Harold’s Blog: Public Art, Environmental Investments and More

Cary, NC — This week included several meetings.

A Monday Full of Meetings, Management & Mayors

Monday I contacted council members to hear of concerns or questions they had about the regular meeting agenda later in the week. The agenda did not include any controversial issues so there were no questions.

Later Monday I met with management and staff to go over the agenda items. The meeting lasted about fifteen minutes.

Following the agenda meeting, I met with the Town Manager and Mayor Pro-Tem to go over several items including historic structures, downtown parking, the federal recovery money, the upcoming budget, the sports center location, and upcoming municipal elections. Our meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Monday night I attended a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. All mayors were in attendance except for the mayors of Garner, Holly Springs, Raleigh, and Rolesville. Some of the topics discussed included increased development, type of development, capped schools, and special municipal projects.

Wednesday: CAMPO Approves Wake Transit Plan Update

Wednesday I participated in a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board. The mayors were given presentations on an NCDOT Multimodal Connected Vehicle Pilot project, the Triangle Region ITS Strategic Deployment Plan, and the 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

The board unanimously approved the Wake County Transit Plan update, the Member Designated Project Funding (earmarks) Support Policy, and the CAMPO Projects and Programs Funding update. The meeting concluded after about two hours. The presentation slides are available online to the public.

Council Talks Redistricting, Office Space & Parking in Work Session

Thursday the council held a work session on redistricting, office land, and multi-family parking.

In the redistricting discussion, staff pointed out that a municipality can redraw its districts at any time. This is important since census data will not be available in time to redraw the districts for the October election. Cary has four districts and by law, they need to be within 5% of each other.

Currently, District A is 50% bigger than District C. The staff proposed using town data to estimate the districts. We will see their proposals at our quarterly meeting on May 13. A public hearing will be held on May 27 and the council can vote on this issue at their June 24 meeting. If approved, the new maps will be sent to the Board of Elections on June 25 and the elections will be held in October as planned.

The next discussion was on available land for development. In 2017 there were about 9,100 acres for development. 5% of that was owned by SAS and 31% was in Chatham County. Cary has been developing land at about 2% a year and now has only about 15% of land remaining for development.

Following the land development discussion, there was a discussion on parking for multi-family development. Staff presented an analysis based on developments over time and neighboring municipalities. They recommended that there be 1 parking space per bedroom for 1 and 2-bedroom units, 2.5 parking spaces for three-bedroom units, and .15 spaces for visitor parking per unit.

In the office land discussion, it was reported that in 2017, 27% of available land was zoned/planned for office. The latest development numbers show that out of 347 acres that have been developed, 14% have been office. Council and staff also talked about the future of office. While some companies will move to more remote work, the demand is high enough that we believe that class A office will remain in high demand.

The work session concluded after a little over an hour.

Council Takes Action, Allocates $650K to Eco-Projects

Later Thursday the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The agenda included a Cary150 History moment, six consent items, six public hearings, and two discussion items.

The council had one speaker who wanted to know what the town was doing for affordable housing. Staff will follow up with him and provide him with information.

Council unanimously approved a staff recommendation to spend $300,000 for a Solar Initiative at the USA Baseball National Training Complex and $200,000 to create an Urban Forestry Master Plan and Open Space Master Plan out of the $1 million budgeted for emerging needs and opportunities.

The council also agreed to the staff recommendation to appropriate $150,000 of federal drug forfeiture fund balance to the Police department’s operating budget for a Tesla pilot program and to utilize already appropriated funds within the Public Works budget to support the $80,000 required for the composting and recycling initiative.

In its final action of the meeting, the Council unanimously approved the staff recommendation to appropriate $13,500 in Community Waste Reduction & Recycling grant funds to improve access to composting in Cary. This grant provides for materials needed to establish and operate a pilot food waste drop-off site at the Citizen’s Convenience Center.

The council meeting concluded after an hour and a half.

NC Metro Mayors Discuss Infrastructure & Economy

Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. The following is a summary from the Executive Director:

Federal Update: American Rescue Plan

  • USCM reports that Treasury guidance will likely be released immediately before the May 11 deadline to transmit funds to the entitlement cities.
  • Continue reaching out to your Congressional Delegation to communicate what your priorities would be for using your allocation of the aid.
  • Critical guidance for the pre-award requirements can be found at the US Treasury website.

Infrastructure Bill/American Jobs Act

  • White House staff are very interested in connecting with North Carolina Mayors to discuss infrastructure needs with you and your local business community. We will share more info on this front soon.

