• Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Harold2015This was a busy week with several long nights.

Monday I attempted to contact all council members to hear their questions or concerns about the agenda for the upcoming regularly scheduled council meeting. Most questions centered on the nine discussion items. Later in the day I met with staff to go over the items on the agenda. After the staff review I believed the meeting would last at least three hours.

Following the agenda meeting I met briefly with the town manager, an assistant town manager, and the town attorney. We talked about issues related to the state property which is included in the town’s Eastern Gateway planning.

Later I joined the town attorney, town manager, and town clerk in a webinar on required ethics training. The webinar lasted about two hours and covered issues like conflict of interests and what is legal compared to what is unethical. I am required to take ethics training once a term and also required to take another ethics class for my role in the metropolitan planning organization. 

Tuesday the council held a work session on three issues: Board and Commission appointments, next winter’s council-staff working retreat planning, and the Eastern Gateway portion of Imagine Cary. Council member liaisons each went over their recommendations for appointments to boards and commissions and all were approved unanimously. These will be ratified at our first meeting in September.

Next the council discussed options for the council-staff working retreat. It was decided that the retreat will begin with the traditional council dinner on Thursday, January 26th followed by all day sessions with the staff on Friday and Saturday. The location options were based on cost and availability and included Greenville, New Bern, and Wrightsville Beach. Council members expressed little interest in Greenville and decided on Wrightsville since we were in New Bern three years earlier.

The final work session topic was on the Eastern Gateway portion of the Imagine Cary plan. The Eastern Gateway is bordered by Chapel Hill Road to the north, Walnut Street to the south, I40 to the east, and Maynard Road to the west. Council decided that range of square foot percentages should be used as guidelines instead of a requirement since this is a plan and not a zoning document. Council also decided that building heights should also be guidelines. In addition, council decided that the road connections from the state property to the mall site needed further study. The work session concluded after about 2 hours.

Wednesday I met with town officials and chamber members to show business executives our downtown. There continues to be strong interest in our downtown. I believe that within the next five years downtown will not only have more shops and residents but good paying professional jobs too.

Thursday began with a reception for visitors from our sister city in Markham, Canada. We have had a great relationship with Markham and our official town crier, John Webster is from Markham. Each year he and his wife Mary travel down for Lazy Daze and do their act in full regalia. This year, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Lazy Daze, they brought the Markham band that performed with the Cary Town band at Lazy Daze. What a treat. We are blessed to have such great people from our sister cities.

Thursday night the council held their last regularly scheduled meeting of the year. The meeting opened with the town crier from Markham, Ontario. Then he presented gifts from the mayor of Markham to the town. The meeting had nine consent items, three public hearings, and nine discussion items.

Most of the speakers at the Public Speaks Out portion of the meeting talked about the Carpenter Village rezoning proposal. It was later approved by the council. Council members stated they believed this was a good solution to a difficult problem.

Council also agreed to enter into a contract with the Piedmont Conservation Council to lease 29 acres for a working farm on the town’s AM Howard farm site. This site has always been planned for a working farm. The next phase, several years from now, will include the restoration of the historic buildings on the site.

In another discussion item Council denied the one year waiver for a rezoning at 128 SW Maynard Road and 202 Gordon Street that was previously denied earlier this year for a storage unit.

Council approved the fiscal year 2017 sidewalk project list which included two major projects: Walker Street from East Chatham to Waldo and Harrison Avenue from Johnson to Kingswood.

Under our storm drainage policy Town Council approve purchase of the property at 100 Park James Way with already appropriated funds within the GG7000 capital project.  This will include an appraisal of the property, negotiation with the property owner on a reasonable purchase price and ultimately demolishing the residential structure, with the property to be converted to Town open space. Council also approved the design and construction of a 42-inch parallel culvert across Bayoak Drive at Joel Court to be funded with already appropriated funds within the GG6000 capital project.

There was a great deal of discussion on the Occupancy Tax and Prepared Food and Beverage Tax approach for Phase 2. While we are hopeful that funding will become more equitable for Cary we are highly skeptical. We decided to keep all options on the table including approaching the legislature to change the tax.

The council meeting ended after around three hours.

