This week at Ann Arbor City Council, we have a packed agenda of six public hearings (including two on marijuana regulation), two site plans for approval, and several first readings of ordinance amendments (including one that would incentivize affordable housing units in new developments downtown).
This past week, I was alerted to a remarkable traffic reconfiguration on S. Division Street (north of Hill). On that stretch, a single lane between parked cars is so narrow that larger vehicles (including buses) struggle to navigate it. I don’t typically drive that way and— given the steep incline going north— it’s not a route that I bike, either. For anyone concerned about these changes: CM Eaton, CM Bannister, and CM Griswold recently met with city transportation staff to discuss it. Based on many reported problems, city public safety staff will be reviewing it.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to a Ward 4 event happening next week: the Dicken Fun Run! The 5K run is happening on Sunday, October 13 on select streets in the Dicken neighborhood. There is still time to sign up for this event and proceeds benefit Dicken School PTO and the Ann Arbor Public Schools Fine Arts Department. If you live in the Dicken neighborhood, you might visit the website below to look at the route and plan appropriately— a few streets will be closed to traffic due to the race.
Before I jump into my summary of items on the agenda, I’d like to invite you to my coffee hours tomorrow (Sunday) from 3-4:30 p.m. at RoosRoast on Rosewood. I hope this is a convenient opportunity for us to meet in person and hear perspectives.
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!
Sunday Oct 6 (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.
- 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:
City to Hold Public Meetings in October About Short-Term Rental Regulation
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, the City has arranged for three public input meetings around potential regulation of short-term rentals in Ann Arbor. We are interested in hearing your concerns, understanding what challenges need to be addressed. Please mark your calendars and note these dates. (The first meeting is TOMORROW, Sunday.) Please encourage your friends and neighbors to attend, if they have experience or ideas to share!
Sunday, Oct. 6 2019 (2:00-4:00 PM)
AADL Westgate Branch, Westside Room
2503 Jackson Ave
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 (6:00-8:00 PM)
AADL Traverwood Branch, Traverwood Program Room
3333 Traverwood Drive
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019 (9:30-11:30 AM)
AADL Mallets Creek Branch, Mallets Creek Program Room
3090 E. Eisenhower Parkway
Boards and Commissions Applications
Membership on Ann Arbor Boards and Commissions is constantly changing as terms end and appointees step down. We need you! You can find openings at the following link (or contact me directly)
Road Construction Updates
The season for road construction is (hopefully!) beginning to wind down, and I post regular updates on my website about projects that affect Ward 4 residents. My posts include links to the City’s website, so that you can find more information and contact info.
For information about these and other projects, the City has a page of road and lane closures, and a page of scheduled construction projects:
ITC State-Pioneer Transmission Line Project Update Sep 16th
An update from ITC on the project connecting the State and Pioneer substations
Hoover/Greene/Hill Project Update Sept 17th
An update on the large Hoover/Greene/Hill road construction project.
Hill and Greene Street Closures (Sept 23 to Nov 15)
Traffic closures are scheduled on Hill Street and Greene Street until Nov 15, 2019.
Hoover/Greene/Hill Project Update Sept 30th
An update on the large Hoover/Greene/Hill road construction project.
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 Sept 16, 2019
Elections Have Consequences
I posted this essay on my blog earlier this week, and have reprinted it at the end of this newsletter.
Sierra Club meeting Oct 15th about Preserving Open Space and Farmland in Washtenaw County
The Sierra Club Huron Valley Group will be hosting a meeting Oct 15th at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
Eberwhite Elementary Playground Construction Volunteers Needed Oct 15th-20th
Both of our children went to Eberwhite, and like so many of our neighbors, we have fond memories of the old playground. The school is asking for volunteers to build the first phase of the new playground – and (more importantly) asking for donations to complete the project – please help if you can!
Public Meeting Oct 28th to Present Monitoring Well Location Recommendations for the Gelman Plume
Since July, City of Ann Arbor staff have been working with the city’s contractor Tetra Tech to evaluate locations to install monitoring wells between the north edge of the contaminant 1,4-dioxane plume prohibition zone and Barton Pond. The City will host a public meeting Oct 28th at City Hall to present findings and answer questions.
Nov 6th meeting about Snyder Edgewood Stormwater Improvement Project
The City of Ann Arbor will hold the fourth public meeting for the Snyder/Edgewood Avenues Area Stormwater Improvement Project on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 at Pioneer High School.
