Harold’s Blog: Council Meeting & Opening Lazy Daze

Cary, NC — This was a typical summer week.

Council Prep & Rezoning Concerns

Monday I contacted council members to hear of any questions or concerns about the upcoming agenda of our regularly scheduled meeting. Most of the comments were about the Wellington rezoning. Later in the day I met virtually with staff members and Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz to go over the agenda items.

Monday evening I had a virtual meeting with the Towerview rezoning developer and representative. We discussed the concerns I had expressed about the project at the public hearing. Our meeting lasted about 30 minutes.

A Recap of Thursday’s Council Meeting

Thursday before the council meeting, I met with a Boy Scout and his family to answer questions as part of his Citizenship in Community Badge. Questions included how I got involved in local government and what I liked and disliked about being mayor.

Thursday night the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of August. The meeting started with a Cary150 moment from council member Yerha. This was followed by our town crier visiting from Markham, Canada. In addition to entertaining the audience with his “All yay” announcements, he also made several presentations to Cary from the council and mayor of Markham. It was such a joy to see our town crier, John Webster and his wife Mary. They have been visiting Cary for many years and we have built a strong bond with our sister city, Markham, Canada.

The meeting’s agenda included five consent items, four public hearings, and a closed session. Most of the speakers in the Public Speaks Out portion of the meeting spoke on the Wellington rezoning saying that a daycare use was a much better than the proposed dentist office use.

The rezoning proposal for townhomes at highway 55 and Morrisville Parkway had several speakers that spoke against the rezoning and preferred trees to remain. I, along with other council members, explained that we all love trees but that all property owners have the right to develop their land which is protected by state and national laws. I encouraged them to meet with the developer to see if other issues could be resolved. This proposal now goes to the Planning and Zoning Board for review and will return to council in about three months.

The meeting concluded after a closed session with a total meeting time of about two and a half hours.

Mayors Discuss Federal Updates & Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

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

Federal Update

  • The NC Metro Mayors were strong supporters of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that passed it in the US Senate that passed with support from both of our Senators (Burr and Tillis).  This bill would mean at least a $2 billion increase in federal highway formula funds to NC – with he the possibility of billions more in bridge, rail and transit funds to our state over the next 5 years.
  • The debate over the bipartisan infrastructure bill moved to the US House.  This week, the US House Democratic leadership struck a 3-part deal with 9 moderate Democratic members that: 1) guarantees a House vote on the popular bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27; 2) passed a Voting Rights bill (a bill with dim prospects in the Senate); and, 3) took a critical procedural vote for the separate and complex “Democratic-only” $3.5T Budget Reconciliation process for “human infrastructure” that is the third leg of the Biden economic and pandemic recovery plan.
  • This last component, Budget Reconciliation for human infrastructure, is a more procedurally difficult process that can overcome the Senate Filibuster by having ALL Democrats in the Senate and nearly all the Democrats US House support it in order to pass.  Hence, the need to strike a deal with moderate Democrats in both the Senate and the House.  We remain hopeful that needed improved federal investments in our infrastructure are on the horizon… Stay tuned and speak up on behalf of our needs in NC.

General Assembly

General Update

  • It was another quiet week at the General Assembly for municipal issues.
  • The major pieces of legislation considered by the Senate included medical marijuana, oversight of high school athletics, and critical race theory.
  • The House and Senate continue to hold budget discussions behind closed doors, and it appears negotiations are not progressing.  Sen. Berger was quoted earlier this week saying, “At this point, I would say we’re really not making much progress.”
  • The original goal was to get a final compromise to the Governor by Labor Day, but that does not seem feasible now.

REVIEW BUDGET (again…)  House Version S105 with special provisions

Some substantive investments in infrastructure but we need to continue to advocate to have the bad policy provisions in House removed – increasingly important to talk to both Senate and House members if you are concerned about any of these policy provisions.

Transportation

  • Transit/SMAP fully funded in in House AND Senate versions. Powell Bill transportation funds were fully restored in the Senate version and had an 8% increase in House.
  • Transportation grants-in-aid/earmarks to specific cities in House version only. The Senate had water resource earmarks.
  • The NC Chamber of Commerce’s Destination 2030 Transportation Alliance continues to advocate for transportation finance modernization by seeking new fees to be applied to Hybrid/Electric Vehicles and E-Commerce Delivery/Transit.
  • The discussions also include transportation sales/use tax and short-term vehicle rental taxes going directly to the DOT budget rather than the current general fund deposit.
  • They are hopeful these additional revenue sources will appear in the budget conference report. NC Metro Mayors have generally been supportive of additional funding for transportation.

