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.
I post charts of how Council voted after each meeting, and also post my perspectives on how issues were resolved. I post news that affects Ward 4 residents tagged with "Ward 4 News", with construction updates also tagged "Construction 2021". News that affects all city residents is tagged with "City News".

City Council Newsletter (July 4, 2021)

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, Council has another fairly short agenda (both consent and regular), including two public hearings, scheduling for a Council Ethics Rule 12 hearing, and first reading of a new Early Leasing Ordinance that includes a ‘right to renew’ for tenants. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


City News

On Tuesday, June 22 (the day after our last Council meeting), a 20 inch water main just north of the Maple/Jackson intersection burst. The pavement at that intersection buckled and crumbled; as a precaution, nearby neighborhoods were put on a ‘boil water advisory’ for a couple days. A section of North Maple (between the intersection and Maple Village) is now closed and must be repaired. The City has a current contract with an asphalt company to do the resurfacing — Council has been told that this work will be completed by August 10.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/maple-road-repair-update-july-2-2021


Ward Walks

I am enjoying my summer and trying to get outdoors as much as possible, walking and biking around Ann Arbor. A few weeks ago, I got the idea to walk a route that would cover each of the five Wards of the City. I repeated that walk three times, visiting different precincts in each of the five Wards. At some point, I realized that I had begun an actual project: walking in every precinct of every Ward in the City! I took photos along the way...

https://www.a2elnel.com/ward-walks

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


Housing Access for Washtenaw County

Housing Access for Washtenaw County (HAWC) is Washtenaw County’s central intake for individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. If you are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, please call HAWC at (734) 961-1999

http://www.housingaccess.net/


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Coffee Hours

Monday July 5th 3:00pm

Due to the Independence Day holiday, I will be holding coffee hours this week on Monday. This week's coffee hours are at Frisinger Park, with parking available on Woodbury Drive. If you can, please bring a chair.

https://www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/parks-places/pages/frisinger.aspx


City Council Regular Meeting

Tuesday July 6th 7:00pm

Note that due to the City holiday, this meeting is on a Tuesday. My summary of this Council meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829774&GUID=02AB333F-6A45-40F4-87F0-16D6B021D884


City Council Work Session

Monday July 12th 7:00pm

This is work session facilitated by Dr. John Tropman, with a presentation titled "Ann Arbor City Council: Building Efficient Meetings: Practices and Recipes"

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=873401&GUID=F99E05A7-B9A8-42F3-B151-12B901060DF3


Note that Council is still meeting "virtually" using the Zoom application. Video feeds of Council meetings are broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link for the latest information.

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 June 21, 2021

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-june-21-2021


Independence Day 2021 Fireworks Usage Reminders from the City

A reminder from the City when fireworks are allowed during the Independance Day weekend.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/independence-day-2021-fireworks-usage-reminders-from-the-city


Maple Road Repair Update (July 2, 2021)

The following detour and construction update for North Maple Road was announced by the City on July 2, 2021. Emergency repair work will begin Tuesday July 6th, and is scheduled to be completed by Aug 10th. This is an emergency reconstruction of a section of road that was damaged due to a City water main break on June 22, 2021. Shortly after the break, a boil water alert was issued for the surrounding area. That boil water alert was lifted on June 24, 2021.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/maple-road-repair-update-july-2-2021


City Offers Waterlogged Bulky Waste Pickup July 6-10, 2021 (By Request Only)

The City is offering Ann Arbor residents who suffered water damage during last week’s severe storms free curbside pickup of bulky and water-logged items, by request only. Pickup service will take place between Tuesday, July 6th and Saturday, July 10th.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-offers-waterlogged-bulky-waste-pickup-july-6-10-2021-by-request-only


Industrial Highway Detour Update (June 9th - July 23rd 2021)

The temporary traffic control plan on South Industrial Highway was altered June 9th. During this period of construction, no right turns onto Stimson from South Industrial will be allowed.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/industrial-highway-detour-update-june-9th-july-23rd-2021


Ann Arbor City Hall building reopens July 6, 2021

Larcom City Hall will reopen on Tuesday, July 6, following the pandemic-related closure last fall. This includes the Ann Arbor Customer Service Center and the city clerk’s office, though city services will also remain conveniently available online.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ann-arbor-city-hall-building-reopens-july-6-2021


Ward Walks

I got the idea to walk to all five wards of Ann Arbor in one day. On that walk it occurred to me: could I actually walk to all the *precincts* within each Ward?

