Ann Arbor City Council

Ann Arbor City Council has passed a resolution asking the planning commission to move forward with some zoning changes on the edge of downtown. 

Council unanimously passed the resolution Tuesday night after asking the planning commission to also make suggestions on possible zoning changes for other downtown areas. 

Council member Sabra Briere says a lot of hard work remains on what core design guidelines should be considered for developers to be eligible to build larger projects.

Briere says the request for planning commission to review areas such as South University, Thayer, and Ann is in response to concerns raised by the community that the initial review was too limited.
She says the consultant that worked on the project and the planning commission noted this desire by the community to expand the scope of the project, but the planning commission's final recommendation was limited to the original council request.

Ann Arbor City Council has approved the site plan and development agreement for an apartment building at 624 Church Street.  The proposal is for a 14 story apartment building built partially over the Pizza House Restaurant.  The plan calls for 232 bedrooms in 123 units. 

The project has been given positive reviews from the city’s Design Review Board but parking issues led to a lengthy conversation at the council table.  The concerns centered around having spaces reserved in the Forest Avenue parking structure for the next 15 years, and three five year extensions to have spaces somewhere in the city’s parking system. 

Council members say the city’s payment in lieu of parking program needs to be reviewed, as well as the requirement for parking at downtown developments. 

The developers of the project hope to begin work in the spring with a targeted occupancy date in August of 2015.

The former chair of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission is once more seeking a seat on City Council. 

Julie Grand has announced she will run for the third ward seat Council member Christopher Taylor is opting not to try to keep as he instead runs for mayor.  Grand says she learned some lessons from her narrow defeat to Council member Stephen Kunselman in last year's democratic primary.  She says however her philosophy remains the same.

Grand says she is still running to try to make a direct impact on the quality of life in Ann Arbor.  She says the city needs leaders who use data, best practices, and community engagement to make decisions on issues while also working on constituent services.

Courtesy photo

Ann Arbor City Council wants some more information as they consider using their right of first refusal to purchase the Edward Brothers property on South State Street. 

Council Monday night voted unanimously to have the city administrator and city attorney study the issue and identify options to make buying the property financially feasible. 

With over 100 on-street parking meters removed in Ann Arbor since 2006 and an additional 12 meters pending, city council has approved a new policy dealing with the issue. Council Monday night approved the policy that would charge developers $45,000 per meter permanently removed plus the projected ten year value for the meter. 

Work hasn't progressed on the proposed Fuller Road Station in over a year and the University of Michigan is instead building a parking structure between Maiden Lane and Wall Street. 

City Council Monday night passed a resolution formally terminating the Memorandum of Understanding with U of M regarding the proposed project. 

City Council member Stephen Kunselman says it's good to tie up the loose ends.

U of M and the city first agreed to the Memorandum of Understanding in 2010.  The proposal however had many critics that say parkland shouldn't be used for a transit center.

— Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him

The Ann Arbor Street Fair, The Orginal

The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original has been running at a financial deficit the last few years. Event organizers put the annual losses at a range from $5,700  to $8,000. 

Ann Arbor City Council  is dedicating $10,000 to it's community events fund to help cover anticipated losses in 2014. City Council Member Christopher Taylor explains that the unique importance of the art fair makes it worth supporting.

SEE ALSO: The Shadow Art Fair Set To Make Its Last Stand

Overall, the city charges the four art fairs about $60,000 for barriers, extra safety services, and trash removal.  $8,000  is paid by the original art fair.  This fair also pays rent to the University of Michigan and has limited sponsorship options because it's located on campus.

Christopher Taylor also says that the the other three art fairs haven't requested funding from the city, but did write in support of the original art fair receiving assistance.  He says the unique importance of the art fair to the city makes this investment worthwhile and doesn't serve as a precedent for funding other events.

Listen to Andrew Cluley's full report.

 — Andrew Cluley is a reporter and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him

The Ann Arbor Police department won't be getting any new officers in January. But, a couple of assignments are changing.

Another Ann Arbor City Council member is seeking outgoing Mayor John Hieftje's job.
Third Ward Democrat Christopher Taylor today announced he's running for mayor in 2014.

