Harold’s Blog: First Council Meeting of 2020, Lantern Festival and More

Cary, NC — This was my first busy week of the year.

Monday – Review of Agenda Concerns

I attempted to contact all council members about questions or concerns they had on the upcoming agenda. That afternoon I met with Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz, management, and directors to go over the agenda items. The Roberts Road rezoning proposal was the only item council members talked with me about on the phone. Most of them did not know how they would vote at the time I called them.

Later Monday I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz in a meeting with the town manager. We talked about a real estate issue, the mall redevelopment, and the development around the parking deck at Walnut and Walker Streets. The meeting lasted a little over thirty minutes.

Tuesday- Protecting Jordan Lake and CAP Team

I joined council member Bush in a meeting with representatives from the Triangle Land Conservancy. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce themselves and talk about protecting Jordan Lake. The main strategy they were presenting to us was to implement a fee to collect funds to buy land to protect water going into Jordan Lake. Raleigh is doing this, and Cary has the authority to use such a fee. Currently, 8% of the land around Jordan Lake is protected and out of the 92% that is unprotected 70% is watershed lands comprised of farms, fields, wetlands, and forests. Staff is aware of our ability to use a fee and will likely bring information to council before enacting a fee is considered.

Tuesday evening I joined council members Smith and Liu at the annual CAP (Citizens Assisting Police) dinner. CAP Team members serve the Cary Police Department without pay in a variety of functions; freeing sworn officers for other duties. They do not carry weapons and cannot make arrests. CAP Team members help provide security at public events and assist the Police Department with fingerprinting, child safety seat installation, clerical duties, service center staffing, Community Watch programs and other duties.

Before becoming CAP Team members, a volunteer must successfully complete Cary’s Citizens Police Academy and receive training in such responsibilities as report writing. Cary Police formalized the CAP program in summer 2000 after Citizen Police Academy graduates asked for a way to continue volunteering with the department. Today, the program has nearly 140 volunteers. Those volunteers provided 5468 hours of service this past year. Thanks to all the CAP team members.

Thursday- Town Council Night

The council held its first meeting of the year. The agenda included nine consent items, two public hearings, and two discussion items combined into one decision. The discussion item was on the Roberts Road development of 99 townhomes on 37 acres. The Cary Community Plan allows this type of development in what is called a pod. The proposal had buffers all around the townhomes so that they would only be visible on Roberts Road. The Apex jurisdiction across Roberts Road had already approved a large development of 167 units.

Most of the speakers in the evening were against the proposal citing a connectivity into a neighborhood, losing rural character, and traffic. The connectivity requirement was avoided by the developer by reducing the number of townhomes under the connectivity threshold of 100 to 99. However, it will be stubbed if the county neighborhood next to it ever decides to be annexed. I really don’t like this threshold since it basically creates a 99-home cul-de-sac and that, IMHO, is a safety hazard.

We should probably consider reducing that threshold. The rural character of the neighborhood can only be preserved by property owners not selling and developing their property. However, if any of them decide to develop, which they have the right to do, then we will have to evaluate the proposal against the Cary Community Plan which is what we did for this case.

The traffic, unfortunately, will get worse with or without this development. It is important to understand that the population in this region is expected to double in the next couple of decades. And I am not talking about Cary. I am talking about Wake County and other metro counties in the area. So more traffic is coming regardless of what we do in Cary. The Roberts Road rezoning proposal was approved unanimously. After a closed session, the meeting concluded after about an hour and forty-five minutes.

Friday- NC Chinese Lantern Festival

My wife and I, along with a large crowd, visited the Chinese Lantern Festival. This is the last weekend of the festival which started on November 22nd. The festival has grown and improved over the years. In addition to the incredible hand made lanterns, there are now food options and great entertainment.

Town Manager’s Report:

The town manager’s report for the week included:

Property Revaluation Update

Wake County will mail letters on Tuesday, January 14 notifying property owners of their January 1, 2020 property valuations. A tax comparison tool will be also be available on www.wakegov.com allowing property owners to calculate their estimated tax bills. This calculator utilizes Cary’s estimated revenue neutral tax rate of $0.30 per $100 of assessed valuation along with the January 1, 2020 property values to identify potential tax bill changes. As a reminder, Cary’s current tax rate is $0.35. The Wake County property reappraisal and the estimated revenue neutral tax rate will be discussion points during FY 2021 operating budget development.

Water System Repair

A major water system repair operation in the vicinity of Jenks Road and NC 55 will take place over the next few weeks to repair a leaking pipeline. The work will involve extensive excavation and construction that will impact traffic at Jenks Road. No traffic impacts are planned along NC 55. The pipeline repairs are both time sensitive and essential to water system operations. Citizen impacts associated with the water system repairs are not anticipated at this time; however, temporary water discoloration is possible. Traffic alerts will be issued to provide notice of lane closures and traffic detour plans.

