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.
There are several big topics on this week’s agenda: final approval for a Right to Renew ordinance, a ballot question for nonpartisan local elections, and first reading for TC1 zoning on the corridor at West Stadium/Maple. For more on these issues, see my Additional Thoughts below.
Tomorrow afternoon, instead of my usual coffee hours at RoosRoast, I am inviting you to visit my backyard. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., I am hosting an event in support of Susan Schmidt, who is running for election to the Ann Arbor School Board. If you would like to join me during or after this event, just let me know! I anticipate fine weather and we can relax in my backyard!
Sunday October 2nd 1:00pm
I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons before City Council meetings. This week my coffee hours are in my backyard. Contact me for details.
City Council Regular Meeting
Monday October 3rd 7:00pm
Council Meetings are in person at City Council chambers. Public commentary is available either in person or via phone/Zoom – see the Legistar link for details.
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.
City Council Voting Chart for September 19, 2022
The voting chart I made for our most recent Council meeting.
A2Council.com Update for September 19, 2022
My summary of agenda items of interest from our most recent Council meeting, along with articles I’ve written, articles published on MLive, links to Legistar, and CTN’s YouTube video.
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.
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting
Monday October 3, 2022 7:00pm
The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda) is on the A2Gov Legistar website:
City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99). They are also streamed live on YouTube:
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 (22-1630) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – October 3, 2022
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 (22-1523) Appointments – Confirmations
These mayoral nominations were presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
- Angela Frances Peat – Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council
- Mike Berkowitz – Energy Commission
MC-2 (22-1610) Nominations and Appointments for October 3, 2022
These mayoral nominations are being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.
- Chris Allen – Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board of Directors
- Thressa Nichols – Downtown Development Authority
- Steven Brummer – Downtown Development Authority
- Danielle Vaughn – 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 (22-1592) Resolution to Amend the Hours of the City Clerk Satellite Office on the University of Michigan Campus for the November 8, 2022 General Election at the Museum of Art (UMMA) on Friday, October 14, 2022
CA-2 (22-1447) Resolution to Authorize a Best Source Purchase Order for Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) and Emulsion to Cadillac Asphalt, LLC (Not to Exceed $146,000.00), and to Appropriate $75,000.00 from the Central Stores Fund Balance (8 Votes Required)
CA-3 (22-1505) Resolution to Acknowledge and Make Public a Three-Year Cost Benefit Analysis and to Set a Public Hearing Regarding Access by Commercial Users to the City of Ann Arbor’s Fiber Optic Network in Compliance with Michigan’s METRO Act
CA-4 (22-1518) Resolution Levying Certain Delinquent Municipal Solid Waste, Board Up, Clean Up, Vacant Property Inspection Fees, Housing Inspection Fees, False Alarm Fees, and Fire Inspection Fees as Special Assessments and Ordering Collection Thereof
CA-5 (22-1520) Resolution to Assess Certain Delinquent Municipal Utility Charges as a Special Assessment and Ordering Collection Thereof
CA-6 (22-1524) Resolution to Accept an Easement for Public Right-of-Way at 800 S. Maple Road from the Ann Arbor Housing Commission (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (22-1547) Resolution to Accept the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Assistance to Fire?ghters Grant (AFG) Grant Funding Opportunity in the Amount of $49,493.47 in Federal Funding, to Approve Share of Matching Grant Funds $4,949.35 for the Purchase of Firefighting Turnout Gear Washer Extractors and Dryers, and to Appropriate $54,443.82 to the Major Grants Programs Fund (8 Votes Required)
CA-8 (22-1614) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Emergency Management Performance Grant Funds and Approve FY 2022 Emergency Management Performance Grant Agreement for Ann Arbor Emergency Management Program ($49,544) (8 Votes Required)
CA-9 (22-1551) Resolution to Approve Amendment of the 907 & 913 S. Main Street Development Agreement to Modify Sequence of Construction
CA-10 (22-1562) Resolution to Approve Third Amendment to State Street Lofts Development Agreement to Remove Parking Requirements and Terminate Parking Agreement
CA-11 (22-1557) Resolution to Approve Amendment to Midtown Ann Arbor Development Agreement to Modify Sequence of Construction
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 (22-1468) An Ordinance to Amend Section 8:530 and Add Section 8:531 to Chapter 105 (Housing Code) of Title VIII of the Ann Arbor City Code – (Right to Renew and Relocation Assistance) (ORD-22-15)
An ordinance would grant tenants a Right to Renew a lease, subject to specific exceptions (“just cause” for eviction). Landlords would adhere to a timeline for communicating terms of renewal (or explanation of non-renewal) consistent with the Early Leasing Ordinance: tenants will receive a good faith offer to renew (or notice of non-renewal with explanation) no later than 180 days before the end of the current lease period. A tenant will have thirty days (up to 150 days before the end of the current lease) to accept/reject terms of renewal. A landlord’s failure to comply will result in payment of relocation assistance to the tenant equal to two months rent, based on the current lease.