General Assembly Update

  • The Senate Appropriations and Finance Chairs are hard at work crafting a budget. The work has been limited to closed door meetings, expect to see a proposed budget from the Senate in the next 2-3 weeks.
  • The Senate bill filing deadline has passed and the House bill filing deadlines are rapidly approaching. Non-appropriations bills must be filed in the House by May 4 and public bills with appropriations or finance provisions must be filed by May 11.
  • The crossover deadline is fast approaching and currently set for May 13.  That is the date by which a piece of legislation has to pass the chamber it originated in to remain eligible for the remainder of session.

Transportation

  • We are still waiting to see the Department of Transportation Budget – with a keen eye on our highest priority –restoring the transit funds that were zeroed out in last year’s NCDOT budget (SMAP funds).
  • A portion of the money the state received from the American Rescue Plan could be used to supplement lost transportation revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Local Revenues/Local Control

S349, Increase Housing Opportunities – “Anti-zoning” bill

  • Our local advocacy is showing progress, but it is critical to continue reaching out to your local delegation to inform them of the negative impact this bill would have.
  • If your city passes a resolution opposing this bill, please send a copy to Beau.

S265, Bond Referendum Transparency

  • This bill was filed by Sen. Todd Johnson, R-Union, and adds a significant amount of regulations around the local bond referendum process.
  • Section 2 of the bill would require the submission of estimated costs and interest payments, that if incorrectly estimated, could jeopardize the entire bond.
  • The North Carolina League of Municipalities, State Treasurer’s Office, and several other organizations are working very hard on this. We expect there to be more conversation around this bill before it moves forward.

S717, Taxpayer Bill of Rights

  • S717 attempts to amend the North Carolina Constitution to limit the state spending growth and require annual deposits into a state savings fund. Under this constitutional amendment, state spending growth would not be allowed to exceed the combined rate of inflation plus population growth.
  • Senate Leadership has pushed for this constitutional amendment several times but the House has been reluctant to take it up.
  • This bill would require voters to approve any increase in taxes made by the state, counties, cities, or towns. This does not appear to apply to local property taxes.
  • As a constitutional amendment, it would require a 3/5 vote in each chamber to pass. Bipartisan support of the bill would be necessary (seems unlikely to get many Democratic votes).
  • If this bill passes the General Assembly, it would then be placed on the ballot for the General Election in 2022 (it is NOT subject to a veto from the Governor).

H230, Managing Environmental Waste Act

  • Under current law, there is a tax of $2 per ton of waste disposed of in municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris landfills.
  • This bill would adjust the current allocation model by redirecting 5% of monies going to the General Fund to cities and counties that provide plastics recycling services within their jurisdictions.
  • H230 passed in the House with a vote of 115-0.

Public Safety

H535, Firefighters Cancer Act

  • This bill, which is a high priority bill for municipalities intended to provide help to our firefighters, is set to be heard in the House Health Committee on Tuesday morning next week.
  • Check in with the fire officials in your jurisdiction to make sure that they are aware of this bill is beginning to move through the General Assembly.

Economic Development

S493, JDIG Multilocational Projects Modifications

  • This bill seeks to increase any Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) by an additional 10% for any firm that locates a new headquarters in the state while ALSO locating a new manufacturing in the state as well.

The meeting concluded after about 25 minutes.

Town Manger’s Report

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

Manager’s Message to Council

Mayor Pro Tem Don Frantz joined staff yesterday at the groundbreaking of Thomas Sayre’s latest earth casting public art exhibit in Cary, at the intersection of Cary Parkway and Evans Road. Some may recognize Mr. Sayre’s earth casting work from his iconic sculpture at the North Carolina Museum of Art Park. This monumental sculpture will be a great addition to Cary’s public art collection.

Our relationship work with neighboring communities is always active, and this week I had the privilege of assisting Apex in their search for a new Town Manager. The two day assessment and interview process was facilitated by Developmental Associates, and I look forward to getting to know the new manager once they are onboarded.

The rescheduled virtual legislative event is on Tuesday evening and I will see you all there. Stay safe and enjoy your weekend.

Sean

Public Safety Update

During Wednesday’s press briefing, Governor Cooper announced COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations have stabilized, but are not declining like they were in March. He also reported one-third of all adults in North Carolina have been fully vaccinated and one-half have received at least one shot. In response to these conditions, Governor Cooper announced he will issue a new executive order next week outlining new restrictions for the month of May and he anticipates that by June 1, conditions will allow the state to lift all restrictions for social distancing, mass gathering limits, and building capacities. Mandatory mask use in public settings will likely remain for some time. Lifting the mask mandate is likely contingent on stable metrics and meeting the state’s goal of getting two-thirds of adult with 1 shot. You can read the governor’s press release here.

