Cary, NC – This was a busy week for me.
Monday – Wake Mayors
Monday I participated in a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. Eight of the twelve mayors were in attendance. Absent were the mayors of Apex, Morrisville, Knightdale, and Wendell. One topic discussed was the legislation that now requires municipalities to pay for road improvements around schools. In addition, municipalities are not allowed consider the road’s level of service as part of their decision.
It was expressed by several mayors that the cost of road improvements could be in the millions and they wouldn’t be able to afford that. Both Raleigh and Cary currently have proposals that include schools going through the system that would cost millions to the local taxpayers.
Tuesday – Preparing for the Week
Tuesday I attempted to contact all council members to hear their questions or concerns about Thursday’s agenda. There were very few questions but comments were made about the Weston hotel proposal. Later in the day I met with key staff members and Mayor Pro-Tem Bush to go over the agenda items. At that time I heard there would be numerous members of the Weldon Ridge community speaking at the public hearing. I estimated the meeting would last a couple of hours.
My final meeting Tuesday was my weekly one-on-one with the town manager. Mayor Pro-Tem Bush joined us as we talked about several issues none of which were pressing.
Wednesday – State of the Town Address
Wednesday morning I presented my State of Cary Address to a sold out crowd at Prestonwood. It is the first of several addresses that I will give this year. My next will be in March. I began writing The State of Cary Address in December. The process began by asking a couple of dozen questions of staff and then incorporating those answers into my presentation.
The initial draft, which had over 3700 words, was too long for the Chamber and most other presentations. However it will be the complete presentation I draw from for each audience. After the initial draft I passed it along to the Public Information Office for fact checking. Then it was time to make the presentation slides which takes a lot of time. This year the presentation slides were made by our town clerk (THANK YOU GINNY!).
In the Chamber presentation I put emphasis on technology which I have not done in the past. Technology is extremely significant as we move further into the Information Age. I made the point of letting everyone know that as far as municipalities go, we are one of the leaders. My presentation to the Chamber lasted about 30 to 40 minutes including a few questions. I will tape a shorter version of about 5 to 10 minutes for Cary TV on February 5th. Links will be provided once they are available.
Wednesday evening I met with representatives of Searstone, located at Davis Drive and High House Road, interested in changing their expansion plans. I was joined by Mayor Pro-Tem Bush and several staff members. My feedback included potential concerns with neighboring Preston residents.
Wednesday night I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Bush, council members Yerha, Smith, and George in the Lazy Daze Grants Reception. Each year the proceeds from Lazy Daze, the largest arts and crafts festival in the southeastern United States, are given back to various non-profit organizations involved in the arts. This year we presented $40,000 in grants to various organizations. Since this program’s inception we have given over $650,000 to various non-profit organizations. A special part of this reception is the unveiling of the art to be used for Spring Daze. Each year local high school students participate by submitting their artwork. Our winner for this year had a beautiful piece filled with colors of spring with two hands in flowers.
Thursday – Cary Town Council Meeting
Thursday the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of January. There were seven consent agenda items, two public hearings, and two discussion items.
At the beginning of the meeting I read a proclamation honoring Deputy Town Manager Bajorek who is retiring next week after 31 years of service to the Cary citizens. His last day will be on January 31st. He has made a tremendous impact in many areas including customer response and our snow removal process. He will be sorely missed.
The discussion item on the Weston Hotel proposal was tabled indefinitely at the beginning of the agenda at the request of the applicant to give them more time to work with the residents.
The first public hearing was of the GoCary transit changes. The proposal included adding routes and stops but also eliminated stops. There were a lot of speakers in opposition of eliminating stops. Several of the speakers were disabled and talked how detrimental these changes would be in their lives. After the public hearing the council decided to table this item so that staff members working with GoCary could work with the residents on solutions to the issues they mentioned.
The second public hearing was the Weldon Ridge PDD Amendment proposal. About twenty speakers made comments on the proposal that would add more houses and reduce the size of the school. Most of the speakers spoke against the proposal citing safety and traffic issues. Council also provided a great deal of feedback on this proposal citing several concerns. This proposal will now be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board. Their recommendation will come back to us a two or three months.
The only discussion item was the annual list of sidewalks. That list is determined by criteria and the budget which makes it an apolitical process. There was very little discussion but council members did make positive comments about certain sidewalks on the list before approving it unanimously.
