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Two Ann Arbor council members move to dissolve Downtown Development Authority

ANN ARBOR – On Friday evening, two resolutions to dissolve the Downtown Development Authority were added to Monday’s city council meeting agenda.

The resolutions are sponsored by Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, and Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2.

According to the legislation text, one resolution directs the city attorney to file a written legal opinion on the matter “for the benefit of the public” by answering the following questions:

  • Does City Council have the ability to dissolve the Downtown Development Authority (DDA)?
  • What is the procedure for dissolving the DDA?
  • What are the effects of dissolving the DDA?

The other directs the city administrator and city attorney to prepare an ordinance to dissolve the DDA and conduct appropriate due diligence with the following recommendations prior to the dissolution, including:

  • Consult with the City’s bond legal counsel to determine the effect of dissolution on outstanding DDA bond issues and recommend a course of action;
  • Evaluate existing DDA contracts and agreements and prepare recommendations for their disposition upon dissolution;
  • Evaluate the City-DDA parking agreement and prepare recommendations for disposition of that agreement and management of parking upon dissolution;
  • Prepare an estimate of costs and savings resulting from the dissolution, including projected revenue changes; and
  • Prepare a draft ordinance dissolving the DDA for City Council’s consideration.

Councilmember Griswold said she hopes the move will start a discussion about the DDA.

“If you don’t have a resolution on the agenda, it’s very hard to have a discussion at council,” said Griswold. "I do not expect this is going to be dissolved as a result of this resolution, but I do expect to have a conversation.”

Griswold said unresolved parking issues motivated her to file the resolutions. Before the coronavirus pandemic began, she said she requested to raise the revenue for Park and Ride lots on the perimeter of the city that help free up parking and traffic congestion downtown.

In 2019, the DDA had proposed to add a $23 million expansion to the Ann Ashley Parking Structure to add up to 400 parking spots. That proposal was blocked by council in October.

“Where we need that parking is out near the freeway,” said Griswold. “I was told that parking was under the DDA and we can only provide parking in the DDA district. I would like to resolve the issue and I believe this will start a discussion.”

DDA executive director Susan Pollay said the move came out of the blue.

“In the last few days we’ve been trying to find out why it was brought forward," said Pollay. “It’s particularly confusing. We’re in the midst of a pandemic and downtown businesses are on their knees and DDA is working hard to find strategies. Why would the city want to get rid of us when we’re doing our absolute best?"

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In response to the pandemic, the DDA launched the Healthy Streets initiative to decrease vehicle traffic on residential streets so that residents could enjoy more space in their neighborhoods to engage in outdoor activities. It waived parking fees for downtown parking lots, bagged paid meters in front of restaurants to facilitate free curbside pick up, handed out free PPE kits to businesses and more.

The DDA also closed several downtown streets each weekend during the summer months to help businesses facilitate safer physical distancing practices during the health crisis.

Pollay said that during the winter months, downtown businesses will face their toughest test yet.

“We’re going to lose our Michigan Theaters, we’re going to lose our Zingerman’s, we’re going to lose our treasures of the downtown if we don’t do everything we can to save them,” said Pollay.

“That’s where the timing doesn’t make any sense. We have to stay focused and committed over these next six months.”

“It is imperative to the health of Downtown that the DDA continues to do their work,” Main Street Area Association executive director Sandra Andrade said in a statement. “The DDA is the only City entity that has offered and provided support through this pandemic.”

Monday’s city council meeting will take place virtually at 7 p.m. It can be watched online at a2gov.org/watchCTN and will be broadcast live on CTN Cable Channel 16, ATT Channel 99.


About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.