Harold’s Blog: Cary Election, Cell Towers and More

Cary, NC – This was another busy week highlighted by the re-election of three council members.

Monday – Cell Tower Equipment

Monday I attempted to contact council members about Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting agenda. I was only able to get in touch with Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha and council member Smith. Part of the reason for lack of response was the short agenda. There were no discussion items and one public hearing. Later I met with staff to go over the agenda. That meeting was very short due to the length of the agenda.

Next I met with the town manager, deputy town manager, and Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha for my weekly one-on-one meeting. One of the issues we discussed was the new cell tower equipment that will soon be installed on light poles throughout the region. The equipment includes an antenna on the top of the pole, the transmitting equipment in a box on the pole, a utility meter, and other small pieces. The good news is that this equipment is much smaller than it was a year or two ago. Hopefully, in time the ugliness won’t be as noticeable.

My last meeting on Monday was with the owner of the TAC (Triangle Aquatics Center). TAC is the largest public aquatics facility ever built in the country without public funding. They serve approximately 450,000 visitors annually. It is estimated that TAC provides about $7 million in economic development each year. Their swim team, the Titans, are ranked 38th annually. We discussed the current aquatic availability in the county. They pointed out that there are 10 public facilities in Wake County, nine in Raleigh and one in Morrisville. We also talked about TAC’s expansion plans for the next few years. Their first expansion will be to create much needed parking especially since IKEA will under development. The second expansion will be to add administrative buildings to the existing building which should cost about $2.5 to $3 million. Their third phase of expansion will create new aquatic facilities which will make it the largest aquatic center in the country. The cost for this final expansion is about $15 million. The last phase of this facility will create a venue that fits nicely with Cary’s three existing world class sports venues.

Tuesday – Cary Town Council Election

Tuesday started with a visit to Davis Drive Elementary. Each of the 3rd grade classes had elected a class mayor which I met as a group. I explained my duties as a mayor and they each asked questions. Then we posed for individual pictures before heading into an assembly with all the 3rd grade classes. In the assembly I talked for a few minutes about my role and then answered their questions. I had a great time answering the questions and visiting Davis Drive Elementary and hope they invite me back.

Later Tuesday I joined Don Frantz in the October taping of Cary Matters. This episode was all about Halloween events. We had a blast and did the taping in one take.

Next I went to the SAS Championship’s Pro-Am pairing party. This is where the participants in the Pro-Am are treated to food and drink before playing a trivia contest to determine which pro they will play with. I was able to meet and talk with several people involved in the tournament or involved with businesses in Cary before having to leave for election gatherings.

Tuesday night all three incumbents on the Cary Town Council were re-elected: Jack Smith, Jennifer Robinson, and Ed Yerha. I attended the election party of Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha and caught the tail end of Mr. Smith’s election party. Unfortunately, Mrs. Robinson’s party was is Parkside Commons so I couldn’t logistically make all three. I did congratulate her by text though.

While I very much appreciate all those that stepped up to run for office, I am glad that the three members of our current team were re-elected. As we go into an era of more and more redevelopment, it is very important to have the most knowledgeable, experienced, and caring individuals to work with. I believe we have that and believe we will continue to do great things in Cary.

Wednesday – Irish Sister City

Wednesday I joined council member Jack Smith, Cary Town Manager Sean Stegall, and Cary Chamber President Howard Johnson in the first day of the SAS Pro-Am. Our pro was Skip Kendall. The format was a Texas scramble which means we could take the best score of our group and do no worse than a par on each hole. Our group was 18 under which is about average.

Later Wednesday I visited the delegation of visitors from our sister city County Meath in Ireland. Out of the more than dozen visitors I knew three of them from my visit to Ireland in 2011. This group was made up mostly of business leaders who were looking for knowledge and opportunities in Cary. It is my hope that some of them will expand here.

Thursday – Town Council Meeting

Thursday I once again joined my Pro-Am golf team. On this day we had Gibby Gilbert as our pro who also had his wife and daughter with him. We had a great time but once again ended up with an average score of 18 under. Thanks to SAS for putting on the Pro-Am and inviting me to be a part of it.

Thursday night the council held its first regularly scheduled meeting of the month. There was only one public hearing, no discussion items, and a close session. Several people spoke at the public hearing that is proposing a gas station and convenience store with 20 pumps at the corner of Kildaire Farm Road and Penny Road. The speakers were concerned about several things including compatibility, storm water, traffic, lighting, and safety. I share many of those concerns and hope they will be addressed before it comes back to council for a vote. I am also looking for a compelling reason to have something so large at that site. The proposal at this point seems out of scale.

The council discussed items in closed session which, of course, I cannot disclose. The council meeting ended after about an hour and a half.

