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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 (Oct 30, 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 Council agenda is very short, but includes a presentation from Dr. Missy Stults on the topic of a Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU). That presentation can be found here:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5190164&GUID=24064A54-091A-4289-9737-C691EDDA3B09


Local advocates from Ann Arbor for Public Power have studied the proposal and released a response, which can be found here:

https://annarborpublicpower.org/news/press-releases/public-power-requires-public-ownership/


In agenda item DC-1, Council will vote on a very important hiring: new City Attorney, Atleen Kaur. You can read more about Ms. Kaur on the City website:

https://www.a2gov.org/news/pages/article.aspx?i=828


This week will be the first meeting chaired by our new Interim City Administrator, Milton Dohoney, Jr. Ryan Stanton from MLive posted an interview with Mr. Dohoney on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/TYMxiKVfBiA


This Sunday may be my last outdoor coffee hour at RoosRoast. I am looking for other (warmer) options for future meetings. For those of you willing to brave the chill tomorrow: I plan to wear my fabulous Halloween costume, which got rave reviews at preschool on Friday!



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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 Oct 31st 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. I have returned to RoosRoast at 1155 Rosewood, meeting outdoors on the lawn,


If you can, please bring a chair - RoosRoast has very limited outdoor seating for customers and they prefer that our meeting not occupy it.


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday Nov 1st 7:00pm

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

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829782&GUID=AF1F4A5E-0723-4E00-9897-3B1D946E0681


City Council Work Session

Monday Nov 8th 7:00pm

This is a work session with one agenda item: "Pavement Conditions and Goals".

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=873402&GUID=F6891A44-1956-4DDE-910F-7B3F5638BC2B


Link to the PDF presentation "Update on Pavement Condition & Goals":

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9919722&GUID=D11DC21C-3759-44A0-B1AD-90F0A7AC7668


From the presentation:

In 2016, Staff had developed a goal of 80% of streets to be a 7 or better by 2026

As of 2019:

  • 35% of Major Streets were rated 7 or up

  • 26% of Local Streets were rated 7 or up

New data (Oct. 2021):

  • 39% of Major Streets were rated 7 or up

  • 27% of Local Streets were rated 7 or up System-wide average rating of 5.08

New proposed pavement condition goals for 2026:

Average system-wide PASER rating of 6 or better

  • Major Roads min. 60% at 6 or above (currently 58%)

  • Local Roads min. 45% at 6 or above (currently 36%)

Goals to be set for streets in the “Poor” category:

  • Major Roads max ?% at 3 or better (currently 22%)

  • Local Roads max ?% at 3 or better (currently 39%)

Rationale for new goals:

  • Sets average, but also seeks to fix worst roads

  • Benchmarking vs. other communities

  • Goals are aggressive but achievable

  • More aligned with resident expectations

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 Oct 18, 2021

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-oct-18-2021


Meeting on Proposed TC1 Rezoning of S. State/Eisenhower Nov 9, 2021 7PM

This is a meeting to share information and collect feedback on a proposed rezoning of the South State/Eisenhower Parkway area to Transit Corridor District (TC1).

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/meeting-on-proposed-tc1-rezoning-of-s-state-eisenhower-nov-9-2021-7pm


Thoughts on the November 2021 Ballot

I wrote about the four charter amendment proposals on the November 2, 2021 ballot.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/thoughts-on-the-november-2021-ballot


Absentee Ballot Information for November 2021 Election Information about voting absentee for the election this November. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/absentee-ballot-information-for-november-2021-election

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 11/1/21

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=829782&GUID=AF1F4A5E-0723-4E00-9897-3B1D946E0681

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Nov 1st (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 (21-1896) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - November 1, 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 (21-1879) Resolution to Appoint Milton Dohoney Jr. to the Building Authority, the Downtown Development Authority, and the Economic Development Corporation Board (one step appointments - 8 Votes Required)

This is a resolution to Appoint Milton Dohoney Jr. to the Building Authority, the Downtown Development Authority, and the Economic Development Corporation Board. These positions are typically held by the City Administrator.

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 (21-1702) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Presidio Networked Solutions Group, LLC for Professional Services to Upgrade the City’s Access Control System and to Appropriate Funding in the Amount of $138,621.72 from the Information Technology Fund Balance (RFP #21-10) ($338,621.72) (8 Votes Required)


CA-2 (21-1764) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Amerinet of Michigan, Inc. for the Purchase of Networking Equipment, Software and Related Services ($111,361.50) (GSA Schedule IT 70 - GS-35F-0511T)


CA-3 (21-1748) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office Michigan Veterans Treatment Court Grant Award and Approve Grant Contract ($23,600.00) (8 Votes Required)


CA-4 (21-1749) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office Drug Court Grant Funds and Approve Grant Contract ($117,000.00) (8 Votes Required)


CA-5 (21-1750) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office Mental Health Court Grant Award and Approve Grant Contract ($160,223.00) (8 Votes Required)


CA-6 (21-1789) Resolution to Accept a Sanitary Sewer Easement at Cloverly Village Condominium from the Cloverly Village Owners Association (8 Votes Required)