Stephen Kunselman who also represents the third ward on council has already announced he's running, while Hieftje has said he won't seek re-election.

Motorists around Ann Arbor can expect to see more police cars focused on traffic enforcement in January. 

City Council Monday night voted ten to one to provide $125,000 to the police department to fund overtime for officers specifically focused on traffic enforcement. 

The City of Ann Arbor lost 100 units of low-income housing when they had to close the former YMCA building.  Now that the property at 350 South Fifth Avenue is about to be sold the city’s affordable housing will get almost $1.4 million. 

City Council Monday night voted to put all of the revenue from the sale of the property to affordable housing after covering the initial purchase price, closing and broker fees. 

Mayor John Hieftje explains that some of the funds could be used to provide some important services to help keep tenants in Miller Manor.  Hieftje adds that the city has made real progress in finding funds for affordable housing in the last year. 

The sale of the Y-Lot to Dennis Dahlmann is expected to close by the end of March.

Ann Arbor City Council has once more postponed a decision on a policy to charge developers for the removal of on-street parking meters.   Some fine tuning is expected before council votes on a policy to charge developers $45,000 if their project leads to the removal of on-street parking meters.
The proposed policy was developed by the Downtown Development Authority in response to a growing number of parking meters being removed.

City of Ann Arbor

Motorists in Ann Arbor still need to stop for pedestrians waiting at the curb at a crosswalk.  Mayor John Hieftje yesterday formally vetoed an ordinance amendment passed by council last week to only require drivers to stop for pedestrians already in the crosswalk. 

Hieftje says Ann Arbor's current law is safer for pedestrians than the state traffic code and laws in other Michigan cities.  Hieftje says he looks forward to other measures to increase pedestrian safety.  These will include increased education, and enforcement of the crosswalk law. 

Council would need eight votes to override the veto, but only six members voted in favor of the ordinance amendment.

What Ann Arbor City Council members expect of each other and the mayor ended up being the primary discussion item at yesterday's planning session.  Council members created a long list of expectations with most of the issues easily gaining support. 

Julia Novak of the Novak Consulting Group was the meeting facilitator.  Novak says a couple of other expectations took more discussion before all council members would agree to them.  She says this includes sharing information and efforts to make council meetings shorter.

City staff updated council on progress that has been made over the last 12 months on priorities identified at last year's planning session.  Council kept these priorities and tentatively produced new areas of focus for next year, including working on unfunded liabilities, increasing traffic enforcement, promoting work force housing, and efforts to alleviate homelessness.

meltedplastic / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority has resolved a dispute with City Council on the replacement of lighpoles along Main Street by agreeing to fund the entire project.  During the budget approval process in May City Council tweaked the DDA budget, leaving the city responsible for about $280,000 of the $580,000 cost to replace the poles that are rusting out at the base.  In October however City Council failed to approve funding for their portion of the project. 

DDA Board Chair Sandi Smith says this work is too important not to be completed.  Smith says the additional funds will come from money leftover from a more than decade old State Street Improvements project, and next fiscal year's budget.  She says based on how long the entire lightpole replacement project will take having the funds split between two budget years won't be a problem.

Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority has asked the city to commit the funds the DDA spent on the former YMCA lot to affordable housing projects.  The DDA board yesterday passed a resolution to waive the reimbursement of their costs on the Y-Lot property, and encourage City Council to commit as much as possible to affordable housing as well. 

DDA Board Member Keith Orr says to make a real impact on affordable housing as much money as possible is needed from the $5.25 million for the sale of the Y-Lot.

Ann Arbor City Administrator Steve Powers says work on the sale of the former YMCA lot to Dennis Dahlmann continues to go smoothly.   However with the city facing a December 16th deadline to repay the $3.5 million installment purchase agreement city council has approved a six month extension on the loan. 

Ann Arbor City Council has delayed a vote on a proposed policy developed by the Downtown Development Authority to address the permanent removal of on-street parking meters.  The two-week delay is so council can hold a public hearing on the issue. 

The policy proposes a $45,000 fee per meter removed for reasons other than an overall benefit to the community. 

