Archive for August, 2008

Aug 27 2008

Do we need a Conference Center downtown Ann Arbor?

Published by under Development,Your Ann Arbor

The Planning Commission tabled the A2D2 code amendments in May 2008 to consider public comments.  Since then, the A2D2 Steering Committee and the Planning Commission have met several times with staff to revise the proposal. 

The revised amendments are now available for review (see below). 

Changes to the May 2008 draft amendments include:

  • The zoning for the north side of East Huron between Division and State has been changed from D2 (Interface) to D1 (Core). 
  • Properties on North Division/East Ann and North Fifth Avenue that are currently zoned office and located in the Old Fourth Ward Historic District are proposed to remain as O zoning.  For the remainder of the block containing City Hall, the properties are proposed to be zoned D1.
  • Street frontage designations for several blocks have been changed to better reflect the current front setback pattern along the block. 
  • Revised side and rear setback requirements for properties abutting residential zoning districts have been added. 
  • The requirement for active uses at street level has been revised to apply to a smaller group of retail streets and include customer lobbies for banks.
  • The massing standards for several character overlay districts have been revised in allow larger tower diagonals.
  • The requirement for design review has been separated from this draft.

The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing and action on the amendments for Thursday, September 4 at 7:00 pm in Council Chamber (2nd floor, City Hall).  At that meeting, the Commission will consider making a recommendation on the amendments to City Council. We need to make our voices heard at this meeting. 


I am concerned about several permitted uses of land in the Core Downtown areas designated a D1 and the Interface Areas designated as D2.  (You might have other concerns like Adult Entertainment.  Hmmm?) These uses are all listed on page 7 of the revised amendments.  My major concern is a Conference Center.  I strongly believe that a large Conference Center in the City Core will negatively affect  our City permanently for the residents.  We need to discuss this use more.  A significant number of questions should be answered before we move forward such as, how large will the Center be, who will pay for the construction and operation, what other structures like hotels and parking structurse will be required among others? I don’t know any Conference Centers in the U.S. that are profitable.  Most require some form of public subsidy. All require separate parking garages.  


My recommendation is that we pull this use out of the amendments before it goes to City Council and then schedule a series of public hearings to decide whether our community wants a Conference Center at all.  


Once Planning Commission has made a recommendation on the code changes, they will be forwarded to City Council for public hearing and action. Please plan to attend this important meeting.  If you cannot attend you can e-mail comments on the proposed changes to or send them to me. 

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Aug 08 2008

08/08/08 Good Luck to all

Published by under Lessons learned

I attended City Council  last night.  I relished seeing the expression on the surprised council majority as I walked up to the podium to weigh in on the 25-story building now referred to as 601 South Forest.   I am sure The Council Clique thought I would be off “licking my wounds” from the election results that now just seem like a bad dream.

There was a public commentary period on a proposed project that will dominate the landscape for the next 50 years at the corner of South University and Forest Ave if allowed to proceed as planned.  As I spent more time canvassing the residents of Ward 2 during the past several months than anyone in the City, I felt obligated to report on behalf of the residents of our ward what I felt their sentiment is concerning this controversial project.  Some of the residents I spoke with were at the meeting and so I am glad that I took the time to attend.

Most Ward 2 residents feel that 25 stories is out of character and scale with the central campus business district.  I did not meet one person that felt that no development should go in on the site.  Residents that remember South University from “The Glory Days” recalled a vibrant shopping district with campus classics such as Mary Dibble’s, Redwood and Ross, Wikel’s Pharmacy and the Village Bell.   Those days are a sad contrast to the current condition of the area filled with seedy bars, fast food restaurants and vacant buildings.  To the merchants and owners of the area, the new project represents a false hope to return us to the “Happy Days” scripts.  This dichotomy will eventually lead to clash between residents and business that erroneously perceive us to be anti-development.  It is not that simple.