CA-7 (21-1871) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance 21-29 - An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of The Code of The City of Ann Arbor - Remove Warehousing and Indoor Storage in C2B Districts

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 (21-1825) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 1:451 to 1:455 of Chapter 17, Reapportionment of Wards, of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-21-33)

A new Ward map will adjust boundaries to equalize the five local City wards, in response to the 2020 Census. As stated in the resolution: "The proposed changes were made with the goal of minimizing impacts; however, all five wards have some modifications, with Wards Four and Five moving more into the downtown area." The legistar link for this item has several attachments, including this report showing the old and new boundaries:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9884495&GUID=AC3B840A-EEFB-4459-B6FB-25F78C20C836

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 (21-1825) is the same as PH-1 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.


There are no ordinance first readings on the Agenda

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 (21-1867) Resolution Opposing the Secure MI Vote Petition and Any Other Efforts Aimed at Restricting Voter Access and Voter Rights

City Council formally expresses opposition to the Secure MI Vote initiative, and any similar efforts to limit ballot access or restrict voting rights. Council encourages residents to decline to sign the Secure MI Vote petition and directs that this resolution be sent to the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Michigan Senate, the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the Michigan House of Representatives, and all elected officials representing Ann Arbor in the Michigan House and Senate.


DC-2 (21-1883) Resolution to Approve the Hiring of Atleen Kaur as City Attorney

Attorney Atleen Kaur will be offered the position of Ann Arbor City Attorney to begin at a time in 2022 to be mutually determined by her and the City Council. An employment agreement will be negotiated by the Mayor and brought back to Council for approval at the December 6, 2021 meeting.

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/state-house-bans-local-regulation-of-short-term-rentals



State House Bans Local Regulation of Short Term Rentals

This week, news from our State government is relevant to Ann Arbor. At about 2 AM Wednesday morning (October 27, 2021), a Republican majority in the Michigan House approved legislation that prohibits local governments from regulating short term rentals (STR, e.g. AirBnB). According to State House bill 4722, short term rental businesses would be a 'by right' permitted use in residential zoning.

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2021-2022/billengrossed/House/pdf/2021-HEBH-4722.pdf


Relevant parts of this legislation:

  • Short term rental is considered a residential (not commercial) use and is permitted in all residentially zoned areas

  • Short term rental will not be subject to any special use or conditional use permit or procedure

  • Local governments cannot implement or enforce any zoning ordinances that effectively prohibit short term rentals

  • Local governments may limit the number of short term rental units under common ownership (number no lower than two)

  • Local government can restrict the total number of short term rentals in the whole of the community, but that number cannot be lower than 30% of the total number of existing housing units in the community

  • Zoning ordinance provisions that create overlay districts for rental (without distinction between long or short term) will not be permitted unless they were in existence prior to July 11, 2019.


Note: This last provision is a specific carve-out for the benefit of the City of East Lansing, which has 21 overlay districts where the rental of single family homes (both long-term and short-term) is prohibited or restricted. Ann Arbor has no such districts.


House Bill 4722 was supported and endorsed by the Michigan Realtors Association and Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. Among those organizations opposing the bill: the Michigan Municipal League (MML), AFL-CIO, Michigan Townships Association and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG). If approved by the State Senate, this legislation would effectively nullify all existing regulation of STR’s in the City of Ann Arbor.

THEN AND NOW

In September 2020, after months of public meetings, analysis by consultants, and recommendations from City staff, Council approved an ordinance that would require licensing for all short term rentals (STR) in the City of Ann Arbor. That ordinance permitted the periodic and owner-occupied STR (i.e. any resident using their own primary dwelling as an STR) but effectively banned all investor, non-owner occupied STR businesses in residential neighborhoods.


Many local residents and housing advocates were relieved to see this effort to protect housing units in our community. A small number of investors were extremely angry.


When a new majority of Council was elected in November 2020, the City’s approach to short term rentals shifted dramatically in order to protect investors. The City adopted a new policy: any investor who could offer evidence that their property had previously been leased for terms shorter than 30 days could continue the business. Those properties would be permitted to function as full-time short term rental businesses for so long as the property owner maintained City licensing for that use.


TIMELINE


9/8/20

Based on City staff assessment that STR businesses are a commercial, non-residential use, City Council passed an ordinance: investor-owned short term rental businesses would not be permitted in residential neighborhoods. Investor-owned STR businesses would be permitted in mixed use zoning districts that allow commercial activities. Only owner-occupied STR units would be permitted in residential zoning districts. All STR units would be subject to licensing by the City. The effective date would be March 1, 2021, giving investors six months to wrap up businesses.


11/16/20

New Council is seated. In their elections, all new members had received endorsements from the Ann Arbor Realtors Association. Four new Council Members - Briggs, Disch, Eyer, and Radina - each received $500 from the Realtors PAC of Michigan during their 2020 campaigns.


12/21/20

Mayor Taylor brings a resolution to Council (approved by a new majority), asking staff “to create the appropriate regulatory structure to enable the continued operation of preexisting short term rentals.”


