Cary, NC — This week included the last council meeting of the month.
Monday – Meetings with Town Manager, Mayor Pro-Tem
Monday I contacted each council member to learn of questions or concerns about Thursday’s agenda. Questions and concerns were on the Carpenter Fire Station rezoning and the Roberts Road rezoning. The Roberts Road was removed from the agenda later in the week by the developer.
Later Monday I met with staff and Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz to go over the agenda. Our meeting lasted only a few minutes.
In my one-on-one meeting with the town manager on Monday, we discussed the mall site, the Fenton project, and upcoming municipal elections.
Thursday – Council Meets, Tables a Rezoning
Thursday the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The meeting started with a historic moment provided by council member Yerha as part of our 150thanniversary celebration.
The first action taken by the council approved our legislative agenda which included the following priorities:
- Drinking Water Supply
- General Revenue
- COVID-19 Revenue Loss
- Housing Affordability
- Citizen Services
- Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Standards
- Environmental Stewardship
- Community Planning
- Virtual Bidding
- ZIP Codes
- Beer and Wine Licensing
- Smart Communities
- Electronic Meetings
- Fiscal Impact
The agenda included 11 consent items, 1 public hearing, and 2 discussion items. The 2 discussion items were related to the Roberts Road rezoning and were tabled. The Carpenter Fire Station rezoning was pulled from the consent agenda and discussed.
Council expressed concerns with the loss of trees, buffers, parking, and permeable service. Some council members were concerned about the potential loss of office. Council questioned the proposed parking reduction since there was an ongoing study about parking for multi-family.
As a result, the council decided to table this item until staff has had time to complete the parking study. After the discussion item, the council held a closed session. The meeting was adjourned after about an hour and a half.
Friday – Metro Mayors Discuss Statewide Updates
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary of the information provided at that meeting by the NCMM’s lobbyist:
Overall, the legislature has remained fairly quiet. However, committee work is becoming steadier and more and more bills are being filed. While largely uncontroversial, a handful of bills are moving through the committee process and Joint Appropriations Committees are meeting to receive informational and overview presentations from the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division.
We expect another COVID-related bill to be released next week and the pace of the legislature to gradually increase over the coming weeks.
Summer Learning Program
H82, Summer Learning Choice for NC Families, passed through the House this week. Co-sponsored by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), the bill would require local school administrative units (LEAs) to offer a school extension learning recovery and enrichment program after the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
The proposed committee substitute (PCS) directs districts to offer a program that lasts at least 150 hours to K-12 students, in an effort to mitigate learning loss due to the pandemic. It allows schools to admit students to the program not enrolled in their district, if space allows.
While schools would be required to provide the classes as an opportunity for children to catch up, parents would have the option of whether or not their child attends. After passing through three House committees, the bill received unanimous approval on the House floor Wednesday. The bill will now head to the Senate for consideration.
In an added effort to assist bars and restaurants affected by the pandemic, H73would waive the annual fee for certain ABC permits. It would require the ABC Commission to renew or register certain ABC permits that are active as of April 30, 2021, for the period of May 1, 2021 through April 30, 2022 without payment.
It would also allow someone who has prepaid those fees to request a refund. The bill received a favorable report from the House ABC Committee this week and has been referred to House Finance.
Governor Cooper Issues New Executive Order
On Wednesday, Governor Cooper announced a new Executive Order that will lift the state’s modified Stay at Home order. Effective today (2/26), Executive Order 195 removes the requirement for people to stay home between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM.
The Order also eases some restrictions such as increasing the indoor gathering limit from 10 to 25 people (outdoor gathering limit remains at 50), moves the curfew of alcohol sales for onsite consumption from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm, and allows bars to open at 30 percent capacity. Occupancy restrictions for businesses fall into two general categories:
- 50 percent capacity for fitness and physical activity facilities, museums, personal care businesses, restaurants, and retail businesses.
- 30 percent capacity for bars, lounges, movie theaters and entertainment facilities, meeting spaces and conference centers, and venues or arenas. Indoor facilities may not exceed 250 people.
The 250-person limit is excepted for larger indoor venues with a seating capacity of 5,000 or more. Those venues may allow up to 15 percent of capacity. The Executive Order will remain in effect until March 26.
Here is a summary from the Executive Director:
Update on US Congress – COVID Budget Reconciliation Bill/American Rescue Plan
(See news coverage: Mayors in USA Today story)
- The next round of COVID Relief, The American Rescue Plan (ARP), will be voted on by the US House of Representatives today (expected to pass). The bill on the House floor today includes the previously reported levels of aid to our cities.
- There is a possibility that some moderate Senate Democrats may seek reduce the overall cost of the bill ($1.9 trillion), which may include an impact on the LEVELS of the local aid, but almost assuredly would not delete the aid from the bill, so stay tuned. These moderate Democratic Senators are the key to passage with the simple majority/democratic-only scenario using the budget reconciliation process that avoids the usually required 60 vote-margin.