Saturday I had the honor and privilege of opening the 40th Lazy Daze which was held at town hall campus for the second year. The town crier opened the ceremony followed by remarks from several people including myself. My comments were based on the following notes:

  • Good morning! On behalf of the 156,000 Cary residents, welcome to downtown Cary for our 40th annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival.
  • We’re so thankful you’ve returned to join us on the other side of the railroad tracks for this year’s festival! Many exciting projects are under construction right now in Cary, one of which being the total street renovation of South Academy and Chatham Streets. More than a face lift, it is a near total overhaul of the street as we know it– both above ground and below it. Planned improvements, many of which you can see are completed or near completed, include enhanced pedestrian spaces, upgraded sidewalks, unique streetscape elements, landscaping and utilities. All of which will contribute to the overall quality of life in Cary, furthering our downtown area as a cultural center and potentially spurring new private investment in downtown Cary. We thank you for your continued support as we enter the project’s final stages.
  • Although the location has shifted, the fun and festive atmosphere of Lazy Daze remains unchanged. You’ve already heard the ringing voice of our Town Crier, John Webster, who also serves as Town Crier for our Canadian Sister City, Markham, Ontario. John and his wife Mary help not only make our festival special but also represent the bonds forged by our Sister Cities Program.
  • Lazy Daze is Cary’s largest single event and a magnet for people from near and far and artists from across the country.
  • Stroll up Academy Street and meander through Town Hall campus to enjoy all the hundreds of artists, the outstanding performers, fun food and all kinds of surprises along the way. And when you’re finished today, stroll through our revitalizing downtown for just one more bite, one more trinket, one more minute of entertainment.
  • Tradition says the 40th anniversary gift is a ruby because rubies are thought to possess an eternal inner flame, a symbol that the passion in a committed relationship is still very alive and strong after 40 years together. In our 40th celebration of Lazy Daze, and on behalf of my fellow Council members here, I want to recognize the passion of our staff for their continued dedication to putting on the best arts festival in the southeast. Every year, you somehow manage to make it better, more interesting, more inclusive, than the year prior. You continue to raise the bar, and our community as a whole so greatly benefits.
  • Thanks to everyone who worked so hard on this year’s festival and to each of you for coming out. I really appreciate spending a few minutes with you to let you know just how proud we are to host Lazy Daze. I hope you all return tomorrow, when we celebrate a historic moment for Lazy Daze—a Day Two! And mark the 25th anniversary of Herb Young Community Center.

I was joined on stage by former mayor Koka Booth, council members Robinson, George, and Smith, and Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha. Afterwards, I spent about two hours touring the various vendors, stages, and exhibits.

Sunday I gave welcoming remarks for the second day of Lazy Daze. This was the first time we have had a second day. We then followed a three man band playing “When Saints Go Marching In” to the front of the Herb Young Community Center. The town crier gave a cry and then counted us down to cut a ribbon rededicating the center. Then once inside we heard many stories about the late Herb Young.

Emails from staff included a reminder that Adopt a Spot Program is celebrating its 5th anniversary this fall. This is a great program where you claim your part of Cary to keep clean and forever green with the Adopt a Spot Program! Adopting groups agree to keep their area clean, litter-free and beautiful throughout the year and in return will be recognized with a sign where permitted. So get a group together and Adopt a Spot. Maybe I can get council members to join me in adopting a spot. Stay tuned.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Recommendations to approve and deny the Carpenter Village proposal.
  • A problem with a water leak.
  • Complaints about RDU’s 2040 vision wanting me to make a public statement. (The mayor speaks on behalf of the council when the council unanimously asks. That is the policy we have been following. RDU owns the land and has been leasing it to the County on a yearly basis. Cary has no authority with RDU and especially telling someone or some entity what they can do with their land that is outside our ETJ. My recommendations were to lobby the decision makers or at least meet with them OR find a way to buy the land.)
  • Complaints about the plans to have Rachael Dolezal as a featured speaker at the 2017 Dreamfest. (I am not the organizer and had no role in the selection. Having said that I would love to hear her explanation of her past decisions.)
  • A request to get someone hired at the town. (I have no role in the hiring and firing of town employees.)
  • A complaint about an Apex proposal and questioning what I can do about it.
  • A complaint about the Harrison and I40 interchange. (This is a NCDOT maintained interchange.)
  • A complaint about a super majority vote need to give a waiver for a one year waiting period on denied rezonings.