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 (22-1468) is the same as PH-1 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 “first reading”. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting (“second reading”), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.
C-1 (22-1472) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 190 Parcels in the W Stadium and N Maple Area to TC1 (Transit Corridor District), City-Initiated Rezoning, (CPC Recommendation: Approval – 6 Yeas and 0 Nays)
One hundred ninety parcels along West Stadium Boulevard/Maple Road and additional parcels along Pauline Boulevard and Dexter Avenue will be rezoned TC-1. This zoning district (Transit Corridor district) will permit unlimited density, create height minimums except in close proximity to pre-existing residential areas, establish maximum (rather than minimum) parking requirements, require mixed use, eliminate any open space requirements, and eliminate side and rear setback requirements except where adjacent to pre-existing residential areas.
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 (22-1579) Resolution to Restrict Turns on Red Downtown
The City Administrator is directed to prohibit right turns on red in the downtown and near-downtown area as bordered by Kingsley St., State St., Hoover Ave., and First St. and coordinate with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to provide an exemption from these turn restrictions for AAATA buses at intersections that serve multiple or frequent bus routes.
DC-2 (22-1624) Resolution Recognizing the Mitchell School Parent-Teacher Organization, Inc. as a Civic Nonprofit Organization Operating in Ann Arbor for the Purpose of Obtaining a Charitable Gaming License
The Mitchell School Parent-Teacher Organization, Inc. will be recognized as a community-based nonprofit in order to apply for a state license to conduct a raffle on October 28, 2022.
DC-3 (22-1626) Resolution to Order Election, Approve Charter Amendment of the Ann Arbor City Charter Sections to Establish Non-Partisan Nomination and Election for the Offices of Mayor and Council and Determine Ballot Language for this Amendment (7 Votes Required)
A charter amendment would be placed on the ballot 11/7/23 for voter approval, establishing non-partisan nomination and elections to the city offices for Mayor and members of Council. This removes party affiliation from the ballot and also ensures a contested election in November if more than one candidate files to run for the offices of Mayor or City Council. If there are two or fewer candidates, there is no primary election in August and the candidates appear on the ballot in November, without party affiliation. If more than two candidates petition to run for Mayor or City Council, all candidates would appear on a primary ballot in August, without party affiliation. The two primary candidates receiving the highest number of votes in August would then appear on the November ballot, again without party affiliation.
DC-4 (22-1628) Resolution to Revise Chapter 40 – Rights of Way, Street Trees, Vegetation Management
Revisions to Chapter 40 (Rights of Way, Street Trees, Vegetation Management) will be presented to Council no later than the second meeting in October, as approved by the Environmental Commission and as refined by staff.
DC-5 (22-1631) Resolution to Approve the City of Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Agreement for The Standard
An affordable housing agreement for the Standard (South Main Street and East William Street) will include two affordable housing units administered by the County’s Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) and offered at a rent level affordable to households earning up to 80% of AMI which will be available for 99 years.
DC-6 (22-1632) Resolution Terminating the Local State of Emergency in Response to COVID-19
This resolution would terminate the local state of emergency effective immediately to be consistent with the lifting of state of emergency at the state and county level. City vaccination and electronic meeting policies would continue.
DC-7 (22-1643) Resolution in Support of Improved Safety Barriers at Parking Decks
If approved, City Council would urge the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) to pursue installation of improved safety barriers at City parking decks, where people have been known to fall or jump intentionally or unintentionally. A similar resolution was approved in 2017 and resulted in the installation of temporary (but less than effective) fencing at City parking decks.
