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Archives for January 20, 2016

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Article source: http://www.hmbreview.com/news/see-sustainable-landscaping-for-yourself/article_c4d57852-bfb2-11e5-b598-e77fd2631c87.html

City to embrace Curbside gardens

Curbside gardens would get a green light under new rules proposed this week by Sioux Falls city planners.

City Councilors heard a staff proposal Tuesday afternoon to give homeowners more flexibility when it comes to what they can plant in the strip of yard between the sidewalk and street curb.

City officials in recent years decided to revisit a long-standing, unenforced city ordinance that restricts boulevard landscaping to sod and certain approved species of trees.

“The current ordinance is limited as to what someone can actually do in that parking strip so we wanted to encourage creativity, we wanted to encourage sustainability, we wanted to just give more flexibility to the residents to do what they want to do,” Sioux Falls Code Enforcement Manager Matt Tobias told Land Use Committee members.

Under the new rules, annuals, biennials and perennials, as well as cultivated flowers, wildflowers and fruits and vegetables would be allowed — with some exceptions. Plants couldn’t exceed 36 inches from the top of the curb or hang over sidewalks. Plants with thorns, spines, or other sharp rigid parts would be off limits. Evergreen and deciduous shrubs would also be barred.

The proposal makes room for wood mulch but only on a limited basis around plantings as a water-conservation measure. Up to a third of a parking strip could be covered with landscape pavers, edging or rock mulch under the proposal, and concrete splash guards would be OK in parking strips next to major streets. Asphalt paving would still be off limits.

Public Works Director Mark Cotter said the outline of what new rules might look like could evolve as a draft ordinance is readied for the full council, expected to happen before spring. One item still up for consideration is potentially prohibiting decorative landscaping or flowers in a “convenient strip,” the area of the parking strip closest to the road.

“In some jurisdictions, they hold back the planting from the edge of the roadway … so that when you park next to the curb, you have some room to get out of the car without feeling like you’re encroaching on someone’s plants.”

Initially, some local property owners with violating parking strips were concerned that a change in ordinance could create a more restrictive climate. But public comment heard Tuesday suggested satisfaction among those once concerned.

“I applaud all the people who worked on this,” said Sue Nipe, a Sioux Falls resident with property covered in vegetation like flowers, fruits and vegetables, whose satisfaction was echoed by half dozen others in attendance Tuesday.

Any additions to the proposal as well as another round of public input will be heard during the February Land Use Committee meeting. Once the proposal is finalized and passed, Cotter said implementation would happen over a three-year period. A public awareness campaign would happen this year to educate property owners about their responsibilities under any new parking strip rules. Next year, written notices would be distributed to property owners with parking strips still in violation, and in 2018 formal enforcement would commence.

Contact reporter Joe Sneve at (605) 331-2318.

Article source: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2016/01/19/curbside-gardens-council-agenda/79011400/

Conquer the Challenges of Gardening at Altitude Feb. 6 – Estes Park Trail

The Estes Park in Bloom steering committee  invites the community to learn about “Conquering the Challenges of Gardening at Altitude,” presented by local gardening expert Merle Moore. This free program takes place Saturday, Feb. 6, with social time

 

at 9 a.m. and the program beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Estes Park Museum, 200 Fourth Street. Moore will share his experiences and expertise on high-altitude gardening. This program is the first in a series of educational gardening and landscaping programs coordinated by the steering committee for 2016.

 

Merle Moore came to Colorado in 1978 as assistant director of the Denver Botanic Gardens. He previously served as the Senior Horticulturist at Matthaei Botanical Gardens at the University of Michigan. In 1980 he was appointed Executive Director of the Denver Botanic Gardens and remained in that position until 1989. In 1990 Moore was hired by the Denver Zoo where he worked until his retirement in 2005. As the Director of Horticulture and Grounds Maintenance he developed and guided the horticulture and landscaping program of the Denver Zoo. He was responsible for plant selection and landscaping of three of the zoo’s award-winning exhibits, Tropical Discovery, Primate Panorama and Predator Ridge.

In January 2007, Moore was inducted into the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Colorado State University Bedding Plant and Perennial Plant Trial Garden Committee and is a horticulture lecturer, consultant and tour guide. Moore is now retired and resides in Estes Park.