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 Oct 7, 2019 (7:00pm)
City Hall 2nd Floor
301 E Huron St
City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99). They are also streamed live on YouTube and Viebit:
Questions to the Agenda
In preparation for a Council meeting, Council members can ask questions of staff about scheduled agenda items. Questions must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday before a Council Meeting, and answers are returned the next day (Thursday) by 5pm.
AC-2 (19-1908) October 7, 2019 Agenda Responses 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 (19-1876) Nominations and appointments
These Mayoral appointments are being introduced at this Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on the next Council meeting.
- Peggy Wier-Leonard – Ann Arbor Public Art Commission
- Juliet Pressel – Local Officers’ Compensation Commission
MC-2 (19-1878) Resolution to Appoint Sophie Grillet to Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (7 Votes Required)
This Mayoral appointments is being introduced at this Council meeting, and will therefore be voted on the next Council meeting. 7 votes are required because the nominee is not a resident of Ann Arbor.
- Sophie Grillet – Ann Arbor Public Art Commission
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 (19-1813) Resolution Recognizing Ann Arbor Youth Football and Cheer Association as a Civic Nonprofit Organization Operating in Ann Arbor for the Purpose of Obtaining a Charitable Gaming License
CA-2 (19-1744) Resolution Recognizing Out Loud Chorus as a Civic Nonprofit Organization Operating in Ann Arbor for the Purpose of Obtaining a Charitable Gaming License
CA-3 (19-1672) Resolution to Name the Property Donated by Pulte Homes of Michigan, LLC as “Hickory Nature Area”
CA-4 (19-1673) Resolution Naming the Property Acquired from Toll MI VI Limited Partnerships as “Buttonbush Nature Area”
CA-5 (19-1742) Resolution to Approve Construction Contract Change Order No. 2 ($281,416.90) with Gerace Construction Company, Inc. for the Geddes Dam Gate Recoating and Repairs Project, and Amend the Project Budget
CA-6 (19-1810) Resolution to Approve Closing of East Washington Street for Oktoberfest from 8:00 AM on Friday, October 18, 2019 to 9:00 AM on Sunday, October 20, 2019
CA-7 (19-1837) Resolution to Accept a Storm Sewer Easement at 3720 Washtenaw Avenue from FL MI RE 8, LLC (8 Votes Required)
CA-8 (19-1843) Resolution to Approve Fifth Amendment with Varnum LLP for Legal Services to Contest the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit for the Wastewater Treatment Plant ($90,000.00)
CA-9 (19-1854) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Jacobs Consultants Inc. for Professional Engineering Consulting Services to Assess Impacts of Proposed Changes to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit for the Wastewater Treatment Plant ($30,000.00)
CA-10 (19-1694) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Emergency Management Performance Grant Funds and Approve FY 2019 Emergency Management Performance Grant Agreement for Ann Arbor Emergency Management Program ($44,478.00) (8 Votes Required)
CA-11 (19-1735) Resolution Authorizing Publication of Notice of Intent to Issue General Obligation Capital Improvement Bonds to Fund Downtown Development Authority Ann Ashley Parking Structure Expansion Project (Not to Exceed $ 23,000,000.00) (6 Votes Roll Call)
CA-12 (19-1762) Resolution Levying Certain Delinquent Water Utility, Board Up, Clean Up, Vacant Property Inspection Fees, Housing Inspection Fees, and Fire Inspection Fees as Special Assessments and Ordering Collection Thereof
CA-13 (19-1603) Resolution to Approve Amendment No. 1 to the Professional Services Agreement with Tetra Tech, Inc. for Geotechnical and Environmental Services ($10,000.00)
CA-14 (19-1658) Resolution No. 1 – Prepare Plans and Specifications for the Proposed Fuller Court and Nixon/Traver Sidewalk Gap Project – Special Assessment (Districts #57 & 56), and Appropriate $130,000.00 from the General Fund Balance for the Design of the Project (8 Votes Required)
CA-15 (19-1765) Resolution to Approve Change Order No. 1 for Precision Concrete, Inc. (Bid No. 4566) for the 2019 Ramp and Sidewalk Repair Project ($53,900.00)
CA-16 (19-1640) Resolution Authorizing a Purchase Order with Bell Equipment Company through the Michigan Delivering Extended Agreements Locally (MiDEAL) for the Rental of Three Elgin Pelican Street Sweepers ($60,540.00)
CA-17 (19-1729) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Ice Control Salt through the Michigan Delivering Extended Agreements Locally (MiDEAL) from the Detroit Salt Company for Early Fill ($129,380.00) and for Seasonal Backup Supply ($217,200.00)
