The first Ann Arbor City Council meeting of the year was shorter than usual as council members moved quickly through old and new business.

The Monday meeting, held on one of the coldest nights of winter thus far, featured a handful of the city’s homeless and their advocates who came to voice their concerns about having adequate shelter during the dangerously cold weather.

Several speakers during the public commentary addressed the council asking for increased shelter both at night and during the day. Many speakers specifically requested the opening of the currently vacant building at 721 Main St.

However, the building in question is not up to code and could be dangerous for people staying there. It poses a liability for the city and is not likely to be utilized, even as shelter, according to councilman Jack Eaton (D – Ward 4).

“There has been an ongoing public dialogue over why we would allow empty buildings like that,” Eaton said.”You have people out in this kind of weather, and you have empty buildings, and it’s not hard to draw that connection, and it’s just that there’s all those details.”

Mary Jo Callan, director of Community Development for Washtenaw County, reported to the council that all shelters have been open day and night this week. Callan said Ann Arbor’s Delonis Center, which has a capacity of 200, has not turned down anyone to stay there so far. She added that all shelters have also loosened their rules on substance use for those requesting shelter.

Aside from the discussion over the shelters, the city council unanimously passed all old and new business with minimal discussion on any item.

The Traverwood Apartments site plan was approved, as well as usage of .27 acres of the wetlands for the development. The complex will be comprised of 16 buildings and will be located at 2225 Traverwood Drive.

The council also approved a plan to bring new restaurants Briarwood Mall. This site plan will bring a P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Bravo Cucina Italiana to the shopping center. Additionally, council approved the Montgomery building site plan, which would add four floors to the existing building, along with a few smaller items.

After minor wording and penalty amendments from council members Christopher Taylor (D – Ward 3) and Sally Petersen (D – Ward 2), the city policy for removal of on-street metered parking spaces was approved. The ordinance requires developers who remove parking spaces for new construction to pay a penalty. According to the legislation text, developers have removed over 200 parking spaces over the past few years, causing a significant loss in meter revenue.

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