 

The Estes Park in Bloom educational series is an effort of the steering committee to provide year-round opportunities, highlighting the community’s participation in America in Bloom and Communities in Bloom. The committee will schedule programs on topics of community interest, based on its recent public survey. Programs will be announced as they are scheduled.  For more information, visit www.estes.org/americainbloom.

 

America in Bloom is a nonprofit, nationwide program promoting beautification through education and community involvement, while utilizing flowers, plants, trees and other lifestyle enhancements. Locally known as Estes Park in Bloom, the project is a community-wide effort involving local organizations, businesses,

residents and Town government.                                 

 

In 2015, the local steering committee included representatives from the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District, YMCA of the Rockies, Visit Estes Park, the Estes Park Restaurant Association, Estes Valley Partners for Commerce and the Town of Estes Park. Since America in Bloom was founded in 2001, nearly 200 cities in 40 states have participated.

 

Communities in Bloom is an international program committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community involvement, with a focus on enhancing green spaces in communities. Like America in Bloom, this program offers on-site, one-on-one mentoring and coaching by a team of judges, with participation from communities in the United States, Canada, Asia and several European countries. Visit www.communitiesinbloom.ca for more information.

 

For more information or to become involved in the Estes Park in Bloom project for 2016, contact Keri Kelly at 970-577-3782 or email kkelly@estes.org.

Article source: http://www.eptrail.com/ci_29406551/conquer-challenges-gardening-at-altitude-feb-6

Tips on winter gardening and rose diseases to highlight meeting; and other news from clubs and organizations

Red River Rose Society

Winter gardening tips, rose disease and other topics will be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Red River Rose Society. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Denison Public Library. However, any members or guests who wish to meet at The Rig in Denison for a Dutch treat dinner at 5 p.m. prior to the meeting are welcomed to do so.

President Sue Abernathy will update the group on 2016 meeting plans and will give information about things to be done in the garden this month. She and other Certified Rosarians will also be available to answer questions about growing roses.

Featured speaker for the evening will be Karen Page, a Master Gardener. She will be speaking on Rose Rosette Disease which is killing roses across the nation. She will give tips on how to identify the disease and what can be done to stop it from spreading.

National Active and Retired Federal Employees

Gardening in Texomaland was discussed at the January meeting of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE). The gathering was held Jan. 7 at The Renaissance in Sherman and led by President Ralph Mattingly.

Bringing the program was Linda Taube, owner of Twin Oaks Nursery. She noted that the nursery has several free seminars scheduled including one on pruning roses and lawn care for Feb. 6. Future free seminars will include how to create an inside fairy garden, the monarch butterfly program at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and a presentation for a visiting arborist. She included information on the services provided at the nursery.

Taube gave information on winter and late winter gardening. In January, purchase and plant fruit trees and onion slips and start inside seeds. In February, cut back rose bushes about a third to a half, but climbing roses shouldn’t be cut back until April. Taube also recommended treatments and products to handle insect prevention and plant disease, as well as gave details on a seven step lawn program. Each attendee was also given a panda plant.

During a business session, Diane Geer, secretary, read minutes from the last meeting and Jane Cranford provided the treasurer’s report.

Carol Hottel read names of January birthday honorees – Jane Cranford, James Groce, BeBe Flynn and Charles Huddleston.

Service officer Bruce Hottel read names of chapter members who died during 2015 – Pauline McCauley, Winnie Mayes, Frankie Walker, Neil Chauncey and Mildren Harvey. A moment of silence was observed in their honor.

For information on NARFE, call 903-465-0099.

National Association of Retired and Veteran Railway Employees

Fran Tucker presided at last week’s meeting of the National Association of Retired and Veteran Railway Employees (NARVRE). Harry Gates opened the session with a prayer and Lyle “Cookie” Nelson led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bettye Henry and Tucker gave month reports and Gates and Nelson brought legislative news.

Members observing January birthdays are Ann Auvigne, Larry Grossman, Linda Black, Talmadge Marshall, Loren Mathison and Eugene Wood. Celebrating anniversaries are Derl and Fran Tucker, Larry and Jessie Grossman, Bobby and Rosemary Householder and Dudley and Betsy Markham.

