Welcome to everyone who is new to this newsletter! Before every 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 four public hearings (for re-zoning and site plans), extended hours for downtown street closures, a special event permit for a Ward 4 business (Drip House Coffee) to have outdoor service, and a very exciting plan to maintain affordable senior housing at Lurie Terrace.
Election Drop Boxes
Many in our community have noticed changes (for the worse) in our federal postal service. I assume that many of you are like me, reading news that the decline in our mail service is intentional and purposeful. As a national issue impacting all of us, the dismantling of this public good is extremely alarming. Locally, we have reason to be concerned about the USPS because our November election is likely to depend on it to deliver absentee ballots to residents as well as deliver those completed ballots to our City Clerk.
This November, if our mail is not reliable and crowded polling places feel unsafe, we can expect voters to rely on absentee ballot drop boxes. The downtown location of City Hall is not a convenient location for everyone to hand-deliver absentee ballots. According to City staff, the absentee ballot drop boxes used this past month are quite old, and are also not large enough for a high turnout election. Both of these problems will be addressed before the November election.
In November 2019, City Council unanimously approved a resolution to establish satellite locations for registration and absentee balloting in even-year November elections:
Ann Arbor is very lucky to have the excellent Jackie Beaudry as our City Clerk, supervising and coordinating our elections. Jackie and her staff have spent many months planning for the upcoming Presidential election, when we expect high participation and high numbers of absentee ballots. Jackie Beaudry has already purchased new absentee drop boxes and City Council recently approved her request for a high speed absentee ballot tabulator.
I don’t yet know the proposed satellite locations for registration and absentee ballot drop boxes, but I will keep you posted about details as I learn them.
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:
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Virtual Coffee Hour
Sunday Aug 16th 3:00pm
As we move into a new school year, I will again be holding coffee hours on Sunday afternoons before scheduled City Council meetings. These will be "virtual" meetings held via Zoom. Please email me for a link: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday Aug 16th 7:00pm
We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are holding Caucus via Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Monday Aug 17th 7:00pm
Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. As with the previous meetings, public comment will be audio only using Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Special Work Session
Thursday Aug 20th 4:45pm (Interviews start at 5pm)
This Thursday, Council will be interviewing finalists for the position of City Administrator. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.
Information about the four candidates can be found here:
Local COVID-19 Information and Links
City of Ann Arbor COVID-19 Updates
Washtenaw County COVID-19 Updates
State of Michigan COVID-19 Updates
Ann Arbor Public Schools have released 2020-21 school year plans
School district homepage: https://www.a2schools.org
Reimagine Learning 2020-21: https://www.a2schools.org/domain/4017
Ann Arbor District Library branches are re-opening in phases
Library homepage: https://aadl.org
Re-opening Updates: https://aadl.org/reopeningplans
University of Michigan - Fall classes to be delivered in variety of formats
University homepage: https://umich.edu
University COVID-19 Updates: https://coronavirus.umich.edu
A2ELNEL.com Website Updates
In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.
You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/
City Council Voting Chart for Aug 10, 2020
Road Repair Closures Aug 12th-29th (W Stadium and surrounding roads)
The following roads will have intermittent lane closures from Aug 12th-29th: West Stadium Boulevard, Dexter Avenue, East Liberty Street, Thompson Street, Boardwalk Drive, Victor’s Way, Glazier Way, and Pittsfield Boulevard. These are preliminary repairs in advance of surface preservation work planned for early to mid-September 2020.
Packard Rd closed at South Blvd (Aug 12th - 23rd)
Packard Road will be closed at South Boulevard due to water main work.
Boardwalk Drive Temporary Detour (July 20th - Aug 29th)
Boardwalk Drive (from East Eisenhower Parkway to Northerly End) will have traffic detours starting July 20th. A map of the detour is attached.
South Main Street Intermittent Lane Closures (July 20th - Aug 19th)
Due to asphalt path construction, there will be intermittent lane closures on South Main Street (between West Eisenhower Parkway and Ann Arbor-Saline Road) starting July 20th
A2COUNCIL Updates (A2COUNCIL.com)
For anyone interested in understanding and analyzing the recent work of Council, I have created a resource at A2COUNCIL.com with summaries of issues and direct links to City documents. For each City Council meeting since November 2018, you can find links to the City's Legistar website, CTN's YouTube video, and links to my newsletters and voting charts. I have listed agenda items of interest from each meeting, along with articles I've written and articles published on MLive.
A reminder about a few city resources:
A2 Fix It
This is an online system for alerting the city to problems in your neighborhood (e.g. potholes, graffiti, garbage pickup). This is the city’s preferred method for hearing your complaint so they can direct appropriate staff to address it. I’m happy to hear from you, too, but city staff tell me that the online A2FixIt system is actually the quickest and fastest way to get a response to the problem. Information about A2FixIt (and explanation of more urgent issues and appropriate numbers to call) is here:
City News and Announcements
The City posts news stories on events and opportunities in Ann Arbor here:
Subscribe to City Email Updates
Subscribe to receive emailed updates from the City on various topics here:
Boards and Commissions Applications
Membership on Ann Arbor Boards and Commissions is constantly changing as terms end and appointees step down. We need you! You can find openings at the following link (or contact me directly)
HIGHLIGHTS Council Meeting Agenda 8/17/20
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 at my official City email: ENelson@A2gov.org
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 Aug 17 (7:00pm) Electronic Meeting
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: https://www.youtube.com/user/ctnannarbor https://a2ctn.viebit.com/
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 (20-1257) August 17, 2020 Agenda Response Memo and eComments
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.