- The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that the portion of the House bill that provides a $15 federal minimum wage violates the rules for budget reconciliation, which means it almost assuredly will be stricken from the bill in the Senate. This is seen as a major setback on a priority issue for some progressives in Congress – but also removes an issue that would have caused hesitation from some moderate Senate Democrats to support the bill – so, on measure probably eases passage of the ARP in the 50-50 US Senate.
Joint Transportation Committee – NC DOT Financial Report
- NC DOT gave an overview of the Department’s cash and finances this week to the Joint Appropriations Committee on Transportation – only a year ago DOT was in a “cash crisis” with projects being stalled over the summer, staff being furloughed or let go and programs taking big reductions (including a zero appropriation for public transit).
- Now – the NCDOT cash balance is well in excess of the $1b ceiling and revenues are running significantly higher than the COVID reduced expectations.
- This means you should be talking to your MPO’s if you have any projects that have been stalled and see how things will work moving forward now that DOT revenues are up.
Protect City Employees from Retaliation – H7
- This bill would require city councils to adopt an ordinance to encourage city employees to report illegal or improper conduct to their supervisors or other appropriate authorities and to protect that employee from workplace retaliation based upon that reporting.
- If you already have a whistleblower program in place, this bill does not apply to you. (see note below)
- It passed in the House Local Government Committee this week and has been referred to Judiciary 1. A somewhat similar bill passed the House last year – but not in the Senate.
- It includes protection for employees who simply say they intend to file for whistleblower protection. The Police Benevolent Association has made this a high priority for passage. NCLM is opposed to this bill in its current form.
No legislative action taken
Local Revenues/Local Control
Property Tax Relief for COVID Affected Businesses – H119
- This bill was introduced by Rep. Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) and has a good amount of bi-partisan support. It has over 20 Republican and 10 Democratic sponsors.
- In an effort to provide relief for businesses affected by COVID, it would create a process for businesses to enter into a one-year payment plan for property taxes, rather making payment when due.
- To qualify, the pandemic must have caused a business a reduction of at least 25 percent in gross revenues; and, for retail businesses that collect and remit sales tax, a reduction of at least 25 percent in sales tax collections; or both.
- It also creates a process for reappraisal of property taxes to adjust value down based on negative impact of COVID restrictions on actual uses of land.
- We encourage you to talk with your County colleagues and other municipalities in your county to get their feedback. If it causes concern, you should consider speaking with your delegation as a group.
House Election Law Committee –Director Karen Brinson Bell presentation (see slide14)
- State Board of Elections Director, Karen Brinson-Bell, gave a presentation to the House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform Committee.
- Much of the presentation was focused on the 2020 election and how it was administered.
- One of the legislative priorities for the State Board is addressing the 2021 municipal elections. The Board recommends moving all 2021 municipal elections to 2022, regardless of whether they are impacted by redistricting and Census data delays.
- We know that the legislature will be reviewing all elections due to the delay in the Census, but we are not entirely sure what a legislative proposal would look like. We have heard that some legislators are not in favor of pushing all municipal elections back to 2022 – only those specifically impacted by the need to redistrict.
The meeting concluded after 30 minutes.
Friday – Virtual Meeting on Fenton, Potential Changes
Later Friday I participated in a virtual meeting about the Fenton. Pictures of the construction were provided to show how buildings along main street are going vertical. We discussed how the project is moving forward and any potential changes that might occur. The meeting lasted a little over an hour.
Town Manager Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week includes the following:
Manager’s Message to Council
Congratulations to our very own Council Member Lori Bush on receiving the Austin Lewis Award at our recent annual Future of Black History Month Celebration. This award was created by Tru Pettigrew to recognize truly exceptional community members who are committed to diversity and inclusion by bridging gaps in our community. We are very fortunate to have Council Member Bush representing Cary on such an important topic.
In other weekly news, I hosted my first All Hands event of the year with staff and was joined by co-host Operations and Change Management Specialist Anna Crollman. We addressed questions from staff on various subjects including COVID-19, diversity and inclusion, and the culture of our organization. During the presentation, I announced that Town facilities will remain closed through May 31. I will continue to consult with Public Safety Director Allan Cain to ensure the health and safety of our staff and community.
Stay safe and have a great weekend.
Public Safety Update
Click here for the Public Safety update from Public Safety Director Allan Cain. If you have any questions, please let me know. Cases in Cary, as of February 25th, were 6,849 which is an increase of 258, or 3.9% since February 18th. Cary has been maintaining the fewest per capita COVID-19 cases, which, as of 5 pm on February 25th was 39.85 per 1,000 residents.
Cary cases per 1000 population is 64% less than the medium. The new executive order increases the mass gathering limit to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. Outdoor sports fields and venues no longer have a 100-person cap; they can operate at 30 percent capacity.
