This week on City Council, we have a particularly long consent agenda (a lot of street closures for spring/summer events!), four public hearings around zoning and development, and some new/unfinished business related to the water rates and (again) the millage rebate funds.
Before I jump into my summary of items on the agenda, I’d like to invite you to my coffee hours today (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!
Council Caucus Sunday April 14th (7:00-9:00 PM) 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)
If there is public interest, then the caucus sessions will continue every Sunday before regular Council meetings.
For more information about Council Caucus, see the city website at: https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-council/Pages/CityCouncilMeetings.aspx
Seventh/Scio Church and Seventh/Stadium Intersections
This past week, CM Jack Eaton and I met with city staff to discuss the feedback they got from residents about the intersections of Scio Church/Seventh and Stadium/Seventh (both of which are in Ward 4). We talked for over an hour about the feedback offered by residents and how to respond to it. Staff has planned another meeting to discuss these intersections, including a possible adjustment to the current configuration of Scio Church/Seventh. Details are below:
April 25th meeting for Seventh/Scio Church and Seventh/Stadium intersections https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/april-25th-meeting-for-seventh-scio-church-and-seventh-stadium-intersections
In addition to writing this newsletter, I post regular 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.
Below are links to items I posted since the previous newsletter, and posts about meetings and events coming up in the next two weeks. You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/
City Council News
Council Caucus on Sunday nights https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/council-caucus-on-sunday-nights
City Council Voting Chart for Apr 1, 2019 https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/city-council-voting-chart-for-apr-1-2019
Ward 4 News/City News
Village Oaks/Chaucer Court storm sewer overflow project starts early April https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/village-oaks-chaucer-court-storm-sewer-overflow-project-starts-early-april
Ann Arbor-Saline Road construction begins April 11 https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/ann-arbor-saline-road-construction-begins-april-11
April 25th meeting for Seventh/Scio Church and Seventh/Stadium intersections https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/april-25th-meeting-for-seventh-scio-church-and-seventh-stadium-intersections
April 28th Ann Arbor Earth Day Festival https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/april-28th-ann-arbor-earth-day-festival
May 1st meeting about Snyder Edgewood Stormwater Improvement Project https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/may-1st-meeting-about-snyder-edgewood-stormwater-improvement-project
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: https://www.a2gov.org/services/pages/report-a-problem.aspx
City News and Announcements This is a helpful link to updates on events and opportunities in Ann Arbor through City Hall: https://www.a2gov.org/news/pages/default.aspx
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: https://www.a2gov.org/services/Pages/E-mailAlertSubscription.aspx
Volunteer Boards and Commissions Membership on these 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
HIGHLIGHTS Council Meeting Agenda 4/15/19
Below is my summary of some issues on the City Council Agenda this week, with links to more information about each of them.
The full agenda in PDF format (along with links to each proposed ordinance/resolution) can be found on the A2Gov Legistar website here: https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=656003&GUID=6FB40C07-C002-4C48-BEDE-64A0090DCFF1&Options=info&Search=
If you have comments about any of these issues, feel free to email me at my official City email: ENelson@A2gov.org
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 (19-0275) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Zoning of 0.6 Acre from C2B (Business Service District) to R2A (Two-Family Dwelling District), including 606, 610, 614, 616, 618, 622, and 628 South Ashley Street (CPC Recommendation: Denial - 0 Yeas and 8 Nays) (ORD-19-06) An area of .6 acres that includes 606, 610, 614, 616, 618, 622, and 628 South Ashley Street will be re-zoned from C2B (Business Service District) to R2A (Two-Family Dwelling District). This is to discourage commercial use and maintain existing scale and character, as directed by City Council resolution from 9/4/18 (sponsored by CM Chip Smith). The Planning Commission recommended denial (0-8)
PH-2/B-2 (19-0343) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 58 Lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1D (Single Family Dwelling District) and 4 Lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1E (Single Family Dwelling District), West Hoover Avenue/West Davis Avenue Area Rezoning, (CPC Recommendation: Denial - 5 Yeas and 3 Nays) (ORD-19-07) This would rezone 62 lots on Edgewood Place, W. Hoover, W. Davis, Wilder Place, and Myron Court to protect the existing lower-density development west of Main Street, in compliance with the Master Plan. This is to discourage commercial use and maintain existing scale and character, as directed by City Council resolution from 9/4/18 (sponsored by CM Chip Smith). City staff’s plan would rezone most (58) of the lots to R1D, rezone four lots to R1E, and keep the remaining eight lots zoned R4C. The Planning Commission recommended denial (5-3)
PH-3/DB-1 (19-0621) Resolution to Approve the Picazo/Erb-Downward Annexation, 1.16 Acres, 2705 Newport Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays) A single parcel at 2705 Newport Road will be annexed into the city. Its current use is consistent with adjacent zoning and the master plan. (Council will take action on zoning, after annexation is complete.)
