Resolution of Intent on the Use and Administration of the New Sidewalk Millage Funds
The 2021 New Sidewalk Construction Millage would be used for the design and construction of new sidewalks at locations where none previously existed. It will be used only for sidewalks adjacent to properties outside the Downtown Development District (“DDD”) against which the City levies property taxes and adjacent to single- and two-family houses within the DDD against which the City levies property taxes. It will not change the obligation of developers to install sidewalks at their cost along a parcel’s right-of-way frontages.
I also posted this on my website here:
Affordable Housing Millage Resolution
This week, I am sponsoring a resolution that would put an affordable housing millage on the ballot in November 2020. The language of the resolution was confirmed and sent to staff (with direction to put on our agenda “ASAP”) on Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was not added to our agenda until Thursday afternoon. I was disappointed by this late timing – members of Council read about this millage in local media before it was added to our agenda for review. This resolution could (and should) have been added to our agenda in time for my colleagues to submit written questions about it. Discussion and debate of this millage at our meeting will inevitably be longer because my colleagues received it so late.
The full text of the resolution can be found here:
Ann Arbor should see an extremely high turnout of voters in the November election, so a ballot question about an affordable housing millage (DC-6) will be answered by many. I believe this is the best time to accurately measure support for the idea. I cosponsored this resolution because I also see an opportunity for meaningful community conversation between now and November. Given the current economic crisis, this may be the best time for serious debate of the issue.
I appreciate that our local taxes and fees negatively impact many residents and this may be true now more than ever. City Council is well aware of this problem: in light of the recent economic downturn, Council recently approved a policy to allow late payment of property taxes without penalty. I realize, also, that an additional millage to support “affordability” will have the opposite effect for some. Council has already asked staff to evaluate how we can increase access to our poverty exemptions – I am hopeful that in the next few months we can develop policies to protect residents who legitimately struggle to pay taxes and fees.
A local housing advocate presented this millage idea to me with explanation about how past efforts have failed. We have not come close to meeting affordable housing goals set in 2015 because we have mostly relied on the market for solutions. Expansion and growth in market rate housing supply does not (and will not) create housing for anyone at lower incomes. Market-rate developments that offer affordable units/revenue (i.e. individual projects pitched by developers) mostly provide limited short-term benefits with long-term trade-offs.
Market-rate developments that include affordable units (or contributions) are typically not the most intentional or sensitive to local needs. Often, the units/contributions are an afterthought: limited affordable housing benefits are a way of leveraging generalized support for a plan that has serious problems or meets significant local opposition. In balancing short term benefits and long term trade-offs, affordable housing has become a political football. City Council saw this most recently when we were asked to approve dense senior housing (Lockwood) on top of monitoring wells for the Gelman Plume. A bad idea for development does not become a good idea just because some affordable housing is added to the equation.
This millage is a statement: we cannot continue to rely on the market to provide affordable housing in our community. Revenue from this millage will help Ann Arbor plan and fund solutions that are intentional and sensitive to local needs.
City Council is currently planning to develop a number of City owned properties for affordable housing – our Housing Commission has analyzed each property, identifying which are most suitable for development. Recommendations from our Housing Commission and feedback from the community will help us balance ongoing benefits and trade-offs. Revenue from this millage will support our efforts moving forward: pursuing affordable housing goals thoughtfully and strategically.
The proposed language to be placed on the ballot:
Shall the Charter be amended to authorize a new tax up to 1.000 mills for construction, maintenance, and acquisition of new affordable housing units for low-income individuals and families making less than 60% Ann Arbor Area Median Income, and for providing social services for the residents of such housing for 2021 through 2041, which will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $6,550,505. In accordance with State law, a portion of the millage may be subject to capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
As written, the millage would fund the development of housing for people earning up to 60% AMI, which describes a household where adults are working full-time jobs: 60% AMI is $42,540 for a one-person household and $48,600 for a two-person household. The original draft of the millage (written by community advocates) did not include any reference to “social services” – the phrase “and for providing social services for the residents of such housing” was added this week.
It is important to me that the primary intent and purpose of this millage is clear to everyone who sees it on the ballot: developing and acquiring additional units of affordable housing. The money we dedicate to that purpose will leverage more funding – every dollar spent on development/acquisition will count as “local contribution” which helps us access significant federal subsidies. Funding for social services is not as likely to leverage more funding, especially at income levels as high as 60% AMI.
I feel strongly about clarifying intended use of this millage revenue, putting clear language on the ballot for voters to see. A previous Council made the mistake of relying on a non-binding resolution of intent as adequate “notice” to voters. I do not want to repeat that mistake. I know, also, how much these issues have been weaponized, to prevent meaningful debate. It is necessary to have ballot language that is clear and specific about use of the funds, i.e. how much will be spent on construction, maintenance, and acquisition as compared to spending on social services. I have asked staff about setting a ‘cap’ on millage revenue dedicated to social services funding and I am told that such an idea is not unreasonable.
I expect to hear a range of opinions from my colleagues this week, as we consider the idea of putting this millage on the ballot in November. I have heard community members suggest that this idea is being floated suddenly, without warning and without much public input. I don’t disagree, particularly insofar as the whole of City Council received it very late. However, I do believe that a ballot question like this is the definition of public input. We have three months to discuss, as a community, the value and the consequences of approving this millage. I encourage anyone wishing to express support (or concerns) to reach out to your Council Member before Monday night.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!