Cary, NC – This week was a typical council meeting week.
Monday – Hospitality Tax
Monday, I attempted to contact council members to hear of any questions or concerns about the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. The agenda was mostly public hearings so there were very few questions. Later in the day I met with key staff members and the Mayor Pro-Tem to go over the agenda. At that time, we believed the only public speakers would be with the Twyla Road public hearing.
My last meeting on Monday was with the Deputy Town Manager and the Mayor Pro-Tem. We mostly talked about the hotel occupancy and meals tax. Approximately $52 million in hotel/meals (“Hospitality”) tax revenue was generated in Cary from FY 2010 through FY2016, and I estimate we generated another $30 million plus in the last three years to make the ten-year total somewhere north of $80 million. During that ten years, Cary received $21 million in Hospitality Tax revenues. It is my sincere hope that the decision makers will use their new process of fairness in making the upcoming decisions. Cary has very significant requests that need to be strongly considered. I sent a letter to the Wake County Chair and Raleigh mayor (the decision makers) about my concerns.
Tuesday – Cary Towne Center
Tuesday, I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Bush in a meeting with the developers of the mall. They provided renderings of what they thought should go in the mall. I was very impressed with most of what was presented by expressed strong objections to one part of the design. They will continue gathering feedback as they present to other council members. We should see their redevelopment proposal move forward quickly. They expressed that they wanted to be built in less than five years. Two items that has generated questions are related to Dillard’s and Belk. Dillard’s announced that they were closing so one can only assume they are selling to the developers. Belk has a long-term lease and I don’t believe they are going anywhere. In fact, all the renderings I saw included a standalone Belk which had a beautiful redone façade. I had to leave the meeting after a little over an hour.
Next I had a taped interview with someone that will be disclosed later this year. I am looking forward to sharing this information in a couple of months. The taping lasted about 15 minutes.
Wednesday – 2019 Election
Wednesday, I attended a private event. While I am focused on my own election and plan not to get involved in other campaigns, I will attend campaign events from time to time.
Thursday – Cary Town Council Meeting
Thursday I was honored to meet some of the North Carolina Courage players at a reception held outside the council chambers. What a wonderful group of ladies. We very much appreciate them taking the time to visit and speak with adults and youth that admire them so much.
After the reception the council held its only council meeting of July. The agenda had three consent items, seven public hearings, no discussion items, and a closed session. At the beginning of the meeting we recognized a scout who in attendance. After the meeting I met with him briefly and had my picture made with him. After recognizing the scout we sang happy birthday to one of the North Carolina Courage players. Next I invited all the North Carolina Courage players, managers, and coaches to the podium for a presentation. I read a proclamation declaring July as North Carolina Courage month in Cary. It was a great time and great fun.
In the first part of the business portion of the meeting the town manager gave remarks about all the digging and gas leaks in town. He expressed how the town is unhappy with recklessness of some of the contractors and talked about how additional staff will be deployed to inspect and monitor digging. It should be pointed out that we have limited control of the digging of utility companies.
The public hearing for the Hoke and Said Annexation was pulled by the applicant so that they could work on issues with staff. We will have this public hearing in the future.
The public hearing for the bond referendum had no speakers and council approved three motions: authorization of an order for a transportation bond, authorization of an order for a parks bond, and the resolution calling for a bond referendum. The next step will be the vote in October.
The public hearing for the Twyla Road rezoning had one speaker concerned that the process was fixed towards the developer and residents who want the rezoning. Council members assured him this was not the case. This will come back to council after a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning board.
The Searstone rezoning had several speakers on behalf of the new owners advocating for the removal of the conservatory for additional residents. One resident spoke against because the new design would put a building up against his window which is not what was originally planned. Council comments focused on changes from the original plans in 2001 and how the grand vision had deteriorated over the years. This will now go to the Planning and Zoning board for their review and recommendation.
Before going into closed session, the council had other public hearings on annexations which were approved. The meeting adjourned after about an hour and a half.
