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 (among other things) a re-zoning and site plan for the Veridian development on Platt Road, renaming of a park to honor the late Council Member Graydon Krapohl, extension of street closures downtown, the approval of an employment contract with Tom Crawford as our City Administrator, and a resolution to settle litigation with Gelman Sciences, Inc.
This past week, Council met twice to receive legal advice about issues facing the City. On Tuesday, we had a closed session meeting about litigation filed against the City regarding how we set (and use) water and stormwater fees. I cannot discuss our closed session meeting (because it is privileged and confidential), but the plaintiff’s complaint is public – you can find it here:
On Friday, we met for another closed session to discuss the current settlement documents related to the Gelman plume contamination. Many residents – who have been following that issue for longer (and more closely) than I have – express grave concerns about the contents of these settlement documents. For anyone interested in understanding the Gelman Plume remediation proposals, I recommend you watch these two presentations:
- Presentations from Dan Bicknell and Roger Rayle to the Scio Township Board of Trustees (9/22/20) https://youtu.be/r7PUxyZ_Y7I?t=268
- Presentation from Dr. Larry Lemke to a Special Session of City Council, Intervenors and U.S Representative Debbie Dingell (9/24/20) https://youtu.be/f0AZYgK9nBY?t=3583
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 Hour
Sunday Oct 18th 3:00pm
I hold “virtual” coffee hours with Zoom on Sunday afternoons before scheduled City Council meetings. Please email me for a link: email@example.com
Sunday Oct 18th 7:00pm
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
Monday Oct 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.
Six New Ballot Drop Boxes Announced
Last week the City Clerk announced the installation of six new ballot drop boxes around the City. Any Ann Arbor resident voting absentee can return their ballot in one of the secure drop boxes. Following is a list of all drop box locations (new locations marked with *)
- Larcom City Hall, 301 E. Huron St., always open — Located inside the building, at the north entrance.
- *Larcom City Hall, on Ann Street — Located outside the building by the customer service drop box, on the north side of Ann Street, just east of Fifth Avenue.
- *Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena and Pool, 2150 Jackson Ave — Parking lot.
- *Ann Arbor Fire Station 5, 1946 Beal Ave — Outside.
- *Cobblestone Farm/Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Customer Service Center, 2781 Packard Road — Outside.
- *Ann Arbor Fire Station 6, 1881 Briarwood Circle — Northwest side of building, Eisenhower entrance, outside.
- *New satellite Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office: University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 S. State St., 10 AM–7 PM only — Located inside in the Stenn Gallery on the first floor. Please note, entrance is permitted only following clearance from COVID-19 health screening, which will be conducted by personnel onsite. For more information on this satellite office, visit https://www.a2gov.org/news/pages/article.aspx?i=734
For more information, including a map of the new locations:
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/
I maintain a list of posts related to current/recent Ward 4 construction projects:
City Council Voting Chart for Oct 5, 2020
Absentee Voting Update (including six new ballot drop boxes)
The City Clerk announced the location of six new secure ballot drop boxes recently installed around the City.
Washtenaw County Grace Period for License and Registration Extended Through October
The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office announced an extension of the grace period for expired drivers license and vehicle registrations through the end of October. Effective November 1st officers will have the latitude to issue a citation to anyone that is expired and does not have proof that you are in the process to renew. If you have an appointment to renew and have proof of that appointment, officers can accept that as reason for your operating while expired.
A2ZERO Ambassador application survey (Program starts Nov 18th)
The City of Ann Arbor is launching a 9-week A2ZERO Ambassador program this fall, and is using an online survey to collect applications.
DDA Survey on Healthy Streets Downtown
The DDA is collecting public opinion about the Healthy Streets Pilot Programs implemented at Miller/Catherine, Division/Broadway, South Main, and State/North University.
City’s Housing + Affordability Survey open until Dec 14th
The City is looking for public input about affordable housing and plans for re-development of four publicly owned parcels downtown.
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
Monday Oct 19, 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 (20-1575) Council Agenda Response Memo and eComments – October 19, 2020
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 at the time of this newsletter was published.
