The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center may file suit against the City of Ann Arbor to stop construction of the proposed underground parking structure on South Fifth Ave. A letter from Prof. Noah Hall, Ann Arbor resident and executive director of the Center, identifies potential grounds for a challenge:
- The proposed parking structure may violate the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) – “The construction and operation of the proposed new parking structure and the additional [vehicle miles traveled] that it will cause are “likely to pollute, impair, or destroy” the environment, and thus are not lawful under the MEPA unless “there is no feasible and prudent alternative.” The City of Ann Arbor has numerous feasible and prudent alternatives to the proposed new parking structure . . . detailed by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates in the Ann Arbor Downtown Parking Study ”
- The City Council may have violated the Open Meetings Act by conducting private e-mail conversation during a meeting in parallel to the open discussion of the issue – “During the City Council meeting on February 17, 2009 at which the proposed new
parking structure and bonding was approved, several City Council members exchanged numerous email messages discussing whether they supported postponement and why other City Council members supported or opposed postponement. . . . This electronic discussion was made during the public portion of the City Council’s meeting, potentially violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act.”
- These e-mails were not produced during a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for, “all e-mail communications and other records made by
City Council members before, during, and after” the Council meeting. “It was only through a subsequent Freedom of Information Act request for documents not related to the proposed parking structure that the City Council members’ email messages and discussion regarding postponement were discovered.”
Additional information is available via the Ann Arbor News and Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle additionally has the full text of Hall’s letter (pdf), from which I’ve excerpted above, and notes that Hall has loaned them ~1,000 pages of documents produced in the FOIA requests, which the Chronicle hopes to have scanned and posted soon.
Some discussion has been provided on AU already, on the 2009 City Council Elections thread. On the Chronicle article, AU reader (and attorney) David Cahill provides the opinion that Hall’s letter “is not marred by the citation of any legal cases supporting his claim,” as well as opining that such a suit would be “frivolous”, and lead to a slippery slope allowing any construction whatsoever to be blocked by similar arguments.
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