Ann Arbor officials consider selling parks, privatizing Huron Hills golf course to trim city budget
Ann Arbor officials met Monday night to discuss ways to trim the city's budget, including such measures as selling some parks and cutting maintenance of others.
The idea of entering into a public-private partnership to operate the Huron Hills Golf Course also was floated during a presentation by Jayne Miller, the city's community services administrator.
Monday's working session of the Ann Arbor City Council was a follow up to issues raised at last month's council retreat, where city leaders painted a grim picture of next fiscal year's budget and stressed the need to trim millions of dollars in a hurry.
Miller oversees three areas of city government that were the subject of budget talks Monday night -Â parks and recreation, planning and development and community development. The city owns more than 2,000 acres of parkland at 160-plus sites.
Miller presented a list of 40 to 50 acres of parkland where the city might be able to reduce or eliminate mowing grass to save money. Eliminating snow plowing and reducing trash collection also are options, she told council members.
Miller outlined a separate list of 23 sitesÂ her staff identified to explore closing. Her report cites such examples as Dicken Woods, where there may be potential developer interest; Eisenhower Park, where there have been encroachment issues; and Mill Creek and Foxfire East parks, which simply have low use.
Mayor John Hieftje said it's important that the city consider all of its options as it looks to confront a major budget deficit heading into the next fiscal year. But he acknowledged there are a "great deal of cuts" proposed that he can't agree with.
"Selling parks is off the table - it doesn't make any sense," he argued.
As for golf, Miller said city staff has been approached by two different businesses interested in public-private partnerships for the Huron Hills Golf Course.
The basic concept both businesses have recommended, Miller said, would convert the front seven holes to a driving range, while retaining the back 11 holes for golf. She said if such a partnership were established, city staff believes it would minimize the city’s financial risks.
Miller addressed the fact that neither Leslie Park Golf Course or Huron Hills Golf Course are self-supporting and said the staff has been exploring ways to stop general fund support for golf.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
In the 2007-08 fiscal year, a six-year forecast showed the golf courses improving their net loss each year - but still losing money by the end of the sixth year. At the end of 2008-09, the city originally projected a loss of $689,000, and the actual loss was $454,000. The forecasted loss for this year is $517,288.
Hieftje said the options for Huron Hills Golf Course are worth taking a closer look at.
"We're going to have to make all of these tough considerations," he said. "I want to keep the senior center open, I want to keep Mack Pool open, I want to keep the golf course open - I want to do it all - but we have to make tough choices, and we're going to have to look at everything."
Bill Newcomb is a member of the city's golf course task force appointed to find ways to make the two courses self-supporting. He attended Monday night's meeting and spoke with council members afterward.
"There's great division on the task force right now," Newcomb said. "From the accounting procedures in place with the city right now, we have a lot of so-called 'allocated expenses' that are conceptual expenses - they have to be allocated somewhere. You could get rid of the golf courses, but you would still have those expenses, so I think what we're seeing is some false accounting by people who are trying to really rid this city of Huron Hills. It's a shame because it really serves the seniors and it serves the juniors."
City officials said another option that should be on the table to cut costs is having more citizen volunteers help maintain parks. But that could become an issue with the city's labor unions contracted for that work.
Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said council members have a lot of information to digest before making any decisions. He said he hasn't made up his mind on anything yet.
"It's sobering," he said. "Obviously, they're very difficult decisions to be made. I think there's a lot of things on the table, and obviously not all of them are going to be universally embraced and we'll just see where it goes. We've got a lot more meetings to have."
The city already has proposed the closure of Mack Pool and the Senior Center starting in July, though groups have been working to find ways to save them.Â
Miller said two other recreational facilities - the Buhr and Veterans Memorial outdoor pools - have proven to be expensive to the general fund.
Veterans Pool is requiring a $150,078 subsidy this fiscal year, while Buhr Pool is costing another $92,829. Additionally, Buhr Rink is costing the city $43,358 this year, and the Bryant and Northside Community Centers are costing $158,049.Â
Other facilities - such as the Argo and Gallup canoe liveries, Fuller Pool, and Veterans Ice Arena - are self-supporting or close to being so.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
During Monday's meeting, Miller also laid out options for trimming costs within planning and development. She said in the past, the city has worked with Washtenaw County and Pittsfield Township on mutual aid for construction inspection services. She said those arrangements have been re-implemented, and more talks of collaborating are happening.
Miller said it may be worth considering outsourcing some or all planning and development activities, such as plan reviews and construction inspections. She notes the department is unionized, and contract language will dictate what happens.
Miller's report suggests another option of transferring authority of construction code activities from the city to the state of Michigan. To do that, the city would have to demonstrate that administering and enforcing the state Construction Code Commission's general rules cause undue burden on the city.
Miller's report Monday night also touched on human services funding options. The city's current plan includes a $260,000 reduction for fiscal year 2010-11.
Miller also gave a report on what's happening with the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. As part of a reorganization effort, the city went forward with posting job openings on Monday for the positions of director and deputy director.
Miller said the reorganization will cost an extra $228,163 a year, only $90,000 of which is planned for in next year's general fund budget. That leaves the city with another $138,163 gap to address.
City Administrator Roger Fraser announced two more special meetings will take place on Feb. 8 and Feb. 22, where city officials will continue discussing ways to attack the city's budget problems. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.
Fraser said the city is operating a dual-track budget discussion this year. Not presented at Monday's meeting, he said, are proposals being working to reduce expenses in the 2011-11 fiscal year by another 7.5 percent - on top of a 3 percent reduction strategy already identified.Â
Those proposals will be the topic of future meetings, Fraser told council members.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.
Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 10:15 a.m.
@John Agno. How many calories do baby boomers burn filling pot holes, shovelling snow out of the streets or fighitng fires? Golf is not a core city function. Neither is getting execise.
Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.
I'm a golfer and some of my family members that I play golf with, like to have a beer or two when they play. Now that Leslie Golf course serves beer, we now play there sometimes. This has helped Leslie Golf Course a lot. I think most children and teenagers that I know are not those well Heeled or affluent kids that play at Huron Golf Course. Just kids who like to play golf and walk around the course for a reasonable price. Lets keep the cost reasonable. Maybe they should sell beer at Huron Hills Golf course also.
Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 10:35 a.m.
I sure am glad city council gave that liquor license sometime back to the failing golf courses rather to the private businesses that applied for and needed it to compete downtown.NOT!
Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.
We as a city seem committed to saving golf courses for the well-heeled, and Community High, also for the well-heeled. But we're going throw public pools and parks, and Clemente and Stone high schools under the bus. I see a pattern here. Affluent progressives want what they want, and toss the less affluent aside when it comes to public monies.
Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.
Yeah, Ann Arbor is doing great. We just put it all the "improvements" on the credit card.
Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 11:20 p.m.
So many on this site try so hard to say something is different about Ann Arbor when it is really just the same as other cities. Get out a little. Read the Det. News or Free Press, the Grand Rapids or Lansing papers, they are all on line. The leadership here is doing something right because Ann Arbor is doing way better than other cities even with so much land off the tax roles. Cities are about to fall over the edge but A2 is chugging along. Grand Rapids just cut 140 jobs. Over 50 were in police and fire. And that is one of the stronger cities. Or maybe it is just a few people with a lot of screen names and a political agenda. Get over it.
Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.
Fix the Stadium bridges
Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 5:32 p.m.
If I remember right, the Greenbelt money is divided by 2/3's of the money going to buy land outside the city of Ann Arbor. We all know about that. The 1/3rd part of that money is NEVER talked about. That money is to be used WITHIN the city of Ann Arbor. Who has that money? What fund is that hiding in? This money could be for any Green space within Ann Arbor. Where is that money at and how much is it? As far as I know,nobody seems to know.
Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.
Miller is leaving with a fat pension package and jumping ship to another public sector job to start tacking on a whole new pension and salary on the public...way to leave a system in crumbles.
Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 1:01 a.m.
Missing from all of this is a discussion of the DDA; they seem to have more money than they know what to do with. Unlike the rest of the city, every time property is developed or improved, any additional taxes are captured by the DDA. Frankly, the numbers on the Library Lot garage just don't add up; even if they collect $150 a month in fees for each $50K parking space (higher than the current lease rate) I doubt that's enough to cover management, maintenance, insurance, police and fire protection, and interest on the bonds they're floating to pay for it, let alone any principal, and the city could find itself on the hook if the DDA ever disbands or defaults. It would make far more sense, financially and environmentally, and from a user standpoint to run a shuttle bus around the downtown district, with stops at the vastly underutilized Ann & Ashley structure and Google's front door, if promised parking spaces are the issue. My point is, I cannot help but wonder how much the rest of the city is subsidizing public services in the DDA area; there must be a way for the City to recoup or transfer the cost of some of these services (police, fire, street maintenance, legal liability) from the DDA.
Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 12:09 a.m.
Privatizing the golf courses seems like a no-brainer to me; if the City can't figure out how to run them without a subsidy, turn them over to someone that knows how to do it. Let's face it, golf courses remain the domain of the well-heeled (both symbolically and in fact) and I find the prospect of closing public pools and the community centers (which collectively don't get as much funding as the golf courses) sends a horrible message to the community, that the thousands of kids, seniors, and families they serve are less important to the community than the far fewer number that can fit green fees and times into their budgets and schedules. As for the argument that golf is good exercise, so is swimming, biking, and hikiing, and maintenance of pools and trails cost far less on a per-user basis, and there are fantastic walk/bike paths with few curb cuts along both sides of Huron Parkway, alongside the golf course and linking with the Gallup Park paved paths. And if Huron Hills is just not viable financially, it would make an excellent addition to Gallup Park and cost next to nothing to maintain if allowed to revert to its natural state as a nature preserve with already-constructed public parking and buildings that could be put to other uses, perhaps even rented out.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 8:31 p.m.
During all these discussions and comments we should keep in mind that the present problem is not caused by the recent economic downturn and it will not be resolved when the economy starts to recover. The fundamental problem is that Roger Fraser and his bubble heads say BUY, BUY. Council says AYE, AYE; and the tax dollars go BYE, BYE. This has built a structural deficit. A few citizens have been warning for years that this folly could not be maintained. The present economic meltdown triggered the crisis to occur now, but the city's fiscal policy was a train wreck waiting to happen. Want some examples? The City borrowed to build the maintenance center. That thing is huge. Then the city borrowed to build the Municipal center. Maybe the police needed better offices but this is bigger than the entire existing City Hall. Then Council approved borrowing to build an underground parking structure. Underground parking is much more expensive than surface or above ground parking of the same capacity. The city has mortgage payments on three approximately $50 million projects. Never in recent history has the city attempted this many projects of this magnitude in so short a period. This is not the end. That big hole on the Pioneer High Lawn? It will be filled with borrowed money. The rearrangement of West Park? Again, borrowed money. And now the Library Lot. The city is basically 'under water' on its mortgages, and the citizens taxpayers are cosigners on the debt. All of this was approved by our elected Council. We can't get out of the financial hole without some sacrifices. All of the existing debt must be repaid, and all of it is guaranteed by our taxes. But now the Library Lot hotel developers want the city to take yet another loan to finance the conference center. Do we want our parks sold to finance a conference center? It is really up to us. Do we like our parks enough to tell Fraser and Council stop digging our financial hole deeper? Are we willing to speak and vote for fiscal responsibility? It is our choice.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.
Hey I know! Sell it all! Sell it ALL off! Parks, Golfcourses, pools, senior centers, land- everything! Then when our children ask us where they can play or where have the butterflies gone, or where are the toads and the frogs, or where can they fly a kite or sit on a swing.. we can tell them...there wasn't enough money for those things you'll just have to play in the streets with your friends. When our seniors have no place but the mall to gather we can graciously tell them~ sorry there was not money for that! Too bad! Watch out for those mall walkers there Grandma! And as for the Airport well who needs it? Just put in more high rises and buildings! More cement and concrete and asphalt! Have you ever stopped to think that maybe the reason for all of our "global warming" and odd weather is because there is too much concrete, asphalt and cement??? So just get rid of it all and when they whine because there STILL isn't enough money well we can all say~ We told you it wouldn't work! Now what are you going to do? Build a place to create something..anything..a product of some kind..and make you money by selling that product, then we won't have to sell parks, and pools and senior centers.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 2:33 p.m.
At one of the retreat breakout sessions, Jayne Miller said the cheapest solution was to keep Huron Hills as a golf course because revenues offset most of the expenses. The FY09 audit shows golf operations (both courses) generated $89,248 positive cash flow. There are lots of expenses charged to golf that will not disappear if golf disappears like retiree healthcare and the municipal service and IT charges. Last year, those 3 expenses were over $200,000.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.
I have been reading all the comments and it is evident that the majority of people feel the same as I do - why does the U of M buy up all properties, hurting the City of Ann Arbor? Oh, that is right - Heftje works for the U of M! And Fraser - he hasn't gotten a raise all year - but what about his bonus's? Car allowance? And here is a good one - is Ms Miller going to sell golf courses when she starts working at the Metroparks? The City of Ann ARbor can save alot of money just by not filling Ms Miller's position - and as for selling parks? That is why I have always been proud of ann arbor - for the pride it has in their parks - come on council - taxpayers dont want that - and are we not the people who pay your salaries?
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.
Some people can't read. I said that the reorganization was a costly and complete utter disaster. not city government in total. We're seeing the results of the reorganization in Community Services, particularly the disaster in Planning and Development Services. I have the utmost respect for rank and file, front line workers who continue to serve the public every day even with the chaos inside city hall and the constant slamming of city employees by people who have no clue in what it's like to work in a place where if you're not brown nosing some boss, you're disrespected, discounted and dismissed.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.
@moose Give me a break. Have you never lived anywhere else where there has been real financial problems? Our city government may not be perfect but it is not a "complete and utter disaster". Considering the economic times we are in where less tax revenue is being collected, the city of Ann Arbor is in pretty decent shape. That we are arguing over which luxury to cut proves that. A " complete and utter disaster" will be when there are no luxuries left to cut.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 10:33 a.m.
For all the tinkering around the edges and the deep discussions of policy this and that, we're missing the root cause. Council and Mayor hired an administrator whose reorganization and expansion of city government in certain areas (with councils' support and approval) has been a costly, complete and utter disaster that has resulted in the disintegration of some vital public services at the expense of others that are far less important. Dead fish rot from the head down.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 10:11 a.m.
@freedom2010 THE PURPOSE OF GOVT. IS NOT TO PROVIDE JOBS AND BENEFITS TO ITS STAFF BUT TO PROVIDE NECESSARY SERVICES TO THE TAXPAYERS IN EXCHANGE FOR REASONABLE TAXATION. Oh, really? Well the purpose of a government employee is not to have to work for free, for below average wages or for city residents who treat them as if the employee should pay the city for the opportunity to work there. In order for you to get your necessary services provided to you, you must have qualified people in those roles. As in any job, you get what you pay for. The city is running at the bare minimum of employees now. How do you expect anything to get done if you fire all the employees or underpay them so that they quit? It always makes me laugh when people claim that the city employees and University employees are so over paid. Do you all work at McDonalds where any salary appears to be outrageous next to your own? The pay scales for all government employees (city, state, and university) almost always fall significantly behind a private sector equivalent position (with a few executive exceptions). I do think that the city should provide recreational services for the residents, but how much and how often needs to be decided on. Should the decision be completely depended upon costs (all costs need to be covered for the activity to be available), by originality and uniqueness (quality of life/reputation of Ann Arbor is improved due to the access to this unique recreational activity, eg.rowing on Argo Pond) or a mixture of both. The fact is there is not anymore overhead to cut. What is clear is that we have to cut some luxuries in order for the city to get through this economic downturn. I just wish people would use logic in deciding what to cut instead of using knee jerk reactions to save their own pet projects. Personally, I would start with getting rid of the duplications. A little inconvenience by a few (travel an extra mile, etc.) can save a lot of money for the city and allow the city to maintain the variety of recreational opportunities that it currently has. If we have three outdoor pools, close one or two of them. If we have already have three ice rinks and 2 loose money each year close one or two of them and DONT build a third rink downtown. We have two golf courses, but one is also used for sledding so dont know if that is a duplication. If we have multiple community centers that are under utilized, combine them and somehow arrange transportation to get people to the single venue. Etc. ( Sidenote: Why on earth anyone would suggest another new ice rink when the ones we have are under used is beyond logic to me. Only build the new one if you close the other ones so people will forced downtown to use the new one) The city can make cuts that have minimal impact on most of us if they sit down and think about it. They should concentrate on the variety of recreational opportunities and not the convenience of the most popular activities. After all who can say whether it is more important to subsidize a pond for rowers vs. a golf course for golfers. Who is more important and gets subsidized is a no win argument.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.
