Cary, NC – Tis the season to be busy if you are a mayor. There were lots of events this week and a quasi-judicial council meeting.
Monday – Affordable Housing
Monday I met with the town manager and the assistant town manager. Most of our meeting was about affordable housing. In our discussion we noted that there are a lot of questions about affordable housing that need to be answered.
For example: What is affordable since affordable is a relative term? Does affordable mean government subsidies? Does affordable mean rentals, cheap rentals, or a certain amount of square footage? How do you guarantee community standards and provide affordability? Since the market determines the price of housing how do you guarantee affordability? Since Cary has an affordable housing program does that need to be expanded, changed, or abandoned? Are there successful examples of affordable housing programs in other communities that we can model? These are all questions that need to be answered.
Tuesday – Youth Leadership
Tuesday I spoke to the Cary Chamber Youth Leadership group. There were about 50 students from area Cary high schools that were participating in the program. I talked briefly talked with them about my role and responsibilities as mayor and then focused my discussion on leadership and leadership styles. I talked for about 10 minutes and then answered questions for about 10 minutes. Since my talk I have had one student contact me and say he was inspired.
Wednesday – Cary Economic Development
Wednesday was a busy day for me. Mid-day I had the joy and pleasure of welcoming Cary staff to their annual holiday luncheon. This year I shook 641 hands and received about 2 dozen hugs. While I do many events during the year there is nothing compared to this one. I love seeing and talking to all the great people that work for Cary. Cary’s staff is by far the best in the state if not the country. They are truly the best of the best and to be associated with them is a great honor. After shaking hands I wished thanked them all for what they do for us and wished them a happy holiday season.
Wednesday afternoon I joined council member Jack Smith in a taping of Cary Matters. In this episode we talked about the retirements of two great public servants, Police Chief Tony Godwin and Deputy Town Manager Mike Bajorek. While their accomplishments are too many to mention I will state some of major ones. Chief Godwin and his department have made sure to keep Cary one of the safest places in the United States. In addition, in a time when police and African-American relationships were challenged across the country, the chief took the initiative of creating the barber shop talks which have become so successful that they have outgrown the barber shop. Deputy Town Manager Bajorek is always in the forefront of my mind when I think of customer service. He is one of the main reasons Cary is so customer centric today. These two gentlemen will be missed not only for their service but for the great people they are. They are two of the nicest people I have ever known.
Wednesday evening I participated in a meeting of the Economic Development Committee. Agenda topics included branding, the downtown park, downtown development, and the quarterly report.
The branding effort to date has included focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and an attempt to survey 500 people of which 25% participated. The next phase will include a community survey from the end of December until the end of January. While there are no deadlines it is anticipated that information will be presented to the Economic Development Committee, the official steering committee, later in 2019.
The Downtown park design remains on schedule and should be completed by the winter of 2019. Once a design has been agreed on it will have to decided how, if, and when to fund the second phase. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the downtown park and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the funded in a bond some time in 2019.
Development in downtown is moving forward. The library is expected to be finished with construction by summer 2019 but installing books and other things will take until fall. The parking deck should also be completed during this time and will eventually be surrounded by development. Proposals for this are working its way through staff reviews and may come to council in the spring.
The Fenton project continues to move forward. Now that they have all the approvals they are working on financing. Once that is in place we should see construction begin.
The quarterly report included information about the Cary Chamber Intercity visit next spring, existing industry meetings, consultant outreach, partner outreach, a small business optimization program, and HCL’s upcoming 30 year anniversary. The Economic Development Committee meeting concluded after about 45 minutes.
Wednesday night I joined council member Jack Smith in attending the CAP (Citizens Assisting Police) team’s appreciation dinner. Several members of our police department including the chief, interim chief, deputy chiefs, and captains were in attendance and actually served the CAP team members. After hearing from speakers the CAP team gave awards. We are so blessed to have the CAP team in Cary. Their work saves taxpayers thousands of dollars and allows our trained police officers to do the critical work they are trained for. THANK YOU CAP TEAM!