The next meeting will be Feb. 12 at the Denison Public Library. The sessions are open to all railroaders and their spouses.

Denison Performing Arts

The Denison Performing Arts board met Jan. 5 at the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce. President Carolyn Brady led the session.

Tammie Overturf presented the treasurer’s report which was discussed and approved.

Upcoming programs were discussed including the Denison High School production of Beauty and the Beast Jan. 21 and 22 and the annual Young At Art beginning Feb. 1. The artwork will be displayed at each elementary school and the award ceremony will be held Feb. 9 at the Denison Public Library. This year’s piano competition at Grayson College will be April 16 and registration will be available online at www.denisonperformingarts.org.

A special presentation was given by guest speaker Jessica Walker on a tile tribute project for the Denison Fire and Police Departments.

Performing a special string program were Suellen Davis and Zoe White.

The next Denison Performing Arts board meeting will be on Feb. 1.

Denison Rotary Club

Keith McBrayer was welcomed as a guest speaker at last week’s Denison Rotary Club meeting. He was introduced by Rotarian Freddy Lessly.

McBrayer, a retired Denison school teacher, serves as the educational director at the Harber Wildlife Museum, located on Texoma Parkway in Sherman. He reported that schools from throughout the area bring in students for tours. All backdrops used inside the museum were painted by two Grayson College students. He went on to show slides of animal displays located inside the museum and explained about the animals.

This week’s program will be presented by Janet Karam from the Texoma Area Agency on Aging.

For information on the club, go to www.denisonrotary.com.

Article source: http://heralddemocrat.com/living/lifestyle/tips-winter-gardening-and-rose-diseases-highlight-meeting-and-other-news-clubs-and

Garden Visions Conference offers tips, tricks

WAUSAU – With the bone-chilling temperatures and a layer of snow so thick you can’t see a speck of dirt or grass, getting down and dirty in the garden might be the last thing on your mind.

But nurturing your green thumb shouldn’t take a backseat in the cold, because right now is an ideal time of year to start planning your spring garden — at least according to the North Central Wisconsin Master Gardner Association.

This weekend, the NCWMG and the University of Wisconsin-Extension will host their annual Garden Visions Conference at Northcentral Technical College to help gardeners in northern climates hone their horticultural skills and become more educated on the latest agriculture trends.

“In January, people start looking through all the seed catalogs and start thinking, ‘Gee what can I do in my garden?'”  said Carol Bray, chairwoman of the Garden Visions Conference.

The annual conference, which started about 10 years ago, kicks off with a dinner Friday and a full day of presentations and breakout sessions Saturday.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Kerry Anne Mendez, a garden designer, author and lecturer from Maine, will discuss how to create, landscape and keep a low-maintenance perennial garden. The 16 breakout sessions afterwards will cover an expansive array of horticulture-related topics, from how to grow edible plants without a garden to flower arranging.

“We try to cover a little bit of everything so it meets the needs of a wide variety of attendees,” Bray said.

And the event isn’t just for master gardeners, although there are some in attendance. Every year, hundreds of people, including novice horticulturalists and people with a general interest in gardening, show up to stimulate their green thumbs, Bray said.

For more details and a full schedule of the conference’s presentations, visit gardenvisions.org.

Attend the 2016 Garden Visions Conference

When: Friday’s dinner — the second annual Slow Food Dinner — runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday’s presentations and lectures begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Walk-ins to Saturday’s lectures are welcome and registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

Where: Northcentral Technical College, 1000 W. Campus Drive, Wausau.

Cost: $50 to register for Saturday. Friday’s dinner is at capacity and is no longer open for registration.

Going Out Reporter Melanie Lawder can be reached at melanie.lawder@gannettwisconsin.com or 715-845-0607. Find her on Twitter as @mel_lawder or follow her on Instagram as @mellawder.

Article source: http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/story/life/home-garden/2016/01/19/garden-visions-conference-offers-tips-tricks/78995172/

Using visual tricks and focusing on the future, you can design a beautiful …

SCRIM PLANTS, like tall, slim grass spikes or willowy sunflowers, create mystery by partially obscuring parts of the garden. They can be as effective at drawing you along the garden path as a walkway that curves just enough to hide its final destination.