Next week will lead into Labor Day so it won’t be quite as busy. Activities include meetings with staff, developers, and event organizers. There will also be a quasi-judicial meeting with three items which will undoubtedly be a long meeting.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 4th.  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.

• Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Harold2015This week was a little slower than normal.

Monday I met with the town manager and deputy town manager. We talked about a few items including the hotel/meal tax and working relationships with other governing agencies. We spent a significant amount of time talking about council to staff and council to council relationships. I continue to be more and more impressed with our new town manager as he continues to acclimate himself to Cary.

Monday night I met with the Wake County Mayors Association. Eleven of twelve mayors were in attendance. Only the Rolesville mayor was absent. Each mayor spent time talking about significant events going on in their municipalities. There was also a little discussion about applications for the $3 million in hotel/meal tax money that is being reconsidered for other projects by the county. It is important to know that the decision makers for this money are made up of county commissioners and Raleigh council members even though Cary and Morrisville make up about 40% of the revenue collected. That needs to change.

Tuesday I did an interview with someone in a leadership class. We talked about how I got involved in politics, leadership qualities, and my style of leadership. The interview lasted about 20 minutes.  In case you are wondering about my style of leadership, here are some of the things that I think are important:

  • Make sure all parties are heard.
  • Give credit before taking credit.
  • Always be respectful and work hard to gain respect from others.
  • Work to bring the most out of each individual regardless of how their philosophies compare to yours.
  • Keep processes informal as much as possible to help people feel relaxed and positive.
  • Work to make sure everyone focused.
  • Work to reduce repetition.
  • Try to destroy any inkling of majorities and minorities.
  • Help all of us to be the best they can be.

I am so very blessed to work with the best council in the state. My job is easy compared to many mayors.

Wednesday I attended an executive board meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. On item presented is called Ramp Metering which is a new idea for the the area. Contrary to the title it is not about tolls but instead about placing traffic signals on approach ramps to highways. NCDOT did a study of this and determined that there were 21 sites in this area that would benefit from ramp signals. They will start with a pilot of 4 entrances onto I540 at Falls of Neuse, Six Forks, Creedmore, and Leesville. Based on studies these should reduce overall travel time by more than 10% and reduce congestion on I540. If the pilot is successful we may see more of these installed closer to Cary.

Later Wednesday I met with the Dreamfest group that is planning the 2nd Annual Diversity Conference in Cary. The theme for this year: Created equal: Why the imbalance. Featured guests will include Rachael Dolezal who is an American civil rights activist and former Africana studies instructor. She was president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Spokane, Washington, from 2014 until June 15, 2015, when she resigned following allegations that she had lied about her racial identity and other aspects of her biography. In addition, Royce Mann will be attending. He is the 14 year old that had the poem “White boy privilege” go viral. The 2017 Dreamfest promises to even be bigger and better than last year’s. I can’t wait.

Thursday I joined members from Sister Cities at a dinner hosting a delegation from Le Touquet, France. There were five members in the delegation and we had a wonderful time talking about experiences and travels. My wife and I plan to visit our sister city next April (paid for by us). It is always an honor and privilege to make new friends especially from our sister city.

In emails staff this week I was notified that the Wake County Board of Elections has decided not to include any municipal sites in their early voting being recommended to the state. They stated that they had already voted 2-1 on this recommendation before my letter arrived. To me, their decision seems to be in direct violation with the recent court order. As a result, I sent the following letter to the State Board of Elections:

North Carolina State Board of Elections

441 N. Harrington Street

Raleigh, NC 27603

Dear Board Members:

The Town of Cary fully supports hosting the extended early voting site at our Herbert C. Young Community Center. Our first statement of values is to serve our citizens, and facilitating the democratic process is a service that we cherish. Unfortunately, we did not pass along a similar letter of support to the Wake County Board of Elections before their decision was made.

It is with the strongest encouragement that I, on behalf of the entire Cary Town Council, request you to extend early voting sites to include our community center.

Best regards,

Harold Weinbrecht Jr.

Mayor

As it said in the letter it is important to facilitate the democratic process. I can only hope that all the parties involved put aside the politics and provide the service to our citizens that they deserve.

