Live Reporting: June 7, 2021, Saline City Council Meeting

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The following is live reporting from the June 7, 2021 Saline City Council meeting.

Medical Marijuana Ordinance

Council considered talking about the proposed medical marijuana ordinance. This is the ninth iteration of the ordinance, first drafted by the code review task force.

Answering a question from Councillor Janet Dillon, Police Chief Jerrod Hart said in other communities, dispensary businesses were community partners, sponsoring events. Other communities have faced parking issues, Hart said. In terms of violence, there was a well-publicized armed robbery in Ann Arbor, but Hart said those kinds of issues happen wherever there's money and people who prey on others.

Answering a question from Councillor Jack Ceo, Police Chief Jerrod Hart said there seemed to be no serious federal law enforcement on marijuana.

Councillors Kevin Camero-Sulak, Dawn Krause and Jim Dell'Orco said they were in favor of the ordinance as written.

Councillor Dean Girbach expressed concern about zoning issues. For example, the Ann Arbor Music Center building on Bennett Street, across from Bennett Street, could be used for a dispensary or other uses. Mayor Brian Marl asked if rezoning that property would alleviate his concerns. Possibly, Girbach said.

Girbach said he would not support the ordinance as it is currently written.

Dillon said she had concerns about the special use process. She also said he was "stuck" on the number of permits that the city would allow.

Dillon said she'd like to see recreational marijuana, not currently considered in Saline, come along with the allowance of medical marijuana.

Dillon asked if there was a way to convert to recreational marijuana in the future. Attorney Tom Forshee said the state bureaucracy treats them similarly.

Dillon said she felt the city was leaving revenue on the table by not allowing recreational marijuana.

"It's really just a policy choice," Forshee said. 

Ceo said he still had a small concern about zoning consistency. On the revenue front, Ceo said it was his understanding, the revenue wasn't a significant issue for municipalities.

Assistant Manager Mike Greene said each municipality in the county received about $28,000 for each retail store.

Girbach continued to raise questions about the zoning issues. In some zoning districts, a special use would be required. Girbach suggested said the process should be consistent across zoning districts.

Forshee said different districts were meant for different things. 

Dell'Orco agreed with Forshee and said the city still had the ability to grant or not grant a special use.

"If there is an issue with a specific parcel of land surrounded by residential, the more appropriate move would be to rezone that parcel of land," Dell'Orco said.

Councillor Camero-Sulak said this was the ninth iteration of the ordinance and that the ordinance was well-vetted. He said he was prepared to support the ordinance as it was written today.

Mayor Marl said it appears there is enough support to adopt the ordinance at the June 21 meeting.

Marl asked council if it was in favor of asking the code review task force to permit recreational marijuana facilities in Saline. Ceo said he wanted to see experience on the medical marijuana issue. The rest of council expressed support for moving on that front.

REGULAR MEETING

Public Comment

Hedy Brown, of Huntington Woods, said she needed a safe walking path to the city to visit Benny's and Dairy Queen. 

A Saline Township family raised concerns about the proposed sidewalk connecting Huntington Woods to the city. The family said the inclines/declines will be dangerous for kids on bicyclists. There is also concern about a lack of crosswalks. There are concerns about the spread of contaminants from the Adient property. They also expressed concern for trees that will need to be removed. Another concern they have is the maintenance of the sidewalk, especially in winter.

Mark Hensel spoke in favor of the Huntington Woods sidewalk so that students in the neighborhood can visit his business.

Mary Hess asked why the planning commission has taken action on the Fairdene subdivision. She asked if the city council plans to take action in public after meeting in executive session tonight. She asked if the planning commission decision is precedent-setting. She said she's never seen the planning commission supersede the council.

Huntington Woods resident Jeff Weiss thanked council for their work on the Huntington Woods connecting sidewalk. He explained the many ways in which the HOA helped alleviate the concerns of the Saline Township residents opposed to the sidewalk on their property.

Main Street Director Holli Andrews said a more walkable city will help downtown and the local economy.

Jillian Hayes, 13, said she was speaking on behalf of the 70 other kids in her neighborhood who wanted a sidewalk to visit the candy store and other places downtown.

Kyle Gonzalez, of High Meadows Development, the developer of the stalled project on South Monroe Street, said the company now has the support of McKinley to help finance the project. Everything is ready to go on construction if the city council grants the extension they are asking for.

Ryan Hall of Huntington Woods said with nicer weather people are walking with their backs to traffic on the wrong side of the road. A sidewalk will create a safer means of travel.

General Appropriations Act

The public hearing opened at 7:31 p.m. No one spoke. The hearing closed.

