Cary, NC – This week was a typical council meeting week.
Monday – Preparing for Council Meeting
Monday started with an attempt to contact council members about Thursday’s agenda. I was able to contact all council members but one. In my one-on-one conversations, council members decided to pull the Weldon Ridge and Weston rezonings from the Consent agenda for discussion.
Later that day I met with staff management and directors to go over the agenda. In addition to the pulled items from the Consent we believed there would be speakers on the budget and CDBG funding. Our meeting lasted about twenty minutes.
After the staff meeting I met with the town manager and Mayor Pro-Tem Bush for my weekly one-on-one update. We talked about current proposals under consideration, future development at the mall site, and items that would come before council in future meetings. Our meeting lasted about forty-five minutes.
Monday evening I participated in a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. Nine of the twelve mayors were in attendance. Those who did not make the meeting included mayors from Apex, Garner, and Raleigh. Items discussed included proposed budgets, proposed tax rates, and whether or not a bond would be put before the voters. We also talked about who was up for election and who was running. So far I am aware that the Raleigh and Rolesville mayors are not running for re-election. Our meeting concluded after about two hours.
Wednesday – Cary Police Academy
Wednesday I joined council members Smith and George in the graduation ceremony for the Cary Police Academy’s 43rd class. This was a 12-week program open to Cary citizens that covered topics such as criminal and constitutional law, patrol, criminal investigations, youth services, DWI detection, domestic violence, as well as a trip to the firing range. This class is a prerequisite for citizens interested in becoming members of the police department’s 170-member strong Citizens Assisting Police (CAP) Team. There were twenty graduates that seemed to have enjoyed the course very much. It is my hope that these graduates will become ambassadors for Cary and our police department.
Thursday – Town Council Meeting
Thursday the council held the only regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The agenda included eleven consent items, four public hearings, and three discussion items.
The meeting started with a proclamation presentation recognizing 40 years of greenways in Cary. We now have over 80 miles of greenways.
Three items from the consent were pulled. The Weldon Ridge proposal was pulled and postponed to an undetermined date. The town clerk has agreed to email all those who have contacted the town once a new date has been determined. At this point my guess is it will be in the fall. The Weston PDD amendment for more parking at an existing business site to allow Red Storm Entertainment to occupy the site was also pulled. Although parking was reduced and adjoining neighbor’s concerns were alleviated, one council member voted against the PDD amendment citing parking in the streetscape easement and total parking spaces exceeding what is allowed as reasons for denial. The PDD amendment was approved by a 6 – 1 vote. The Swift Creek Management Plan Second Amendment was also pulled by the attorney due to technical wording. This wording will be corrected and we will vote on this at our next meeting in June.
The public hearing on the budget only had one speaker thanking council allocating some funding for the YMCA. The two public hearings on annexation had no speakers. The public hearing for the Twyla Road rezoning had more than a dozen speakers. One speaker represented dozens who signed a petition citing several reasons such as traffic, safety, and home values. Many of the Twyla Road residents spoke of years trying to develop this land. They joined the applicant in stating that it matches the Cary Community Plan. The proposal currently calls for a 200 room hotel, 420 apartments, and 10,000 square feet of office or retail. Since this is essentially at the corner of I540 and Morrisville Parkway the intensity makes sense. However, concerns are valid. I told those in attendance that I believed there was common ground between the two groups and encouraged them to meet and work on solutions. Meanwhile this will go to our Planning and Zoning board for their review and will return to council for a vote in a few months.
Under discussion the council unanimously approved the first step to having a bond referendum in the fall. The $225 million bond calls for $113 million for transportation projects and $112 for park projects and open space. While the referendum sets maximum limits for borrowing in each of the two categories, the Town is not required to borrow the full authorized amounts. If the debt financing is approved by voters, then projects would be initiated, designed, constructed and initially financed over as many as 10 years. At the same time, we expect the tax base will grow, existing debt service will decrease, and other revenues and operating expenses will change. For perspective, in today’s dollars based on current assessed value, one penny of property tax yields enough revenue to cover debt service on approximately $30 million of new debt. There is no fiscal impact resulting from adopting the resolution. However, future tax increases will be required for operations, maintenance, and capital projects if we are to keep Cary great as we move from a growing community to a maturing community.
The council also discussed a unanimously approved the Cary Point PDD rezoning near the corner of Highway 55 and Morrisville Parkway. This will allow 120 age restricted units and office/retail space next to Highway 55.
The last discussion, CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) Annual Action Plan funding was also unanimously approved. Council did state the need for more rehab funding in the future.
The council meeting concluded after about three hours.
