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Posted on Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

2nd Ward Ann Arbor City Council candidates differ on what should go atop Library Lot

By Ryan J. Stanton


Ann Arbor City Council Member Tony Derezinski and his opponent, Sally Hart Petersen, chat amicably following a debate Tuesday night at CTN studios.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The two candidates competing in the 2nd Ward race for the Ann Arbor City Council have at least one thing in common: They're both Harvard grads.

Incumbent Tony Derezinski holds a master of laws degree from the prestigious Ivy League school, while his opponent, Sally Hart Petersen, holds an MBA from there.

But they don't exactly see eye to eye on every issue facing Ann Arbor. For example, both have different visions for what the city should build atop a new underground parking garage.

"The most appealing option that I have heard discussed is putting park space there," Petersen said Tuesday night at a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters in Ann Arbor.


Petersen chats with supporters following Tuesday night's debate.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"I know some people are opposed to that," she said. "But I think keeping that as green space would be cost effective and would fit with the character of the Fifth Avenue corridor."

Derezinski noted the underground garage was purposely built with foundational reinforcements to support a large vertical development on top.

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is inviting the public to celebrate the grand opening of the new underground garage at 5 p.m. Thursday, and even the flier for the event depicts a vision for future vertical development on the site.

Derezinski said he's in favor of moving slowly to make the decision. He recalled the city already went through a process of vetting proposals and rejected a hotel and conference center.

"It just didn't fit with what Ann Arbor wanted," he said. "Now it's going to be a surface lot for a while — while we make a decision — because it's a critical thing. Remember, too, that's the most valuable real estate in Ann Arbor. It's sitting on 700-plus parking spots."

Derezinski said the City Council will have to choose wisely what goes on the so-called Library Lot, and he thinks it could be a mix of retail, office and residential uses.

"And a plaza, I think, should be part of it," he said. "But the extent of that is how it fits in with the other uses."

Petersen stressed that just because she thinks the Library Lot is well suited for a park, she doesn't think every open space downtown needs to be a park.

"I think we have room to build moderate-sized buildings," she said. "I don't think we need any skyscrapers downtown. But I think we do need some additional development to house the companies that are coming out of the University of Michigan."

Derezinski and Petersen will face off in the Aug. 7 primary. Both are running as Democrats and no Republican challenger awaits the winner in November.

Petersen, a stay-at-home mom since 2007, touted her past experience in senior marketing positions at companies like CFI Group and Health Media Inc.

"It is my goal to bring unmatched business expertise, community involvement and positive energy to the City Council table," she said.

She also talked about her community involvement, which includes serving as a board member of the Neutral Zone teen center and president of Tappan Middle School's PTSO.

"I come from a civic-minded family," she said. "My father was an Episcopal priest and a civil rights activist who demonstrated the value of living a life dedicated to community service."


Derezinski stressed his background in municipal law and his four years of experience on the City Council.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Derezinski stressed his background in municipal law and his four years of experience on the City Council.

"I've had 40 years of representing municipalities, school boards, townships, villages and what have you in their problems and also providing them advice," he said.

As director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, Derezinski said he taught a number of courses in governance and worked with local school boards that were having issues with getting along.

"That's something that I bring to the table," he said. "I think we have a lot of big issues to face and I'd like to work on collaborative efforts where we can bring the council together."

The two candidates continued to differ on the issue of building a new train station on Fuller Road, an initiative Derezinski has supported.

Petersen said if there ever is federal money to build a new station, the city should renovate and expand the Amtrak station on Depot Street and use the adjacent MichCon property.

"It could be some development and some green space," she said of the MichCon site. "I think that would be a great place to have a beautiful train station along the river."

Derezinski took issue with Petersen's vision, saying it just wouldn't work logistically.

"It's been looked at and it's got a lot of problems," he said, noting the number of passengers using the station is expected to double in the next two decades.

"We really do need a new site because the present site won't work. That was looked at as a possibility and rejected," he said. "So you shouldn't offer false hope."

On the issue of protecting parkland, Petersen said she doesn't think the City Council should have a right to repurpose any park land without a vote of the public. That's come up twice in the last two years with Fuller Park and the Huron Hills Golf Course.

"I am particularly concerned about the future of the 18-hole golf course at Huron Hills. I think it is still relevant," Petersen said.

Derezinski disagreed it's still relevant. He said he golfs at Huron Hills at least three or four times a year and he wants to see it preserved.

