Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: Trash, Booze, NIMBYs, and Parking

3. February 2008 • Juliew
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Monday, February 4 at 7:00 pm.
Ann Arbor City HallCity Council Agenda

Highlights:

  • Changes to compost pickup to eliminate “resident-supplied containers” and require residents to buy City-approved carts at $49.70/cart (although compost bags and bundling of materials next to carts will still be allowed). A program to pick up old carts for reuse or recycle has been added. Also, changes to solid waste ordinances to allow placement of waste carts in front open space for some buildings.
  • Class C liquor licenses and redevelopment district liquor licenses. Several agenda items cover the awarding of the one available Class C liquor license (currently being fought over by Everyday Cook, the Golf Course, and apparently Sweetwaters). Also in the mix is the establishment of a liquor “redevelopment district” for the DDA which would give two more available licenses to businesses within the DDA boundaries.
  • Resolution to direct Planning Commission and Planning and Development Services Staff to develop an ordinance requiring petitioners to engage in additional citizen participation for planned projects, planned unit developments and conditional zoning early in these projects.
  • Resolution authorizing the Downtown Development Authority to design and construct an underground parking garage on the city-owned South Fifth Avenue (Library Lot) parking lot.



  1. It should be noted that the regular collection will now end October 31 instead of November 30. A special one week additional collection is proposed after Thanksgiving.

    Also the $50 cart is a special one time only, one per household, purchase. First, it requires a retailer to agree to buy the carts from the city and resell them at a very minimal mark-up. The only retailer identified is Downtown Home and Garden. Second it requires a special voucher from the city, one per household, to get a $20 discount. Lowes currently sell carts by the same manufacturer for $90. The $90, seems a more realistic future replacement cost.

    The only logic in refusing to let citizens continue to use their own containers is to force those people who to do not want to continually buy the paper bags for the sole purpose of throwing them away to buy the carts.


       —G. Thompson    Feb. 4 '08 - 05:03PM    #
  2. Anyone know how big these carts are? they’d have to be big enough to make it worth buying – I can throw a lot of leaves over my neighbor’s fence for free after all. Plus there’s so many parks in town to dump yard waste at, they’re not just for used fridges and tires anymore.

    Not everyone is going to be able to cart a 64-96 gallon cart home from Downtown Home and Gardens… hey, I got a pickup! Who wants to throw me 5 bucks a trip and I’ll pick them up for y’all? Capitalism + hippyism = money for me.


       —Thomas Cook    Feb. 4 '08 - 05:34PM    #
  3. The compost carts are the 96-gallon kind.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 4 '08 - 06:15PM    #
  4. Ch. 26, Section 2:5 (2)(c)(i) indicates that grass clippings would be accepted in curbcarts for compostables. That’s a change that I’ve not heard mention of, and it could be significant in its impact on the practices of residents. I would have liked for this component at least to be presented to the Env. Comm.

    A program to pick up old carts for reuse or recycle has been added.

    I haven’t found any info on this. Do you know more, Julie?

    The worker comp property claims chart shows that claims peaked in FY03 at $65,000+. Anyone know what year the policy was changed allowing drivers/collectors to not be required to work beyond the time it takes to finish their route each day (or is that only for RAA drivers?) I’m just wondering if that change might have been an unnoticed factor in the change in claims over time.


       —Steve Bean    Feb. 4 '08 - 06:30PM    #
  5. Alas! Thanks to Glenn for spotting the little item F2 at the bottom of the page. As he says in comment #1, these changes in regulations stop collection of compostables on October 31 (instead of the old date of December 1). A tiny little patch has been added for an extra week after Thanksgiving.

    Some people find themselves putting leaves into bags or containers rather than into the street. Some streets (like W. Stadium) are not configured for leaves into the street. Or maybe some miss the regular street pickup date (it is now very tight). With our warmer, longer seasons, leaves don’t necessarily drop in October and much garden cleanup remains as well.

    I will be writing to my council representatives to ask them to intercede to prevent this change in regulations so that our current service is maintained.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 4 '08 - 07:53PM    #
  6. Thomas Cook wrote: “hey, I got a pickup! Who wants to throw me 5 bucks a trip and I’ll pick them up for y’all? Capitalism + hippyism = money for me.”