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

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

  • The Lake Pine Drive project is set to begin construction on Monday, April 26 and wrap up by Fall 2022. The project will widen existing Lake Pine Drive from 2 to 3 lanes just north of Versailles Dr. in Cary to just south of Apex Lake. Improvements will include enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The project is being managed by the Town of Apex and funded through CAMPO’s Locally Administered Project Program (LAPP) with matching grants from both Apex and Cary.
  • A cross departmental team worked collaboratively on the Respiratory Protection Program to revise the current Standard Procedure 21 and develop a new written program. The team will now educate and train employees as well as coordinate annual testing. The modifications simplified the procedure and moved administrative guidelines to a separate document, while also enhancing Cary’s compliance with the OSHA regulation.
  • On Tuesday, registration opened on myCary for full day summer camps at all three community centers. The first day of registration resulted in 633 registrations and the spots at Bond Park Community Center filled up in the first hour. Registration remains open and is continuing for the other two locations – Herb Young and Middle Creek. Non-resident registration opens on May 4 if any spots remain.
  • In advance of, and in the wake of, the Chauvin trial verdict, police staff were in continual contact with area partners to share information on regional activities and sentiment. We will continue to monitor, learn, and adapt as new information unfolds.

  • The White Oak Creek Greenway mural is beginning to take shape with larger-than-life wildlife and plants that are native to the area. The artist predicts a few more weeks of painting before both sides of the tunnel will be finished. To see photos of the process, click here.
  • The Cary150 Task Force held multiple committee meetings and the Task Force meeting this week. The topics of these meetings include logistics for time capsule, July 24 Art projection show event planning, and general updates about the celebration year. To learn more about the celebration year, visit cary150.org.
  • April’s History Moment on Cary’s Historic Landmarks was presented at last night’s Council meeting by Council member Ed Yerha. These moments give viewers a quick view of Cary’s History in a visual presentation. To see this History moment and past ones, visit cary150.org.
  • April 19-23 is Volunteer Appreciation Week! A token of appreciation was mailed out to the volunteers who serve on Cary’s Boards, Commissions, and Committees for being a big part of making Cary the wonderful community it is today.
  • Rehabilitation of the two-million-gallon Carpenter elevated water storage tank is complete. The exterior and interior of the 20-year-old tank received fresh new coats of paint with a new perimeter fence and entry gate added onto the property. The interior of the tank has been cleaned and disinfected, and the tank has been placed back into service, ready to serve the citizens of Cary and maintain reliable water service for another 20 years.
  • Contractors working for Cary have completed the installation of a boundary valve and water piping at the intersection of Holly Springs Road and Cary Parkway. The new boundary valve will allow the Central Pressure Zone (CPZ)to feed the Southern Pressure Zone by gravity using the CPZ, providing redundancy to the area.

Carpenter Park Renovation Update

Pickle! Play can resume at the resurfaced and expanded courts at Carpenter Park. As part of the annual maintenance to resurface the basketball and two pickleball courts a third pickleball court along with a new seating area was added.

The renovation provided an opportunity to make the courts multi-purpose to allow for youth tennis by adding color coating (similar to what is at the Cary Tennis Park). The nets and white lines meet pickleball specifications, and the three pickleball courts at the park provide space for residents to work on their “flabjack” or “overhead slam.”

In addition, a soft surface trail is under construction that should be completed by summer.

Conservation Conversation: How Water Works

Cary’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources (PRCR) and Utilities Departments partnered in celebration of Earth Day! Together staff created an online program to provide eco-curious citizens an opportunity to have a virtual Conservation about “How Water Works” in our community. The Utilities Department further supported PRCR Earth Day efforts by contributing promotional items to our Celebrate Earth Day kits that will assist households in protecting and preserving the environment while at home. This “One Cary” staff partnership educated and impacted over 175 households that enjoyed learning something new about our award-winning water systems.

Complete I-540 Project

Transportation & Facilities hosted a staff webinar on the Complete 540 Project with Dennis Jernigan, Director of Highway Operations, NC Turnpike Authority.

Aerial photos of the construction illustrate the scale and complexity of the project. Over 40 people attended to learn more about the project, phasing and schedule. View the webinar’s slides here.

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:

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A request to send a letter to someone celebrating a special birthday.
  • Complaints about the demolition of Mt. Zion Church (This is not a council decision and unfortunately the structure is not marked as historic. We have no authority to stop the demolition of the structure. The property owner is the decision-maker on whether or not to demolish the structure.)
  • Thanks from residents about construction of downtown crosswalks.

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, an interview about reflecting on Covid, a virtual legislative event with our delegation, a presentation on Cary’s 150th anniversary at the Chamber’s Eye Opener, a meeting of the Economic Development Committee, interviews for the town attorney position, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 2nd.  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 augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.

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