CA-18 (19-1753) Resolution to Award a 2-Year Construction Contract for Miscellaneous Concrete Repairs to Saladino Construction Company ITB # 4595 (up to $325,052.20 over two years)
CA-19 (19-1651) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Police Vehicles from Signature Ford (MiDeal and Macomb County Cooperative Purchasing – $259,086.00)
CA-20 (19-1725) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Heavy Equipment/Truck Tires and Tire Repair Services from Shrader Tire & Oil (Sourcewell; not to Exceed $90,000.00)
CA-21 (19-1659) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Trojan Technologies for Replacement Parts at the Wastewater Treatment Plant ($123,000.00)
CA-22 (19-1764) Resolution Authorizing the Execution of a Five Year Municipal Trunkline Maintenance Between the City of Ann Arbor and the State of Michigan Department of Transportation
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 (19-1448) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 0.54 Acre from PUD (Planned Unit Development District) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), The Glen Mixed Use Development PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) (Ordinance No. ORD-19-29)
Changes are proposed for a previously approved PUD (Planned Unit Development District) at 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street. The PUD approved in 2017 allows for a 9-story, 162 room hotel with 24 apartments, restaurant, and 5,181 square feet of retail. Necessary foundation work and a change in heating/cooling systems has prompted this request. The overall height of the building would increase by six feet, but remain below the 109’/4” maximum. Other requested amendments include: reduction in FAR (floor area ratio) from 590.4% to 568%, change in the mix of bicycle parking spaces by class, and removal of eleven parking spaces for a total of 241. Planning commission approved this 7-0.
PH-2/DB-1 (19-1449) Resolution to Approve The Glen Mixed Use Development Modified PUD Site Plan, 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This approves the site plan for the amended PUD at 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street. (See PH-1/B-1 above)
PH-3/B-2 (19-1464) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 7.7 Acres from R1E (Single-Family Dwelling District) With Conditions to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Weber Rezoning, 2857 Packard Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 1 Nays)
A 7.7 parcel at 2857 Packard Road would be rezoned from R1E (residential, single family) to a PUD (Planned Unit Development) to allow fifty-one total units, with 26 of these units located in four, two-story townhouse style units on one parcel. The proposed density would be seven dwelling units per acre, each proposed house a maximum size of 2,000 square feet, with prohibition to finishing the basements. (A grading permit is required before removal of an existing house on the property, to allow more time to explore moving the house.) A previous site plan for this property was rejected due to its negative impact on natural features. As compared to the previous site plan, this PUD will preserve 42 landmark/woodland trees and maintain 4.4. acres of open space. The Planning Commission approved this PUD Rezoning in a vote of 7 to 1.
PH-4/DB-2 (19-1465) Resolution to Approve Weber PUD Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2857 Packard Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 1 Nays)
This approves the site plan for the PUD at 2857 Packard Rd. (See PH-3/B-2 above)
PH-5/B-3 (19-1636) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.15, 5.16.3, 5.19.2, and 5.37.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Marijuana Retailers, Marijuana Microbusinesses, Designated Marijuana Consumption Facilities) (Ordinance No. ORD-19-32)
The Unified Development Code would be amended to include definition, permits, and regulation for three new marijuana facilities: marijuana retailer, designated marijuana consumption facility, and marijuana microbusiness. A marijuana retailer must be 600 feet from another and microbusinesses. A designated marijuana consumption facility must provide a maximum of 1 vehicle parking place per 100 square feet of floor area. Both marijuana retailers and designated marijuana consumption facilities would be allowed with special exception approval in most mixed use zoning districts. A marijuana microbusiness must provide a maximum of 1 vehicle parking space per 2,000 square feet of cultivation area and 250 square feet of noncultivation area. A marijuana microbusiness is allowed with special exception approval in the C3 district and most special purpose districts; they must be at least 600 feet from another and provisional centers/retailers. All three facilities must be at least 1000 feet away from a K-12 school.