Such tricks, along with placing unplanted, oversized pots as focal points and planting in masses (even if that means in groups of three, five or seven plants in smaller gardens), are visual illusions used by good designers to create rich and satisfying garden experiences.

Garden design has been called the slowest of the performing arts. And it does require patience. Creating gardens is about so much more than how plants grow (or don’t) over time. How about functional concerns, like drainage and where to stash the compost bins?

I’ve been lucky enough to hang out in a wide variety of gardens over all these years of writing about them. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing designers, and hearing from gardeners what they love best about the spaces they tend.

Here’s a smattering of what I’ve learned, from smart planning to design tips, while spending time in other people’s gardens:

• Try not to focus on nursery pot or seed packet in hand, but rather look ahead to what you want the garden to look like five years from now. Most of us plant for near-instant effect, which means that in a few years you’ve got a jungle. Remember how fast plants grow in our nurturing climate, and don’t be taken in by an innocent-looking little conifer in a gallon pot, unless you covet a garden that’ll soon enough be shrouded in deep shade.

• Designers look beyond what’s right in front of them to consider what is overhead and underfoot. This means putting a lid on parts of the garden; pergolas, arbors and tree canopies create human scale as well as patterns of sun and shade. With shelter above and variety in paving or ground covers underfoot, you’re well on your way to a garden that’s a delight not only to look at but also to walk through at all times of the year.

• Not everything needs to be planted. Beds filled with black stones or river rock are effective, especially when used under the eaves, or in flowing rivers to direct drainage or provide visual relief from intensely planted areas.

• Like scent and sound, color creates an atmosphere or mood, and defines your experience of place and time. Some colors are soothing, others invigorating, while still others stir strong memories or emotions. Color is immensely personal and very fun to play around with. Good designers look beyond flowers and foliage to use color in infrastructure, containers and art so as to continue the color play through the seasons.

• Which brings us to colorful and textural foliage, the foundation of an easier-care, year-round garden. Contrast big-leafed, floppy plants near finely textured conifers, spiky plants next to ones with rounded leaves. Gray and golden foliage plants play off each other; even more dramatic are purple or black leaves mixed with chartreuse foliage.

While designer tips and tricks add to the pleasures of gardening, the only way to have a truly satisfying garden, one well worth all the work, is to express your own taste and vision. The rest is nothing but details.

Article source: http://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/using-visual-tricks-and-focusing-on-the-future-you-can-design-a-beautiful-more-satisfying-garden/

Summit County envisions $70 million plan for Frisco’s County Commons

Summit County government released a master plan for the County Commons property on Monday, Jan. 18, setting a 20-year course for continued development of the 130-acre campus in Frisco along Highway 9.

The multi-phase project will furnish essential upgrades and additions to several facilities on the 130-acre parcel, county-owned lot that houses a wide array of local services and agencies. Among many others, included in the multitude of organizations: St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and the adjacent Medical Office Building, Summit Stage, the Summit County Community and Senior Center, 911 Dispatch, Search Rescue, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Main Branch Library and animal control.

Following a four-month process that began this past August with contracting Denver-based RNL Design, a multi-disciplinary design and engineering firm, to assist with the project, and included input from the public and nearby residents in Ophir Mountain Village and Bill’s Ranch last October, the county has its long overdue blueprint for the area. No master plan previously existed despite record population increases in the 1970s, and doubling in size between 1990 and 2000.

“We had some general ideas of what we wanted to do,” said Scott Vargo, assistant county manager, “but there wasn’t a good, comprehensive plan, some of that due to unanticipated growth. This is fantastic that we’ve now got that, this strategic plan or road map moving forward.”

Outside of the $120,000 consultant fee paid to RNL, the cost of the entire scheduled two-decades-long concept is estimated at $68.6 million, which is a total based on 2017 dollars, meaning it does not include increases due to inflation. The total projection from the report comprises more than half that amount of money dedicated to aims for a second Medical Office Building, which could be as far out as 2035, while $33 million would go toward the primary focus of the overall project — expansion and improvement to the Light Industrial Campus facilities.

“On the face of it, that’s a very large number,” said Vargo, “but that will not be 100-percent funded through county government. We’ll aggressively seek funds from various public-private partnerships and other funding sources. The county expenditure will not approach the numbers reflected in the report.”

