Harold’s Blog: Groundbreaking of Downtown Cary Park

Cary, NC — This week was the last week of the fiscal year.

Council Preparations & Meeting of Wake County Mayors

Monday I contacted council members to hear questions or comments about the upcoming regular meeting agenda. Most of the comments were about the tabled Carpenter Fire Station Road rezoning. Later in the day, I met with staff members and the Mayor Pro-Tem to go over the agenda items. Our meeting lasted about fifteen minutes.

After the agenda meeting, I met with the Deputy town manager and Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz for my weekly one-on-one. We discussed in-person council meetings that would start in July, the Fenton project, the future Sports Recreation center, the Epic Games site, and the July 4th celebration.

Monday night I participated in a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. Mayors of Cary, Fuquay Varina, Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville, and Zebulon were in attendance. In our round table discussion, we talked about our budgets and our tax rates. Most municipalities were keeping their tax rate the same. Cary is reducing theirs by ½ cent. Our meeting concluded after about two and a half hours.

“Live Inspired” Potential New Tagline for Cary

Wednesday, I participated in a meeting of the Economic Development Committee. This committee is comprised of the mayor, two council members, the town manager, and several business leaders. In this meeting, we discussed the town’s branding, the current economic activity, and were provided a development update.

After much discussion on the branding, the Economic Development Committee recommended the tagline for the town be “live inspired.” The committee also recommended three logos for the council to choose from. The consultants will take input from the committee to create the three logos. Examples of logos will be provided with real scenarios like on cars, with correspondences, and in marketing material. It is our hope to have the branding process completed by the end of July in time for the Cary Chamber annual conference.

The Cary Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development presented an update of current activity within the town.

Currently, there are two expansion projects that could yield an estimated 70 jobs and $95 million in capital investments.

In the business recruitment pipeline, there are a potential 700 jobs and $48 million in capital investment.

Those are mostly in industries of advanced manufacturing, life science, and warehouse distribution with life science being the most popular industry. It was also reported that the Class A office market is starting to pick up. The future will depend on how companies decide to operate in the post-pandemic future. It was also reported that industrial-type projects are looking for build-to-suit opportunities of 50,000 to 250,000 square feet.

In the development update, the committee was notified that the Martin family that owns South Hills Mall has put it up for sale. This site has huge redevelopment potential and could blend in nicely with major projects already in the area.

The Economic Development Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for September 1st and is planned to be an in-person meeting.

Council Approves 300-Unit Apartment Rezoning in 4-3 Vote

Thursday the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of the fiscal year, which ends June 30th. The agenda included a history moment by council member Yerha, ten consent items, two public hearings, and three discussion items.

One of the public hearings was a public-private partnership proposal located at 159 E. Chatham Street and 149 E. Chatham Street, 109 N. Walker Street, and Roger’s Alley, a public right-of-way maintained by the Town. The council unanimously agreed to adopt a Resolution approving the Downtown Development Project Agreement and adopt a Resolution of Intent to Close portions of Roger’s Alley and E. Chatham Street, which calls for a public hearing on July 22, 2021. If approved this project could begin later this year.

The first discussion item was a proposal for a 300-unit apartment complex on Carpenter Fire Station Road at Highway 55. This was previously tabled at a council meeting when it appeared there was not enough support. Since the tabling, the applicant agreed to add two charging stations, 15 affordable housing units, and more upper story trees. After much discussion, this passed by a 4 to 3 vote. Two of the majority points of view stated the affordable housing units made the difference. The minority points of view cited that it was too intense and didn’t do enough to protect the environment.

In the second discussion item, the council approved maps to redraw its districts by a 5 to 2 vote. The majority pointed out the districts were drawn by consultants and not council members or staff. The minority cited a poor process to the public and that census data should be used. It should be noted that municipalities can redraw their districts at any time, with or without census data, as long as the districts are within 5% of each other. Since Cary uses the same process as the US Census it decided to proceed to redraw the districts so that October elections could be held.

If the census data shows that are newly drawn districts are not compliant (within 5%) then they would be required before the next election in two years. Having said all of that, a bill was passed by the NC House and NC Senate to move our elections to March. Unless the Governor vetoes this will become law. At the same time, we are working on a local bill to exempt Cary to allow our elections to take place in October. In summary, while we have new districts we still don’t know when our elections will be held.

