Harold’s Blog: Town Council Meeting, Cary Dreamfest and More

Cary, NC – This was the first full week of the year.

Monday – Preparing for the Week

Monday started with calls to all council members to hear of questions and concerns they had about the agenda for the upcoming meeting. I was able to contact all council members except one. Comments focused on the two controversial issues of the Urban Drive rezoning and the White Oak rezoning. Later in the day I met with staff and the Mayor Pro-Tem to go over the items. We expected a significant number of people to speak about the controversial rezoning proposals.

Next I met with the town manager and Mayor Pro-Tem for my weekly one-on-one. We talked about the upcoming controversial proposals and other items.

Tuesday – Light Rail Transportation

Tuesday I talked briefly with Wake County Commissioner Hutchinson about CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) actions and how they might compete with Durham light rail.

Tuesday evening I was taped responding to several questions about staff and council relationships. This information will be used at the staff-council working retreat next month.

Thursday – Cary Advisory Boards

Thursday I participated in a meeting of CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization), DCHC (Durham Chapel Hill Carrboro planning organization), and GoTriangle staff, chairs and vice-chairs. We discussed a potential issue of CAMPO BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) projects competing with DCHC’s light rail in SPOT 5.0 (Strategic Transportation Prioritization) which is a ten year plan. The Strategic Prioritization Process is the methodology that NCDOT uses to develop the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The process involves scoring all roadway, public transportation, bicycle, pedestrian, rail, and aviation projects on a number of criteria. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs), and the NCDOT Division offices also contribute to the final project score by assigning local priority points to projects.

CAMPO’s Role in Prioritization is two part: First – the MPO selects which projects from the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) are submitted into the scoring competition. Currently, CAMPO is permitted to submit twenty (20) new projects for each transportation mode in each prioritization cycle. Second – the MPO assigns local input points which increase the final project score.  In the current prioritization cycle, CAMPO is allotted 2500 local input points for the Regional Impact category and 2500 local input points for the Division Needs category.

Thursday evening I joined the council to hear the work plans of our advisory boards. Here is a summary of those work plans:

Environmental Advisory Board

  • Work group on Tree ordinance and open space
  • Input into the Stormwater Solutions
  • Carbon reduction and input into STAR

Historic Preservation Commission

  • Leverage and maintain Certified Local Government (CLG) status: education/training, recommendations, grant applications
  • Pursue local historic landmark status for at least 2 (private) properties
  • Take initial actions towards consideration of a new local historic district

Information Services Advisory Board

  • Website, townofcary.org: review usage data, make changes, measure improvement
  • Policy: Open Data, Social Media, Town Branding
  • Engagement: Across boards, with citizens, finding ways to improve

Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Advisory Board

  • As specified in Section 8 of the Land Development Ordinance (LDO), the PRCR Advisory Board shall review and make recommendations related to the recreation land dedication/payment in lieu requirement for each residential development plan submittal.
  • Review, comment and make recommendations as necessary related to PRCR policies, initiatives and capital projects brought forward by Staff. Specifically, for 2017/s018 Advisory Board members will serve as liaisons for the following projects: Western Cary Neighborhood Parks Project, Downtown Park Phase II Master Plan Project, and Western Cary Community Center Conceptual Plan Project
  • Collaborate with the three Board committees (Athletics, Cultural Arts and Greenway) relative to current issues, initiatives, and projects.

Planning and Zoning Board

  • To review rezoning and other applications with a more refined focus on their place within the Cary Community Plan.
  • To review rezoning applications involving infill carefully for fit in both time and space.
  • To further develop our understanding of the Cary Community Plan as both a functional board and as individual citizens with diverse concerns.

Public Art Advisory Board

  • Public Art Projects – Continue to advise and recommend public art where appropriate to enhance quality of life
  • Education – Work with staff on Public Art education programs.
  • Public Art Master Plan: Work with staff to accomplish the recommendations of the Council adopted Public Art Master Plan.

