Cary, NC – This week was relatively short in comparison to typical weeks this time of year.
Monday – Planning for the Week
Monday I called council members to hear of concerns or questions they may have had about the upcoming council meeting on Thursday. Since the discussion part of that meeting was quasi-judicial I was not allowed to discuss those topics with council members.
Later Monday I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Bush and management staff for a very short meeting to go over the agenda. I then met briefly with the Deputy town manager and the Public Information Officer.
Thursday – Town Council Meeting
Thursday the council held the only regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The reason this is the only meeting is because next Thursday is Valentines and the following Thursday will be the annual council-staff working retreat. The agenda included seven consent items, three public hearings, and two quasi-judicial hearings. A public hearing to amend the Weston PDD (18-REZ-27) to allow more parking drew speakers in opposition with concerns of noise, light, and buffering. Hopefully the neighbors and the applicant will work out differences before we have to vote on this matter in a few months. The public hearings were following by a closed session that lasted about twenty minutes.
The first quasi-judicial hearing was for a reduction in the width of the Highway Corridor Buffer along I-40 to facilitate development of a new 32,000-square-foot office and warehouse facility in Gateway Center for Bitting Electric. Testimony showed that this encroachment would not be visible and would blend with like uses around them. This was approved by council 6 – 1.
The second quasi-judicial hearing was a special use permit to develop an 81,500-square-foot mini-storage facility near the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Davis Drive. After testimony council members expressed several concerns in a lengthy deliberation. A motion to deny was defeated 4 – 3. However a follow-up motion to approve was also defeated 4 – 3. So I then asked the council member that changed his mind to make a motion. His motion was to deny. In the discussion part of the motion there was additional deliberation. Eventually the council approved the motion to deny by a 5 to 2 vote with council members Frantz and Yerha voting against. The council meeting concluded after about three hours and forty-five minutes.
Friday – North Carolina General Assembly
Friday I participated in the year’s first meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary of that meeting provided by the Executive Director:
The North Carolina General Assembly convened last Wednesday, January 30, to begin their work for the 2019 “long” session. We expect the start to this year’s session to be fairly slow. On the first day of session, both Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said that General Assembly action would be minimal the first couple of weeks. The House held several committee meetings this week and most meetings were strictly informational. The main floor work this week included adoption of the House permanent rules, revision of the Senate rules, and appointments to the State Ethics Commission.
The 2019-20 Biennial session ushers in a new framework for the General Assembly and there are already indications that it will operate differently given the new makeup of the body. The Democrats in both chambers and Governor’s interests are more relevant since the Republicans no longer have a “supermajority.” Also noteworthy, there are a large number of “newer” legislators on both sides of the aisle, with many first-term freshmen and second-term sophomores in both chambers. Additionally, it has been noted by many experts (NCFREE election analysis) that there is a growing trend in elections for Democrats to represent “urban counties,” while Republicans increasingly dominate legislative elections in “rural counties.”
NCGA Partisan Makeup
Senate 29 R – 21 D (30% freshmen, 16% sophomores)
House 65 R – 55 D (23% freshmen, 18% sophomores)
Little more Sunshine in the OPERATION
The Senate revised its operating rules to require that the minority leader be given 24 hours’ notice that a vetoed bill may be considered by the Senate. Additionally, the new rules require that proposed committee substitutes must be distributed to committee members by 6:00 p.m. the day before a vote is held.
The House announced a new approach to their weekly schedule to provide more predictability and allow more time for bills to be thoroughly vetted in committees. The new House committee schedule will include Rules Committee meetings on Monday nights followed by a 7:00 p.m. session that often will not include recorded votes unless necessary. Each committee has a scheduled time slot, an hour for lunch is accounted for Tuesday through Thursday, and each day includes a set time for session.
Top Leadership remains.
Key Committees have new leadership in most Committees relevant to cities:
Below are links to resources on the North Carolina Legislative Website that you may find helpful.
House and Senate Committee Assignments – Related to House Committee Assignments, the Speaker Pro Tempore, Rules Chairman, House Majority Leader, and Deputy House Majority Leader will serve as ex officio voting members on all House standing committees.
Legislative Representation Look up which legislators represent a certain area. You can search by a specific address, district, or county.
House Member Contact Information – Includes room number, office telephone, and e-mail address.
Senate Member Contact Information – Includes room number, office telephone, and e-mail address.