Our final discussion item was the fiscal year 2022 budget which was passed unanimously. The tax rate was set at 34.5 cents which is a ½ cent reduction. The Operating and Capital Budget totals $400.1 million, a 6.4% decrease from the prior year, and provides for a continuation of the service levels that Cary’s citizens have come to enjoy. This budget promotes efficiency and effectiveness in service provision and is influenced by public input received throughout the fiscal year. The Council will continue to consider emerging opportunities and priorities at quarterly meetings.

Our meeting concluded after about an hour and a half.

NC Metro Mayors Recap

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

Federal Update

American Rescue Plan

  • Additional US Department of Treasury guidance posted on NCLM ARP Hub and NLC ARP Website
  • On June 30 and again on July 1 – the North Carolina League of Municipalities, along with the Governor Cooper’s State Pandemic Relief Office and others are hosting several events to assist cities with procedures and processes for using ARP Funds. Registration for this event can be found here.
  • NC DOJ is leading a series web-based learning  sessions (registration here) toprovide possible guidelines for how municipalities can use American Rescue Plan.  NC Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls and Attorney General Josh Stein will host these sessions aimed at helping cities address criminal justice reform, COVID-19 related mitigation, and behavioral health needs.

Peer-To-Peer Sessions for MMC senior staff

  • Metro Mayors will host a weekly peer-to-peer session for 1-2 senior city STAFF from each of our member cities – beginning Thursday, July 8 at 2:30pm
  • PLEASE designate a staff contact for these sessions. Email name and contact information to bmills@nclm.org. Information will be sent to designated staff contacts in advance of July 8th.

American Jobs Plan/Infrastructure Bill

  • A bipartisan group of US Senators have moved forward with a massive infrastructure bill. Both Senators Tillis and Burr actively participated in the bipartisan group that worked with President Biden.
  • The total value of this package would be $1.2 Trillion, including a $312 Billion investment in transportation infrastructure. Now that a basic framework has been agreed to, Congress must work through the details and authorizations required to the spending to move forward. Still a long way to go, but this is a significant bipartisan milestone, unprecedented in recent history.
  • This package would allocate significant dollars to each of the following areas.  We will do a deeper dive on this topic in the future.
Amount (billions)
Total $579
Transportation $312
Roads, bridges, major projects $109
Safety $11
Public transit $49
Passenger and Freight Rail $66
EV infrastructure $7.5
Electric buses / transit $7.5
Reconnecting communities $1
Airports $25
Ports & Waterways $16
Infrastructure Financing $20
Other Infrastructure $266
Water infrastructure $55
Broadband infrastructure $65
Environmental remediation $21
Power infrastructure incl. grid authority $73
Western Water Storage $5
Resilience $47

Municipal MOA for Opioid Settlement – SPECIAL GUEST – Amy Beason, General Counsel, and Paige Worsham, Associate Counsel, NC Association of County Commissioners

NCACC Opioid litigation and  NCACC Municipal Fact Sheet

  • The state of North Carolina is engaged in ongoing litigation at the national level and a global settlement is close. IN North Carolina, NCDOJ and the NC Association of County Commissioners have led the effort – along with 27 counties and 9 municipalities who joined the litigation.
  • NCACC has worked in conjunction with Attorney General Stein to create a Memorandum of Agreement on how the State would use the settlement funds.  Under the MOA opioid settlement funds would be directed as follows:
    • 15% to the state (which the General Assembly would have authority to appropriate on a wide range of strategies to address the epidemic)
    • 80% to local governments, including all 100 counties plus 17 municipalities, allocated among those counties and municipalities through a formula developed by attorneys representing local governments in national litigation.
    • An additional 5% percent into an incentive fund for any county (and any municipality in that county receiving settlement funds) in which the county itself and every municipality with at least 30,000 residents (based on 2019 population totals) in the county signs the NC MOA
  • It is vital to have as many local governments sign on as possible to ensure NC receives the maximum payout – an incentive from the national agreement to our local governments in NC.
  • We would encourage you to reach out to your County Attorney if you have not heard from them yet on this issue. Any city of 30,000 or greater should consider an August 1 deadline to act on ethe MOA – a large number of our jurisdictions taking early action will reward our communities with incentive fund.  Tom Caruthers in the NCLM Legal Office can be a resource if you have municipal specific questions (tcarruthers@nclm.org)
  • If you have any genera questions about the Opioid Settlement, the MOAs for municipalities or anything else on the settlement process, please feel free to reach out to Amy Bason or Paige Worsham:

