Harold’s Blog: Council/Staff Retreat, Chinese Lanterns & More

Cary, NC — This week’s activities included a council-staff mini-retreat.

Meetings, Mayors & Rezoning Articles

Monday I joined the town manager for our weekly one-on-one meeting. Our topics included affordable housing funding, infrastructure funding, my First Responders speech for December 1st, and various mini-retreat topics. We concluded after about 15 minutes.

Monday night I attended a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. Attending were the mayors of Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville, Wake Forest, and Zebulon.

In addition to our usual roundtable discussion, we said goodbye to three long-serving mayors: Fuquay Varina Mayor John Burn who served 20 years, Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears who served 20 years, and Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny who served 28 years (48 years including council positions and board appointments). Not only will I miss their advice and wisdom, but I will also miss them as friends. Best of luck John, Dick, and Bob on their retirement of public service.

Monday the Town Attorney sent out several links from the UNC School of Government on rezonings in North Carolina:

This is a great place to get an understanding of the what, how, or why of rezonings.

‘Flipping the Switch’ on the Chinese Lanterns

Tuesday I presented the State of Cary Update to the Cary Rotary at MacGregor. It was a presentation similar to earlier in the year with the latest updates.

The updates included the housing plan passed at the last meeting, road projects, development projects, and tennis center improvements. My talk lasted about 30 minutes and then I answered a couple of questions.

Tuesday night I provided welcoming remarks at the “flip the switch” event for the Chinese Lantern Festival. It was a sneak preview for VIPs which include council members, county commissioners, advisory board members, and staff members.

The Chinese Lantern Festival opens to the public on Friday, November 19th and runs through January 9th. There were a lot of new lanterns this year and I am always impressed by the 200-foot dragon on the lake which, btw, weighs 9 tons. This is a must-see and is a great family event perfect for holiday visitors.

Tuesday staff sent out the quarterly report which can be found at https://www.townofcary.org/mayor-council/town-council/quarterly-reports/town-council-quarterly-report-q1-fy-2022.

Greenway & Roadway Amendments Approved by CAMPO

Wednesday I attended a meeting of the CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s) Executive Board. The board is comprised of elected officials from member governments, as well as stakeholders from other agencies. Members from each of the MPOs make up the North Carolina Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (NCAMPO).

The Raleigh-Cary area along with 20+ others represent CAMPO. This meeting included 5 consent agenda items, 2 public hearings, and 1 regular agenda item. The board unanimously approved the FY2020-2029 Transportation Improvement Program amendments which mostly included greenway and road projects in Raleigh.

Legislative Updates from NC Metro Mayors

Friday the North Carolina Metro Mayors met for a legislative update. Here is a summary from the Executive Director:

Federal Update

  • On Monday, President Biden SIGNED the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This bill was a product of many hours of advocacy and hard work by many. The IIJA will bring lots of money, discretionary funds, and continued work on TIP projects.
  • Last night, there was an extensive debate over the Build Back Better legislation on the House Floor. The bill passed this morning with a vote of 220-213.

General Assembly

General Update

  • This week the legislature passed and the Governor signed the budget bill into law.  This is the first comprehensive budget that has been enacted since 2018.
  • The measure passed the House and Senate with large bipartisan support.  The final vote was 41-7 in the Senate and 101-10 in the House.
  • While the final version did not include Medicaid expansion or some other things the Governor wanted, he ultimately said he would sign because “the good outweighs the bad.”  His full statement can be found here.
  • The original House version of the budget contained six provisions that were concerning to local governments.  The final version included only two of these provisions.
  • The final budget DOES NOT include:
    • Stormwater: A proposal that would have eliminated local stormwater rules that prevent flooding.
    • Short-term rentals: A proposal that would have harmed the ability of local governments to regulate short-term rentals like AirBnB.
    • School zoning preemption: A proposal that would have allowed the siting of schools in any residential or commercially zoned area of a city, without consideration of appropriateness or infrastructure.
    • TREES: A measure that would have eliminated local tree ordinances, only allowing local tree removal and protection rules by local legislative act.
  • The final budget DOES include:
    • Billboards: A measure that, for existing billboards impacted by road construction, creates parameters for a required relocation rather than total removal.
    • Small Cell Wireless: Measure that limits fees on the placement of small-cell wireless equipment on municipal owned poles and could affect local oversight of the placement of communications-related infrastructure in local rights-of-way.
  • The budget also includes full restoration of SMAP (State Maintenance Assistance Program) funding for urban transit operations.
  • The legislature will take next week off for Thanksgiving and return on November 29 or December 6 to conclude business for the 2021 legislative session.
  • Instead of adjourning sine die, the legislature will likely adjourn for several weeks in case they need to return to respond to any litigation regarding redistricting.

