Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: Election Eve (and Dog Parks!)

3. August 2007 • Juliew
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Monday, August 6 at 7:00 pm.Ann Arbor City Hall

City Council Agenda

Highlights:

  • Edwards Brothers Industrial District
  • Greenbelt Expansion
  • Dog Parks (again)
  • Barton Green Planned Project Site Plan (Pontiac Trail)
  • Huron River Drive Improvement Project

Also, don’t forget the City Council Primary Elections are this Tuesday, August 7 for the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wards.

The League of Women Voter’s City Council Election Debate of July 23, 2007 is now posted on Google Video. Click here to view.

  • 1st Ward Debate among John Roberts, Sabra Briere, and Richard Wickboldt begins the program.
  • 3rd Ward Debate between LuAnne Bullington and Leigh Greden is at 30:24.
  • 5th Ward Debate between Wendy Woods and Mike Anglin is at 59:56.


  1. Good for the Edwards Brothers! Neat story.


       —todd    Aug. 3 '07 - 11:55PM    #
  2. Todd,

    The agenda doesn’t have a .pdf with that item that I could find describing what an Industrial District is or why it’s good news for EB.

    Could you (or someone else) briefly fill us in?


       —HD    Aug. 4 '07 - 01:19AM    #
  3. Oh, oops. There was a really nice piece about the Edwards Bros. in the AANews the other day, that’s all.

    Family company. Been at it for years. They are expanding and looking for a tax break on their personal property (printing presses). Apparently in order to qualify for a tax exemption/break/whatever they call it, their site has to be designated as part of an “industrial district”. BS red tape. As a manufacturer, I can tell you that the personal property tax is the real killer…particularly if you want to grow.

    It’s just neat that they’re doing well in a tough business, that’s all….


       —todd    Aug. 4 '07 - 01:52AM    #
  4. I just noticed the interesting “DC-2” on the agenda:

    Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment on the Sale of City-Owned Land Acquired for or Used as Parkland (Councilmembers Johnson and Woods)

    So, the deal here is that, by State law, any parkland designated as a park in the Master Plan cannot be sold without a ballot item authorizing the sale.

    However, the Council could vote to amend the Master Plan to remove the “park” designation, and then vote to sell the property, without a ballot item. (I expect this would result in recall petitions being filed the next day, but it would be possible.)

    The Council is therefore considering a ballot item to amend the City Charter to require a ballot vote on the sale of parkland, regardless of whether the MP calls it a park – once a piece of City-owned land has been called a park by the City, “or land in the City acquired for park purposes”, it will require a vote to dispose of the land.

    I generally consider this a pretty good thing. On the other hand, it means the City would have to be very cautious about what it decides to call a “park”, or what reasons it gives for acquiring land. As I think there have been some pretty marginal “parks” entered into the system, I can only think more caution would also be a good thing.


       —Murph.    Aug. 5 '07 - 02:49PM    #
  5. Murph, I think that item came out of a resident’s question at a previous Council meeting about what would happen if the city tried to sell one of the golf courses. While there was a discussion that the City could not do that without putting it to a vote, this resolution seems to be actually closing any loopholes. I imagine some of the Council members might not like it because it would be seen as tying the Council’s hands. I agree with you though that I generally think this is a pretty good thing.


       —Juliew    Aug. 5 '07 - 06:21PM    #
  6. There’s been a statewide effort to raise awareness about this issue since parkland has been sold off or threatened to be sold off in various cities including Benton Harbor (Jean Klock Park), Grand Rapids (Garfield Park) and Novi (Lakeshore Park). Cities are getting around the state law requiring a vote by changing their master plans to remove the park designation. There was an article about this in the Free Press the other day. One of the groups involved has more info. here:

    http://www.defenseofplace.org/index.php


       —John Q.    Aug. 5 '07 - 08:44PM    #
  7. I see there are annexations on the agenda. Can someone explain how properties within city limits are annexed into the city? Thanks.


       —Cooler Heads    Aug. 5 '07 - 11:55PM    #
  8. There are dozens of township “islands” within the city limits. Most are part of Ann Arbor township but there are also some that belong to Scio township and Pittsfield township. The islands have been created over the years as larger areas were annexed into the city and the islands were left behind.