Friday – Local Taxes
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is the Executive Directors summary of that meeting:
Brief OPENING remarks –
Both chambers have been relatively quiet in public – only a smattering of committee meetings this last week. However, the Senate leadership is in the final stages of closed-door meetings on their version of the budget. A Senate press conference is scheduled for next Tuesday to release their budget and followed by appropriation committee meetings all week and floor votes at the end of next week.
After the Senate passes its version of the budget, they must enter negotiations with the House to develop a compromise budget for both chambers to vote on. Once that is completed, the budget could face a possible veto from Governor Cooper (issues such as a state bond for school construction and Medicaid expansion are likely points of contention).
Depending on how things play out, the state budget process could reach a stalemate. However, unlike the federal budgeting process – we are told the state government can continue to operate without an enacted budget, by relying on “recurring funding” from the previously enacted 2017-2019 biennial budget for authorization and funding. If that happens, we are in uncharted territory and the impact and path forward will be as clear as mud.
No major activity in the General Assembly on transportation.
- We are hopeful the Senate will have similar expansion in funding for commercial airports
- Indications from the Senate are that they will go along with the House budget and restore SMAP transit funding
Nothing new to report
Historic Preservation Tax Credit
As the General Assembly begins to finalize the budget and tax legislation, the risk of stalemate between the House, Senate and the Governor over their differing priorities grows and we become concerned about the impact on important local government related budget provisions that may get caught up in a standoff. This is especially relevant to the extension of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit (HPTC). HPTC has been important to redevelopment efforts in our cities, but it expires at the end of this calendar year. Standalone legislation to extend it has been introduced in both chambers, and it has also been included in a tax bill and a budget bill. While clearly well supported, the concern is that the extension of HPTC could be caught up in a complex web of stalemate over larger, more controversial issues. So, we are working with NC League of Municipalities and the NC Mayors Association by:
- Sending a letter to both chambers to remind them of the importance of tax credit and ask they ensure that they pass standalone legislation to extend it. We may ask specific mayors to join-in letters to specific legislators as well.
- Include in the letter a resolution from both the NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition and the NC Mayors Association calling for the extension.
Local Revenues/ Local Control
SENATE BUDGET Bill and S650, Simplifying NC Local Sales Tax Distribution – it is thought that we will see a NEW version of this bill incorporated into the Senate Budget. If that occurs, as a major item in only the Senate Budget it will be a point of contention in the negotiations between the two chambers and we will need to be fully engaged. Since we expect it to be modified from the current version proposal S650, we will work closely our legislative partners to carefully analyze the impact once the new version appears in the Senate budget.
The meeting ended after about 15 minutes.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included the following:
As we look forward to the long Memorial Day weekend, I hope we will all take the time to remember and honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in service to our country. In Cary, our remembrance will take place at Veterans Freedom Park at 2:30 p.m. Thank you in advance to those who will be working on this day providing the 24/7/365 services to our citizens.
Council member Jennifer Robinson and Director of Special Projects Lana Hygh represented Cary at CityVision 2019, the North Carolina League of Municipalities’ annual conference. Congratulations go to Council member Robinson who was elected First Vice-President at the business meeting and was sworn in at the final banquet. The conference was held in Hickory and attracted more than 400 municipal officials from around state who learned from informative programming that included focus on cities and towns being future-ready, broadband access, leveraging resources and grants, and addressing the national opioid crisis.
State Attorney General Josh Stein spoke on the urgency of the opioid-abuse crisis, a major focal point of his office, and discussed the League’s Opioid Solutions Toolbox, as well as the More Powerful NC initiative, providing local leaders with important tools to combat the issue. Futurist Matt Thornhill led sessions focused on the context of growth, generational change and disruptive technologies that are shifting how we interface with our communities. Ted Lord, acting president of Golden LEAF, connected League members with crucial information on securing grants that help communities. Brian Hooker, executive director of Fort Mac LRA (local redevelopment authority, wowed the crowd with his presentation on a large-scale redevelopment project on an historic Army post in underserved southwest Atlanta. Motivational speaker Jeff Evans inspired with stories of his globetrotting adventures and mountain-climbing, with lessons on teamwork and leadership.
CityVision 2020 is planned for next spring in Wilmington.
June Council Schedule
Based on last night’s Council meeting and looking at the pipeline of staff reports coming forward for your consideration in June, we have an opportunity to combine the June 13 regular meeting with the remaining two QJ items. This allows us to remove the June 6 meeting from your calendars, which we will do next week, barring any unforeseen concerns.