Hessee Realty, Inc. v. City of Ann Arbor 61 Mich.App. 319, 326-327, 232 N.W.2d 695, 699 (1975. The court quoted council member Faber: "Finally, I will vote against this and I will move that the attorney and the planning director tell us why we voted no because obviously we don't know yet and see what he can do with that in the court." The court then ruled: "Having found that plaintiff had fully complied with the ordinance requirements and that defendant's denial of plaintiff's site plan and building permit was an abuse of discretion, we reverse the trial court and order defendant to approve plaintiff's site plan and issue to plaintiff the requested building permit."
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 9:13 a.m.
To follow up on what a few commentators have noted: we, the suckers (also known as the hard-working, private sector taxpayers), are being made to fight among ourselves about solutions that are short-term at best: sell this park, close that golf course or pool, stop cutting these lawns. All the while the privileged class of govt. employees (administrative officials who work in concert with the staffs' unions) continue to enhance and defend their excessive pay and benefit packages. The more the administrators pay out to the govt. worker bees, the more the same administrators are able justify for themselves (the boss has got to make x% more than the average staff person). It is frustrating to hear the adm and elected officials whine about how they need to find creative ways to save money so they can save govt. workers jobs, or that they have cut tens of thousands of dollars but no govt. jobs will be lost. Why the heck not? THE PURPOSE OF GOVT. IS NOT TO PROVIDE JOBS AND BENEFITS TO ITS STAFF BUT TO PROVIDE NECESSARY SERVICES TO THE TAXPAYERS IN EXCHANGE FOR REASONABLE TAXATION. Why Fraiser and Gunzel have been allowed to keep their jobs (though Gunzel is finally being given the boot) is beyond comprehension. It has been their direct failures to identify in 2006 that property tax revenues were heading downward and they needed to get out in front of this problem. If they had not been asleep at the helm, they would have begun cutting budgets, reducing staffs and not signing contracts that provided employees with 3% per year raises. And if you think this is unfair, that "no one could have foreseen what was going to happen", then check into what Oakland County and Brooks Patterson began doing in 2006 and since. Oakland may not be in ideal shape but given what it has endured, it is much better off because of the proactive efforts of its administrators. So before the City reduces essential services (police, fire, roads, utilities), it needs to start with the size of its overhead, then after that has been materially reduced (and not just "Oh, how wonderful, we got the union to agree not to take the next 3% pay raise we [foolishly] granted them in 2007", then ask the taxpayers for a tax increase to pay for the non-essentials. If denied or the city officials are not committed enough to ask for the tax increase, then cut the non-essentials. The truth is that if Fraiser and his gang were half as good as the $100,000 to $200,000 in salary and benefits they receive, they would solve the problem at the staff level and never get to the non-essential services. There is more than enough tax revenue raised in AA to pay for a high level of services for the public.
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 : 5:49 a.m.
@Janelle, people who live in AAPS but outside of the city of Ann Arbor pay the same school taxes as those in the city. Your suggestion to shrink the school boundaries would cripple the schools by eliminating thousands of students. And do nothing for the city budget. I could afford an aging 800 square foot house in the city, but could not put my family of five into it. So it was not a choice between Pittsfield and Ann Arbor, but a choice between Pittsfield and Canton, Brighton, Saline,....
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 10:12 p.m.
As much as I respect Vivienne's intellect, the political reality is that the Greenbelt was sold to the voters as a planning device to control sprawl just outside the city limits by buying development rights to slow development. And by way of preventing sprawl close to the city it was meant to encourage greater residential density within the city limits by making developers think better about the costs of building further away from the city. I don't agree with it, but this rationale has been explained to me by more than one Greenbelt supporter. My gripe with Dickens Woods and others (Bluffs, Black Elks) is that potential residential development within the city limits, (and not ugly high rises in downtown), purportedly necessary to increase density and lessen sprawl, was shot down by people who supposedly don't like sprawl and want greater density because they are the right things to do. Additionally, taxpayers paid a half a million dollars for property that parks planners said was not suitable for a park. The neighbors got to keep the "park" that they became used to using as their own even though it was private property. This property was perfectly suited for residential infill development that would have helped further the goals of lessening sprawl and increased density that we all agree are good things that many people see as a necessity for the city to survive. When neighborhoods groups say no to everything, eventually they will get stuck with something that nobody likes. And while we use tax dollars to buy development rights to land outside the city limits on property that few city residents will ever see or use, our infrastructure goes to... Hey! Where is that handbasket?
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 9:29 p.m.
Easy solution, cut salaries and benefits (including lifetime pension and health care) to all city workers. In fact, how about all state workers. We can no longer afford to pay these salary and benefits packages. Stop spending time discussing all the parks you are going to close, and services you are going to take away, and show some leadership. Can the city administrators do that? Sadly I doubt it...
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 9:20 p.m.
Man, do I feel like commenting, but Moose is doing such a good job that I'll just sit back and watch him swing away. This Titanic is holed pretty bad, and here we are rearranging grass clippings. Logic, critical thinking, reasoned rhetoric, all seem to belong to a distant past.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:42 p.m.
I do not support selling parks. We need to reduce city spending to remain operationally break-even. Selling parks are short-term, short-sighted solutions.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:40 p.m.
Ya know... I keep doing the right thing, and I keep getting kicked in the teeth. When is it going to stop! I pay plenty of taxes in this town, and next time around surely they'll want me to pay more, yet they want to keep taking my amenities away. STOP! It's time for our city government to Do The Right Thing!
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:27 p.m.
Moose, your comment (they aren't numbered, so I'll have to quote) "The Greenbelt program was designed to increase urban residential density, not increase parkland." is just wrong, as is your attack on the Dickens Woods advocates. Dickens Woods was the classic example of real local community activism to save local quality of life. The residents of that area have contributed countless hours of volunteer time and some personal dollars to make that nature area work. It is quintessential Ann Arbor. Regarding the greenbelt link to density, that is a recurring error in memory or reporting. I just addressed that (alas, again): http://localannarbor.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/density-and-the-conference-center/
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:20 p.m.
Freedom 2010. Excellent point: "The solution? Why sell the land to the Greenbelt group which still has over $17 million left (after deducting for interest and adm expenses). If the Greenbelt can spend millions buying useless (at least to the AA citizenry) development rights on farms 4 miles from downtown that no one can identify, and $1.5 million for the 6 acre Narrow Gauge property (to preserve "fragile" open space behind million dollar homes), then the least it can do is "save" Huron Hills, Dicken Woods and The Bluffs from the bogeyman developer." There is one beautiful "Greenbelt" the city has actually owned for many years. It gets better; this belt actually generates revenue for the city of AA and it did not cost any of us a dime. So what did the council do? They approved an "Airport Layout Plan" which will eventually fence in and turn this beautiful revenue generating field to (probably more hangars). Do they actually know what they approved? Probably not. Do Fraser and the Airport manager know what's in the plan? Most probably YES. Here is the plan, it is on the Airport's website: http://www.a2gov.org/government/publicservices/fleetandfacility/Airport/Documents/Ann%20Arbor%20Airport%20Layout%20Plan.pdf On Pg. 2, left side, you will notice the field I am talking about. One hand spends money to buy field while another approves destruction of existing free, revenue generating fields. Makes you wonder...
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:14 p.m.
I disagree with the assertion made that people who live in townships move here to enjoy the amenities of Ann Arbor without paying taxes. Many of us have lived in townships for years (my family has lived in one of the neighboring townships for over 130 years). We have had to endure the encroachment of the city on our way of life. We have to endure the constant threat of Ann Arbor wanting to swallow us into its' borders because It has chosen a lifestyle it cannot sustain. Don't blame people in the townships! We didn't cause YOUR financial imbalances!
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.
Lokalisierung - I think your interpretation may be correct (leasing is definitely not selling). I think it would take 8 votes (out of 11) in order to lease the property but it is hard to imagine the current council taking on something that "hot".
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:01 p.m.