PH-6/B-4 (19-1783) An Ordinance to Amend the Title of all Sections of and to Add a New Section 7:613 to Chapter 96 (Medical Marijuana Facilities) of Title VII of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-19-31)
City permits would be required for seven types of businesses, two of which are now licensed by the state under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. The ordinance amendment would combine two categories into one, for the purposes of obtaining a City permit: retailer/medical marijuana provisioning center. Concurrent permits would be allowed for two categories at the same location, under the same ownership. City permits would issued in the following categories:
- Grower permits (no maximum number)
- Processor permits (no maximum number)
- Secure Transporter permits (no maximum)
- Provisional Center/retailer permits (28 permits)
- Safety compliance facility permits (no maximum)
- Marijuana microbusiness permits (28 permits)
- Designated consumption establishment permits (28 permits)
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 (19-1448) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 0.54 Acre from PUD (Planned Unit Development District) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), The Glen Mixed Use Development PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) (Ordinance No. ORD-19-29)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
B-2 (19-1464) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 7.7 Acres from R1E (Single-Family Dwelling District) With Conditions to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Weber Rezoning, 2857 Packard Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 1 Nays)
This is the same as PH-3 above.
B-3 (19-1636) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.15, 5.16.3, 5.19.2, and 5.37.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Marijuana Retailers, Marijuana Microbusinesses, Designated Marijuana Consumption Facilities) (Ordinance No. ORD-19-32)
This is the same as PH-5 above.
B-4 (19-1783) An Ordinance to Amend the Title of all Sections of and to Add a New Section 7:613 to Chapter 96 (Medical Marijuana Facilities) of Title VII of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Ordinance No. ORD-19-31)
This is the same as PH-6 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 (19-1812) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 7:400, 7:401, 7:402, 7:403, 7:404, 7:405, and 7:406 of Chapter 93 (Alarm Systems) of Title VII of The Code Of The City Of Ann Arbor
The city’s billing process for response to false alarms would be updated. Our ordinance will be amended so that Police and Fire can bill independently, a third party vendor is eliminated, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide alarm systems are added to the ordinance, single family home owners (not connected to monitored alarm systems) are excluded, and police alarm registrations will happen by calendar year schedule.
C-2 (19-1565) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.13.9, 5.17.4, 5.18.6, 5.28.1, 5.28.6, 5.29.10, 5.30.1 and 5.37.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Premium Options, Affordable Housing Dwelling Units, Reimbursements)
Premium options would be changed to incentivize the funding and establishment of affordable housing. Currently, the city offers both a general “residential use” premium and an “affordable housing” premium for properties downtown; these premiums increase allowable floor area beyond the normal maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR). This amendment would eliminate the “residential use” premium, it would be replaced with an “affordable residential unit” premium. In the D1 and D2 districts, additional allowable floor area will be permitted, relative to the percentage of floor area designated as affordable dwelling units (up to 30%). Combined with designated affordable dwelling units, additional allowable floor area may also be earned via payments to the Affordable Housing Fund. Qualifying “affordable” floor area may be doubled via the “payment in lieu.” E.g. To achieve the 30% affordable housing dwelling units required to increase FAR to 500% in the D1 district, a development can include 15% affordable units on site and make payments in lieu for the remaining 15%.
C-3 (19-1874) An Ordinance to Amend Section 1:239 of Chapter 8 of the Code of the City Of Ann Arbor to Add a Public Art Commission Liaison to the Design Review Board
The city ordinance that establishes the Design Review Board will now include a non-voting member from the Public Art Commission, to provide input on incorporating private artwork into projects under review.
C-4 (19-1884) An Ordinance to Amend the Code of the City of Ann Arbor by Adding a New Chapter, Which New Chapter Shall be Designated as Chapter 70 – Adult-Use Marihuana Establishments Of Title VII of Said CodeThe City would temporarily “opt out” of the state law allowing adult-use establishments within its boundaries. The temporary opt-out will allow for more public input to establish appropriate local regulation. The “opt-out” would be effective until December 16, 2019.
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 (19-1770) Resolution Directing Review of City Transportation Planning and Operations Management and Related Staffing
The City Administrator will provide Council with a description of how the City uses resources to achieve safe and efficient movement of all modes of travel on our public right of ways. Council will receive an update on the status of hiring the FTE included in the FY2020 budget that is expected to provide expertise on and promote the goals of Vision Zero and Complete Streets.
DC-2 (19-1879) Resolution to Approve Closing William between S. Fifth and Thompson Streets and S. Division between William and Jefferson Streets for the William Street Bikeway Grand Opening on Sunday, October 27, 2019 from 12:00 Noon until 5:00 PM
This street closure will celebrate the opening of a DDA project: the William street bikeway. William Street will be closed between S. Fifth and Thompson Streets and Division between William and Jefferson Streets. The closures will take place from 12:00 Noon on Sunday, October 27, 2019 until 5:00 PM. The event itself will take place from 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM.