Fire Service Teamwork

Cary Fire Engine 2 responded early Tuesday morning to a structure fire in Raleigh. As is evidenced by this ABC11 coverage, this is a great example of how a collaborative relationship among neighboring departments to respond to an emergency with the closest unit, whatever the jurisdiction, improves outcomes for citizens. It is also an example of The Cary Way: Working together to change lives through exemplary service.

Transportation Summit

NCDOT’s Transportation Summit in Raleigh focused on future technology, how it will change the way we travel and how quickly new technology is adopted. With a million people expected to move to the state each decade, a recurring theme was the importance of transportation investment. Transportation & Facilities staff Jerry Jensen, Kyle Hubert, David Spencer and Luana Deans got a first-hand look at an autonomous air taxi. It can carry two adults and looks like a large drone. NCDOT is also preparing for a 6-month pilot that will begin in February on NC State’s Centennial Campus of an autonomous shuttle. T&F staff are planning a field trip so more staff can experience the autonomous shuttle first-hand.

Middle Creek Park Project

All work has been completed to expand the parking lot and add 27 parking spaces to the existing 117-space parking lot at Middle Creek School Park. As part of the project, the 20-year-old Middle Creek Greenway loop was resurfaced. Additional parking spaces will help with the overflow parking that occurs, especially during soccer, softball and other sporting events at the Middle Creek complex. To enhance safety and flow, traffic in the parking lot was redirected to one way around the parking lot by changing traffic arrows and adding signs.

Commuter Rail Preview

NCDOT is inviting regional, state, and federal partners to learn more about potential commuter rail opportunities using the existing S-Line. A special train ride using the NCDOT-sponsored Piedmont service is scheduled for this Thursday, January 16, from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm. The Piedmont offers much of the same experience as commuter rail and a glimpse of what the S-Line could provide. Participants will travel from Raleigh to Cary where they will have lunch and hear from national commuter rail experts before returning to Raleigh. Please contact Kelly Blazey, Transit Administrator, for more information.

Environmentally Speaking

Over 100 people came to learn and engage on climate change at January’s Environmentally Speaking Film Series showing at The Cary Theater. This showing, with Council Member Jack Smith attending, was hosted by the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB). Those attending were encouraged to talk to one another and to dig deeper about how they think about and make choices regarding this important topic. A lively panel conversation and lobby tables from Town staff and non-profits encouraged people to engage with one another as well.

[Photo: Patty Cervenka, EAB Member]

Brooks Park Drainage Improvement and Trail Repair

Contractors began work at the Thomas Brooks Park ballfields to address field drainage issues and repair damaged walking trails. To improve the safety and playability of the fields, the project will extend the drainage system, upsize existing portions of pipe, and repair slope failures around the ballfields. The project, scheduled to be completed this spring, will also replace the walking trail around the fields that has been closed since 2017 due to the slope failures.

Power Assessments

The US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard worked with Cary staff to conduct power assessments (power needs and sources, generator capabilities, etc.) of critical infrastructure at fire stations, water and wastewater treatment facilities, Town Hall and the Operations Center. Results of the assessments will provide input for emergency planning.

EPA Rule for Dental Offices

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a dental amalgam rule that requires dental offices to manage and document the amalgam (mercury) discharges to public sewer systems. The rule is intended to reduce potential mercury discharges that can make its way into the environment. Compliance deadlines are approaching in 2020. Cary’s Pretreatment Program staff have been working with new facilities since 2017 to ensure compliance when the rule is implemented. Dental offices that work with amalgam are required to install a device in their plumbing systems to capture the mercury for recycling before it can be discharged to the sewer system. Cary’s Pretreatment Program will support the existing 118 dental facilities identified in our sewer system service area by helping them meet the new rule and keep mercury out of the sewer system. Information will be mailed in January that will include an informational cover letter, one-time compliance reporting form and EPA dental amalgam rule fact sheet. Kenneth Caudle, Cary’s Small Business Liaison will work directly with dentists to serve and meet our community needs by helping answer questions about the new rule, plumbing requirements and reporting deadlines.

Reclaimed Water Presentation

Cary staff presented to the NC Environmental Management Commission (EMC) – Water Allocation Committee (WAC) on our reclaimed water program. The NC EMC is responsible for adopting rules for the protection, preservation and enhancement of the state’s air and water resources. Sarah Braman, Rick Jordan and Donald Smith discussed Cary’s reclaimed water history, planning, challenges and successes. The WAC was particularly interested in understanding the drivers behind the provision of reclaimed water and lessons learned that might apply to other North Carolina utilities. In 2001, Cary was the first utility in the state to provide reclaimed water to residential customers for irrigation. This history provided a unique perspective in reclaimed water program management.

