Elizabeth Nelson's City Council Blog

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I write a City Council newsletter with my summary of agenda items coming before City Council. Sign up to receive it first via email, or read it here later on this blog.

City Council Newsletter (Dec 5, 2020)

Hello neighbors!

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 (among other things) five public hearings, approval of a site plan on Burton Road, water rate increases, and amendment to our sign ordinance. (Note that two other public hearings have been removed, PH-6 and PH-7). I have written about the late addition to our agenda (DC-3) below in my "Additional Thoughts" section at the bottom of this newsletter.


On September 21, I brought a resolution to City Council asking for a conversation with University Regents about the use of dorms for emergency shelter if the University was forced to end in-person learning. You can read more about that resolution here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-sept-19-2020-update-meeting-with-um-about-housing


This past week, I attended two meetings with organizations at the University of Michigan to discuss housing and emergency shelter issues. On Tuesday, I was a three-minute community comment at the Central Student Government before they passed a resolution in support of Council’s request to meet with University leadership about using empty dorms for emergency shelter. On Thursday, I was part of a panel discussion about housing issues with the Graduate Employee’s Organization (GEO). GEO has also expressed support for the Council resolution regarding the use of empty university housing as emergency shelter during the pandemic. A colleague advised me that ideas like this are best presented and promoted through student organizations and so I am following that advice.


You can read my comments to GEO here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/remarks-to-um-geo-on-dec-3-2020


Barrier Busters

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:

https://www.washtenaw.org/2818/Barrier-Buster-Agency-Provider-List



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Virtual Coffee Hours

Sunday Dec 6th 3:00pm

During the COVID-19 crisis I have been holding "virtual" coffee hours with Zoom on Sunday afternoons before scheduled City Council meetings. Please email me for a link:

contact@a2elnel.com


Council Caucus

Sunday Dec 6th 7:00pm

We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. All Council Members are invited to participate. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are holding Caucus via Zoom. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=750115&GUID=408573A1-6B2F-4EC2-81A4-95813E377FAE


City Council

Monday Dec 7th 7:00pm

Council is meeting again using the Zoom application. The video feed will be broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link below for the latest information.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=750171&GUID=07E577CF-1C97-4964-B9EF-70DBB0581A96

A2ELNEL.com Website Updates

In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.

You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/

I maintain a list of posts related to current/recent Ward 4 construction projects:

https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/categories/construction



City Council Voting Chart for Nov 16, 2020

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-nov-16-2020


DDA Curbside Carryout Parking Meters Now Have Red Bags

Beginning December 1 2020, the free, 15-minute curbside carryout parking spaces in downtown Ann Arbor will be designated by a RED meter bag.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/dda-curbside-carryout-parking-meters-now-have-red-bags


Last compost pickup Friday Dec 11th

Seasonal curbside compost/yard waste collections will end Friday, Dec 11, 2020, and will resume in early April 2021.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/last-compost-pickup-friday-dec-11th


Housing + Affordability Engagement Session Dec 10th

The City is hosting a public meeting to discuss affordable housing proposals for four City owned lots. This is the third of three scheduled meetings. Also note the Housing + Affordability survey linked below.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/housing-affordability-engagement-session-dec-10th


City's Housing + Affordability Survey open until Dec 14th

The City is looking for public input about affordable housing and plans for re-development of four publicly owned parcels downtown.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-s-housing-affordability-survey-open-until-dec-14th


MI COVID Alert app released for iPhone and Android

The State of Michigan has released a free app for iPhone and Android for COVID-19 contract tracing.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/mi-covid-alert-app-released-for-iphone-and-android


Thanksgiving 2020 Quiz

In case you missed it, for Thanksgiving I wrote a Michigan themed quiz for family members that were unable to visit us this year due to the COVID-19 crisis. 30 multiple choice questions, with answers and links for more information at the bottom of the post.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/thanksgiving-2020-quiz

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.

https://www.a2elnel.com/a2council

http://a2council.com

Council Meeting Agenda 12/7/20

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:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=750171&GUID=07E577CF-1C97-4964-B9EF-70DBB0581A96


Ann Arbor City Council Monday Dec 7 (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

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 (20-1844) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - December 7, 2020

This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.

Communications from the Mayor


MC-1 (20-1711) Nominations and Appointments These nominations from the Mayor were introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the this Council meeting.

