City Accepts $2 Million, DDA to "Retreat"

At its May 5 board meeting, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority approved a $2 million payment to the city of Ann Arbor. And about two weeks later, at its May 17 meeting, the city council used the additional revenue in the citys FY 2011 budget to help reduce the number of planned layoffs in its police and fire departments from 35 to 5.
The $2 million payment was based on a term sheet that a working group of councilmembers and DDA board members had put together out of public view over the first four months of the year. The term sheet was adequate to convince a 7-member majority of the 12-member DDA board that the $2 million should be paid by the DDA to the city in advance of a long-term revision to the city-DDA contract, under which the DDA manages the citys parking system.

The parking contract was most recently renegotiated in 2005 and provided for a maximum payment by the DDA to the city of $10 million over the period from 2005 to 2015. The city drew $10 million in the first five years and had requested in January 2009 that the DDA open discussions to renegotiate the contract.

With the term sheet now out in the open, its clear that its content is problematic for councilmembers and DDA board members who were not part of the working group that produced it. Several councilmembers and DDA board members alike have expressed strong opposition to one of the key ideas in the term sheet that the DDA would assume responsibility for parking violations and other code enforcement.

But based on the term sheet discussion at the May 12 meeting of  DDAs partnerships committee, the piece of the term sheet of most interest to DDA board members is one that is also the most politically controversial: The DDA would be acknowledged as the engine for developing city-owned land in the DDA district.

The DDA partnerships committee conversation on May 12 came against the backdrop of recent questions raised by the mayor and the city council about what kind of legal authority a DDA has in the context of the citys system of governance.

And the outcome of the partnerships committee meeting was a decision to hold another full board retreat, this one on May 28 at 2 p.m. at the DDA board room. The general topic of the retreat, which is open to the public, will be the term sheet. The DDA already held its semi-annual retreat about two months ago, on March 16.

Before reporting on some of the deliberations at the DDAs May 12 partnerships committee meeting regarding the term sheet, this article first takes a look at some of the recent local conversation about the legal powers of the DDA. The deliberations at the partnerships committee are divided into a couple of subheadings, covering the public accessibility of the process up to now and in the future, as well as DDA board member views about what the mission of the authority should be: parking or development.
City of Ann Arbor
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