In other emails I received an announcement that the Morrisville Parkway section that has been closed for the grade separation project will have a ribbon cutting ceremony on August 26th. I am sure everyone will be glad once that ribbon is cut and the road is finally open.

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • Concerns about RDU’s development of Lake Crabtree Park
  • Opposition to the Carpenter Village rezoning proposal
  • A perceived notion that council votes to appease a few rather than make decisions for the greater good (ABSOLUTELY FALSE!)
  • A complaint about repairs of greenways and maintenance of medians (greenway repair appropriations have been approved and some medians are maintained by HOAs)
  • Opposition to the Holly Springs Road rezoning proposal
  • A complaint about construction vehicles parking on private property

Next week will be a busy one and an important one as Cary celebrates the 40th anniversary of Lazy Daze (it will be the 39th Lazy Daze since one was cancelled a few years ago). This Lazy Daze will last 2 days which is also a first. Other activities include a work session to appoint Board and Commission members, to continue finalizing the Eastern Gateway of the Imagine Cary Planning process, and to begin planning the council-staff retreat for next winter.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 28th.  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.

• Monday, August 15th, 2016

Harold2015This week saw an increase in events as we approach the busy fall season.

My wife had a minor medical procedure on Monday so my week started on Tuesday.

Tuesday I called council members to hear of any questions or concerns they had about Thursday’s council meeting agenda. In my individual conversations there were questions about an applicant wanting to table a rezoning request for Regency Park. Council members also were interested in learning more about issues Morrisville neighbors had with connectivity in a proposed rezoning on the border of Cary.

After the agenda meeting I met with the management staff: town manager, deputy town manager, and two assistant town managers. We went over several items that are of concern including storm damage issues, applications to bring events to Cary, and issues related to other governing bodies.

My final meeting on Tuesday was with the new town manager. Since he had only been on the job for five days at this point we talked about impressions and perceptions.

Wednesday I attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s elected officials leadership dinner. All council members were in attendance except one who was absent only because she was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary. Also in attendance was our new town manager, our assistant to the town manager and liaison to the General Assembly, several school board members, and several county commissioners, legislators from the Cary delegation, and representatives from congressional and senator’s offices. I joined the speakers from the chamber in thanking the elected officials for all they do. Later in the program I introduced our council members. The reception and meal concluded after about three hours.

Thursday the council held its first regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The agenda included 12 consent items, 4 public hearings, and 4 discussion items. Most speakers for this meeting showed up for the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezoning for the Carpenter Village and Ferrell Farms. They expressed concerns with the connectivity requirement to a road stub into a Morrisville community.

On another item speakers voiced opposition to a proposal to build a parking lot in Regency Park. This proposal was only before council because the developer wants to build a parking lot before a future office building.

Under the discussion portion of the meeting council approved the appropriation of $630,000 for storm damage and a change for the 2017 calendar for work sessions. In addition, I appointed council members to non-town organizations. Our meeting concluded after about two and a half hours.

Saturday I attended the India Independence celebration at the Hindu temple in Morrisville. I have attended this every year since I have been mayor. Several dignitaries were there to unveil the American flag, the North Carolina flag, and the India flag. On a stage were Governor McCrory, state representative Adcock, state representative Avila, and Mayor Stohlman of Morrisville. There were also several council members from Morrisville and Cary in attendance. Overall the event had several hundred people from the Indian communities in the region.

Sunday I attended a fund raiser for state representative and former Cary council member Gale Adcock. Joining me at this event were several dignitaries including Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper. We all praised our good friend Gale and vowed to support her as she continues to provide excellent representation for Cary and surrounding municipalities.

Emails from staff this week included the construction, planning, and zoning report for July. Here are some of the interesting points:

  • The average single family dwelling was 3491 square feet compared to 3590 square feet in 2012.
  • 70 Certificates of Occupancy were issued for single family dwellings, 9 for multi-family, and 3 for non-residential.
  • County wide Cary had the second most single family permits at 13.6% of all county permits.
  • 16 new development plans were submitted including 44 single family dwellings, 182,529 square feet of commercial, and 527,400 square feet of mixed use.
  • Currently there are 18 rezonings, 10 annexations, and 5 Comprehensive Plan Amendments in review.