The council meeting adjourned after about three hours.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included:
The research phase of our community branding initiative continues. This week, our branding consultants are preparing an external Consumer Awareness and Perception Study to gain insight into consumer awareness, visitation, and perceptions of Cary. The survey measures overall top-of-mind perceptions of Cary and immediate competitors, consumer visitation trends (frequency and nature of visitation), consumer visitation drivers (business, leisure, friends and family), and strengths and weaknesses of Cary with identified community attributes. An internet study will be conducted among respondents in the Greater Charlotte and Greater Raleigh areas. Results from this survey will be presented as part of the overall research findings sometime this spring.
MLK, Jr. Groundbreaking Event
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Mayor Pro Tem Lori Bush, Congressman David Price, and several Cary staff attended a groundbreaking ceremony at White Oak Missionary Baptist Church. The White Oak Foundation has received $575,000 from the Town over the last 5 years to support a new 3-story Resource Center on the vacant land across from their church. This new facility will house the foundation’s food pantry, clothing bank, administrative offices, and health and human service programs. Following the approval of their rezoning case in 2017, White Oak began plans to build 30 affordable townhomes and a daycare facility. Pastor Charles Tyner, Sr., expressed gratitude for Cary’s ongoing support.
State of Cary
It was a full house for the Mayor’s annual State of Cary address. Looking forward to another great year!
In our continuing efforts to address speeding concerns along Loch Highlands Drive, staff joined with the Lochmere Association’s Traffic Committee to hold a public meeting at the Lochmere Recreation Club. Staff from Transportation & Facilities and Police joined in the conversation with residents to discuss ongoing efforts to slow traffic along this popular collector street. Residents were updated on the working design plans developed by Cary and given information on the Town’s pilot program to test the long-term use of radar feedback signs. These signs will be installed in early February along Loch Highlands Drive and will provide travel speed information to drivers to alert speeding drivers to slow down.
Feedback from the meeting was plentiful and the discussion among residents was balanced and thoughtful. Council Member Jack Smith attended and expressed appreciation for everyone’s efforts. Given some of the concerns of residents regarding equity, cost and need, the Lochmere Traffic Committee and Town staff will be taking an iterative approach to addressing speeding. The radar feedback signs will be the initial phase and data collected from the devices will determine their effectiveness at slowing the flow of traffic. After-data will be collected along the corridor to supplement the data collected from the radar devices, and this information will be compared to the before-data collected in 2017. Based on the results, Town staff will continue to work with the Traffic Committee the need for additional traffic calming devices, if appropriate.
Cary150 Task Force
At last Tuesday’s meeting, the 150th Citizen Task Force decided on their name, Cary150 Task Force, and determined their purpose: To plan, celebrate, and commemorate the Town of Cary’s 150th anniversary in a way that honors the Town’s past, engages all citizens in the present, and excites people about its future. It was wonderful to have the Mayor stop by and provide words of encouragement to the group.
NCDOT Information on www.townofcary.org
Every winter, Cary receives calls concerning potholes on streets within Town limits due to snow and ice. While the Town maintains most local streets, NCDOT maintains many of the major thoroughfares that provide mobility through the Town. We have created a webpage to give citizens a convenient way to get the most up to date information about NCDOT’s efforts to maintain these thoroughfares. The website includes links to maps, NCDOT’s pothole reporting page, and information about upcoming NCDOT resurfacing projects.
Federal Shutdown Affects Some Cary Residents
Utility Accounts has heard from nearly a dozen federal employees about their financial plight during the shutdown. When they contact us, we are noting their utility account, offering information about our Oasis assistance program and making sure no late fees or non-payment fees are billed. We are not disconnecting these accounts for nonpayment and ask them to stay in contact with us.
Lazy Daze Grant Reception
On January 23, the Festivals Committee hosted its annual Lazy Daze Grants Reception at the Cary Theater. Grants are awarded to Cary-based non-profits that submit an arts focused project that benefits the Cary community. The Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival awarded $40,000 to 30 Cary non-profit organizations. The Mayor and Council (Councilman Ed Yerha, Councilwoman Lori Bush and Councilman Ken George) presented the grants. Since its inception, the Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival has awarded about $700,000 to Cary based non-profits.
Mark your calendars for the 43rd annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival, scheduled for August 24-25, 2019.
