Cary, NC — Other than meetings, there was not a lot going on this week.
My Monday meetings were canceled due to a lack of new information to discuss.
Tuesday I met with a husband and wife that were part of a Leadership Connection from the NCNA Leadership Academy. They are from outside the triangle and were interested in running for public office. I gave them my thoughts on leading, governing, and running for office. Our conversation lasted about thirty minutes.
Economic Development & Delayed Branding Process
Wednesday I participated in a meeting of the Economic Development Committee. The agenda included a branding update, a quarterly update from the chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development, and a development update from the town’s Economic Development Director.
The town manager reported that the branding process was delayed when the council’s quarterly meeting was canceled. The council has scheduled two work sessions in September to make up for the canceled quarterly meeting. Branding will be included as one of the work session topics.
The VP of Economic Development gave the following report:
- Two expansions included Advanced Manufacturing and IT.
- Three Active Recruitment Projects with 1500 jobs and $185 million in Capital Investment potential.
- The type of projects that we continue to see are still mainly the Industrial type of request covering the Industries of Advance Manufacturing, Life Science, and Warehouse-Distribution. Life Science project opportunities continues to be at the top of the list in terms of the most popular industry segment.
- Interest in the class A office market is starting to pick up slightly, but my feeling based on conversations with office professionals is that the office market is that it will take a little more time before it comes back, along with not knowing to what extent. It is still heavily dependent on the continued vaccination success across the US and based on the varying direction of how companies are evaluating their office staffing needs and layout models.
- The trend continues with the majority of the Industrial type projects are looking for existing or shell buildings and a few are looking at build to suit opportunities averaging in size from 50,000 – 250, 000 square feet, with land request from 15 – 40 acres on average, with some as much as 100 plus acres.
The director of Economic Development reported on several projects around town. The Fenton remains on schedule for opening in April. The downtown park’s bark bar is currently under construction. The views of the park from the construction of the Walker are “stunning”.
The South Hills mall is up for purchase, and we should hear an announcement in a month or so. The development at the site of the old Rogers Hotel will be underway soon with the first phase being the construction of the new wide sidewalks.
The Economic Development concluded after about half an hour.
NC Metro Mayors Discuss Slow Progress in House & Senate
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:
League of Municipalities Update from Mayor Karen Alexander:
- The executive committee met last week and accepted the request from Executive Director Paul Meyer for a leave of absence. Rose Vaughn Williams will serve as interim director.
Another Quiet Week for municipal issues. Continued budget discussions behind closed doors with indications of slow progress (Senate/House negotiations).
- The House and Senate remain far apart on some major funding items such as the amount of money in the savings reserve and supplemental funds for DOT. Once these items are worked out, they can start finalizing the rest of the budget.
- There is a potential for mini budgets if the budget stalemate isn’t broken before the middle of October. Mini budgets have been used over the last few years as way to enact department specific (and less controversial) budgets rather than being part of a single enacted budget for state government as a whole. For example, there has been a separate DOT budget passed rather being part of a larger state budget as would typically be the case.
- The Senate has said they will likely shut down policy making committees within the next two weeks – leaving active only those related to budget activities.
- Some of the major issues the legislature has been considering over the past few weeks include sports betting (S688), video lottery terminals (H954), medical marijuana (S711), and ABC legislation (H890).
- H890 includes a provision allowing local governments to designate “social districts,” which would be a defined outdoor area for consumption of alcoholic beverages sold by a permittee during specified times. (Page 16, Section 20.1)
- NC Chamber Destination 2030 Alliance is continuing to advocate for modernized revenue sources for NCDOT budget
- 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.
Local Control/Local Revenues
Policy provisions in House Version S105 Budget
Budget proposals include major investments in infrastructure BUT we need to continue to advocate to have the bad policy provisions in House removed – both Senate and House members need to hear from local leaders.
- A proposal that would eliminate local stormwater rules that target flooding. (pg. 361)
- Removing local authority to determine the location of relocated billboards. (pg. 621)
- Regulate short-term rentals/Airbnb. (pg. 38)
- Requires General Assembly approval for each local program (pg. 37)
School Zoning Preemption
- “Matter of right” location of schools regardless of zoning (in most circumstances). (pg.168)
Small Cell Wireless
- Limit fees and local oversight on the placement of small cell wireless equipment. pg.537
The House and Senate will likely only meet one day next week. It will be important to reach out to your delegation about these provisions as much as you can.
The Governor has already expressed his frustrations with so many policy provisions being included
The three bills listed below have been signed by Governor Cooper. Leo John of the NCLM Counsel for Legislative Affairs, will give us a summary update on the criminal justice reform legislation this year and how they impact municipalities during our next Weekly Zoom Meeting.
