Harold’s Blog: Fair Housing, Project Updates and More

Cary, NC — The only scheduled meetings I had this week were staff meetings which were canceled.

I should point out that I have had no in-person meetings or events since March except for required council meetings. With no “ceremonial duties”, my schedule continues to be light. As a result, I will take this opportunity to provide some information and updates instead of daily summaries.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Policy

I received an email regarding the Town’s position on the Booker/AFFH policy. Staff’s summary of our position included:

“… To start, the original Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule was not designed to explicitly change zoning rules. It was an attempt to help communities be more holistic when examining their housing and community development practices.

At its core, neither the AFFH or Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice have the ability to “enforce” anything – jurisdictions are asked to outline practices that have the potential to be a barrier to the protected classes then explain what they intend to do to remove those barriers.

That can include updating zoning rules but it can also include translating documents into different languages so that information is more accessible, hosting trainings for landlords so they’re aware of anti-discrimination laws and tenant rights, and a number of other activities that are unique to each community.

Cary just completed our Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice earlier this year in partnership with the City of Raleigh and Wake County. (It is still considered a draft as we await feedback from HUD).

As for the proposed update from former Vice President Biden, it wouldn’t drastically change what’s already being implemented in Cary. As previously mentioned, the Imagine Cary Community Plan has already addressed our strategy to thoughtfully update our zoning to increase economic and housing development in the community.

We’ve created a new housing rehabilitation program to help prevent the displacement of our older and lower-income residents, started a comprehensive housing study to ensure activities are consistent with the needs of our residents, and continually invest dollars into new housing that serves diverse populations (incomes and housing types). Further, the State of North Carolina is not a Home Rule state, leaving some of these zoning decisions up to the State legislature.

We don’t have an official position on either ruling. We’re proactively changing our practices as we talk with residents, nonprofits, the faith-based community, and local developers. That feedback along with our data enables us to be consistent with both options. …”

The following are staff updates on significant projects of interest in the town.

Rebranding

This project has been restarted and the consultant will have draft logo designs and messages for review by the EDC in the next 90 days. The project will finish with implementation beginning in 2021.

Fenton Development

A screen image from the July 27, 2020 virtual meeting of Cary’s Planning and Zoning Board.

Clearing and grading of the Fenton site continued through Q3. The developer expects to begin vertical construction in July 2020 with the first phase of the development, including Wegmans, opening in November 2021.

The first phase of Fenton, approximately one million square feet, will include 365,000 square feet of retail (currently over 50 percent leased), 150,000 square feet of office space, 354 residential dwelling units and a 175-room boutique hotel.

Academy Park Place

On February 20, Council unanimously approved a downtown development project that will create both mixed-use residential and mixed-use commercial products on the Cary-owned property around the recently-completed parking deck next to the Cary Regional Library.

This project is the last component in finalizing the plans for the Downtown Park block. The development team plans to commence construction in Fall 2020.

Downtown Park

The consultant is in the final phases of preparing designs to be approved by the Town Council this Fall. This project is still on schedule. Construction has begun on the stormwater facility that will serve the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Old Library Site

The week of February 24 was bittersweet as Cary witnessed the demolition of the previous Cary Library. Many shed tears as the library once seemed to be a permanent fixture on Academy Street. This parcel now provides an opportunity for more new and exciting things in downtown.

Demolition was the first step in the redevelopment of the site, and the next will be the issuance of an RFP which will now occur in 2021 as a hoped-for economic recovery ensues.

Jordan Project (Harrison and Chatham)

Project is approved. No additional update at this time as construction doesn’t begin until 2022 due to the creation of additional stormwater facilities and the approvals which are needed beforehand from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Cary Town Center/ Indoor Community Recreation Center

Currently negotiating for purchase of a parcel for the recreation center and working to approve their Phase 1 Development plan for the Center. Construction slated to begin this Fall.