Thursday – Quasi-Judicial Meeting
Thursday the council held a quasi-judicial hearing for three cases. About one a month the Town Council holds a quasi-judicial hearing for issues such as special use permits, certain subdivision and site plan applications and for various other applications.
In the first case Amberly proposed the conversion 56 townhouses to 56 detached residential units. Council questioned how the detached units would take up the same space as the townhouses. The applicant stated that the townhouses would have been much larger than typical townhomes. The council approved this request.
The second case was to consider a development plan for a Bojangles next to the Carpenter Historic District. The Council was frustrated that a previously approved rezoning (from years ago) allowed this next to an historic district and made several disparaging comments about the appearance even though it didn’t have anything to do with the decision. Council also noted that there will be a gas station to the north and a storage facility to the south. All are not aesthetically pleasing next to a part of town we are trying to showcase as an historic district. In the end the council, who felt its hands were tied, reluctantly approved this proposal.
While I love Bojangles and eat there frequently, I am really disappointed to have it next to the Carpenter Historic District. Unfortunately, the local newspaper took our comments as an opportunity for a little Cary bashing stating “Years ago, another eatery — Gypsy’s Shiny Diner — drew the council’s ire for its polished metal facade.” Sadly the reporter was clueless about what we were trying to do and say. And BTW the Gypsy Shiny diner conversation was decades ago when council reviewed appearances which we no longer do. The local newspaper has told me in the past, and this article proves it, that they are not about being fair and balanced but just have to state facts. Well, stating some facts and not others is misleading and that is why SO MANY people are dissatisfied with the media. Shame on them!
Our last quasi-judicial hearing was to consider an express car wash as part of the Swift Creek shopping center. That was tabled until a further date. And since we are not allowed to talk to anyone about cases outside the quasi-judicial hearing I cannot say anything further about this case.
Friday – North Carolina Mayors
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Legislative topics included the voter id law, sales tax redistribution, and e-scooters. Based on the information provided it is believed the voter id will pass both the house and senate but will be vetoed by the Governor. It is unclear whether or not the Republican majority will be able to override that veto. The sales tax redistribution will likely not be taken up in this special session despite rumors stating otherwise. It was pointed out that this topic will continue to come back until the sales tax redistribution occurs. This could be harmful to some municipalities costing millions of dollars. There is a bill working its way through the house and senate on E-Scooters. If it passes it will define E-Scooters as a vehicle which comes with a lot of conditions. It is believed that it would not pass the Senate because they would rather take this up in the next session.
Saturday – Cary Parade
Saturday I joined all the council members in the Cary Jaycees Christmas parade. The weather was cloudy and cold which is about perfect for a Christmas parade. I was driven in a 1931 Ford Model A which was in immaculate condition. I, along with my passengers Steve Zaytoun and his wife, threw out twelve bags of candy. As usually it was a lot of fun. The Grand Marshall for the parade was Tru Pettigrew.
Several months ago Tru was worried about his 2 year old son being afraid of police and went to police department to talk with someone. At the same time the police department was looking for ways to build a relationship with the African American community. The barber shop conversations were created out of that. That program has become so successful that Tru has been invited to help others get started around the country. In Cary Tru and Police Chief Tony Godwin have become friends and call each other brothers. What a great person for a Grand Marshall.
Saturday night my wife and I attended a performance of the Nutcracker by IBA (International Ballet Company). The performance was spectacular and the talent was amazing. I have attended their performances for many years. Many of their students have become dance professionals. People move here from other areas of the country to attend this prestigious school. We are so fortunate to have them in Cary.
Sunday – Snow Storm
Overnight into Sunday Cary experienced a snow storm. My neighborhood saw about 6 inches of snow while some parts of Cary saw about 8 inches. It rained most of the day which created a slushy mess. Cary crews had all thoroughfares cleared before lunch and were working in subdivisions by noon. I am so very proud of Cary’s public works for always being the first one in the triangle to clear roads. You guys rock!