    Yeah, well, I think I can trump your pickup

    Thomas, I read your suggestion of composting yard waste in public parks as tongue-in-cheek, but honestly I don’t think it’s an awful idea to set aside limited areas in parks for exactly that. I’ve got a giant yellow wheelbarrow that I use almost exclusively for carting the snow out of my driveway and into the backyard. I’d like to extend its use to carting leaves over to the Water Works Park on 7th Street.

    Advantages over participation in the leaf pickup program include:

    * could do that any day of the week I want. * would get to use my big-ass wheelbarrow. * wouldn’t create an unnecessary road hazard for cyclists. * could go get free compost in the spring.

    However, I don’t see this happening. My understanding is that neighbors of Virginia Park successfully opposed putting community gardens in one area of that park (to replace those lost at the Zion Lutheran site) on the grounds that ‘gardens are ugly’. I would have to concede that a compost pile is not more attractive than a garden.


       —HD    Feb. 4 '08 - 08:13PM    #
  7. The program to pick up old cans from April 1 through April 7 is in DS-3, the request to spend 358,200 to purchase 6,000 96 gallon carts from Bell Equipment. The city did not get competitive bids on the carts, which is probably why 8 votes are needed for approval.

    The city paid just under 40 per cart for the 96 gallon carts purchased in 2004 for the regular refuse collection. These new ones are about 60. I’m not sure why they have gone up so much unless it is the increase in petroleum prices.

    The workers comp claims data is inconsistent with the workers comp costs charged to the solid waste fund. The solid waste fund got charged 46,908 in workers come in the year ended june 30, 2005. The next year it dropped to 43,788 and then went up to 48,272 in fiscal year 2007. The chart appears to be actual claims paid by the insurance co and the amount charged to the fund is probably the insurance premium but I would expect a sharp drop in claims to result in a reduced premium.

    The chart also shows a sharp drop in liability claims starting in fye 05 but the audits show that insurance costs increased from 75,432 in 05 to 122,220 in 07.


       —karen sidney    Feb. 4 '08 - 08:13PM    #
  8. This is just nuts! I can’t believe the city is actually condoning forcing people to purchase paper bags (or $50 for a giant plastic cart) instead of using existing containers that have no other purpose. This from the city that likes to pretend that it’s green. What hypocrisy.


       —KEF    Feb. 5 '08 - 01:39AM    #
  9. HD,
    So you’re the one biking up and down Liberty with those huge containers! I should have known.


       —Nancy    Feb. 5 '08 - 01:46AM    #
  10. So, after giving one of the more eloquent presentations I’ve seen at the City Council table against awarding the liquor license to the City for use at Leslie Park, CM Briere declared she would be voting for awarding it TO THE CITY, whuh? ... in order to be on the prevailing side … so that she would have the right to bring the vote for reconsideration next week.

    This, after the motion to postpone failed on a 5-5 vote. [Easthope is absent tonight.] So the strategy appears to be to reconsider next week, and with Easthope’s vote, prevail on the vote.


       —HD    Feb. 5 '08 - 03:56AM    #
  11. Anyone know why (or by which ordinance) liquor licenses are not considered on a first come, first served basis? (I haven’t had time to drill down through the agenda link in search of it.)


       —Steve Bean    Feb. 5 '08 - 04:15AM    #
  12. Hmm, now that Leopolds is leaving, maybe they will sell their liquor license to Everyday Cook …


       —Juliew    Feb. 5 '08 - 04:23AM    #
  13. We don’t have a liquor license. We have manufacturing license. We can’t help them.

    They probably don’t know this, but they could, if they wished, get a small winemaking license, purchase wine in bulk, and bottle it on site. Now THAT I could help them with….

    In other words, they could have their own private label for the price of a $100 wine filler and a SWM license. It’d only take a few months to get it together, and they’d only have to buy 50 or so gallons at a time. Some of the smaller MI winemakers would be happy to sell them the odd barrel.


       —todd    Feb. 5 '08 - 06:03AM    #
  14. Right on!!!


       —kaptain krunch    Feb. 5 '08 - 06:38AM    #
  15. Something extraordinary happened when Council considered Sabra’s resolution asking the planning folks to consider a draft ordinance on citizen participation. The “tectonic plates” on development have been shifting under us, and finally there was an earthquake.

