Ward 4 News from CM Jen Eyer
This is an expanded version of the newsletter I sent out yesterday. If you'd like to receive email updates from me, please sign up here.
Dear 4th Ward residents, Happy New Year! Turning the page on a year never felt so good. I hope 2021 is off to an optimistic and promising start for you and your loved ones. After completing a thorough orientation program and holding our first few meetings as a new Council, this is the first of what will be periodic updates on issues of interest. I will highlight upcoming agenda items, decisions made, public meetings on important topics, opportunities to get involved, and more.
Speaking of getting involved… I am looking for about a dozen residents from areas throughout the 4th Ward to serve as “neighborhood advisors.” The role of a neighborhood advisor will be to help inform me about issues of concern from residents in their area, and help me communicate items of interest to those residents as well. Neighborhood advisers will also help me organize Ward meetings by neighborhood throughout the year. If you are interested, please email me at email@example.com. Decisions made In the first meeting of the new Council, we passed a resolution directing the City Planning Commission to forward a transit- supported zoning district. The notion of increasing housing options along our major transportation corridors was a campaign issue for me, and I’m pleased that we moved so quickly to put the wheels in motion. We asked the Planning Commission to bring their recommendations to us by June 15, 2021. We also passed a resolution directing staff to come up with rules to allow continued operation of preexisting short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. I voted for the measure on the basis of legal concerns. My position on STRs was consistent throughout my campaign: I believe we should regulate them, but we must do so within the confines of the law so as not to expose the city to unnecessary legal or financial risk.
The previous Council in September created a legal definition for short-term rentals and passed separate licensing rules and regulations for these properties. However, they did not grant legal nonconforming status to the 100-200 non-owner occupied STRs that had been operating legally and without special classification or regulation in residential neighborhoods. That exposes the city to a potentially expensive lawsuit.
As city council members, we create ordinances for the betterment of Ann Arbor, and I believe stopping the proliferation of non-owner occupied STRs in residential neighborhoods does that. However, it's also important that in creating ordinances, we don't put the City in unnecessary legal or financial risk. That's the problem this new resolution seeks to solve -- in a way that these properties would age out of the market through attrition. As an additional note, during debate on the issue, I asked staff to come back with recommendations on how we can better ensure STRs that become public nuisances can be shut down. I look forward to continuing the discussion about STRs at the council table in the near future.
Other votes of note: We had a first reading of a resolution to require Electrical Vehicle (EV) parking infrastructure as part of any City Council approved site plan. We passed a resolution to allow solar panel installation as carports without a site plan requirement and to allow an exemption for up to 12 feet above the height limit for a district solely in order to permit the installation of Solar energy system. Meeting efficiency During the campaign, I heard a lot of concerns from residents about the sometimes unproductive tone and the length of council meetings -- concerns I wholeheartedly share. Council Member Kathy Griswold and I are working together to propose new Council rules addressing these issues. I believe we as Council members should be able to disagree agreeably, and we should finish Council business while residents are awake. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to ensure our meetings are professional and accessible to the public. Addressing neighborhood concerns In October and again in late November, I held Zoom meetings with neighbors who had questions and concerns about the Valhalla project on South Main Street near the U-M golf course. After the November meeting, it was clear that questions remained about how traffic studies are conducted. I spoke with city planning staff, and they are working to add educational information about traffic studies to the city website. I am also working to arrange a Zoom meeting with someone from planning staff for 4th Ward residents who would like to ask general questions about traffic studies, not tied to any specific project. Did you know? The city offers email alerts on topics covering nearly every aspect of city government, including parks and recreation, planning updates, water quality and much more. Visit this link to sign up for alerts of interest to you! Future communication I have asked City Administrator Tom Crawford to examine ways for council members to better communicate with residents, and for residents to more easily find information from their council members. Specifically, we're discussing the creation of official websites for each CM, housed on the A2gov.org website. These sites would have a news updates feature, and hopefully also give us the ability to send out mass emails to constituents who have signed up to receive them. In the meantime, I will continue to use this format. Stay tuned! Warm regards,