This week’s agenda includes several significant issues that Council has previously considered:
RIGHT TO RENEW
The “Right to Renew” ordinance amendment was approved unanimously at first reading on 9/19/22, with a lengthy bandwagon of cosponsors. I look forward to seeing it pass at second reading this week. I first proposed this policy in July 2021, when it could have been incorporated into (and used as a tool for enforcing) the Early Leasing Ordinance. In 2021, a majority of Council could not be persuaded to support Right to Renew, so the Early Leasing Ordinance was passed without the provision. That failure led to a leasing season in which many student tenants relied on the timeline described in the Early Leasing Ordinance (ELO) but the City had no effective method of enforcement (i.e. some landlords continued to lease housing units on an early timeline and tenants were displaced).
A draft of Right to Renew ordinance language was first sent to City Attorneys in March 2022 and has been delayed for months. The current ordinance includes explanation (recommended by City Attorneys) that it will not apply to any leases signed prior to enactment. The sudden Council enthusiasm for Right to Renew caught me by surprise at our last meeting. It is worth noting: approval of the Right to Renew ordinance was delayed long enough so that it will not apply to the many hundreds of student leases that were signed for the 2022-23 school year. At first reading, several Council members repeated the talking point that their delay of the Right to Renew ordinance had undoubtedly generated a better result. The actual result of the delay: two student leasing seasons have now passed without the benefit of this reform.
Agenda item C-1 is first reading for a proposed rezoning of 190 parcels (210 acres) at Stadium/Maple. The corridor would be rezoned to Transit Corridor District, TC-1.
The TC-1 zoning category was first applied to the Ward 4 corridor at South State Street and Eisenhower. When initially proposed, nearby residents expressed virtually no resistance or concerns about it. I am very familiar with this area of Ward 4 and I voted for the rezoning as a strategy to redevelop an area that currently provides almost no accessible benefit to the adjacent neighborhood. Critics of the State/Eisenhower rezoning pointed out that a significant portion of this corridor is owned or affiliated with a single business entity which, coincidentally, is a leading financial contributor to the Mayor and his allies.
In sharp contrast to the rezoning of State/Eisenhower, the current proposal for rezoning at Stadium/Maple has generated significant resistance and concern from area residents, who enjoy a relatively accessible corridor of retail there now. I wrote about the public engagement meeting that happened earlier this summer:
In response to concerns, City staff wrote a memo that offered a few ideas for adjustments to the proposed zoning district. Most notable: staff proposed that this corridor might be considered in parts rather than as a whole, acknowledging the fact that sections of this corridor are very very different. You can read that memo here:
This corridor is not a monolith: a large area to the northeast has no residential neighbors, but the western (and southeastern) section of this corridor is directly adjacent to neighborhoods. On streets like Burwood, Collingwood, and Pauline – where the zoning district boundary is drawn mid-block – the rezoning would place multi-story buildings in the literal backyards of relatively small, single story homes.
On July 26, 2022, City staff suggestions (including the idea to adjust height minimums in a small portion of the corridor) were considered and rejected by the four members of an Ordinance Revision Committee, a subset of the City Planning Commission. The recommendation of the Ordinance Revision Committee – to move forward without any changes or adjustments to the zoning district – was summarized in a City staff memo:
That staff memo includes this explanation:
Staff have not incorporated any requests or comments into the proposed rezoning petition, other than those made by the Ordinance Revisions Committee. However, staff are ready to assist in revising the proposed ordinance to amend the Zoning Map at the direction of Planning Commission prior to its recommendation to City Council.
On August 16, 2022, the City Planning Commission (an unelected body of Mayoral appointees) discussed the issue. (Two commissioners with business/conflicts of interest in the area recused themselves, another commissioner was absent.) In the course of that debate, the chair of the Planning Commission (a landscape architect) identified a significant difference between the Stadium corridor and the State/Eisenhower area:
Part of me is a little bit hesitant to do the same thing we did on State and Eisenhower here in that the street structure feels really different to me than State and Eisenhower in terms of the experience of the pedestrian and green. I don’t know if you all addressed this in your discussions but if I look at the right of way along State and Eisenhower there is, for the most part, a robust green area and then the sidewalk where you can put lots of street trees and things like that and you have plenty of sight distance if you’re pulling forward to see pedestrians and things like that. Here, on Stadium, it is right up against the sidewalk. It’s the sidewalk and then the curb…in general I feel like the TC-1 somewhat fits but this part feels really different to me in terms of the character of this area versus State and Eisenhower… I’m just wondering if there’s any way to be able to tweak this so that it just feels more appropriate to what the reality is.
