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Fifth Ward Town Hall May 8

2013 May Town Hall Where: Downtown Home and Garden, 210 S Ashley St.

When: Town Hall begins Wednesday, May 8, 7:00 p.m. Stop by Mark’s Carts starting at 6:30 to chat informally with Council members.

What: Discussion of issues important to the Fifth Ward. We’ll start with a discussion about the debate around digital billboards, then have open time to discuss whatever other issues are on your mind.

Who: Everyone welcome–you don’t need to be a Fifth Ward resident. Organized by Chuck Warpehoski and Mike Anglin, hosted by Mark Hodesh of Downtown Home and Garden.

Details: [email protected], 734-972-8304, visit the Facebook Event,or download the flier.

Making the Call on the Library Lot

As I wrestled with the vote on Monday, for me it came down to affordable housing. As I reviewed the list of projects in the pipeline that might need money from the affordable housing fund (which is currently unfunded), I asked myself, “If I say ‘no’ to this sale and the $5 million for affordable housing, am I willing to call the people on the housing waitlist and explain to them why I voted to turn down money that would have allowed us to house them?” The issue was more complex than that, but this single question more than anything led to my vote. Continue reading

Winter 2017 Office Hours

What’s on your mind regarding Ann Arbor City Government issues?

Feel free to stop by one of my upcoming “Chat with Chuck” office hours:

  • Monday, January 30, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Mighty Good Coffee, 217 N. Main
  • Monday, February Feb 27, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Avalon Cafe, 120 E. Liberty
  • Monday, February March 27, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Mighty Good Coffee, 217 N. Main.

Those dates don’t work for you? You can always email me at [email protected] call 734-972-8304.

Town Hall Meeting on Discovery of Dioxane in Shallow Groundwater Sampling

This Thursday October 27, 7-9 p.m.
Eberwhite Elementary School
800 Soule Blvd.


Please attend a community Town Hall meeting to learn about the results of the Shallow Groundwater testing study which discovered trace amounts of 1,4 Dioxane in shallow groundwater on the west side of Ann Arbor. The purpose of the meeting is to help residents understand what the shallow groundwater test was, what the results are and what they mean, as well as the risks associated to the findings.


The meeting will also provide an update on the broader context of Pall/Gelman/Danaher dioxane plume efforts, including a status update on changing exposure standards for dioxane, the impacts of those changes on cleanup and the status of the renewed public engagement effort.

Scheduled and Confirmed Speakers:

  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Washtenaw County Health Department
  • Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality
  • State Representative Jeff Irwin
  • Mayor Christopher Taylor
  • Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners chair Felicia Brabec

Questions and Inquires may be directed to Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski at [email protected] or 734-972-8304, Councilmember Chip Smith at [email protected] or 734-709-2022 or Representative Jeff Irwin at [email protected] or 517-373-2577

Please help spread the word by printing and distributing the flyer or sharing the Facebook post.

Summer/Fall 2016 “Chat with Chuck” Office Hours

What’s on your mind? You can always email me at [email protected] call 734-972-8304. In addition I’ve scheduled the following “Chat with Chuck” office hours:

  • Tuesday, August 9, 4:00-6:00pm, Wolverine State Brewing Company, 2019 W. Stadium NOTE NEW TIME
  • Wednesday, September 14, 9:30-10:30am, Mighty Good Coffee, 217 N Main St
  • Monday, October 24, 4:00-6:00 p.m., Glass House Brewery, 2350 W Liberty St,
  • Monday, November 14, 9:30-10:30 a.m., RoosRoast Downtown, 117 E Liberty St.

A Downtown Park: Should we go it alone?

On the August 4, 2016 City Council meeting we will be asked to put on a resolution to ask the voters to approve a City Charter amendment to dedicate the entire of the Library Lot to be city-owned in perpetuity. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the entire of the site is developed as a park rather than creating a public-private partnership to develop part of the site as a mixed-use commercial building and part of the site as a park.

I want to see a park developed on Fifth Avenue by the Library, and I believe the best way to do that is in partnership with a developer who can build, manage, and program the site rather as part of a mixed-use development on the Library Lane Lot. The alternative of having the City build, maintain, and program the site would be extremely costly and at the expense of affordable housing, existing neighborhood parks, and other key services.

The only scenario in which I would be willing to choose a “go it alone” approach to the parcel is there was also a funding source to cover the building, maintenance and programming for the site as well as to cover lost revenue from sale of development rights and lost tax revenue from a building on that site, which I estimate to be a .75 mill property tax.

I believe that the best way to achieve the goal of a downtown park on Fifth Avenue is in partnership with a development that can fund construction, programming, and maintenance.

The City has on numerous occasions taken actions to support a park on the site, such as building a portion of the underground structure to not support a building to encourage a park above the site, studying success factors to identify how to make a downtown park most successful, and voting to dedicate the entire Fifth Avenue street frontage to open space.