- Criminal Justice Reform S300
- Support Law Enforcement Mental Health H436
- Law Enforcement Duty to Intervene H536
The meeting concluded after about 30 minutes.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week included:
As you’ll see in this memo from Susan Moran, we will have to conduct a post census redistricting process. While we greatly improved the districts’ balance with the June adoption of a new boundary map, there is more we must do, and we plan to get started at our Sept. 23 work session.
I also want to bring to your attention the new COVID-19 Employee Dashboard within the Public Safety Update section. ‘
This continuous dashboard will keep us informed as our COVID-19 cases and vaccination rate continue to evolve.
I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.
Public Safety Update
The vaccination rate among fulltime employees is at 65%. There are currently 18 positive COVID cases among employees which brings the total number of staff cases to 143 since the pandemic started.
The Return to Lazy Daze
The 45th annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival returned to Downtown Cary. After being canceled in 2020 for only the second time in its history, Lazy Daze welcomed over 200 vendors and an estimated 25,000 attendees to fill Town Hall campus last weekend.
This year was scaled down compared to past festivals, eliminating indoor programming and spacing out the booths to provide for social distancing.
Although attendance was approximately half of normal years, attendee feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Ninety-two percent of participating artists reported being satisfied with the event with many reporting brisk sales.
In addition to hosting a Unified Command on site for incident management, 311 Citizen Advocates were stationed at The Hub to provide non-emergency assistance to attendees.
To Trash, Recycle, or Compost
Council Member Jack Smith and other members of the Environmental Advisory Board partnered with Toward Zero Waste at Lazy Daze to staff the waste station.
They helped festivalgoers identify and properly dispose of their trash, recycling, and compostable materials.
Most of the compostable material came from the Sister Cities Beer Garden where they showed their support for environmental efforts by serving draft beer and wine in compostable cups and served food in paper food boats.
Town Crier Duo, John and Mary Webster, visit Cary
In addition to visiting the council meeting to officially kick off Lazy Daze, the Town Crier duo, Mary, and John Webster, met with Cary150 Chair Sarah Martin and Staff Liaison Virginia Johnson to learn about what has occurred and what is being planned for the celebration year.
The group watched the Cary at 150 Documentary by local director and Emmy winner Hal Goodtree. Other discussion topics included the July’s Urban Mapping Projection show, gala, and the community scrapbook. Additional information about these celebration initiatives are available on the Cary150 website, www.Cary150.org.
2021 Cary 101 Program Begins
The 2021 Cary 101 program kicked off its first session on Wednesday evening.
To accommodate different comfort levels and mitigate the risks of COVID-19, participants have the option of joining each of this year’s sessions in person or virtually. This week, the class learned about Cary’s culture, the origins of Cary, municipal government, and finance/budget.
Next week they will attend Thursday’s Council meeting to witness government in action. Remaining sessions will showcase how different departments work to coordinate Cary’s projects, programs, and services.
Seventeen citizens are enrolled in the program which runs through November 3.
My Tree, Our Tree is Growing
The My Tree, Our Tree giveaway is back and bigger. This fall, again using a contactless process, volunteers will distribute 600 native trees of six different species to Cary citizens.
To help ensure those young trees survive, registrants will receive an invitation to attend a free Tree Planting Tips webinar led by Cary’s Urban Forestry Manager Katie Rose Levin.
As those trees thrive, they will enhance the community’s tree canopy and bring beauty and biodiversity to residential landscapes.
Registration opens September 29 at 9 a.m. through myCary for the Saturday, October 23 event. Additional details can be found here.
Project Phoenix Presentation
On Sunday, Cary’s Project PHOENIX and Community Service group presented to the Raleigh-Apex National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) about what PHOENIX and Community Services does within the community.
This was a great way to connect some of the outreach initiatives both the NAACP and the Cary Police Department are doing. Chapter President Gerald Givens expressed interest in partnering with Cary on future outreach projects.
Spring 2021 Youth Baseball and Softball Season Concludes
Cary resumed youth sports league play in May and completed the season in early August. Youth baseball totaled 838 players and youth softball totaled 219 players.
Despite the lower-than-normal participant numbers, we were able to offer a league in every age group, and the season was a great success.
Many citizens stated they were grateful that we were able to provide recreation opportunities again, and we did not have to postpone any games or practices due to COVID-19.
NCSCA/Town of Cary Coaches Kickoff Classic
The Coaches Kick Off Classic is a partnership event between Cary and the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association (NCSCA) and is the largest boys high school showcase event in the nation for public, private and charter schools varsity soccer programs.
There were 77 teams that played 54 games, and approximately 3,000 tickets were sold for the event. Thank you to our sponsors for the event: Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, Hampton Inn Cary / Raleigh, and Backyard Bistro.