PH-4 /DB-2 (19-0458) Resolution to Approve 327 E. Hoover Site Plan (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) A four story apartment building is proposed on the north side of Hoover, immediately west of the railroad tracks. An existing two-story storage building would be demolished to make way for the six-unit building that includes 885 s.f. of retail on the first floor.
B-1 (19-0275) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Zoning of 0.6 Acre from C2B (Business Service District) to R2A (Two-Family Dwelling District), including 606, 610, 614, 616, 618, 622, and 628 South Ashley Street (CPC Recommendation: Denial - 0 Yeas and 8 Nays) (ORD-19-06) This is the same as PH-1 above
B-2 (19-0343) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 58 Lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1D (Single Family Dwelling District) and 4 Lots from R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) to R1E (Single Family Dwelling District), West Hoover Avenue/West Davis Avenue Area Rezoning, (CPC Recommendation: Denial - 5 Yeas and 3 Nays) (ORD-19-07) This is the same as PH-2 above
C-1 (19-0453) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 0.96 Acre from TWP (Township District) to R1C (Single-Family District), Dantzler Property, 2861 Stone School (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) A property at 2861 Stone School (south of Packard) will be zoned R1C, single family district, and officially annexed into the city.
C-2 (19-0457) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 0.52 Acre from TWP (Township District) to R1B (Single-Family District), Ganger Property, 2660 Apple Way (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) A property at 2660 Apple Way will be zoned R1B, single family district, and officially annexed into the city.
C-3 (19-0608) An Ordinance to Amend Section 2:63 of Chapter 29 (Water Rates) of Title II of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor This is an adjustment (6% increase) to water rates, due to increasing operating and maintenance costs and to increase funding for capital improvement projects.
C-4 (19-0607) An Ordinance to Amend Section 2:64 of Chapter 29 (Sewer Rates) of Title II of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor This is an adjustment (7% increase) to sewer rates, in order to recover revenues required for the purposes of debt coverage and increasing operational costs of the sewage disposal system. In addition, revenue from this rate increase will be utilized for capital expenditures required to maintain and rehabilitate the sewer collection system.
C-5 (19-0609) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 2:69 of Chapter 29 (Stormwater Rates) of Title II of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor This is an adjustment (13% increase) to stormwater rates to increase the level of service, including: best management practices, green infrastructure, monitoring of the conveyance systems, tree pruning, education and rehabilitation of infrastructure.
DC-1 (19-0673) Resolution to Amend the 2019 Council Calendar A work session has been added (April 22, 2019) for budget purposes, to discuss the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and the Downtown Development Authority.
DC-2 (19-0712) Resolution to Express the City of Ann Arbor’s Support for HB 4025, Regarding the Tax Treatment of So-called ‘Dark Stores’ A state law (HB 4025) would standardize and potentially increase the assessed property values of empty big-box retail spaces for local tax purposes. Currently, such spaces are often under-valued, due to deed restrictions that limit potential uses. The law would promote a universal valuation criteria and more comprehensive analysis of valuation re: cost/sales/income.
DC-3 (19-0720) Resolution to Override Mayor’s Veto of R-19-137 (8 Votes Required) A response to Mayor Taylor’s veto of last meeting's resolution DC-4 (19-0581) "Resolution Providing FY20 Budget Policy Direction Consistent with the Results of the Community Survey on the Recommended Allocation of the 2017 Washtenaw County Mental Health and Public Safety Millage Proceeds of $2.2M Annually". I have written my thoughts about this veto in the "Additional Thoughts" section below.
DC-4 (19-0721) Resolution to Close Spring Street between Miller and Cherry on Sunday, May 5, 2019 for the Water Hill MusicFest Continued Special Event A street will be closed May 5, 2019 for the Water Hill MusicFest Continued
DC-5 (19-0724) Resolution to Revise the City of Ann Arbor’s Water Rate Structure Adopted in July 2018 City staff is directed to re-assess water rate fee structures, considering the additional analysis provided by Arcadis. Specific direction: eliminate the fourth tier of water rates for residential customers (revert back to the high-to-low rate range that existed in July 2018) and adopt a seasonal rate structure for the commercial customer class that reflects peaking impacts on the system (uniform summer, lower winter)
DB-1 (19-0621) Resolution to Approve the Picazo/Erb-Downward Annexation, 1.16 Acres, 2705 Newport Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays) This is the same as PH-3 above
DB-2 (19-0458) Resolution to Approve 327 E. Hoover Site Plan (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 7 Yeas and 0 Nays) This is the same as PH-4 above
DS-1 (19-0567) Resolution No. 3 Establishing a Public Hearing on May 20, 2019 for the Northside STEAM Safe Routes to School Sidewalk Gap Special Assessment Project A public hearing will happen on May 20, 2019 for the Northside STEAM Safe Routes to School Sidewalk Gap Special Assessment Project (Traver Road).