All stakeholders have a right to an opinion of what our great city will look like.  One stakeholder’s opinion is not less important than any other in  this  process.   The role of City government is to help us all achieve a consensus of how we want to grow and codify that consensus so that the process is fair and consistent to all stakeholders.  That goal has not been achieved.   Our City Planners like to think that it has been, but it is clear to me that most people with opinions do not feel they have been heard from…..and I can assure you they will be heard.

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Aug 06 2008

The Day After.

Published by under On the campaign trail

The “hangover” will probably last a few weeks…. but I know this too will pass.

The emotions that you experience losing an election run the gamut from sorrow to anger to jealousy to relief.  I will let go of the negative emotions very quickly as they are “cancerous” and sap your energy.  I promise to learn from this experience and quickly move on to whatever the next step will be.  I need some time to sort that out. I plan to stay involved in the public process going forward so that I do not have to re-educate my self again.

I have started a small flame of “public awareness” that I want to keep alive in some way.  That process will not be entirely my decision to make.  My family, friends and trusted advisers will have to help me sort that out.  If there is any one thing that defeated me it is voter apathy, VA, and I promise to keep the fight to overcome VA alive in some way.  Over 800 hundred people voted for me. I was beaten by a margin of 400 out of 2000 votes cast in a ward with 17,000 registered voters.  We can do better than that.   The way I see it I have chance to get 15,800 votes in the next election.

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Aug 05 2008

Election Day

Published by under On the campaign trail

Wow…Up at 5:00 without an alarm!  Then, my wife Jan and I made a mad dash to get  my signs pulled up from around the Ward and distributed out to the 9 polling places.   Nothing to do now but wait.  Sort of like watching paint dry but I can get caught up on my campaign accounting.

I will get back to you after the polls close.

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Aug 04 2008

The Day Before the Election

Published by under On the campaign trail

I slept pretty well last night.  I guess my personal promise to introduce myself to each resident of the ward has had an added benefit or two.   I have lost 5 pounds and I am sleeping  better despite the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I could have done much better.  I have learned a great deal about how to manage a campaign, salesmanship and myself.  Next time I will be sharper and harder to beat.

The real benefit from “Walking the Ward” is that I have met so many of you personally and discovered parts of the ward I never knew existed.  Local candidates have an advantage over candidates in state and national elections.  Local candidates can discover what the “real” issues are in the ward and get to know their constituents in a way that other candidates can only “pretend” to do.  I have “felt” the problems good and bad.

Having covered more ground than any candidate in Ward 2,  I can assure you the  tangible problems in the ward go way beyond building heights, compost container discussions and other more mundane issues.  They have touched me in a profound way that I never could have imagined or dreamed.  The personal revelations came from reading “Shut-Off” notices posted on doors and from abandoned houses and homes with windows missing.  They slammed into me  from knocking on doors hanging from a hinge and weathered wood that it is too late to paint.  Ward 2 is probably one of the most affluent wards in the City but some of our residents are feeling the pain of lost jobs and even…..home foreclosures.  We can do better but first we must open our eyes.

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Aug 02 2008

“Productivity & Perfomance” v “Status & Credentials”

Published by under On the campaign trail

There is no doubt my opponent is running on his resume.  His campaign material shouts it out.  What he won’t address is why the Mayor and the Council majority are working so hard to get him elected? Hmmm?  I have been walking all over the ward this last week and I am getting to know the mail carriers in many of our neighborhoods.  We often joke that I could help deliver some of their mail!

Our postal carriers  are delivering an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet for my opponents listing his credentials (many from 30 years ago) and I am hand-delivering my energy, passion, commitment and a love for my home town.  I will deliver for you to council an independent analytical mind that asks the right questions.

Like my opponent, I do have a  Masters Degree.  Mine is in business with accounting and financing concentration from a “Blue Collar” school earned at night while I was working two jobs in the 90’s.  His is from an Ivy League School earned in the 70’s.

My energy and passion will deliver to council the type of person you need that is willing to roll up his sleeves, get his hands dirty and tackle the tough issues with your input.  My opponent appears more ready to use his pedigree to make decisions for you with the Mayor and the other handpicked members of council.

It is Your Voice and Your Ann Arbor.

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