    The resolution, as introduced, only applied to situations where the developer wants some kind of exception to the existing zoning in the form of a Planned Unit Development, a Planned Project, or conditional zoning. The participation requirements would not have applied where someone has the right to build something under the existing zoning, or where Council is being asked to rezone some land without using these three special gimmicks.

    Mayor pro tem Marcia Higgins offered an amendment to Sabra’s resolution, which was adopted, and which dramatically expanded the scope of the resolution. It struck out all the “resolved” clauses in the original resolution and inserted the following:

    RESOLVED, that the Mayor and City Council hereby direct the Planning Commission to develop an ordinance requiring any development to engage in citizen participation early in the planning process and;

    RESOLVED, that the Mayor and City Council hereby requests the City Administrator to direct the Planning and Development Staff to develop an internal process that will address the implementation of the early notification stage for our citizens and;

    RESOLVED, that the Planning Commission will provide a recommended ordinance and the City Administrator will bring the implementation process to City Council by the first meeting in June, 2008.

    End of new language.

    Higgins (and others) expressed their displeasure at a variety of bad projects that had been constructed—including projects that the developer had a right to build under existing zoning. Higgins mentioned a McMansion in the Fifth Ward. So the resolution includes “any development”. Council members apparently felt that too many inappropriate projects had been built, and they were receiving too many complaints.

    Sabra woke me up at midnight to tell me what had happened. She said that an ad hoc Council committee would probably be appointed to work with the Planning Commission.

    This may mark the end of the pro-development era in Ann Arbor. Or more exactly, as Winston Churchill said after the defeat of the Afrika Korps in 1942: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”


       —David Cahill    Feb. 5 '08 - 05:19PM    #
  16. David,

    Thanks for the stirring language but this could have very bad results. I’ve been an advocate for citizen involvement up-front in the process for PD and similar projects and I think citizen input is always helpful to the developers, staff and public officials. But I have a feeling that this could backfire badly on Council. If Council creates an expectation with the public that complaints can derail projects that meet the ordinance, one of two things will happen. These projects will be approved, as they should be when they meet the ordinances, and the public will walk away fuming over unmet expectations. Or the decision-makers will reject these projects and the city will be sued (and likely lose, as they should) by developers irate when projects that meet the ordinances are rejected.

    If Higgins and others don’t like the projects that are being built under the zoning ordinances, then change the ordinances. If she doesn’t want to see McMansions built, then change the ordinances to prohibit them. Developers build what the ordinances allow so if the city gets “bad projects”, the Council is ultimately responsible for this.

    This seems like a huge cop-out by Councilmembers too lazy or incompetent to change the ordinances. I’m sure the development community would scream bloody murder over changes that would stop “bad projects” but at least they would know where the lines are drawn. The only thing that this approach Council is taking will accomplish is more ticked off residents and more lawsuits from the development community.


       —John Q.    Feb. 5 '08 - 06:34PM    #
  17. Higgins mentioned a McMansion in the Fifth Ward. So the resolution includes “any development”. . .This may mark the end of the pro-development era in Ann Arbor.

    Good thing A2 has smart people working for it who will immediately grasp the implications of this and advise the Planning Commission and Council accordingly.

    You want to enclose that rear porch on your house into a sunroom? Well, that used to be a building permit that probably turned around inside a week, but now it’s going to take you that long just to figure out how to get your hands on a list of everybody within 300 feet of your property. Then you have to make up notices, send them out, wait two weeks to ensure people have enough time to figure out what the notice is for and plan to meet with you, hold a meeting, draft up the results, draft responses, and give all that to the City.

    The sheer effort of going through the motions is going to be enough to push individual homeowners out to the Townships, even though, 99% of the time, there won’t end up being any “participation” to report on.

    Large developers, on the other hand, eat process like this for breakfast.


       —Murph    Feb. 5 '08 - 06:45PM    #
  18. Hi, Todd. Interesting thought regarding Everyday Cook bottling wine. Would that then allow them to pour other wineries’ wines, or just the ones that actually purchase and bottle.

    Thanks,
    Dave


       —Dave    Feb. 5 '08 - 07:45PM    #
  19. They would only be allowed to sell the stuff that they purchase and bottle.