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included the following:
This Week / Next Week
On Thursday, Dan Ault and I had the opportunity to talk about how we bring people, processes and technology together to be as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency. This presentation was part of a panel, “Smart Cities, Smart People: A Look at Cary, NC’s Dynamic Smart City Initiative” at the annual ResCon Conference, an international conference on the practice of successful resilience and disaster management in an evolving global environment.
Great progress is being made on the construction of the Downtown Parking Deck and Cary Regional Library. The project is now about 44% complete, and the current schedule calls for the library to be open in late 2019.
I also wanted to let you know that the video of the downtown park presentation is available on our YouTube channel and on the website at townofcary.org/downtownpark.
Ahead of the threat of winter weather, crews today began brining our main thoroughfares and preparing necessary equipment to battle snow, ice and everything in between. Should the forecast stay as predicted, Snow Command will open Sunday. At this time, no services are delayed or canceled as the Town continues to monitor the weather. Please take time now to prepare you and your home for adverse weather.
Page-Walker Celebrates Sesquicentennial
On Saturday, December 1, the Page-Walker celebrated its 150th anniversary with remarks by Councilman Yerha, a proclamation by Mayor Weinbrecht and the unveiling of a new interpretative display. Special guests included members of the Page, Walker, Hunter, Coburn, Williams and Strother families as well as the Friends of the Page-Walker who all played a role in the history of the landmark hotel and its restoration to the current use as Cary’s Arts & History Center. Costumed hosts, cookies and cider, carolers and carriage rides added to the festive atmosphere.
Installing a water line connection in one weekend at Davis Drive and Morrisville Parkway, needed to implement pressure zone shifts, was an operation that required close collaboration between departments. Staff began by shutting down traffic on Friday night at 7 p.m. and worked continuously until 8 p.m. Saturday night to complete the water line connection, back-fill the trench, and install pavement (with the last few hours of work done in the rain). They returned at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning to mill the asphalt for the final overlay, completing the work around and getting the intersection reopened to traffic around 10:45 a.m. A special thanks to staff members who worked over the weekend to make this a smooth operation with minimal impact to the public.
The next pressure zone shift is scheduled for Tuesday, December 11 (weather permitting). Approximately 1,700 homes and businesses in the area surrounding Carpenter Village and Twin Lakes will experience a pressure increase of 45 psi. This work is part of the Town’s water system management strategy to ensure a more resilient and reliable water system. Citizens have been notified of the pressure zone change with notice letters, public meetings, Next Door, HOA communications, and integrated voice response messages. Staff also completed more than 1,100 pressure checks requested by citizens. Town staff will be monitoring weather conditions closely in advance of the operation.
Cary Parkway/High House Road
Weather permitting, the newly-constructed left turn lanes at Cary Parkway and High House Road will open next week. This is a major milestone in the project to improve traffic flow and mobility through this busy intersection. In addition to new dual left turn lanes at three approaches, the intersection improvements project included new dedicated right turn lanes and new sidewalks. There will be intermittent lane closures through early 2019 as we complete permanent pavement markings and signage, landscaping, add a bus shelter and install the decorative traffic signal.
Connected Vehicle Project
Staff was notified that our right-of-way certification and environmental documentation have been approved by NCDOT. This is a tremendous success to have these milestones completed so quickly. Staff will now develop a custom set of specifications for our project, working with NCDOT, CAMPO and other municipalities with the end goal of creating the most robust Intelligent Transportation Systems in NC and one of the largest systems in the country.
Youth Leadership Cary
Forty-five students from Cary area high schools participated in the municipal government section of the Chamber’s Youth Leadership Cary program. After a welcome from Mayor Weinbrecht and Deputy Manager Mike Bajorek, the students learned about Cary’s Smart City efforts, IT project management and the development process. They learned about PRCR at The Cary and finished their day with us by touring the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Traffic Operations and 911. Thanks to staff who shared their knowledge and passion for local government with the next generation of leaders.