    Most of the islands consist of vacant land or single-family homes that have held off joining the city because of the tax benefits that come from remaining in the township. As septic fields have failed or as property owners have sought to develop their property, the city has required annexation as a condition to providing water and sewer service. The city also has annexation agreements with the surrounding townships that has provided for areas within set boundaries to annex into the city at the owners request. I believe that this year or next is the deadline for those annexations to occur. After that, the city can initiate annexation of any remaining islands. The AA News had some articles about this process in the last couple of months.


       —John Q.    Aug. 6 '07 - 02:27AM    #
  9. Not too long ago, there were hundreds of township islands; it’s good to see the number dwindle. Ann Arbor has the most screwed up municipal boundary in the entire state, and probably one of the worst in the nation.

    Look at the plat maps: some neighborhoods seem to be just hopskotch of city lots and township lots seemingly at random. And scattered enclaves of township territory are all over town.

    My contention is that the public interest is best served by boundaries that are simple and sensible. That goes for municipal boundaries, school district boundaries, legislative district and ward boundaries, etc.

    Obviously Ann Arbor’s decisionmakers in the 1960s didn’t believe in that principle. And their mistakes are taking decades to fix.

    This awful mess of a boundary caused an election debacle in the 1970s, when a close mayor’s race was jolted by the revelation that hundreds of township residents, thinking they lived in the city, had registered to vote with the city clerk, who had accepted their registrations. And a bunch of them had voted in the city election.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 6 '07 - 05:21AM    #
  10. That was in 1977, when Al Wheeler beat Jim Stephenson by one vote. The recount confirmed Al’s victory, but an assistant in the Clerk’s office found that a few voters who lived in twp. islands had registered in AA and voted. There was a lawsuit filed by the Republicans, and the judge tried to force one voter to say how she had voted. She was cited for contempt for refusing to answer and was taken from the courtroom in tears. Al agreed to a consent decree where an election would be held he next year. He lost to Lou Belcher. It was very dramatic and very sad.


       —Leah Gunn    Aug. 6 '07 - 11:15AM    #
  11. Larry,

    I’m not sure Ann Arbor’s islands are the worst case in Michigan. True, the boundary was and is a mess but the islands are largely small lots and there’s agreements that allow for the orderly inclusion of the township parcels into the city.

    Compare that to Brownstown, Lansing or Kalamazoo townships where the township has been fragmented into a series of disconnected parts but in pieces large enough that there’s little likelihood that they’ll ever be annexed by one of the surrounding communities. How does a government of disconnected areas like those make any sense? Or poor Royal Oak Township which is the by-product of years of city incorporations which left the poorest section unincorporated and too small to support itself but too large to be annexed administratively.


       —John Q.    Aug. 6 '07 - 01:16PM    #
  12. So, let me ask this: If a person lives fully inside the city of AA, has a fully functioning septic, and a well, they can go on being part of AA township for years to come?

    Also, I know that residents along the Huron who live on twp islands are being told by the city they need to pay now to hook up to city water/sewer. If they don,t it will cost more later.

    Can the city force them to do that? Do these people automatically get annexed when they hook up to services?


       —Cooler Heads    Aug. 6 '07 - 04:45PM    #
  13. I actually live in a neighborhood that got annexed. Most of it happened before we moved in, but it was quite a mess of putting in new septic systems in the houses, etc. I have to say that the city was WONDERFUL every step of the way. They even had a little wrap up session at the library when we were done…just to see how things went.

    I remember reading an article about how some households annex themselves and their neighbors are not annexed, so there is a big difference in taxes.

    I love being part of the city, personally. On the down side, we now have a huge septic bill to pay off over the next 10 years. On the up side, we can vote in city elections, can get our own show on CTN and get a canoe discount at Gallup :)


       —TeacherPatti    Aug. 6 '07 - 05:51PM    #
  14. Cooler: Three was a “boundary agreement” back in the early 90’s between the townships and the city. The city agreed not to try and annex parcels outside the city that the townships wanted to keep and the city got all the parcels in the city. All will be brought in by the end of 07.