  • William Brogan - Board of Review

  • Alice Owings - Board of Review 2

  • Curt Zell - Board of Review 2

  • Sadira Clarke - City Planning Commission 

  • Wonwoo Lee - City Planning Commission

  • Dana Thompson - Economic Development Corporation 

  • Anna Epperson - Historic District Commission

  • Robert White - Historic District Commission

  • Areli Balderrama - Transportation Commission

Consent Agenda

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 (20-1778) Resolution Recognizing The Michigan Theater Foundation of Ann Arbor as a Civic Nonprofit Organization Operating in Ann Arbor for the Purpose of Obtaining a Charitable Gaming License


CA-2 (20-1439) Resolution to Approve a Contract with Sommerset Paving Companies, LLC for Basketball Court Renovations at Southeast Area Park and Leslie Park ($123,311.00, ITB #4640)


CA-3 (20-1707) Resolution to Approve Three-Year Professional Services Agreements for Engineering Services for Parks & Recreation with SmithGroup, Inc., ROWE Professional Services Company, and Stantec Consulting Michigan, Inc. (NTE $150,000.00 per firm each FY) (RFP #20-26)


CA-4 (20-1708) Resolution to Approve Three-Year Professional Services Agreements for Architectural Services for Parks & Recreation with Mitchell and Mouat Architects, Inc. and Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc. (NTE $150,000.00 (each Fiscal Year) per firm)


CA-5 (20-1721) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Amcomm Telecommunications Inc. for Fiber Optic Network Construction to Cobblestone Farms and Housing Commission locations: Hikone, State Crossing, and Creekside Court and Appropriate Funds ($132,556) (8 Votes Required)


CA-6 (20-1663) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Purchase Order Increase with C.A. Hull Company, Inc. for the Wastewater Treatment Plant 2020 Access Bridge Repair Project ($23,471.30)


CA-7 (20-1666) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Four Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) Stations and 2 years of the Enterprise Cloud Plan from ChargePoint Inc. (Sourcewell - $173,462.00)


CA-8 (20-1665) Resolution to Accept Funds from the Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment (EGLE) and the DTE Charging Forward Program and Appropriate to the Office of Sustainability and Innovation for Purchasing 4 DCFC EV Fast Chargers ($170,000.00) (8 Votes Required)


CA-9 (20-1667) Resolution Approving an Amendment to Professional Services Agreement with Harper Electric, Inc. for On-Call City Electrical Services (Not to exceed $275,000.00)


CA-10 (20-1672) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from Todd Wenzel GMC (Oakland County Bid - $84,753.00)


CA-11 (20-1674) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of a Vehicle from Signature Ford (Macomb County Bid - $31,375.00)


CA-12 (20-1669) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Four Police Motorcycles from BMW Motorcycles of SE MI (ITB # 4646 - $102,456.04)

Public Hearings

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 (20-1256) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.16.4, 5.16.6, 5.24, 5.29.2, 5.33.2, 5.35.2, 5.36.2 and 5.37 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Of Title V of The Code Of The City Of Ann Arbor - Sign Regulations (ORD-20-27)

Amendments to the City’s sign ordinance would clearly define standards for lighting, area size (relative to street frontage), larger non-conforming signs, non-commercial flags, window signs and temporary signs.


PH-2/B-2 (20-1485) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 0.14 Acre from AG (Agricultural District) to R1D (Single-Family Dwelling District), 1043 North Main Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays).

A property at 1043 North Main Street (0.14 Acre) will be rezoned from AG (Agricultural District) to R1D (Single-Family Dwelling District). The Planning Commission found this to be consistent with the adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City's Master Plan and recommended approval of the request at its meeting on April 21, 2020.


PH-3/DB-1 (20-1678) Resolution to Approve the 3411 Geddes Road Annexation, 1.1 Acres (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 6 Yeas and 0 Nays)

A township island of 1.1 acres at 3411 Geddes Road will be annexed into the City. Its current use is consistent with adjacent zoning, land uses and master plan.


PH-4/DB-2 (20-1639) Resolution to Approve the Rudolph Steiner School Association of Ann Arbor Annexation, 12.2 Acres, 2775 Newport Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval -6 Yeas and 0 Nays)

A township island of 12.2 acres at 2775 Newport Road (Rudolph Steiner School Association) will be annexed into the City. Future changes to the property will require Special Exception and Site Plan approval.


PH-5/DB-3 (20-1650) Resolution to Approve Brightdawn Village Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2805 Burton Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)

A development of four four-story buildings on 8 acres is planned for 2805 Burton Road. It will include 120 units of housing at market rate with 284 parking spaces (located in garages beneath and in surface lots). The development can be accessed from Packard (via Burton Road) and will connect to the adjacent neighborhood via Eli Road.