Cary was successful with its proposal to Wake County for hotel occupancy funding for a future Indoor Community Sports Complex to be located at the Cary Towne Center site. In February, both Wake County and City of Raleigh approved $35 million in funding to be allotted over 25 years for this new facility.

The monies are on hold due to COVID but will be accessible again at some point in the next couple years.

Accolades

State Utility Annual Awards

The Town of Cary and staff brought home multiple awards.

  • Large Water System of the Year
  • Overall Water System of the Year
  • Large Wastewater Collection System of the Year
  • Police Re-Accreditation.

Cary PD Accredited 9-Years-Running

On November 15, 2019, the Cary Police Department received its ninth consecutive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Awarded at CALEA’s annual conference, accreditation recognizes the police department’s commitment to meeting almost 400 standards for public safety professional excellence. CALEA first accredited the Cary Police Department in 1992.

Master List of Accolades

#1 Safest City in the United States (Cary) — HomeSnacks, February 2019

#1 Best City for Raising a Family in NC (Cary) — WalletHub, June 2019

#1 Best State for Business (North Carolina) — Forbes, 2019

#1 Most Connected City in North Carolina (Cary) — CenturyLink, 2019

#1 State for Economic Growth Potential in The US (North Carolina) — Business Facilities, 2019

#2 Healthiest Housing Market in North Carolina (Cary) — SmartAsset, 2019

#2 Metro to Watch for Overall Real Estate Prospects in 2020 (Raleigh-Cary) — Urban Land Institute, 2019

#2 Best Tech Town in the United States (Raleigh-Cary) – CompTIA, 2019

#3 in the US & #1 in NC for Job Seekers Over 50 (Cary) — GoBankingRates, 2019

#4 Best Place to Live in the US (Cary) — HomeSnacks, March 2019

Cary Tennis Park received the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) highest facility honor as the winner of the 2019 Featured Facility Award

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week includes:

Manager’s Message to Council

“The Governor’s Executive Order to prohibit utility disconnections in the wake of COVID-19 expired on Wednesday. Prior to the Order being issued, Cary suspended disconnections, late fees, and nonpayment fees related to utility services to ensure that our residents and businesses have access to essential utilities.

The need to support our community continues despite the expiration of the Governor’s protections. Please know, staff is finalizing a plan that will continue to protect our citizens and businesses during this health and economic crisis, and no one’s Cary utilities will be disconnected until after I accept, and we abundantly publicize the plan.

With the evolving forecast for Hurricane Isaias, staff is monitoring conditions and making all necessary preparations. Public Safety, in coordination with the EOC, 311, and Public Works will continue to monitor throughout the weekend and pivot as changing conditions may warrant.

Have a great weekend.

Sean”

Quarry Update

Earlier this week we were notified of the following decisions by N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for Wake Stone Corporation and Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA):

DEQ has asked for additional information in their ongoing review of Wake Stone Corporation mining modification permit. They have given Wake Stone Corporation 180 days to respond. The DEQ response to Wake Stone is available here and linked on our website.

The DEQ Division of Water Resources has denied a buffer authorization request by the RDUAA for a proposed enhanced security perimeter fence. After reviewing the application and additional information provided, the Division has determined that the proposed impact to riparian buffers does not fit in the table of uses. The RDUAA decision letter is available here.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Weekly Report

Click here for the EOC/COVID-19 weekly update. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Highlights of the update:

  • Cases in Cary: 865, up 100 from 765, or 13%, since, July 24.
  • Although Cary has the second highest population among the municipalities, Cary now has the second-fewest COVID-19 cases, 5.03 per 1000 population in that group.
  • Cary continues to see an increase in positive cases this week. Wake County saw a 24% increase in the number of COVID-related deaths, which was the same as the increase from the previous week. One additional death was reported within Cary’s four primary zip codes.
  • Cases and deaths by Cary zip code through July 30th:
    • 27511: 263 cases and 3 deaths
    • 27513: 243 cases and 1 death
    • 27518: 100 cases and 0 deaths
    • 27519: 265 cases and 3 deaths
  • PD Compliance calls and 311 COVID cases have tapered off, with only 7 and 2 calls, respectively, from 7/24 to 7/29.