Bond Rating Confirmed
The Town borrows money for capital projects by issuing bonds. As part of the bond sale process, Cary gets credit ratings from three rating agencies, much like an individual’s personal credit score. The Town has earned the best possible ratings on its debt (AAA) which informs the financial markets that Cary’s bonds are a safe investment. As a low-risk issuer, Cary pays lower interest rates to bond holders which results in lower debt service and lower costs for our tax and ratepayers. Moody’s Investor Service recently conducted a brief annual review of our utility system related to their Aaa rating of Cary’s utility revenue bonds and issued an “Annual Comment.” The report is positive and can be best summarized by their statement, “Cary Water and Sewer has an outstanding credit position.”
Cary Teen Council celebrated its 30th anniversary – CTC30 – on May 18 at the Herb Young Community Center. Guest speakers included Council Member Jennifer Robinson, PRCR Director Doug McRainey, Teen Council alumna Namrata Jumani, former adviser Cindi King and current adviser Doug Peters. Formed in 1989 with just a few members, today’s Cary Teen Council is one of the largest youth councils in the country with 870 members that contribute 20,000 volunteer hours each year around Cary and Wake County. Happy birthday to the Cary Teen Council!
Former K-Mart to be Demolished
A permit has been issued to demolish the former K-Mart (and more recently, Carolina Pottery) building in the Mayfair Shopping Center at 960 Kildaire Farm Road. This property is part of the Glenaire Expansion Preliminary Development Plan (PDP) approved on October 8, 2018. The next step for the Glenaire development will be to submit development plans for review. No development plans have yet been submitted.
A lawsuit filed by James Holloway against the Town in February 2018 alleging inverse condemnation and trespass with regard to a Town utility easement has been resolved, and the lawsuit was dismissed May 17 with prejudice.
Triangle Community Coalition
Staff met with board members of the Triangle Community Coalition (TCC) including CEO Jacob Rogers and Chair Ryan Akers. We discussed their annual development service survey, which is completed by developers who have done business in Cary during the past year. We discussed some of the positives of working in Cary, which, according to the survey, were use of technology, the development process and quality of staff. Our challenges included lengthy time frames and scheduling complexities. We will continue to work with TCC to discuss ideas throughout the year.
Citizen’s Police Academy
The Police Department honored the graduates of its 43rd Citizen’s Police Academy with a commencement ceremony. Members of the Command Staff were joined by Mayor Weinbrecht and Council Members Jack Smith and Ken George to celebrate this momentous commitment of our sixteen citizen graduates. Sergeant Wyatt Crabtree served as the Master of Ceremonies and Council Member George delivered the keynote address. A very special thank you to Sergeant Crabtree and to our sworn and non-sworn staff who contributed to educating our citizens on law enforcement and public safety over the past twelve weeks.
Greenway Closes for Repairs
The White Oak Creek Greenway in Bond Park from the dam to Cary Parkway will be closed May 28-31 for repairs in preparation for celebration of National Trails Day on June 1.
Aviation Parkway Widening
A Local Officials’ Information meeting on the Aviation Parkway Road Widening Project will be held on Wednesday, June 5, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm at Morrisville Town Hall. NCDOT has also scheduled a public meeting on June 12 from 5-7 pm, also at Morrisville Town Hall. The informal, drop-in style open house meeting will provide the public an opportunity to receive information and make comments on the project.
NCDOT has funded improvements to widen Aviation Parkway to a 4-lane median-divided roadway through Cary and Morrisville. The project limits extend from Chapel Hill Road to I-40, approximately 2.2 miles. The project will relieve congestion and improve safety. Cary plans to contribute to the project’s betterments by providing a street-side trail on the east side of the road which will connect to the newly-opened Crabtree Creek greenway. The public comment period continues through June 27.
As summer sun, sand and fun approaches, so does the Atlantic Hurricane Season which runs from June 1 to November 30. The Governor annually declares a Hurricane Preparedness Week in May focused on individual and community responsibility in preparing for such an event. Many state, local and association groups also “sharpen-the-saw” through reviewing plans, training, and exercises – all aimed at improved response and recovery efforts. Cary staff participated in one of these events, a two-day NC Emergency Operations Center Hurricane Exercise. The exercise encompassed response/recovery activities from “landfall” to “two days post landfall recovery efforts.” Cary’s recent involvement in NC Water Warn provides a unique opportunity to support the State’s Emergency Operations Center by using our resources to support areas across the state that are affected by such events.
Festivities continued with a Bike to Work Day “Pit Stop” on May 17 at the New Hope Church Trailhead on the American Tobacco Trail (ATT). Staff, Greenway Committee representatives and GoTriangle partners set up early at the greenway trailhead and handed out breakfast snacks, maps, bike lights, bells and other bicycle-related swag to the dedicated early morning riders and runners on the ATT. In addition to the bike commuters staff also met with a steady stream of recreational riders, runners and walkers.