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ward-walks

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 7/6/21

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=829774&GUID=02AB333F-6A45-40F4-87F0-16D6B021D884

Ann Arbor City Council Tuesday July 6th (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 (21-1257) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - July 6, 2021

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 (21-1225) Nominations and Appointments for July 6, 2021

These appointments from the Mayor are being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Roger Hewitt - Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board

  • Susan Pollay - Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Board

  • Edith Juno - Energy Commission

  • Nicholas Stevenson - Energy Commission

MC-2 (21-1228) Resolution to appoint Jonathan Overpeck to the Energy Commission (7 Votes Required)

This appointment from the Mayor is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting. 7 votes are required because the appointee is not a registered elector of the City of Ann Arbor.

  • Jonathan Overpeck - Energy 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 (21-0660) Resolution to Approve Ongoing Subscription with Zoom Video Communications, Inc. for Meeting and Webinar Services ($65,000.00) (8 Votes Required)


CA-2 (21-0943) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order with Cogsdale Corporation for Annual Software Maintenance and Support for FY2022 ($119,589.72)


CA-3 (21-1104) Resolution to Approve Subscription to NetMotion Software, Inc. ($32,256.00)


CA-4 (21-1144) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to CDW Government, LLC for Licenses for Duo Multifactor Software Protection ($31,104.00)


CA-5 (21-1145) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order for Annual Maintenance and Support of the Sympro Investment and Debt Management Software for FY2022 ($26,616.95)


CA-6 (21-1189) Resolution to Approve a Grant Application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Grants Management for the Acquisition of Land and Site Improvements Along the Huron River at 841 Broadway for up to $7,000,000.00


CA-7 (21-1190) Resolution to Approve the April 22, 2021 Recommendation of the Board of Insurance Administration to Deny the Claim Filed by Claimant Desiren Garland for a Sewer Backup Claim (CC025-21).


CA-8 (21-1095) Resolution to Approve the Rental of Heavy Equipment from Bell Equipment Company (MiDeal and Omnia - NTE $217,200.00)


CA-9 (21-1080) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Water Meters and Supplies from Mountain States Pipe and Supply Company ($1,450,000.00, ITB No. 4675)


CA-10 (21-1106) Resolution to Approve Amendments to the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA) Articles of Incorporation, Including the Addition of the City of Ann Arbor as a Constituent Member of WRRMA


CA-11 (21-1231) Resolution to Approve the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the City of Ann Arbor and Teamster Civilian Supervisors, effective January 1, 2021 - December 31, 2023

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 (21-0870) An Ordinance to Add Sections 5.12.9 and to Amend Sections 5.15, 5.16.3, 5.17.4 and 5.20.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (New Zoning District TC1 Transit Corridor) (ORD-21-19)

Amendments to the local Unified Development Code would add a new zoning district: TC1, Transit Corridor district. This zoning district will permit unlimited density, maximum (rather than minimum) parking requirements, require mixed use, decrease height and reduce setbacks near pre-existing residential areas, and implement as yet undetermined requirements or incentives for sustainability, affordability, and public open space.


PH-2/B-2 (21-0876) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.18.3, 5.18.4, 5.17.3, 5.37.2.A and 5.37.2.S, to Add Sections 5.19.6 and 5.33.6, and to Repeal Sections 5.30.1and 5.30.4.B of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Planned Project Site Plan Modifications) (ORD-21-20)

Amendments to the local Unified Development Code would eliminate Planned Project Site Plan Modifications provisions and codify standard deviations from setback, height, and parking requirements. Setbacks may be reduced at the front, side, or rear up to 50% where another required setback increases by the same amount (I.e. a total, cumulative required setback). A planned project with 15% affordable housing units (or 15% of floor area designated affordable) may increase height by 30% and is alleviated of all off-street parking requirements. A planned project that includes solar collector surface equal to 60% of the building footprint and powers solely by electricity may increase height by 30% and is alleviated of all off-street parking requirements.