Friday – Mayors Meeting
Friday, I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is the Executive Director’s summary of that meeting:
Brief OPENING remarks –
As the budget stalemate continues, the Generally Assembly continues to wrap up other business. It remains unclear what path the adjournment process will take at this point, with some mixed signals from the House that is still seeking votes to override the Governor’s veto of the budget and a Senate that appears to have little interest in staying in town much longer.
Please keep an eye out for action alerts as bills with unintended consequences or unexpected, last minute items may continue to pop up during the last days of the session. As we have seen, TIMELY phone calls from Mayors and city officials to members of the General Assembly have a huge impact on legislation. Thank you for your efforts.
TOPICS WILL INCLUDE:
Legislative Schedule and BUDGET – Adjournment and Veto override discussions continue
H966 – Budget
The budget remained on the House calendar all week with no attempts made to override the veto.
SJR688 – Adjournment Resolution
After passing its first reading in the Senate, no more action has been taken to adjourn until a certain date.
This resolution would allow for both chambers to adjourn on July 22 and reconvene on August 27th.
S68 – Relocation of Water/Sewer – referred to Rules
Would amend the municipal percentage cost for transportation projects paid by municipalities for the relocation of water and sewer lines from 100% to 50% for municipalities with a population 50,000 to 100,000. The 50% cost share category that is currently only available to cities of 25,000 to 50,000. It is zero municipal cost share for cities of 25,000 or less.
Amendment DISCUSSED IN THE COMMITTEE to change the bill to reduce the cost for cities of 25,000-50,000 to only 25% cost share. (Would add 21 cities to those benefiting from the bill)
The amendment was NOT voted on yet.
The only hiccup for this bill has encountered centered around a request in the Rule Committee for a fiscal impact note. Once the fiscal note is prepared and reviewed, we have been told the bill should continue moving forward from the Rules Committee and then to the House floor.
Nothing new to report
Nothing new to report
Local Revenues/ Local Control
S118 – Short Term Rentals/Airbnb Legislation. A Proposed Committee Substitute (this is a “strip and replace” bill) is NOT available online – early version of PCS is attached.
The original PCS of this bill contained a total preemption of local government ordinances – there have been some discussions with individual lobbyists that have resulted in some moderating of the TIMING of the preemption.
Legislators have HEARD from LOCAL OFFICIALS and HOTELIERS quite a bit about the way this bill has been pushed through with a lack of stakeholder discussions and research. There has been a request for stakeholder input for next week.
The bill has been discussed in a committee on TWO SEPARATE OCCASSIONS over the last two weeks – each time the sponsor pulled the bill in the face of a lot of questions from the committee members
It is very late in session for this bill to suddenly come up and is likely to continue to face strong opposition from legislators that support local governments as well as those that prefer legislation to be given careful and methodical review and consultation. BUT there continues to be a major push by a few influential members in the House. SO – continue to look out for ACTION ALERTS pertaining to possible preemption of local government authority to regulate STR.
H645 – Outdoor Advertising
We have continued to work with the billboard industry, the League of Municipalities, and other stakeholders to ensure that a bill that does the least harm to local control. Discussions have focused on how cities may treat a billboard that has been removed for a NC DOT transportation project on a state-owned road.
This bill is on the calendar to be heard on the Senate floor on Monday- appears to have the votes to pass just as it did in the House earlier.
There were very specific concerns raised from Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and their city lobbyist is working through the details to mitigate those concerns. A floor vote is expected to be taken on this coming Monday.
Filing for Cary Town Council ended at noon on Friday. Mayor Pro-Tem Bush and council member Frantz are unopposed. Congratulations to them. It is good to know that the council majority will return and the implementation of Cary citizens’ vision, the Cary Community Plan, will continue. I hope to be re-elected to a fourth term as mayor and will campaign to gain your vote.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included the following:
On Tuesday, we sent a letter from the Mayor to Raleigh and Wake elected officials formalizing our support for the current recommendations for how the hospitality tax revenues would be distributed. Additional outreach is planned for the next two weeks in anticipation of an August vote.
