Harold’s Blog: Fenton Permits, Virtual Diwali, Greenway Murals and More

Cary, NC — This week was one of the busiest weeks I have had in a while.

Meeting with Cary Officials & Wake County Mayors

Monday I contacted each council member to hear of their concerns or questions about Thursday’s agenda. Council members commented on the Booth Amphitheater management agreement, the Chandler Cove rezoning public hearing and the creation of a Senior Advisory Board.

Later in the day I met with management, directors and the Mayor Pro-Tem to go over the agenda. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

Following the agenda meeting, I met with the town manager for our weekly one-on-one. Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz also joined us virtually. Topics included environmental initiatives and the political environment. Our meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Monday night I attended a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. In attendance were the mayors of Holly Springs, Morrisville, Fuquay Varina, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell, and Cary. A lot of our discussion focused on public reaction to the length of the pandemic.

Some mayors said they were getting lots of nasty emails and calls about all sorts of issues (been there done that!). The mayors themselves mirror thoughts on COVID-19 throughout in the county. That is, some mayors do not attend these meetings in person and others believe the pandemic is blown out of proportion.

Each of the mayors also talked about construction developments in their towns. All noted that developments are on par or up from last year. Our meeting lasted about 2 ½ hours.

20th Cary Diwali Celebration Held Virtually

A local group showcases a traditional Indian dance at the 2017 Diwali Celebration at Koka Booth Amphitheater.

Tuesday I participated in a virtual celebration of the 20th Diwali Celebration. Hum Sub has grown this event from a few hundred to 12,000 to 15,000.

Hum Sub is a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing the social and cultural traditions of India with residents of the area. While we will miss having Diwali this year at the Booth Amphitheater, we look forward to next year’s celebration.

CAMPO Discusses Regional Transportation Projects

Wednesday I attended a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board. The agenda included 3 public hearings and 3 discussion items. Some of the notable points proposed at public hearings included:

  • The I-540 project to complete the loop has been accelerated by 7 years
  • 76 SPOT (long range) projects have been delayed
  • US-64 superstreet project from US-1 to Laura Duncan has been delayed until 2029
  • The future Western BRT which will go from Western Boulevard, along the future Western Boulevard Extension, on Cary Town Boulevard, on SE Maynard and down Chatham Street.

One notable point decided upon during discussion was a fund swap with NCDOT and CAMPO, which will allow LAPP projects to start right away. The meeting concluded after about an hour and a half.

Town to Save $8.3 Million Over Next 23 Years

Thursday the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of October. The agenda included a financial update, 8 consent items, 1 public hearing, and 1 discussion item.

In the financial update we were notified that sales tax revenue for July was up 13% from 2019. This follows the sales tax revenue from June that was also significantly above last year. We were also told that with the sale of bonds, we will save $8.3 million over the next 23 years.

The public hearing was for a rezoning in Chandler Cove. The applicant wants to rezone about an eighth of an acre from recreational to single family. This is so the lot would be more uniform with other lots.

The adjoining neighbors have been in support of this rezoning. This will go to the Planning and Zoning Board for their review and recommendation and return to council for a decision at a future date.

Under discussion, the council created a Senior Advisory Board to be a think tank on Senior issues. Staff recommended that this board be filled at the beginning of the year or later. The council then held a closed session before adjourning the meeting after an hour and a half.

Obama Mayor’s Pledge Update

The town manager submitted our 90-day report of the Mayor’s Pledge this week:

Purpose

The Town exists to serve everyone with dignity, respect and fairness. The Mayor’s Pledge project complements these values by taking steps in evaluating Cary Police Department’s use of force policies and systemic racism within law enforcement.

This project serves a dual purpose in also creating an avenue for the public to learn how the Cary Police Department strives to develop meaningful relationships with citizens and actively engages with the community.

Background

On June 3, 2020, Mayor Weinbrecht signed former President Obama’s Commit to Action pledge to review police use of force policies. Shortly thereafter, Town Manager Sean R. Stegall recommended staff to form the Initial Review Team.

On August 13, 2020, Assistant Town Manager Dan Ault presented a project status update to Town Council which outlined a four-phased approach: Review, Engage, Report, and Reform, which are outlined below.