Operational Framework & Update

This week in the weekly operational framework team email from Deputy Town Manager Russ Overton, an update was provided to staff on work that is being conducted on Town Hall campus. Next week, contractors will begin reinforcing the pedestrian bridge, and later this month, the Administration Building will be wired for a generator hook-up to support our resiliency efforts in the event of a loss of power. It is encouraging to see projects such as these continue to move forward.

The weekly operational report brings a close to the week’s activities outside of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Please take a moment to review the weekly operational report.

Departmental Updates

Included below is a summary-level overview of the operational activities continuing to take place during this health emergency.

  • Preparations are underway for Cary’s first virtual ZBOA meeting, which will occur on August 3. This meeting will serve as the board’s social in preparation for a second meeting on August 17to hear its first virtual quasi-judicial cases for Fifth Thirds Bank at Searstone and Triangle Montessori Academy.
  • This week, Cary’s response rate for the 2020 Census reached 75%, which matches the response rate for 2010. We continue to work to ensure a complete count of our population, with the goal of an 82% response rate.
  • A new Code Compliance app was deployed this week to help pull together the various code enforcement groups, including Development Compliance, Minimal Housing, and Public Works efforts. This app will help consolidate our compliance efforts and allow us to better track the enforcement processes.
  • USA Baseball opened their season this week at the National Training Complex in Cary, with 14 teams full of college and MLB-bound baseball stars battling for a 17-and-under national title. This tournament was featured in the N&O.
  • The Town Manager’s Office participated in multiple meetings with citizens, as well as members of the Sierra Club, with interests in the preservation and planting of trees. These have been very productive meetings about potential partnerships to advance educational and incentive opportunities related to trees and green infrastructure.
  • Duke Energy and Dynamhex have invited Cary to be part of a unique short-term pilot using a digital platform to visualize energy use, drive performance, and create demand for energy reduction projects in Cary. Dynamhex uses spatial data, mathematical modeling, and intuitive analytics to make information more personal so that cities and people living within them can access solutions to transition to a low-carbon future. Dynamhex is a clean-tech startup company that was part of the 2020 Charlotte-based Joules Accelerator Class, which identifies promising companies in the clean-tech sector and offers support and advice from industry leaders like SAS, Google, Trane, and Duke Energy.
  • The Town Manager’s Office met with citizens, as well as the local non-profit Toward Zero Waste to discuss partnership opportunities to help citizens reduce food waste. During the waste characterization study last year, food waste was identified as contributing 27% toward waste in Cary. Following the meeting, staff reached out to Wake County to discuss options to expand composting programs across the county. Wake County currently has 4 sites including Convenience Center #2 at 6120 Old Smithfield Road, Apex, and is open to discussing the possibility of piloting another drop-site in or near Cary.
  • The Town took ownership this week of the flooded structures at 113 and 117 Jodhpur. Staff is beginning the process of contracting for demolition and restoration of the properties, including revegetation.
  • With recent heavy rain events, stormwater and IT continue to improve on the dashboard, monitor results and calibrate the sensors in the Walnut Creek Basin to ensure we receive high-quality, usable data. View the latest version of the dashboard here. More to come when SAS unveils their stormwater dashboard with extended capabilities.
  • A reauthorized Neuse Buffer Rule (15 A NCAC 02B .0714) became effective June 15, which offers beneficial changes to utilities construction and maintenance as well as some changes in terminology and processes. Certain projects will now be accelerated because notification and approval processes are no longer required by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). Additional information on the new rule is available here. Notable changes include:
    • The maximum maintained utility easement width thresholds have been increased, meaning that some projects that formerly required written approval may proceed without notification.
    • A special provision for streambank stabilization projects associated with protection of existing utility lines allows such projects to proceed without agency notification or approval; and
    • The process for variances (now referred to as “Exceptions”) has been streamlined, and the criteria for approval have been made more achievable.
  • Bridges and culverts are key components of our transportation system that provide connectivity over waterways, greenways and other obstacles. Every two years, we participate in a biannual bridge inspection program that is administered by NCDOT. Under this program, 22 of our bridges and culverts that span a minimum distance of 20-feet are inspected in accordance with Federal standards. Bridge inspections for 2020 have been completed and earlier this week staff from Public Works, Transportation & Facilities and Stormwater met virtually with inspectors to review bridge inspection reports and recommended maintenance activities. Maintenance activities are underway, and each bridge inspection report has been listed in the Catalog.
  • Over the next two weeks, our Utilities staff are helping to make the first ever NCAWWA-WEA Virtual Wastewater Operator Schools a success. The schools are an important training opportunity for operators across the state and meet the requirements for applicants to test for licensure. Due to COVID-19, NC-AWWA/WEA had to pivot quickly to a virtual format, and Cary staff stepped up to the challenge.

