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Dharma's Council Newsletter, December 3, 2023

Neighbors, City Council meets on Monday, December 4th. Before I get to a preview of our agenda, I have some updates to share with you.


Constituent Coffee Hour, December 17th

Join me for my monthly coffee hour so we can talk about City Council and the issues important to you. I'll be at Socotra Coffee House, 3130 Packard St on Dec. 17th from 10-11am. RSVP or just show up!


Citizen Participation Meeting for Woodbury Gardens Redevelopment The property owners of Woodbury Gardens (1245 Astor Ave) are proposing to demolish 3 existing buildings and construct a seven-story apartment building (with attendant parking) containing approximately 306 dwellings in a mixture of studios, 1, 2, & 3 bedroom units - under conditional TC1 re-zoning. Ahead of submitting their plans to the City, they are holding a citizen participation meeting on Dec. 7 at 6:30pm on Zoom: www.https://zoom.us/join; Meeting ID: 837-7846-4263. For more details, view the postcard sent to nearby residents. Ann Arbor's Police Chief Interviews Completed The City is looking for a new police chief, and the candidates attended a special work session of Council on Friday, December 1. You can watch a recording of that session on CTN's YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1QM1q8hYz0; and read more about the four candidates. The Police Chief reports to the City Administrator, who will make a recommendation to Council on the hire. He is committed to doing that before the end of this calendar year. Council Special Planning Session December 11th City Council will hold a special planning session on Dec 11th at 4pm. This meeting will be held in Council chambers and will not be broadcast. Public comment must be made in person. The agenda has been posted; Council will receive presentations on 2024 elections update, a strategic plan for our water treatment plant, an economic development report, and University of Michigan planning.


City Council Meeting, Monday, December 4th at 7pm

Agenda Highlights

  • Unified Development Code Amendment (Premiums, D1 and D2 Floor Area) (PH-2). This is the second reading of an ordinance that would eliminate the floor area premiums and maximum FAR (floor area ratio as a percentage of lot area) of downtown districts. The FAR premiums were created in 2019 to incentivize developers to build affordable housing downtown. However, the premiums have not resulted in any developer-subsidized affordable housing units. Additionally, it has slowed residential growth in the downtown. If this change passes, the City will continue to incentivize affordability and sustainability through height bonuses. Councilmember Briggs asked a number of questions related to this change, and staff responses are quite informative. State law prevents cities from requiring developers to include affordability and sustainability elements, so we are reliant on incentives. When the incentives we've created don't achieve their aims and, further, prevent the creation of new housing when we need it, it's time to re-evaluate the incentives. I'm satisfied with the work of staff, Planning Commission, and the consultants hired to evaluate the premiums and agree with their recommendations (NOTE: because this is the second reading of this ordinance change, there will be a public hearing where residents can provide comments without signing up in advance).

  • Ordinance to Amend TC1 Front Setbacks (PH-3). This amendment is proposed in response to Council Resolution R-22-390 calling for the City Planning Commission to evaluate and recommend amendments to the TC1 district to address constraints of existing narrow rights-of-way. If passed, developments in the TC1 district on a designated transit corridor will be required to have a minimum front setback of 18 feet (whereas they are currently set at 0) and a maximum of 28 feet measured from the street curb line. As noted by staff, "using the curb line as a reference for required front setbacks provides a measure that ensures there is space for pedestrian amenities at the time the development is constructed and in the future." This is particularly needed where existing sidewalks are narrow (5-feet along much of Stadium) and the existing roadway width is insufficient to accommodate transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure. I think it's wise for us to plan ahead for these accommodations and look forward to supporting this amendment. (NOTE: because this is the second reading of this ordinance change, there will be a public hearing where residents can provide comments without signing up in advance).

  • 900 Briarwood Rezoning and Site Plan Approval (PH-4 and PH-5). This is the second reading of an ordinance to rezone two areas totaling 8.3 acres from P to C2B to allow the construction of 354 residential units to replace a portion of existing parking lot at Briarwood Mall. The plan includes retail and a grocery store to replace the empty Sears store that closed in 2018. The site plan includes transportation improvements and the building is proposed to be all-electric. (NOTE: because this is the second reading of this ordinance change, there will be a public hearing where residents can provide comments without signing up in advance).

  • Ordinance to Regulate Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers (C-1). This was introduced in our November 20th meeting and postponed to address implementation concerns raised by some council members. Gas-powered leaf blowers are particularly toxic for the environment and human health. Emissions from leaf blowers contribute to ozone air pollution and emit fine particles leading to respiratory diseases, cardiovascular issues, and premature death. The people most at risk are landscape workers, who have the motors strapped to their backs as they work. Gas-powered leaf blowers also pump out millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year, contributing to climate change. This ordinance aims to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Ann Arbor by 2028. Taking a phased approach to allow residents and landscape companies time to replace equipment, it first restricts hours of operation, then seasonally restricts gas-powered leaf blower use to October 1 to May 30 before a complete ban on January 1, 2028. An amendment will be introduced at our meeting that increases hours of operation and reduces fines (Sponsors: Cornell, Akmon, Eyer). Led by Councilmember Ghazi-Edwin, we are also working on a resolution that directs staff to create group-purchase options and other means to minimize the financial burden of purchasing electric leaf blowers.

Please reach out if you have questions, concerns, or thoughts on any of the agenda items. Email: DAkmon@A2gov.org | Phone/text: 734-492-5866 You can also communicate your thoughts via:

  • Email City Council: CityCouncil@a2gov.org

  • Comment at the meeting (remote or in person): Call the City Clerk's office at 734-794-6140 beginning at 8 a.m. on the day of the meeting to reserve a public speaking time. NOTE: you do not need to reserve time to speak during a "public hearing (PH)" item.

How Council Voted The Ann Arbor Voting Charts Project is a community-maintained record of voting history for City Council. Check out the November 20th, 2023 Voting Chart.

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