The Town held a successful general obligation bond sale on July 16. Ten bids were submitted, and the winning bidder, Morgan Stanley, submitted the lowest average rate of 2.18%. The highest rate was 2.24%, a difference of only 0.06%. Changing market conditions in the days leading up to the sale indicated rates would come in lower than the projection of 2.31% just a month ago. If Cary had sold bonds last September, the average rate would have been 3.25% so the changing interest rate markets have had a significant impact on this sale. The low rate of 2.18% will serve our citizens well for twenty years. The $16.05 million bond sale completes the borrowing authorized by the 2012 referendum and will fund fire, parks and transportation projects.
NC Courage Celebration
The Town of Cary celebrated and welcomed the NC Courage women’s professional soccer team for a public meet and greet prior to the council meeting. Fans enjoyed meeting the players and having items signs by their favorite players.
Artistic, informative and inspiring, this newly installed sign on the corner of Dry Avenue and S Dixon Avenue draws attention to the spirit of community and the benefits of green stormwater infrastructure in downtown Cary. It succinctly tells the decade-long journey of this homesite, the first property acquired under our residential drainage assistance program. The house was demolished, and the property preserved as open space before Cary converted it to a green stormwater infrastructure site by re-establishing the natural stream channel and floodplain to mitigate flooding and improve water quality in the surrounding area. The sign highlights this story and preserves the history for passersby.
Carpenter Fire Station Road Bridge and Intersection Improvements
On Friday, July 12, CSX Transportation, Inc. operated its first freight train along the new detour track located east of NC 55 within Historic Carpenter. This detour track was constructed as part of the Carpenter Fire Station Road Bridge and Intersection Improvements Project.
Per the construction agreement, CSX worked in tandem with Cary’s contractor, American Railroad Industries, overnight on Friday, July 12 through Saturday, July 13 to surface and compact the track to tie the new detour track to the existing mainline track. The detour track is necessary to create a working area for construction of the new bridge which will support the railroad tracks over the new roadway connection linking Morrisville Carpenter Road to Carpenter Fire Station Road at NC 55. Bridge construction is expected to begin later this summer.
Starting next week, minor geotechnical activity will begin at Fenton. The work will involve some minimal vegetation removal (a series of small 10-foot corridors within the site) to provide access to do soil borings. No clearing or grading is associated with this activity, and all site access will occur from Trinity Road. We expect this work to conclude in mid-August.
Cary’s in-car and body-worn cameras arrived this week, and installation is underway. Morrisville-based Mobile Communications America will be working on-site over the next several weeks installing WatchGuard car camera electronics. WatchGuard Technical Service Engineer Duane Brickel will visit from Texas next week to assist with the set-up and programming of our in-house server systems at the police department and police district substations. PD is excited about this new technology and looking forward to a full deployment.
Emily Barrett, Cary’s Sustainability Manager, was invited to be part of a National Science Foundation Practitioner-Led Urban Sustainability Symposium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This convening of municipal sustainability professionals and university researchers from across the U.S. had three goals:
- Draft a set of recommendations to the National Science Foundation on revisions/improvements to their $50M urban sustainability call for proposals;
- Craft guidance on meaningful researcher-practitioner partnerships; and
- Create a structure to implement researcher-practitioner partnerships through existing networks.
Barrett provided a perspective on today’s urban sustainability challenges in terms of balance – the need to balance the need for near-term wins with longer-term relationship building as well as the need to balance a natural tendency to seek technical solutions with a need to look for bigger and more systemic adaptive solutions.
Further, she encouraged those present to think in terms of “also-and” instead of “either-or.” These themes resonated with the group and were referenced several times during the convening. While the team is still finalizing its recommendations, there was an emphasis on a “people-first” approach, building capacity, operationalizing equity, looking across and beyond the boundaries of a city to include regional approaches, infrastructure transformation and disruption of structures and institutions.
Ten Ten Road Widening Project
NCDOT’s Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Ten Ten Road Widening Project has received a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) which means the road widening project will not have a significant effect upon the quality of the human and natural environment. EAs include evaluations of noise and air quality, archaeology, architectural history, biology, land-use planning and sociology. The FONSI allows the design to progress and is required for environmental permitting.