    I suppose some could take legal action but apparently with little hope for success. From what I have heard the agreement would have to be challenged by either the city or the twps. and neither seems inclined to do that.


       —Dustin    Aug. 6 '07 - 06:16PM    #
  15. JQ: Those other townships have bad boundaries, too, but I don’t think they outrank Ann Arbor in terms of being a mess.

    I’m very familiar with Lansing Township, which is in six pieces. The west side is one big piece with plenty of tax base; it’s surrounded by Lansing on three sides, but it could easily be a city on its own.

    On the east side, the most populated eastern piece is completely surrounded by the city of Lansing, as are two other small pieces. There’s also a very poor neighborhood (largely eviscerated by a freeway and commercial development). There’s a rural chunk with hundreds of acres and a population of 2 (it was in my county commission district); almost all the land there is owned by MSU.

    But the real problem here is that Lansing Township is a charter township, so annexing any part of it is next to impossible.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 6 '07 - 06:36PM    #
  16. “So, let me ask this: If a person lives fully inside the city of AA, has a fully functioning septic, and a well, they can go on being part of AA township for years to come?”

    In theory. But the boundary agreement with Ann Arbor Township allows the city to seek annexation of those properties at the end of 2007 (per Dustin which sounds right to me). Under the Charter Township Act, the city can go to the State Boundary Commission to request that the SBC order the islands be annexed into the city. If the SBC agrees, the island occupants are not entitled to a vote on the annexation unless the area contained more than 100 residents (not likely for the most of the islands).

    “Also, I know that residents along the Huron who live on twp islands are being told by the city they need to pay now to hook up to city water/sewer. If they don,t it will cost more later.”

    The city’s carrot and stick approach is giving property owners the chance to annex now and get a better rate on utility hook-ups which can run in the thousands of dollars. Those who wait to hook-up will face higher fees.

    “Can the city force them to do that? Do these people automatically get annexed when they hook up to services?”

    Once they are annexed into the city, I believe that the city requires that they hook-up to public utilities. Also, the city won’t extend public utilities until a property is annexed (although the city normally will approve a utility extension agreement with a property once the annexation process has been started). Since the city will start initiating annexations in 2008 and once into the city, property owners will have to hook-up, there’s a real financial incentive to annex now versus waiting and having to pay more once you’re annexed in by the SBC.

    “I love being part of the city, personally. On the down side, we now have a huge septic bill to pay off over the next 10 years.”

    I think you mean sewer bill. The city would have required property owners to connect to public sewer. Septic is where the wastewater goes into a tank in your backyard.


       —John Q.    Aug. 6 '07 - 06:46PM    #
  17. Oops—yep, you’re right, John Q. :blush:

    We had the coolest company EVER do the septic digging in our backyard. They were called Diggit. Get it???? Awesome.


       —TeacherPatti    Aug. 6 '07 - 08:36PM    #
  18. Something to watch for: some wealthy AA twp residents who live in AA Hills in twp. islands who protest annexation. They’ll come up with some cockamamy story about the environment. But it’s really about avoiding city taxes.


       —Cooler Heads    Aug. 6 '07 - 09:06PM    #
  19. Personally, I’m curios about the topic to expand the greenbelt. As a grad student at U of M, my environmental planning class determined that the City’s idea was inconsistent and full of problems… and now it’s being expanded? What’s going on?


       —paul    Aug. 6 '07 - 11:10PM    #
  20. “As a grad student at U of M, my environmental planning class determined that the City’s idea was inconsistent and full of problems… and now it’s being expanded?”

    Care to expand on those comments?

    As far as the greenbelt expansion, the background material with the agenda item explains the rationale behind it. To summarize, there have been requests from the surrounding townships and some of the local organizations involved in land preservation (Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy and Washtenaw Land Trust) to assist with purchase of development rights that the Greenbelt board has had to turn down because the properties were outside the current greenbelt borders. In some cases, these requests were for properties that were right across the border.

