Harold’s Blog: Local Mayors Meet, Town Council/Staff Retreat

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through January 16, 2011.

This was a busy week which was highlighted by a short council meeting and the staff/council retreat.

Monday’s rail discussion with the Capital Are Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) was canceled because of the ice and snow. This is just one of many groups discussing rail in the area.

Tuesday was unusual because we had a council meeting. Usually council meetings are held on Thursday but since we had a retreat on Friday and Saturday it was scheduled for Tuesday. The main portion of the council meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Then we went into closed session for about 45 minutes. We discussed a few items in closed session, adjourned, and then went home.

Partnering Mayors

Wednesday was a meeting of the Western Wake Partners. This includes the mayors of Apex, Cary, and Morrisville. We make decisions about the Western Wake Wastewater Management Facility. Our meeting consisted of a closed session to discuss our legal actions with the New Hill group.

Semi-annual Review – “Best town clerk’s office in the state, by far.”

Thursday I met with the town clerk as part of the semiannual process to make sure they are meeting my needs. I can unequivocally state that Cary has the best town clerk’s office in the state, by far. I believe that to be a big reason why Cary is so prepared for so many issues.

Retreat: Transportation, Downtown and Brainstorming

Friday was the first day of the council/staff retreat. I got up at 5:30 AM, went for a four mile run, and then headed to the Embassy Suites for an 8 AM breakfast. We got down to business at 8:30. Council member Adcock was sick with a fever but attended anyway. She stayed in the back away from every one with a pillow and blanket. She participated in every exercise. What an amazing woman!

The topics on the first day were “remarkability” and transportation. Our goal in the “remarkability” session was to come to a consensus on the meaning of remarkability in Cary and create action items for us to pursue during this year. Some of the actions we agreed on include features and amenities for the seniors, gathering places for informal events, increasing use of technology to improve customer service, improving aesthetic standards for roads – for example planted medians, and encouraging a vibrant downtown. Of course there were many more.

After lunch we heard two presentations on transit, brainstormed, and then talked about what actions to take. The biggest action item from this session was to ask staff to come back with a plan to improve our transportation adequacy ordinance which is designed to make sure we have enough road capacity for any new development.  Our goal was to create more flexibility in how we use development fees for road improvements. The main problem we were trying to fix were those roads that go from wide to narrow back to wide again.

The second day of the retreat started much like the first with a 5:30 AM run followed by breakfast. Our first topic first topic was action steps in the short term to help downtown. The council brainstormed 79 ideas in about fifteen minutes and the staff created close to 100 in advance of the retreat. Many of the ideas focused on small regular events downtown that could be done with little cost. In addition, we talked about ways to improve parking by restriping the pavement, adjusting development fees, and property tax abatement. Staff will be working on these ideas and hopefully we will see some new activity in the downtown sooner rather than later.

Our final topic on the second day was updating initiatives. We went over the list of ongoing initiatives to make sure we were all in agreement. This way staff can prepare specific work plans and adjust resources if necessary. The long list of initiatives included transit, sustainability, economic development, the new waste water plant, the new community arts center, debt management, the Aquastar metering system, and C-Tran. Overall the retreat was very productive and we should see some of the new actions in the near future.

I spent Sunday writing the February episode of Cary Matters. The main topic will be on the retreat.

Mailbag: 3% Population Growth, Railhawks and Cell Towers

There were several interesting emails this week. Staff notified council that as of January 1st our population is now estimated to be 143,049. In case you are wondering this estimation is done from our utility customers. This is an increase of over 48,000 people in just the last 10 years (over 51%). Our growth over the last 12 months was 3,939 or 2.83%. This was right at our target growth rate even though we were in a huge recession.

Staff also sent us an email about the Carolina Railhawks. The majority owner has dissolved the existing company and is in the process of creating another company with different owners. Staff is preparing to discuss a new lease with the new owners. The new ownership will be announced in a press conference on Tuesday.

Emails from citizens this week included a request for the town to do alternative programming and sell ads on Cary TV. The reason we can’t do that is because it is a government access channel which doesn’t allow us.

Other citizen emails this week included a complaint about lack of AT&T cell services, a request to give exceptions and allow mitigation to our 100′ stream buffer requirement, and a request to require a new medical equipment business to provide many improvements not currently required.

Next week promises to be busy. It includes a Mayors Association meeting on Monday, a redistricting work session on Tuesday followed by a dinner with legislators that represent Cary, and a meeting of CAMPO on Wednesday.

Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, January 23rd. Please feel free to email me with a comment.

  • Personal comments please send to augustanat@mindspring.com.
  • All Town of Cary business – please email me at Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org