Zoning Board of Adjustment

  • To conduct quasi-judicial public hearings on requests for variances and appeals based on factual evidence and in accordance with The Town of Cary Policy Statement 167
  • To ensure applicants and public in attendance have a clear understanding of the quasi-judicial process during the public hearing.
  • To further develop our understanding of Cary’s Land Development Ordinance as both a functional board and as individual citizens with diverse professional backgrounds.

The meeting concluded after about 45 minutes.

Thursday – Town Council Meeting

Thursday night the council held its first regularly scheduled council meeting of the year. There were nine consent items, two public hearings, four discussion items, and a closed session. Several speakers at the Public Speaks Out session spoke against the White Oak rezoning proposal that included affordable and senior housing. The majority of the complaints were that it didn’t fit the character of the community and that it would cause traffic issues. The Public Hearing for extra parking in Regency also drew speakers. They believe that the additional parking will destroy the buffer from US-1 and the building. The applicant agreed to work with them further on this.

Under discussion the council approved a water main replacement project for several million dollars. This will actually save money in the long run. The council also approved the bid for the High House and Cary Parkway improvements. In the near future utility relocation will occur in that location.

The approximate location of the proposed townhomes

The council unanimously approved the Urban Drive proposal after strong opposition from the adjacent residents. Opposition will be a common occurrence as redevelopment occurs. That is, council will have the task of balancing the concerns of the residents with the vision in the Cary Community Plan. In this case many residents complained of stormwater issues which are a separate issue from the rezoning. And ironically new development actually helps stormwater issues since new requirements are so stringent. The staff is currently doing an inventory and creating recommendations for stormwater issues.

The White Oak Church Road rezoning. While the church is included in the rezoning, it would not be removed in the plan

The council also unanimously approved the White Oak rezoning which included affordable housing and age restricted housing. This was a difficult decision because in the near term it would appear that density is in a rural area and does not fit. But at build out it will make more sense. The housing will be next to a school, church care facilities, and a day care. Since the development has senior housing, door to door GoCary service will be available. These were the justifications used by council members to vote for the project.

Friday – Options for Durham Transit

Friday I joined CAMPO chairman Mayor Dick Sears of Holly Springs and CAMPO executive staff in a discussion of options to address concerns brought up by DCHC the day before. Mayor Sears and I will meet with the Wake County mayors on Monday and discuss this issue.

Saturday – Cary Dreamfest

Saturday I attended the MLK Dreamfest activities at the Cary Arts Center. I provided welcoming remarks before watching the film The Racial Taboo Initiative. This film was designed to inspire conversation about subjects related to race. It took an honest and entertaining look at America’s racial history and examined how that legacy continues to impact our society today. It was followed by small group discussions. The film is a must see if you get the chance.

Emails From Staff

Emails from staff this week include notification of rail crossing closures. Weather permitting; CSX Transportation will implement rolling closures of seven railroad crossings in Cary starting at 9 p.m. January 15 through the evening of January 19. CSX crews will begin work near North Academy Street near East Cedar Street, moving four miles west toward Apex and ending at Laura Duncan Road. The continuous closures are necessary to allow CSX to complete railroad maintenance work overnight and asphalt repairs during the day.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager’s weekly report included:

Retreat Preparations Kick Into Higher Gear

As the new year kicks into gear, so too do Council/staff retreat preparations. On Monday, Department Directors engaged a facilitator, Warren Miller from Fountainworks, to reignite our collective memory from last year as well as continuing to flesh out our thoughts for our upcoming retreat.

CSX Railroad Crossing Closings 

Weather permitting; CSX Transportation will implement rolling closures of seven railroad crossings in Cary starting at 9 p.m. on Monday, January 15 through the evening of January 19. CSX crews will begin work near North Academy Street near East Cedar Street moving four miles west toward Apex and ending at Laura Duncan Road. The continuous closures are necessary to allow CSX to complete railroad maintenance work overnight and asphalt repairs during the day. Specific railroad closures and local detour information is available on our website. Additionally, all detours and construction updates will be pushed to the Waze app available on smartphones.

