The Northside Grill usually serves as one of Ann Arbor’s breakfast restaurants, but last night served as a meeting place where Ann Arbor residents sat down for coffee and discussion with city officials.

Ann Arbor resident and Northside Grill owner Jim Koli said he has hosted community events at his business since he took it over in 1993. Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said she and Sandi Smith (D–Ward 1) have held annual town halls at the restaurant since they were elected in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Briere and Smith joined Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and City Administrator Steven Powers to respond to questions and city concerns voiced by residents at the town hall.

Hieftje said he hopes the RiverUp! Wolfpack — an organization that intends to improve the Huron River, comprised of 75 leaders including John Dingell (D–Mich)— as well as the National Wildlife Federation’s local branch and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters will help fund a Huron River Trail system.

“If we can get the link between the greenway proposed area at 721 and cross under through the railroad tracks, some way over there to the border, that’s going to open up some other funding mechanisms and eventually the border should go all the way to Dexter, all the way east, and hook up with other trail systems,” Hieftje said.

Though Hieftje added that funding opportunities are not as abundant as they used to be.

“I think the thing to remember is, had we been at this stage in 1995, we could get all this stuff funded — but we’ve just been through the worst decade of funding,” Hieftje said.

Koli said the neighborhood should develop residential housing.

“It doesn’t want (Zaragon) or stuff like that, 10 story student housing, it doesn’t want stuff like that either, I understand they’re closing down Baits but we’re not going to make up for it here,” Koli said. “I would personally have more owner occupied (units) than rental units.”

Koli said the University’s relationship with the city needs to better reflect the needs of Ann Arbor residents.

“It’s a great thing, but there’s a struggle to find a balance,” Koli said.

And Briere said the neighborhood has preferences about potential growth.

“There’s lots of opportunity, the neighborhood doesn’t want high-rises, it doesn’t want office buildings, it will probably fight if somebody proposes those things. “ Briere said.

Briere said the University has frustrated residents in areas where it plans to create new housing for hospital workers.

“The University isn’t responsible, it’s not going to say, ‘Yeah I see you’ve got a plan, we’re going to follow your plan.’ It’s going to say, ‘Well we’ve got a plan and we’re going to follow our plan,’ ” she said.

Briere said if there was a legal way to stop the University, she would do it.

“They want the University to actually respect the city, to actually respect the rights of the people who already live here,” Briere said.

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