    It’d be a hassle, true. And they’d be able to market and sell it in MI grocery and liquor stores.


       —todd    Feb. 5 '08 - 08:22PM    #
  20. Here is Ron Suarez’ statement from his blog about what happened with the liquor license last night.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 5 '08 - 09:19PM    #
  21. I recorded the Council meeting and had a chance to watch the part dealing with Sabra’s resolution just now.

    “Any development” is apparently a term of art. It doesn’t mean “any construction”. Instead, it means “anything that comes to Planning Commission and Council”. In particular, it includes projects that require site plans, which, according to staff, are about 70% of the projects that Commission and Council process.

    So this new procedure, once it comes back to Council, will involve ordinance changes that don’t affect the ordinary small project.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 6 '08 - 12:21AM    #
  22. I would really like to see “plain English” incorporated into city council resolutions;terms of art tend to confuse the layman who do not typically understand such language. Most of us are not so erudite and esoteric so as to compehend this bombastic sesquipedalianism.


       —Kaptain Krunch    Feb. 6 '08 - 12:55AM    #
  23. “So this new procedure, once it comes back to Council, will involve ordinance changes that don’t affect the ordinary small project.”

    This contradicts the sentence that proceeds it. Most site plans that go to the Planning Commission don’t involve “ordinance changes”. Those plans usually meet the zoning ordinance requirements and usually don’t require a change in zoning to proceed. So which is it? Are all projects going to have to go through this review? What meets the definition of “ordinary small project”?


       —John Q.    Feb. 6 '08 - 03:55AM    #
  24. John Q,

    I’m reading the “ordinance changes” in [21] as the enactment of this new procedure of neighbor notification as an ordiance. Otherwise put:

    “So this new procedure, once it comes back to Council [for consideration to be enacted as an ordiance], will be an ordinance that does not affect the ordinary small project.”


       —HD    Feb. 6 '08 - 04:33AM    #
  25. HD,

    Good catch, I should have read that more closely. My previous comments on the potential problems with this still stand.


       —John Q.    Feb. 6 '08 - 01:28PM    #
  26. Ordinance writing and council resolutions should not contain subjective and mushy language like ‘ordinary small projects’. Further I would say ‘any development’ means anything built. If council means for this to be anything else they should pass a resolution that says so. Leaving it to ‘a term of art’ is just another way to say ‘spin’. This should not be left without distinction if the council means otherwise. The biggest problem with our ordinances is the inability of those who have to interpret them to know precisely what is affected by the code, and what is exempt, because the language is not careful; despite the best intentions of the smart people that murph references. Will it ever be perfect? Of course not, but certainly we can ask that the council make some attempt at drawing the line of distinction, or have the staff hammer that out.

    I must admit that I don’t know how an engaged councilperson can listen to another use the expression ‘any development’ and not have loud bells and whistles go off in their head. In this case they not only heard it, they voted on it.


       —abc    Feb. 6 '08 - 03:32PM    #
  27. Council deliberated on composting carts for a good while. So long that I’m not sure what the outcome on the main issue was … something like: people can keep their own containers, for now anyway.

    But the possibility of having huge carts emptied by a hydraulic arm prompted an intense discussion of grass clippings.

    Background: a couple of years ago, grass clippings were prohibited as material that could be set out for compostables collection. My recollection is that at the time the grass clipping prohibition was enacted, the focus was on encouraging the more environmentally sound practice of leaving grass clippings in situ on the lawn, and that only later did the rationale emerge that was based on the weight of the clippings as it relates to workers’ ability to lift containers.

    In any case, both of these arguments against grass clippings were discussed by Council on Monday, because as a part of the new compost cart proposal, City staff were proposing that grass clippings now be allowed back into the compostable stream … because if they’re in a bin that’s going to be lifted by a hydraulic arm, weight’s not an issue, which would leave only the environmental argument.

    This environmental argument was advanced by Leigh Greden in the form of an amendment that had the effect of maintaining the current ban. His specific comments addressed the point of illegal grass clippings appearing in the solid waste stream, arguing that getting used to mulching would require a certain amount of adjustment time. He also drew a huge laugh when describing how mulching works he paused for a beat and added, “or so my gardener tells me”. The laughing went on so long that Stephen Rapundalo had time to join the fun by administering a fake dope slap to Leigh.

