Cary, NC – This week was a typical week for mayoral duties.
Monday – Preparing for the Week
Monday I met with the town attorney, town clerk, chief strategy officer, our quasi-judicial attorney, and others to go over our quasi-judicial process. Recent rulings have now required evidence to be presented in opposition to a proposal from an expert witness to deny a proposal. So no matter how bad we think a proposal may be we can’t vote against it without an expert witness giving us reason. Many council members feel this basically ties our hands in quasi-judicial matters. That is, we will basically have to approve every quasi-judicial proposal since it is rare that an expert witness speaks in opposition to a quasi-judicial proposal. I suspect that council will create a new process which takes us out of the decision process since we basically have no decision to make.
Later Monday I met with the town manager and the chief strategy officer for my weekly one-on-one. Our conversation included a legal matter, the mall site where the new owners will meet with staff on Monday, the hotel occupancy and meals tax and whether funding proposals from Cary will win out over other proposals, and The Fenton development’s groundbreaking. The meeting concluded after about 45 minutes.
Tuesday – Cary Neighborhood
Tuesday I attended the annual homeowners’ association meeting of Wynston Ridge and presented a 10 minute version of the State of Cary address. I spoke mostly of issues near their neighborhood which is located off Holly Springs Road near Cary Parkway. Many of their concerns were with traffic on Holly Springs Road. Currently widening of Holly Springs Road is not in the state’s STIP (ten year plan) but intersection improvements for Holly Springs and Cary Parkway, Penny, and TenTen are planned. I should note that I would be glad to speak at any annual homeowners’ association meeting if I can work it into my schedule.
Wednesday – Cary Economic Development
Wednesday morning I had the pleasure of giving the State of Cary address to the Cary Newcomers club. This is a social club with a purpose of stimulating new associations and friendships, helping newcomers identify with their community, and promoting local, cultural, and service programs. The Cary Newcomers Club actually started as the Welcome Wagon in 1978. I talked to a group of approximately 100 for about 45 minutes and answered questions for another 15 to 20 minutes. There were concerns about infrastructure in the western part of Cary but for the most part all were very happy to be in Cary. One actually asked me to run for President which I declined. The talk was a lot of fun and I hope they invite me back in the future.
Wednesday evening I chaired a meeting of the Economic Development Committee. There were three items on the agenda including a branding update, a development update, and the quarterly report.
The consultants for the branding have completed their data collection and are now analysis stage. On May 8th they will present their analysis to the Economic Development Committee in a special session. Then they will take that feedback from the committee and work on their strategy. Their strategy should be completed and presented to the entire council later in the fall.
Ted Boyd updated the committee on several items including the Cary Town Center and the Fenton project. The new owners of the Cary Town Center will meet with staff on Monday. They are definitely interested in mixed use that will complement the Fenton project. In their meetings with staff they want to find out what might be contradictory to the Fenton. Their proposal may include Class A office.
The quarterly report included the following notes:
- Peoples Bank opened on February 13 and met with a 2nd bank looking to invest in Cary.
- Atlantic Tire and Service opened their 5th location this week on Asheville Avenue in Cary
- Bayer has relocated its Environmental Science U.S. headquarters to Cary’s Centre Green Office Park
- Howard, Sean Stegall, Skip Hill, and Anthony Blackman met with a group from Atlanta and MetLife on the Opening of Met3. That new building will be mostly filled with new hires.
- The Chamber and council will have an intercity visit April 3rd through the 5th in Fort Worth, Irving, and Frisco, Texas.
- There will be an elected officials reception held by the Chamber on May 6th at the Umstead.
Our meeting concluded after about 30 minutes.
Thursday – Quasi-Judicial Hearings
Thursday the council held a quasi-judicial hearing to hear three items: a 240 multi-family unit at McCrimmon Parkway and Highcroft Drive, a Twin Lakes development for frozen custard proposing a drive thru and reduced parking, and a car wash at Holly Springs Road and Tryon Road in the Swift Creek Shopping Center. Quasi-judicial hearings continue to evolve to a point where council members have very little choice. That is, only evidence presented by expert witnesses can be considered. The applicant/developer always has experts and lawyers on hand while the general public rarely, if ever, has any. In addition, council has been instructed that council members’ personal or policy preferences are irrelevant and immaterial. So from an elected official’s perspective it is a no-win situation. We are elected to represent our citizens but in this process we are not even allowed to hear or consider their opinions.