To see the current plans in review go to http://www.townofcary.org/Assets/Planning+Department/Planning+Department+PDFs/planreview/Active+Projects+in+the+Review+Process+(sorted+by+date).pdf.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A concern from a developer that there are no options to develop his site.
  • A complaint that workers on Sheldon Drive were parking on private property.
  • A complaint about a rundown property on Adams Street being a health hazard.
  • A request to put bike lanes on Maynard and other major streets.
  • A complaint about flooding on Wicklow Drive.
  • A complaint that town officials are spending money on downtown when they should be spending money on homeless veterans.
  • A complaint that road sealant will be applied to a street with utility markings making those markings permanent.
  • Several requests for speaking engagements and meetings.

Next week will include a meeting of the Mayors Association, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, a dinner with a delegation from France, and other meetings.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 21st.  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.

• Sunday, August 07th, 2016

Harold2015This week’s highlight was the swearing in of Cary’s new town manager.

Monday started with the weekly meeting of the town management staff. This includes the Deputy town manager and the two assistant town managers. We talked about several items which included: how HB2 is impacting Cary, a development proposal with incentives that may change, the downtown parking deck art, and council member issues. Our meeting lasted about 35 minutes.

Later Monday I met with a downtown property that wants to change her historic landmark to exclude vacant property behind her house. This will probably come to council at a later date since it was the council that designated it an historic landmark.

Tuesday I did a taped interview for the USTA National Community Tennis Association of the year which happened to be the Western Wake Tennis Association (WWTA). The WWTA is the umbrella organization in western Wake county for all USTA, WTT, local and JTT leagues as well as community tennis programming and events.  It is their mission is to promote the game and spirit of tennis in western Wake county through awareness in the communities by facilitating adult, junior, and special need leagues, programs, and tournaments. The WWTA continually works with the USTA, local tennis organizations and clubs, and local government municipalities to respond to the needs of our tennis community and environment. This is a huge honor for the WWTA and our community. The interview will be part of a video that will be presented at the awards ceremony in New York City in September over the Labor Day weekend. Way to go Western Wake Tennis Association!

Wednesday I joined the Director of Parks to meet with a gentleman promoting the Women’s Minor League Basketball Association in Cary. This league would play their games during the summer months. They are currently organizing and plan to have their first season next summer. The purpose of this meeting was to gauge the town’s interest. There will be future meetings between the town’s park staff and this gentleman to talk about the specifics.

Later Wednesday I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha in a meeting with the owner of the Triangle Aquatic Center (TAC) to discuss the possibility of bringing the U.S. national diving training center to Cary. This would require participation from several groups to become a reality including the town, the county, the national diving foundation, and TAC. We also discussed the preliminary plans of the Eastern Gateway and how that would impact the TAC sight and future plans to build a diving center. Our meeting concluded after an hour.

Thursday I had the honor, privilege, and pleasure of swearing in Cary’s new town manager Sean R. Stegall at a special meeting of the town council at 7:45 AM. I called the meeting to order, joined Sean at the podium, made a few remarks, gave him the oath, and then joined everyone in a standing ovation. Sean then made a few remarks which we applauded and then the meeting was adjourned. Six council members and several dozen people were in attendance even at such an early time. Welcome aboard Sean!

Later Thursday the council held a quasi-judicial hearing, a closed session, and a work session.

The quasi-judicial hearing was for a storage facility on Chapel Hill Road near the intersection of Chapel Hill Road and NW Maynard Road. A quasi-judicial hearing is a formal hearing very similar to a court case. That is, we can only hear from experts and only consider evidence. Although several residents near the proposal spoke and complained, their conclusions could not be considered. The proposal was a very high end storage unit with humidity and temperature control. But these were not presented as conditions so the council asked to applicant to include these conditions. While the applicant worked on the conditions and wording the council recessed the quasi-judicial meeting with the intention of returning later in the evening. During the recess of the quasi-judicial hearing the council held a closed session and then a work session before returning later in the evening to hear conditions offered by the applicant. The proposal passed 4 to 3 with my vote being one of the dissenting votes. I believe storage units, no matter how nice, should be in industrial areas and away from homes.