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay says the policy could help the DDA work with developers to get the best possible projects for all.  Pollay says over the last few years about 150 parking meters have been removed for a variety of projects large and small.  She says the policy includes an option for developers to appeal a fee to the city administrator to review if the meter removal is an overall benefit to the community.

The City of Ann Arbor and the owner of the Campus Inn and Bell Tower Hotel have reached an agreement for the sale of the former YMCA  property. 

Dennis Dahlmann agreed to all of the conditions required by City Council in addition to his purchase price of $5.25 million  for the property at 350 South Fifth Avenue. 

Mayor John Hieftje says he's excited to have the sale moving forward and have the land providing income to the city and bring more vitality than a surface parking lot.

The sale is expected to close by the end of the year to meet the city's deadline to payoff an interest only loan on the property.  Dahlmann will be required to build a project including ground floor retail, large plate office space, and residential units.

Last Week's Election Results to be Certified Soon

Nov 12, 2013

It won't be long before we have the official results of last week's elections. 

Ed Golembiewski is Washtenaw County's Elections Director. He says the results will be certified first thing Wednesday morning.

Golembiewski says one provisional ballot was added in Ann Arbor elections, and Ann Arbor city council 5th Ward write-in candidate Chip Smith got an additional 100 votes - not enough to change the results.

University of Michigan Athletics

Ann Arbor City Council has adopted a resolution asking the University of Michigan to decommission its electronic billboard outside Michigan Stadium. 

The sign is the largest billboard in Ann Arbor and city officials say it's too large, too close to the road, and is distracting to motorists.

3rd Ward council member Christopher Taylor acknowledges he and his colleagues can't actually influence U-of-M's decision on this matter. The most they can do is ask the university to take the sign down.

Taylor doesn't expect council to spend much more time discussing the issue, instead focusing on other issues of mutual interest with U-of-M.

Starting in 2016 Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority will likely have their ability to capture tax increment financing capped at a growth rate of 3.5% . 

City Council last night voted nine to two in favor of the first reading of a new ordinance amendment limiting the DDA's TIF capture. 

Chair of the DDA board Sandi Smith says this is a better plan than council originally considered but she thinks it will still hurt the city in the long run.
City Council member Stephen Kunselman says the amendment will allow the DDA to continue to do great work downtown, but force the authority to be more responsive to the city and other taxing authorities. 

The amendment also caps DDA board members to three consecutive terms and requires annual contributions to the DDA's housing fund.

If a sale of the former YMCA site in Ann Arbor is completed with the owner of the Campus Inn and Bell Tower Hotel, the development will include retail, two floors of large plate office space, and residential space for the upper floors. 

City Council last night unanimously passed a resolution for city staff to negotiate with Dennis Dahlmann who bid $5.25 million for the property. 

CA Ventures increased their bid after the deadline, but council member Stephen Kunselman says it's important that city negotiates with the original high bidder.

Kunselman says it's been a decade that the city has been trying to decide what to do with this property so he's glad to see progress finally being made.  After expenses are covered the city will commit proceeds from the sale to affordable housing.


Long-time Ann Arbor City Council member Marcia Higgins said goodbye to the board last night at her final meeting.  Higgins never imagined she would serve so long when she was first elected in 1999.  

Higgins says she's most proud of something not very glamorous, work to clean up contradictions in the city's zoning language, adding that there is now more transparency in the city's budget and the labor contracts are better than they used to be.

Higgins says she was blessed to work with many great city council members, and it's important for council to listen to each other and work together.  She explained that she was initially sad when she lost in the August primary but is now excited to have time to do things she's put off for years.

Voters in Ann Arbor's Second Ward have re-elected Jane Lumm to City Council.  Lumm claimed 56 percent of the vote yesterday, while Democrat Kirk Westphal received 42 percent and Conrad Brown of the Mixed Use Party got two percent. 

Lumm says her victory is another sign Ann Arbor voters want a focus on core services.  Lumm says she's pleased that overall city council continues to gain independent voices that will encourage greater debate. 

Westphal says he hopes to continue to serve on the planning commission and other boards but is concerned city council will pass on opportunities to enhance Ann Arbor's future.