Sports Venues Assessment
The facility assessment reports and 20-year capital expenditure plans have been completed for the Town’s premier sports venues: Cary Tennis Park, USA Baseball National Training Complex and WakeMed Soccer Park. Funded through Wake County Hospitality Tax revenues, these reports will be used to guide future capital budgeting and to request additional Wake County Hospitality Tax funding. On December 3, staff presented to the Hospitality Tax Work Team. Next steps will be to wrap up the reimbursement process with Wake County and work with them to schedule a future presentation to the Hospitality Tax Stakeholders.
The next Rezoning Neighborhood Meeting will occur at Town Hall on Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30pm. Neighborhood meetings provide an opportunity for applicants to present information on new rezoning requests and receive feedback from nearby property owners prior to the formal public hearing. Staff will provide general information regarding Cary’s rezoning process. The topic for Tuesday’s meeting will be the Weston PDD Amendment (18-REZ-27). The applicant, RedStorm Entertainment, has requested to amend 5.32 acres of the Weston PDD, Tract O&I 1C, located at 3001 Weston Parkway, to reduce a portion of the streetscape buffer width along Weston Parkway, reduce the western property line perimeter buffer width, and allow an increase in parking. There are no proposed changes to the rear property line buffer or to the maximum permitted building height.
Council previously requested information about the Complete 540 project, and new information was released by NCDOT: the first of three contracts was awarded this week. Information on the other two contracts will be available later in 2019. NCDOT intends to open all three sections simultaneously in 2023.
Bob Holden and Srijana Guilford participated in the Carolina Recycling Association and NC Department of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (NC DEACS) Anti-Contamination Workshop, a regional discussion on recycling trends and evolving community efforts to meet recycling challenges. Presentations focused on the opportunities for local governments, private haulers and material recovery facilities to join forces to address the new norms within the industry. Srijana served on a panel where she highlighted strategies that Cary uses to engage our community in efforts to combat contamination.
PD Promotion and Pinning Ceremony
Eight new Cary police officers received their badges, four new emergency communication offers were pinned, and four officers were promoted in a ceremony Friday afternoon. Family, friends and co-workers celebrated with them.
Employee of the Year honors were bestowed upon both a Team and Individual winners at Cary’s biggest employee celebration of the year, the Employee Recognition Luncheon. Co-winners in the Individual Employee of the Year category are Dan Clinton, a senior project manager for the Town focusing on stormwater in the Water Resources Department, and Betsie Winokur, an operations analyst in Cary’s Public Works and Utilities Departments who has been instrumental in the successful implementation of the Salesforce-based work order system. Sharing the Team of the Year award are Cary police detectives Armando Bake and Elizabeth Pearson along with coworkers from the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department Rachel Baranski, performing arts education specialist, and Sam Trogdon, senior operations and program supervisor at Bond Park. The Team of the Year award was created this year for the first time to acknowledge the innovative and collaborative projects and coalitions happening right now in Cary. In addition, 210 employees celebrating service milestones were recognized at the Luncheon for reaching work anniversaries of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years.
Emails From Citizens
Emails this week included that answer to the question last week about how the smokehouse got on the Page Walker property:
As Tom Byrd states in “Around and About Cary,” (pg.44) the Page homestead was destroyed by fire in 1971, and “When dawn broke, only a few charred timbers of the main house and a lonesome looking smokehouse remained standing. The Page Smokehouse, ca. 1840, became municipal property in 1971 when the town purchased the site for the new town Hall.” It was in the early 70’s, as the town had cleared the site to prepare for building, that Mrs. Dunham shared with residents who were forming the Cary Historical Society, that the lone smokehouse sitting on the expanse of prepared land for the building of the Town Hall was the last remaining part of the Page estate and needed to be saved. To make the smokehouse look loved and important, Mrs. Dunham shared herbs and plants which were then planted around the smokehouse by volunteers so that someone with a bulldozer would think twice before razing the structure. At the same time, those residents concerned about the structure appealed to the Town Council who vowed to protect it. The Town and volunteers formed a partnership to maintain the garden and protect the Page smokehouse.