    The areas targeted for expansion make sense as they include townships with PDR millages or active land preservation efforts. In those communities, the greenbelt dollars can be combined with the township or land conservancy dollars to acquire more land in areas where farmland can be preserved in contiguous blocks. Already, the framework of the greenbelt is being established across the northern side of Ann Arbor. Along with the thousand plus acres preserved east of Ann Arbor in Superior Township, real progress is being made in creating a zone of protected agricultural properties surrounding the city.


       —John Q.    Aug. 7 '07 - 03:50AM    #
  21. Hello and Good Day. Richard Wickboldt here. August 7th is voting for the City Council in our ward1. While it is a primary, this is the vote that counts since only one party has candidates running.

    This race is very important! Ann Arbor is at a cross roads to the future. We have immense challenges before us with the state economy in a slump and now Ann Arbor is no longer an island of vibrant economic activity. This is evident with Pfizer leaving us. We are only beginning to feel the impact. Our real estate values are declining and some neighborhoods have seen 40 – 50 % loss in value. Many local businesses in our Ward will see less economic activity. The city will see less tax receipts. Our city budget will be challenged!

    We need city council members who can provide the over sight to the government, hold the City Administrator accountable, know how to spend tax dollars wisely, have a depth of knowledge so they can question the votes put to them. Most importantly experience in building and reading a budget that must provide us with basic city government services in public safety, infrastructure (transportation and water), public health and social services. Additionally knowledge in the operations of these types of services to insure the City Administrator is properly managing them.

    We don’t need city council members who have specific agendas, clear ties and endorsements from special interest groups who wish to spend our tax dollars for their dreams and social agenda, no knowledge of city government operations in providing services, who feel that the world will be saved by our city government and it’s resolutions and our tax dollars.

    We have candidates in our Ward 1 race who have very specific ties and endorsements by organizations who do not have our best interest in mind and no respect for the role of city government. These same candidates have no professional knowledge or experience in the basic and important services we expect from a city government. They have no experience, responsibility and involvement with a budget of tens of millions of dollars. They have no experience how to properly allocate and spend money in operations of services. There only experience is in political and social activism. City council is no place for political and social activism.

    I have been asked to run for city council by many members of our community because they know I have the following experience we need to manage an effective city government:

    · 23 years experience in public services and utilities,
    · I have proven experience and track record as a steward of public tax dollar expenditures,
    · 23 plus years in management and decision making within the public sector,
    · Real world experience and track record of improving and championing the environment,
    · 15 years experience in emergency management,
    · No ties to any public or commercial interest group,
    · Extensive project management in areas of master and strategic planning, construction, engineering, environmental, utilities services and regulatory compliance. Neither of my opponents have any experience which will make them an effective city council member.

    I urge you to vote August 7th because our future of effective government is in jeopardy. Recently it has been announced that the Mayor maybe leaving his office to be on the Michigan Public Service Commission. A present City Council Member will be the acting mayor and the council seat filled by appointment.

    Finally I also urge you to pass this email onto your friends and neighbors and ask them to get out and vote tomorrow. Many of the primary voters who turn out are political activist who use the low turn out to get heir agenda and candidates on the council. By a larger turnout we can reverse this trend.

    Richard Wickboldt – Ward 1 City Council Candidate


       —Richard Wickboldt    Aug. 7 '07 - 04:44AM    #
  22. The polls are open. Be sure to vote!!


       —David Cahill    Aug. 7 '07 - 11:07AM    #
  23. John Q. – thanks. The coordination with the townships was one of my biggest sticking points. Without a good effort to combine processes with bordering townships, Ann Arbor’s greenbelt was only going to be a patchwork mess.


       —paul    Aug. 7 '07 - 11:56AM    #
  24. “Without a good effort to combine processes with bordering townships, Ann Arbor’s greenbelt was only going to be a patchwork mess.”

    That’s a legitimate concern. But it’s been the city’s intent from day one to coordinate with the surrounding townships on development rights acquistions. On the same day that the Greenbelt millage passed in the city, Ann Arbor Township passed their own PDR millage with the intent to work with the city to acquire development rights within the township. The city’s willingness to work with the surrounding townships probably helped sell the PDR millage efforts in Scio and Webster townships as voters knew that their tax dollars would be leveraged with city tax dollars and other funding sources to protect more land than any one of the governments could do themselves. There’s quite a bit of info. online about the greenbelt program for those interested in researching it in-depth.