After the meeting I tried to catch the Irish delegation at one of the locations they visited but was unsuccessful.

Friday – RDU Land Use

Friday I attended a joint meeting of DCHCMPO (Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization) and CAMPO (Capital Are Metropolitan Planning Organization) in RTP. The purpose of the meeting was to provide direction to the MPO staffs to create preliminary strategic plans that would allow leveraging of dollars allotted for transportation projects to benefit both regions. It was an interesting discussion with DCHC making it clear that their number one priority is light rail. In a region where we are so connected each MPO’s success benefits the others.

Later in the day I had a conversation with county commissioner Portman (former Cary Council member) about the airport authority’s plan to use land for a quarry. While the Cary council is not involved in the decision process I believe it is important for everyone to be informed so that is the reason this is in my journal for this week. Mr. Portman explained that for many years RDU has leased the land near the airport for a dollar but now they want to develop the land. He mentioned that Wake County offered $6 to $7 million to purchase the land which was rejected. He stated that RDU would prefer to develop the property for $25 million with the use being a quarry. He believes the quarry use would permanently destroy any hopes of that land ever being a park. Mr. Portman also sent me a copy of an email sent to Michael Landguth of RDU:

Michael

As I told you today I was very concerned over the role of your consultant and your in-house counsel today in advising your board at a key point after reviewing proposals.

Mr. Kirsh is clearly a qualified consultant in this field and in his comments he made clear to the board and the public that parks are considered incompatible uses for non-aeronautic land.

This fact was concerning because you have park uses in land owned by the airport and has been in that use for decades.

I was concerned that neither you nor your board challenged that fact, despite it being contrary to your current practice.

When I had the chance to ask, I was relieved learn that recreational uses are not only allowed but not uncommon.

Is that fact not relevant to the board’s decision?

Should it not have been a part of the legal brief?

Should the board not have been also told the consultant speaks to airports about how to sell land?

And in doing so states that non aerospace use land can be sold. He was quite clear to the board and the public why that rarely happens and should not occur.

You can understand my frustration when I found on Mr. Karsh’s website the following presentation that seems to say the opposite of what was presented to your board and our public today.

See the following link

http://www.kaplankirsch.com/portalresource/lookup/wosid/cp-base-4-22002/overrideFile.name=/06%2008%2017%20Opportunities%20and%20Risks%20in%20Pursuing%20Non-Aeronautical%20Revenue%20Projects%20at%20Airports%20(PJK).pdf

In this training outline airports are shown how to sell /release land, and how to make money by converting excess land to commercial uses.

I hope you can understand that my concerns are over the process of appearing to use your staff to sell one solution to your board, rather that presenting your board all of its options so it can make an informed decision.

In fact if one follows the logic presented it would cause one to think a quarry is the only approved and legal use for all of your land not needed by the airport and in the periphery the airport. Clearly that is not a truthful or correct conclusion.

On a lease vs sale the board was told it’s essential to lease vs sell to preserve future use possibilities that may not be known today. That makes sense to me unless your lease destroys the land and trucks it away one truckload after another. How could that use possibly preserve future airport use? In reviewing that option how do you value the cost of returning the land to its original condition so future use can be retained? Do you assign a loss for the finished value to the land after the income is gone? Do you attribute the required restoration costs or reuse costs once the hole is dug and the value removed? If you don’t is there not a flaw in your logic? It will still be airport land and a part of our community.

I was equally confounded by the use to authority legal counsel to present the tale of Santa Monica vs RDU. This was a clear example of a “bogey man” argument. It seems to say Santa Monica’s issues were all park related, and RDU should not make the same mistake. I’m sure you know, as does your counsel that none of the proposals before your board were proposing incomparable land uses like housing and commercial development as shown in Santa Monica, except the one you seem to advocate, the quarry. We also know Santa Monica’s close proximity to lax and the dense la basin. Surely there is more to its troubles that your board and the public was led to believe today.

Were you aware of that presentation and its content before it was presented? What was the purpose of that presentation? Was it of a legal nature consistent with the authority’s counsel’s role and duty to the board? Was it a fair and accurate comparison to share with the board at this pre decision moment?

I hope you understand why your authorizing governing bodies have concerns over this process, and that my comments are offered not to be critical but to be clear and share with you real concerns I see as to the role and direction of the authority.

The league of women voters raised by eyebrows to the role of public input at the airport in their letter to you on vision 2040 last summer.

Your presentation of the consultant and staff attorney has done the same. I hope you will re-evaluate this selling that the authority seems to be doing on the quarry proposal and be sure the board is fully informed of all its possible legal and stewardship options.

Was the same proposal not turned down a decade ago? Was it really unsolicited?

