Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sierra Club Statement to Council on the FITS Parking Structure

Good Evening Mayor Hieftje, members of Council, City Administration.

I appear before you tonight as a member of the Executive Committee of the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club representing 3000 members in the area.

At our December 14, 2009 meeting we passed a resolution in opposition to recent city actions concerning Fuller Park and the proposed Fuller Intermodal Transportation Station.

We are outraged over the notion that the city, very recently after passionately assuring the public that the city’s parkland would never be sold to outside interests without a vote of its citizens, would turn right around and spend hundreds of thousands of its dollars and study a proposed permanent car structure to be built ON CITY PARKLAND to be leased by the university on a long-term basis.

Very clearly this violates the spirit if not the fine print legal definition of the city’s ordinances. It is a breach of trust by the city with its citizens to protect and maintain its parks for present and future generations to enjoy, and it establishes a terrible precedent.

Granted, the current site, a portion of what is currently Fuller Park south of Geddes Road west of the Huron River Bank, had been leased to the university for surface car spaces – with an agreement that lease moneys would go to City Parks and Recreation operations.

The use of public lands designated as parks should be dedicated exclusively for city parks use, not for other purposes.

The use of parkland, for well, parking, with all due respect ladies and gentlemen, is not really a parks and recreation use. Yes, parking exists at park facilities, but parkland for the sake of parking is another matter. Let’s get real here.

We can smile at that but we have a very serious issue.

Any disposal of parkland by the city either by sale, reassignment of purpose, or lease must come with the consent of a vote by the citizens, not council

Furthermore, we are also deeply angered by the city spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultant fees to study building a car structure on city parkland while city administrators threaten closure of existing park facilities on the basis of lack of funds.

We also question if the city made any real efforts with the university in obtaining this arrangement to build a permanent car structure to pursue a potential land swap for such a massive project, if the revenues for parks and recreations operations was even discussed, or whether a perceived convenience by city officials trumped due diligence in pursuing this agreement with the university. Something of this nature really required a more public process than what was apparently conducted here.

It is our parks that make Ann Arbor that special place for everyone, a value that can’t be quantified. It is the inherent responsibility of the city to take care of its parks for future generations.

I should note that the Sierra Club is certainly supportive of many efforts, private and public to encourage non-automobile transit. I also note that this current proposal contains little in the way of concrete plans for non-automobile transit – its focus is on the 900-car parking structure, with most of the parking going to University staff parking and only approximately 200 spaces for a proposed train station.

We DO NOT approve any disposal of existing city parkland, whatever the motivation or goal, either by sale, lease or reassignment without a public vote and will fight any present and future efforts to use Ann Arbor city parks and their assets other than for the purposes for which they were entrusted by citizens to the city to look out for.

On behalf of the Sierra Club I thank you for your time and strongly urge you to reconsider these actions to destroy city park infrastructure.

James D’Amour
2771 Maplewood Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

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