First, I will admit to being a golfer and that definitely colors my thinking. Still, it would be nice to have an honest discussion about the losses generated by the golf courses. Accounting experts, please feel free to crunch some numbers. Karen Sidney and Jame Lumm, please help! The 2008-2009 City financial statement lists golf course revenue (thru 6-30-2009) as $1,038,104. That is a significant increase from the prior year's revenue of $865,113. Despite this splendid work on the park of the golf course staff, the City arrives at a total loss of $478,000. So one might assume if we closed the courses, we would immediately see a savings of $478,000. Unfortunately, a year ago Karen Sidney calculated, using the City's own figures, that allowing Huron Hills to revert to a "Natural Area" would cost $348,457 annually. Throw in Leslie Park and we start to see a cost of over $800,000 annually. As I understand it (as a non-accountant), the problem is that the City has a lot of overhead. If we start to assign the Department of Parks & Recreation's overhead to each park by acre, every park generates a significant loss. When one starts looking at the cost of our parks that way, the "loss" generated by the golf courses starts to not look so bad. True, there are many available golf courses and in principal, government should stay out of ventures best handled by the private sector. Still, we provide tennis courts for free and subsidize pools, senior centers and dog parks. And if Karen Sidney's figures are even close to accurate, the cost of closing the City courses may very well be more expensive than operating them at a loss.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:45 p.m.
Please anyone & everyone stop comparing Ann Arbor to New York. It's embaressing & rediculus.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:42 p.m.
@a2grateful I am a licensed professional engineer. I have pulled permits in the city of Ann arbor for almost 30 years. There have been occasional rough spots but nothing has ever been denied. You are the one that makes the assertion that the courts have reversed the city. Therefore, it is your responsibility to support this claim or withdraw it as unfounded or false.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.
The picture is like an artwork, isn't it? I hope that we can preserve this wonderful landscape for Ann Arbor. I'm glad that Central Park in New York never turned into extremely valuable high-rises.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:28 p.m.
"if council thinks leasing Huron Hills to a private organization will solve the budget issues, they are free to take that to the voters." Would they have to go to the voters if they leased the land? It isn't a sale so I don't know if they would have to?
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:12 p.m.
@glennthompson: Feel free to venture to City Hall yourself and make the inquiry. You have a nice, juicy lead that you can research with your own time, if you are truly interested. Feel free to prove or disprove my observation, as you wish, investing your own time. Please report your result here. As you research, don't be surprised to hear a statement as follows: "We are sorry. There are nondisclosure clauses in our settlement cases." Suffice to say, I stand by my statement, while being unwilling, although able, to elaborate.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:02 p.m.
I believe the charter amendment read in part: "The City shall not sell without the approval, by a majority vote of the electors of the City voting on the question at a regular or special election, any City park or land in the City acquired for park purposes, (whether or not currently designated as a park), cemetery, or any part thereof." So again, I don't believe any plan to sell park land, golf courses, natural areas, etc... is going to go very far. Certainly, if council thinks leasing Huron Hills to a private organization will solve the budget issues, they are free to take that to the voters. However, the council has not shown any willingness to tackle some unpopular measures (e.g. City income tax) and I don't see them presenting the voters with a plan to sell land currently under the administration of the Parks & Recreation Department.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 6:11 p.m.
People it is time for for our over paid city officals take a pay cute since they are only part time employee's anyway.Why are paying full time salaries if they are part time employee's. And yes they are all part time employees. I am speaking about the city council.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 6:06 p.m.
@a2greatful You made the comment "Judges then rule against the City, forcing allowance of construction." Please provide references where courts have allowed construction denied by the city. My experience with the building department is that they have been a little slower than I would like at times but not unreasonable. It is more common for a builder or developer to propose something that is an extreme interpretation of the code and then to argue "you must approve it" Unfortunately Council usually does. But please, provide the examples where Council held the line and were reversed by a court.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 5:56 p.m.
"The City has a long history of blocking development, even though it meets ordinance language. This has been regular practice since the late 1980s." Soooooo true! Remember how long it took them to OK State Strret lofts? (Am I getting that name right?) Took forever while we had to just sit and stare at the old Olgas building. All we heard was how it would block the sun in some Br. Burns-esque manner and ruin everyone's lives. Finally past, went in, everythings great, then they tear down and start building on the Frieze lot a mamoth building.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 5:55 p.m.
It's about time the city close and even sold the parks. We have so many parks, (160??!!!) they've keep adding more, and the city can't even maintain the ones we have! Why should the city be in the golf course business any more than WCC? Privatize it!! People can then still golf; the city needn't subsidize every activity. Is golfing part of government? Losing less money than before in any endeavor is NOT making money and keeping head above water. Why would we ever need an airport expansion? The noise would increase in those areas and probably affect land/home values. The frivolity with which the city spends our tax money is way out of line. FIX the streets, the bridges, plow the snow, continue basic city services like trash and leaf pick up, provide clean water, even keep the re-cycle center, etc. Keep the dog park (no I don't have one) for animals to run, or privatize it and charge admission like the city could with all those parks. Why would a main street to campus like Packard need to be changed to just two lanes? It's one of the busiest - bike enthusiasts can find many alternate routes via side streets to campus - I have. And then we pay for a medium (what a waste), and end the Packard road change abrubtly in the middle of the road, not at any intersection. The city wants to raise parking fees and extend meter areas. It's a tax increase. I could go on and on.... just give me basic city services and I'd be satified, before they continue spending on other items or services. OK...that's my two cents.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 5:34 p.m.
Townie: "Commentors are making false connections between development and the City's budget woes. First of all, the City (or NIMBY's as they are ignorantly referred to) have only recently blocked 1 or 2 bad development proposals." Au contraire. The City has a long history of blocking development, even though it meets ordinance language. This has been regular practice since the late 1980s. For example, multiple site plans for a project are submitted, and all are denied. Law suits follow. Judges then rule against the City, forcing allowance of construction. The City has a large legal staff, assembled to afford this adversarial position. I have witnessed council meetings where, for example, a certain City attorney recommended denying every land split application made to the City, regardless of its legality. In this manner, development would be curtailed, unless the aggrieved party sued for legal remedy. Sounds like a great business plan for building a City funded legal staff, if nothing else. My recollection of Bird Hills Park was that an approved site plan for some, or all, of the property had been approved. Neighbors vehemently protested. The City intervened, blocking the development, by purchasing the land. However, not only did they pay for the land, they also paid the developers anticipated profit. Didnt the same scenario happen with the Bluffs? Think any of this is wrong? Ask the City to provide the number of projects denied, vs. those approved. Ask the City how many projects have been allowed according to judicial order, and which ones they are. You may be shocked to see the number of projects that have been "adjudicated to allowance" over the past ten years. How about this? Ask area builders about the difficulty of obtaining simple building permits, scheduling inspections, fees for inspections, and treatment in certain service-providing departments related to building. It is very clear that the City has gone out of its way to provide difficulty for private new construction.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.
I agree. Ann Arbor ought to get rid of all of that useless green space. Then it will look like.... Flint! And when your property values continue to plummet, at least your taxes will go down, too.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 5:18 p.m.
Selling off city parkland? Not going to happen. Not in Ann Arbor. This is the same council that put out a 40,000-page book of requirements for all developers who want to make any renovations down town - including requiring copies of the Communist Manifesto next to all cash registers and demanding the fleur-de-lis is stamped on all urinal cakes. No, the parks are quite safe. With or without the llama.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.
Commentors are making false connections between development and the City's budget woes. First of all, the City (or NIMBY's as they are ignorantly referred to) have only recently blocked 1 or 2 bad development proposals that I can think of. There are at least a dozen projects that were given the green light by the City in the past few years (many in spite of neighbor's objections) that were not built. The market stopped them, not the City. Those that were built, like Ashley Terrace, 411 Lofts and Zaragon Place are feeding the DDA coffers, not the City's (except when Council raids the DDA to cover it's own over-spending). The greenbelt program was approved by voters with language that called for the preservation of farmland and open space. The ballot said nothing about density. In the wild, speculative housing market that has since collapsed, a potential consequence of limiting development on the perimeter might have been increased residential density downtown. But maybe not. Could someone who was looking for a 3000 square foot house on a one-acre lot in the boonies really be enticed to live in Ashley Terrace instead, for about the same price? I doubt it. Chances are better that development would have simply leap-frogged the greenbelt and continued on the other side. So please, stop distracting from the real issue, which is our over-reaching, over-spending, mis-managing City officials. The era of "growing our way out" of economic troubles and budget deficits is over. We have a whole bunch of vacant, fenced lots in this City where tax-paying residences and business were removed to make room for approved new developments that were never built. Selling off public land for development now would yield only pennies on the dollar and leave us all with more vacant, untended property. There is no market and our city and state are shrinking. Again, I remind everyone that the last two times the City decided it was going to boost revenue by selling public land for public/private development resulted in two disasters. 1. The City is being sued for its mishandling of the YMCA lot deal. and, 2. The City is going to be another $3 million in the hole because it projected a $3 million profit from the Village Green deal at First and Washington, but that deal cannot get financing. That $3 million was prematurely budgeted for the new City Hall project (talk about counting chickens before their hatched). Now they want us to pay for a new conference center and hotel that will cost millions more and run other locally-owned, tax-paying hotels out of business. No. Development, or the lack thereof is not the issue. The issue is officials who think they are still operating in a boom economy or that we're only in a little slump that will pass like past slumps passed. Wrong. We need to do more with less and shrink our government in relation to the shrinkage of our population and economy. There is too much non-productive overhead on the City payroll and those non-producers are the primary instigators of all these foolish capital projects and speculative developments.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 4:52 p.m.