"And we voted down the proposal that would have privatized it," he said. "That issue, as far as I'm concerned, is gone. However, we have to face the realities of that, which means we are subsidizing that and how can we make it more effective?"


This vision for the Library Lot is included in a flier inviting the community to celebrate the grand opening of the new underground parking structure on Thursday.

Courtesy of DDA

Derezinski said he's proud of the city's vast parks system, but he's still in favor of building a new Amtrak train station on a portion of Fuller Park along Fuller Road.

"I think we have to look at the future," he said. "We have to decide where we're going as a community in terms of mass transit."

Petersen said wherever development takes place in Ann Arbor, there needs to be a balance of new buildings and open spaces.

"We're fortunate in Ann Arbor to have the University of Michigan here that spawns off a new company every four to five weeks," she said. "And I really see all of the downtown, including Lower Town, as opportunities to really grow and be fertile ground for these companies."

Petersen is campaigning on the platform that her business expertise and MBA distinguishes her from Derezinski and everybody else on council.

"What my skills and experiences help me bring to the table are financial acumen when it comes to studying budgets and really understanding what the bottom line implications are," she said, adding she also has analytical skills and could bring a fresh perspective.

"I guess I can't be considered fresh," Derezinski mused. "I've had a full four years, but I'm not that stale either yet. I'm seasoned. I've worked in municipal government for 40 years."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

Ann Arbor lacks a centrally located public park/space where residents can just "hang out" with family and/or friends. Yes, a bandstand would be great, but for it to occupy the entire space would be inefficient; besides, we have West Park for that. I would like to see food vendors, picnic tables, a stage... A free or near-free ice skating area in the winter... Most cities have such a public space; A2 officials would do well to look at examples. And, in my opinion, the LAST thing to be considered should be a building above the new underground parking structure; don't we have enough ugly structures already in the downtown area? Our public areas ( and taxpayer monies) should be used to improve the quality of life for Ann Arborites, not to fill the coffers of private companies or the DDA (and who elected them, anyway?)


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.

Looks like a landslide Tony, seems like the people of your Ward are not supporting you for re-election.....I guess that speech you had Postema make at the July 2 City Council meeting on your behalf showed how out of reach you are with the Tax Payers of Ann time you ask the City Attorney to make a statement on your hard work and "Patience" do your Discovery. For being a Harvard Law Grad, you would figure you would be more prepared to make public statements......

Tom Whitaker

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

"Remember, too, that's the most valuable real estate in Ann Arbor." The top commerical real estate developers in Ann Arbor do not agree with you, Mr. Derezinski. Have you ever bothered to ask them? They believe the City wasted millions by adding foundations to the parking structure that will never be used--except perhaps for a civic building of some sort, because the location simply doesn't work for most private uses. It's in a "no man's land" between the Main Street, State Street, and Kerrytown activity centers, and is located right across from the bus station and post office. But besides location, location, location, look at the added cost issues the City has created by building the parking structure first, with speculative foundations costing millions. Will it be possible to hoist heavy steel, precast concrete, and mechanical equipment during construction of a building on top without closing the parking structure for safety? Will materials need to brought to the site "just in time" because there will be no room to store them (unless they close Library Lane for this purpose). Will the building's design be compromised and made more expensive to build because it will be tied to existing columns and footings? These logistical costs are on top of the less-than-stellar numbers presented by the location itself. Any private development would require substantial public subsidy in order to be financed (as the proposed conference center/hotel developers called for in their pro-forma). It was a big mistake to build this parking structure based on exaggerated parking demand, during a slumping economy, and adding expensive extra footings, to boot, without combining it with the construction of an agreed-upon project on top (as is being done now on First Street). It's time to vote out the incumbents who have supported foolish capital projects while cutting police and fire, raising fees for water and sewer, and cutting services.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

Sally P is the fresh voice we need on city council. she will not be a puppet of the mayor, like Tony D is, nor will she blindly spend money. I agree we don't need to cater to U of M and put our train station on Fuller Road. keep the train station where it is.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Tony D.. my dad used to say , you take a donkey and send it to the highest institute of learning and all you end up with is an educated '''whats the other word for donkey".. you seem to relish power and we all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely..its time for you to retire permanently... Best wishes Sally1


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Tony D is to busy hanging out at Knights at his favorite bar stool to return phone calls or E Mails from the Ann Arbor tax-payers. "The good ole boys club" has to go! Go Sally go....


