Ann Arbor City Council: August 7, 2023

Aug 7, 2023 | City Council

This Ann Arbor City Council meeting was held in person at City Hall. Members of the public can participate in public hearings and public comment either in person or via phone.

Mayor Taylor was absent
CM Cornell was absent

A2Council Update Video

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Summary

Thirteen public commenters signed up to speak about rental housing concerns.

APPROVED: By resolution, Council directs the City Administrator to provide information about City response to storm-related power outages and recommendations for improvement by September 30, 2023. (Legistar)

The City Administrator is directed to provide an analysis of:

  • Geographic patterns of weather-related power outages
  • Emergency-related communication and coordination between the City, DTE, and community -organizations
  • Systems impacted by and City/community response to these events
  • The role of resilience hubs in these events

The City Administrator will also provide an inventory of community cooling/warming centers and an estimate of total emergency City costs related to power outages in February 2023, March 2023, and July 2023.

Feb 28, 2023 Power Outage articles:

July 27, 2023 Power Outage articles:

APPROVED: A list of Public Art Commission Capital Improvement Enhancements for FY24-FY29 from the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission. A long list of projects includes Allmendinger Park, Gallup Park, downtown restrooms, roundabouts at Moore/Longshore/Pontiac Trail and Dhu Varren/Pontiac Trail, and the band shell at West Park. (Legistar)

APPROVED: $100,000 in traffic calming devices on Fulmer Street (between Miller and Foss). Six devices will be installed: one curb extension at Foss, two raised mid-block crosswalks, and three speed humps. (Legistar)

POSTPONED: An $80,000 contract with SPARK for “economic development services” will fund their work attracting new business to Ann Arbor. From staff explanation: “The deliverables are the attraction and retention of companies that add or maintain taxable value and add or retain jobs.” Council voted unanimously to postpone this contract to the meeting of August 21, 2023 to give staff time to answer questions about diversity and representation within SPARK leadership and among the businesses they support. (Legistar)

POSTPONED: An ordinance amendment will lift the requirement that one commissioner be the “owner or operator of a transportation business operating in the City of Ann Arbor.” Council voted unanimously to postpone to the meeting of September 18, 2023, at the request of Council Member Harrison, who proposed that bylaws designate a seat for someone over the age of 55. (Legistar)

  • The Transportation Commission was first established in 2016, when the Taxicab Board was disbanded. Since 2016, the Transportation Commission has included eleven members:
    • 6 members of the public
    • 1 owner or operator of a transportation business operating in Ann Arbor
    • 1 member of the Planning Commission
    • 1 member of the Commission on Disability Issues
    • 1 individual appointed by the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority
    • 1 member of City Council
  • After this amendment, seven members of the general public will serve on the Transportation Commission.

APPROVED (first reading): Ten parcels with addresses on South State Street (1601, 1605, 1607, 1609, 1611), Henry Street (714), and White Street (1606, 1608, 1610, 1612) will be rezoned from R4C (Multiple Family Residential) to C1A/R (Campus Business Residential) with conditions, in order to permit the construction of a development (“SouthTown by 4M”) that includes 216 dwelling units with a 54 space parking garage. (Legistar)

Staff explains that the rezoning “increases the development of the block about three times over what is currently allowed.” The height limit for current zoning is 30 feet and the developer proposes zoning with four conditions:

  • Height limited to 100 feet
  • Parking limited to 54 spaces
  • Natural gas connection only for emergency backup
  • Short term rentals (limited to 30% of units)

The maximum FAR (a calculation of permitted density) for C1A/R zoning is 300% and this development has requested a variance because it exceeds that maximum. Inclusive of the parking garage, the FAR for this development is 345%; excluding the parking garage, the FAR for this development is 308%.

The block proposed for rezoning and redevelopment/gentrification currently contains 49 housing units on 1.7 acres. There is one single family home at 714 Henry Street and the other nine properties are multi-family housing containing three to thirteen units each. The current R4C zoning prohibits these units from being used as dedicated full-time short term rentals. The zoning change to C1AR will allow the new housing units to be used as short-term rentals, consistent with the adjacent properties owned by the same developer.

APPROVED (first reading): Proposed amendments to the TC-1 zoning category to address two potential uses:

  • Automobiles, Motorcycles, Recreational Vehicles, Equipment (Sales and Rental)
  • Automobile, Truck, Construction Equipment Repair

At the table, Council unanimously approved an additional amendment to remove language requiring that auto-related businesses store vehicles in an enclosed building. (Legistar)

These amendments to TC-1 zoning are in response to a City Council resolution (12/5/22 – Legistar) requesting that the Planning Commission “evaluate and recommend amendments to the TC1 Zoning District or Unified Development Code (UDC) that:

  • Incorporate limited automobile-related uses into the TC1 District, excluding drive throughs and gas stations
  • Address constraints of existing narrow rights of way”

In a memo (4/18/23 – Legistar) City staff explained that these amendments do not offer “an evaluation or recommendation to address the constraints of existing narrow rights-of-way, or propose an amendment to the maximum building height limits. These issues will require more time and resources than consideration of permitted uses.”