DC-3 (19-1885) Resolution Regarding Establishment of a City of Ann Arbor Marijuana Permitting, Oversight and Review Function and Body
The city would establish an oversight body to supplement staff efforts in implementing and enforcing the new marijuana ordinances. Within 90 days, the City administrator will report to Council re: the creation of a marijuana oversight body. His report will outline scope, authority and structure alternatives and recommendations for the marijuana oversight body, including whether the oversight function should be incorporated into the roles and responsibilities of the Council Liquor License Review Committee or whether a separate Marijuana Board, Commission, or Committee should be established.
DC-4 (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
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.
DB-1 (19-1449) Resolution to Approve The Glen Mixed Use Development Modified PUD Site Plan, 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-2 above.
DB-2 (19-1465) Resolution to Approve Weber PUD Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2857 Packard Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 7 Yeas and 1 Nays)
This is the same as PH-4 above.
DS-1 (19-1645) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance No. 19-31 – An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.15, 5.16, 5.19 and 5.37 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor to specify regulations of uses established by the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act
With Council approval, the new marijuana ordinance (see PH-5/B-3 and PH-6/B/4) will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.
Since our last Council meeting, I’ve gotten a good bit of email about the proposed marijuana ordinance and the site plan for 2857 Packard Rd.
I expect that Council will discuss a number of details related to our marijuana ordinance. I’m particularly interested in agenda item DC-3. It makes sense to me that if the city has an established board to regulate liquor licenses for our public bars, we should certainly have a similar entity to oversee permits for consumption centers and other marijuana businesses in the city. I would like to see a framework in place that can effectively respond to potential problems, particularly since these facilities will be operating under city-issued permits. I’m glad Ann Arbor is not opting out of the state law, but I realize that we may eventually need to amend these local regulations.
A number of residents have reached out to me to express their frustration about plans for the property at 2758 Packard Road. This property was re-zoned by a previous Council (2016) and the site plan up for approval this week is a compromise, intended to preserve as many natural features as possible. Council is also aware of concerns about the historic house on that property, the interest in examining it and possibly moving/preserving it. Council members are trying to confirm what is possible and what can be negotiated.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elections Have Consequences
I posted this essay on my blog earlier this week:
Every year, City Council votes to approve various Council member appointments to boards and commissions. These “liaison” appointments sometimes grant a Council member a vote on issues before a board or commission, but not always. Typically— even when acting as a “voting” member— that Council member is only one of nine or one of twelve. Appointed resident volunteers comprise the majority of most city boards and commissions. The role of a Council member on a commission is mostly a seat at the table: as a participant in the meeting and a messenger, sharing and reporting on the work of that commission to the rest of Council.
On June 30, 2019, CM Ackerman’s term as Council liaison to (and voting member of) the City Planning Commission expired. Starting in early June, city staff pointed out the need to anticipate this expired term and City Council began asking the Mayor to consider a different appointment. (According to state law, it is the mayor’s responsibility to present appointments for the planning commission, i.e. as Council members, we cannot present a candidate for appointment, we can only respond to the candidates proposed by the Mayor.) At our meeting on September 3rd— two months after CM Ackerman’s term had expired— the Mayor finally presented his planning commission appointment to City Council for discussion. He proposed that CM Ackerman be re-appointed. As the Mayor would/should have been able to predict, the majority of Council opposed CM Ackerman’s re-appointment.
There have now been two (soon to be three) Council meetings since that vote and the Mayor has still not acknowledged the majority vote of Council, the six Council members who would like to see someone else appointed as Council liaison to the City Planning Commission.
According to state law, a member of a municipal planning commission (including, in this case, a voting member from Council) remains a member “until his or her successor is appointed.” This clause anticipates the danger of a planning commission so small that it cannot function or maintain quorum (i.e. membership numbers must be preserved in order to perform duties). In this case, however, the state law does not protect Ann Arbor from a non-functional commission. There are “successor” candidates readily available for appointment as Council liaison to the Planning Commission. The Mayor could easily make an appointment that would be approved by Council; in the name of politics (and simply because he CAN), he chooses not to.
The state law is now a mechanism/loophole for preventing the natural consequence of elections: a significant change in elected members of Council should inevitably lead to changes in the work of City Council, changes in appointments.
Results of 2018
In 2018, Ann Arbor voters chose a Mayor and five Council members. Among Council members, one candidate stepped down (Kalisapathy), three incumbents were defeated (Westphal, Krapohl, and Warpehowski), and only one incumbent Council member was re-elected (Grand). Our two mayoral candidates were the incumbent (Taylor) and a sitting Council member (Eaton), who happened to be in the middle of a term. The mayoral race was the only city contest in which a resident could vote “against” a candidate (Eaton), knowing that he would continue to serve as a voice on City Council. The nuance of this is important, particularly if anyone were to argue that one of the six city elections was more meaningful than the others.