2/5/21

Council received an update from City staff explaining:

As currently contemplated the Ordinance will take effect March 1st. Staff is finalizing the licensing application, the process for review and renewal and recommended fee structure. The licensing process will apply to all impacted properties.
There is a second group of properties that are prohibited from continuing operation by the ordinance, but that Council has directed staff to evaluate for potential “grandfathering”… In concert with the City Attorney’s Office I am moving forward with implementation allowing these properties to continue operation until such time as Council makes its determination.
A letter will be going out to these potentially impacted properties identifying the manner in which they can identify themselves to staff. This list, continually modified and reviewed, will also inform Council on the number of properties, and their locations, that may be requesting grandfathering under the process currently being developed.

2/22/21

Council receives another update from Staff: a postcard would be sent to 2,700 single family rental properties in residential districts, “requesting information of STR activity prior to the ordinance implementation date of March 1st.” Also from that update:

These properties, when verified, will be the potential pool of “grandfathered” properties considered by Council. This specific criteria and final properties will be determined by ordinance language, if approved by Council.
Staff will withhold enforcement of these properties, after identified, until Council makes a final determination on their status.

4/5/21

Council approves, at first reading, proposed UDC amendments that create a “legal nonconforming use” status for any short term rental investment properties in existence before March 1, 2021. Questions to the agenda and answers from City staff:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9287224&GUID=227920D8-4149-4509-B59A-C4335022A8AF

Question: Q5. Was March 31 a hard deadline to assert “legal nonconforming use”? (Councilmember Nelson)
Response: No, this was established to try and learn the extent of possible impact prior to City Council consideration.
Question: Q6. If March 31 was not the hard deadline (and a property owner might still assert a “legal nonconforming use” moving forward), does staff believe there should be a hard deadline? (Councilmember Nelson)
Response: No, the nature of a Non-Conforming Status is that the property either meets the test, or does not. This determination can be made at any time.
Question: Q7. At what point would it be too late to assert “legal nonconforming use” for a specific property under this ordinance? (Councilmember Nelson)
Response: Please see response immediately above.
Question: Q8. At this point, does the City have any way of knowing the specific number of long-term housing units that would be lost to this category of “legal nonconforming use”? (Councilmember Nelson)
Response: No.

5/3/21

City Council approves, at second reading, amendments to the 2020 ordinance, adding short term rental to the UDC code as a “permitted use” in zoning tables and also qualifying short term rental businesses for status as a “permitted nonconforming use” where property investors can demonstrate that their business was pre-existing.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4892427&GUID=B937507A-2A1C-4FEB-8F94-9692ED9EBB88


In advocating for these amendments, a new majority of Council argued that regulation of STRs was “punishing” investors, that the “small number” of units already in existence didn’t have much of an impact, and that these non-owner occupied units actually “provide benefits within our neighborhoods.” I wrote about it here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/housing-profits-and-hypocrisy


7/12/21

I began receiving inquiries from residents who could find no information about how to license their own homes for periodic (not full-time) short term rental. The City website at that time offered no information about how an owner-occupied short term rental could get a City license, only information for investors about how to register as a pre-existing nonconforming use.


7/31/21

The City finally launches an online licensing system for all short term rentals.



COUNTING OUR LOSSES

This summer, I was grateful for residents who alerted me to a problem that had apparently existed for several months: in the process of setting aside the 2020 ordinance, City staff activities focused mostly on efforts to protect investors and make sure that all of their needs were met in qualifying for exemptions as pre-existing businesses in residential neighborhoods.


When a majority of Council voted to protect investors, the list of potential properties qualifying for exemption - i.e. those property owners that had chosen to respond to a postcard sent in February - was 141. Those properties can be seen on this map:



This map was, unfortunately, only the beginning. The City continues to receive requests for this exemption. I’m told that the current number of permitted STR businesses in residential neighborhoods now exceeds two hundred and continues to grow. (Note: last Tuesday, I asked for an updated list of how many STR’s have been licensed under this policy but I did not receive a response in time for publication in this newsletter.)



MOVING FORWARD

This year, a new majority on Council aimed at (and achieved) the same goal as the State House Republicans: protecting the interests of investors who run short-term rental businesses in residential neighborhoods. The work of a previous Council was largely undone by a new majority which was all-too-eager to meet the needs of property investors. The new Council’s amendments to the STR ordinance meant the loss of over 200 (and counting) units of long-term housing units in our community. While the news out of Lansing is disappointing, it is merely an extension of the work already done by our local leaders in Ann Arbor.


In preparing this newsletter, I called our State Representative Yousef Rabhi to ask about what is happening. The State House approval of 4722 was close, decided by one vote (note: Rep. Rabhi opposed it). This bill could be considered by the State Senate as soon as Tuesday. It is especially important that State Senators hear from us loud and clear: in communities where short-term rentals are a highly profitable venture, local governments must be able to regulate those businesses in order to preserve housing supply for the benefit of long term residents.



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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