PH-6/D-2 (20-0521) Resolution No. 4 - Confirming the Barton Drive Water Main Replacement & Resurfacing Project Special Assessment District No. 55 - Brede to Pontiac (8 Votes Required)

This public hearing was removed from the agenda because a public hearing already occurred on 5/4/20. It was postponed so that the assessment could be covered by revenue from the Sidewalk Millage (approved by voters this November). The Special Assessment District will not be needed because the cost will be covered by revenue from the new Sidewalk Millage.


PH-7/D-3 (20-0523) Resolution No. 4 - Confirming the Nixon and Traver Sidewalk Gap Project, District 56 (8 Votes Required)

This public hearing was removed from the agenda because a public hearing already occurred on 5/4/20. It was postponed so that the assessment could be covered by revenue from the Sidewalk Millage (approved by voters this November). The Special Assessment District will not be needed because the cost will be covered by revenue from the new Sidewalk Millage.

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 (20-1256) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.16.4, 5.16.6, 5.24, 5.29.2, 5.33.2, 5.35.2, 5.36.2 and 5.37 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Of Title V of The Code Of The City Of Ann Arbor - Sign Regulations (ORD-20-27)

This is the same as PH-1 above.


B-2 (20-1485) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 0.14 Acre from AG (Agricultural District) to R1D (Single-Family Dwelling District), 1043 North Main Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays).

This is the same as PH-2 above.

Resolutions with Public Hearings

The following resolutions had public hearings earlier in the meeting, and were placed at this point in the Agenda to group items with Public Hearings together.


DB-1 (20-1678) Resolution to Approve the 3411 Geddes Road Annexation, 1.1 Acres (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 6 Yeas and 0 Nays)

This is the same as PH-3 above.


DB-2 (20-1639) Resolution to Approve the Rudolph Steiner School Association of Ann Arbor Annexation, 12.2 Acres, 2775 Newport Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval -6 Yeas and 0 Nays)

This is the same as PH-4 above.


DB-3 (20-1650) Resolution to Approve Brightdawn Village Site Plan and Development Agreement, 2805 Burton Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 7 Yeas and 0 Nays)

This is the same as PH-5 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 (20-1625) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Zoning 26 City-Initiated Annexed Properties to RIC and R1D (Single Family Dwelling District) (CPC Recommendation: Approval 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)

Twenty-six vacant parcels in Scio Township have been annexed into the city and City staff recommends that they be zoned R1C (Single-family dwelling) or R1D (Single-family dwelling). This proposed zoning would be consistent with adjacent going, master plan, and principle use of each of the twenty-six parcels.


C-2 (20-1677) An Ordinance to Amend Section 2:63 of Chapter 29 (Water Rates) of Title II of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

Water rates would increase by 7% (starting January 1, 2021) and increase again by 6.5% (starting July 1, 2021). These changes are projected to increase revenues to the Water Supply System by $1.47 million (more than FY2020). These rate changes take into account financial projections for revenue/usage decline in the non-residential customer class and increases in the residential customer class.

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.

Note:These items marked with a "D" are Unfinished Business from a previous meeting.


D-1 (20-1481) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance 20-27 - An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.24, 5.29.2, 5.33.2, 5.35.2, 5.36.2 and 5.37 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Of Title V of The Code Of The City Of Ann Arbor - Sign Regulations

With Council approval, amendments to the City’s sign ordinance (see PH-1/B-1 above) will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.


D-2 (20-0521) Resolution No. 4 - Confirming the Barton Drive Water Main Replacement & Resurfacing Project Special Assessment District No. 55 - Brede to Pontiac (8 Votes Required)

A Special Assessment District (part of the Barton Drive Water Main Replacement and Resurfacing Project) would have assessed six property owners a collective total of $46,548.88 for the construction of sidewalks on Barton Drive. This will now be paid for with revenue from the Sidewalk Millage.


D-3 (20-0523) Resolution No. 4 - Confirming the Nixon and Traver Sidewalk Gap Project, District 56 (8 Votes Required)

A Special Assessment District (part of the Nixon & Traver Sidewalk Gap Project) would have assessed five property owners a collective total of $40,246.70 for the construction of sidewalks on Nixon and Traver Roads. This will now be paid for with revenue from the Sidewalk Millage.


DC-1 (20-1780) Resolution to Establish 2021 Council Calendar

City Council meetings and work sessions would be scheduled for 2021.