As a result of these new rules it is not surprising that all proposals were passed unanimously. We had to sit through over 4 hours of testimony in these hearings from lawyers and “experts” knowing we had no real choice in the matter. I, along with other council members, have asked staff to do away with these hearings since we basically have no choice and it just frustrates the public. It is sad to me that legislation and court cases have put us in a situation where applicants are over protected and we can’t represent our citizens.
Friday – North Carolina Mayors
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is the summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:
Legislature is really starting to pick up the pace. Governor Cooper released his budget this week and bill related to school safety cleared the House. The Joint Appropriations Committee met this week to review the Governor’s budget. Appropriations sub-committees will meet next week to review their respective sub-sections of the budget and begin hearing from agencies regarding their specific funding needs.
- Governor’s BudgetBook
- Priorities are centered around Medicaid expansion and teacher pay (9.1% increase over the next two years).
- Other proposals focus on rural development such as broadband deployment and economic development grants as well as modest increases in funding for affordable housing.
- Governor’s Invest NC Bond – Invest NC ($3.9B bond proposal)
- Focuses on public schools, includes $2B for K-12 for new construction and renovations
- $500M each for community colleges and UNC system
- $800M to invest in local water and sewer projects
- $100M in NC History Museum and NC Zoo
- Competing legislative proposals
- S68 – Relocation of Water/Sewer Line Costs
- Would amend the percentage of nonbetterment cost paid by municipalities for the relocation of water and sewer lines from 100% to 50% for a municipality with a population less than 100,000.
- Passed the Senate floor unanimously on Monday (47-0)
- Referred to the House Transportation Committee
- Will continue to monitor progress
- SMAP bus maintenance funding update
- 23% cut in funding last year ($8.5M)
- Restoration of $8.5M not included in Governor’s budget
- Challenge for restoring the cut is there is no funding availability as motor fuels taxes for the Highway Fund continues to be flat. This means to restore SMAP funding, money would have to be taken from another category.
- Legislators have requested impact of SMAP cuts on local operations, both current and projected.
- Historic Preservation Tax Credit
- Credit expires at the end of this calendar year
- We expect a bill to be introduced next week
- We expect other modifications to be included in the bill that would improve investment quality for historic rehabilitation in the State
- Coalition will engage and look for ways to collaborate with other advocates
Firefighters Separation Allowance – Erin Wynia, NCLM Chief Legislative Counsel
Would mandate that municipalities provide and pay for a new retirement benefit for firefighters called a “special separation allowance”
The bills provide no funding source for municipalities
General Assembly staff estimates the cost to provide this benefit to current eligible local government employees at roughly $300 million
NCLM has distributed hard copy letters to every legislator opposing bill as currently written. NCLM is not against the benefit, but could only support if there is funding to go along with the benefit
Cities and towns already have the authority in law to offer this benefit if they choose to
This summary provided by the executive director includes bills introduced that will have significant impacts on metro area municipalities.
Saturday – White Oak Greenway
Saturday I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Bush, council member Yerha, and council member Robinson in a ceremony officially opening of the 1.9 mile segment of the White Oak Greenway. Also attending were Cary Advisory Board members, Apex council members, county commissioners, and the Executive Director of the East Coast Greenway. All together there were about 100 people in attendance. This segment of the White Oak greenway goes from Green Level Church Road near Green Level High School to the American Tobacco Trail. The White Oak greenway is 7.3 miles long and stretches from Bond Park in Cary to the American Tobacco Trail in Apex.
This segment took 15 years of planning and partnership with the Town of Apex and Wake County to complete. Design and funding were provided by our Cary community bonds, the Town of Apex, Wake County, CAMPO, the Federal Highway Administration, and NCDOT. The Town of Apex has agreed to maintain this segment since it falls in their jurisdiction. The White Oak Creek Greenway is essential to Cary. Combined with the Black Creek Greenway it creates the 14.5 mile spine of the Town of Cary Greenway system. The last segment of the White Oak Greenway will be a tunnel under rail tracks in the MacArthur Park neighborhood which should be completed in about a year and a half. Once completed it will be part of an 80 mile contiguous segment of the East Coast Greenway, the largest, which goes from Maine to Miami. The ceremony lasted about 30 minutes and included five speakers followed by a ribbon cutting.
