Harold’s Blog: Permit Extensions, Signs, Spirit, Wastewater, Art, Mailbag

From the blog of  Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through November 21, 2010.

There were several meetings this week as my mayoral duties picked up a little.

Permit Extensions Opt Out

Monday I called council members for their questions and concerns about Thursday’s council meeting. Read more

Transportation: Triangle Moves Forward

Story by Hal Goodtree. Pictured above: Personal Rapid Transit vehicle.

Cary, NC –  The Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA) held its annual meeting at Embassy Suites in Cary last Wednesday. More than 200 business leaders, elected officials and transportation experts from across the Triangle gathered to hear the “State of Mobility” presentation on transportation issues and accomplishments in our region during the last year.

Accomplishments

Good transportation – by road, rail and air – is vital to the economic health of our region. It’s also a vital factor in our “quality of life.” After all, who wants to live in a region that’s a transportation nightmare? Ask any transplant from New York, Boston or Atlanta.

The good news, as reported by Joe Milazzo, RTA Executive Director and Rick Weddle, RTA Chair, was that the Triangle has a pretty robust transportation infrastructure and it’s improving steadily. Several important projects were started or funded this year:

  • 147 Triangle Expressway – Now under construction. Slated for completion in December 2011.
  • NC 540 – Now under construction. Slated for completion in December 2012.
  • East End Connector – Also called the I-85 Connector, it will hook up 540 and 147 with I-85, eliminating a detour through city streets on our major artery to the north. Construction will begin in Fall 2013.

Buses or Trains?

One of the key issues for 2011, according to Milazzo, is to decide between two competing plans for the next 15 years. Both plans mix bus and train components, but in different measures.

  • Plan 1 – Major improvements to rail transportation, completing a grid from UNC Chapel Hill through Durham, RTP, Cary and Raleigh, extending down to Clayton and up to Wake Forest. Incremental improvement in bus transportation.
  • Plan 2 – Major improvements in bus transportation, incremental steps in improving our regional rail grid. The rail links from north Raleigh to Wake Forest  and between Durham and Chapel Hill are not in this plan..

Both plans are scheduled to be completed by 2025.

At stake is which plan will be submitted to a voter referendum on a proposed half percent sales tax increase to fund transportation.

Interestingly, both plans have Cary pretty much in the center of transportation grid. But for other towns, which plan gets adopted could have a big impact on their future.

What Do You Think?

Generally speaking, would you like to see more rail or more bus in the Triangle? Send you thoughts to transportation@carycitizen.com.

Gaining Altitude at RDU

Milazzo also highlighted several interesting developments at RDU.

  • RDU flights are cheaper than similar flights from CLT (Charlotte)
  • RDU is one of the nation’s most successful as measured by growth
  • Delta added 14 new flights in August (as reported on CaryCitizen)

The renovation of Terminal 2 has been moved up to January 23, 2010 to accommodate the flood of visitors for the NHL All-Star Game the following week. The expansion of Terminal 2, the largest project in the history of RDU, has been going on for five years and will add 17 new gates plus 13 shops and restaurants.

RDU released this photo in October of decorative concrete recently poured outside the bag claim area.

Personal Rapid Transit and Other Pot Pourri

The RTA really brings together some innovative thinking about transportation. Some interesting tidbits for Cary citizens:

  • Quick Crossovers – An alternative to Roundabouts. They’re quick to fund, build and use and are gaining popularity across the U.S.
  • BOSS – Stands for “Bus on Shoulder.” It’s an easy retrofit for existing highways. We may to see it in a few years on I-40.
  • Personal Rapid Transit (pictured top of page) – This personal transportation pod, which looks like something from the Jetsons (or maybe a toaster), is already in use at Heathrow Airport.

Quick crossover, or diverging diamond exchanges, are an attractive alternative to roundabouts.