Before any ground can be broken, the county must first complete a full-site survey, which it hopes to complete by the end of the upcoming summer. From there, the space’s Planned Unit Development (PUD), last revised in March 2008, will require modification, with it coming a full public comment period.

After that, there’s the possibility of construction beginning in 2017, though it’s more likely to start in 2018. Then as part of the initial phase of the plan as it’s currently proposed, a road alignment on Peak One Drive, as suggested by RNL Design, will be undertaken in order to make the route safer as well as create added acreage for the Light Industrial Campus.

“An ‘S’ curve is not an ideal configuration for that road,” said Vargo. “We were thinking about how to expand the campus and we were very excited when we got word it can be realigned, also providing much more safety to the public, or a large Summit Stage bus, or an ambulance to the hospital.”

Also within phase one, the county would construct a new sand/salt building. Neighbors to the operation, where snow plows go to load up on materials to treat the local roadways throughout winter and at all hours, voiced particular concern over the noise- and light-intensive facility and the new plan would move it as far as possible away from Ophir Mountain Village and Bill’s Ranch residents. Additional noise-reducing screens and natural landscaping would also be installed.

A new transit building is also baked into the long-term plan. Through the years, manufacturers of the Summit Stage buses have elongated the vehicles, on top of the added bike racks, to the extent that the current size of each bus does not allow for them to be parked back-to-back in a single bay as they once had. So a new facility would be erected, and then during Phase II the old structure reallocated for both Road Bridge and Facilities Management needs.

In all, the implementation of each project slated for the Light Industrial Construction zone is calculated to take between three and five years, including construction of new sheriff’s office, search and rescue, and water rescue buildings, and demolition of existing structures, as well as the current road and bridge facility. That does not include other projects along the way such as expansion of spaces like the library, community and senior center, animal control and development of a second Medical Office Building.

“This is a 20-year plan, not something that’s going to finish up in two or three,” concluded Vargo. “We’re trying to think long term about what the community’s demands are going to be in the decades to come, and be good stewards of residents’ support of county government and services.”

For a look at the entire Summit County Commons Facilities Master Plan Report, visit: http://summitcountyco.gov/DocumentCenter/View/13342.


Article source: http://www.summitdaily.com/news/20230582-113/summit-county-envisions-70-million-plan-for-friscos

Honoring the unsung heroes beautifying Spartanburg

How fortunate we are to have different groups of people who work hard to make Spartanburg a lovely place to live. There are several groups that stand out to me and I am sure there are others that have done a great deal of work to make Spartanburg a more desirable place to live. The ones I am most familiar with are the Men’s Garden Club, Spots of Pride, Tree Coalition, Group of 100, Noble Tree Foundation and the Northside Initiative. 

Over the past 15 plus years, these groups have worked hard to make a difference in Spartanburg County. They have each played a role in some way to make our community a better place to live. Cleaning up areas that were eyesores and unattractive was the mission of several. Their involvement has done things including cleaning up abandoned lots, planting trees and shrubs in medians, adding fountains and statues to beautify, landscaping areas such as our downtown airport and interchanges on Interstate 85, planting trees along Pine Street and East Main Street, removing kudzu and English ivy from trees, cleaning up the entrances to Spartanburg and more. 

How fortunate we are to have the leadership of people including Bill Barnet, Newt Hardie, Hans Balmer, Henry Pittman, Kurt Zimmerli, the Johnsons and Roger Milliken. These people have each had a major role in getting people involved to clean up or improve our city in some way. These leaders, plus many others, have taken the “bull by the horns” and made a positive outcome. 

Where would we be without the Men’s Garden club? They have planted thousands of trees in our county and have made Spartanburg much more beautiful. Maples were planted along Pine Street, willow oaks along East Main Street, crapemyrtles along Highway 221, cherry trees along South Pine Street and other places. Pittman, along with other volunteers, led the charge to get these projects done. Fortunately, they are still working to plant trees and to make a major difference with two faithful volunteers Bob Reynolds and Benny Carter. 

Balmer was the workhorse behind getting Spots of Pride going. With his gentle manner, he encouraged people and businesses to undertake an area that needed attention. He would visit and show them his ideas of beautifying places that were less than attractive. He gave plans for people to adopt an area that needed to be cleaned up, shrubs and trees planted and to maintain them for three years. Most of these projects took place in medians and intersections that were heavily traveled. He was successful and has been missed greatly since his untimely death to pancreatic cancer. His legacy continues with a very active board. 

