The previous Council has altered our zoning code in a reckless manner. We are now witnessing the destruction of downtown unleashed by the A2D2 zoning modifications. Where we were promised new businesses and residential development for young professionals and empty-nesters, we have seen local businesses displaced by national franchises and highrise apartment buildings suited only for wealthy students. In addition to the A2D2 fiasco, Council approved Area, Height and Placement zoning modifications that will allow taller, denser development in areas outside the downtown core. Separately, we saw the community speak out in support of protecting residential neighborhoods from huge, out of scale buildings, the City has dragged its feet on accepting the R4C citizens' committee recommendations. We expect that Council will turn its attention to these issues in the next year. The new members of COuncil will added a new perspective to the all density is good density view.
The November general election gave voters a chance to support an arts millage as a means of replacing the questionable percent for arts funding method. When that millage failed, Council was faced with the need to cure the flaws in the percent for arts plan with the added information of the failed arts millage. With the new voices on Council, the funding of art is more likely to reflect the values and priorities of residents.
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Important Meeting Regarding the R4C/R2A Zoning amendments. See the update on our R4C & R2A page.
2013 Council Elections
We added a 2013 Election page. That page will be updated as the campaign heats up.
Elections matter! The addition of just two independent voices to the City Council in the 2012 election cycle has dramatically altered the Council's agenda.
Just last year, the City was seriously considering consolidating our five fire stations into just three stations. The explanation was that we could not afford to staff all of the stations with sufficient numbers of firefighters to achieve industry standards for fire response times. With the change in composition of Council, the idea of closing fire stations has been abandoned. More important, the new Council has identified police and fire services as their top budget priority.
While the City administration was planning the station consolidation plan, Council approved an expenditure of about $500,000 as local matching funds for planning a new Amtrak Station. After that planning is complete, Ann Arbor must find about $6 million in local funding to actually build the proposed Amtrak station. With the changes on Council, the Capital Improvement Plan has been modified to at least delay further spending on the Amtrak station.
Last year the Council asked the DDA to study what the public wished to do with five City-owned downtown properties. Although the public voiced great support for downtown park and green space, the DDA recommended huge developments for each of the properties. Fortunately, with its new members, the Council did not accept the recommendations.
Last year, Jane Lumm offered a resolution to add protection of park lands by requiring approval of the voters before park land could be re-purposed through leasing. That Council failed to support her efforts. After the elections, Council decided that, at least, the issue of using Fuller Road parkland for an Amtrak station site should be subject to voter approval.
Last year, the City was seeking to expand our transit system into communities that had little interest in funding public transit. After the elections, but before the new members were seated, Council voted to withdraw from the failed expansion plan.
Remember to VOTE on August 6, 2013
The bad Idea that just won't die
The Ann, a glossy magazine that is inserted in the print version of the DotCom and the local distribution of the New York Times, has an article about the resurgence of the idea that Ann Arbor needs a downtown hotel and conference center. The article is titled Why a convention center can’t pass NO and is now available online. If there is a market for another downtown hotel, someone will build it. If we are asked to provide public funds to subsidize either a hotel or a conference center, it means there is no market for it.
New Neighborhood Efforts
Neighbors in the Lawton Elementary School area have organized to get the City to address flood problems that have existed for decades. Visit their new web site: http://www.a2underwater.org
Neighbors living around Glendale Drive are organizing to protect their neighborhood from the adverse impact of a proposed development on property that was formerly an apple orchard. Visit their site: http://glendalecondodevelopment.blogspot.com/
Neighbors living in the Old Fourth Ward area, north of downtown, are organizing opposition to a proposed 14 story student housing project at 413 E. Huron. They have established a web page, but it doesn't have much content yet: http://www.saveannarbor.org/ We have also added a page under current issues addressing 413 E. Huron and the call for a moratorium on downtown development. If you are following the Council deliberations on imposing a moratorium on downtown development while a review of the A2D2 plan is review and revised, you may find the Township of Northfield decision instructive on the pertinent issues.
A Record of Failure
The former majority on City Council spent time, effort and tax dollars on projects that were doomed to fail from their inception. Here are just a few examples:
Huron Hills Golf Course - The City proposed re-purposing half of the Huron Hills course into a commercial development that would have included a golf driving range and golf related commercial shops. While the debt and development risks would have been carried by the City, a private business would have reaped the profits, had the project worked. The City rejected the proposal when faced with citizen opposition.
Downtown Conference Center - The City proposed all but giving away the property adjacent to the downtown library branch to a hotel developer. The plan included substantial tax breaks and City-subsidies to build and run an attached conference center. Again, the City sought to socialize the risks and privatize the profits. The City ended the RFP process as opposition rapidly spread.
Fuller Road Parking Structure - The City proposed using parkland as a site for a University of Michigan Hospital parking structure (1,000+ spaces). The University's costs of building the structure was meant to represent the local share of the cost of building a train station. The City would have provided the land and 22% of the cost of building the parking structure in hopes of receiving federal money for a train station. The desire for the new train station is predicated on the belief that Ann Arbor will be able to develop a commuter rail system that federal transportation officials have already found to be impractical. The City's efforts to avoid putting the issue on the ballot resulted in having the plan drag on until the University could wait no longer. The University withdrew from the project when the City could not deliver on its promises.
Public Art Funding - After years of complaints about diverting restricted funds from street maintenance, storm system and water funds, the Council decided to seek an alternative funding source after the August primary election suggested that the percent for arts plan might lose support in the next Council. Unfortunately, that arts millage proposal failed. Now the City has referred the troubled percent for arts plan to a committee for study and recommendation.
What's next? - The City badly wants to locate a new Amtrak station on Fuller Road parkland. Many in the community believe this is a bad idea. Prior to the November 2012 election, Council approved more than $500,000 in additional expenditures from the general fund reserves. This general fund raid came after months of reassurance that no general fund money would be used for the Fuller Park Amtrak station.
Please, fix the roads, restore our fire and police staffing levels and focus on our flooding problems.