It is a safe bet that Ann Arbor voters who participated in the elections for Council members expected that, as elected members, we would have some influence. It is fairly common knowledge that the ten Council members work together with the Mayor to vote on issues that impact the City. It is likely that the majority of residents who voted to unseat incumbent Council members knew that they were voting for a different power dynamic and different perspectives (this is especially likely, given the fact that the Mayor actively campaigned for all of the incumbents).
This Planning Commission appointment is a good example of where a different composition of City Council should have generated a relatively small change. A single vote on Planning Commission is rarely decisive, but a different voice at the table might ask different questions and prompt different discussion. MLive reported on Council debate around this issue, but did not quote me. At that September 3rd meeting, I said this:
The way I see it, we have a lot to be grateful for in terms of how much time CM Ackerman has invested in the planning commission and the amount of responsibility that he took on. I think we can appreciate that at the same time as we acknowledge the appropriateness of shifting this responsibility onto somebody else. We’ve had a number of closed sessions, in the short time that I’ve been on Council, around legal issues about our planning decisions and about developments that are coming down the pike. I think it’s time for us to have somebody on planning who has a stronger legal background— I am not volunteering myself because I don’t have the amount of time that CM Ackerman has put into this job. I am grateful for the communication that I have had with my colleague around his job as our liaison to planning. I don’t mean to diminish any of that and so I would just like to make the comment that we can move forward with a decision to choose somebody else and it’s not about anyone being mean to anyone else, it’s not about a lack of respect, it’s just about making a different choice. Those are the reasons why I support somebody else on planning, specifically CM Eaton. Thank you.
I encourage you to read the MLive article to see what some of my colleagues had to say.
This is actually the third time that the Mayor has unilaterally blocked a majority vote from Council; the other two times were mayoral vetoes.
On April 1, 2019, Council voted in support of two resolutions related to the public safety and community mental health millage rebate: one preserved the budget allocations described by a previous Council’s non-binding resolution, the other formally stated that budgeting of this rebate was subject to annual review. These two resolutions, together, were meant to be a compromise— a way of pledging money for one year while also recognizing the legal fact that these rebate funds will enter our budgets in the future, untethered as to purpose, i.e. legally, future City Councils will always have discretion to re-direct funds like these as they see fit. I was still receiving grateful emails from advocacy groups (satisfied with this compromise) when the Mayor issued his veto of the second resolution. His veto came with the remarkable admission that it had no practical effect on budget or funding, “Not by one penny.”
On July 1, 2019, a majority of Council voted in support of a ballot question re: non-partisan elections, to be put to the voters on this November ballot. Again, the Mayor issued a veto. This veto was perhaps more stunning than the first. Where the first veto had no meaningful impact on anything, the second veto had the very real impact of preventing voters from engaging in our democratic process. Non-partisan elections were proposed as a way of including more voters in our local contests, shifting the local elections out of low-participation primaries and into higher turnout general elections. A ballot question on this issue would have been subject to the same community conversations, debate, and advocacy as any other issue put to a vote. With his veto, the Mayor sent a clear message: our community of voters cannot be trusted to debate or decide the question.
I am concerned by what I see as a pattern of behavior which amounts to denial of the results of 2018 elections and rejection of voter intent, generally. I hear desperate, illogical arguments that suggest we only had one local election in 2018, rather than six (e.g. “If Council Member Eaton wanted to appoint himself to the Planning Commission, he should have won the mayoral race”). Bizarrely, some folks seem to support use of legal loopholes and Mayoral vetoes in any situation, regardless of purpose or effect. So far, the impact of these unilateral Mayoral decisions have ranged from zero (“Not by one penny”) to explicit opposition to voter engagement. The Mayoral veto is in our charter as part of our local process, but the record of when and how it has been exercised recently is very strange. I sincerely hope that this pattern of behavior does not continue. I also hope that, as a community, we can agree that elections— all of them— matter.
In a CTN interview this past month, one of my colleagues asserted that, since the 2018 local elections, our City Council has become “hostile to each other… hostile to the public.” He cited an “unwillingness to consider ideas that are not necessarily things that you believed in” and recommended that Council should be “more professional, more considerate of one another, of the public, and of the process.” I agree.