Meeting Minutes 10/06/2003

Friends of Dicken Woods General Assembly

Minutes for the Monday, October 6, 2003 meeting at Dicken Elementary School

Erik Stalhandske chaired the meeting and opened proceedings at 7:03.

The status of Dicken Woods was portrayed by Erik Stalhandske. The expected city council vote on September 15 did not materialize. The vote was pulled the Thursday before the meeting. Erik and Tom Ivacko spoke with Mayor Hieftje for half an hour regarding DW. They feel he wants the library to purchase 2 acres to offset the purchase price. They explained to Hieftje why they felt the branch was inappropriate on that site, including the option of building a branch on an existing site where they would not have to knock down acreage. There was little response from Hieftje or city administrator Roger Frazier. Erik was advised to contact AADL Director Josie Parker, Board President J. D. Lindeberg, and board members Dave Cahill and Edward Surovell. Josie Parker responded that the library would need 3.5 - 4 acres. J. D. Lindeberg refused to commit to building at all on the DW site. This did not fit with the expectations of Hieftje or Frazier. Director Parker proved unwilling to meet with our group. She replied that the city proposed it, and the AADL needed a formal proposal for them to respond to.

The following letter to Margie Teall, John Hiefje, and Roger Frazier was requested for inclusion in the minutes:

    September 26, 2003

    Dear Margie, John, and Roger,

    I've contacted Josie several times and have talked repeatedly with JD in an attempt to get some dialogue going. I met with David Cahill for over two hours and talked by phone separately. We've volunteered to meet any time, any place, with any contingent of our group. Josie initially said that she wanted to meet with only the leadership of our group to discuss some different options, which I understand. Josie then said that she would only meet with city reps present so that all relevant parties are present; again, I understand.

    Josie told me last night that she feels that the city had approached the library about a potential deal and that the city should develop a proposal regarding the property and present it to the library for consideration. More disturbing, in an earlier conversation this week, Josie stated that they would need a larger portion than 3.5 acres for a branch on Dicken Woods and professed complete surprise about the proposal that the library might purchase everything and protect 8 acres. In addition, I was told by the library board leadership that they cannot commit to a particular section of the land in advance for placement of the library; instead, they would need latitude to place the branch at a site of their choosing.

    John and Roger, I appeal to your sense of fairness and
    process. We have bent over backwards to accommodate an attempt to consider this option. It is now clear that:

    a) there is no guarantee where the library would put this branch and they are not interested unless they get this choice of placement
    b) they will need to occupy and impact approx. 40% of Dicken Woods for their branch
    c) this is not a high priority for the library to have seriously discussed in a timely manner.

    We are concerned that the Diocese may get frustrated if we are not able to execute this purchase relatively quickly. One of the selling points of the city's offer was the limited number of contingencies and the ability to get this deal wrapped up.

    Dicken Woods represents a parcel that met the PAC's criteria for park land purchase. After due deliberation over a period of approx. six months, the PAC recommended that a purchase be made at $550,000. At $55k per acre, this is on the low end for PAC purchases and 35% below the PAC assessed value; in other words, this is a very fair deal. Point by point, we have explained why this property meets the established and explicit criteria for park land purchase. The following are a small subset of these criteria that we addressed:

    1. protection of watershed and water quality as it impacts the Mallets Creek and Allens creek watershed
    2. represents a physical and visual corridor into the city of Ann Arbor
    3. is contiguous to undeveloped 7 acres behind Pauline condos
    4. is co-located with an elementary school with unbelievable support for environmental education
    5. addresses an imbalance of available parkland for our area
    6. open space and green space aesthetics are sorely needed and enhanced by providing an oasis in a very densely populated portion of the city
    7. reasonable method of acquisition and direct cost as neighbors are providing $50,000 and pledged a ten year commitment to maintenance and clean-up (this is enhanced by the stability of the neighborhood and the FODW organization)
    8. multiple use benefit as we are establishing environmental educational links with Dicken School, proposing a community garden, and putting in walking paths to encourage exercise among our diverse neighbors

    Support for preserving Dicken Woods comes from the Malletts Creek Management Plan, the Allen Creek Restoration plan, the Huron River Watershed Council, founding members of the Allen Creek advisory group, and most importantly the PROS own plans. Letters of support have been provided by:
    Dr. George Fornero
    Current and past principals of Dicken Elementary school
    Multiple current students at Dicken school
    The Huron River watershed Council
    The Allens Creek Watershed Group
    Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club
    Rep. Chris Kolb

    Please assist us in bringing this to an expeditious resolution. Thanks for your support.