I don’t think your board made a mistake in 1985 leasing land to wake county for $1 for Lake Crabtree Park.  I do think they were carefully evaluating options and roles for the long term. That’s what both RDU and the triangle has been so successful.  I hope we don’t change that process due to a new consultant’s strategy to make more money alone in short term destructive ways.

Sincerely

Erv Portman

Saturday – Cary Diwali Celebration

Saturday I attended the 17th annual Cary Diwali held at Koka Booth. Attendance numbers showed over 13,500 people attended. At noon I gave welcoming remarks and introduced elected officials. Those in attendance included Congressman Price, NC Legislator Adcock, Cary Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha, Cary council member George, Morrisville Mayor Pro-Tem Rao, Morrisville council member Garimella, and Morrisville council member Cawley. We were all given a tour of the exhibition tent which was focused on different food of India. It was part of this year’s theme of Anubhuti which means a Sensory Experience.

Left to right: Caroline Yerha, Harold Weinbrecht, Gyan Gupta, Ed Yerha

Saturday evening I returned to the Diwali celebration and provided brief remarks, I also handed out awards to youth who made an outstanding contribution to our community. Then I was joined by my wife to watch the main event of the evening which was Mayuri, an Indian dance group from Russia. At the end of the evening we were treated to a fireworks display.

Sunday I attended the final round of the SAS Championship held at Prestonwood Country Club. I was joined by my wife, the Chamber President, his wife, and council member Smith. We enjoyed beautiful weather and a fantastic final round of the SAS Championship. Congratulations to Colin Montgomery on his three stroke victory.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager’s report included the following:

SAS Championships in Cary

An exciting and unexpected opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it. The Town produced a 60-second commercial to be played on the Golf Channel during the SAS Championship. The commercial will play one time each day, for a total of six times, since the Championship is recorded and played back; it will air internationally to over 3 million viewers.

Producing this commercial was an experiment. It was important for the commercial to have staying power so we have options of using it in the future. I can also see our branding consultants learning from it. I hope you enjoy watching!

Women’s Day Event

Twenty Town of Cary women enjoyed a day of networking and inspiration on Tuesday at the Executive Women’s Day event held at Prestonwood Country Club. Entitled Fearless Together, the event featured WRAL Anchor Debra Morgan hosting a morning “power panel” of local female business executives who shared their experiences in building and utilizing a personal advisory board to guide and mentor their business and personal lives. There were plenty of insights shared by those in attendance regarding “Best Advice Given” and “Best Advice Received,” which were posted throughout the day on giant boards flanking the presentation stage. The afternoon keynote speaker, World Health COO Yvonne Camus, held the 300-person audience rapt recalling her experiences of grit, resilience and perseverance as a competitor in Eco-Challenge, a world championship race produced for TV by Survivor creator Mark Burnett. The day produced new ideas and friendships among colleagues and was an opportunity enjoyed by all.

Cary Showcased at BoxWorks

Dan Ault and Hunter Frank attended the BoxWorks conference, The Blueprint for the Future of Work, in San Francisco this week. Dan represented the Town by participating in a panel discussion on new and emerging cloud enterprise content strategies. Dan spoke of the important role culture plays in the ultimate adoption success of any technology. Without changing behavior and the culture of an organization, the best system in the world will ultimately fail.

Water Production Setting Record Levels

This summer’s water production at Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility has set new records on three separate occasions. These records are in part due to several water transfers to Durham in addition to peak season water system demand in Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Wake RTP and RDU.

  • 8-MGD on July 21 (included 0.81-MG to Durham)
  • 2-MGD on September 29 (included 3.80-MG to Durham)
  • 8-MGD on October 4 (included 3.89-MG to Durham)

Cary Towne Center Mall Update

Mall property owners appealed the property’s assessed value for January 1, 2016 established by Wake County as the basis for property taxes levied beginning in fiscal year 2017. Mall management hired an independent appraiser to develop evidence for the appeal to reduce the value 67% from $92 million to $30 million. After months of work and negotiation, this week Wake County settled on a $54.7 million reduction in value from $92 million to $37.3 million, approximately 59% less.

The adjustment is retroactive to taxes billed for fiscal year 2017. In accordance with our contract with Wake County to administer tax billing and collection on our behalf, Wake County refunded approximately $195,000 of Cary tax revenue to the mall owners for FY17 and reduced the FY 2018 tax bill by about the same amount. Wake County also incurred a revenue reduction for FY17 and FY18 of approximately $345,000 per year. The tax reduction for Cary represents about 0.23% of our FY17 real estate property tax revenue. This revenue loss highlights the critical importance of redevelopment in our strategic vision in the Imagine Cary Community plan.

