Ann Arbor City Council met Monday evening at Larcom City Hall to discuss a resolution to expedite safety updates to multi-lane roads, the rezoning of parking lots around Briarwood Mall and a geothermal energy plant poised to supply the Bryant neighborhood.
The council passed resolution DC-4, which prioritizes adding new safety measures for Ann Arbor’s multi-lane roads. The resolution was written as a continuation of Ann Arbor’s Vision Zero plan, which was completed in 2021 and promotes the reconfiguration of roads in hopes of eliminating traffic fatalities. Councilmember Dharma Akmon, D-Ward 4, co-sponsored DC-4 and said cars killed or seriously injured 22 people on Ann Arbor roads in 2022.
“This resolution is first and foremost about safety (and) creating safe environments for everyone whether we’re driving, walking, biking or taking the bus to get around,” Akmon said. “When it comes to traffic violence, we still have a ways to go.”
While Akmon and others said pedestrian and cyclist safety should be the most important metric considered before the implementation of multi-lane roads, Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, said concerns about recent strategic lane reductions adjacent to the University of Michigan Central Campus need to be addressed.
“At Packard and Hill … we still have cars swerving into bike and pedestrian crossings within the intersection to get around those waiting to turn left, and I’ve personally witnessed several near misses,” Radina said. “My constituents ask me, … ‘What are we going to do to fix this?’”
Radina said the council should continue reviewing intersection safety after safety improvements are implemented and proposed an amendment to name U-M transit commuters as stakeholders in the resolution. The resolution passed unanimously as amended.
Raymond Hess, transportation manager for the City of Ann Arbor, explained the process for reviewing street safety reconfigurations, conventionally known as road diet plans, for unintended consequences.
“We look at things through the lens of the A2Zero carbon neutrality plan and the Moving Together Towards Vision Zero transportation plan,” Hess said. “As such, safety and active forms of transportation such as walking and biking and taking the bus really guide our work more so than vehicular congestion.”
City Council then discussed the first reading of a proposal which would redevelop parts of the 50-year-old Briarwood Mall property. The council passed ordinance C-2 to make the initial decision to rezone 8.3 acres of Briarwood parking lots to a business service district, that would demolish the former Sears to add a grocery store, shopping and 354 apartments to the property. The specific site plan will be voted on and decided in December.
The council also approved two amendments to apportion a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a neighborhood-level geothermal heating plant. The proposed plant would be located in and intended to supply the Bryant neighborhood in the southern portion of Ward 3.
In April, Ann Arbor was one of 11 communities selected to receive funding under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Community Geothermal program. The grant awarded Ann Arbor $13 million to implement a geothermal heating and cooling system to support at least 25% of the heating and cooling needs of a district or neighborhood. Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor committed to using the funds to build a geothermal plant that supports more than 75% of the Bryant neighborhood’s heating and cooling needs.
The council also approved DC-2, which allowed the use of $246,250 of the grant funds to contract IMEG Consultants for technical leadership on the project, and CA-20, which apportioned $94,000 of the funds to support the related outreach efforts of Bryant Community Center, operated by Washtenaw Community Action Network. Taylor sponsored and introduced DC-2 to the council.
“I’ve already waxed poetic about the (Office of Sustainability and Innovations)’s receipt of this Department of Energy planning grant,” Taylor said. “(It is) perhaps the nation’s first low-income carbon neutral neighborhood: 242 homes linked by a geothermal district, an elementary school, a municipal maintenance facility, a mental health center and a neighborhood center.”
During the meeting, the council also approved up to $500,000 for a new public restroom on the downtown district library lot, the closure of Detroit Street between Fifth Avenue and Catherine Street for Kerrytown’s annual KindleFest on Dec. 1, and the acquisition of four new conservation easements throughout the city.
Daily Staff Reporter June Macdonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.