The Group of 100 began by taking on one project each year. They would take sites that were major eyesores, clean them up, landscape the area and add statues, fountains, trees or shrubs. The first project was to remove the “Egg Roll King” from a median and re-landscape it with a lovely fountain and trees. Since then, they have done a miraculous job of creating lovely sites around the city. Projects like children saluting the flag on Daniel Morgan Avenue, the intersection of Pine and St. John, the Mary Wright School, cleaning up an eyesore on Church Street and North Pine Street and others. Each project stands out as you drive by and you might never know they were responsible. 

The Tree Coalition, under the leadership of Hardie, cares for trees. This group prunes and removes suckers, and sees that trees are properly mulched. They remove English ivy, kudzu and wisteria from trees. Hardie, at 80 is like “the Energizer bunny.” He is out doing something every day. He has worked hard to teach people in neighborhoods about taking care of their trees, and has gone out with them and cleaned up areas. He gets groups of volunteers to prune and remove invasive plant material. Volunteers have worked hard to clean up the entrance into Spartanburg via Highway 221 and Interstate 26. Hardie is presently working on cleaning up the areas of No. 176 at Highway 9 where there is trash, weeds and junk trees, making this eyesore attractive for people entering our city. This organization is run out of the back of Hardie’s car where all his equipment is readily available to clean up “spots of embarrassment” as he calls them. 

Hardie is great at motivating people to get the job done. It shows how one person can make a difference. He has gotten students from different schools and taken them out to clean up projects like the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail and Lawson’s Fork Creek. People call Hardie and tell him about areas that need attention and he does his best to get a group to undertake the project. One of his latest projects was alerting the Department of Transportation of dead trees along Woodburn Road and cleaning the ivy on the trees. 

Today, Spartanburg is a lovelier, more desirable place because of people caring and taking action. Every time a group works to clean up an area, plant a tree, hangs up a flower basket downtown, takes on a spot of pride or cleans up a spot of embarrassment, think about how much this helps to enhance our community. Everyone can make a difference. Take a strip of road near your home and remove the trash. Report litterbugs. Plant a tree. Volunteer to help with some project or create your own neighborhood group to clean up a vacant lot or donate to one of these organizations. 

Thank you to all who have made a difference and to those whose names I have not mentioned, you get a double thank you. You are heroes for beautifying Spartanburg. 

Betty Montgomery, the author of a “Four Season Southern Garden,” can be reached at BMontgomery40@gmail.com.

Article source: http://www.goupstate.com/article/20160119/ENTERTAINMENT/160119642?Title=Honoring-the-unsung-heroes-beautifying-Spartanburg-

Should Ann Arbor sell a downtown lot to a Chicago developer for $10M?

The Ann Arbor City Council has a big decision to make Tuesday night regarding the future of the downtown Library Lot.

Up for consideration is a resolution that, if approved, would have the city begin negotiating a sale of the development rights for the city-owned property on Fifth Avenue to Chicago-based Core Spaces for potentially $10 million.

It wouldn’t be a final decision, though. A sale agreement still would need to come back for council approval in the coming weeks.

The city’s administration, working with real estate consultant CBRE, has decided the Core Spaces proposal for a 180-foot-tall hotel/apartment high-rise next to the downtown library is the best of nine proposals the city received last year.

Community discussions and debate about developing the Library Lot — a 0.8-acre parking lot above the city’s Library Lane underground parking garage — have been ongoing for several years. The city already decided years ago that the lot should be densely developed, with a public plaza included in the design.

The City Council stipulated there should be at least 12,000 square feet of plaza space, and the Core Spaces proposal meets that requirement.

But some community members, including longtime Ann Arborites who are unhappy with the way the downtown is being developed, are continuing to ask the council to halt plans for a private development and keep the land public.

Ann Arbor resident Alan Haber and other supporters of the vision for a larger public space on the Library Lot — or what they call a community commons — are continuing to collect signatures in hopes of forcing a public vote on the matter, after the City Council recently decided against putting it to a public vote.