Economic Development

  • Both the House and Senate versions provide Viable Utility Fund/Struggling systems ($500 million) and Water/Wastewater grants ($980 million in House version and $500 million in Senate)
  • Local Parks and Rec $60m, Land and Water – $60 million in House
  • Workforce Housing – $200 million in House and $40 million in Senate

Local Control/Local Revenues

Policy provisions – below are the policy provisions in the house budget that we are working t0 remove from the any final budget(s) as the House, Senate and Governor begin negotiating.  Please, focus on these topics in your conversations with legislators.

Stormwater

  • A proposal that would eliminate local stormwater rules that target flooding. (No committee hearings in House or Senate.) pg. 361 – include specifics

Billboards

  • A measure removing local authority to determine the location of relocated billboards required by new road construction. (No committee hearings in House or Senate.) pg. 621

Short-Term Rentals (STR)

  • A proposal that could harm the ability of local governments to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb. (Approved in the House; not yet considered by any Senate committee.) pg. 38

Trees

  • A measure eliminating local tree ordinances (many metro cities already have local bills for this), only allowing local tree removal and protection rules by local legislative act. (Approved in the House; not yet considered by any Senate committee.) pg. 37

School Zoning Preemption

  • A proposal allowing the siting of schools in any residential or commercially zoned area of a city, without consideration of appropriateness or infrastructure. (Approved in the House; not yet considered by any Senate committee) pg.168 except for industrial spaces; This sets a terrible precedent by preempting local zoning authority for a specific use.

Small Cell Wireless

  • Measures that would limit fees on the placement of small cell wireless equipment on local taxpayer-owned poles, forcing taxpayer subsidization of telecommunications companies, and that could affect local oversight of the installation of wireless facilities in local rights-of-way. pg.537 (No committee hearings in House or Senate for either)

Please let us know of any feedback you receive in conversations with your delegation.

Public Safety

Criminal Justice Reform S300

  • This week the omnibus criminal justice reform bill received a unanimous concurrence vote in the Senate and was sent to the Governor on Thursday.
  • A provision in the bill outlines the immediate disclosure of body-worn camera footage to an individual or their representative and requires Law Enforcement Agencies to petition the court for body-worn camera footage to be sealed. Current law places the burden on the family to petition for the footage to be released.
  • Attorney General Stein and Governor Cooper have both spoken in support of the bill and we expect Gov. Cooper to sign the bill into law.

Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder H805

  • This bill would increase the penalties for rioting or inciting rioting that causes damage to property, serious bodily injury, or death.
  • Speaker Moore has actively worked on moving this bill forward. It passed the House with bipartisan support following the inclusion of an amendment submitted by Rep. Lofton (D-Mecklenburg).
  • This week, it passed the Senate on a party line vote (25-19) and has been sent back to the House for a concurrence vote.
  • We do not expect Gov. Cooper to sign this bill.

The meeting concluded after about 30 minutes.

Opening Lazy Daze Festival in Downtown Cary

Saturday I had the pleasure of opening the 45 Lazy Daze in Cary. Due to the pandemic, it was scaled down this year with 180 vendors instead of over 300.

Despite the hot day, it was crowded but the crowd was smaller than normal. Proceeds from Lazy Daze are distributed through grants to local non-profits in the arts. To date over $800,000 has been distributed to over 70 groups.

Town Manager Report

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

Sean’s Message

My message is short this week because staff’s primary focus has been on preparing for Lazy Daze. Preparing for an event of this magnitude under a State of Emergency requires more coordination than in years past.

I hope you will make it out to join the festivities. Click here for Lazy Daze information.
Have a great weekend.

Sean

Welcome K9 Nitro!

Officer Matt Berl and K9 Nitro are the newest additions to Cary’s K9 Unit. K9 Nitro is Cary’s first explosive detection capable police canine. He was born in Bogota, Columbia and transferred to the United States by Orchard Knolls Kennels out of Angier, North Carolina.

K9 Sergeant Seth Everett hand-selected Nitro to be the department’s first bomb dog. Before Officer Berl and his K9 partner Nitro begin their patrols in the Spring, they’ll spend three months in training learning how to work together as a K9 team.