DC-2 (20-1629) An Ordinance to Add Sections 5.14.2 And 5.27 And Amend Sections 5.18.4, 5.18.6.D, 5.23.4, 5.29.1, 5.29.3.F, 5.29.8.C, 5.29.12.D, 5.37.2.B, 5.37.2.C, 5.37.2.F, 5.37.2.L, 5.37.2.N, 5.37.2.M, And 5.37.2.S of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Floodplain Management Overlay District and Regulations)

An overlay zoning district would effectively regulate and restrict what can be built in the floodplain (two parts: flood way and flood fringe). If approved, the City would adopt stricter guidelines, using the 0.2% Annual Chance (“500 year flood”) to measure compliance with Base Flood Elevation (BFE). New structures cannot be built on a floodway and redeveloped structures must be elevated one foot above the 0.2% BFE. Critical facilities would be prohibited in the Flood Fringe, and other structures must be elevated one foot above the 0.2% BFE.


DC-3 (20-1855) Resolution to Clarify and Modify R-20-425 Regarding United States Environmental Protection Agency Involvement with the Gelman Site

This resolution relates to another resolution, approved on 11/5/20, to request EPA intervention on the Gelman contamination site and communicate that request to Governor Whitmer. It would effectively delay (to an indefinite date) that communication. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


Additional thoughts…

The most remarkable thing on our agenda this week is probably DC-3, added late on Friday afternoon. It modifies and delays (to an uncertain date) a request for EPA intervention and federal cleanup of the Gelman Plume.


For anyone who does not know: the Gelman Plume is a significant pollution of 1,4 Dioxine that happened in the 1970s at a location in Scio Township (Wagner Road). It was discovered in 1984 and local advocates have been raising alarms about it for decades. The “plume” refers to how the pollution has spread underground, covering areas of northwest Ann Arbor. A brief summary of the Gelman Plume can be found here:

https://aadl.org/features/pall_gelman_cleanup


The work of local advocates (and many more details) can be found here:

https://sites.google.com/site/srsworg/Home


Since 1992, the polluters responsible for the Gelman Plume have been been subject to legal oversight regarding cleanup. A growing area of the City has been defined as a “prohibition zone” where the groundwater is deemed unsafe to drink from wells. As state standards (and our ability to detect the contaminants) has changed, the obligation of the polluters has been re-negotiated several times. In 2016, the City, Scio Township Board of Trustees, and Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners were included in this legal process as intervenors, with rights to participate in confidential settlement negotiations.


In the two years I have been on Council, I have participated in hours of closed session meetings regarding legal negotiation with the polluters who caused the Gelman Plume contamination of our groundwater. In the last two years, members of Ann Arbor City Council, the Scio Township Board of Trustees, and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners have received confidential communications from our attorneys, including hundreds of pages of multiple iterations of settlement agreements, hours of legal counsel, as well as scientific analysis of the terms. It is noteworthy that DC-3 comes from new Council Members who did not participate in this long process.


A request for EPA intervention has been on the Council’s public agenda for over a year. The request was first brought on 10/17/19, then repeatedly postponed and tabled as the negotiations dragged on for many months longer than expected. Finally, that process failed to reach acceptable terms; the resolution requesting EPA intervention was approved by City Council on 11/5/20. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and Scio Township Trustees participated in this process with us. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners this week unanimously approved their own resolution requesting EPA intervention and will send their own letter to the Governor without delay. Scio Township Trustees are expected to do the same.


As drafted, the original resolution approved by City Council on 11/5/20 directed the City Administrator to send a letter to Governor Whitmer asking her to seek EPA assistance with the Gelman Plume. That resolution and that letter would not cause anything to happen immediately. Instead, it would set in motion a process that would take months to come to fruition. In the meantime, if the City and other intervening parties could reach a better agreement than the Consent Judgement the intervenors have rejected, we could withdraw our request.


If passed, DC-3 will delay the City’s request for EPA intervention until 30 days after a court decision currently scheduled for January 2021. This resolution is admittedly vague (“early 2021“) because the court decision could potentially extend much further into the future. The polluter has successfully delayed and extended this process of negotiations since 1992; they have a history of successful obstruction and delay to avoid accountability. This resolution invites both indefinite delay and also publicly endorses that delay to the polluter.


The most charitable explanation for DC-3 is that the Council Members do not fully grasp the nuance of all that has happened before and do not grasp the significance of the resolution they have brought. I understand that a couple of my colleagues have attempted to help them understand the comprehensive whole of this issue (no small feat) to no avail. A short legal memo in the last week is their basis for effectively un-doing the cumulative efforts of the Township/City/County these last two years. It’s important that members of the community who care about the Gelman Plume issue reach out to Council and let us know that indefinite delay is not acceptable. Ann Arbor must stand in solidarity with the other governmental intervenors, honor that collaboration, and be clear about our own commitment to holding the polluters accountable.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson ENelson@A2gov.org


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