Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) officially resigned from Ann Arbor City Council at Monday evening’s council meeting. The vacancy was immediately filled by Jason Frenzel, who will now serve the remaining year of Briere’s two-year term.
Frenzel worked for the city of Ann Arbor from 2001 to 2011 as the Volunteer Outreach coordinator for the city’s Natural Area preservation program. He ran for City Council this year as a Democrat, but lost in the primary to incumbent Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D-Ward 1).
At Monday’s meeting, Councilmember Chip Smith (D-Ward 5) cited his experience in city hall and community outreach as basis for their selection.
“His knowledge about very complex issues facing not only the first ward but the city are superior,” Smith said.
Following the appointment Frenzel said in an interview with the Daily he was deeply appreciative of the council selection and eager to get to work
“I am deeply honored and humbled to be placed in city council,” Frenzel said. “It is a very strange process to go through being appointed in comparisons to running and being elected, and obviously the timeline has been very fast and there is only eleven months for the appointment by mind is both spinning in the humbleness and the work to be done.”
Last month, Briere announced her intention to resign at the Dec. 5 City Council meeting to move to California. After the announcement was made, the city opened applications to fill the soon-to-be-vacant seat. Seven Ward 1 residents – K.C. Lopata, Brent Eliason, Jason Frenzel, Charles Bultman, Jeff Hayner, David Moya, and Taha Hussain – applied for the position. All seven were interviewed by the council on Nov. 28 at a public meeting.
The meeting began with a tribute to Briere’s service on council from state Sen. Rebekah Warren (D–Ann Arbor) and state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor), thanking Briere for the work she has done in the community and wishing her the best in her move to California.
In the last hour of the meeting, Briere offered a resolution declaring her resignation. After the council approved the resolution, Briere stepped away from her seat and Council began discussion on selecting a replacement.
In an interview in a November, Briere said she began working with city officials early on when she decided she would be vacating her seat.
“In other situations in the past, people have moved and resigned, but because I have full warning and I’m the kind of person I am, when I understood that my son was successful in purchasing the house and I had a basic idea of when I would move, I worked with the Mayor and the city administrator and the city attorney to create a reasonable process proposal, and council then looked at that process proposal and improved it,” Briere said.
A large portion of the meeting before the vote on Briere’s replacement was focused on an ordinance to rezone 5.34 acres of land from a Township District land to a Multiple-Family Housing District to allow for the creation of a three-story, 75-unit condominium structure as well as the development of a regional water basin, which was approved with an 8-3 vote. During public comment, a dozen residents of the Ascot Road/Village Oaks Court area, where the proposed development would be built, urged the council to vote down the zoning ordinance.
The residents argued that the development would be damaging to the area’s water systems and would change the appearance of a neighborhood that is all single-family homes. Many argued that the creation of a water detention center would be beneficial for some residents of the area but would create far worse problems for those near the new development, leading to more flooding.
Paula Uche, an Ann Arbor resident who spoke twice during the public comment section, said after the vote that he thought the Council’s decision to pass this ordinance disregarded their ethical duty and the voices of their constituents.
“The city has cut a deal with a very wealthy developer, who is going to get even wealthier with his $75,000-a-year condos, when the rest of us who suffered to pay off our houses are going to get flooded again because (the council’s) decision totally ignores one section of the area and have neglected our complaints, our concerns, our warnings,” Uche said.
Councilmembers Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) and Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) voted against the ordinance. The dissenting council members echoed the concerns of the residents that spoke. Eaton also stated that this rezoning goes against the city’s overarching master plan.
However, Councilmember Graydon Kraphol (D-Ward 4), who voted in support of the proposal, argued that the master plan is a guide, not meant to be interpreted as an absolute. Smith also noted that that just because the area is currently dominated by single-family dwellings does not mean non-single family housing is at risk.