Monday, January 18, 2010

Statement of Principles

· When land that is owned by the public (the citizens of Ann Arbor) is being considered for a project or change in use, the process should be fully open. This includes an opportunity for public discussion of its purpose or use, publication of all documents involved in the process, and meetings that are open to the public at all stages. The public discussion should occur before any RFP is issued, and the RFP objectives and requirements should incorporate or acknowledge points brought forth by the public.

· The public process is different from that with a privately owned piece of land, where a developer might have private discussions with staff and city officials in the course of working out details of the development. When public land is to be used, the public record should include preliminary discussions with potential developers. The public process should not be limited to public hearings after the presentation of a site plan as is customary with private developments. It should not be not limited to adherence to existing zoning regulations.

· The use of public land should be considered in the broadest possible context. For example, area planning should be employed to determine the effect on the immediate area (adjacent streets and neighborhood) of a particular use. In addition, long-term value to the entire community should also be considered, incorporating environmental, financial, aesthetic and functional impacts of any change in use.

· When estimating the value to the community of the land and of a changed use, discussion should not be limited to extracting the top dollar value from the project. The city should not be acting as a venture capitalist or a dealer in real estate. Rather, broader public benefits must be considered. These would include enhanced services, enhanced local environment, and enhanced vitality of the area for residents and businesses.

· The public process should include a full analysis of financial and economic factors bearing on the decision. This might include benefits, risks, market conditions, and other factors. A change in use should not create a financial burden to taxpayers, beyond the ordinary use of taxes to provide services as directed by city program budgets and public millage and referendum votes.

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