General Assembly – General – BUDGET S105 from the Senate

  • The bill passed third reading in the Senate Friday morning with a vote of 32-17.
  • Four Democrats voted in favor of the bill (Sen. Clark – Cumberland, Sen. D. Davis – Pitt, Sen. deViere – Cumberland, Sen. Lowe – Forsyth).
  • The Senate needs 30 votes to override a veto from the Governor.
  • Three major items for MMC were included:
    • SMAP TRANSIT funding – FULLY RESTORED (was ZERO last year)
    • Powell bill transportation funds – FULLY RESTORED
    • Airport Improvement Program – FULLY FUNDED at $75M

Other highlights of the Senate budget include:

  • 3 percent raise over the biennium for teachers and most state employees
  • $5.2B in federal ARP money was dispersed in the budget including:
    • $30M to NCLM, NCACC, NCRCOG to provide guidance and technical assistance to local governments in administration of ARP funds
    • $700M for rural broadband
    • $100M to assist local governments with stormwater infrastructure and management.
    • $30M to NC GREAT Program
    • Major tax package that would reduce personal income and corporate tax rates.
  • The House is expected to release their budget the week of July 12.  We anticipate their proposal to look very different from the Senate.  The main question will be whether the two chambers will be able to reach a compromise agreement.
  • $30m divided equally between the NC league of Municipalities. Association of County Commissioners and Regional Council of Government – to assist local governments with ARP – planning, compliance and spending

Transportation

  • SMAP and Powell Bill restored to full funding in Senate budget

Public Safety & Economic Development

  • Nothing new to report

Local Control/Local Revenues

Short Term Rentals in Reg Reform H911

  • Section 2 of the bill would prohibit a local government from adopting or enforcing an ordinance requiring a permit or registration system to lease or rent residential real property.
  • The bill received a favorable report from the House Finance Committee this week.  Rep. Deb Butler (R-New Hanover) expressed concern over this Section during the committee discussion.
  • The bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee.
  • This language was also included in H829 which has already passed the House.
  • We encourage you to reach out to your Senate delegation about this issue and fight against this bill that prevents cities from regulating short term rentals

Revise Municipal Redistricting/Census S722

  • This bill is awaiting action from the Governor and got caught up in veto discussions with other elections bills.
  • We DO NOT expect Governor Cooper to veto this bill.  It will most likely become law without his signature and would go into effect this weekend.  (He has until close of business Saturday June 26 to take action).

Various Education Law Changes S450 (Charter school provision affecting cities)

  • A provision was added in the House Education Committee this week that would require municipalities to extend water and/or sewer service, if they have the capacity, when requested by a charter school.  This is a complicated issue that was added to specifically target the City of Durham but would apply state-wide – including ALL cites in NC.
  • The bill passed on the House floor with a vote of 92-14.  It will now head to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
  • The original Senate bill only dealt with requiring carbon monoxide alarm and detection systems in existing public-school buildings, so it is likely the Senate will not concur, and the bill will go to conference committee. Removing the section on short term rentals would be our goal.

The meeting concluded after a little more than half an hour.

Groundbreaking of Downtown Cary Park

Saturday was a historic day in Cary as we held the official groundbreaking for Downtown Cary Park. I provided the welcome and listed elected officials attending. These included all council members, four county commissioners, four NC Representatives, and one NC Senator.

The featured speaker was Mayor Pro-Tem Don Frantz, followed by Director of Park, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Doug McRainey, and OJB consultant Partner Cody Klein. The dirt used in the ceremony was in a container on the stage and was gathered from all parts of Cary.

This was to emphasize that this park is for everyone, not just downtown residents. In fact, I predict it will draw people from the region. The shovels used in the ceremony were decorated by local artists and were views of the future park. They were absolutely beautiful, and I almost hated putting it in the dirt. Once the turning of the dirt was completed, Mayor Pro-Tem unveiled the name and logo of the new park.

After much consternation and discussion, we decided to keep it simple and just name it Downtown Cary Park. This name was actually finalized just a couple of days ago. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Mayor Pro-Tem joined me in an interview with WTVD. It was a great day for Cary, and I look forward to the ribbon-cutting in 2023.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report included:

Manager’s Message to Council

On Wednesday, Downtown Cary Park General Manager Joy Ennis gave an outstanding presentation at the Cary Chamber of Commerce Eye Opener Breakfast. Her passion and dedication for the new downtown park showed as she highlighted various features of the park and provided updates on the progress and design. I’m looking forward to seeing each of you at tomorrow’s groundbreaking event to celebrate the construction phase of the park.