The city approved a general operating millage of 14.0023 mills (including
the funding required for fire protection), 2004 street debt millage of 0.3550 mills, refuse millage of 1.6920 mills, and Street Millage of 1.0000 for a total city millage levy of 17.0493 mills.

In all, it's a decrease of .18 mills, city manager Colleen O'Toole said.

Councillor Janet Dillon said she was supportive of the budget, despite a couple of concerns. Dillon said with increased contributions to Main Street, the city should expect benchmarks and performances from the downtown revitalization organization.

Dillon said the city cannot continue to fund the rec center and suggested finding a viable third party to help run or manage the facility.

Councillor Krause said she wanted to see the city use Mental Health Millage dollars on mental health. The county health millage provides funds to local municipalities without any requirements on spending.

Huntington Woods Connecting Sidewalk

Councillor Dean Girbach moved to acknowledge and approve a $256,000 for the construction (Dunigan Brothers) of the sidewalk connecting Huntington Woods to the rest of the city and $28,930 (Fleis and Vandenbrink) for engineering. This includes $136,000 from David Shipman, from Huntington Woods LLC, and maintenance and liability paid for by the homeowners association.

Mayor Marl asked city manager O'Toole about the spread of contaminants from the Adient property. O'Toole said the EPA or EGLE sent a letter to the Saline Township family explaining there wasn't much environmental risk.

Marl said David Shipman, his colleague and friend, developed two high-quality projects in the city. Marl said a 2017 HOA document showed Huntington Woods LLC agreed to pay for the sidewalk. Marl said he used the document as a genesis for his conversations with Shipman. Marl originally asked for $200,000. But he would provide $106,000 in escrow with the county plus another $30,000.

It is for a concrete sidewalk, Fordice said.

Dillon asked about the city's plan for a complete sidewalk with a crosswalk. Dillon said it was not a safe path while incomplete. There are currently no plans to build a sidewalk on the contaminated Adient property

Fordice said there was no plan yet.

Dillon said there is a fire hydrant in the way of truly completing the sidewalk.

Dillon said it can't be considered a complete sidewalk without a winter maintenance plan.

O'Toole said the environmental concerns will require federal oversight and considerable time.

Ceo said this is not a complete sidewalk and does not answer the question of total connectivity. This is not going to mean a complete sidewalk from your subdivision all the way into the city. Ceo said there will be more bureaucratic wrangling.

Councillor Camero-Sulak asked how long it would take for a crosswalk (approvals and engineering). Engineer Jeff Fordice said it would depend on the location of the sidewalk. On Macon Road, it might take a month or two for approval and a month for construction. It would be quicker in the city.

Camero-Sulak said he wanted to see the city look into a crosswalk and the sidewalk poured over the Adient property.

Fordice said there are designs for a sidewalk near the Salt Springs Park entrance.

Camero-Sulak asked about the speed limit on Monroe Street. Fordice said it was already at 25 MPH. 

Dillon asked if the Road Commission will help fund the sidewalk. Marl said they absolutely would not.

Dillon reiterated that a connecting sidewalk should have year-round maintenance. She said the city doesn't allow other people to not maintain sidewalks in the winter.

"That is not something we do in our community with other sidewalks," Dillon said.

Dillon asked why the city was voting on this motion without having the maintenance agreements negotiated.

Marl said the bid is only good until tonight and that he had trust in the city manager and city attorneys to negotiate such agreements.

Dillon said the incomplete sidewalk was giving people a "false sense of security."

"By agreeing to this now, we are just pushing this off," Dillon said.

Girbach said there are other locations in town without sidewalks. He said the city has to piecemeal things as it can.

Ceo said the plan is concerning because it crosses jurisdictions and the other jurisdiction takes no interest in the plan, but he thought it was important to piecemeal project where the city can. Camero-Sulak said the proposal wasn't perfect, but it would increase safety.

Marl said he, council and city staff have spent an enormous amount of time on this project.

"It's not a complete sidewalk but it is an important first step in the process of improving the connectivity in our city's south-central corridor. The argument that if we can't do everything we shouldn't do anything is, in my judgment, folly," Marl said.

The proposal passed by a 6-1 vote, with Dillon voting against.

Flag Ordinance

The city adopted an ordinance on flags recommended by city manager O'Toole.

Fee Book Changes

Council adopted fee book changes recommended by assistant city manager Greene.

Blight Ordinance

The city altered its blight ordinance at the recommendation of attorney Jesse O'Jack.

Planning Ordinance

Greene said the ordinance was to make it clear the planning commission has the ability to extend site plan approvals. Greene said it was making formal what was already taking place.

