Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje announced continued progress on several rail initiatives at the City Council meeting last night.
Hieftje said $2.8 million in funding from the federal government will be used by the Ann Arbor Transit Authority, the Michigan Department of Transportation and other organizations to implement plans for the Fuller Road train station.
“One of the beauties of that for Ann Arbor and for the Fuller Road Station and all of our partners — Amtrak, AATA, MDOT — is that the track improvements that are needed for the commuter rail will also be going forward and will be paid for by the federal funding,” Hieftje said.
The Fuller Road Station initiative has tried to bring a new train station to the city for several years. The space is currently a paved parking lot across the street from the Fuller Park Pool and Soccer Complex.
Hieftje expressed his excitement for the rail initiative and pointed out that there is a total of $380 million coming into the state to improve rail systems throughout Michigan. These funds, he said, will guarantee the purchase of rail between Detroit and Kalamazoo, Mich. for improved train service.
“Everything is going forward and looking very good for rail transit here in Southeast Michigan and actually across the state,” Hieftje said.
He added that MDOT, which already owns the trains for the commuter rail, is looking to move forward with the project to potentially include service from Amtrak and commuter trains at the Fuller Road Station.
Request to rezone medical marijuana dispensary property denied
In an 8-3 vote, the Ann ArborCity Council rejected a request last night to rezone a property — that houses a medical marijuana dispensary — on South State Street from an office district to a local business district so that the dispensary can legally operate as a business.
Attorney Dennis Hayes, who spoke during the public commentary, said Treecity Health Collective — located at 1712 South State St. — has been working diligently to get the property rezoned. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the city and commented on the difficulty of establishing medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
“One of the problems we’ve been having on a larger scale (is) it’s been very difficult to find places in the city that will accept medical marijuana collectives,” Hayes said.
City Council member Sandi Smith (D–Ward 1), who voted for the rezoning, said she felt conflicted about rezoning the area since there are businesses and retail spaces in the surrounding area and pointed out the growth of a produce station nearby.
“I do see that here is an opportunity with changing conditions in that area,” Smith said.
City Planning Manager Wendy Rampson said the request — which the council postponed from its Sept. 19 meeting — did not have enough justification to be accepted due to the presence of office spaces in the area.
“In this particular situation … we saw that it was such a small piece of land surrounded by other uses — office uses and industrial across the street — that to take one piece out of context in that area did not make sense,” Rampson said.