    Greden was supported in his amendment by Kunselman, who pointed out that chicken droppings were high in nitrogen, and that any nitrogen shortfall in the City’s mix of compost (on account of low amounts of green material like grass clippings) could be rectified by allowing backyard chickens.

    Higgens wondered why it was okay to accept grass clippings into the compost mix from other municipalities, if we don’t accept it from our own city residents. Part of the benefit of that, according to Sue McCormick, is that those clippings help maintain the nitrogen balance in the mix.

    When the amendment to maintain the ban on grass clippings narrowly passed, with Mayor Hieftje voting against it, Hieftje commented sarcastically that he guessed then that the City’s compost mix just wouldn’t have enough nitrogen. This, despite McCormick’s statement from the podium that when the City most recently measured nitrogen levels (with the ban in place for a couple of seasons), there was not a nitrogen deficit.

    One of McCormick’s comments about the leaf collection program I found encouraging. As one of the negatives associated with untimely collection (due to early snow, for example) she included the fact that when leaves remain in the road they’re a hazard for cyclists. I was just happy that the impact on cyclists of leaves in the road is routinely considered as a part of the picture.


       —HD    Feb. 6 '08 - 04:24PM    #
  28. My interpretation of the composting cart issue was that McCormick realized things were not going well and consequently stated the department could not implement the plan by April 1, 2008 so a decision was not necessary at that meeting. A tactical retreat to allow her to regroup her arguments. Council removed the clause prohibiting citizens from using their own containers from the ordinance change so, at present, you can continue to use your own cans.

    The pickup schedule issue, F-2 was not reviewed by Council, so it will become effective unless overturned in the future. That is, yard waste collection ends October 31 instead of November 30. There will be one additional collection after Thanksgiving if you can remember the day. This will clearly result in more leaves in the street since many are still on the trees at the end of October. I have a difficult time understanding why HD is encouraged by a reduction in leaf pick up from those people that are willing to use cans or bags.

    I think the great debate over the grass clippings is a very good example of Ron Suarez’s comments that the city is spinning out of control. This is simply something that should be treated as an educational program not a heavy handed city ordinance. I personally do not send my grass clipping anywhere. Still, I am offended that a lawn maintenance service that might mow Mr Fraser’s lawn in the twp is welcome to dump his clippings at the compost center ($14/yd tip fee). I can buy Mr Fraser’s grass clippings from the compost center ($20/yd), yet as a city taxpayer I cannot legally have mine collected. As a practical matter anyone that wants to put grass clippings into a yard waste bag or for that matter a plastic bag in the regular trash container can do it. The idea of cart OK, bag no, is ridiculous.


       —G. Thompson    Feb. 6 '08 - 05:35PM    #
  29. G. Thompson wrote: “I have a difficult time understanding why HD is encouraged by a reduction in leaf pick up from those people that are willing to use cans or bags.”

    Huh??

    I don’t think that inference is even remotely supported by what I wrote. My sentiments, put a different way: I was encouraged by the fact that Ms. McCormick mentioned the potential leaves-in-the-road hazard to cyclists, as one of many challenges to be considered when thinking about the leaf collection program. Ms. McCormick’s remarks were encouraging, because often it doesn’t even occur to people that leaves in the road are a potential hazard for cyclists. So I was glad about that. It makes me optimistic that we can eventually come up with a better idea for leaves in this city than sweeping them all into the streets.

    I think what you might mean is that you don’t understand how I could be encouraged by this mention of cyclists, when McCormick’s proposed reduction in container options would, in fact, tend to increase the number of leaves put in the street as a part of the leaf collection program, which exacerbates the potential hazard to cyclists. Perhaps I’ll eventually take the cynic’s view that this is mere lip service, but for now I’m content to be optimistic.

    That’s because, as a cyclist, I value more highly the mention of the leaves-in-the road hazard in the public record, than I am afraid of the incrementally more leaves that might be put into the street as a part of the leaf collection program if residents were not allowed to use whatever containers they like for regular compostables pickup.

    I infer from this and previous comments that to whatever extent possible, you containerize your leaves for compostable pickup, thus reducing the number of leaves in the street as a part of the leaf collection program, thus reducing the potential hazard to cyclists. Thanks for that.