Right now, we are negotiating with a developer  to put a building on part of the site and a park on the dedicated park space. While the final details of the park portion are not worked out, initial designs include a water feature, play area, and flexible seating so it can be used as a performance space.

I believe that partnering with a developer in this way is the best way to establish a park without sacrificing our current, neighborhood parks.

When I took office four years ago, the City was just starting to rebound from the great recession. There was tremendous community frustration that the grass wasn’t getting cut in our neighborhood parks. We would like to think those days are behind us, but as fifth ward voters went the first month of the summer with Vets Park Pool closed, I am not so sure. The City-owned pools and ice rinks are due for approximately $10 million in new liners, filters, boilers, etc., which is hard to work into to parks budget of only around $12 million total (going off memory here on the costs, don’t have my notes with me). We’ll get that done, but it highlights how tight the city parks budget is.

At the same time, there are some big requests coming forward to improve and expand our park system. I have been championing the Allen Creek Greenway master plan. If successful, this will help establish a trail with anchor parks along the Allen Creek. This will be a tremendous asset to our City, but also another draw on the already-tight parks budget.

Downtown parks are expensive. According to the Trust for Public Land, the average construction cost for a new urban park is $4.3 million per acre, so at this average the cost to develop a park on the Library Lane site would be $6 million. The Trust also reports that operations costs for urban parks are $200,000-$700,000, with highly programmed parks falling in the $500,000-700,000 range. I believe a park on this site needs to be highly programmed to avoid the behavior problems we see at Liberty Plaza Park on the same block.

So, over ten years it would cost around $10 million just to build, maintain, and program the park—about the same as the cost of the pool and ice rink capital maintenance that is coming due. I am not willing to sacrifice our existing park facilities in our neighborhoods to go it alone for a downtown park.

Not partnering with a developer brings tremendous opportunity costs. If we choose a “go it alone” strategy to develop a public park on the site and refuse to partner with a developer to build, maintain, and program it, we lose more than just the private funding for the park itself. We also lose the estimated $10 million sale price for development rights (half of which would go to affordable housing), as well as an estimated $2 million per year in tax revenue that would fund police, transit, parks, schools, and other core services.

So, a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the total cost of downtown park without a developer partnership is:

  • $10 million lost for sale of development rights
  • $20 million lost tax revenue (to be fair, not all of this would go to the City, but it is still lost revenue for the public good)
  • $5 million to construct
  • $$ million to operate

That’s equivalent to a .75 mill property tax.

There is room to quibble over the numbers. You could argue the actual cost is lower because we could build and maintain the park on the cheap. You could also argue the actual cost is higher because these calculations due not include the impacts of job creation and economic ripple effects.

If voters approved a tax or other viable funding mechanism to cover these costs, I would be willing to take a “go it alone” approach to a park on this site. Without such a dedicated funding source to cover both park costs and opportunity costs, I cannot.

DTE Power Outages in NW Ann Arbor

UPDATE 10/3/2016: At the DTE Open House on this issue earlier this year they had a handout showing their planned maintenance on the affected circuit. I’ve scanned that file and uploaded it.

UPDATE 7/30/2016: Since the initial post I’ve spent a lot more time on the phone with DTE. I’ve confirmed that since 7/26/2016 they’ve had crews in the area assessing the conditions of the equipment and going door-to-door. They have done some spot trimming and equipment upgrades, and the assessment is to help develop a plan to add new equipment, upgrade existing lines, and go through extensive tree trimming. As I understand, the program will be concluded by end of August, possible sooner.

I want to again apologize to everyone on the northwest side of town that has been experiencing too-frequent power outages.

[For those of you who haven’t heard about this, people in the Newport/Wines/Haisley area have had 6-8 outages or brownouts this year, even on days when there has been no storm activity].

I was on the phone a lot with Paul Ganz, the regional government relations representative for DTE, about the situation over the weekend trying to get better action on the issue.

DTE’s explanation of the outages has been that they have been tree limb-related. Many of us have been skeptical of that explanation, so I pressed Paul on it. He promised to send me the field notes from the outages this summer, and he did send along these photos of some of the trees growing in the power lines, so I am working to verify the stated cause of the problem, and I’ll keep you informed what else I find out.

For me, I find the tree limb story more credible as I see these photos where the wires are totally surrounded by trees.

In the meantime, Paul has committed to a large-scale “forensic” trimming of the trees in the area, load re-balancing, and I believe new substations as well. The message I got from him is that they would much rather get ahead of this and deal with it as a preventative maintenance issue than to keep paying weekend and evening overtime to deal with it as an outage. He has promised to get me additional details about timing and scope of that work, and I will pass that along as it becomes available.