Monthly Utilities Report

The December/January Utilities Operating Report is now available. The highlights from this month include:

  • The treatment plants are all operating well and have weathered the cold weather and ice with only a few minor issues.
  • After a brief period of no water transfers over the holidays, the transfers to Durham have resumed.
  • We are expending some additional funds on laboratory testing and added carbon treatment for perflourinated chemicals at the water treatment facility. Additional laboratory testing is continuing to show that our water is below 20 percent of EPA’s health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS.

Analysis Finds Need for Signal at Intersection

Staff has determined that the operations at the intersection of Weston Parkway and Sheldon Drive/Weston Estates Way now do warrant the installation of a traffic signal. As per our usual practice, this intersection was modeled as both a traditional signalized intersection as well as a roundabout to determine feasibility for both treatments. Since both forms of traffic control exhibit similar levels of operations and benefit to drivers, the traffic signal was chosen as the better solution due to cost and feasibility of construction. Staff will commence working with our on-call design consultants to develop a traffic signal design and construction package. We anticipate the traffic signal to be installed and operational in Winter 2018.

Cary Joins NC WaterWARN

This week, the Town joined the North Carolina Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (NC WaterWARN), a statewide mutual-aid alliance of nearly 100 NC utilities who agree to help other utilities respond to and recover from emergencies. Cary regularly extends a helping hand to our neighbors when natural disasters or serious emergencies strike, to ensure reliable, high-quality water and wastewater services remain available to our region’s citizens; likewise, our regional partners are there for Cary if we need assistance. Joining NC WaterWARN enhances this utility assistance with a standard framework and legal protections.

Happenings on Capitol Hill

Last week, Sam Quinones, the author of Dreamland and expert on the nation’s opioid epidemic reached out to us to help prepare for providing testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Sam testified on Tuesday and while the Town of Cary is not mentioned, we were happy to help provide background for his written remarks, which can be read here.

Speaking of Washington, D.C., the Ferguson Group, our federal lobbyist team, provides a weekly summary of activities. We will begin providing these updates now and again to provide more contexts on our legislative agenda efforts.

Previewing Next Week

In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Town offices will be closed on Monday, January 15. As such, garbage, recycling and yard waste collection for all households will move one day later during the week. Our Citizen’s Convenience Center will be open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on January 15.

Additionally, SK-8 Cary and Cary Tennis Park will remain open.


Last Friday evening, I had the pleasure of participating in the Fire Recruits Graduation. I’m particularly thankful I was able to attend so that I could hear Captain Laird Van Gorden give remarks to the graduates. Captain Van Gorden beautifully described how our organization is going through a renaissance. You can read his remarks here.

The record breaking freezing temperatures over the last week have created some challenging conditions for water system operations. The Public Works Operations staff has responded to at least 12 water main break events over the last week, especially last weekend when the temperatures were at their lowest. Thanks to the work of dedicated staff from PW-Ops including Jim Hallowes, Davis Reynolds, Matt Wetherell, Bill Roy, Craig Hollister, Seth Burleson and the entire team, the breaks were managed by working around the clock over nights and weekends to minimize service disruptions to citizens. We are especially thankful for the quick response of the Public Works staff who managed these events so seamlessly and whose work protected the water system from widespread customer outages.

Emails From Citizens

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • Opposition to the Crabtree Crossing Extension (a Morrisville council decision)
  • Opposition to the White Oak rezoning.
  • A request for an update of the Google Fiber installation (they are planning to do about 20 miles a quarter. They are currently working off North Harrison and in West Cary).
  • A request for a downtown grocery (we don’t have authority to specify a type of business)
  • A complaint about leaf pickup.
  • A complaint about an issue with a water outage.
  • Opposition to the Weldon Ridge rezoning proposal.
  • A belief that Gen X is being put in the Cape Fear river in Fayetteville and would it impact our water (I have no knowledge of a dumping but Fayetteville is downstream)
  • Calling me a hypocrite since I am not opposed to fishing in Bond Lake.

Next week’s activities include a Wake County Mayors Association meeting, a taping of Cary Matters, several meetings with special interests, a CAMPO meeting, and an interview with a seventh grader.

Get In Touch

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, January 21st.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos by Google Maps and Hal Goodtree.