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 (20-1286) Resolution to Award a Contract to The Davey Tree Expert Company for Routine Street Tree Pruning ($674,020.00; ITB-4636)
CA-2 (20-1433) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 2 to the General Services Agreement with Utilities Instrumentation Service for Electrical and Instrumentation Services ($160,000.00)
CA-3 (20-1427) Resolution to Approve a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) Grant Development Project Agreement for the Argo Livery Universal Access and Site Improvements Project and Accept and Appropriate Funding ($300,000.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (20-1437) Resolution to Approve a Service Contract with Aquatic Source, LLC. for On-Call Pool Mechanical Services at the City Pools for an Amount not to exceed $75,000.00 Annually for FY 21 – 23 with a Two-Year Renewal Option not to Exceed $75,000.00 Annually for FY 23 – 25
CA-5 (20-1505) Resolution to Approve a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for the Grove at Veridian at 2270 Platt Road
CA-6 (20-1456) Resolution to Approve General Services Agreement with Access, Inc. for the Implementation of a Second Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) for the Shared City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County Data Center and Appropriate Associated Funds ($188,550.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (20-1467) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Dell Marketing L.P. for FY2021 PC Replacement Program and Appropriate Necessary Funding for Computer Tablets, Modems and Antennas Used in all Fire Apparatus for Emergency First Response ($47,700.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-8 (20-1494) Resolution to Approve Amendment Number 1 to the Priority Based Budgeting Agreement with Resource Exploration, LLC for Additional Services ($22,500)
CA-9 (20-1529) Resolution to Grant Two Easements to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for Sidewalk Ramp Improvements at Washtenaw and Observatory (8 Votes Required)
CA-10 (20-1535) Resolution to Approve Lane Closure for University of Michigan Football Games for the Abbreviated 2020 Season
CA-11 (20-1537) Resolution to Approve and Accept a Grant from Washtenaw County Government for Assistance of Acquisition of New High-Speed Voting Equipment and Appropriate Funding ($15,000) (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 (20-1321) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 12.8 Acres from PL (Public Land) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Veridian at County Farm PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 2270 Platt Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
An area of 12.8 acres at 2270 Platt Road would be re-zoned from PL (Public Land) to a Planned Use Development. The Veridian at County Farm PUD District would be primarily detached single-family, two-family, multiple-family and townhomes (attached single family dwellings). A minimum of 15% of the dwelling units will be affordable.
PH-2/DB-1 (20-1469) Resolution to Approve Veridian at County Farm South (Thrive) Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2270 Platt Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the site plan and development agreement for Veridian at County Farm South (Thrive), which is one part of a project at 2270 Platt Road (see PH-1/B-1). It allows for the construction of 99 homes: 16 “village” homes, 42 townhouse homes, 30 walk-up flats, and 11 “nest” micro-unit apartments on the 8.4 acre site. A required 15 units of affordable housing units are proposed off-site on the adjacent development, Veridian at County Farm North (Avalon) Site Plan (see PH3/DB-2).
PH-3/DB-2 (20-1470) Resolution to Approve Veridian at County Farm North (Avalon) Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2270 Platt Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the site plan and development agreement for Veridian at County Farm North (Avalon), which is one part of a project at 2270 Platt Road (see PH-1/B-1). It allows for the construction of 50 affordable apartment homes (stacked flats and townhomes) in 9 two-story buildings on a 4.4-acre site. All apartment homes in this development will be affordable housing dwelling units for households with incomes less than 60% of area median income.
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 (20-1321) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 12.8 Acres from PL (Public Land) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Veridian at County Farm PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 2270 Platt Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
DB-1 (20-1469) Resolution to Approve Veridian at County Farm South (Thrive) Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2270 Platt Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-2 above.
DB-2 (20-1470) Resolution to Approve Veridian at County Farm North (Avalon) Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2270 Platt Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
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.
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 (20-1479) Resolution to Rename Rose White Park Graydon Park in Honor of Graydon Krapohl
A 1.12 acre City park in Lower Burns Park (currently called Rose White Park) will be renamed Graydon Park, in honor of former Council Member Graydon Krapohl, who passed away in April 2020 after a long battle with cancer. Graydon served on the City’s Parks Advisory Commission before representing Ward 4 on City Council from 2014 to 2018.
DC-2 (20-1570) Resolution to Extend Approvals of Downtown Street Closures for Restaurant and Retail Use During the Time of Mandated Physical Distancing Contained in the Prior Resolutions R-20-194, R-20-302, and R-20-371, Until January 4, 2021
This amends the resolution (6/1/20) that permits the closure of certain streets so businesses are able to use the street for seating and sales that comply with social distancing requirements during this pandemic period. It will extend for the duration of the state-issued restrictions on gatherings in public places (or at the discretion of the City Administrator). This amendment extends the permitted street closures until January 4, 2021. (Note: this is the third extension of the duration.) The street closures are approved as “special event” permits for street closures at locations on Washington, Main, Liberty, Detroit, Maynard, State, S. University, and Church.
DC-3 (20-1571) Resolution Regarding Water Rate Structure
The City administrator is directed to re-assess water rate fee structures, considering reports and analysis from Arcadis (2019). Specific direction: eliminate the fourth tier of water rates for residential customers and revert back to three tiers. Staff is directed to set these tiers logically at three levels: average residential use, average outdoor use, and above average outdoor use. The City would also adopt a seasonal rate structure for the commercial customer class that reflects peaking impacts on the system (uniform summer, lower winter). This resolution recommends adoption of Arcadis Residential Option 4 and Arcadis Commercial Option A. The Arcadis report is attached to this Legistar link from the 3/11/19 Council work session:
DC-4 (20-1573) Resolution to Restate the Duties and Membership of the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board
This restatement of Duties and Membership of the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board makes youth members of HHSAB voting members. Additionally, this resolution consolidates the content of two previous resolutions into a unified description of the duties of HHSAB, the role of Office of Community Development in providing assistance, and the details of membership representation.