When the 1st floor of the Page-Walker was completed in 1991, the Page Smokehouse, with everyone’s blessing, was moved to the Page-Walker property, and the Town and Friends of the Page-Walker and volunteers now partner with the Town to maintain an educational garden around the historic smokehouse. So the comment that the smokehouse was not on the hotel property in 1982 is correct; it wasn’t moved until 1991 from the Town Hall property.
Thanks to Brent Miller for sending me this information.
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A request to support a proposal for any private or charter school.
- Complaints about a rezoning proposal in the “Lost Corners” that hasn’t reached council (Neighborhood meetings occur with an applicant and residents before a staff report is made and sent to council. So unless a council member happens to attend this meeting they won’t have knowledge of it).
- A question about Google Fiber contractors (answered above). Here is an excerpt from the staff response:
“We have regular monthly coordination meetings with Google Fiber to discuss upcoming permit applications and issues which have come up during the month. By coincidence, today was one of our regularly scheduled meetings. We had a great discussion with regards to the issues noted. Based preliminary discussions, GFI noted recent issues with utilities from other private companies not being marked correctly or not being marked at all. This has been a particular issue on service lines. We have been experiencing similar issues on capital projects, so we do think this is a valid issue. GFI noted they have been and will continue to reach out to these private companies like PSNC, Duke Energy Progress, and AT&T to build that relationship in an effort to avoid strikes in the future. Subcontractors are also required to self-report to GFI for utility strikes as well as following State NC811 requirements. This system allows GFI to investigate and track these issues. We have asked GFI to investigate these particular issues further and report back with more information.
Also, the Mayor’s response to the citizen noted GFI’s use to the microtrench method for installation of their system. We have been working with GFI for over a year to establish the microtrench method of installation as a viable option to minimize impacts to our citizens and we are seeing fewer reported issues when that installation method is used, however, GFI is only using the microtrench method for their distribution network. The work GFI has been performing in these neighborhoods is for their backbone (transmission) system and they have elected to do this work utilizing more traditional methods. We believe the traditional installation methods are preferable in these cases since the size of the conduit needed for the backbone system is significantly larger than the conduit used for the distribution system.”
- Kudos for LED stop signs on Lake Pine at Plantation.
- A parking concern on Adams Street between Harrison and Academy.
- A request from Reedy Creek Investments that council reopen the public hearing and reconsider the decision on the hotels approved on Harrison (revisiting a decision and re-opening a hearing has never happened in my 15 years on council so I seriously doubt that will happen).
- Several emails from a cut-and-paste email campaign to support 100% clean energy. Here is an excerpt from the response from our sustainability manager:
“… with the recent US National Climate Assessment (https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/) and international IPCC (https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/) reports, acting to take up carbon (with trees, soils, and agricultural) and to reduce emissions (with energy efficiency and renewable energy) is incredibly important to preserve our way of life here in Cary and elsewhere.
The Mayor is right, we’ve put a lot of work into climate action through our Strategic Energy Action Plan for our operations, which targets reduction in our energy use and diversification of our energy sources.
We’ve made a lot of strides like building our buildings to high energy efficiency standards, integrating solar hot water heating into our fire stations, putting in a 1.8 MW solar field at our South Cary Water Reclamation Facility, converting all of our streetlights to LED, changing facility lighting to LED, installing electric vehicle infrastructure, diversification of our fleet, and more. We will be updating that plan over the next year.
The Environmental Advisory Board has been reading the book Drawdown by Paul Hawkin together and is currently working to develop a recommendation to Council regarding a community-wide carbon reduction goal. I’ve cc’d the Chair, Rick Savage, and the Vice Chair, Caitlin Burke, so they can see your input to the Mayor. I’ve also included two important Town leaders, Dan Ault, Assistant Town Manager & Chief Innovation Officer and Danna Widmar, Director of Special Projects.
Thank you for your commitment to a stable, vibrant, healthy, innovative, fair, and economically strong future for our community and world. …”
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a retirement ceremony, a dinner, a council meeting, a metro mayors meeting, and a Wreaths Across America ceremony at Hillcrest cemetery.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, December 16th. 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 email@example.com.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.