NCDOT plans to widen Ten Ten Rd from Apex Peakway to Kildaire Farm Road with construction set to begin in 2023. The Ten Ten Road Widening Project will address delay and congestion along the corridor. More project details including public meeting maps, schedule, and budget are on NCDOT’s project page. Cary is working closely with NCDOT and plans to contribute to the sidewalk betterments to improve pedestrian connectivity.
Transit Ridership Increases
GoCary just completed its busiest fiscal year since 2015. Preliminary totals indicate that the fixed routes handled over 225,000 passenger boardings in FY 2019, a nearly 8 percent increase over FY 2018 and a 14 percent increase over FY 2017. Route 6-Buck Jones led the way with a 13.4% year-over-year increase, and we also saw gains on Routes 3, 4, and 5. Routes 1 and 2 saw modest declines.
We also received results from a region-wide customer satisfaction survey conducted by CJI Research. GoCary received an overall customer satisfaction rating of “very good to excellent” from 75% of respondents, by far the highest of the four participating agencies (GoCary, GoRaleigh, GoDurham, and GoTriangle).
We hope to build on our success in FY 2020 with the new Route 7 on Weston Parkway, as well as an express route between Cary, Apex, and Holly Springs, funded through the Wake Transit Plan.
Reedy Creek Road Widening
Cary received right-of-way certification from NCDOT ahead of schedule for the Reedy Creek Road Widening project. The construction of two roundabouts, sidewalks and bike lanes will serve motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. These safety benefits will have a positive impact on the corridor, particularly with so many school children walking and biking to Reedy Creek Elementary and Middle Schools.
Right-of-way certification is required before construction authorization on federally funded projects. Once all easements and right-of-way acquisitions were acquired, preparing the package for review was a huge undertaking for staff who prepared over 350 files related to 66 parcels along Reedy Creek Road. Part of this success is related to the relationships Cary has built with NCDOT staff. As a result, we were able to work with NCDOT to review data as it became available. This prevented NCDOT from having to review all the files at once after the final package was submitted to them. The next step is to receive construction authorization from NCDOT.
Duke Energy has also verified the easements needed for their utility relocations. A utility coordination meeting was held on July 11, and Duke Energy stated that they will be mobilizing forces to perform work within 30 days. This gives the utility companies six months relocate their utilities before construction begins, thereby reducing construction conflicts.
Last year, Cary received a LAPP grant to help fund construction. While the grant was less than we had applied for, there was an opportunity to request additional funds. Over the past year, staff has kept CAMPO informed on the project’s status and our desire to request additional construction funds. In late June, staff officially requested an additional $3.7 million in LAPP funds. We’ve been notified that CAMPO will support our request, and the Executive Board will vote on the funding request in August.
Powell Bill Funding Request
In 1951, the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) passed a law to provide financial assistance to municipalities for street maintenance. State Senator Junius K. Powell, the former mayor of Whiteville, led the effort; hence the name “Powell Bill.” Funding provided through the Powell Bill helps cities and towns cover the costs of construction, maintenance, and repairs for the streets and sidewalks that they maintain. Until recently, funding came from revenues generated by the state gas tax and other highway user fees. In 2015, the General Assembly repealed the statutory formula linking Powell Bill funds to the gas tax and instead made the allocations subject to annual state budget appropriations. The disbursement for each municipality continues to be based on a formula set by the NCGA: 75 percent of the funds are awarded based on population, and 25 percent of the funds are based on the number of street miles each municipality maintains.
To receive funding, each municipality must establish its eligibility annually by submitting a certified statement, street listing and a certified Powell Bill map to NCDOT. In 2018, Cary maintained 485.25 street miles, had a state-estimated population of 159,006 and was allocated $3,886,278.02 in Powell Bill funding.
This week, staff successfully submitted Cary’s 2019 Powell Bill documents, including the map, to NCDOT. Since 2018, the number of street miles that Cary maintains has increased by 6.87 miles, bringing the total number of street miles that Cary maintains to 492.12. Powell Bill funds are distributed in two installments, one by October 1 and the other by January 1.