DC-5 (20-1574) Resolution to Approve an Amendment to an Agreement with DTE Gas Company at 841 Broadway for the Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project (8 Votes Required)
This amends the previous agreement (approved 3/18/19) between DTE and the City for Storm Water and Sidewalk easements for the Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project. By amendment, the Temporary Construction Permit portion of the Agreement will allow the City and its contractors additional temporary construction area.
DC-6 (20-1584) Resolution to Approve the Employment Agreement for City Administrator Tom Crawford
Approval of this employment agreement will hire Tom Crawford as the City Administrator for Ann Arbor.
DC-7 (20-1603) Resolution to Begin Filling Seats on the Council of the Commons
Consistent with a previously approved resolution (10/5/20), two Council Members would be selected to serve on the Council of the Commons. The City Administrator would be directed to include the Council of the Commons among the other boards and commission currently open to an application process, so that members might be chosen and appointed by December 21, 2020.
DC-8 (20-1549) Resolution to Approve Settlement Documents in Attorney General v Gelman Sciences, Inc., 22nd Circuit Court, File No. 88-34734-CE
This resolution would approve settlement documents between the City and other intervenors in a Fourth Amended and Restated Consent Judgment with Gelman Sciences, Inc. These agreements come after 13 months of extensive closed session meetings, hours of confidential negotiations between lawyers, and several public presentations and opportunities for public comment. I wrote more about this at the top of this newsletter.
I posted the following on my website last week:
Since that posting, an item was added to our agenda for this week’s meeting. If approved, agenda item DC-2 will extend our downtown street closures for a third time!
In other news: I recently broke a bone in my ankle, so I will be hobbling around on an aircast for the next five weeks. I am very sad to see my biking season end early – I was especially sad about this when the weather was so lovely last weekend! I am very relieved that I can still comfortably walk to work and teach preschool.
COVID-19 Street Closures Update – Fall 2020
In the last six months, City Council has approved a number of lane and road closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting in June, weekend street closures downtown were implemented temporarily – and have been extended, twice – to support businesses in need of space to serve customers:
Nine sections of city streets are now closed to traffic on weekends (Friday afternoon to Sunday evening) through this fall season:
- Main Street (William Street to Liberty Street)
- Main Street (Liberty Street to Washington Street)
- Washington Street (South Ashley to Main Street)
- South State Street (East Washington Street to East William Street)
- Church Street (South University to Willard Street)
- Detroit Street (East Kingsley Avenue to North Fifth Avenue)
- Forest Street alley
- Maynard Street (East Liberty Street to East William Street)*
*Note that this section of Maynard is closed 7 days a week
In May, I cosponsored another program – “Slow Streets” – to allow residents to request closure of streets that they live on:
A total of 26 residential streets are now closed to all but local traffic, making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians to find safe socially distanced space to move within neighborhoods. The following streets now exist as “Slow Streets”:
- Arborview (Miller to Westwood)
- Baldwin (Stadium to Packard)
- Brandywine (Packard to Yost)
- Broadway (Plymouth to Plymoth)
- Brooklyn (Packard to Golden)
- Bydding (Brooks to Summit/Miner)
- Chapin (Huron to Miller)
- Crest (Liberty to Washington)
- Elmwood Bike Blvd (Packard to Edgewood)
- Granger (Ferdon to Packard)
- Harpst (Packard to Tremmel)
- Hikone (Packard to the southerly end)
- Iroquois (Packard to Stadium)
- Jewett (Page to Packard)
- Lillian (Eli to Terhune)
- Longshore (Barton to Argo Livery)
- Morton (Ferdon to Harding)
- North Fourth (Beakes to Depot)
- Redwood (Platt to Springbrook)
- Shadowood (Ellsworth to Hemlock)
- Snyder (Seventh to Main Street)
- Springbrook (Packard to Marshall)
- Starwick (Pontiac to Barton)
- Sunset (Newport to Wildt)
- Washington Bike Blvd (Revena to First)
- Yost (Washtenaw to Terhune)
In July, another program was approved by Council, to adjust traffic on connecting streets outside of residential neighborhoods. Mayor Taylor and I sponsored the “Healthy Streets” program downtown:
This program temporarily closed traffic lanes on five streets within the DDA district. Affected streets in this downtown program are:
- South Main (1 block)
- Packard (1 block)
- State/North University
Also approved in July, Mayor Taylor and I sponsored a program of “Healthy Streets” outside of downtown:
This program temporarily blocks off vehicular traffic lanes on these three streets:
- South Main (between Pauline and East Stadium)
- East Packard (between Platt and Eisenhower)
- Broadway/Swift (between Detroit Street and Maiden Lane)
This past week, I received a phone call from a Ward 4 resident, asking me about the arrangement of construction barrels on South Main, which block off a whole lane of the road. As a neighborhood resident, he had a close-up view of the impact: traffic diverted off of Main Street (onto quieter side streets) as people tried to avoid backups on the major thoroughfare. My constituent had no idea that what he was looking at was part of the “Healthy Streets” program, he had assumed that it was some kind of construction. He was very surprised to hear that the lane closure was intentional and unrelated to any work project.