       —HD    Feb. 6 '08 - 07:25PM    #
  30. Sorry if my point was not clear. You missed the issue of the change in the collection regulations. McCormick proposes to eliminate all yard waste collection, bags, carts or containers in the month of November. During this period leaves would be the primary material collected. Consequently there will be more leaves in the street. This is not, as you imply, an issue of the choice of container.

    Your second paragraph is close. I do not understand why you are encouraged by her words when her actions are opposite and detrimental.


       —G. Thompson    Feb. 6 '08 - 07:59PM    #
  31. Glenn,

    I focussed my second set of remarks on the choice of container, because you seemed to want to discuss that specific issue … by claiming (erroneously), “... HD is encouraged by a reduction in leaf pick up from those people that are willing to use cans or bags.”

    “I do not understand why you are encouraged by her words when her actions are opposite and detrimental.”

    Because in this instance, I chose to focus on the positive (I don’t always), with the thought I could eventually leverage it in support of the idea that we can figure out something better to do with ALL our leaves than sweep them where I need to ride my bicycle.


       —HD    Feb. 6 '08 - 08:28PM    #
  32. I do not think you understand. Let me try one more time. In November 2007 leaves were collected in bags and containers. I compost most of mine in my yard, but there is always some over flow. In November 2008, unless Council acts, the only method of disposing of them will be to rake them into the street. Leaves that in the past were placed in some ‘package’ for collection will now go in the street.

    I concur with your desire not to have leaves in the street. I do not see how eliminating all other means of disposal is a step in that direction. Ms McCormick states she is concerned about our safety while taking actions that jeopardize it. You may choose to be encouraged by her words but I am more concerned about her actions and the additional leaves.

    The agenda reference in post 28 should have been F-3


       —G. Thompson    Feb. 6 '08 - 09:28PM    #
  33. I’ve already addressed the topic of grass clipping here, and what’s true of grass clippings is every bit as true of leaves. If you have any doubts just let Sparty straighten you out.

    The city shouldn’t be in the business of hauling anyone’s clippings and leaves anywhere. Coddling ignorant people may be the Ann Arbor way, but it’s stupid.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Feb. 6 '08 - 09:29PM    #
  34. Not to disparage anyone in particular….

    I mean, I know I came in the in the midst of a conversation, but I’m commenting on the larger issue.

    So my main point is that if you eliminate clippings and leaves, you eliminate much of the need for containers of any sort. Speaking personally (and I fear smugly) I haven’t put out anything but bundles of wood (twigs, branches, and stumps) in years, but I also have sweet as hell, double-wide, compost bins for every other scrap of compostable material I can produce or procure from my neighbors.

    And wandering off topic now, did you know you can get as many bags of rabbit shit as you want, for free, in Plymouth? Every time I pass through I fill up my trunk.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Feb. 6 '08 - 09:59PM    #
  35. HD: I appreciate your recap of the council conversation about grass clippings, etc. (It went on too long!) I think you might have missed the point of what Higgins and the Mayor were saying. It goes back to the last time this came up and the fact the city is accepting grass clippings from the townships and as McCormick said, that is what is keeping the nitrogen at an acceptable level in the compost. Higgins said back then, “why would the city offer a service to the townships that city residents don’t receive?”

    And then, people are doing it anyway by putting the grass clippings in with the other compostables.

    The mayor then said he did not want staff people having to paw through the bags and cans looking for the illegal grass clippings… I thought this was the root of his remark about nitrogen, that there would be less of it. Besides, what are they going to do, pour out the grass clippings?


       —LauraB    Feb. 6 '08 - 10:11PM    #
  36. Glenn,

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to persuade me of. But I’m pretty sure the likes of me is not worth additional effort on your part.

    PSD,

    The rabbit shit flyer says it’s already bagged. How well is it bagged? Otherwise put, what does your car smell like? Could the case be made that people with sensitive noses might want to opt for some sort of alternate transport besides a personal car for this stuff? And how big are the bags? What are the bags made of? Are there ‘pellets’ still discernable in the mix or is it just a uniform mixture?