NC Courage to Championships

Cary’s professional women’s soccer team, the Courage beat Chicago Red Stars on Sunday to punch their ticket to the NWSL Championship game in Orlando. The Courage will take on Portland Thorns on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Orlando City Stadium. The game will be broadcast on Lifetime network.

Carpenter Park Fun Day

Carpenter Park and western Cary neighbors enjoyed a great afternoon last Saturday for an “Out of the Gourdinary” family fun day at Carpenter Park. Citizens got to try their skills at pickleball, gourd arts and crafts activities and games, sampled treats from Andia’s Homemade ice cream and Philly cheesesteaks food truck, enjoyed live music from Lucy Daley, learned about public art from Cary Visual Arts and toured the community garden. Council Member Jennifer Robinson unveiled the Adopt-A-Spot sign for Zeta Phi Beta sorority, while Council Members Ed Yerha and Ken George and other Town staff celebrated this occasion!

Irish Delegation Visits Cary

The Irish arrived on Tuesday, October 10 and will be in town until Sunday, October 15. The group is made of South Meath Chamber of Commerce Members and are from our Sister City, County Meath. The tour of our community started off with a visit to the Startup Grind Triangle First Annual Technology Conference at Cary Arts Center, followed by a tour of downtown and then Town Hall. Other activities this past week include meeting Council Members, attending the Chamber of Commerce events and spending time with Board members of Sister Cities. Thanks to all the staff involved for making this a remarkable trip for our visitors.

Small Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (“Small Cells”)

With mobile data traffic projected to increase six-fold by 2020, wireless telecommunications providers are introducing small cell wireless installations to supply increased data speed and signals for cell phone users. This past legislative session, the General Assembly passed a bill, House Bill 310 that significantly limits municipal authority regarding small cell installations. LDO amendments to address HB310 will be presented at an upcoming Council meeting.

Even with the legislation, Cary retains authority to regulate small cell installations associated with streetlight replacement. Duke Energy has designed a “dual-use” streetlight that contains “concealed” small cell equipment. Attached is a photo of a small cell installation in Charlotte of the type that an applicant has proposed in Cary (they can be black or gray). Duke requires municipal consent to replace existing streetlights with the new “dual-use” pole.

Small cell installation in Charlotte

In addition to the LDO changes that are necessary because of HB310, the Manager’s Office will propose a revised Delegation Of Authority document for your consideration at an upcoming meeting that would permit Town staff to consent to these streetlight replacements. Town staff would evaluate each request, determine if there are any public safety issues associated with the replacement, and consent to replacement if appropriate.

Wake Co. Affordable Housing Plan

The Wake County Board of Commissioners is expected to consider the draft Affordable Housing Plan that resulted from the steering committee process on October 16. Thanks to Council Member Lori Bush for participating on the task force. We look forward to having conversations with the Council about the County’s plan and the potential for future policy decisions and/or action plans by the Town Council at an upcoming work session.

Recognitions

Tour de Cove was a day we won’t soon forget. In total, 675 riders and 378 walkers participated in the events. And over 1,300 were in attendance to honor Lori. The event raised a total of $120,000 for Lori – truly unbelievable. While this was very much a Town and community effort, it never would have been possible without the dream and dedication of Scott Hecht. Scott reminds all of us what it means to be a true friend.

We received the following kudos from a citizen and wanted to pass along to everyone working to make the solid waste reroute as smooth as possible for our citizens: “I received your letter regarding the collection change to Monday. I just wanted to say I appreciate the tone of the letter. It was friendly, personable, and shows the exceptional care that the town of Cary takes to its citizens. Thank you. Brian”

Congratulations to Detective Rebecca Platz, who was awarded the 2017 Outstanding Service Award from Interact Thursday morning.  Rebecca was unaware of this award until it was presented for her performance, dedication, and excellence she has demonstrated this year for domestic violence victims of Cary. Rebecca is a great representative of the Town and does a tremendous work job for our citizens.

Emails From Citizens

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Questions about flags for Veterans Day
  • Concerns about a road project which is half way done and an eye sore (NCDOT project)
  • A concern about school reassignment (Wake County Public School Board Member Fletcher responded)
  • A request to make Cary a sanctuary city (It is the practice of the council not to get involved in state and national issues that are political and outside our authority and instead focus on the matters of the town. In addition it would take a majority vote to get involved.)
  • A complaint about street lights not working on Davis Drive (Duke Energy problem – they were notified)

Next week’s activities include a conference call with the Research Triangle Foundation, a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association, a meeting with a developer, private meetings, and providing remarks at the Farmers Market fall festival.

Get In Touch

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, October 22nd.  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. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.

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