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Fire Tony D. He is the worst we've had in quite a while. Time for a change.

alan haber

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

People all over town, and around, want to see downtown enlivened by a green place. It is not necessary to build everywhere. residential, business and commercial needs can be met on other city owned property. And, keep in mind, if these development options were economically feasible, the very smart private property owners would be building on the vacant private land. The one piece of land that could be a downtown public space is the "library lot." Come to an all Ann Arbor area downtown block party on this Saturday, July 14. Noon to 5 and continuing through the evening with music and a chance to join in visioning a people oriented future for the "green" roof of the underground structure. It was a mistake to build "foundations" for a project that was not approved. The future should not be governed by the error, malfeasance, of the past.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

@Greenradish: Nobody? I don't remember being asked my opinion. A well-designed park would hopefully make those things a little less evident.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Nobody wants to go to a park on a side street to look at back alleys, blank walls, and parking lots.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Having a park would fit the character of Ann Arbor, but it would NOT be cost effective. Parks do not generate revenue, and it costs $$ to upkeep them. I think a "high rise" is not such a bad idea. There are so many start-ups in the area that keep growing in size, but are having a hard time staying downtown. It'd be nice if there was a place in the heart of downtown that could house those businesses.

Stuart Brown

Thu, Jul 12, 2012 : 4 a.m.

pvitaly, Not cost effective? Ever hear of "penny wise and pound foolish?" Public spaces address the intangible "quality of life" issue that make places like Ann Arbor desirable places to be. Where is it written that the only reason to go downtown is to shop or pay your parking ticket?


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

I agree that a hotel would not be a good idea/successful. But, a building with office space might be successful. Anyway, I was just stating that a public park is not cost-effective for a city like Peterson states.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

pvitaly, I was involved in the discussions about the Valiant Partners' proposed twelve story hotel that was preferred construction on top of the library parking structure by the Mayor and a number of similar minded city council member. It took hotel expert Chuck Skelton to prove that such a project was not feasible. Not every large development succeeds in Ann Arbor as was the case with Ashley Terrace. No reason to build a white elephant in the center of our downtown that will be a blight for the city. Wishful thinking never makes a business successful and I prefer not to risk failure on such an important piece of property in my downtown.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 11:58 a.m.

I live in 2nd Ward and had written Mr. Derezinski several times in the past few years. Never got any reponses back. Enough said.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

The high rises going up in Ann Arbor are an eyesore. The public really can use the library as a replacement for Borders, especially if there is a nice outdoor green space where locals can sit and read and visit with their neighbors. Ann Arbor should be creating spaces for Ann Arborites, not the out of towners.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

"Ann Arbor should be creating spaces for Ann Arborites, not the out of towners." Dr., you get my vote. If I wanted to live in a tourist destination I'd move to one.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

I live in Ward 2 and have found Tony D to be the worst representative we have had in memory. On the occasions when I have sent him a letter or email, no matter what the issue or question, he never once responded to me. Not even a polite thank you for your inquiry letter...just no response, no information, nothing. I will not be voting for him. Sally strikes me as a bright person who cares about Ann Arbor, its citizens, and its future.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

I'd like to point out that Tony D. is one of the strongest advocates of the "1% for Art" program on city council. I doubt the Harvard MBA would have voted to spend $100 million on the "Rog Mahal", the "Big Dig" and the "Huirinal", but Tony D., the Harvard lawyer did. The Harvard lawyer voted to support major cuts to fire and police safety despite the city running a major surplus. Would an MBA have found and advocated alternatives? The Harvard lawyer also wants to "lease" public parkland for a $150 million train station despite a city charter provision that says that all sales of parkland must be voted on by the citizens. For all the reasons above and more we've got a Sally Hart Petersen for City Council sign in our lawn.

Will Warner

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

Here's a shot of the band shell in Boulder Co:,r:6,s:0,i:93


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

And here's a shot of the band shell we already have in West Park... It's in a beautiful park a short walk from downtown.

Will Warner

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 10:30 a.m.

The best idea I have heard for the space atop the library lot is a band shell and outdoor stage. We could have concerts and plays there, with very convenient parking.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 10:26 a.m.

Tony d, "I'm not that stale.". This coming from a career politician who on every occasion has not responded to email and calls from his ward two neighbors! Why does he even want to run again when he clearly doesn't care what his neighbors think. Time to get him out! Welcome Ms. Petersen and your fresh outlook.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

I'm not a fan of Tony's tenure on Council, but he's hardly a "career politician." Has he ever held public office before this? (I helped vet him when he joined the board of Honey Creek Community School a few years back, if that counts--he was asked to run by the board, though.)