       —HD    Feb. 6 '08 - 10:35PM    #
  37. HD,

    The shit is bagged in various ways, some more securely than others. Most of it is in what I would call kitchen-sized white plastic bags—the kind with drawstrings. Some is in larger, hefty style, black plastic bags. And some is is oddball, recycled, rabbit food or bedding bags. The last group feel the least secure.

    The nice thing about rabbit shit is that it doesn’t smell a great deal different from rabbit food, that is, it kind of smells like alfalfa pellets. What smells a bit is the urine, which has an ammonia tang to it.

    Also, the shit is combined with the rabbit bedding, so you’re getting a shit, piss, and straw (sometimes sawdust) mixture, which to me is a bonus because there’s more bulk for the compost pile and you’re getting a somewhat balanced mix of both greens and browns combined.

    Some of the bags are light and dry feeling, and some are really heavy and leaky. I think it depends on whether they’ve been out in the rain. They stash them under a lean-too behind their building, but it’s not weather proof, and they don’t seem to rotate their stock, so depending on when you go and where in the pile you grab, some of them may have been there for a while.

    But yeah, I just look for dry ones and put them in the hatchback of my car. There’s a little straw/shit mixture that leaks out, but I can take the hatchback floor covering carpet out and shake it off. No harm, and no lingering smell that I notice. Mrs Structure-Dude! even accompanied me on one of these pickups and her comment was that the whole process was way less disgusting than she had imagined.

    And believe it or not, I’m kind of fussy and a bit of a clean freak, so the only part of the process that grosses me out is that there’s nowhere to wash my hands after loading the car. If they had a setup like the Bush’s bottle return area, with a little sink and some soap, that would be perfect.

    And finally, because the shit is out back of the rescue shelter, you can pick it up any time, day or night. I don’t know why but I actually prefer to scavenge rabbit shit when no one’s watching.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Feb. 6 '08 - 11:43PM    #
  38. PSD,

    Thanks for the details. But I was hoping you’d say that the rabbit shit really stinks and that Mrs. Structure Dude complains all the time about the stink in the car and that you wished you had some other way to get the rabbit shit home.

    “I don’t know why but I actually prefer to scavenge rabbit shit when no one’s watching.”

    My sense is that you’d also prefer to scavenge rabbit shit yourself, whenever you happen to be in Plymouth, as opposed to paying somebody to make the trip for you. But let’s say you determined that your compost pile needed a good dose of the rabbit shit and you didn’t foresee a trip to Plymouth in the near future. Is that something you’d be willing to pay money for (the service of having rabbit shit delivered to your door), or are you so used to the idea of free shit that you’d chafe at the idea of paying for it?

    Reason I’m asking is that I’ve got a bicycle cargo trailer that probably needs to get more use than it’s currently getting, in order to justify the embedded energy in the manufacture of the thing.


       —HD    Feb. 7 '08 - 12:47AM    #
  39. HD,

    So you’re looking to go into the shit hauling business with your bike trailer? That’s so… medieval. Like picking up night soil. Except you’d be sort of delivering night soil.

    But yeah, you guessed right. My Mom lives in Northville, so I’m over that way often enough to satiate my jones for a high nitrogen compost boost.

    By the way, that’s a long way to Plymouth. I did that ride once, with no trailer, and I was pretty beat. And the traffic on Plymouth road is no picnic.

    Still, if you’re all fired up about the idea, you could maybe put up an advertising flier in the Food Coop. Or you could just pick up a load and swing by the farmers market to peddle it, offering to meet your customers at their houses later in the afternoon with however many bags they select. They could even tag the bags they like, so no one else could get them.

    I do think you’re on to something though. There’s got to be a market in Ann Arbor for rabbit shit delivered via rickshaw. Of course they’re going to make fun of you mercilessly on AAIO.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Feb. 7 '08 - 09:14PM    #
  40. Looks like the required yard waste container proposal is rearing its ugly head again. According to the Ann Arbor News, it’s on the City Council agenda for this Monday. So far, it appears that the only change is lowering the cost of the containers. What is it with this insistence on forcing people to buy a large plastic container when they already have smaller containers that have been repurposed? Isn’t the greener solution to keep using these old garbage cans that can no longer be used for garbage collection?

    http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews/2008/02/city_council_to_revisit_yardwa.html#more


       —KEF    Mar. 1 '08 - 09:35PM    #