Greene said a developer can grant one extension, answering a question from Dillon.

Dell'Orco said the crux of the issue is confusion about when it should come before council or not. Dell'Orco said he felt the planning commission has essentially violated this ordinance twice.

Girbach said he took offense to the idea the planning commission violated an ordinance because there was no similar ordinance in place. He said council members should understand their roles and how they are different from planning commissioners and ZBA members.

O'Toole said planning commission is an authority that has specific charges by state law.

Dell'Orco said he was philosophically opposed to the idea of planning commission approving site plan extensions.

The ordinance passed 6-1 with Dell'Orco voting no.

Code Enforcement Contract

City council approved a two-year deal with  Jeff Feldkamp as an inspector in the building department. He's approved at $25 per hour in city offices, $35 per hour for construction code plan reviews, and $45 per inspection. In all, the city has budgeted $100,000 for fiscal year 21-22.

Cross Connection Control Program

DPW Director Larry Sirls spoke about the cross connection control project, which aims to maintain the quality of drinking water. Council will pay $11,100 a year to HydroCorp Inc for the non-residential program and $36,918 for the resident program.

A cross connection is an arrangement of piping which could allow undesirable water, sewage, or chemical solutions to enter the water distribution system as a result of backflow. Backflow is the reversal of normal flow in a water system due to backsiphonage or backpressure. Backsiphonage is caused by negative or reduced pressure in the supply piping when there is a drop in water pressure due to water main breaks, high flow rates due to fire fighting, hydrant flushing, or large system
demands. Backpressure is backflow caused by a downstream pressure that is greater than the upstream or supply pressure in the public water system. Backpressure can result from an increase in the downstream pressure created by pumps, boilers, elevation differences, and air or steam pressure.

Wacker Roller Purchase

Council approved $19,155.2 to purchase a 2021 Wacker Double Drum Vibratory Roller from Alta Equipment Company. The existing roller is from 1986. This equipment is used for asphalt work.

Personnel Policy

The city staff reviews the personnel policy manual every two years.

Major changes include the recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr Day as a paid holiday, parental leave and sick leave.

Councillor Krause asked about marijuana use, noting it can be in someone's system and show in a test even when not intoxicated. 

O'Toole said anyone asked to submit a test would likely have a track record with red flags.

Commissions/Committee Reports

Dillon thanked the volunteers who worked during Park Cleanup Day at Curtiss Park Saturday. There are three more walking tours in the parks, Dillon said. Dillon said the fireworks committee had decided to not hold the Fourth of July fireworks because at the time of discussion, there were significant restrictions. The fireworks are set for Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7:45 p.m. The holiday decorations committee met. Dillon said she, Marl and Parks and Rec Director Carla Scruggs met recently with a group of boys looking for a skate park in Saline.

Ceo said the Saline Police Strategic Planning Committee has scheduled a retreat June 24.

Camero-Sulak said the arts and culture committee met. Katherine Downie will take over as chair of the committee. There was an excellent Pride flag-raising ceremony. It was a beautiful day that meant a lot to Saline area youths. The DEI task force is partnering June 15 with the UofM Spectrum group on a free program about pronouns. The Saline Youth Council met. It was led by Jody Roberts for many years.

Krause said the historic district commission celebrated the month by placing signs in front of homes in the historic district. The health care task force received 90 responses to its survey. There are 40 people who want to be involved in subgroups.

Dell'Orco said the code review task force ironed out edits to the responsible contractors' ordinance. They've been sent to the city attorney.

Marl said the Rec Center sustainability task force continues to meet. The Rec Center has scheduled a June 19 open house. 

Reports and Other Announcements

Krause asked about the hotel. Marl said he had nothing he could share publicly, but expected something within 30 days.

Landscaping on City-Owned Property

Marl said he was concerned with the state of shrub beds and landscaping on River Oaks boulevard. Marl said it reflects poorly on the community. Dillon said the island on Michigan at Mills Road is also a problem.

Public Comment

Mary Hess asked if council will address and vote on the Monroe Street development.

Marl said it could be, depending on the consensus of Saline City Council.

Closed Session

Council went into closed session at 9:15 and emerged at 11 p.m.

207 S. Monroe St.

Mayor Marl asked for comments on 207 S. Monroe St.

Councillor Dell'Orco said it was time to go in a new direction from High Meadows Development, LLC. Councillor Krause agreed. Councillor Dillon said she had no confidence in the developer. Councillor Camero-Sulak said the developer leaving the site in an unsafe condition led to him deciding against moving forward with the developer.

No other council members spoke.

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