It’s not every day we get to use a new tool to improve how we support Cary’s citizens. Davis Reynolds and his water quality team had just that type of opportunity earlier this week. In helping a citizen diagnose a water issue related to building plumbing system, it was important to monitor the condition of water service piping on both the public and private sides of the meter.

After completing several water tests, it was necessary to physically inspect the interior pipe condition. After removing the meter, a special camera was used to troubleshoot the issues and was able to conclusively identify the piping problem.

While cameras have been used for a wide range of applications, this was a first for our team in using a camera to physically inspect a smaller diameter water service line. The application worked great and is certain to be used more in the future.

After years of recording water treatment testing data on manual bench sheets, the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility (CAWTF) laboratory went live with their first ever laboratory information management system (LIMS)earlier this year and have continued to refine system operations.

The lab utilizes this online software to manage all aspects of their regulatory and process control testing representing over 50,000 water test results annually. Electronic bench sheets that upload directly to the LIMS have been created and the lab plans on completely transitioning from paper bench sheets in the coming months.

Laboratory Supervisor, Rachel Monschein, and her team are also working on finalizing electronic uploads to NC Public Water Supply and EPA portals for simplified regulatory reporting.
This week, Purchasing announced the Town’s purchase order (PO)process is now completely digital.

Moving to a digital PO will make the entire PO process much more efficient as it replaces several manual steps (paper touching) on the Purchasing side and reduces the potential for unnecessary delays in getting PO’s signed and distributed.

P&Z Virtual Meeting

The first virtual Planning & Zoning Board meeting was held on Monday. The board heard three cases, Fenton, Silverton PDD, and the Young Property; all were recommended unanimously for approval. Many staff members put in a tremendous amount of work for this event, but I would like to give a special thanks to Katie Drye, Julie Mitchell, and Ryann Norris for their work.

Cary 101

The 2019 graduating class from Cary 101.

This year’s Cary 101 participants were contacted to gauge their interest in a virtual version of the program, which was deferred due to COVID-19. Out of 24 individuals that had been selected to participate in this year’s citizen academy, 21 participated in the short survey.

Data suggests that participants would prefer the hands-on experience of a traditional in-person format; however, depending on future circumstances, virtual programming could be an option. Staff will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of each approach.

All participants selected for this year’s program will be automatically included in the class if they are still interested and able to attend when the program moves forward. Responses were thoughtful and included helpful feedback such as, “As much as I am looking forward to this program, I think the Town of Cary and government employees need to use their time helping the community get through this time, that should be the highest priority.”

CCTV Camera Coverage Expansion Project

This project continues to move forward at a rapid pace. During the month of July, we have installed over 30 of the project’s 45 cameras. Critical locations are coming online including the intersection of Chapel Hill Rd (NC 54) and Aviation Pkwy/Morrisville-Carpenter Rd in Morrisville.

