At Thursday night’s City Council meeting — which occurred on a Thursday, rather than a Monday due to last Tuesday’s primary election — campaigning was set aside and several issues were discussed, despite the potential post-election awkwardness such as Tony Derezinski (D–Ward 2) — who lost Tuesday — sitting next to Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) —who endorsed his opponent.
Much of the meeting’s discussion focused on the approval of a resolution that would have put a question on the November ballot asking Ann Arbor voters whether or not they would like to change how parkland in the city is protected.
The ballot initiative, if approved by voters, intended to make it so no parkland could be sold or leased for any long-term, non-recreational use, without voter approval.
In 2008, Ann Arbor voters passed a similar initiative by an 81-percent to 19-percent margin, which specified that parkland could not be sold without voter approval.
According to the Ann Arbor Chronicle, because the word “lease” was not specified in the 2008 amendment, some Ann Arbor residents said a “loophole” existed.
Some feared that Fuller Park land could be leased as part of the new train station, prospectively on Fuller Road, that Council accepted federal funding to research in June, according to the Chronicle.
In reference to the alleged “loophole,” Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) said the resolution had “unintended” but “likely unknowable consequences” and added that voters had already decided they didn’t need the extra lease clause.
“Aside from the fact that the word ‘sale’ could not be more plain, and that voters are presuming to regret the ballot measures that they passed, I learned yesterday at the (Park Advisory Commission’s) meeting that Council specifically removed the word ‘lease’ from the ballot measure that went before voters in 2008,” Taylor said.
Taylor added that he thought people were wrong to claim they had always intended there to be a lease clause in the 2008 legislation.
“In light of this specific and intentional deletion of ‘lease’ from the 2008 ballot language, the continued assertion that ‘lease’ was part of the initiative’s intent is … demonstrably false,” Taylor said. “It may be a good idea, this may be a bad idea, but to suggest that opposition to the proposal contrary to the demonstrated will of the people as evidenced by the 2008 resolution is, I believe, patently false.”
Discussion of the issue had been delayed from a July 16 City Council meeting. On Aug. 8, the city’s Park’s Advisory Commission deliberated on whether or not to recommend the ballot iniative. The commission unanimously decided to recommend its opposition.
Though the resolution had been sponsored by Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5), Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) and Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1), Briere introduced a more specific amendment to the resolution approving the ballot proposal. Briere’s amendment was also supported by Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3).
Later in the meeting, Briere did not vote for the resolution she originally sponsored. Rather, Anglin, Lumm, Kunselman and Marcia Higgins (D–Ward 4) voted in favor of it, only to see the resolution rejected.
Mayor John Hieftje said he couldn’t support the ballot initiative, adding that the public expressed that they like the Fuller Road Station idea. Hieftje said Fuller can always be its own ballot proposal, rather than having to fix the “loophole.”
“I have no doubt that if the timing is right, that if that’s taken to the voters, if it’s a fully developed proposal … that the voters will approve that,” Hieftje said.
Additionally at the meeting, Council approved a resolution to designate the property at 317 Maynard Street as an Ann Arbor Industiral Development District.
This designation allows for the location’s likely tenant, Baracudda Networks, to begin a process of qualifying for reduced taxes by the city.