Larger venues with more than a 5,000-person capacity are allowed occupancy of up to 15 percent with no cap. Bars, movie theaters and other entertainment venues can welcome patrons indoors at 30 percent capacity up to a 250-person cap. Gyms and other personal care businesses can operate at 50 percent capacity. Onsite service of alcohol has been extended to 11 p.m. The mask mandate remains in effect.
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.
Included below is a summary-level overview of the operational activities continuing to take place during this health emergency.
- The Senior Advisory Board has had a successful week of recruitment, bringing in a total of 28 applications in the first week. Recruitment will remain open through March 21. Click here for more information.
- The following Wake Transit items are ready for public review and comment. View all updates and provide comments here.
- The 10-year Wake Transit Plan
- FY2022 Wake Transit Work Plan
- The Wake Transit Community Engagement Policy
Cary has five new projects included in the draft FY2022 Wake Transit Work Plan: construction of a Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility, ongoing Bus Stop ADA Accessibility Improvements, new bus stops for the future Route 9A with service to Raleigh, preliminary real estate costs associated with the Downtown Multi-Modal Center project, and a Transit Planner position to support ongoing major transit capital projects.
- The CAMPO Executive Board approved Cary’s Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the Downtown Multi-Modal Center at their February 17meeting. The LPA, approved by Cary’s Town Council in February 2020, is west of the current Depot between N Harrison Avenue and N West Street, bound by the railroad tracks to the north and south. The Multi-Modal Center will include space for local and regional bus service, intercity passenger rail, Bus Rapid Transit, bike- and ride-share programs, and future commuter rail service. The approximately 10-acre site also offers opportunities for mixed-use development and parking. CAMPO’s approval is an important step in the regional concurrence process, strengthening support for future federal funding applications.
- Beginning March 1 through April 26, the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility will begin its annual disinfection process change. In accordance with state and federal recommendations, the treatment facility will temporarily stop adding the normal chlorine/ammonia disinfection mixture and switch to free chlorine. The process change will also include water line flushing to cleanse the system. During this time residents and customers will notice a minor increase in chlorine odor and in some cases the water may appear slightly discolored. This annual activity is part of our normal process for maintaining our utility system and providing award-winning water. Click here for more information.
- The 2020 Pretreatment Annual Report (PAR) was completed and submitted to the NC Department of Environmental Quality this week. The required report is a summary of Pretreatment Program and permitted industrial wastewater activities for the year. We are happy to report that there were no significant non-compliance issues this year with the PAR.
- After several days of rainfall, Jordan Lake has peaked around 231 feet of elevation. This is 15 feet above normal pool elevation. Outflow is being purposefully limited to prevent downstream flooding, which is a core function of the reservoir. However, due to the high flows the planned maintenance work by the Army Corps of Engineers on the dam has been delayed to next year.
Daddy Daughter Virtual Event
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources reimagined the annual Daddy Daughter Dance for 2021 and all elements were held virtually. Families could register to participate in the activities from the comfort of their homes. Forty-six families registered for the event and one participant stated the following: “I really enjoyed the attention to detail the Town of Cary took when planning the virtual event. The event could have easily been a flyer with a statement that read dance with your daughters on February 20, but in true Cary fashion it was over the top with playlist, virtual photo booth, and a bag of goodies. All the details to convert our home into a magical night for our daughter and dad.”
Pop-Up StoryWalk® Installation
The second Pop-Up StoryWalk® installation opened at Walnut Street Park this week. Citizens can walk the loop trail around the park and read pages from Benjamin Chaud’s “The Bears Song”. StoryWalk® is a great way to engage youth in reading and outdoor exercise, while having fun with the family. Feedback from citizens continues to be positive: “It was something fun and different to do with my child. She loved it! So did I!” “Great story and wonderfully laid out!!” The Bears Song will remain in Walnut Street Park until March 14, with the next StoryWalk® being planned for Carpenter Park.
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:
The Coronavirus Is Threatening a Comeback. Here’s How to Stop It., The New York Times
The False Dilemma of Post-Vaccination Risk, The Atlantic
Emails from citizens this week included the following:
- A request for a ribbon-cutting (Unfortunately I am not doing in-person events until the end of March)
- A request for a virtual meeting to talk about people’s diverging ideology
- A complaint that someone’s HOA won’t allow solar panels (We can’t override HOA rules and bylaws. Homeowners agree to these restrictions when they buy the house)
- Request for information about the town’s future transportation hub (Project information can be found here. A FAQ page can be found here)
- Complaints about proposed apartments at Carpenter Fire Station Road
- A complaint about an incident at the Cary Convenience Center
- A request to reserve one of Bond Park’s picnic shelters
- A request to not pass local ordinances supporting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (Municipalities derive authority from the legislature. We do not have authority to create this kind of ordinance)
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting with a BB&T marketing executive, two presentations of the State of Cary address, a meeting of the Cary Chamber’s Economic Development meeting, a meeting of Cary’s Economic Development Commission, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 7th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication 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.
All the Cary news for the informed Cary citizen. Subscribe by email.