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Posted on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

Ann Arbor downtown library bond proposal headed for defeat

By Ryan J. Stanton


A sign supporting the Ann Arbor District Library's $65 million bond proposal for a new downtown library outside the Michigan Union on Tuesday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

UPDATE: Ann Arbor downtown library bond proposal defeated: What now?

With 74 of 92 precincts counted, the Ann Arbor District Library's bond proposal for a new downtown library is losing with 45.8 percent of the vote.

The vote count is 32,680-27,659 against the proposal, and votes from the remaining precincts won't be enough to close that gap.

If approved, the proposal would have authorized the sale of up to $65 million worth of bonds and the AADL would have levied a property tax for up to 30 years to pay off the debt.


The downtown Ann Arbor library, which would be demolished and replaced with a new library under the bond proposal on Tuesday's ballot, served as a polling location for voters in Precinct 5-1.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Depending on the interest rate at which the bonds are sold, library officials said annual payments could have been funded by a tax rate of 0.47-0.56 mills per year, meaning the cost to the owner of a $200,000 home with a $100,000 taxable value would have been between $47 and $56 per year.

Library officials said that would be enough to fund the estimated $53 million in construction costs, plus demolition, rental of temporary facilities during construction, furniture, equipment, technology, and other costs related to the project, including permits, designs and engineering.

The library currently levies 1.55 mills in taxes per year for operations, costing the owner of a $200,000 home with a $100,000 taxable value about $155 per year.

The AADL board studied the issue of whether to replace or renovate the downtown library to address capacity issues and it was found that a new building would cost only 10 percent more than a renovation. Library officials had in mind a 160,000-square-foot facility that would include more room for programs, meeting spaces and new technology, as well as a 400-seat auditorium.

Supporters of the proposal campaigned for its passage through a committee called Our New Downtown Library, which was headed up by Ellie Serras. She and others gathered Tuesday night at the Real Seafood Co. in downtown Ann Arbor to watch the results roll in, but they knew early in the night that it wasn't looking good for them.

Serras said this past week she hoped voters would realize the value in replacing the downtown library, which dates back to 1958 and was last renovated in the early 1990s.

Three committees — one called Protect Our Libraries, another called Save the Ann Arbor Library, and another called LOL=Love Our Library — formed in opposition to the proposal.

Kathy Griswold, who headed up the Protect Our Libraries group, said library officials were asking too much money for what she considered a marginal benefit.

Library officials said a solid timeline would have been developed if the proposal was approved, but it was expected the project would begin by spring 2014 and construction would last 18-27 months. There would have been a year-long planning process with public input before the project started.

The intention was to keep the downtown library's collection available online for requests during construction, but most of it would not have been physically browsable. Library leaders said they hoped to find space they could use as a temporary downtown branch if the project moved ahead.

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, Nov 7, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

I'm very glad the proposal was defeated. The board needed to do a LOT more work before coming to the people and asking for a blank check. How would they even know they could build a building for $53 million given that they had to pay for demolition, new construction, AND rental space? All this, and they didn't even put up a drawing? I might- MIGHT- have voted for it if they had a known architectural plan and a detailed cost estimate. As it was, the board just said, "Trust us." Bad public policy. Hopefully they will learn from this and do that year-long planning process before asking for a millage increase.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

Would really like to see someone investigate where all the money that advertising company spent to defeat this actually came from.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

I would also like to know who is going to magically appear to pay off Griswold's "loan" to her committee.

A Voice of Reason

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Yes, and what would be their vested interest other than keeping taxes low for the citizens and businesses in our community and it was a wasteful money grab by the library board. Clearly others had a personal vested interest in having this library built including Main Street Ventures restaurants, and Zingerman's, the mortgage company and architects; carried on the back of tax payers.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

Congrats go out to the DDA's Leah Gunn for her brilliant handling of the YES campaign.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 10:23 a.m.

Woot Woot! Level heads prevail in A2!

L. C. Burgundy

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 6:07 a.m.

With only a few absentee precincts to be counted, the bond proposal is losing 46-54. I think you can stick a fork in it. Thank you, Ann Arbor, for not writing a $100 million check for...whatever it was that they were going to build.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

"...but absentee ballots were still out,..." If it helps, my absentee ballot said NO.

John Floyd

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 5:06 a.m.

Well said, Brimble.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 4:50 a.m.

Ultimate results notwithstanding, there is clearly not strong consensus for an open checkbook for pet projects any longer in Ann Arbor. Both the millage for art and the one for the downtown library building demolition and reconstruction represent spending ideas outside the core of services. It isn't that the community doesn't value public art or libraries, but rather that we value those things hand-in-hand with fiscal sensibility. We have to make real choices -- real decisions -- about a prudent and responsible course going forward, so that we can have a vibrant community and be able to afford to live in it.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

Don't forget that our job's not done with voting down the Public Art millage; this just means they will CONTINUE to skim our property tax dollars meant for other purposes and use it (badly and at great expense) for public art. Step 2 is making them aware of the fact that we don't want them using our money meant for services, etc. for what their expanding commission considers Art (e.g. sculptures inside a building people only go to to pay tickets, be judged for crimes, etc.) and small fountains outside government buildings that look like they're broken when they're working, and that's not often).

John Floyd

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 4:18 a.m.

The results of all the referenda are near/at the bottom of the "Cumulative" report at As of this writing, all of them are being rejected except Proposal 3 (alternate energy) and the Ann Arbor parks millage renewal. The Maroon proposals (5 & 6) are losing 25%/75%


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 5:07 a.m.

John -- keep in mind that the results on are county results not statewide totals. Proposal 3 is being rejected.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

They were in Dreamworld. Give us over $100 million and we'll figure out what to build.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:04 a.m.

The proponents of the millage gathered at Real Seafood Company? That tells me more than ever it was a good thing this failed.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.



Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

Ryan where do you get your election info from. I am at and it does not have nearly that many votes counted. I am in no means questioning your results, I just want to know so I can go there too. It is way ahead


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

I'd be curious to know which precincts... If any in the downtown area are coming out clearly against it, then it's likely this proposal is defeated, and I'll be sighing with relief.