RTA Means Business

The Regional Transportation Alliance, with the motto “Let’s Get Moving,” serves as the voice of business for transportation initiatives and policy across the Triangle.  The Alliance focuses on strategic issues that will decrease the area’s commuting times, expand mobility options, improve shipping efficiency, and attract and retain top businesses in the region. The Alliance was founded by the Cary, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Durham, and Raleigh chambers of commerce in 1999.

Over 100 major businesses including Cisco, IBM, Progress Energy, Quintiles and Research Triangle Park, along with 23 area chambers of commerce are members of the Alliance.

The People of Cary: Sheila Ogle

Story by Matt Young, photo by Hal Goodtree

Cary, NC – “You have got to talk to Sheila Ogle.” I was given that advice a half dozen times. Finally we contacted Mrs. Ogle to see if we could spend a little time with her. Read more

Cary Parks #2: Thomas Brooks Park

Part 2 in our Cary Parks series.

Cary, NC — At Thomas Brooks Park in Cary, world-class baseball players sharpen their skills next to kids climbing on the monkey bars and families picnicking beneath a shelter. With perfectly manicured grass and top notch facilities, it’s a municipal park like few others in the world. Read more

Harold’s Blog: Morrisville, Water, Newly Elected Reps, the Mailbag

From the blog of  Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through November 14, 2010.

This week was another slow week for me as mayor.

Cary and Morrisville

Monday subcommittees of the Morrisville Town Council and the Cary Town Council held their first meeting. This subcommittee adopted the following purpose statement:

“The purpose of the joint Cary-Morrisville subcommittee of the respective town councils is to provide elected officials of the two communities a regular opportunity to openly discuss matters of mutual interest.”

The Cary/Morrisville subcommittee agreed on a web page to hold information about past and future meetings.  The subcommittee agreed to meet quarterly unless circumstances call for more or less meetings. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in Morrisville in the month of February. At that meeting the subcommittee will discuss the following topics:

  • Greenway connectivity
  • Bus service
  • Comparison of development processes
  • Information update on the Highway 54 corridor study

At future meetings the subcommittee will discuss the following topics:

  • At grade crossing studies
  • Hotel/Motel food beverage tax
  • Evans Road extension
  • Parks and Recreation facilities sharing
  • Comparison of legislative authority

Water

On Tuesday I met with the town manager and the Mayor Pro-Tem to discuss ongoing issues. In addition to discussing the Western Wake Wastewater Facility we discussed the potential impacts of hosting elected officials (most recently School Board member Debra Goldman) at town hall.

Wednesday I had a meeting with the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility Advisory Committee. This is the group that makes recommendations for water capacity.

Interestingly, this group hasn’t met for several years and only one Apex staff member was present at the last meeting years ago. This committee includes both mayors, both town managers, and several key staff members.

The purpose of the meeting was to consider two issues related to the future expansion of the Apex/Cary water plant which pulls water from Jordan Lake. The first issue was to approve a consultant for the design of the future expansion. That expansion would take Cary’s daily production from 40 MGD (million gallons a day) to 56 MGD. The design will take about 18 months and would be valid for roughly two years afterward. That means we would need to consider expansion construction in at most three and a half years or redo the design.

The second issue of discussion was an inter-local agreement between Apex and Cary to address mutual aid. That is, if the agreement was approved we would help each other with capacity issues. We both agreed to direct our staffs to move in that direction.

It is important to note that Cary has about five years of capacity left. That depends a lot on conservation. The more we conserve, the later the need for expansion, and the later the cost of expansion. Both Apex and Cary councils are scheduled ratify the committee recommendations at their next regularly scheduled council meetings.

Congrats to newly elected officials

Other duties this week included calling all the newly elected representatives and senators that represent Cary. These include House members Weiss, Dollar, and Stam. I also called House member elect Murray. On the senator side I called Stein and Stevens from Wake County and Hackney and Atwater from Chatham County.

Although I tried various times of the day I was not able to get in touch with a single member. Therefore I left congratulatory messages and invited them to a reception we are planning in January.

The rest of the week was spent writing the December Cary Matters and starting the State of the Town message.