Erik has kept in close contact with Hieftje, Frazier, and Ron Olson. Ron Olson has been upfront and helpful. Ron feels DW will be purchased in some way, shape or form, but does not know specifics. Heiftje and Frazier have put it all back on the table, the AADL may purchase all ten acres. The AADL doesn't normally go through the Planning Commission, which might be a condition if the city allows them to purchase DW.

Marian Williams stated that in 1986 or 1987, Maple Road was rebuilt between Scio Church and Liberty. During planning, the city came house to house telling residents they wanted their input, but had already made up their minds regarding development. The current site of Wexford Village was technically wetlands, but they built on it anyways. She's concerned that the city will again ignore local input.

David Cahill told Erik during a lengthy meeting that FoDW would be happy with any development of DW by the AADL. The AADL might even sell it back to the city if they chose not to develop it. Erik responded that its unknown if the city would purchase it several years down the road. J. D. Lindeberg also has stated that the AADL would not resell DW to a developer.

The Oak Valley property owned by the AADL was investigated by Tom Ivacko. He contacted the chair of the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission. According the Ann Arbor News, the AADL bought it in 1996, and after that the township changed their wetlands regulations. The Chair of the Planning Commission said that from day one, they told the AADL they would not enforce the wetlands regulation, and would work with the AADL. She did not understand why the purchased it in the first place. Its small, with wetlands right in the center. The AADL paid a premium for a business zone, when a nearby agricultural zone would have been much less expensive. The Pittsfield Township Planning Commission reiterated this position the previous Thursday at their meeting. There is a problem with the Fire Marshall, because the small size of the lot may preclude the use of large fire trucks during an emergency. The Chair of the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission did not care if they built or not. It appears that the AADL may not be circumspect in their finances because their millage is not subject to public approval.

That is the current status. DW may be on tomorrow's agenda, but does not appear to be. Steering Committee will cal people if it is on the agenda.

Ed Petakiewicz and Judy McGovern of the AA News met with Erik, Mike Champion and Jim Boyd regarding their anti Dicken Woods editorial. Erik read through the list of 18 criteria for parkland acquisition and how we feel DW scores. Ed and Judy listened intently. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the process of DW moving ahead of other parcels on the PROS list. Ed and Judy seemed to gain an understanding of our position, and may be more even handed regarding DW, but are unlikely to support us.

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing said there is an extension for the city to buy the property. Ron Olson will give them the new date tomorrow. Erik Stalhandske doesn't think the city will let it go beyond October. City Council did receive the information packet prepared by Jack Eaton. We don't know if city council will word the purchase free of strings, or will specify an arrangement with the AADL.

Judy McGovern's McGovern's 9/7/3 Ann Arbor News editorial alluded to FoDW as a "squeaky wheel." Several members of the Steering Committee responded with letters to the AAN. They are available on the website. Our feedback from city council is that the editorial does not influence their opinion of the value of DW. Tom Ivacko, who was present at their meeting, does not share Ms. McGovern's comments regarding "coercion" of the PAC. Tom says they were happy to vote "yes" for DW.

Finances were reported by Deb Norbotten . FoDW has $22,930 in paid pledges, $7,630 in donations, $3,500 from the garage sale, $2,500 from the concert, and $191.40 from the Borders fundraiser. That gives us approximately $36,000 in the bank, with $15,000 in unpaid pledges. She stated we still get 1-3 pledges a week. 97 out of our 172 households have pledged. Deb received an email from the mother of the owner of the AA Comedy Showcase. They could hold a fundraiser for DW if we are interested. This item will be discussed at the next monthly meeting.

Returning to the status of DW, Erik has told city officials that disbursement of our funds will require approval by the membership. Any changes in the proposed acquisition of the property may affect our members' pledges. Deb feels most people put up their pledge for all ten acres, and our total pledges may fall if the purchase is for less acreage. Mike Champion added that the city should not take us for granted. They cannot sign any deal and expect us to be happy about it. Pledge money was made to the PAC, not city council. We may want legal counsel to monitor the use of our money in any deal. Jack Eaton agreed to provide the work pro bono. He expects we'll get a full view of the deal, as should all parties involved.

The greenbelt ballot proposal was brought up by Tom. The proponents want volunteers for yard signs. Email Tom if you are interested. Opponents of Proposal B are performing a survey. If you are polled, please write down the questions verbatim, and email them to Tom.

There is a PAC meeting tomorrow afternoon; Erik should be able to attend.

Motion to adjourn by Jim Boyd, seconded by Jack Eaton. Motion approved unanimously.

The meeting ended at 8:02

Minutes taken by Jim Boyd.