    City’s Greenbelt Info.
    http://www.a2gov.org/greenbelt/greenbelt.html

    Conservation Fund
    http://www.conservationfund.org/midwest/michigan/ann_arbor_greenbelt

    Greenbelt Proposal campaign site:
    http://www.a2openspace.org/

    Articles about greenbelt acquisitions
    http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/AAgreenbelt0027.aspx

    http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/farmland3.aspx

    http://www.ecocenter.org/ecolink/jan07.shtml#300

    http://www.ecocenter.org/200605/greenbelt_200605.shtml


       —John Q.    Aug. 7 '07 - 01:37PM    #
  25. What was the result on the dog park issue?


       —Edward Vielmetti    Aug. 7 '07 - 01:43PM    #
  26. All dogpark resolutions passed unchanged. Plus there was some speechifying.

    The practical result of this is that all of the Council hurdles have been passed and the bulk of the process is now in the hands of Parks staff.

    From what I’ve heard, the temporary off-leash area at Southeast Area Park should be completed within a month or so. The large Swift Run project has been pushed back again to November. Being a city-county cooperative and needing DEQ approval, I’ll be surprised if there aren’t more slow-downs there.

    Two other off-leash areas – one at Olson and one at Lillie Park – were preapproved for long-term development as well.


       —dcwp    Aug. 7 '07 - 04:14PM    #
  27. election results here

    council winners summary:
    ward: winner votes percent
    ward 1: Sabra Briere 421 46.31%
    ward 3: Leigh Greden 678 62.89%
    ward 5: Mike Anglin 989 59.58%


       —bob kuehne    Aug. 8 '07 - 01:22PM    #
  28. The August 6 Council Meeting video is now posted.


       —Juliew    Aug. 16 '07 - 06:57PM    #
  29. Thanks for the link, Juliew.


       —Urban Runoff    Aug. 17 '07 - 06:56AM    #
  30. I just read the AANews article about the new dog park. Wow! For only $35 a year I can take my dog to a city-run fenced in piece of torn up lawn that’s only a 20 minute drive from my home. What a privilege! I wonder when they’ll start charging all my friends with kids for the playground equipment?


       —OWSider    Aug. 22 '07 - 09:55PM    #
  31. As much as I would like to see all the spoiled larvae of Ann Arbor duct-taped to the outside of the space shuttle, I think the argument goes that a child is a right while a dog is a privilege.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 23 '07 - 03:21PM    #
  32. I can see that argument. But city services are city services. I gladly pay taxes that support our schools even though I will never have children. And I gladly pay taxes to support all sorts of public amenities without hesitation. But how are they going to enforce this?

    And Councilwoman Lowenstein’s quote in the paper about how she “thinks” the fee is so high because people will have to clean the park up is woefully vague and, frankly, a little misleading since they’re asking for volunteers to staff the park to encourage people to clean up after their dogs. I don’t want councilmembers “thinking” they know whey the fee’s so high. They better darn well KNOW why it’s so high.


       —OWSider    Aug. 23 '07 - 03:40PM    #
  33. Keep in mind that some city “services” entail fees—the pools and golf course, for example—others don’t.

    A call to one of your council reps might result in an answer to your question—unless of course you’d rather keep shaking AU for reactions. :-)


       —Steve Bean    Aug. 23 '07 - 07:33PM    #
  34. This is complete speculation, but maybe it’s sort of like resident only parking. We now understand that the economics of the program mean that it costs the city less to let people park in neighborhoods for free than it does to “make money” off of them by selling them permits and ticketing them when they goof up. The enforcement required by the restriction costs more than can be recouped. It’s possible the $35 will pay only a portion of what it costs to keep out the curs of Ypsi Township. Of course the Ypsi township dogs get all of the exercise they need fighting each other in basements and running from the Humane Society.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 23 '07 - 07:44PM    #
  35. Steve,

    I understand special fees for things that require quite a bit of maintenance such as a golf course or a swimming pool. But a bit of fenced in grass? Oh well. We’re leaving this state soon anyway.


       —OWSider    Aug. 24 '07 - 12:27AM    #