Communications from the Mayor
MC-1 (20-1148) Nominations and Appointments These nominations from the Mayor were introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.
Larry Kerber - Energy Commission
Brigit Macomber - Energy Commission (reappointment)
Ember McCoy - Energy Commission (reappointment)
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 (20-1061) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order for License Subscription to NetMotion Software, Inc. ($38,169.60) (8 Votes Required)
CA-2 (20-1110) Resolution to Approve Schedule 33 to the Interagency Agreement for Collaborative Technology and Services for Support Services for the Dell Compellent Storage Area Network with Washtenaw County ($41,560.17)
CA-3 (20-1163) Resolution to Approve a Conduit Use Agreement and Reimbursement Agreement for Duct Construction with MCIMETRO ACCESS TRANSMISSION SERVICES CORP (8 Votes Required)
CA-4 (20-1131) Resolution to Adopt an Affordable Housing Waitlist Policy
CA-5 (20-1150) Resolution to Approve and Accept Various Grant Fund Opportunities and Appropriate Funding ($13,274,184) (8 Votes Required)
CA-6 (20-1043) Resolution to Approve the Fuller Park Parking Lot Land Lease with the University of Michigan (8 Votes Required)
CA-7 (20-1153) Resolution to Accept a $470,000.00 Grant and Approve a Parcel Contract with USDA-NRCS for a Conservation Easement on Property in Northfield Township
CA-8 (20-1154) Resolution to Accept a $1,749,300.00 Grant and Approve a Parcel Contract with USDA-NRCS for a Conservation Easement on Property in Salem Township
CA-10 (20-1135) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Purchase Order with the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) for Railroad Inspection and Flagging Services for the Southside Interceptor Sanitary Diversion Project ($30,000.00)
CA-11 (20-1129) Resolution to Approve a Two (2) Year Purchasing Agreement for Bituminous Patching Materials from Cadillac Asphalt, LLC, ITB-4639 ($118,000.00 Annually)
CA-12 (20-1151) Resolution to Approve Professional Services Agreement with Eurofins Eaton Analytical, LLC to purchase Certified Laboratory PFAS Testing, RFP #20-25 (estimated $34,700.00/year)
Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.
PH-1/B-1 (20-0657) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district), MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Rezoning, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays) (Ordinance No. ORD-20-19)
A 4.5-acre parcel at 3611-3621 Plymouth Road would be rezoned from PUD (Bolgos Property Planned Unit Development district) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district) to allow the site to be redeveloped with a new hotel and renovated restaurant. The original PUD was established in 1973, updated in 1982 and 1986. In 2015, it was rezoned in part to C3 to allow for redevelopment of a Plum Market.
PH-2/DB-1 (20-0658) Resolution to Approve MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Planned Project Site Plan and Development Agreement, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the site plan associated with the zoning change requested in PH-1/B-1.
PH-3/B-2 (20-0942) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from R5 (Hotel District) to C3 (Fringe Commercial District), 2800 Jackson Road Hotels, 2800 Jackson Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
A 4.5-acre parcel at 2800 Jackson Road would be re-zoned from R5 (Hotel District) to C3 (Fringe Commercial District) so that the site can be redeveloped with two hotels. The former site of the Michigan Inn (demolished in 2009) is currently vacant. The C3 district is recommended as most appropriate current zoning designation as it allows all types of commercial uses including hotels and restaurants. Public sidewalks will be installed as part of the project.
PH-4/DB-2 (20-1123) Resolution to Approve 2800 Jackson Road Hotels Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2800 Jackson (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the site plan associated with the zoning change requested in PH-3/B-2.
Ordinances - Second Reading
In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances were approved at a previous Council meeting, and are also subject to a public hearing as listed above.
B-1 (20-0657) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to C3 (Fringe Commercial district), MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Rezoning, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays) (Ordinance No. ORD-20-19)
This is the same as PH-1 above.
DB-1 (20-0658) Resolution to Approve MMG Plymouth Road Mixed Use Planned Project Site Plan and Development Agreement, 3611-3621 Plymouth Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-2 above.
B-2 (20-0942) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 4.5 Acres from R5 (Hotel District) to C3 (Fringe Commercial District), 2800 Jackson Road Hotels, 2800 Jackson Road, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-3 above.