Top Big 3

The Initial Review Team meets weekly and has begun the review phase of the project, which is expected to last well into the winter.

The group has reviewed current police department programs and services, is reflecting on the 21st Century Policing Framework, and will soon dive into the content of the Town’s use of force policies and police standards.

Following analysis, the team will engage with a variety of inter-departmental review groups. These groups will be educated on the Cary Police Department programs, services, and policies as they exist now and asked to provide input on use of force policies and future engagement opportunities.

Following engagement within our organization, the Initial Review Team anticipates a series of engagement opportunities with the community.

Initial Review Team Members

In developing an interdisciplinary team to guide this project from beginning to end, it was important to identify individuals who share a common purpose and diverse perspectives.

A group of seven were recommended by Town Manager Sean R. Stegall for this project:

  • Dan Ault, Assistant Town Manager/Chief Innovation Officer
  • Kerry Harville, Director of Special Projects
  • Carla Witherington, Community Engagement & Special Projects Manager
  • Carolyn Roman, Services Design Coordinator
  • John Reeves, Police Department Public Relations Officer
  • Montravias King, Town Manager’s Office Intern
  • Inga Kennedy, Founder of Planners for Environmental Quality (PEQ) firm

While this group will establish a foundation for conversations, the project potential is only realized when additional staff expertise is brought in periodically in an ad-hoc/advisory role, including but not limited to Human Relations and Diversity & Inclusion staff.

Project Framework (estimated)

1. Review–July 2020 –February 2021

  • Initial Review Team formed – DONE
  • Initial Review Team obtained access to the use of force policy and supporting information – DONE
  • Initial Review Team educated on Cary’s Police Department structure, general orders, rules of engagement, and community engagement efforts – DONE
  • Initial Review Team policy review
  • Staff Review Groups established
  • Staff Review Groups police department education session
  • Staff Review Groups policy collaborative review
  • Initial Review Team discuss and consider internal staff recommended changes

2. Engage–March 2021 –August 2021

  • Education session with Human Relations, Inclusion, and Diversity Task Force
  • Develop a comprehensive engagement plan with the Human Relations, Inclusion, and Diversity Task Force
  • Hold community engagement session(s)

3. Report–September 2021

  • Compile community input from stakeholders and construct report
  • Develop staff report with recommended changes4.Reform–November 2022
  • Present policy revision recommendation to Town Council
  • Implement policy change5.Evaluate–June 2022
  • Evaluate data points in Summer 2022
  • Continuous evaluation

Expectations for Information Sharing

During the life of the project, information is readily available in the following ways:

This project remains dynamic in nature and subject to responsible pivots as it evolves.

Next Step

The group will continue meeting weekly for internal review, and updates will be provided quarterly.

Town Manager Report

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

Manager’s Message to Council

“Today in a meeting with some Executive Team members I spent time reflecting on many things we accomplished this week. It was a busy and productive week in our organization. You will see in The News & Observer that staff responded to media inquiries this week about the public comment period for the Downtown Multimodal Project. Other weekly operational updates can be found in the Weekly Operational Report.

In yesterday’s Manager’s Update I stated that staff submitted Cary’s initial 90-day report to the Obama Foundation, and a copy of the report can be read here.

Stay safe this weekend,

Sean”

2020 Government Innovation Award

Cary received the 2020 Government Innovation Award for our work on the North Carolina flood prediction project, powered by SAS IoT analytics and Microsoft Azure cloud. The awards are a celebration of government information technology’s disruptors, innovators and emerging leaders and are presented by FCW, GCN, Washington Technology and Defense Systems.

SAS describes the project and award on their website. Jim Goodnight, SAS CEO, shared about the award saying that SAS is proud to call the Town of Cary home and to partner with a leader in the innovative use of analytics and smart cities technologies.

This award is another example of how Cary is approaching stormwater through an adaptive lens. We are proud of everyone, including our residents, who have been involved in making us better.

Weekly Operational Report

The weekly operational report brings a close to the week’s organizational activities. Please take a moment to review the weekly operational report.