PH-3/B-3 (21-1208) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 8 (Organization of Boards and Commissions), Sections 1:214 and 1:215, Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor To Amend Commission Appointment Process, Add Exceptions to Allow Earlier Review of Incidents in Limited Cases, and Increase Number of Information Managers (Independent Community Police Oversight Commission) (ORD-21-21)

Amendments to the City ordinance governing the Independent Community Policy Oversight Commission (ICPOC) will clarify the appointment process, increase the number of ‘information managers,’ and allow for earlier review of “significant incidents generating public interest” at the discretion of the Chief of Police. ICPOC will recommend candidates for appointment and the four Council liaisons to ICPOC and the Human Rights Commission will nominate members from among those recommended. Amendments would permit up to five ICPOC commissioners (“Information Managers”) to access confidential records, data and information related to a complaint (currently, only “two or three” may have access). Regarding incidents of public interest - where internal reviews (AAPD or Human Resources) are complete and there is no pending criminal or civil litigation - the Chief of Police may permit Information Managers to conduct ‘earlier review’ of incidents in the public interest.

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 (21-0870)is the same as PH-1 above.

B-2 (21-0876) is the same as PH-2 above.

B-3 (21-1208) is the same as PH-3 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 (21-1261) An Ordinance to Amend Section 8:530 of Chapter 105 (Housing: Entry to Show Premises and Time for Rental Agreements) of Title VIII (Building Regulations) of the Ann Arbor City Code

A new ordinance will grant tenants a ‘right to renew’ a lease (longer than nine months) for up to 150 days before the end of the lease term. This protection for tenants extends our “early leasing ordinance” for the same timeline: landlords will not enter the premises for the purpose of showing the premises to prospective tenants until 150 days before the end of the lease term.

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 (21-1244) Resolution to Set an Ethics Rule 12 Hearing Regarding Complaint for Reprimand

This agenda item is in response to a complaint filed by Council Member Grand, based on a report of a phone conversation between Council Member Hayner and a journalist from MLive. The official complaint requests a reprimand of Council Member Hayner. According to Council Ethics Rule 12, any reprimand of a Council Member must result in one of three possible responses: dismissal without merit, a scheduled hearing before Council, or referral for other action to the appropriate governmental or law enforcement agency. This agenda item will schedule a Council hearing that will include accusers and witnesses.


Council Rules can be found here:

https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-clerk/Documents/Council%20Rules.pdf


Read Council Member Grand's complaint here:

https://4aa24807-457d-4d5a-8cd8-d99df50d15a1.usrfiles.com/ugd/4aa248_d84bb36f3e9546a9841b0693dd946d6c.pdf


DC-2 (21-1249) Resolution To Approve the Development Agreement and Amendment to the Swift Run Service Center Planned Unit Development for the Wheeler Center Solar Array With Pittsfield Charter Township

Council will approve a Development Agreement and Amendment to the Swift Run Service Center Planned Unit Development for the Wheeler Center Solar Array with Pittsfield Charter Township. The City has been working with DTE to plan for this solar array, as part of a settlement through the Michigan Public Service Commission. (That settlement was approved at the 4/18/21 Council meeting. See https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4912996&GUID=B1743915-799F-4490-A1E4-D57B0C24C8D0


Solar installations at the Ann Arbor landfill will be a pilot program for Community Solar Offering, so the City (the “anchor tenant”) can sponsor the solar project and subscribers (any DTE customer - residential or business) will get the same deal per kilowatt hour as the “anchor tenant.”


DB-1 (21-1054) Resolution to Approve Bylaws of the Council of the Commons

The Bylaws of the Council of Commons (COC) provide rules and structure for how the 13 member body will conduct its advisory work on the Center of the City.


DS-1 (21-1235) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance No. 21-19 to amend Sections 5.15, 5.16.3, 5.17.4 and 5.20.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (New Zoning District TC1 Transit Corridor)

With Council approval, amendment of the Unified Development Code, Transit Corridor District (see PH-1/B-1) will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.


DS-2 (21-1236) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance No. 21-20 to amend Sections 5.18.3, 5.18.4, 5.17.3, 5.37.2.A and 5.37.2.S, to Add Sections 5.19.6 and 5.33.6, and to Repeal Sections 5.30.1 and 5.30.4.B of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Planned Project Site Plan Modifications)

With Council approval, amendment of the Unified Development Code, Planned Project Site Plan Modifications provisions (see PH-2/B-2) will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/early-leasing-ordinance-update-right-to-renew


In the last week, Council Member Radina and I met with city staff and local advocates to craft the language for agenda item C-1.