Upon completion of their training, Officer Berl and K9 Nitro will be able to sniff for explosive materials as well as track for missing critical persons.

Hometown Spirit Award Nomination Period Now Open

The nomination period for the 2021 Hometown Spirit Award opened on August 26. Nominations will be accepted through September 23.

Nominees must be age 21 or older and should demonstrate qualities such as helping neighbors, showing hospitality, promoting a sense of community, and displaying patriotism.

A panel will select the award winner after the nomination period ends. The Hometown Spirit Award winner will be announced in November.

NCWRF Aeration Improvements

The North Cary Water Reclamation Facility (NCWRF) aeration improvements project reached a significant milestone on Tuesday with the startup of the “A” Basin on the new diffused air system.

Currently the facility only operates two out of three basins (A, B, and C) which are large tanks for wastewater treatment.

About 4 million gallons of wastewater was successfully transferred and all new equipment is online and running smoothly.

Summer Camp Concludes

Full day summer camps concluded last week after 10 successful weeks of camp at Bond Park Community Center and Herb Young Community Center.

Approximately 375 participants (ages 5-11) participated in more than 9,000 hours of summer camp activities.

Green Infrastructure and Job Readiness in the Walnut Creek Watershed

Building on Cary’s work as a regional leader in stormwater management, this week we celebrate the successful completion of the “Jobs in Green Infrastructure” program done in partnership with StepUp Ministries.

This program promoted job readiness to residents of Walnut Creek Watershed, focusing specifically on low-income communities and communities of color.

Over 30 Walnut Creek watershed residents attended workshops, and two successfully completed internships with the Cary based green infrastructure company “Dragonfly Pond Works.”

These internships turned into permanent positions, increasing capacity for future green infrastructure projects across Cary and the larger Walnut Creek Watershed.

This program was made possible by a grant Cary received through the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network and is just one of several programs that Cary will be completing in the coming months.

2020-2021 Annual Wastewater Report

Cary has issued its 2020/2021 Annual Wastewater Report, which summarizes the performance of its collection and treatment system that supports Cary and Morrisville.

The report provides quick facts, descriptions of our treatment facilities, system metrics, and tips to keep the system working smoothly and the environment free from sewer spills.

We are happy to report once again, no permit limit violations occurred at any of the water reclamation facilities last year.

Signal Upgrades

On August 20, the new traffic signal at High House Road and Jenks Carpenter Road along with signal upgrades at Carpenter Upchurch were activated.

This marks a major safety improvement for both vehicles and pedestrians in advance of school starting.

20th Annual Regional Leadership Retreat

On August 20, the Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA) held the 20th Annual Regional Leadership Retreat at the outdoor terrace of The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

Transportation Director Jerry Jensen and more than 50 RTA Gold, Silver, and Bronze members attended the retreat.

The regional business community, along with public-sector partners, spent the morning discussing freeway, transit, and RDU Airport projects, initiatives, and funding under the umbrella framework of Accelerated Metropolitan Mobility.

Passion and Excellence

Cary’s very own Damon Forney, Western Wake Regional Water Reclamation Facility Manager is featured in the September Edition of the Treatment Plant Operator Magazine.

The article highlights Damon’s passion for working at the “Greatest Place on Earth” and how he instills excellence in what he and his staff do in operating an exemplary facility.

Damon’s commitment to creating a culture of excellence and motivating staff to be the best they can be each day, exemplifies Cary’s culture.

Upcoming Meetings

Senior Advisory Board
Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 2 PM

Virtual Economic Development Committee
Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 5:15 PM

Historic Preservation Commission
Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 6:30 PM

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Several emails opposing the Wellington rezoning
  • A complaint about a police issue
  • Several thanks for imposing a mask mandate
  • Complaints about mask mandate violations with private schools
  • A complaint about the intersection of Hampton Valley and Farmington Woods
  • Questions about vaccination data
  • A complaint about requiring proof of vaccination (we don’t require that)
  • Complaints that the Black Creek Greenway will take too long
  • A complaint about a storm drain on Ralph Drive
  • A complaint about water meters and a leaking pool

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a Leadership Connection meeting, a meeting of the Economic Development Committee, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 5th.  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 by Ashley Kairis & courtesy of the Town of Cary.

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