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.
Our last meeting was full of surprises, and even more surprises a couple days later…
Ahead of the last meeting, I wrote about two different agenda items that related to use of the millage rebate:
A resolution from Mayor Taylor and CM Griswold that committed all the funding allocations promised in 2017, but with explicit explanation that the resolution “does not ratify, void, modify, or have any bearing whatsoever” on that previous 2017 commitment of millage rebate funds.
A resolution from CM Lumm that allocated millage rebate funds in close to exact proportions dictated by a public survey authorized by City Council on November 19, 2018. At a previous budget meeting, the city administrator told us that he would be bound to follow the 2017 resolution in the absence of further direction from council. The Lumm resolution offered that “further direction” but the Taylor/Griswold explicitly did not.
Ultimately, City Council passed both resolutions. The Lumm resolution passed only after helpful amendments from CM Ackerman, acknowledging funds already allocated by the Taylor/Griswold resolution. I would not have supported the Lumm resolution before it was amended by CM Ackerman. I also had questions about how the allocations lined up with previously identified goals, i.e. were there meaningful budget line items that matched these allocations? I was given specific examples of how the funds would be used and I was satisfied that the allocations were reasonable. I also asked if the numbers listed in the resolution for this year’s budget were intended to apply to future budgets re: the millage rebate (answer: they were not).
When both resolutions passed, it seemed a perfectly reasonable compromise: the 2017 commitments of funding were guaranteed, and the millage rebate funds were allocated in a way that acknowledged community concerns. Council received many emails, thanking us for committing those funds as promised in 2017. For months, many advocates for the 2017 resolution budget commitments have told me: it did not matter where the money came from, the only important thing was that the funding happen.
A few days after our meeting, Mayor Taylor issued a veto of the Lumm Resolution, effectively destroying the compromise that acknowledged community concerns.
The Taylor/Griswold budget commitments are meaningless without anything to displace the 2017 resolution. Standing alone, the Taylor/Griswold budget commitments simply re-affirm the 2017 resolution; it is the equivalent of heads I win, tails you lose. However, in this case no one “wins,” because we are told explicitly that the veto itself has no impact on any funding for anything.
In his explanation, Mayor Taylor reassures us that his veto will not reduce any of the spending included in the Lumm resolution (mental health services, street repairs, safe drinking water initiatives, water/sewer infrastructure improvements, or public safety/police), “Not by one penny.” Though not in his explanation, it’s worth pointing out: the Mayor’s veto also will not increase funding for any of the purposes listed in the Taylor/Griswold resolution.
The Mayor expects this obstinate position— a protest with admittedly no effect as to outcome— to be understood as an effort to “maintain our fidelity” and “an obligation of honor.”
In his explanation, the Mayor suggests that the use of a public opinion survey to influence even a small amount of budget is “unwise and unreliable” because we are in a representative democracy, where elected representatives are obligated by “fiduciary duties.” According to the Mayor, “[the public] do not have the benefit of the input of others.” I can accept that this is his position. However, I would note: funding for the survey was approved by City Council on 11/19/18 with clear explanation that it be used to guide spending of the millage rebate funds.
If, as he says now, public survey is an “unwise and unreliable” way to guide spending decisions, the Mayor could and should have vetoed that 11/19/18 resolution and saved the city $50,000. The current veto happens so late in the budgeting process that there is virtually no time for staff to even adjust budget proposals yet one more time. It would seem that the city spent $50,000 so that the Mayor could effectively run down the clock.
In the media, one of my colleagues is quoted as using the word “undemocratic” to describe this veto. I don’t think that’s the right word and I don’t think policy debate is enhanced by that kind of heated rhetoric. A mayoral veto is clearly part of our process at council, it is part of our democracy. However, I legitimately struggle to make sense of this veto on this particular issue. A few words that come to my mind as I have pondered the veto: ineffectual, self-serving, impulsive. Mostly, though, it is petty.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
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