This is a very important intersection that sees high volumes as well as some safety concerns due to the impact of the railroad tracks on the west side of the intersection. This installation required significant effort from staff since the gravel from the railroad tracks covered and filled our existing infrastructure. But the view was worth it.

Cary Bond Projects Submitted for Funding Strategy

Two transportation bond projects are being submitted for NCDOT’s SPOT 6.0 funding: Green Level Church Rd (McCrimmon to Kit Creek); and O’Kelly Chapel Rd (Stonecroft to NC 55)Projects funded in SPOT 6.0 will be added to NCDOT’s next State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) 2023-2032.SPOT funding is highly competitive, and this year with NCDOT’s financial issues, there is less money available.

However, contributing local funds increase a project’s odds and makes the Town eligible for Bonus Allocation funds. To increase Cary’s likelihood of getting state funding, staff proposes to contribute Town dollars to the proposed SPOT projects. If the Town contributes local funding, we’ll receive 50% of our local contribution back (i.e. Bonus Allocation) for another project.

For example, if both projects score well in SPOT 6.0, we could receive up to 20% of costs ($4,940,000) that would reduce our bond needs and $9,880,000 in bonus allocation from NCDOT could be used for another future project in Cary. SPOT 6.0 results are expected in May 2022 when the draft 2023-2032 STIP is released.

Additional Information of Interest

I’ve found the following article to be particularly interesting this week and wanted to share with you for your reading pleasure:

Reimagining Capitalism in the Shadow of the Pandemic, Harvard Business Review

Get in Touch

Mayor Weinbrecht in a pre-COVID-19 meeting of the Cary Town Council.

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • A complaint from a Sierra Club member about the lack of Carbon Reduction initiatives (Please see EAB Carbon Reduction Recommendations that we have been implementing)
  • A complaint about venues allowing weddings.
  • A question about when the 2nd Wegmans will open in the Fenton (Scheduled for late 2021)
  • Complaints about masks being required (NOT an option! This is a State mandate that I support)
  • A question about whether or not I write my journal. (Yep, since I was elected in 2007. I also write my State of Cary addresses.)
  • A complaint that some gyms are using medical waivers to allow use. The complaint alleges that all you have to do is say it is a medical waiver. (This is very unfortunate and puts many lives at risk.)
  • A request to celebrate India Independence (I haven’t participated in any in-person events since March with the exception of council meetings that are required. I will continue this practice indefinitely.)

Sometimes we are blessed to come across some incredible people in our lives. People that some refer to as “Angels Amongst Us”. One of those angels is Cary mail carrier, Chris Peterson, whose actions saved the lives of two people. The following proclamation was in honor of Chris:

Proclamation recognizing the heroic efforts of Mail Carrier Chris Peterson

“Whereas, the American postal system was created in 1775, preceding the birth of our country, when there was a critical need for a reliable and secure system for the exchange of information and delivery of correspondence;

Whereas, the United States Postal Services is a national government entity, but the impacts of the individual postal carriers are felt locally, many times knowing the well-being and birthdays of the people they serve;

Whereas, Chris Peterson, a Cary mail carrier, through his knowledge of his route noticed when a mailbox gave the appearance of it not being checked for an extended period of time;

Whereas, Peterson took it upon himself to the call police, sensing something was wrong, and ultimately saved the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Turner through his outstanding judgement and prompt action;

Whereas, in addition to all who know the Turner’s, the community is grateful to know there are public servants, such as Peterson, who are the everyday heroes, keeping a watch over us;

Now, Therefore, I Harold Weinbrecht, Jr. Mayor of the Town of Cary, North Carolina, on behalf of the Cary Town Council and the citizens of Cary, do hereby commend Chris Peterson, and expresses it warm appreciation and sincere gratitude for his heroic actions in saving lives.”

Activities for next week include staff meetings, a zoom presentation to an HOA, and a virtual Cary Chamber Economic Development meeting.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 9th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communicating 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. Images by Ashley Kairis and the Town of Cary staff.

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