But golf courses aren't parks. They are golf courses.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 4:37 p.m.
I believe we recently voted to change the City charter so that any proposed sale of City park land must be approved by citywide vote. Council can not unilaterally agree to a sale. So any discussion of selling parks is probably not realistic.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 4:37 p.m.
How about this approach: the Parks Dept and Mr. Fraiser can put Huron Hills (and might as well throw in Dicken Woods and the Bluffs which were bought to stop evil development of affordable homes) up for sale. The neighbors can raise holy heck and then Council can ride to the rescue by demanding "something be done" to save these parks. The solution? Why sell the land to the Greenbelt group which still has over $17 million left (after deducting for interest and adm expenses). If the Greenbelt can spend millions buying useless (at least to the AA citizenry) development rights on farms 4 miles from downtown that no one can identify, and $1.5 million for the 6 acre Narrow Gauge property (to preserve "fragile" open space behind million dollar homes), then the least it can do is "save" Huron Hills, Dicken Woods and The Bluffs from the bogeyman developer. The City should be able to get at least $6 mil for Huron Hills and another $3 mil for Dickens Woods and The Bluffs. The City gets its cash, the neighbors get their green space and the Greenbelters can be the heros! Everyone wins!!
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 4:35 p.m.
I'll admit, because I'm a golfer, my opinion is very biased on this subject. So let me just say be careful what you wish for when you start thinking about eliminating green space. And if you don't believe me, check your blood pressure the next time you find yourself driving by Huron Hills, then compare it to how you feel when you hit the Huron Parkway/Washtenaw intersection and turn left toward Arborland. As a kid growing up near the Lake Erie shoreline, I can't even begin to tell you how many times I'd drive to the lake just to look out over uninterrupted open space. Who the hell wants to "mall walk" for exercise, if they have the choice of being outside instead?
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 4:13 p.m.
Oh, geez, golly and shucks, I give up! This is serious business folks. These are real issues! Ann Arbor is on the precipice here and some folks are telling the city get some llama for the golf courses? (that's with two "L"s and "roots" please.) Please don't mention this to Kunselman. We don't need a llama ordinance.;-)
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.
Buhr Park is a joke. Why would the city spend almost 1 million dollars on a rink that will never recover that money? They should have just closed Buhr when the problems arose. There can't be that many people that use that place. Maybe the city should look into gettting the baseball fields back instead of rec and ed. Maybe we could that guy who busts a move a vets to figurre the problems out. He seems to get a lot of use of the "green space" at vets. CLOSE BUHR that could save a few bucks. Lets see how many more uniforms we buy for the employees so they cannot wear them. Maybe the city should just switch to name tags and stop spending so much on employee uniforms. The city should just make Vets the "star" facility since they have everything they need already.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:54 p.m.
Hello My Friend, In reading the comments as of this writing, please know that I am impressed with all whom have spoken up so well and that some folks are on top of things! PLEASE PLEASE Do not sell any land in any way shape or from. Lease would be a better idea! With regard to all the grass cuttings, please please use a CO2 SMART TIP: Bring in the cattle, sheep, and lama. We can make a co-op of it. I know it will work. Phone up Michigan State and allow them to make and share in the instulation. PLEASE. We are a SMART community. Let's not loose our leadership here at the very grass routs! THANK YOU! Your friend, Dawn firstname.lastname@example.org
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:43 p.m.
Yes everyone I see the links you're giving me to people that want to stop the expansion...what is the purpose of showing me this? In this article it it says: ""I have said for a very long time, whenever residents have come and asked me about the project, I have told residents that I wasn't interested in changes at the airport, especially if it means bringing in larger and heavier planes," Hieftje said. "But I am interested in making the airport as safe as is reasonable." So what's your point? I'm not trying to be a wise guy but I assume you know how governments work? The only person in this saying they want to expand the runway is the the guy running the airport...no surprise there I would think to all of us. They want to do somthing, they bring it to council, council votes on it. same article: "Many of the council members have changed their minds since first approving the plan." Am i missing the parts that show this is a slam dunk or something? i've been known to miss a thing or two, I'm not perfect.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.
It looks like someone else woke up from their nap. There are no commercial airlines serving the flying public at the Ann Arbor airport. It is mainly for privately owned planes. The proposal for extending the runway (at taxpayer expense) is touted as a safety issue. It may be, but an extended runway might allow private jets. Can anyone say The Valiant Group private jets? Janelle is right, It was spend, spend, spend tax dollars on high priced administrators (almost 30 of them making $100, 000 annually), sending tax money to the townships for the Greenbelt, high priced consultants for the alleged "streamlining" city hall reorganization (that resulted in the disaster of Planning and Development Services), spending on more parks of dubious necessity, increasing wages and benefits, buying million dollar fountains, more $$ to SPARK for a few jobs for politically connected friends, the new "Rog Mahal" city hall, all these things when times were good. Anyone with any sense could have seen that the 10 year building boom could not be sustained. The cash cow would not live forever. They should have also realized that taxpayers were not a bottomless piggy bank. Anyone with any sense of history should have known that it could not go on forever. Instead of preparing for economic reality, politicians directed Fraser to spend spend spend, the bureaucrats happily obliged, all of them hoping that they would get their "buildings and money" before the house of cards fell.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:40 p.m.
For those calling for new taxes: BEWARE! The spending and agenda behaviors at a2 City Hall will continue to be oriented to the mayor's hobby of shoddy fiscal management and real estate development, at taxpayer expense. We will never tax our way to the solution here. We need a new focus: 1) Emphasis on provision of essential City service; 2) Service with protection and benefit to citizens!
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:37 p.m.
There are a number of NIMBY "parks" that should be sold and put back on the tax rolls. Examples are Molin Nature Area, Bluff Park and the land on Bird Road next to Bird Hills Park.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:35 p.m.
I think your city should spend a 100,000 or so on a outside consultant to look into this matter.(and don't get mad at me if they do)
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.
Lokalisierung Here is more: http://stopa2runwayextension.com/ http://www.heritage.com/articles/2009/12/26/heritagewest/news/doc4b34ec2fd521d701046602.txt
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:24 p.m.
So that recomendation will go to an Advisory Commission who will then send it to the City Council to vote on whether it goes foward or not I assume? I don't want to geet into ticky tack stuff but I don't know if I'd say that the city was planning on this. I already heard one Council Member say they were not for this and would vote against it.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:23 p.m.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:13 p.m.
Lokalisierung. You are wrong. The airport expansion plan is moving full steam ahead. Just ask Fraser, he should know, after all it is his 'baby'. 'V' is correct when it comes to continuously declining airport operations. Again, ask Fraser. he should know. You don't really think that private jets owners should drive all the way from Willow Run to the big house, do you?
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 3:06 p.m.
Actually Dan, selling parkland for development in the city would (unfortunately) be completely in line with intent the Greenbelt program (thatI do not support). The Greenbelt program was designed to increase urban residential density, not increase parkland. It was sold politically to a naive electorate who saw the word "GREEN" and decided that it must be a good idea. Unfortunately, it's a redistribution of city tax dollars to private landowners in the townships, dollars that could be better used for improving existing city services for residents. It is an unproven planning device and so far has had little effect increasing residential density due to bad proposed developments, knee jerk NIMBY politics and weak elected officials.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.
