Joint committee formed to hash out Ann Arbor DDA tax capture issues
Ann Arbor officials have formed a special joint committee of the City Council and Downtown Development Authority to hash out issues surrounding the DDA's tax captures.
By a 9-0 vote Monday night, the City Council approved the creation of the committee, which will include Council Members Stephen Kunselman, Jane Lumm, Sally Hart Petersen and Christopher Taylor. It's expected the DDA will name its four members on Wednesday.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com file photo
This time, it's the DDA's growing tax revenues from downtown properties that some city officials and DDA officials are playing tug of war over.
Kunselman pushed heavily earlier this year — in the face of opposition from the mayor and downtown business groups — for ordinance changes that would effectively slow the DDA's revenue growth and send more tax revenue directly to the city and other taxing authorities like the library and the county, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and Washtenaw Community College.
The DDA recently revised its budget for 2013-14 to factor in new revenue projections from the city assessor's office, showing more than $4.5 million in tax revenues coming this fiscal year. Kunselman at one point proposed reducing the DDA's expected tax capture by roughly $1 million, and Council Member Sumi Kailasapathy, D-1st Ward, joined him in his quest.
The City Council decided in early May to postpone making any ordinance changes regarding the DDA until the council's first meeting in September.
Briere said that means the joint committee must get to work quickly. She's expecting the council will consider DDA ordinance amendments on Sept. 2.
"It is in the public interest that the DDA and the City Council work together for the continued improvement and development of downtown," reads the resolution unanimously supported by council Monday night, directing the new joint committee to provide the City Council with proposed ordinance changes regarding the DDA.
In an ideal world, Briere said, the resolution would allow time for significant public input and collaboration with the other taxing authorities affected by the DDA's tax capture. She said the joint committee could request a change in timeline in order to have a more complete process.
The joint committee is expected to report periodically on the ongoing discussions at meetings of the City Council. Additionally, City Administrator Steve Powers is expected to direct city staff to work with the DDA's staff to help craft the proposed final draft ordinance changes.
Though he will be serving on the joint committee, Kunselman said he had nothing to do with bringing forward Monday night's resolution — it was all Briere and the mayor.
"I think it's just giving some structure to something that's already underway," he said. "Council Member Petersen and I have already met with some members of the DDA and some staff, trying to work these things out, so if they want to solidify it, then we'll just see how that goes."
Briere and Hieftje originally proposed calling it the "mutually beneficial committee," keeping the name of the subcommittee from two years ago, but Kunselman said that sounded like "too much back scratching." Council members agreed to just call it a joint committee.
Only three members of each body were initially contemplated, but Council Member Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, pushed to have Lumm appointed to the committee.
"I think she has put a lot of work into this and has been very thoughtful, and has taken an interest in the DDA for a long time," Higgins said of Lumm, who represents the 2nd Ward on council.
The DDA's governing board is expected to vote Wednesday to authorize a $300,000 grant to the city of Ann Arbor for the replacement of streetlights on Main Street. DDA officials argue the streetlight poles between Huron and William streets have deteriorated and must be replaced.
"These decorative streetlights, including some with multiple globes, have become an important symbol of the Main Street commercial area and do a great deal to support the great amount of activity in this area," the DDA's proposed resolution states.
The estimated cost to replace the streetlights is $516,000, which includes new decorative poles with banner brackets and LED light fixtures — including two poles that will be taller to accommodate banners being strung across Main Street for special event.
It was determined through the city's recent budget process that the DDA would allocate $300,000 toward the cost of the project. The city will cover the other $216,000.
The City Council also went on record recently with asking the DDA to fund three new downtown police officers. That's listed as a discussion item on Wednesday's DDA agenda.
DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said the DDA's Operations Committee members met to discuss the city's request for downtown beat cops in June, but they haven't come to any conclusion yet. The next meeting of the Operations Committee is scheduled for 11 a.m. July 24.
In addition to the joint committee working on DDA issues, council members took action Monday night to resurrect a citizen advisory committee to take a final look at zoning issues in the city's R4C and R2A zoning districts. Those districts have been the subject of scrutiny ever since the City Place project was proposed on Fifth Avenue in 2009 and city officials realized other near-downtown residential areas might be at risk for out-of-character development.
The committee is expected to advise the Planning Commission on draft ordinance amendments to be presented to City Council. There is no timeline for the committee's work.
The Planning Commission has recommended that City Council support the changes in the R4C/R2A Recommendations Report passed along to council on May 20.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.