Further, she raised a serious safety concern: the minimal setbacks prescribed in this zoning district create a dangerous hazard on a corridor dominated by driveways. As currently configured, with large, open setbacks, vehicle traffic in and out of driveways on Stadium can at least see pedestrians and cyclists. I regularly bike this area to access retail and I must carefully watch out for vehicle traffic at these driveways. The TC1 zoning proposed for this corridor would permit zero setbacks — motorized and non-motorized traffic alike would struggle to even see oncoming traffic at these driveways.
I encourage anyone who might be interested in this issue to watch this part of the discussion at the City Planning Commission:
This past week, local residents organized a public meeting to discuss the details of this zoning proposal and likely consequences. None of the organizers opposed the idea of rezoning the area to promote increased, transit oriented development but – like the chair of the Planning Commission – they shared concerns about specific terms. I did not attend that meeting, but I was intrigued by the commentary I read online about it later. In various platforms of social media, proponents of this zoning category flatly dismissed or mocked anyone with skepticism as ignorant, self-interested “NIMBY’s.” As so often happens, loud voices online have characterized this issue in terms of broad insults, aggressively distorting a serious, complicated issue into a decidedly unserious, simplistic frame. Two Council Members in attendance at the meeting adopted an approach that was also not constructive: they responded to presentations from an attorney, real estate developer, and Harvard Ph.D. with general accusations of misinformation and bias.
Local policy like this one can and should be considered thoughtfully and seriously by your elected leaders.
BALLOT QUESTION: NON PARTISAN ELECTIONS
Agenda item DC-3 will be the third time that Council considers putting a ballot question to the voters for non-partisan local elections. Twice, a majority of Council voted to put this question to voters and twice the Mayor has vetoed it (July 2019 and August 2020).
I wrote about the ballot question for nonpartisan elections when it was proposed in July 2019:
I wrote about it when it was proposed again in August 2020:
I have consistently supported both nonpartisan elections and ranked choice voting. In August 2020, Council considered a ballot question for ranked choice voting. I voted in support of that ballot question but it was defeated. At the time, I wrote a lengthy explanation of why and how ranked choice voting, alone, did not effectively achieve the stated goals: “Ranked choice voting is clearly a much better measure of community preference (particularly among more than two candidates) but it works best outside of party primaries, where voters can rank multiple candidates regardless of party. If Ann Arbor aims to have inclusive elections that measure community preference best, our local contests must happen in November, when our student population is in town to vote.”
In August 2021, I joined a majority of Council in voting to approve a ballot question for ranked choice local elections. In November 2021, the question appeared on the ballot and was approved by voters. State law does not currently permit ranked choice voting, so the ballot question included a very big caveat, that such elections would only be adopted when and if State law ever changes to allow it, i.e. the question was entirely hypothetical, dependent on State action. If we were serious about the future implementation of ranked choice voting, then non-partisan elections in November are the most appropriate step in preparation for them.
I support ranked choice voting because it addresses the challenge of a three-way split. For example, in Ward 4, two of the last five Council races were won with a plurality rather than a majority. I also support more inclusive November elections that are likely to result in more participation. In the Democratic primary this past August, only 25% of registered voters participated. In addition to excluding many people on summer vacation, these August elections exclude all local residents who live here as students during the school year.
I recently stumbled on an excellent article that explains how ranked choice voting in 1975 elected the first (and only) African American mayor in Ann Arbor, Al Wheeler. At that time, our local government included a more progressive third party – the Human Rights Party – and local contests were decided in April, when students were in town.
I recognize the value of these ballot questions as an opportunity to include our community in important decision making. Only very specific policy matters even require a City vote (taxes/millage, charter amendments), all of which are worthy of local consideration and debate. It is a matter of trust: if we believe that Ann Arbor is a City of educated and thoughtful people, we should not fear a public vote on issues of importance.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!