In other news, Wake County Public Schools and Cary staff reached an agreement and are moving forward on Cary’s acquisition of the two-acre Maynard Road parcel. Staff is also continuing discussions with the mission-based affordable housing developer and will have more details to offer Council over the next several months. I’d like to thank Council Member Lori Bush for her persistence in moving this process forward and look forward to discussing this exciting project with you.

Stay safe and have a great weekend.

Sean

All Hands Meeting

I enjoyed having an in-person audience for this week’s All Hands meeting. Director of Learning and Organizational Development Allison Hutchins and Senior Organization Change Management Coordinator Anna Crollman joined me as we updated staff on our continued cultural and organizational evolution.

Teslas Have Landed

This week, Cary received the Tesla vehicles approved by Council in April. The two Tesla vehicles ordered for our Police Department Pilot Project require upfitting and marking, which will be completed in the next couple of months. The police vehicles are anticipated to be on the road by fall. Additionally, given Council’s interest in advancing our environmental initiatives, Utility staff re-evaluated their vehicle replacement needs and purchased a third Tesla.

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.

  • On June 14, members from our volunteer advisory boards and commission were given the opportunity to represent their board at a Rap Session facilitated by Tru Pettigrew. Members in attendance engaged in an open conversation on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and they will share a recap with the remainder of their board at their next meeting.
  • The Cary Theater hosted special employee only screenings of the film “Hairspray” over the holiday weekend. Staff took advantage of the opportunity with reservations over the weekend totaling 62. The weekend screenings were used as a soft re-opening of the facility. The theater welcomed back the public to in-person screenings on June 24 with the screening of the film “12 Mighty Orphans”.
  • Good Hope Farm’s annual Community Supported Agriculture service has relaunched, connecting the community to Cary-grown organic produce. This weekly subscription service fosters citizen-support of family-owned agribusinesses that play an integral role in our local food economy, regional food security, and carbon sequestration via regenerative agriculture practices. From blackberries to basil, this program provides a delicious way for our residents to reduce their carbon footprint by eating local.
  • On June 24, Officers Cohen and Preston of the police department’s Traffic Safety Team attended the Governor’s Highway Safety Program kick-off event for the 2021 Independence Day “Booze It & Lose It” Campaign in Greenville. The campaign runs from June 28 through July 4. During this time, law enforcement officers across the state will focus on promoting traffic safety and reducing vehicle crashes with special emphasis on driving while impaired offenses.
  • The police department’s property and evidence renovation and expansion project tis now complete. This renovation provides necessary space for evidence storage and provides a safer work area for packaging and processing evidence for officers.
  • This week, Cary participated in a regional water system interconnection test with Raleigh and Durham. The test was part of a larger project to provide a regional overview of water transfer capacities extending from Orange County through Wake and Durham Counties to Johnston and Harnett Counties. This exercise helped calibrate the system model which can be used to examine unique scenarios where multiple simultaneous transfers may be needed. This level of coordination with our neighbors ensures we are all able to provide reliable water supply to our citizens and neighbors even in emergency situations.

Juneteenth

The observance of a new national holiday, Juneteenth, kicked off on Wednesday, June 16 with Juneteenth Voices. Hosted by the Applause! Cary Youth Theatre, Juneteenth Voices was a virtual program that invited participants to imagine, create and collaborate on scenes based on the book All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson. The observance continued at the Juneteenth, Celebrate Freedom event at the Sertoma Amphitheater in Bond Park on June 19. Councilwoman Ya Liu read the proclamation, recognizing Juneteenth as an official Town holiday, and was joined by historians, musicians, and storytellers who creativity expressed the meaning of Juneteenth. Over 400 citizens attended the event. The 2021 celebration closed with the lighting of the Cary Arts Center columns in red, green, and yellow.

NCAA DII Baseball National Champions

In partnership with the University of Mount Olive and Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, Cary hosed the NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship (World Series) for the 11thtime. On June 12, about 2,300 fans gathered at the USA Baseball National Training Complex and watched as Wingate University beat the University of Central Missouri in the final game of the championship.

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 complaint that we are not doing enough to encourage vaccinations
  • A complaint about Maynard Pond stormwater detention
  • A complaint that our budget doesn’t do enough for the environment
  • A complaint that a water/sewer line may be cracked
  • A complaint about a proposed crosswalk at Whitcomb and Ederlee (misinformation from social media)
  • A complaint about car racing on Davis Drive and Waldo Rood

Next week’s activities include staff meetings and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 4th.  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.organd email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.


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

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