The closed session was to hear an economic development proposal. And since it was a closed session I am not allowed to discuss anything about it. However, I can say that Cary continues to draw interest and be very competitive in bringing jobs to the area. The closed session lasted about half an hour.

After the closed session the council held a work session to discuss council calendars for 2017. It was decided that there should be no exceptions in the schedule for council member vacations or other known absences. Personally, this means I will miss a meeting when I work at the Masters at the beginning of April. In addition, council stated that regular meetings should continue to be held on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month with three exceptions: July, November, and December will have just one meeting. Council quasi-judicial meetings will be the 1st Thursday of each month. Work sessions will be on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Exceptions will be made for town and religious holidays. The hope is that this will make meetings more predictable for the public.

After council finished the work session we returned to the chambers and reconvened the quasi-judicial meeting which I mentioned earlier. The evening finally ended after about four and a half hours. Whew!

Saturday I joined council members, management, department directors, and significant others in a pig-pickin to welcome our new town manager. There were over 50 people in attendance as we enjoyed BBQ pork, chicken, all the fixings and dozens of desserts. It was good to have an informal setting to meet and greet everyone. And in case you are wondering council members will fund this out of their own pockets

Emails from staff this week included great news from Rio the day before the games opened. The International Olympic Committee voted to include baseball and softball for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. As the national governing body for the sport of baseball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee program, USA Baseball (based in Cary) will be responsible for selecting and training the Olympic team that will compete in Tokyo in 2020. This is great news for the USA and great news for Cary.

Emails from citizens this week included just a few requests and a question about what council would want to see as a future development on Tryon Road entering town at Campbell Road.

Next week’s activities include a regularly scheduled council meeting, the Cary Chamber’s Leadership dinner, an India Independence Day ceremony, and a fundraiser for former council member Adcock.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 14th.  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.

• Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Harold2015This week consisted of a council meeting, a ribbon cutting, and a meeting with a school board member.

Monday was the second regularly scheduled council meeting of the month which is unusual. Normally, council meetings fall on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays with quasi-judicial meetings on the 1st Thursday. This meeting had 10 consent items, 7 public hearings, and 5 discussion items. The item that drew the most speakers was the Northwoods rezoning proposal to allow a filling station/convenience store. Residents complained about pretty much everything with this proposal including traffic, light, noise, and property values. The representative for the developer asked that we send this back for another review by the Planning and Zoning board so that they could continue to make changes. However, when council discussed it we felt it was not the right use and that sending it back for another review was delaying the inevitable. Council unanimously denied the proposal.

The council also spent time discussing Round 34 of the Land Development Ordinance amendments. Council member Yerha made a passionate plea against one amendment that would allow gum ball trees to be excluded from champion trees. This exclusion would allow developers to remove them without penalty. Most of council felt that these types of trees are a nuisance and voted for the amendment.

Other decisions included approval to sublease of portions of the WakeMed Soccer Park to for a new private middle school referred to as the “soccer school”. This lease will be reevaluated after 10 months. Council also approved a request by the Historic Preservation Commission to prepare a historic landmark nomination report for the Cary Arts Center (former Cary High School), the Jones House on Academy Street, and the Nathaniel Jones Cemetery on Tolliver Court in the Maynard Oaks Subdivision. The council meeting concluded after about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Tuesday I attended a ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the third location of Riccobenne Associates Family Dentistry in Cary. After greeting the owner I gave a few remarks to about 3 dozen in attendance. Then we all gathered outside in the heat (above 95 degrees) and cut the ribbon on the new facility. Afterwards I joined the owner inside (in the air conditioning) as we toured the facility. This facility is a one stop shop for anything and everything with your teeth. They even have specialists that focus on pediatric dentistry. You can get braces, have dental surgery, or just something as simple as have your teeth cleaned. What a great idea to have everything in one place. So if you are looking for a new dental place you probably ought to check this out.