Mail Bag

The email box was full this week. Unfortunately, the homebuilders decided to fill up my email box with a cut and paste message regarding opting out of permit extension act. That would basically give developers extended time on approved projects.

The positive in doing this is that it helps a suffering industry in bad economic times. The negative of doing this is that infrastructure due to the impact of the projects will still have to be built. The delay of projects may mean that there is greater impact. If that greater impact is not paid for by the development that created it then the level of service drops or the citizens pay the difference.

Here was the message I received dozens of times from developer interests:

Dear Councilor,

By opting out of the permit extension act, you will simply be placing projects already approved at further risk.  Rather than spurring economic development and expanding the tax base, the Council will be pushing potentially viable projects to the brink of collapse.  The ongoing economic crisis simply makes obtaining financing extremely difficult, consequently stretching out project timelines.

As we continue to fight our way to economic recovery, it is critical that elected officials do all they can do to stimulate new economic development and expand tax base. Forcing previously approved projects to retool and seek new approvals will only impair your municipality’s tax base and economic development efforts. More importantly, based on the recent election, it is clear that citizens want elected officials to take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure that our communities get back on stable economic footing as soon as possible. The General Assembly passed this legislation based on need, and clearly the need is still present.

Please reject the opt-out provision.

My Soapbox – Filling up our email boxes with a cut and paste message is not a good strategy. I received and understood the message the first time it was sent to me and the additional multiple messages just made it difficult to respond to citizens who had issues that needed addressing in a timely manner. So if the strategy was to prevent me from responding to citizens in a timely manner it succeeded! End Soapbox

Anyway, this decision will be a balancing act for council members. I am sure it will be a very difficult decision for some and others it will be straight forward.

Regarding other emails, I also received several supporting the opting out of the permit extension (these were not cut and paste). Other emails included a complaint about the school board, complaints about the Weldon Ridge Road alignment, a request to support Tryon Place, a complaint about me not communicating to Cary citizens (REALLY???), a complaint about Park West in Morrisville, a request to apply for a grant, and complaints about no parking signs in Carpenter Village.

Next week the pace will pick up for me with highlights including a Mayors Association meeting, a work session on the sign ordinance, and a council meeting.

Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 21st. Please feel free to email me with a comment.

Personal comments please send to augustanat@mindspring.com.
All Town of Cary business – please email me at Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org

Photo of Jordan Lake by Hal Goodtree

History: Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church

Story by Mary Beth Phillips, photo by Hal Goodtree

Morrisville, NC – Finding a Cary-area native is getting harder and harder these days, but if you travel down the road from Cary just a piece, you can find a community made up of folks that have been born and bred in these parts since their families settled here in the mid-1800s. Read more

Citizen of the Year: Jack Smith

(L->R) Howard Johnson, Harold Weinbrecht and Jack Smith. Photo by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – Congratulations to our good friend, local businessman and Cary Town Council Member Jack Smith, who received the Citizen of the Year award at the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet recently. The award is given each year to a person who has distinguished him or herself in service to the Cary community. Read more

Harold’s Blog: An Education on Election Day

From the blog of  Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through November 7, 2010.

This week was a slow week for me as mayor. It was a welcomed pace which allowed me to catch up on work and personal matters. Read more

Dorcas Ministries Helping Cary Families

Story and photos by Leslie Huffman

Cary, NC – This past week, I finally cleaned out my closets. I made a huge pile of clothes that we’ve out-grown or cannot wear anymore. I’m now ready to donate my things so that my unwanted items help the community in the best way possible. Read more

Cary Parks #1: MacDonald Woods Park

Part 1 in our Cary Parks series.

Cary, NC — Nestled alongside a small creek in an unassuming neighborhood lies one of the jewels of Cary’s park system – MacDonald Woods Park. It is not the largest (only 13.8 acres) nor the best equipped (there are no restrooms or shelters), but there is a certain charm to MacDonald Woods that attracts a variety of visitors, many from outside the neighborhood. Read more