"Isn't the city of Ann Arbor planning on expanding the runway at the airport?" No I don't think they are. I think that is an idea milling around but I don't think there are any plans for this.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:35 p.m.
After reading these recomendations, my suggestion is to save money by eliminating the position of the city's community services administrator. Selling park land would run counter to Ann Arbor's popular Green Belt program djm
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:30 p.m.
Dickens Woods Nature Area is about as natural as the Library Lot. The Dickens Woods crowd had some taxpayer help taking private property off the tax rolls in making their own little park so they could avoid increasing residential density. How many Dickens Woods residents voted for the Greenbelt? Then turned around and opposed increased density? How many complain about the UM taking property off of the tax rolls? Now they want it both ways. Cut services and force development on the rest of the city while they enjoy their little neighborhood park. Don't say I didn't tell you when you get some development that you don't like and get little say on improving because of the selfish and short sighted decision you made some years ago.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.
When the money was rolling in, new outlets for spending were found instead of saving for a rainy day. limmy hits on an excellent point. People can't afford the city's tax rates so they move outside of city limits while remaining close enough to enjoy the city's amenities and school system. One possible solution is to match the city boundaries to the AAPS boundaries. Another solution proposed is creating a city income tax and lowering property taxes accordingly. This issue will not go away until it is addressed, and should be a top priority for city government and the Board of AAPS. Regarding the golf courses, how many other cities our size have two located within city limits, funded by taxpayer dollars? This is in addition to the UM golf course (is this a drain on UM coffers too?) It's time for the government to learn the difference between needs and wants. We NEED safe infrastructure. We NEED good police and fire services. It seems like an awful lot of needs are suffering to fund an excess amount of wants.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.
Am I reading this http://www.a2gov.org/government/financeadminservices/Documents/PARKS.PDF correctly? It costs 4k per acre/year to mow grass? Huh? If that's the case, please include me in the next contract bid. Property in northern lower Michigan in selling for roughly 2.5-3.5k per acre. How can it cost more per acre to mow grass than to buy land? I too, saw a huge drop-off in attendance at Vet's pool once they jacked up the entry fee. There are six in our family, so buying a family pass made sense. Plus, we frequent regularly to burn out the excess energy kids have in summer. Lower the price, and you'll see a bunch of people come back.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:15 p.m.
If Huron Hills is so beautiful to look at when you drive by, why not just take a picture, get it mounted and hang it on your living room wall? For those who want to exercise... does it really require mass acreage of publicly owned lawn or a set of golf clubs? Ever heard of walking or calisthenics? Hardly costs anything. I cannot believe some of the silly comments by people who just woke up from their nap.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.
@moose, right on! Even if the mental to run the city like a business were true, the golf courses would (should) have been gone long ago. They are, and have for years, been losing money. Why are they still here? Ms. Miller used to manage those courses, and NOW she is recommending what to do with them? What a farce! She's leaving, how is her input even relevant anymore? How can any city manager take her position seriously from the poor job she has shown with the golf courses in the past? Again, three new managers for Housing is a waste of money. With the high unemployment in the state and the country, can't the city find ONE person to do all three jobs? City staff (clerical, trades) have had to do this by learning duties outside of their "hired" skill sets for years. Why hasn't management? With the space at West Park you could have a band shell, parkland, parking and an outside ice rink if it's that important to keep these services. Reducing the number of pools to offer more services at those remaining, I'm sure people would drive to used the pools even if it's not in their hood. Vets pool has gone down hill over the years no wonder people stop going. Now that the city is up against the wall financially, it should be interesting to see who they listen to in the end. The Sierra Club, Greenbelters, Watershed Council and the rest of the treehuggers, or will they side with the pro-development crowd, the generate revenue group. Should be a good outcome. But, I'd would be concern if I were a council person up for re-election and I have to make a determination on the city managers position. Clearly, regardless of these tough economic times, the city's financial picture didn't occur the last couple of years, this tsunami has been growing for at least a decade.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:09 p.m.
I think seniors and juniors (does that leave anyone out?) can manage to find a way to walk without a golf course. If carrying a golf bag is such a big deal, bring it with you when you go mall-walking.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 2:07 p.m.
The neighbors of Dicken Woods have been excellent stewards to the Woods. They raise funds, plant wild flowers and trees, keep trash out of the woods, remove buckthorn and invasive species. They also have workdays many times throughout the year. All free labor to this gem, called a "city" park. What a "thank you" the city gives in return-putting the threat of selling to a developer on the table. Wow! Makes me want to give up my taxpayer status and move elsewhere!!!!!
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:52 p.m.
I'd love to be able to return to ann arbor in another life say in 50-75 yrs from now and see what the city is doing for funds when the u of m owns all of ann arbor and pays zero property taxes.Its comming I won't be here to see it but my grandkids will and for sure its going to happen with them gobbling up property like they are and not paying a red cent in taxes
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:44 p.m.
A good idea is to sell beer and wine at the club house at Huron Hills. It's been at Leslie Park Golf course for a couple of years now and I think it has generated a fair amount of money. That would protect Huron Hills from development and keep one of the largest green spaces we now have. Even if you don't play golf, it's so beautiful just driving by. I've heard a reason for not serving adult beverages at the golf club is because of the children. Grow up! Don't serve them if they are not of age.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:40 p.m.
According to surveys by parks planners at the time, Dickens Woods was assessed and described as having little value as developed parkland. The same for The Bluffs on N Main. I agree that Ann Arbor is rich with parks, many of them award winning and important to the desirability of living in the city. BUT, you can't have it both ways. You can't be for parks (that I do support) by constantly saying no to development. You can't be for a Greenbelt (that I do not support) by saying no to increased density (that I do support). Now, because of service cuts and politicians and bureaucrats having to make tough decisions, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction in favor of selling publicly owned parkland. What we will now witness is bad development wanted by no one. There will be little chance for public participation to improve development because city hall, politicians, bureaucrats and taxpayers are demanding the money to pay for necessary services. It will be development that was forced by politically expedient decisions of the past coupled with today's desperate economic conditions. Things could have been different. We could have thought more about the city as a whole instead of some people having a provincial neighborhood attitude. The people who said no to good infill development that would have increased density, citywide, and put more property on the tax rolls are one of the reasons why we talk of selling parkland today.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:40 p.m.
Yes that was my point. I think you should have "@" your post to Chris Taylor.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:38 p.m.
I think its time for a TAX PAYER rvolt.Just think of the changes for the good of EVERYBODY you/we could attain if thousands of people said enough of your business as usual attitude and stoped paying your taxes till they get their act together.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:23 p.m.
How do you propose to "tax the UofM?" Why havne't you brought this up at council? Oh wait you're not THAT Christopher Taylor, thankfully I've been informed of that :)
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.
So sad that our city government seems to be run by a bunch of greedy capitalists who only seem bent on motives of profit, while padding the pockets of out of state development companies. TAX the U of M already! Its not like they are going move away and leave their eye sore of a football stadium. Meanwhile they just keep buying up more of the city and our taxes just keep going up.
Ryan J. Stanton
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 1:06 p.m.
Just for clarification, the Chris Taylor who commented a few posts above this is not Christopher Taylor the City Council member. It is another Chris Taylor.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 12:54 p.m.
Are people familiar with the term used to reduce the size of government, "Starve The Beast? I was under the impression that is was a phrase used by anti-tax, anti-government conservatives, but it seems that our so called liberal "fauxgressive" council Democrats found another way to starve the beast. They threw money at it until there wasn't enough left over to do the things that taxpayers actually need and a few of the things that they want. Could it be that this was their intent all along and the name Democrats is only a label to hide anti-government intent? It sure seems that way and this article is clear evidence of that intent.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 12:54 p.m.
Selling some parks is a horrible idea. Like many have said, we are trying to ADD green space! Or is that just outside city limits? As a voter and property tax-payer, I thought I'd specifically supported millages for the parks over and over again. Where o where has this money gone? Dickens Woods is hardly scrubland. It's a beautiful respite that contains several pathways through the woods, including connectors from Maple Road and surrounding neighborhoods to the Dickens schoolyard. It's also a home to lots of birds and critters. The Dickens School "Dolphin Dash 5K" race loops through these woods 3 times (watch for the race in May if you'd like to see the park up close). As for developer interest in the area, go up and down Maple Road, or look at all the For Sale signs on nearby streets, and ask yourself if more homes or condos or retail development is needed there. And no, this isn't NIMBY... I live on the opposite side of town.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.
