Cary, NC – This week was a little lighter than expected due to a couple of cancelled meetings.
Monday – State Legislature Reception
Monday, council members and staff held a reception for the Cary delegation of the North Carolina legislature. Legislative attendees included Gale Adcock, Cynthia Ball, Julie von Haefen, Allison Dahle, Wiley Nickle, Robert Reives, Sydney Batch, and Jay Chaudhuri. Also in attendance were our legislative lobbyists.
After about an hour I gave remarks to the group. In the past I made a formal presentation of our legislative agenda. This time I talked with them about the importance of creating relationships and trust. And that we needed their help and that will be glad to do the same. Most people don’t realize that during session some bills are brought up so fast that they have very little time if any to review them. The phrase “drinking from a fire hose” comes to mind. Anyway, those are the times where we can help our legislators. I believe the legislative delegation representing us will do a great job representing Cary. The reception lasted a little over two hours.
Tuesday – Weston Hotel Project
Tuesday I met with North Carolina Senator Floyd McKissick and his son. They were representing an applicant for a rezoning that would allow a hotel at Weston Parkway, Winstead Drive, and Old Reedy Creek Road. It should be noted that Weston Office Park has approximately 20 acres of developable land left out of about 900 acres.
The proposal, if approved, would allow the maximum height of the building to be 90 feet instead of 50 feet. This is significant in the Weston PDD because it might trigger development/redevelopment of structures with more height. Nearby neighbors complained about the proposed hotel height and the traffic. They stated that a balloon test, to demonstrate the ultimate height, was invalid because of all the deciduous trees in the buffer of the property. While this is true, most of the building will still not be visible in the winter. The traffic is an issue and will continue to be an issue.
Weston Parkway, which is a Cary road, is at ultimate buildout. The council has the authority to determine the type of development but it doesn’t have authority to prevent development. So if the hotel is denied it could become one of dozens of other things without any council decision. The Planning and Zoning board reviewed and approved this proposal unanimously. Staff is recommending approval after initially having a lot of issues with the height and the potential precedent it could set.
The purpose of my meeting with Senator McKissick was for him to hear of additional concerns. I talked about mostly about the height of the structure and buffers which were concerns of nearby neighbors. We also talked about other details of the project. I also told them that, as always, I hold my decision until all evidence has been presented. The vote on this proposal is scheduled for January 24th.
Wednesday – Wake Bus Plan
Wednesday I chaired the first meeting of the year of CAMPO’s (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) Executive Board. On the agenda were two public hearings and seven discussion items. Items of note included my re-election as chairman for another year and the Wake Bus Plan which will triple bus service within the next ten years. Our meeting concluded after an hour and a half.
This week I received the link to a podcast that I did on GovGab radio in December. It is a 37 minute long question and answer session.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included:
Cary’s annual MLK, Jr. Dreamfest celebration got underway Friday with an Affordable Housing Symposium. After a welcome by Mayor Pro Tem Lori Bush and remarks by Congressman David Price, a panel discussed the scope of the affordable housing issue, obstacles and possible solutions. Other panelists included County Commissioners Sig Hutchinson, Matt Calabria and Jessica Holmes. Alicia Arnold, Director of Housing for Wake County also participated. Cassie Shumacher-Georgopoulous, Cary’s Assistant Development Director joined Greg Warren of DHIC, Erica Brand with Habitat for Humanity and Rev. Charles Tyner of White Oak Missionary Baptist Church in a second panel discussion on implementing creative solutions.
Dreamfest activities continue throughout the weekend with children’s programs, film screenings and a celebration concert. Dreamfest culminates in a day of service on Monday, January 21.
We had great turnout at the Legislative Reception on Monday. Many thanks to the Council and our delegation for dedicating time to build relationships. Staff will follow up with individual legislators after the long session begins.
Cary Parkway Tree Removal
Tree removal along Cary Parkway is set to begin the week of January 21 to improve the line of sight approaching a new traffic signal at Westhigh Street. Approximately 40 cedar trees along the edge of the sidewalk will be removed. These trees are not part of a natural wooded buffer and do not provide benefits to the water quality of the nearby stream. The work will likely involve closing the outside southbound lane from just before W Chatham Street to Westhigh Street. It is expected to take one day to complete.
Fire Department Provides Regional Assistance
On Friday, January 11, the Fire Department received a request to provide assistance at a large warehouse fire in Bunn. Cary provided the 5-person Engine 2 Company to work for a 6 hour operational period from 3 to 9 pm. Engine 2 Company was tasked with keeping fire from spreading to a grass field behind the building. They also used their water to cool a piece of heavy equipment after it spent time moving burning debris. This was a regional fire-fighting effort, and our crew was relieved by a crew from Louisburg. Due to the advanced stage of the fire and the structural instability of the building by the time our crew arrived, Cary firefighters did not do any interior firefighting.
NCDOT Draft STIP Released
NCDOT’s transportation plan, the State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, identifies the construction funding and schedule for transportation projects over a 10-year period. NCDOT updates the STIP approximately every two years to reflect the state’s current financial situation. The data-driven process to update the STIP is called Strategic Prioritization. The current cycle to update the STIP for the years 2020-2029 (Prioritization 5.0, or P5.0) started in summer 2017. At that time, NCDOT divisions and local planning organizations gathered public feedback on projects, which then were submitted for evaluation and scoring.