NCGA Audio – All House and Senate floor sessions and most committees have their audio live streamed.
TOPICS Discussed included:
School Construction Bills – As expected, House and Senate Republicans introduced competing legislation to fund school construction. The House plan proposes a $1.9 billion bond. The Senate plan, SB5, proposes paying for construction using an increased annual allocation to the State Capital Infrastructure Fund. Read more from the News & Observer here
For Metro Mayors Awareness/ON the HORIZON:
Medicaid Expansion – priority issue for the Governor and there is BI-PARTISAN interest in the effort. We expect it to take up a lot of the time and energy for this session. Similarly, changes to the State Employees Health Plan will be a priority issue (State Treasurer is leading the charge on that).
ABC Privatization – a perennial issue that seems to have a bit more energy this session. Metro Mayors will pay close attention. NCLM has a carefully nuanced legislative position that stresses that ANY change must: 1) NOT reduce local revenues; 2) must maintain local government role in locating establishments, and lastly; 3) maintain funding for treatment programs. Metro Mayors Coalition may have to weigh in on this topic as it develops.
Economic Development Tier System – a likely issue this session with potentially significant impact on cities. Still waiting to see which legislators may provide leadership on the topic.
E-Scooters – we WILL see legislation on this topic from Rep. Torbett (Gaston). Metro Mayors will host a city staff call on the topic to explore the topic further and report back to the Mayors.
The meeting concluded after 30 minutes.
Friday night my wife and I joined a couple hundred people in the celebration of the Sharma’s 70th wedding anniversary. The Sharma’s came to the area over 50 years ago. They started the Hindu Society of North Carolina which is in Morrisville. They are the main reason for the large Indian-American population in Morrisville and Cary. We are blessed to share the Indian rich culture and their desire to serve their community. Congratulations to the Sharmas!
Sunday – State of Cary Address
Sunday I spoke at a meeting of Cary Democrats to give them a ten minute version of the State of Cary address. Questions following my talk included the topics of affordable housing, transit, resolutions on national issues, and town’s human resource policies.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included:
Reclaimed Water Holiday
On Monday, February 11, the Reclaimed Water System will begin its annual 10-day maintenance shutdown. The shutdown provides the opportunity to perform vital maintenance that is difficult to achieve while the system is in operation. Reclaimed water from the Durham County Waste Water Treatment Plant that is supplied to western Cary’s distribution system will also be suspended. Cary’s reclaimed water distribution network includes 42 miles of distribution lines and 796 metered accounts and supplies an average daily billed consumption of 485,000 gallons per day. Reclaimed water is also used at the water reclamation facilities for cooling water for the biosolids dryer and various process support operations. The Reclaimed Water Holiday is scheduled in February because that is when irrigation needs are at their lowest. Both residential and commercial reclaimed water customers received a written notice of the holiday prior to the shutdown. After maintenance is complete, the system resume operations on Thursday, February 21.
The newest Pickleball offering is happening on the four 36’ courts at the Cary Tennis Park (CTP). These lighted courts are used for tennis for 8 and under children on weekday afternoons. By using blended lines and vibrant colors, these courts are now being used in the morning and late evening hours for Pickleball as well. Court reservations may be made for the CTP courts so players can sign up for a specific time and know their court is waiting for them. Open play is offered on weekends to complement the open play opportunities offered at the Community Centers during the week. A meetup group has been formed called TPE (Triangle Pickleball Enthusiasts), and they are beginning to host level-based social Pickleball meetups. CTP staff is completing instructor training and will be offering lessons, tournaments and other pickleball programming.
USTA and Pickleball Association have been so impressed with this solution, there are discussions to expand these blended lines nationally. Cary is on the cutting edge of this new concept and reflects the creativity and adaptability of Cary’s staff.
Art Exhibit at Senior Center
After receiving complaints from a few citizens, staff moved to storage three paintings from an exhibit by artist Bing Weng at the Cary Senior Center. Based on what I have learned so far, staff felt the works were not consistent with works that had been reviewed for the exhibition, titled “Blooming Life.” It’s possible that language barriers may have contributed to artist’s misunderstanding of the facility’s use for exhibiting art. The artist’s other paintings remain on exhibit until February 15. We are reviewing processes regarding exhibitions, especially in spaces that are open to all and not designated gallery spaces where art is expected to be showcased. We will update you as the situation evolves. Please feel free to send media inquiries to Susan Moran.
