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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 (Nov 13, 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’s agenda is quite short, with three public hearings: a site plan for Grace Bible Church (DB-1), zoning for a recently annexed property on Scio Church Road (B-1), and second reading for an ordinance on Sanitation Supplies in Public Bathrooms (B-2). This week, questions to the agenda have been delayed, due to the Veterans Day holiday. Questions to the agenda would normally be submitted by Council members on Wednesday before noon, with answers available by Thursday at 5 p.m. This week, our questions will be submitted on Monday morning, answers received by 4 p.m.


This Sunday, my coffee hours will be on ZOOM. I had arranged to hold them indoors at York, but I am unexpectedly in quarantine. This week - just a few days after getting my vaccine booster shot! - I learned that one of my preschool students tested positive for COVID (without any symptoms of illness). Since September 2020, my preschool has maintained in-person instruction without any direct exposure to COVID, so this was a new experience for us: working with the county health department to close a classroom, fill out close contact reports, and set timelines for COVID tests.


I have mentioned this before but it’s worth noting again: drive-thru non-invasive (saliva) COVID testing is available for free in Ann Arbor. My own family has used the drive-thru testing service in the parking lot of the 24|2 Community Church (648 S. Wagner Road) several times and find it to be very convenient. Pre-registration is required:

https://lynxdx.health/register


Washtenaw County maintains a list of all COVID testing options:

https://www.washtenaw.org/3158/Testing


Both of these links are on the front page of my website at A2ELNEL.com


Any one of us can carry this virus without showing symptoms and so there is good reason to get tested before and after travel or other higher risk activities.



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COVID Emergency Rental Assistance

Anyone who is behind on rent or concerned they will be behind on rent should apply for COVID Emergency Rental assistance through Washtenaw County - this post has more information and a link to the County's website.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/covid-emergency-rental-assistance


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/


Coffee Hours

Sunday Nov 14th 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. This week I will be holding them on Zoom. Please email me for a link: contact@A2ELNEL.com


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday Nov 15th 7:00pm

My summary of the meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829783&GUID=B30A0440-FD18-420B-87C7-4E7771403D46

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 Nov 1, 2021

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-nov-1-2021

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 11/15/21

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=829783&GUID=B30A0440-FD18-420B-87C7-4E7771403D46

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Nov 15th (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.

Agenda Response Memo and eComments

As mentioned in the introduction to this newsletter, questions to the agenda have been delayed this week due to the Veterans Day holiday. This week, our questions will be submitted on Monday morning, answers received by 4 p.m.

Communications from the Mayor


There are no nominations to boards or committees from the Mayor at the time this newsletter was published.

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 (21-1724) Resolution to Award a Contract to Margolis Companies, Inc. for the As-Needed Purchase, Delivery and Planting of Trees on City Property and Along Street Rights-of-Way for the Elizabeth Dean Fund Tree Planting Projects (Not to Exceed $55,000.00; Bid No. ITB-4692)


CA-2 (21-1823) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract for Galvanized Water Service Line Replacements to SWT Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $1,013,116.15 per Year for a Period of Two Years ($2,026,223.30 ITB No. 4694)


CA-3 (21-1850) Resolution of Support for a Transportation Economic Development Funds Category A Grant for Research Park Drive


CA-4 (21-1785) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of a Wirtgen Asphalt Milling Machine from AIS Construction Equipment Corp. (MiDeal - $289,225.00)


CA-5 (21-1786) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from National Auto Fleet Group (Sourcewell Bid - $60,640.00)


CA-6 (21-1796) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from Signature Ford (Macomb County Cooperative Purchasing - $360,892.00)


CA-7 (21-1830) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Accelerated Technology Laboratories, Inc. for Sample Master, a Replacement Lab Information Management System (RFP No. 21-12) ($185,748.50)