NCDOT released the draft STIP on January 10, 2019. The draft STIP includes 1,663 projects statewide, across all modes, and includes approximately 500 changes from the previously approved STIP. Several projects have been removed or delayed due to significantly-reduced funding projections. Draft changes to projects in Cary include:
- I-440/US1/US64 (I-5701/I-5703): ROW delayed from FY2020 to FY2023, construction delayed from 2022 to 2023
- US64 Corridor Project from Laura Duncan Rd to US1 (U-5301): ROW delayed from FY2020 to FY2021, construction delayed from 2022 to 2024
- Holly Springs Rd from Cary Pkwy to Ten Ten Rd / Intersection improvements at Ten Ten and Penny Rd (U-6217): ROW in FY2025, construction in FY2027
- Trinity Rd Grade Separation at NCRR/CSX/NS rail line (P-5734): ROW acquisition beginning in 2025
- Swift Creek Greenway from Lake Pine Rd to Koka Booth Amphitheater (EB5893): ROW previously in FY2023 with construction in 2025 – No longer programmed
The draft 2020-2029 STIP will be approved in summer 2019. Staff will work with CAMPO to discuss project changes and strategy for submitting new projects for the next STIP through the Prioritization 6.0 process, which will also begin in the summer.
Baseball Field Upgrade
Cary owns and operates five full-size baseball fields (Bond Park Field 5 and four fields at USA Baseball National Training Complex). Bond Park is used mostly for recreation leagues as it has a dirt infield. Over the winter, staff removed the infield clay and installed the base and sod for a grass infield. This will be a noticeable improvement for the local youth teams as well as making it more marketable for rental groups such as Senior Adult Baseball. The Cary and western Wake County adult teams have been using USA Baseball when available but otherwise traveling distances for “Home” games. With this improvement, they will be able to play more home games in their own back yard. Kudos to Ken George for collaboration with staff on the idea and kudos to PW staff for constructing a diamond masterpiece.
Learning More About ACEs
Staff and council members Jennifer Robinson and Ken George joined over 200 communities, nonprofit, government, education, and business leaders at From Awareness to Action, an event/training focused on building a more resilient Wake County through the trauma-informed approach. Becky Haas, Trauma-informed Administrator for Ballad Health (and formerly the ACEs Educator and System of Care Developer for the Johnson City, TN Police Department), shared her experience in local government as she and others helped build a “community of care” in Johnson City. Event attendees enjoyed discussion and training on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the prevalence of trauma, and trauma’s impact on the brain; key principles to consider when building a trauma-informed “community of care”; and the need for trauma-informed care to be included in all frontline services to mitigate the effects of ACEs and create a resilient and thriving community.
Packing Up the Lanterns
The Chinese Lantern Festival ended its six-week run at Koka Booth Amphitheatre this week. The beautiful lanterns are being dismantled, some with the assistance of a crane. Attendance for this fourth festival broke records with 102,851 visitors coming through the gates. That is 18,000 more than last year and 10,000 more than two years ago. The fifth festival will return to the Amphitheatre in November for what is sure to be another spectacular showcase.
Map of Town-Owned Property
With input from department directors and the manager’s office, Transportation and Facilities staff created a map that provides a comprehensive look at all properties owned by the Town of Cary. Detailed data such as land and building values, acreage, usage, flood plain location, and parks and greenway information can be displayed for each property.
Fire Chief Serves on Assessment Team
Fire Chief Mike Cooper served as a member of a peer assessment team for the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) this week at the Royal Air Force Mildenhall (RAFM) in Suffolk, England. CPSE promotes and awards accreditation to fire and emergency services throughout the world that have met or exceeded the performance indicators in the accreditation model.
2019 Employee Rap Sessions Begin
First-timers joined regular attenders for a great kickoff to the 2019 Employee Rap Sessions for in-depth discussion on Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation. One of the goals of these rap sessions is for employees to get to know each other. The importance of communicating and getting an issue on the table with colleagues when a situation or comment feels offensive was highlighted. When those conversations take place in the moment, even when it’s a little uncomfortable, relationships are built, making the organization more resilient when faced with more severe challenges. Or, as Deanna Hawkes put it, “It’s important to build relationships before you need them.”
Emails From Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included:
- Complaints about the proposed hotel on Weston Parkway (Council will vote on this item at our January 24th meeting).
- Request for help with a Visa issue (This is a federal issue and we provided contact information to congressional leaders representing Cary).
- Request to speak against a Morrisville rezoning (Speaking publically to another governing body telling them how to vote usually has the opposite effect. I contacted the Morrisville Mayor and let him know our citizen’s concerns).
- Kudos for programming at the Cary Theater.
Next week will be busy for me. Activities include a Mayors Association Meeting, staff meetings, The State of Cary Address at the chamber breakfast, the Lazy Daze Grant reception, and a regularly scheduled council meeting.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, January 27th. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht and Hal Goodtree.