The Ann Arbor City Council met Monday to discuss the city’s deer population, the future of the Arthur Miller house and a proposed zoning change to make way for a new housing development.
Council to convene public meeting on deer cull
Multiple individuals concerned about the city’s plan to control deer population in the city through a cull attended Monday’s meeting, prompting the council to set an open hearing on the subject for Nov. 5.
Members of the council mentioned the volume of e-mails they received regarding the issue, and noted the lack of understanding of the issue apparent in many of them.
“It’s really difficult when e-mails keep coming with total misinformation,” said Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1). “It’s like they believe that someone is going to run around the park just shooting. It’s ridiculous.”
Several members agreed on the importance of having an informed public on the matter at hand.
Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) said the problem might be that the public is learning about the issue from outside sources that spread false information.
“It’s unfortunate because a lot of what’s contained in those initial messages to people is not correct,” she said.
Relocation of the Arthur Miller house
The council passed a resolution to investigate the possibility of moving the Arthur Miller House from its current location on South Division Street to Liberty Plaza.
The University, which currently owns the house, aims to repurpose the land for other projects. This has prompted concern from historical preservation groups that the house might be destroyed in the process.
Though the council agreed to investigate, several members were unsure whether Liberty Plaza would be a feasible location.
Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) noted that it may be difficult to justify removing the only park located downtown for a historical building.
“The idea of moving a house to our park — the only park that we have in downtown Ann Arbor — as a way of addressing issues that we have there seems far-fetched,” he said. “You’re going to be talking to a lot of people who are not going to be that happy about giving up their park just to put up a house.”
Conditional zoning agreement
Council also discussed a conditional zoning agreement that would allow developmental company Toll Brothers to build new 470 new residences on the city’s north side.
Both members of the public and council members raised several issues with the plan, citing, in particular, lack of detail on how it would impact the city in regard to traffic and preservation of wetlands and other nature elements in the area.
Ann Arbor resident Kami Meader said the plan was rushed.
“There are too many unanswered questions and problems with this conditional zoning,” she said. “They’re just voting for it because they’re afraid they are going to lose the land to the University of Michigan and then they won’t get the tax payer dollars.”
Because the University is public, all of the land it owns is tax exempt. As the University buys up land, the purchases cut into the city’s tax revenues, which has prompted concerns from the city.
Kailasapathy raised concerns regarding the plan's lack of detail, specifically citing the acreage allocated for parklands, how the city will be paid, and a traffic mitigation agreement.
“How could we vote on this when it is not linked to some other document?” she said. “We need to know the ramifications of this.”
In response to the concerns, Kevin McDonald, senior assistant city attorney, said many of the issues cited with the conditional zoning agreement could be addressed in the site plan.
Despite the concerns, the council approved the conditional zoning agreement 6 to 4.
Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 2) noted the benefits of securing this agreement now, as it prevents the development company from making any significant changes moving forward without the council’s approval.
“This locks the developer into producing exactly the site plan we approve,” she said. “If he fails to do that, the zoning falls through, and no other developer can build on that land unless they’re doing exactly the same thing within a certain amount of time.”