Please be advised that when DTE conducts this trimming it will be drastic. They will be cutting down everything within 10 feet of the wires and doing additional work within their 30 foot utility easements. This won’t be pretty, but it’s better than the frequent outages you’ve been experiencing.

In addition, DTE has information about overhead lines and trees:

We’ll keep on this and try to get it resolved.

Vets Pool Update

Vets Park Pool is closed for the start of the season. Here's why.

Vets Park Pool is closed for the start of the season. Here’s why.

Like many families on the west side of town, my kids have been sad that the Vets Park pool isn’t yet open. Bill Meeks, the staffperson in charge of the pool, shared the explanation for the closure below.

As people have discussed the closure, some residents have also raised other concerns about condition at Vets Park Pool. Chip Smith and I will be meeting with staff in early July to discuss these issues, so if you have positive or negative feedback to give on Vets Park Pool overall please let me know. You can email [email protected] or call 734-972-8304.

Here’s the update.

Hello everyone,
I wanted to take this opportunity to address all of you regarding the issues at Vets Pool. I know you are very frustrated with the situation, as am I and my staff. I want to first give you a recap of the pool since I took over in August of 2013.  Continue reading

What’s Going On There–Using eTRAKiT to Look Up Building and Development in Ann Arbor

Oren Construction

Oren loves watching the construction equipment. Here’s how I used the Ann Arbor eTRAKiT system to on the A2Gov.org website find out what’s getting built.

Oren loves watching the bulldozers, cranes, and excavators as they work on a construction project in front of his daycare.

But what is it going to be?

Maybe you’ve had this same question when you’ve seen construction in your neighborhood. Or maybe you’ve wanted to check the permit history of a property. Or maybe you’ve wanted to see the details of how a development’s stormwater impact was modeled.

Thanks to eTRAKiT, you can find out.

To use eTRAKiT,
visit http://etrakit.a2gov.org/etrakit3/. From there you can choose to search permits, projects, properties, or inspections.

Since this is a project, I’ll start there. You can search by address, parcel ID, owner name, and more. In this case, I don’t know the property address, but I do know it’s across from 216 Beakes. I’ll start by searching all the properties on Beakes.

That looks like it, 215 Beakes. Beakes 2Here I can see that the property went through the process to be converted to single-family use, but that the request for a setback variance was denied. Interesting, but it still doesn’t tell me what’s being build. Let’s try searching permits.

Here we go. After going trough some permits we can see that this one is to “rebuild a new single family home.” I can click through to the plans and see the plans for a 2-story house with a 1st-floor garage. I can read through all the submitted site plans, permitting history, etc.

Screenshot (23)So, it’s going to be a house–a big one.


Screenshot (26)For this project it wasn’t that exciting. Single-family homes are pretty basic in terms of permitting. But this feature can be quite useful in other cases. For example, a few years ago a development was proposed on Glendale Drive near Hillside Terrace. As the neighbors tried to understand how the project would affect the neighborhood, they could look up all the background documents for the project, including:

So, whether you are trying to tell your 2 year old why there are all the cool bulldozers across the street from daycare or understand the impacts of a proposed development in your neighborhood, eTRAKiT is a great tool to give you access to the public plans, permits, and property information about what is happening in your city.



1 Sister Lake and Stormwater–Moving Ahead For Water Quality

1st Sister Lake. (Source)

1st Sister Lake. (Source)

1st Sister Lake is a delightful lake on the west side of town and a real gem for birders and nature lovers. Sadly, stormwater runoff from the neighborhood has been one of the factors speeding eutrophication of the lake.

This is an old issue, and while taking steps like shifting from on-street leaf pickup to bagged leaf pickup has helped somewhat, the concern remains.

Thanks to the consistent efforts of neighborhood activists like Lenny Kafka and Scott Rosencrans who have brought the issue up to council members, the Parks Advisory Commission, and and others, last year the City did a review of a decades-old study of ways to mitigate the problem in light of current best management practices.

Out of that, in the proposed FY17 budget, there is currently $225,000 proposed as a capital project to make some of the changes. (You have to scroll all the way down to page 335 to see the listing.)

There’s a little more detail in the Capital Improvements Plan, stormwater section, page 30.

So, long story short, if all goes according to plan, we will have taken specific, concrete steps to improve water quality in First Sister Lake and to protect this City treasure.

Chat with Chuck office hours

What’s on your mind? You can always email me at [email protected] call 734-972-8304. In addition I’ve scheduled the following “Chat with Chuck” office hours:

  • Tuesday, June 28, 4:00-6:00pm, Arbor brewing Company, 114 E. Washington
  • Wednesday, July 27, 9-10am, Arbor Farms Market in the Cafe, 2103 W. Stadium
  • Tuesday, August 9, 4:00-6:00pm, Wolverine State Brewing Company, 2019 W. Stadium NOTE NEW TIME