Departmental Updates

The line on the first day of early voting at Cary’s Herb Young Community Center.

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

  • Early voting turnout in Cary continues to climb, and out of twenty Wake County early voting locations the Herb Young Community Center is the second busiest with 11,360 voters in the first week.
  • The FY 2021 adopted budget documents are now available on Cary’s website.
  • This week Cary participated in two refinancing bond sales for General Obligation and Revenue bonds. The bond sales will generate $8.3 million dollars of reduced debt service for next 23 years. Most of the savings will benefit the utility fund based on projects financed by the original debt.
  • In recognition of October being Global Diversity Awareness Month, staff is invited to join one another on Thursday, October 29 at 9:00am for this month’s Rap Session to learn about and discuss intersectionality.
  • Human Resources recently partnered with WakeMed to offer a four-week Strengthen Your Support Program for our employee’s mental and emotional well-being. The program ended October 9 and participants submitted their completion information to WakeMed by October 16. Approximately half of the participants who finished the program expressed they felt supported and provided positive feedback.
  • Online public participation for the Downtown Cary Multi-Modal Transit Facility is currently underway. The public comment period runs through October 30 and allows citizens to learn more about the facility plus share their ideas and preferences for the project.
  • Cary joined water utilities, communities, and organizations across the country in the sixth annual Imagine a Day Without Water, on October 21.Staff participated in the virtual event by following social media and forums focused on education of the value of water, and advocacy for investment in our nation’s water systems.
  • After 6 years of continuous operation a condition assessment was recently performed on the West Reedy Branch Sewer Interceptor that included the evaluation of 30 manholes and a video inspection of the interior of the pipeline. No major issues were identified with the assessment, and the pipeline was found to be in very good condition.
  • Recently plans were resubmitted for two Cary capital projects to the Development Review Committee for review. One was the Higgins Greenway and the other was Carpenter Fire Station Neighborhood Park. Plans were also submitted for the Downtown Park Office Space upfit on the lower level of the library for a building permit.
  • Work is beginning next week on redecking two boardwalks on the White Oak Creek Greenway. Both boardwalks are between Interstate 540 and Green Level Church Road and will require weekday closures. The construction plan is to reopen on weekends and work will take until Spring 2021 to complete. Signage was placed at each end of the boardwalk last week alerting users, and a webpage was created with additional information.
  • Staff presented a high-level summary of the Chapel Hill Road Mobility Study to the Cary Chamber Board of Directors on October 21. The Chamber is uniquely situated between two active Cary projects, the Chapel Hill Road Mobility Study and the proposed Multi-Modal Station Site. The Chamber requested that staff give more detail on both studies at a future breakfast event.
  • Routine biannual inspection of the Hinshaw Green pedestrian bridge going over US 1/64 is scheduled for Wednesday, October 28. This inspection will be performed at night between the hours of 9:00 pm and 5:00 am to minimize impact to the public using the road. There will be lane closures in both the east and west bound direction.
  • There are currently 375 building permits in the queue for routing and review. The number of building permits applications for October is 28.5 applications per day which is up from the average of 28 for July, August, and September.
  • There are 37 development plans that are being reviewed by Cary staff. Carolina Yards, formerly Cary Towne Center, has three development plans under review for infrastructure as well as plans for multiple building locations.
  • Cary was named a Finalist in the Public Sector Project category for the 2020 NC TECH Awards –Virtual Beacons, North Carolina’s annual statewide awards program recognizing innovation, growth and leadership in the tech sector each year. Winners will be announced live during the NC TECH Awards Virtual Awards Show that will take place on the afternoons of November 17, 18 and 19 at 4:00pm.
  • Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources continues to offer virtual programming, with close to one hundred programs being offered October through December. Registration information is available on myCary.

Fenton Vertical Construction Approved

The first building permit for vertical construction at Fenton has been approved!

Building 12, which is a 4-story 67,000 square foot mixed use building located on the central community gathering space, includes retail shops on the ground floor with loft office space on the upper floors. Here’s more information on the Fenton Mixed Use Development.

Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor Bureau: Wish You Were Here Campaign

The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (GRCVB) launched a destination recovery campaign through a CARES Act investment from Wake County. The mission of the GRCVB is to attract visitors to the greater Raleigh area for conventions and conferences, sports events, entertainment and arts, and tourism.

Cary has a close partnership with the GRCVB and their sports arm –the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance –for all of the sports tournaments and championships hosted here. The pandemic has severely crippled this industry and the Bureau is working on a rebuild-and-recovery plan with the messaging “Wish You Were Here.”

They are using a portion of the CARES funding to capture drone videos and 360° photography. Over the course of the next several weeks, the GRCVB and their contract photographers, videographers, and drone pilots will be at Town facilities capturing the incredible amenities we offer visitors and citizens alike.

They are starting this weekend at USA Baseball National Training Complex, Thomas Brooks Park, Cary Tennis Park, and Academy Street including the Cary Theater, Cary Arts Center, and Downtown Park.

While they will be using what they capture in their own campaign to rebuild visitation and tourism for our region, the footage and images captured will be available for Cary to use in our marketing and communication materials as well.

White Oak Creek Greenway Mural

In an effort to further activate Cary greenways via placemaking and public art, the Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources Department has engaged a local artist to design and paint murals on the headwalls of the recently completed White Oak Creek Greenway tunnel under the rail line by Davis Drive Park.

White Oak Creek Greenway is part of the 15-mile greenway corridor extending from the American Tobacco Trail to Bond Park to Umstead State Park and is a segment of the East Coast Greenway. Public Art Supervisor Denise Dickens led a group of staff from different departments in reviewing various mural artists’ work.

Lisa Gaither, a local mural artist with many works throughout the Triangle and along the U.S. East Coast was selected. Concepts were refined and resulted in those shown here, one of which includes a nod to former Transportation and Facility Director Lori Cove in recognition of her love of cycling, her strength and perseverance.

Lori felt strongly about the cohesiveness of this primary greenway corridor and the need for the crossing of the rail line to be grade-separated for the benefit and safety of greenway users. The concepts also depict flora and fauna native to this area. The project and concepts were reviewed by the Public Art Advisory Board (PAAB) at their October 21 meeting, and received favorable reviews from the members.

Next steps include posting the concepts for public comment and review/discussing comments before final decisions are made or work would begin.

Public Works All Staff Meeting

On Tuesday Public Works held an all staff meeting of 240 people at Wake Med Soccer Park, in preparation of the annual snow rodeo which was held on Wednesday.

The theme of this year’s rodeo was “Snow Removal during a Pandemic”, and our staff ran day and night shift snow routes using 54 plows and spreaders. Public Works staff were diligent about social distancing, sanitized trucks and bays between shifts, and masks were worn at all times.

We hope for a warm and dry winter, but should wintery precipitation occur, we will be ready.

Above Ground Storage Tanks Placed in Service

First Petroleum Services successfully switched over fuel supply lines for two newly installed, above ground storage tanks (ASTs) that supply backup generators at the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility.

The old, underground storage tanks have outlived their useful life and will be emptied and removed. The new ASTs provide an additional 2500 gallons of storage each. Their double walled construction meets the latest EPA regulations and eliminates the need for extra leak detection equipment.

Additional Information of Interest

We found the following articles to be particularly interesting this week and wanted to share with you for your reading pleasure:

It Was the Worst Day of the Pandemic. The Nation is Almost There Again, The New York Times
Leaders, Are You Feeling the Burden of Pandemic-Related Decisions?, Harvard Business Review

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • A complaint about drivers and passengers on GoCary buses not wearing masks
  • A complaint about parking at the Herb Young Center during early voting
  • A complaint about overgrown vegetation at Chapel Hill Road and Sorrell Street
  • A complaint about political signs on town fixtures
  • A complaint about adding the park master plan to the Cary Community Plan
  • A complaint about speeding in Loch Highlands
  • A request to have speed limits posted on greenways
  • Several requests from the media about what Cary is doing since COVID-19 numbers are rising (we continue to monitor the data closely and continue to follow the state’s mandates)

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, signing financial documents, and a virtual meeting with citizens.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 1st.  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. Images from Town of Cary.

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