DB-2 (20-1123) Resolution to Approve 2800 Jackson Road Hotels Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2800 Jackson (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)
This is the same as PH-4 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 (20-0985) Resolution to Endorse HB 4738 and the Creation of a Statewide Crosswalk Law
State House Bill 4738 creates a statewide standard for crosswalk safety that would be effective across the entire state and would replace competing versions of crosswalk laws that have adopted by local communities in Michigan. The City of Ann Arbor would endorse HB 4738 and directs the City Administrator to communicate this endorsement to Ann Arbor’s State Legislative Delegation and to otherwise direct the resources of the city to support this bill’s passage. (postponed from 7/6/20)
DC-2 (20-1218) Resolution to Approve the Acquisition and Renovation of Lurie Terrace by the Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Corporation, an Affiliated Non-Profit Entity of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, Approve 5 FTE’s and appropriate funds ($260,000) (8 Votes Required)
The City would approve a plan for acquisition and renovation of Lurie Terrace, through the Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Corporation (a nonprofit entity of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission). A total of 136 units will be maintained as affordable housing for seniors. Funding arrangements include a HUD-insured loan, $319,000 in the Ann Arbor Housing Commission FY21 budget, and up to $1 million from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.
Moving forward, 40% of all tenants will be limited to 60% of AMI or less and 60% of all tenants will be limited to 80% of AMI or less; all existing tenants are grandfathered in, regardless of income. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below for more information.
DC-3 (20-1238) Resolution to Approve Outdoor Seating for Drip House Coffee, 1336 South Main Street, for the Rest of the Season as a Special Event Sale
Drip House Coffee at 1336 South Main Street (NW corner of Main/Stadium) will be permitted to have outdoor seating until November 1, 2020, in accordance with standards for a Special Event Sale. Typically, outdoor seating would be permitted under Temporary Outdoor Sales, but space restrictions (10% of business’ floor area) are an obstacle during this pandemic. Drip House Coffee has interior space of 1300 sq. ft. and plans for an outdoor service area of 500 sq. ft. (3 parking spaces).
DC-4 (20-1258) Resolution to Amend Resolution R-20-194 - Resolution to Approve Downtown Street Closures for Restaurant and Retail Use During the Time of Mandated Physical Distancing and Resolution R-20-302 - Resolution to Extend Resolution R-20-194 - Resolution to Approve Downtown Street Closures for Restaurant and Retail Use During the Time of Mandated Physical Distancing to Extend Sunday Closure Hours
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. Street closures will be permitted 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 hours of Sunday street closures to 11:59 p.m. (previously, Sunday street closures ended at 8 p.m.) The street closures are approved as “special event” permits at locations on Washington, Main, Liberty, Detroit, Maynard, State, S. University, and Church.
The most exciting item on this week’s agenda is the agreement to purchase Lurie Terrace. For anyone who does not know: Lurie Terrace is a senior community of 136 units offering below-market-rate housing on West Huron Street, near downtown. Since 1964, it has been owned and managed by a nonprofit foundation, meeting the goal and purpose of providing affordable housing for older residents (rents range from $431 for an efficiency unit to $1246 for a two bedroom unit). The units are genuinely affordable and also currently available to anyone aged 62 and over, regardless of income.
Council first discussed this opportunity in the fall of 2019, when we learned that the management of Lurie Terrace was considering a sale of the property. Management of Lurie Terrace approached the City, hoping we might be a buyer that would continue their mission. If the property was sold to a private developer, the community would be redeveloped as market rate housing - likely very expensive housing, given its proximity to downtown. The proceeds from such a sale would be significant (and these proceeds would be re-invested in other community nonprofits), but the existing affordable units would be lost and residents would be displaced.
When Council first considered opportunities related to this property, one of my colleagues wondered what kind of additional tax revenue the City would gain if Lurie Terrace changed hands for redevelopment as market rate housing. This is certainly one aspect of redevelopment and gentrification in Ann Arbor: every time a more affordable housing unit is eliminated to create a more expensive housing unit, the City receives more tax revenue. In that initial conversation, discussion of tax revenue was very brief because most of Council was focused on the affordable units and the need to preserve them.
After discussion and debate in closed session, Council directed staff to explore possibilities and keep us posted about what was feasible. Since 2019, City staff have been negotiating legal agreements and lining up funding to make the deal work. Council was advised that nothing could be discussed publicly. Last month - to facilitate purchase of Lurie Terrace - Council approved new acquisition procedures for our Housing Commission:
Our City’s legal department and the housing commission (led by Jennifer Hall) have worked incredibly hard these last ten months, hammering out details to make sure that no one loses housing and that these below-market-rate units continue to be affordable for residents who need them. Funding arrangements include a HUD-insured loan, $319,000 in the Ann Arbor Housing Commission FY21 budget, and up to $1 million from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Moving forward, 40% of all tenants will be limited to 60% of AMI or less and 60% of all tenants will be limited to 80% of AMI or less; all existing tenants are grandfathered in, regardless of income.
I’m very proud to have supported the current plan to save the 136 units of housing at Lurie Terrace. This opportunity came up at a time when we could effectively leverage resources - these units continue to be important as our community weathers the storm of the pandemic and economic downturn. Ten months ago (when our economic outlook was very different), this decision prompted debate, but I am confident that we made the right decision.
Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!
Elizabeth Nelson ENelson@A2gov.org
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