CA-8 (21-1885) Resolution to Approve the Professional Services Agreement with Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. for RFP 21-24 - City of Ann Arbor Hazard Mitigation Plan Update ($145,238.00)


CA-9 (21-1919) Resolution to Approve the Professional Services Agreement with Rosati, Schultz, Joppich, & Amtsbuechler P.C., for Legal Services Relative to Platt Convenience, Inc. Litigation (8 Votes Required)

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 (21-1545) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 1.24 Acres from TWP (Township District) to R2A (Two-Family District), Issa Property, 201 Scio Church (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays) (ORD-21-31)

A 1.24 acre property at 201 Scio Church Road will be re-zoned from township to R2A (two-family) district . This parcel was recently annexed into the city and this zoning is consistent with the adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City's Master Plan.


PH-2/B-2 (21-1813) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 74 to Title VI of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor Which Shall Be Entitled “General Health” and to Add Sections 6:650 - 6:653 (Sanitation Supplies in Public Restrooms) (ORD-21-32)

A new ordinance will require all toilet facilities that are open to customers, patrons, visitors, employees, licensees, invitees, students, or other members of the public to provide soap, toilet paper and menstrual products (both pads and tampons) at no cost, within the restroom, and openly accessible to users of the restroom. Violation of this ordinance will be a civil infraction, subject to a fine of no more than $100. Community Standards officers shall be responsible for enforcement.


PH-3/DB-1 (21-1827) Resolution to Approve Grace Bible Church Site Plan, 1300 South Maple Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)

A site plan for expansion of Grace Bible Church (1300 S. Maple Rd.) includes approximately 34,045 square feet and 107 parking spaces. The sanctuary will be expanded into existing courtyards and an addition to the south will contain a gymnasium, youth ministry, child ministry, and office space. It will comply with City requirements for electric vehicle parking, as calculated based on the total required number of parking spaces.

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 (21-1545)is the same as PH-1 above.

B-2 (21-1813) is the same as PH-2 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 (21-1794) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 32.6 Acres from R3 (Townhouse Dwelling) to R4B (Multiple-Family Dwelling), Mill Creek Townhomes Rezoning, 3002 Chelsea Circle, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)

A parcel of 32.6 Acres at 3002 Chelsea Circle would be re-zoned from R3 (Townhouse Dwelling) to R4B (Multiple-Family Dwelling) for the construction of additional 102 dwelling units in four apartment buildings. This is an infill development within the Mill Creek development of townhomes. This development was granted a variance by the Zoning Board of Appeals regarding the City requirements for electric vehicle parking.


C-2 (21-1814) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 0.61 Acres from PUD (Planned Unit Development District) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District), Casa Dominicks Development PUD Zoning and Supplemental Regulations, 800, 812, 814 Monroe, 705 Oakland, 700, and 706 Tappan (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 0 Yeas and 8 Nays)

The PUD zoning of Monroe and Tappan (“Casa Dominicks”) would be modified to delay closure of a curb cut that is recommended in the Supplemental Regulations. Supplemental Regulations were written in 2010, as requirements to be implemented with a site plan for expansion. That expansion never took place, but a site plan was required as part of licensing for a provisioning center on the property. The curb cut currently provides access for a residential tenant.

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.


DB-1 (21-1827) Resolution to Approve Grace Bible Church Site Plan, 1300 South Maple Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)

This is the same as PH-3 above.


DC-1 (21-1965) Resolution to Continue Electronic Meetings for Certain City Boards and Commissions After December 31, 2021

After December 31, 2021, certain City Boards and Commissions must meet in person, in compliance with Michigan Open Meetings Act. City bodies meeting in person will be: Boards of Review I and II Building Authority Building Board of Appeals City Council, Caucus, and all City Council Committees City Planning Commission Downtown Development Authority Economic Development Corporation Board Election Commission Local Development Finance Authority Local Officers Compensation Commission Historic District Commission Housing Board of Appeals Housing Commission Human Rights Commission Independent Community Police Oversight Commission Zoning Board of Appeals VEBA and Employee Retirement System Boards Water System Advisory Council. Other City bodies will continue to meet online.