In that memo, City staff recommended that these uses be permitted as a primary use: “Staff recommend approval of the proposed amendment to allow automobile, motorcycle, recreation vehicle, equipment (sales and rental) in the TC1 district.”

They explained further: “Given the existing form-based development standards of the TC1 district, incorporating vehicle sales and rental and vehicle repair uses will have minimal long-term impacts. Newly established vehicle sales, rental and repair uses are required to be in buildings of at least two stories, with an active street-level use, and easy for transit and nonmotorized-transportation users to access. As with any business in TC1, auto-related businesses would only be allowed limited areas on site for outdoor storage of vehicle inventory, or vehicles waiting for repair or pick-up.”

City Council will not consider this recommendation from City staff. Instead, Council considers the recommendation of five Mayoral appointees on the Planning Commission, who propose that these categories be allowed only as “special exception use.” By City ordinance, all applications for a “special exception use” are ultimately accepted or rejected by the Mayoral appointees on the Planning Commission. The approval process for Special Exception Use is explained in the “Procedures Summary Table” in section 5.27 on page 170 of the “Unified Development Code Eighth Edition (February 26, 2023)” at this link: https://www.a2gov.org/departments/planning/Pages/Unified%20Development%20Code.aspx

It is worth noting: six votes are required for the Planning Commission to act on plans, policy statements, granting of special exception uses, recommendations to City Council, and petitions. Due to three absences and one recusal, the 5-0 recommendation to approve these ordinance amendments was not actually approved by the Planning Commission. Minutes from the 4/18/23 Planning Commission meeting explain that “the motion as amended failed.” http://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12187547&GUID=C4CDE3BC-4F07-41D9-9DDC-F1ADBA46CD8A

Coincidentally, at their 7/18/23 meeting, the City Planning Commission considered Bylaw amendments that would lower the vote requirement to five. That and other proposed changes will be discussed at the August 15th meeting of the Planning Commission. http://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12170685&GUID=87997024-9E5B-4406-9167-E1969EAB8C1A

APPROVED (first reading): A new ordinance will require sellers of certain residential housing units to disclose a “Home Energy Rating Disclosure” (HERD) prior to sale. Requirements do not apply to multi-story/multi-family housing, accessory dwelling units, mobile homes, or commercial buildings. Sellers will provide a Home Energy Score Report completed by a Home Energy Assessor (certified by the US Department of Energy). Included in an audit will be estimates of annual and monthly energy use and cost by fuel type, as well as comparative Home energy scores for similar dwellings. These seller disclosure requirements may be waived at the “sole discretion” of the Director of the Sustainability and Innovations department (Dr. Missy Stults). (Legistar)

In questions to the agenda, several Council Members relayed concerns from realtors and asked about how this ordinance might delay real estate transactions. The Office of Sustainability and Innovations (OSI) provided this response:

  • “OSI is dedicating Community Climate Action Millage dollars to hire a full-time home energy assessor to do free home energy assessments for residents. We expect this person to be hired in the coming weeks (the job is currently posted), so they’ll be ready by the time this ordinance would take effect.”
  • “OSI has been coordinating with local energy service providers to help meet any additional demand that may exceed the ability of the soon to be hired Energy Assessor. This includes meeting with firms that could be put under contract to offer additional help during high demand periods and working with those firms to hire additional capacity to ensure they are ready to support the program as needed. Furthermore, these firms have agreed to work with the City on additional workforce development (i.e. training additional assessors) to grow both the Ann Arbor as well as the region energy assessment labor field.”
  • “Additionally, apart from the HERD ordinance, OSI has a goal to get all homes in Ann Arbor scored using the Home Energy Score. This goal helps move us toward achieving A2ZERO, and as it relates to HERD, getting homes scored before they decide to sell means it’s not a non-issue come listing & sale.”

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2023/08/realtors-oppose-new-ann-arbor-law-to-disclose-home-energy-ratings.html

A2ELNEL Voting Chart

Ann Arbor City Council Voting Chart for August 7, 2023 Part 1
Ann Arbor City Council Voting Chart for August 7, 2023 Part 2
Ann Arbor City Council Voting Chart for August 7, 2023 Part 3

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