Council & Staff Mini-Retreat in Pinehurst

Friday the council and staff held a mini-retreat. Here are some of the topics and take-aways we discussed:

  • In May of next year, the council and staff are planning to have their first full retreat since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The town manager presented a new organizational chart which will be finalized in the coming weeks.
  • Rezoning cases submitted to the town rarely reach the council. Staff estimated that only 9% reached the council process during the last six quarters. Most of the proposals that do not make it to the council are apartments. Many proposals want to rezone office sites to apartments.
  • Development plans since July include the following multi-family units: 206 senior only at Searstone, 108 senior only at Aspire, 260 at Bainbridge, and 330 at Alston.
  • Rezoning proposals for the quarter were down 5% l based on the 5-year average.
  • Development plans for the quarter were down 29% based on the 5-year average.
  • Building permits for the quarter were up 2% based on the 5-year average.
  • The Fenton is on schedule to open April 1st with 556,525 square feet of retail, 357 multi-family units and a grocery store.

  • Apple plans to occupy one of the MetLife buildings.
  • Protolabs will open a 120,000 square foot expansion of their 3D printing facility.
  • Garmin will double footprint in Regency Creek office building.
  • Duke Health is building a 102,000 medical facility on Green Level West Road to open in the spring with two operating rooms and two procedure rooms. It could potentially expand to a hospital with 500 beds in the future.

  • South Hills mall has been sold. Representatives will bring forward plans soon. It will likely be mixed-use and could house the multiplex sports venue.
  • Three properties including the old Biding Electric buildings, located next to the traffic circle at Old Apex and Chatham, have been bought with plans for two breweries and a beer garden.

Rendering of West Chatham Brewery and Beer Garden

  • Epic Games will bring a rezoning proposal for the partial redevelopment of the mall site to the next council meeting.
  • Council looked at and commented on several Branding logos including ones with Dogwoods. The council narrowed it down to two styles which uses a star as part of the A in Cary. They asked the staff to bring back variations of colors.
  • Cary will be receiving $16.5 million in stimulus funding including one payment of $8.25 million now and one payment of $8.25 million next October.
  • Cary will combine stimulus funding and $3.5 million in budget surplus from last year to focus on priorities of Community Care, Health and Wellbeing, Infrastructure, and Facility investments.
  • Council directed staff to move forward and allocate $10 million now: $1 million to local non-profits via the CDBG process, $5 million to sidewalks, and $4 million to affordable housing initiatives. The remainder will be discussed at next year’s retreat.
  • Census data showed that Cary’s population was 174,721 last year which is a 29% increase from the 2010 census population.
  • Cary’s population is 57% White, 22% Asian, 8% Hispanic or Latino, 8% Black or African American, 4% two or more races, and 1% other.
  • Interestingly Morrisville’s population is 46% Asian, 34% White, 10% Black or African American, 6% Hispanic or Latino, 3% two or more races, and 1% other.
  • Wake County’s population is population is 57% White, 18% Black or African American, 11% Hispanic or Latino, 9% Asian, 4% two or more races, and 1% other.
  • Cary’s population of 55 and over increased from 12% to 18% from 2010 to 2020.
  • Out of the top 14 municipalities in North Carolina, Cary has the oldest population.
  • Cary’s household size decreased in the last 10 years to 2.64.
  • 10 years ago, Cary had a smaller percentage of millennials than North Carolina and the US. Now it is comparable with 20.9% while the US is 20.5%.
  • 24% of Cary’s population was foreign born.
  • Cary’s fund balance is $104.7 million. Cary requires $66 million.
  • Staff presented ideas and plans on how Cary will be more intentional in building relationships with intergovernmental entities.

The retreat was not only jammed-packed with information but allowed us to interact with staff and learn about them. There is no doubt in my mind that Cary has the best staff in North Carolina.

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A request for bike lanes separated by barriers
  • A complaint about a stormwater issue
  • A complaint about speeding on Morrisville Parkway and Morrisville Carpenter Road
  • Two complaints about not having a mask mandate
  • A complaint about Dorcas ministries and a vacant lot

Next week is Thanksgiving week so activities are limited. Activities include staff meetings, a retirement ceremony for outgoing Fuquay Mayor John Byrne, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 28th. 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 [email protected] and email personal comments to [email protected].

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images by Ashley Kairis & Town of Cary.

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