In the last few weeks, I have received many emails and phone calls from residents who describe alarming and dangerous safety issues on South Main, East Packard, and the Broadway bridge.
THREE STREETS OUT OF FORTY-THREE
A majority of Council (including myself) voted in favor of all the traffic interventions proposed during this pandemic: weekend street closures for downtown businesses, local-traffic-only designations on residential streets, and experimental lane closures on other roads. Of the forty- three streets and roads impacted by these programs, three of them have prompted significant negative feedback, so much that Council responded.
The “Healthy Streets” program (outside of downtown) was designed as a temporary experiment (90 days) to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists during this pandemic, including the three streets of South Main, East Packard, and Broadway/Swift. Initial response to these re-configurations was overwhelmingly negative. I biked these locations in the early days of the experiment to see them for myself. What I saw was consistent with what others had reported: the arrangement of barrels was legitimately confusing to both motorized and non-motorized traffic alike. On Packard, I saw pedestrians and cyclists opting to use existing off-road paths instead of the lanes that had theoretically been cleared for them.
At our September 21st City Council meeting, CM Ramlawi proposed that we end the experiments on South Main, East Packard, and Broadway/Swift early, on October 1st. (These experiments were originally planned to continue through November 29th or the first snowfall.) At that meeting, staff explained their intention to collect data on the experiments in the second week of October. I supported staff’s plan to get this data, so I moved to postpone our discussion until October 19th. A majority of Council approved this postponement. Data helps us make better decisions in the future.
At our last meeting (October 5th), Council considered the issue of these three streets one more time. Since our previous discussion, Council had received two more weeks of very specific feedback from residents: safety hazards for the elderly and disabled attempting to board buses, reckless driving (in response to the lane closures), as well as the unintended consequences of traffic spilling onto quieter side streets.
For me, the City’s transportation manager offered the most compelling argument to end the experiment early, when he shared his own observations of the traffic reconfigurations. He explained:
“Are there bad behaviors happening, where cars are dodging in and out of those areas? Are cars parking in those areas? They are. I’m not going to lie to you and say I haven’t observed that myself. I go regularly up and down the Main Street one in particular since I live on the south side of town. I’ve observed it. My observation has been that those actions have been intentional, it wasn’t that a motorist was driving accidentally in that space, it was that a motorist was trying to bypass something which is an unfortunate series of events and one that we are concerned about and one that we are trying to properly place the cones and barrels and barricades in such a way to prevent that from happening as much as possible.”
I voted with the majority of Council to end the experiments on these three roads – South Main, East Packard, and Broadway/Swift – on October 15. I believe this was the right thing to do because the road changes were not safe and were not likely to become more safe over the course of the experiment.
Many residents are frustrated that we did not end these experiments sooner. Some residents are mad that we did not allow them to continue through November 29th. I believe it was worth attempting these experiments, but ending these three specific streets early (leaving the remaining forty street closures in place) was the right thing to do.
In our local community, a few loud voices promote a very all-or-nothing, emotional (i.e. angry) approach to traffic management and non-motorized infrastructure. For those folks who are annoyed that we even tried the experiments on South Main, East Packard, and Broadway/Swift, I would point out that those streets are a relatively small piece of a larger effort (most of which has been helpful and positive and widely appreciated by many). From others, I’ve seen hand-wringing and conspiracy theory that the failure of these three street reconfigurations is evidence of hostility to children and safety. Rhetoric like this leaves no room for experiment and data collection or observation and adjustment to facts-on-the-ground. When incremental change is furiously rejected by skeptics and advocates alike, we do not have a healthy environment for arriving at solutions.
On a personal note, my own biking season will end when the cold weather hits. I have not invested in the kind of cold weather gear that would keep me comfortable on a bicycle in freezing temperatures. When there is snow or ice on the ground, I definitely don’t feel safe riding a bicycle. I know that I am not alone and there are many cyclists who take this winter break from riding. In the coming winter months, I look forward to serious and thoughtful conversation about non-motorized transportation needs during this pandemic, which is likely to continue well into the spring. I believe there is a path forward if we sincerely want to find one.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!