Mentoring through Basketball
Officer Patrick Fox recently participated in Balling 4 Brotherhood as part of the YM4C Mentor program hosted by the Taylor Family YMCA. Balling 4 Brotherhood engages young people, community leaders, and public servants from around the Triangle to build relationships through a mutual love of basketball.
Traffic Signal Construction Begins
After nearly a decade of studies, countless conversations with residents, multiple posts on NextDoor, and two bid advertisements, construction is beginning on Cary’s next traffic signal at the intersection of Weston Parkway and Sheldon Parkway/Weston Estates. The signal will include metal mast arms, nearly half a mile of fiber optic cable, a CCTV camera and accommodations for future transit stops. The project is scheduled to be completed by next spring.
All-Way Stop Coming Soon
Downtown area residents reached out over the last year concerning safety improvements at the intersection of West Park Street at Williams Street/S Dixon Avenue. After reviewing crash data and conducting multiple field investigations, staff from multiple departments collaborated on finding a solution. In the next few weeks, area residents will see multiple safety improvements that will benefit both drivers and pedestrians including include stop signs with placards on all approaches, advanced warning signs and painted stop bars. The improvements should not only be a benefit to drivers approaching the intersection, but to pedestrians as well.
Business Outreach – Parkside Town Commons
The Cary Police Department met on July 18 with Parkside Town Commons businesses to hear their concerns and to discuss crime trends. This monthly meeting was started in 2014 to facilitate the exchange of information between the Police Department, Kite Realty and the businesses that make up this retail experience. The meetings were started when there were only nine businesses in the complex. There are approximately 60 businesses with more to follow. During this meeting, members of the Citizens Assisting Police (CAP team) spoke about their involvement with the Downtown Ambassador Program for which the CAP team serves as a liaison between downtown businesses and the Police Department. Paul Wolf of the CAP team explained how the program will expand to Parkside Town Commons in the future.
Downtown Pedestrian Challenges Studied
On July 12, Steve Wilkins, Kyle Hubert, David Spencer, Luana Deans and Megan Palmer from Transportation & Facilities, PD and the Manager’s office, met with three residents to discuss downtown pedestrian needs. Avid walkers, Joy and Justin Bunch and Lindsey Chester shared their daily experiences as they walked their regular routes. The group walked together through the downtown, assessing sidewalks and crossings, discussing traffic laws and brainstorming potential projects. The group came up with several low-cost project ideas to explore further to improve pedestrian safety.
What if you could build a better world? Where would you begin?
This is the challenge a Cary Robotics team, the Galactic Piggies, is facing in their next competition (http://www.firstnorthcarolina.org/). The ambitious group of seventh graders reached out to Cary to learn about city planning and met with Luana Deans in Transportation and Facilities and Justin Bucher in Planning. Their discussion ranged from how Cary plans for future growth to Smart Cities and autonomous vehicles. Their visit culminated with a trip to the Traffic Management Center.
Congratulations to the Cary Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department’s Bronco-National All-Star team. The team won the championship in the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association (NCRPA) Statewide Athletics Committee (SWAC) 12Under sectional tournament in Asheboro July 12-14 with three wins and no losses. Best of luck this weekend in the NCRPA SWAC 12U State Tournament in Youngsville.
Advisory Board Meetings
Mon, 7/22, 6:30pm
Town Hall Council Chambers
Wed, 7/24, 6pm
Koka Booth Ampitheatre
Emails From Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A concern about trees (Cary has some of the strongest tree protection ordinances in the state. We continue to look for ways to protect more of our environment. At the same time the North Carolina legislative majority continues to erode our authority to do so.)
- A complaint about utility contractor digging (Staff continues to work with utility contractors about issues)
- A concern about gas leaks (We are very concerned about these and have sent extra inspectors and supervisors to watch over utility digging crews)
- A complaint about council’s remarks on the Searstone proposal to rezone (Council provides feedback to all developers at public hearings when needed)
- Next week’s activities include staff meetings, Diwali dance practice, an interview with the local newspaper, and a trip to New York.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 28th. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.