City Council approves water rate changes, postpones decision on Greek Life zoning codes

Monday, June 18, 2018 - 11:38pm

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Matt Vailliencourt/Daily

On Monday, City Council decided to postpone proposed changes to zoning codes regarding University of Michigan Greek life until July 16. 

The proposal, if approved, would require new or expanding fraternities and sororities to maintain affiliation with the University in order to obtain a city permit. The ordinance would also set a maximum occupancy level for the Greek life houses.

Ann Arbor resident Josh Winegas discouraged the council from approving the ordinance, saying it seemed unfair to Greek life homeowners.

“I must urge you to vote no on this current proposal,” Winegas said. “You have heard numerous opinions suggesting why this proposal is unfair to the homeowners. I completely concur with these opinions and as a fraternity homeowner, I can attest that if we were prohibited from operating as a fraternity or sorority, we’d be forced to sell our house.”

City Council also voted 7-4 to change water, sewer and stormwater rates throughout the city to better reflect usage. Stantec Consulting Services was hired to conduct a cost-of-service study for this proposal. The controversial proposal is intended to better reflect water usage throughout the city, specifically in single-family homes, while others say it unfairly increases rates for single-family users. Non-residential units would pay a flat rate for their water usage.

Effective July 1, stormwater rates would also increase by 14 percent. The proposal is revenue-neutral for the city.

Councilmember Zachary Ackerman, D-Ward 3, stated that a resident is not solely paying for water, but paying for the infrastructure required to transport that water to the residence.

“I think I reject the premise that a gallon of water is a gallon of water because you’re not necessarily paying for the water,” Ackerman said. “You are through your customer charges and piece of your per gallon rate but what you’re really paying for is the infrastructure to pay for that water. A gallon of milk is a gallon of milk but if a household wants to buy 500 gallons of milk, you’re going to need a larger refrigerator and you have to pay for that larger refrigerator. Similarly, if a household wants to use more water, they have to pay for that larger pipe and the bigger system to getting it there.”

Craig Hupy, Ann Arbor public service area administrator, addressed misconceptions about the proposal by explaining that the city’s goal is not to seek new growth of the system.

“Our policy is that development pays for development,” Hupy said. “We do not look for new growth and extension to come out of the ‘right’ dollars. This is to maintain the existing system and to pay for the existing delivery of services.”

Mayor Christopher Taylor supported the proposal, saying water usage varies by user and class and must be billed accordingly.

“The different classes we serve have different costs of service, and this makes sense because it costs us more to provide service to neighborhoods because they are less dense than it costs us to serve other users downtown because they are more dense,” Taylor said.

The council voted 11-0 to allow vertical expansion for Espresso Royale on South University Avenue and 10-1 regarding modifying parking tickets to $35 for an expired parking meter.

City Council also voted 11-0 for a new question on the Nov. 6 ballot regarding a “Center of the City” urban park and civic center. This comes after a petition with over 5,000 signatures was filed following a previous rejection by the council to put it on the ballot. This would be on a block bound by Liberty, William and South Division Streets.

The council also addressed an assessment for new sidewalk installment on Green Road in the Chapel Hill Condominium neighborhood. After hearing concerns regarding costs to residents and an already-existing sidewalk in the neighborhood, Council voted 11-0.

City Council also addressed concerns raised during public commentary regarding the Nixon Road Corridor. The corridor project would construct new roundabouts on Nixon Road after a 2017 study noticing concerns of safety, non-motorized facilities and user-delays. Residents raised concerns on the spacing of these roundabouts on the street and their effectiveness.

Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, explained that the idea of the corridor is to address street congestion.

“Nothing is set in stone by any stretch of the imagination at this point yet,” Lumm said. “It’s being done to address the congestion.”