Additional thoughts…


On this week’s agenda, I am especially familiar with agenda items C-1 (Mill Creek at Chelsea Circle) and DB-1 (Grace Bible Church) because both site plans were reviewed by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), where I serve as a Council liaison. Both of these properties petitioned the ZBA for relief from the City’s electric vehicle parking requirements. Since the City adopted the electric vehicle (EV) ordinance, the ZBA has heard several petitions requesting relief.


City Council unanimously adopted the EV ordinance on January 19, 2021:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4729268&GUID=60950F76-99C2-4667-8FCA-6AB135D2CB8B


This ordinance requires the installation of infrastructure for electric vehicle parking whenever a site plan is approved by City Council. The amount of EV parking that must be installed is calculated as a percentage of the total amount of required (minimum) on-site parking.



C-1 (21-1794) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Zoning of 32.6 Acres from R3 (Townhouse Dwelling) to R4B (Multiple-Family Dwelling), Mill Creek Townhomes Rezoning, 3002 Chelsea Circle, (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 0 Nays)


In agenda item C-1, Council will vote on first reading of rezoning for Mill Creek Town Homes. That rezoning will allow growth in an existing development: infill of apartment buildings at a location where housing is somewhat less expensive relative to other parts of the City. At a future meeting, City Council will approve the site plan for this development. The ZBA has already seen the site plan, because Mill Creek petitioned for relief from the EV ordinance.


In their petition to the ZBA, the owners of Mill Creek pointed out the cost of compliance with the EV ordinance. The existing Mill Creek development is quite large (281 units) and the infill addition triggers EV parking requirements calculated relative to the whole of the development: 575 spaces. For Mill Creek, the cost of compliance with the ordinance was particularly extreme, given how many existing parking spaces would have to be ripped up in order to retro-fit EV infrastructure. The property owner proposed the installation of EV infrastructure in every newly created parking space (104). That number obviously did not meet the ordinance standard (based on the whole of the development). However, that number exceeded ordinance requirements when calculated as a percentage of required parking in the addition alone. The ZBA granted the variance.



PH-3/DB-1 (21-1827) Resolution to Approve Grace Bible Church Site Plan, 1300 South Maple Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)


Agenda item DB-1 is a site plan for expansion of Grace Bible Church . This property, also, was considered by the ZBA for relief from the EV ordinance. In their petition, they argued that the average distance travelled to their church was very short (well within a charging range), the average time spent there was very short (not long enough to collect significant electric charge), and implementation of the ordinance would add significant cost to their project. The ordinance required the installation of 80 EV parking spaces; the church proposed installation of ten. The ZBA did not approve a variance for Grace Bible Church, at least partially because the ordinance requirements could be wholly met within the new parking lot on their site plan (107 spaces). Some of us reasoned: if this infrastructure isn’t installed now, it will only be more difficult to install later.


Looking Ahead

The ZBA has asked for guidance from staff and the City Planning Commission regarding the EV ordinance. We have asked for insight about where and when a variance should be granted. Given the cost of building this infrastructure, the ZBA is likely to hear many more petitions in the future. The ZBA has debated questions like these:

  • Is there a difference between long-term parking (e.g. residential and workplace) and short-term parking (churches, school drop off areas)? Should they be treated differently?

  • When requirements are calculated on the whole of a development, is that a disincentive for helpful infill/expansions of new housing?

  • When an addition does not include any parking, is it overly burdensome to ask people to tear out existing lots and retrofit these spaces?

The rulings of the ZBA are not subject to additional review by Council, so it's especially important that we approach these questions thoughtfully. I look forward to more discussion about how the ZBA should be reviewing petitions related to this ordinance; we must apply standards that are consistent and meet the goals of sustainability and affordable housing.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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