Later Saturday I attended the ribbon cutting for the Spa by Jing in Waverly Place. I toured the facility and talked with several people at a reception. Then we gathered for pictures and cut the ribbon. In my comments I wished them great success and let them know that the town is here to help them thrive and prosper.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included:
All Hands Meeting
On Tuesday, I held an All Hands meeting with employees to share reflections from the council/staff retreat. In addition to recapping our work at the retreat, I also provided updates on strategic realignments in some areas of the organization, such as capital projects, marketing and 311. Most importantly, I saw our time together as another opportunity to thank our employees for their service to our citizens and continue talking about our organization’s evolution and journey.
After installing new roads, 7,900 feet of water mains, 15 fire hydrants, 88 residential water connections, a commercial water connection at Woodhaven Baptist Church, a commercial connection at the HOA pool house, one irrigation service at the HOA property, 5,400 feet of sewer mains, 90 individual sewer connections and a water service connection at the pump station, the Holly Brook Water and Sewer Extension project is complete. The Holly Brook community, legislatively annexed into the Town of Cary at the request of the residents, now enjoys the full complement of water and sewer services. The project endured the wettest year on record, two hurricanes and multiple snow storms, but was completed on time and under bid, saving over $1 million which can be repurposed for other utility capital projects.
Staff has worked with the developer of Fenton to phase site clearing and grading to keep as much of the natural vegetative visual screening in place for as long as possible along Cary Towne Blvd. This will preserve visual aesthetics along the street as much as possible before new construction begins to take shape. Thanks to our development review team and the site engineers for the creative teamwork! On another front, the developer continues to work toward an April 1 closing on the property, and we are working on various items to help with this endeavor.
Cary Parkway/High House Road
The final few pieces of the Cary Parkway and High House Road intersection improvements are coming into place! Installation of the decorative traffic signals began this week. Weather permitting, the temporary traffic signals will be taken out of service next week, and signal operation will be switched over to the new signals. Most improvements are complete including new turn lanes, bus shelter, and stamped brick crosswalks. Remaining items include final touch up including punch list items and landscaping.
Cary Hosts Bangladeshi Officials
Fifty government officials from Bangladesh visited the Cary Arts Center on Thursday afternoon through a program at Duke University’s Center for International Development Sanford School of Public Policy. The group requested to hear about service delivery in Cary; they had many questions for our Public Safety leaders.
NCDOT Road Repair
NCDOT has repaired the dip in Green Level Church Road
Advisory Board Meetings
Tues, 3/12, 6pm
Town Hall Conf Room 10035
A Cary Academy student will be attending the meeting to film the board’s discussion about their carbon reduction recommendations.
Wed, 3/13, 6:30pm
Town Hall Conf Room 10035
Downtown Construction Update
I received an email this week about construction on Park Street and Waldo Street from staff in response to a citizen’s concern:
Staff is in the process of working with contractors for each project along Waldo Street and E. Park Street in order to open up vehicle traffic to these streets as soon as possible. Each project requires heavy equipment work to be performed within the roadway and for safety reasons have been allowed to close the road to traffic. Both have been impacted by the abnormal rain events this winter and are running behind their schedules. In addition the project along Waldo encountered an underground power line that needed to be relocated which created significant unforeseen delays and resulted in both roads to be closed at the same time.
One of the main objectives for the Town is to keep the general public safe as construction activities with heavy equipment occur in and around work areas. Unfortunately the frequent rain events that we have been getting have direct effect on performing related work and the streets have stayed closed longer than anyone expected.
Staff will be having conversations with each contractor this week to see what can be done to expedite the work.
Emails From Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A request to invite a chalk artist to Cary (staff is looking into this).
- A request to repave Regency Parkway (Part of this is NCDOT and part is Cary. Criteria wasn’t high enough for this year’s paving schedule but should be in the coming year(s).)
- A complaint about the parking lot for the Prestonwood’s soccer fields (I believe this is private property but staff will answer soon).
- Neighbors complaining about each other on Whitehall Way.
- A complaint about the RDU authority’s decision to sell to expand the rock quarry (Unfortunately, we are not the decision makers in this case).
- A compliment about the first on location Cary Matters.
- A compliment on my State of Cary Address for the Cary Newcomers.
- A notice from McDonalds that they are implementing a gender balance and diversity strategy (Thank You!)
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, an advisory board gathering, a virtual reality experience of the Downtown Park, a regularly scheduled council meeting, a meeting of the NC Metro Mayors, an Arbor Day celebration, and the running of the Tobacco Road Half Marathon.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 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
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.