Tax the U of M already. Don't sell or close the parks.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 12:31 p.m.
@DannyG parks will be needed for people to go to when their house burns down
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.
We need the public pools! Not everyone can afford or are they willing to support the private pools. Private pools are too exclusive. When they took away the concessions...that was one of the first mistakes. The pools need to be offering more in the way of food, better hours, extend past labor day when it is amazingly hot. Cutting back on everything just made people leave. There needs to be a campaign to bring people back to the public pools and price things reasonably. People need to know what a great deal it is and support their public pools. If we don't, they for sure will disappear.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 12:23 p.m.
I see a common thread through the cost reduction ideas and the discussion of what to build on top of the new parking garage in the old Library lot: we have no strategic plan in this city. The garage plans include more greenspace and recreation while the Council is discussing eliminating greenspace and recreation opportunities. What do the citizens of Ann Arbor think is important to life in this city? Several years ago we started an "Ann Arbor 2000" project to collect thoughts from citizens and build them into a long term plan. Any idea what became of all that work product? My guess is we scrapped it because something else came along. Strategic planning requires an attention span longer than that of a child. As a guess I would suggest the following list of priorities: 1) whatever is essential to prserving life and property that citizens can't do for themselves: fire protection, waste water treatment, and clearing roads of ice and snow. 2) preservation of irreplaceable assetes: existing parks and trees (these just can't be replaced ordinarily as we can with buildings - once gone they are gone) 3) services where there is a risk to the population that can be mitigated by the city: police and waste hauling. Face it, we can all do more to protect ourselves than we do and we can all do more to reduce our waste cost including, if necessary, taking our own garbage to a drop off station. 4) recreation opportunities for all citizens: whether golf, cycling, hiking, swimming, whatever, these activities controbute to our well-being on reduced medical costs. 5) everything else including city managers, other overhead, commissions, sister cities, contributions to charities, etc. If citizens want to contribute to a charity they can make their own tax deductable contributions. Now, about building codes and permits: charge what it realy costs to do the inspections and perform those inspections promptly, so builders and citizens know what to expect, can plan their work more efficiently, and get the right kind of advice and "fresh eyes" look at the work being done. That's my starting point. Maybe we can get the citizens of this city to tell our council what the priorities are so they can get to work.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.
Bob W..."If any parks are sold, I would expect a commensorate reduction in my taxes."....thanks for the good laugh Bob.... Oh if only this would be true...
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.
Ms Miller managed the golf courses at a loss for at least a decade while council while the taxpayers and council were told that they were profitable. Now at the end of her city career and after managing Planning and Development Services to the point where it cannot provide the services that are required by law, she walks away with a hefty pension, lifetime health care and commendations for doing a great job. Many thousand of hours of staff time and several hundred thousand dollars were spent on consultants (Kerry Laycock) to reorganize and combine the former Building and Planning departments into Planning and Development Services. This does not include millions spent on unnecessary software or staff costs due to the bloated staff resulting from the reorganization. (Hieftje calls it "streamlined". Exactly for who?) The plan was to make PADS fit into Roger Fraser's infamous "Bubble Plan". It was a textbook example of people, with no interest or knowledge of development or construction trying to remake public service processes fit a preconceived corporate structure. For all the huge amounts of staff time and tax money spent we now see the results. With the dutiful assistance of Ms Miller and the highly paid Mr Laycock, Fraser and his pro development political masters achieved their goal of skewing the Planning, Development and Construction processes in favor of big developers and to the detriment of local builders and contractors. The restructuring was based on the historically blind imaginations of politicians who though that Big Development in Ann Arbor was so ensured and could never end, that they were willing to spend millions to make their dreams of "buildings and money" come true. We now know, and many foresaw that the unsustainable nature of boom and bust construction combined worth the reorganizational folly would come to a bad end. Several years ago proposed residential development at Dickens Woods was stopped by short sighted neighborhood NIMBY and the scrub land was designated as park. Now there's talk again of selling it for development. The same thing happened to an area named the Bluffs on the West side of N Main along the Huron towards M-14. This scrub land was made parkland with NIMBY support that blocked downtown residential development in a place that was in desperate need of redevelopment. I suspect that this land might come up for sale again as well. Both these properties were well suited (better than the ugly new building in downtown IMHO) and appropriate for residential infill development when market prices and the economy were better. This property could already be developed and on the tax rolls. Instead, short sighted and selfish parks and green space supporters stopped the residential development that the city is now screaming for. Now, when the city is desperate and the market is down, these properties will languish without the development that Greenbelt supporters say that the Greenbelt is suppose to induce. Putting them up for sale now only rubs salt into those poor decisions that resulted from lack of political leadership at the time. So, who's to blame? Not Ms. Miller because she was only following Frasers orders. Not Fraser because he was only carrying out his political masters wishes. Blame belongs entirely at the doorstep of Council and Mayor who hired Roger Fraser. Those politicians who believed that top down, corporate bottom line thinking, my way or the highway management style, the government must be run like a business acolytes, who blindly went along with the reorganization that has now put the entire development process in jeopardy. All in all, it's the lack of tough visionary political leadership and see no evil oversight that got us to this place.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.
We still have funds 1,443,000.00 for a much needed upgrade/improvement to West Park. Granted the funding does not come out the City only a percent of total cost. Link http://www.a2gov.org/government/financeadminservices/procurement/Documents/ITB%20Docs%20August%20thru%20Dec%202009/ITB-4052%20Bid%20Tabulation.pdf
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.
Whatever we do, please, please, do not get rid of the airport! It is a crucial addition to our claim of being a "Green" city;-) Pssst, let's not discuss in public hangars occupancy, declining operations and other such money guzzling facts. Yep! Sells the parks. But don't you dare touching this "special" playground.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.
As Vet's pool has become too expensive so has the game of golf....why not see about a corporate sponsor for Huron Hills? Everyone in this town seems to love driving Toyotas, maybe Toyota would step up??
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.
I don't golf but I think the market is in a bad slump.You used to have a lot of money and had to be and or know somebody to get into the Washtenaw Country Club,now they seem they are begging for people to join
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.
OK, let's have golf courses and parks galore, and cut police and fire protection. That would help the quality of life here. We just cannot afford it all. Something has to change. This "cut overhead" is a good idea that will save a pittance, but will not suddenly make the golf courses breakeven. You can blame anyone you want...but the city still has to take some action with regard to its finances. I would prefer not cutting any more cops or firefighters.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 11:04 a.m.
The debate has been going on for over 20 years. "Sell Huron Hills": "The City should not be in the golf business": "Sell Parks" Every few years these same battle cries come up and after detail investigation the same thing is decided. Ann Arbor is a Parks City. We love our Parks. We love our Recreation. We value our Greenspace. I agree with this, but wish that this would finally be put to rest. The Parks cannot be sold without a major "Act of God" within this city. Ann Arbor is one of the best places to live and raise children and a significant part of this is due to our parks system. Yes, it does need to be looked at and brought up to speed with current economic times, but we residents need to support our parks in trouble times, not abandon them. DagnyJ says the city should not be in the golf course business. Why? Why then is the city in the ice rink business? Why is the city in the swimming pool business? Why is the city in the canoe business? It is because that is what they do! They provide recreation to the people of this city for a nominal fee. They have been doing for over 80 years and have shaped and bettered the lives of many because of what they do and all that they offer. If they did not offer these services at the nominal fees and or got out of the business, then many of the people around would not be able to afford the introduction and positive benefits that a trip down the Huron in a canoe or a swim at Vets or yes most importantly to me, being able to introduce my daughter to the game of golf at Huron Hills on their kids play free nights.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.
What a great idea. Sell those parks. The quality of life is too good here. While at it why don't we privatize all of the roads in town. Then tolls could be charged where ever one wants to drive. Why we could even privatize or outsource all government services. We could pay as we go. Then there would be no taxes at all. Or we could be more rational and realize times are hard and work on more realistic solutions. Privatization is not a solution to most government services. Privatization is a hidden way to remove employees then hire them or new ones at lower pay and questionable benefits. And the supposed saved money saves goes into the pocket of the new owner as PROFIT.
Woman in Ypsilanti
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.
It seems very short sighted to consider selling park land. Once sold, it most likely wont be able to be bought back again, especially if someone develops it.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.