Cary Hosts Purchasing Training
On January 22, Cary hosted the 2nd annual Carolina Association of Governmental Purchasing (CAGP) Central Regional Training at the Herb Young Community Center. This is an opportunity for local and state government purchasing professionals to collaborate, learn best practices, share ideas and experiences and foster communication among peers. The Central Regional’s inaugural training event was held in Raleigh and attracted 22 participants. This year, 40 purchasing professionals attended the event in Cary. Shaun Mizell, Teri Peralta, and Ishani Padmaperuma from the Finance Department worked with Public Works and Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources staff to make this event an outstanding success. The Town of Cary looks forward to hosting this event again in the future.
Local Government Fellow:
After an intensive selection process from an applicant pool of 140 municipal leaders around the state, Ishani Padmaperuma, Purchasing and Contracts Manager, was one of 40 emerging leaders who attended “Leading for Results,” a two-week intense leadership program developed and conducted by the UNC School of Government. The program is sponsored by the Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU) and offered tuition free to selected local government professionals in leadership roles. Graduates, or Fellows, of the program are expected to be effective leaders by inspiring and empowering staff to work toward a common vision. In addition to the leadership training, the statewide networking sets the stage for future collaborative opportunities.
Fire Crew Builds Community Bonds:
We are proud of B-shift Engine 3 and Ladder 3 who turned a routine false alarm response into a great memory for the citizen. Speaking of the firefighters’ interaction with his 2-year-old son, “It was a small gesture, but it absolutely made his week! It’s now several days later, and he’s still talking about riding in the fire truck.” Great job demonstrating the Cary Way in action.
The Planning and Zoning Board will meet on Monday. There are two rezoning cases on the agenda: 6800 Holly Springs Road and Cary Pointe PDD.
The Cultural Arts Committee will meet on Tuesday (agenda).
Emails from last week included a question about why the Swift Creek Greenway was removed from the NCDOT plans. Here is information from staff on the issue:
… This project remains a high priority for Cary and a critical link in the greenway system. If I may, I’d like to provide a brief overview on the state’s funding process to shed some light on the current status of the project. The N.C. Department of Transportation’s transportation plan, called the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), identifies the construction funding and schedule for state transportation projects over a 10-year period. NCDOT updates the STIP approximately every two years to reflect the state’s current financial situation.
NCDOT released their new draft STIP (found here: https://www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/Transportation/stip/development/Pages/draft-stip-highlights.aspx) on January 10, 2019. The draft STIP includes 1663 projects statewide, across all modes, and includes approximately 500 changes from the previously approved STIP. Several projects have been removed/delayed as a result of significantly reduced projections in funding, due largely in part to increasing construction costs and project delays for existing projects. Unfortunately, the Swift Creek Greenway construction project we were hoping would land in the funded portion of the new Draft STIP did not make the cut.
That being said, staff is actively exploring our options for the project. We are in discussions with the Capital Area MPO, which programs regional priorities for the STIP to brainstorm ways to move the project forward. Options could include phasing the design and construction of the greenway project to better align it with upcoming phases of roadway construction on both US 64 and US 1, which have also experienced slight delays in construction. The Swift Creek Greenway project scores very well based on the state’s criteria and while the immediate delay is disappointing, we are hopeful we can work together with our regional partners to continue to move the project forward in the near future. …
Emails from other citizens this week included:
- Comments for and against the Weldon Ridge rezoning proposal (We had a public hearing this week and now it goes to the Planning and Zoning Board for their review).
- Comments for and against the Weston Hotel rezoning proposal (The council tabled this project indefinitely at the applicant’s request so that they can talk with nearby residents).
- Several invitations for events and meetings (I try and talk and meet with everyone who requests but with a full time job my calendar is full. So I do have to decline some requests).
- A concern about the state and safety of the Mayton House (This is part of an ongoing legal issue so there isn’t a lot I can say except that the council is also concerned).
- A request to help find a space for the CAP team to work on bikes (This group needs a free space to work on bikes that they give away to kids. If you know or have such a space let me know).
- A question about rooftop seating on the new library and what will happen to the old library site (It is my understanding that Wake County, the developer of the library, wouldn’t agree to rooftop seating. The old library site will most likely be redeveloped into a mixed use development to support and blend in with other downtown developments).
- A concern about issues related to the old Campbell Road nursery site (Staff is working with the property owner to resolve issues).
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a dinner at the Governor’s Mansion for the North Carolina Chinese Business Association, and Mike Bajorek’s retirement ceremony.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 3rd. 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.