Cary’s newest water tank, the Kilmayne Drive Elevated Water Storage Tank, has officially been placed into service. This new two-million gallon tank provides additional storage capacity in the central pressure zone and plays a key role in maintaining the strength of the water distribution system, not only by providing reliable water service to our citizens, but also providing greater operational flexibility when other storage tanks in the system are offline for maintenance.
Schools Out Registration
Each summer, Cary provides over 500 camps that serve over 10,000 citizens at a variety of locations. Camp programs build community by providing opportunities for participants to create friendships and memories that last a lifetime. Camp sign-up opened on Monday, February 4 with 3,974 citizens registering on the first day. This is a 19.2% increase compared to 2018. Additionally, camp program revenue reached $497,948 on day one, a 19.3% increase compared to last year. Program areas for camps include various arts, sports, STEM, culinary arts, space exploration, outdoor skills, nature, history, skateboarding and much more.
Pressure Zone Feedback
“Thank you for holding this meeting. I better understand what’s happening and why,” said an attendee as he left pressure zone shift information session on February 5. A common comment about the evening, staff gave each citizen as much time as needed to feel more comfortable with the project and how residents can help ensure a safe and smooth transition to their increase in water pressure on April 9.
Juliet Andes was elected Chair of CAMPO’s Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC). The TCC is comprised of staff from 30 local jurisdictions and transportation agencies who provide general review, guidance and coordination of comprehensive transportation planning process in the Capital Urban Area. The TCC regularly makes technical recommendations to CAMPO’s Executive Board, the decision making body of the MPO, which is chaired by Mayor Weinbrecht.
Advisory Board Meetings
The Environmental Advisory Board will meet on Tuesday. Mayor Weinbrecht will be present the “The Year of the Monarch Butterfly” proclamation.
The Historic Preservation Commission will meet on Wednesday. Staff will provide an update on the Town-Owned Historic Properties Assessment.
Emails from Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included:
- Several emails complaining about the Weldon Ridge proposal (Many of those emails contained misinformation and I encouraged them to contact Katie Drye of our staff. The proposal has had a public hearing and will next go to the Planning and Zoning board for their review. Council will vote on this in a few months)
- An email anxious about the start of Reedy Creek Road widening (My information says construction will begin in the fall).
- A complaint about the lack of dog waste stations (Staff’s response: “Your suggestion has been a hot topic discussion for several years. The start-up costs for each station is approximately $150/station; however, our primary reason for deciding not to provide this level of service is due to the on-going costs to servicing the stations. Keeping bags stocked and emptying the dispensers would become and everyday task. Given that we have 80 miles of greenways you can see that if we placed one waste station per mile it would take one employee most of a day to service all the stations. The waste station structure, like signs and trash cans, along greenways is subject to vandalism, which would be an additional cost. … If you believe Dog Stations are a priority for Cary, you can submit input into the FY20 budget process. I have provided a link below as to ways the Town receives budget input. https://www.townofcary.org/services-pulications/plans-publications-reports/budget/budget-development)
- Kudos for replacing stone steps at the historic smokehouse at the Anne B. Kratzer Educational Herb Garden
- Kudos for resolving a buffer violation in the Weston area
- Concerns about a proposal to expand parking at a business site in the Weston Office Park (Neighbors behind the site are concerned about noise, light, and buffering)
- Kudos for developers George Jordan and Jordan Gussenhoven for landscaping to screen the new development on Urban Drive.
- The following comment sent to me about art work at the community center since January 25th: “You are a disgrace. Censoring free speech because if might offend the most evil murderous regime (BY FAR!) in the history of humanity!! Learn history! Learn facts! DISGRACEFUL! COWARDLY! UNAMERICAN… <vulgar comments>” (The decision to accept art or not is not a council decision nor are we involved in the decision making process. As mentioned in the town manager’s report this was work that was not consistent with work that had been reviewed for the exhibition. The remainder of the exhibit will be on display until February 15th.)
- A comment for council to find a police chief that takes white collar crime seriously (Council is not involved in the search of a police chief. That is the job of the town’s manager)
Next week’s activities will remain light as we approach the council-staff working retreat the following week. Activities include a meeting with someone from Cameron Pond about traffic concerns, reading a proclamation at the Environmental Advisory Board, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors Association.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 17th. 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.