C-1 (21-1261) An Ordinance to Amend Section 8:530 of Chapter 105 (Housing: Entry to Show Premises and Time for Rental Agreements) of Title VIII (Building Regulations) of the Ann Arbor City Code


Last month, an early leasing ordinance was on a Council agenda and postponed to July 20th. This week’s proposal addresses the problem of early leasing, with more meaningful protections than the earlier (postponed) ordinance. When the language for C-1 was ready in time to add to this agenda, Council Member Radina and I were able to move it forward with the help of additional sponsorship from Council Member Disch. Council has now been talking about the early leasing issue for months— I am hopeful about it moving forward on Tuesday!


Near campus and downtown, tenants are regularly asked to commit to leases (and pay significant deposits) many months before they would ever live in a rental unit. Tenants currently renting in these areas are often asked to renew a lease before they have lived in the space for any meaningful length of time. Agenda item C-1 will make sure that tenants have more time to make these important decisions — they will not be committing deposits on leases so many months in advance. The new ordinance also grants landlords flexibility to not renew a lease, under all reasonable circumstances.


TIMELINE

The current Ann Arbor Early Leasing ordinance prohibits a landlord from showing apartments to prospective tenants (or signing leases for the subsequent term) earlier than 70 days into a current lease. However, renters in some parts of the city tell us that the pressure to renew happens sooner than that - landlords often ask about lease renewals after only 50 or 60 days. Even strict compliance with the 70 day timeline means that tenants are renewing leases (and paying rental deposits) as long as ten months in advance of the next leasing term.


We have an extremely inequitable system in some parts of our local rental market. Committing deposits this far in advance grossly extends the timeline when tenants actually have TWO outstanding deposits: one for their current rental unit and one for their future rental unit. In some neighborhoods, the cost of an apartment is not just the deposit and the monthly rent— the cost of housing includes the additional burden of having a deposit held for nearly ten additional months in advance of the leasing terms. Our competitive housing market is hurting people of less means.


Changing this timeline, alone, would not address the problem facing tenants. City staff told me that compliance with the 70 day timeline was largely voluntary and they warned me that in extending the timeline, it would be difficult to measure compliance. City staff and advocates alike wondered: how would tenants report and prove a violation and what would be the consequence to landlords? Landlords told me that at least some of the pressure in our rental market is driven by tenants themselves: affluent tenants who can afford (and are eager to pay) deposits on the properties they desperately want.


Timelines, alone, are nearly impossible to enforce.


RIGHT TO RENEW

The “right to renew” creates the exact mechanism needed to enforce a timeline and protect tenants from too-early leasing. The pressure to lease comes from the threat of competing offers, the idea that others are eager to sign leases and others are willing (and can afford) to pay deposits early. The right to renew removes that pressure.


The ordinance in C-1 grants a tenant the “right to renew” a lease until 150 days (five months) before the end of the term. (On a year-long lease, this is approximately 210 days into the leasing period and the tenant would have lived in the space for seven months.) During that time frame, the landlord may not show the apartment to new prospective tenants. During that time, the tenant retains the right - and can assert the right - to renew the lease they currently hold.


The tenant is not guaranteed a lease renewal on the exact same terms. However, the landlord is required to offer terms for renewal that are substantially similar to what would be offered to a prospective tenant. In this way, a landlord can make changes or adjust the terms of leasing. More importantly: the tenant is protected from discriminatory or predatory terms.


LANDLORD RIGHTS

The tenant’s right to renew a lease is not absolute. This week’s proposed ordinance includes important exceptions that acknowledge the landlord’s rights as a property owner. For example, the right to renew a lease does not exist when:

  • a tenant fails to pay rent and fails to vacate

  • a tenant is in violation of a material term of the lease

  • the owner seeks to take possession of the property for their own benefit or for family members

  • the owner has executed a letter of intent or purchase agreement to sell the property

  • the owner plans (and has appropriate permits) to demolish the property

  • the owner plans (and has appropriate permits) to renovate the property so that it cannot be occupied

  • the owner would like to discontinue sharing the space in which the owner resides, or discontinue renting an accessory dwelling unit on an owner-occupied property

  • there is ongoing criminal activity

  • there is an action for eminent domain against the property


MOVING FORWARD

More than half of Ann Arbor residents are renters. The ordinance in C-1 includes protections that will benefit everyone who currently lives in rental housing as well as everyone who would like to rent housing in our City. Since the topic first appeared on an agenda last month, Council has received hundreds of emails on the topic of Early Leasing in Ann Arbor. Council has heard from tenants, former tenants, concerned residents, and Panhellenic organizations, expressing support for regulation of this pressured rental market. This is the right thing to do and I am excited to see it move forward!



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson

ENelson@A2gov.org


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