Upcoming Greenway Renovations

The White Oak Greenway between Cary Parkway and MacArthur Drive will have intermittent closures next week for resurfacing. The Oxford Hunt Greenway and the loop trail at Davis Drive Park will have intermittent closures Jan 24-Feb 7 for resurfacing. In addition to this imminent work, an RFP was released today for the resurfacing of Preston Village, Northwoods, the north side of Annie Jones and the Western Regional Library Greenways.

Recognition

The Cary Police Department was proud to host the Citizens Assisting Police Awards presentation. Congratulations to Paul Wolf who won the Paul Bosworth Volunteer of the Year award and to Al Slonin who won the Deane award! These amazing volunteers donated 5,458 hours last year to help the Police Department serve our citizens. A special thanks to Mayor Weinbrecht and Council Members Jack Smith and Ya Liu, for taking the time to attend this event.

Congratulations also to Officer Lekisha Branch for receiving her Advanced Certificate from the NC Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission. To receive this award, officers must have their experience, training and education reviewed to meet the high standard that the award requires.

Advisory Board Meetings

Environmental Advisory Board

Tues, 1/14, 6:00 p.m.

Town Hall Conf Room 10035

Public Art Advisory Board

Wed, 1/15, 6:15 p.m.

Town Hall Conf Room 11130

Greenway Committee

Thurs, 1/16, 6:00 p.m.

Town Hall Conf Room 11130

Emails from Citizens

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Complaints about RDUAA’s plans for a quarry
  • A question about the old library site (The Town owns this property and we plan to redevelop the site. We will have a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit potential developers that will be published sometime in early this year. In December the Town began the process of asbestos remediation prior to demolition. We do not anticipate any demolition of the old library to begin until late January or February. We do plan to keep the parking lot in place that’s behind the Old Library and will continue to use as public parking until the site is completely redeveloped.)
  • A question about the Sams Jones house (The Sams Jones House, located across from the downtown park and the Cary Arts Center, has been under renovation since July of last year. The project includes new flooring, interior and exterior painting, ADA improvements and a 308 square-foot addition for new restrooms and a walk-in cooler. The restaurant is expected to open sometime in the next few months.)
  • A request to fund Swift Creek greenway expansion (Staff’s response: … Swift Creek Greenway was discussed as an option for submission however design nor easement acquisition for the Swift Creek Greenway has been completed. The County’s RFP indicates that design and acquisition phases will not be funded.  The projects that are being submitted are in a more “shovel ready” state and are also in the County’s priorities per their system plan, as you mentioned.

The Town had previously sought funding for design, easement acquisition and construction for the Swift Creek Greenway through NCDOT’s Strategic Transportation Prioritization (SPOT) process via CAMPO.  That funding was not realized, however, due to shortfalls in state funding availability.  The Town has re-submitted the Swift Creek Greenway project for funding consideration in the upcoming round of SPOT in hopes again of obtaining funding for design, right of way and construction. …)

  • Complaints about the Roberts Road rezoning proposal
  • A complaint about the Senior Center bridge group being displaced (Staff will respond)
  • A concern about the safety of the rail crossing at Harrison (Staff is setting up a meeting with the concerned parties to discuss this matter)
  • A request to consider implementing a watershed protection fee to support conservation and drinking water quality (This will likely be investigated by staff before coming to council)

Next week’s activities include a meeting with the development team of the Fenton, a meeting with representatives from the North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organizations Executive Board, and a panel discussion of Mayors at the Triangle Community Coalition.

Get in Touch

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, January 19th.  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 augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht and Ashley Kairis.

2 replies
  1. Gabe Talton
    Gabe Talton says:

    I ride the Piedmont train between Cary and Durham 2-3 times per week leaving Durham at 5:46 PM. It is a great experience and costs $5 per trip with a multi-ride pass. If we added 1-2 more Piedmont runs per day we would have a functioning commuter rail IMO. The big thing being we need a Piedmont that leaves Raleigh to arrive in Cary/Durham in the 8 o’clock hour. But the other side is that with increased Piedmont service Cary will need grade separation at Harrison or Academy to ensure safety and traffic flow.

    Reply
  2. Brent
    Brent says:

    Not mentioned in the Mayor’s council meeting recap was the rezoning case for the Young property, which sadly seeks to demolish many historically important farm outbuildings on one of the most intact farmsteads in Wake County.

    Reply

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