With respect to hHuron Hills, you could put a driving range on holes 8 and 9 and maintain the back nine. then, you go across the street and the city develops a merchant area, restaurants and boutiques and what not that has acces to Gallup Park, maximizing the waterfront that is there, creating a tax base. If anyone has been to Baltimore's waterfront area I am envisioning something similar to that. Even Toledo has had success with this concept.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.
Huron Hills doesn't need to be sold - it needs to be redesigned. Right now, there's a lot of wasted space in a boring layout on the seven holes along the river. Those could easily be improved to a 9-hole layout that would be more interesting for experienced golfers yet still playable by novices. The 11 holes in the back, which currently are little more than a pitch-and-putt, could be turned into 9. These changes alone would make the course a lot more popular.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.
Anybody recognize the shell game? Use tax dollars for land (park) acquisition... Then, sell the same land later to create money for operations. Citizens are swindled, as well as federal government, or other matching-fund entity. Wow. Seems a bit fraudulent? This is how our City government represents our interests? Where is our City going in all of this? Where is the vision, commitment to service, and civic duty? After the City sells its assets for operations, where will the operations money come from?
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 9:43 a.m.
Instead of cutting services, the city should focus on cutting overhead. The city has too many managers and too many consultants. For example, in the old days the city had a city forester to manage city trees. Now we have two people doing that job plus consultants to count the trees, tell us what tree maintenance is needed and do a forestry management plan. Just what are these 2 new people doing? A few years ago, when the city imposed a tax collection fee, some of the new fee was allocated to parks general fund spending. When Miller was asked how she wanted to spend the money, she asked for another manager. I agree with Bill Newcomb that the problem with the golf courses is too much overhead. Even the consultant hired by the city agreed that city overhead was unreasonably high.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 9:34 a.m.
There is a duplicate link in this really good coverage. The link to "list of 40 to 50 acres of parkland" goes to the same place as the link to the "23 sites" parks hit list. About an hour ago these were two different links, but they were reversed. The link to the "23 sites" should go to pages 9 and 10 of the larger memo.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 9:32 a.m.
There is a duplicate link in this really good coverage. The link to "list of 40 to 50 acres of parkland" goes to the same place as the link to the "23 sites" parks hit list. About an hour ago these were two different links, but they were reversed. The link to the "23 sites" should go to pages 9 and 10 of the larger memo.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.
Buy Land, Sell Land? What is the Plan? Can't a park be considered Green Space? We seem (local government) to take a very short term outlook on how we manage other peoples money and services. Will these reductions really get the monkey off the back of the citizens? I think not. Where are we spending our money? How do these programs rank as a percentage of total expenditures? Without looking I would have to guess "not very much". There are many many city services that are not self supporting and they are not on the block. The comment about "funny accounting" is probably not that far off. Allocated costs, administrative overhead are a significant cost in any organization. The assignment of such costs can make or break a program and generally while there are methods, there are no rules of engagement and they often become "manipulative dollars". It is not an issue when they account for 5% of total expenditures, but in many organizations they can be and often are much much higher. Think back on how we funded the water system and the costs to fix that? Were the costs as defined by management handled correctly? These budget discussions will always exist where projects are put on the block. Keep in mind what is important. We are spending a lot of money to acquire green space so why sell green space we already own. At a minimum golf courses are green space. Don't sell them, maybe you close them for a while to see how much they are missed. Minimum maintenance but still city property. Once you sell it you cannot get it back. We can talk about the fairness of of joint ventures with corporations another time.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:45 a.m.
The parks are open to everyone, resident and non-resident. At one time, living in Ann Arbor meant living in the city limits and paying Ann Arbor taxes. Now many Ann Arborites live in the townships but work and school in Ann Arbor. They use the parks but pay none of the costs. There has to be an emphasis on capturning money from these users.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.
I am getting a little dismayed with our city council. First, they let local business go under by awarding themselves a liquor license for a golf course after their own task force said that the local business should have receive it. Now, they are looking at selling the golf courses. They ran a another business out of their location (almost ruining it) because they need parking spaces for their new city hall. Instead of fixing our roads (the bridge on Stadium and State is still a mess) and promoting local businesses (instead of driving them out of business), they build a massive new city hall. I'm really not sure what the priority is for our mayor and council. It appears to be much more self-serving than helpful to us as residents.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.
It's sad that the economic situation and mismanagement of the city budget over the years has forced these kind of decisions. It's clear that the golf courses have to be privatized. The city can't afford the deficit from the two courses any more. Part of the problem is declining interest in golf over the last number of years. Many courses in the state are seeing lower number of golfers. Selling park land is not a good idea right now. Prices for land are very poor compared to a few years ago. I love all the parks in Ann Arbor. But, I do feel that there are a handful of city parks that are not used much and could be spared if the market were strong enough. I think keeping at least one of the pools open and the Senior Center open are very good goals. The city should be able to manage this especially if they eliminate some of the truly wasteful expenditures in the budget.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.
Why is the city website a.ORG site instead of.GOV? Has the City completely adopted a business model rather than a government/regulatory model?
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 8:07 a.m.
and when you find out how much money you are saving,maybe you will relinquish 1 more golfcourse and more public parks that require nourishment and care
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.
It's time for Ann Arbor to get out of the golf course business. Sell Huron Hills, and find a way to operate Leslie at some kind of break even. The consultant's report basically said Leslie is the most promising of the two. So let's stop throwing money after golf courses.
Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.
Ann Arbor has far too many parks - and many of them have Zero access and no parking (is that really a 'Park'?) I like parks and green space - who doesn't - but AA has the wrong mix. As for selling - the city has picked the worst possible time to sell assets. Many property values have fallen by half - some land will sell well but others will not. Any park sold off will have a costly, time consuming, hair pulling, rezoning fight (pray for no lawsuits). The city Budget should have a high percentage of forced reserves - so that one day several years down the road - a self sufficient town can be realized.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.
Does this mean we get our money back from the Green Belt innitiative? How does this benefit the community? The tax payer? How about we trim some of the city salary first. Frankly - like it or not - in private industry, the salary cuts are not deep enough until people start quitting. That has yet to happen at the city level.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.
Sad to see the comments about Vet's pool... yet it is really no surprise. As a longtime user of that pool, attendance is certainly down. At one time, this pool used to be jam packed with kids over the summer. As the admissions prices skyrocketed, a large population of kids stopped attending. They were priced out of the pool. Now, the pool is sparsely attended by mid-to-upper class folks that have an abundance of chairs to select. A ton of cash has been spent to upgrade and maintain this pool. There is likely no way to increase admission fees to cover expenses that now exist. So instead of funding civic improvements that provide benefit to many, the City will end these practices to fund underground parking, $1 mil folly art fountains, unneeded "conference centers," and uber administrator salaries. Too bad they have forgotten Civic responsibility in the "mirage of opportunity." The stark truth is that the City only produces two products: recycling material and compost. They don't sell enough of either to fund anything. As City service is forgotten, the City's main focus has become blocking private development and investment, while assembling as much land and development rights as possible, and creating the "City" of their dreams, with none of their own money. The City no longer seems much a City. It is more like a sovereign kingdom where those in charge are no longer accountable or responsible for their duties. They have no passion for City service provision, or its altruism. They seem to be most focused on making their leader's real estate fantasies and visions come true. Is there surprise that our leader focuses on real estate given his background? How could this be? Besides producing recycling material and compost, there is one intangible, yet most valued product: citizen apathy. If this is true, enjoy our collapsed bridges, sink-holed roads, zero police patrols, and evaporating City services. However, there is one service you can always count on! Administration and collection of your tax bill will continue, as always.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 7:13 a.m.
If any parks are sold, I would expect a commensorate reduction in my taxes.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 6:54 a.m.
Not funding Huron Hills is a bad idea and will discourage fitness for seniors and juniors....leading to less healthy citizens. "Golf is a great measure of fitness for the Baby Boomer Generation," says Vijay Vad, a New York sports-medicine specialist and consultant for the PGA Tour. "Do your legs ache at night? Do you take a cart? These are all indications of how healthy and fit you are." A 160-pound golfer using a cart burns about three calories per minute while golfers who walk and carry their clubs burn about six calories a minute, according to the American Dietetic Association. After 18 holes, a cart rider will have a heart rate of about 86 beats a minute, but walking and carrying your own clubs pushes your exercising heart rate to 120, according to Golf Digest. Exercising at the higher end of your target heart rate range is a sign of better fitness.