Crossroads Emergency Interconnect Startup Complete
The Crossroads Emergency Interconnect Pump Station was successfully tested this week for the first time. Cary transferred water to the City of Raleigh and the City of Raleigh transferred water back.
Utilizing the site’s Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, operators located at the Cary-Apex Water Treatment Facility were able to monitor flow into and from Raleigh, ultimately reaching a rate of 2.1 million gallons per day for a brief time.
Cary also monitored system pressures which were stable, and no issues were found within Cary’s distribution system.
Council Meeting (Work Session)
Thursday, September 9
Thursday, September 9
Emails from citizens this week included several complaints about the Black Creek Greenway closure. Here is an excerpt from Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz’s response which provides a lot of helpful information:
“… Phases I & II of Black Creek Greenway (adjacent to Wessex) were originally constructed over 27 years ago and extend approximately 2.5 miles between Old Reedy Creek Road and West Dynasty Drive. The greenway has been severely impacted by heavy rains and flooding over the years requiring significant investment to repair and better prevent storm damage. Unfortunately, however much of the greenway remains in flood prone areas and continues to deteriorate. The greenway also does not meet the town’s minimum design standard of ten feet wide for asphalt trails and twelve feet wide for the bridges. Phases I & II of reconstruction will bring the greenway up to current design standards, elevate problem areas to reduce stormwater impacts and construct 7 new bridges.
The Phase V portion of the project is a new greenway trail. Currently, sidewalks on West Dynasty Drive provide the connection between Phases II & III of the greenway. As I am sure everyone who has traversed this section of greenway is well aware, it has extremely steep grades that make it difficult for pedestrians and cyclists alike. The new Phase V section of greenway will eliminate the need for users of the trail to travel on the steep section of West Dynasty Drive and aligns the greenway access points directly across from each other.
The Crabtree and Black Creek Sewer Lines are two of our most important sewer lines in Cary serving a population of approximately 75,000. These sewer lines provide essential sewer service to areas of Northern Cary, Preston Area, RDU, and Morrisville and convey approximately 6-million gallons per day to our North Cary Water Reclamation Facility. These pipelines are extremely critical to our operations, and they too are in desperate need of rehabilitation and repair.
The planned rehabilitation approach includes innovative sewer lining methods, which can be installed much quicker and more efficiently than traditional dig and replace pipeline replacement methods (some pipes however may still need to be replaced). While it remains a lengthy process due to the challenging location of and access to the sewer pipes, we estimate this process to be 3 times faster than traditional pipeline replacement methods.
Sewer Rehabilitation using trenchless technology will help minimize the amount of time needed for greenway closures as the greenways are the contractors means of access. This process will ensure the sewer pipes are protected for the next +/-50 years.
All that being said, I can assure you that there has been significant consideration for the impact these projects will have on our citizens during the planning and design process. That doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t suck. It does. But there is no feasible way in which both projects can be completed at the same time as the contractors tasked with making the sewer system repairs must utilize the greenway(s) to access it – restricting use of the greenway and most certainly causing further damage to an otherwise aged trail.
Our professional Cary town staff have coordinated extensively for years to plan this work to ensure that only one greenway is out of service at a time and to most efficiently transition from sewer rehab to greenway renovation. Several detour strategies have been and will be provided on our project webpage, https://carygreenwaydetour.com/. Further, additional improvements are planned for bicycle accessibility along Norwell Boulevard near North Cary Park and a new grade separated crossing will be constructed underneath Weston Parkway providing access to Crabtree Creek Greenway.
That said we will pivot and adjust when we can and look to open access points and greenway segments whenever possible.
For the sewer rehabilitation work, we’re awaiting the contractor’s incremental staging plans – at that point we’ll have opportunities to comment and provide updates to best minimize impacts to residents.
Other emails from citizens this week included:
- Complaints about vaccines and masks saying they didn’t work and were a violation of freedom
- Complaints that we were not doing enough to make people wear masks and to enforce vaccines. (These were the worst emails this week which included insults to staff members)
- A suggestion that we should do more for commuter rail in Cary
- A complaint about construction problems from Duke Energy contractors
- A complaint from a business that moved to Apex because they would have had to follow zoning rules in Cary (Yep that’s the law)
- Complaints that we should inform the public that wireless devices are harmful, halt deployment of 5G, satellites and wireless-based technologies, remove FCC commissioners, etc (Wow, where do I begin… even if I believed that wireless was harmful, I/we don’t have authority to do meet any of these requests)
- Sign treaty to combat climate change
Next week is a holiday week. Activities for next week include staff meetings, bond signing, a podcast interview, a council work session, a regularly scheduled council meeting, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 12th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication with me.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.
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