To further enhance our bicycle infrastructure, an additional bike repair station, Cary’s fourth, was installed at Godbold Park.
McCrimmon Parkway Study
On May 21, staff held an open house on the McCrimmon Parkway Extension Study at which the public was invited to review a draft concept plan, ask questions and provide comments. The proposed extension of McCrimmon Parkway between Louis Stephens Drive and NC 55 is approximately one mile long and crosses the CSX tracks and the future Kit Creek greenway. Completing the connection will reduce travel time, particularly during peak hours, and improve regional connectivity between the Cary and Morrisville. Cary initiated the feasibility study with AECOM in 2018.
The study will develop a conceptual alignment, develop an overall vision for the corridor and recommend appropriate transportation solutions serving motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. The concept plan recommends a 4-lane typical section with a planted median and sidewalks. The public’s input is requested to guide the roadway planning and bike facilities. There is currently no funding for the design or construction of any improvements at this time. The draft plan and a link to the online comment form can be found here.
Morrisville Parkway Extension and NC 540 Interchange
It is exciting to see progress being made on this important east-west connection including installation of brick median islands on the western roundabout, grading along the west side of NC 540 that will support additional paving that connects to the loop and ramp tying Morrisville Parkway to NC540 and Loop D that was recently completed on the east side of NC 540. This project is on schedule with the extension and interchange expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Reverse Field Trip
Jennifer Hocken presented Cary history to five classes of third graders at Davis Drive Elementary School. Cary has long offered field trip opportunities in-house, but when the cost and logistics of transporting the children became too great, staff took the field trip to the school. Future plans include creating a “history in a box” for third graders throughout Cary.
Thank you to Director of Public Works Scott Hecht and Solid Waste Division Manager Bob Holden who presented to the Cary Rotary Club on the international and local state of recycling. Scott and Bob discussed recycling markets, the contamination rate for recycled material streams, material recovery facility operations and how these components directly affect our community’s costs. The big takeaway? No pizza boxes!
Cary employees Larry Alexander and Grady McKey finished in 1st and 2nd place (with only two points between them!) in the automated truck division of the Truck Rodeo at the annual Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) state competition in Greensboro. Larry and Grady are now eligible to compete in the National SWANA Truck Rodeo in Phoenix, Arizona. Congratulations and thank you for representing Cary so well!
The Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility (CAWTF) is now an eight-time winner of the prestigious NC Area-Wide Optimization Award for exceptional performance. This annual award is given by the Public Water Supply Section of the NC Division of Water Resources to facilities that surpass federal and state drinking water standards, particularly with regards to turbidity. Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness or haziness of water, caused by particles that can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. The CAWTF was among 57 drinking water treatment plants in North Carolina honored with this award, based on their performance in 2018. Award recipients achieve performance goals which are significantly more stringent than the state and federal standards that all drinking water systems must meet.
I am so proud of the Cary Fire Department, Cary EMS, and Cary Emergency Communications personnel who were instrumental in 13 of the 97 Wake County cardiac arrest resuscitations (“code saves”) in 2018. Cary had a huge representation at the annual Code Celebrate event on May 21 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Two of the survivors are pictured above with Cary Fire personnel. We are blessed to be in Wake County which consistently ranks among the top areas in the United States for code saves.
Members of the Cary Police Department and K-9 units from our partner agencies came together to complete The Murph Challenge in honor of fallen hero Navy Lieutenant and SEAL Michael Murphy. Lt. Murphy, despite being severely wounded, relayed the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three other SEALs who were killed in a 2005 battle with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Murph Challenge consists of a 1-mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and another mile run – all while wearing a 20-pound weighted vest or body armor! Thank you to these officers for completing the challenge in honor of Lt Murphy and to all of our fallen heroes who died in service to our country.
The News and Observer this week reported on growth in the area. Here is what they said about Cary: “Cary grew by 1.4 percent, to an estimated 168,160. Except for Cary and Raleigh, all the towns in Wake County were among the top 25 fastest growing in the state.” So much for the misinformation being spread about Cary growing rapidly.
Emails from Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included:
- Complaint about a developer in an Epcon Community on Pittard Sears. (Staff had a meeting with developer and homeowner)
- Request to work with the town on providing open space or a park. (Staff met with the interested party)
- Recommendations for and against rezoning proposals.
- A thank you for my blog and for the job we are doing.
- A request to have new development require solar roofs (We don’t have legislative authority to make this requirement).
Next week will be very light for me since it is a holiday week and the week before my annual family vacation out of state. My only meetings are with staff meetings and with citizens about an issue. As a result my next post will be in three weeks.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.