Haber said recently his group had collected more than 3,000 of the roughly 4,500 signatures needed to put the Library Lot on the ballot sometime this year.

The question Haber wants to put before voters is whether to add a section to the city charter stating all city-owned land on the block that includes both the Library Lot and Liberty Plaza must be retained in public ownership in perpetuity and developed as an urban central park and civic center commons.

The Library Lot sits immediately north of the downtown library on Fifth Avenue and across from the Blake Transit Center.

It will take eight votes from the City Council to decide to sell the property for development, but only six votes to proceed with negotiations.

If the resolution is approved Tuesday night, the city’s administration intends to bring a sale agreement to council for approval in April.

“Core’s proposal is the highest return to the city,” Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer and interim city administrator, wrote in a memo to council.

“Core’s proposal provides a design that will enhance the skyline and downtown,” Crawford wrote. “Proceeding with Core’s proposal will still require that the design be reviewed through the city site plan review process, which includes Planning Commission and the Design Review Board and City Council. However, the current design satisfies general planning and building expectations.”

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, emphasized in an email to constituents on Sunday that the council is not being asked at this time to decide on the merits of the proposed design of the building or the public space, nor is the council at this time deciding on the community benefit from the project.

Diane Giannola, a 4th Ward resident who is planning to run for council this year, wrote to council members over the weekend, urging them not to give in to what she called “an anti-development group” lobbying for a large park.

“This anti-development group is disingenuously collecting signatures to force the park issue on to a ballot proposal,” she wrote. “They are insinuating that a lush green space can be located in this area to get people to support their idea.

“Remember this is a cement parking structure that would only result in a patch of grass with a few trees on the outskirts. Would people really sign their petitions if they knew the truth? A park covering the entire Library Lot would simply be a less green extension of the cement Liberty Plaza, while carrying over all of its known problems.”

Haber explained his vision for the Library Lot in November, a vision he says is supported by many residents who don’t want another tall building.

“We want a park. We want a commons,” he said. “We want a community building with an auditorium, with a cafe, with a gallery, with a visitors center, with meeting rooms, with a museum of the city, with all the great ideas people have. And we want a carousel and a skating rink and a rose arbor, and all this.”

The council meets at 7 p.m. inside the council chambers on the second floor of city hall, 301 E. Huron St. See the full agenda.

Crawford said the Core Spaces project represents an $85 million-plus investment in the downtown, generating economic development and jobs and contributing to the vibrancy of downtown, with a civic plaza included in the plans.

After the new high-rise is built, Crawford said, the property could generate $2.35 million in annual property taxes. He said the city’s portion of the taxes could be up to $1 million annually, depending on whether the city’s cap on the Downtown Development Authority’s tax capture has been met at that time.

Core Spaces is counting on using 200 of the 700-plus parking spaces in the Library Lane underground garage below the development site.

The developer has offered to purchase the spaces from the city for an additional $5 million, though it also is willing to lease them at the market rate.

Core Spaces proposes a 352,496-square-foot building with 360 apartments, 131 hotel rooms, 3,353 square feet of retail/restaurant space, and 20,198 square feet of office space. Crawford’s memo states the ground-floor active uses, such as the retail/restaurant component, would enable a “robust integration” with the outdoor plaza space, thus allowing both to be successful.

“Core’s proposal provides for an attractive and unique public space in downtown Ann Arbor as part of their development, with 12,000 square feet including public art, garden plaza elements, water features, flexible activity area, removable stage and attractive landscaping features,” Crawford’s memo states.

In addition to hotel guests, Crawford said, the project would provide housing for hundreds of new downtown residents across from the Blake Transit Center, and within walking distance to jobs, services and cultural amenities.

Crawford said the proposal balances the mixed uses with a density that supports activating the 12,000-square-foot public plaza space.

“The proposed density is only 520% FAR, which is less than the 700% FAR that could be achieved on this site by maximizing premiums,” Crawford’s memo states, referring to the allowable floor-area ratio under the D1 zoning.

Half the net proceeds of any sale of the Library Lot will go to the city’s affordable housing fund to further the city’s goals of expanding affordable housing.

Ryan Stanton covers the city beat for The Ann Arbor News. Reach him at ryanstanton@mlive.com.

Article source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/01/should_ann_arbor_sell_a_downto.html