Wednesday I had a meeting with School Board member Bill Fletcher who covers most of Cary. We keep in touch when we can and this was meeting to update me on all the things going on related to schools. In our conversation the following points were made:

  • Merrill, the superintendent, wanted less reassignment and more focus on academics. (We have certainly seen less reassignments.)
  • Wake County’s per student funding is less than it was in 2008.
  • Funding sources for schools: 59% state, 29% county, 8% federal, 4% other (fines and forfeitures, etc.)
  • Daily operations account for 80% of the budget.
  • The operating budget is $1.4 billion.
  • 99% of teachers met the federal definition of highly qualified.
  • While Cary’s schools are diverse by race, Cary does not have a school where the majority of students are economic minorities (poor).
  • Wake County has over 157,000 students enrolled for this year.
  • Wake County has 10,201 teachers and 18,950 employees.
  • Teacher turnover rate is over 13%.
  • There are 106 Elementary schools with 600 temporary classrooms.
  • There are 33 Middle schools with 185 temporary classrooms.
  • There are 25 High Schools with 367 temporary classrooms.
  • There are 825 school buses driving 83,000 miles per day.
  • In the seven year plan there are 11 elementary schools planned or under construction and 12 more with land purchased or targeted. All western wake elementary schools are under construction or land has been purchased.
  • Western Wake has Apex Middle school funded; a site acquired for another middle school near the Chatham County line, and is looking for a site for another middle school in Western Wake.
  • Western Wake has Green Level High School opening in 2019 and are looking for sites to add two additional high schools in Western Wake.
  • As available land dwindles future high schools may be looking at a different model that doesn’t require 70 acres. In addition, future schools may share ball fields.

Our meeting concluded after about half an hour.

Emails from staff this week included the 2nd quarter report for 2016. Here are some interesting points from that report:

  • 34 new development projects were approved in the quarter.
  • 33 new plans were submitted.
  • Cary’s population is estimated to be 157,259 as of July 1st which is a 2.2% increase over the last 12 months.
  • Permits issued 428 single family, 6 multi-family, and 158 non-residential.
  • Certificates of Occupancy issued 229 single family, 3 for 99 multi-family units, and non-residential.
  • Water demand was 18.6 million gallons as compared to 18.9 gallons during the same period last year.
  • Cary Water Treatment Facility was certified as the Director’s Award by the Partnership for Safe Drinking Water for the 12th consecutive year.
  • Cary has 930 miles of sanitary sewer lines, 25,400 manholes, and 40 wastewater pump stations.
  • Cary violent crimes increased 70% compared to last year. Rape increased 43%, aggravated assault 48%, and robbery 200%. Several of the robberies were reported by victims attempting to purchase marijuana. Three incidents took place at one address known for criminal activity.
  • Cary property crimes decreased 6% compared to last year. Burglary was down 16% and arson was down 20%.
  • There was an 11.36% decrease in calls to the fire department compared to the same period last year.
  • Traffic signal software system is scheduled to be completed this summer.
  • Morrisville Parkway Extension and I540 interchange is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
  • Cary Parkway and High House intersection improvements are scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2017.
  • Carpenter Fire Station Road Bridge and intersection improvements are scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2019.
  • Walnut Street improvements near Crossroads are scheduled to be completed in the fall of this year.
  • Green Level West widening is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2018.
  • White Oak Creek Greenway at the American Tobacco Trail is scheduled to be completed in 2018.
  • Jack Smith Park is scheduled to be completed later this summer.
  • Carpenter Park is scheduled to be completed later this summer.
  • The downtown park’s first phase is scheduled to be completed this fall.
  • Sports turf fields are projected to be completed this fall.
  • Mills Park phase two is scheduled to be completed in 2018.
  • The Cary Tennis park expansion is scheduled to be completed in the summer of next year.
  • Cary’s water treatment plant expansion should be completed later this year.
  • The town has posted an RFP for the Jones house and several prospective tenants have toured the property in advance of submitting a proposal.

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • A complaint about the Eastern Gateway plan.
  • A complaint about the proposal to move the Ivey-Ellington house.
  • A complaint about the proposed 24 hour convenience store at Maynard and Reedy Creek.
  • A question about the proposed second Wegmans in Cary.
  • A request to bring back red light cameras.
  • A concern about the Gulen movement at the Triangle Math and Science Academy.
  • A concern about birds flying into the glass and the proposed new library.
  • A complaint that the town clocks are never keeping the right time.
  • A complaint about the seats in the Cary Theater.

Next week the new town manager starts as I swear him in at 7:30 AM on August 4th. Other activities include a meeting with a business owner, an on camera interview at the Cary Tennis Center, a meeting about minor league women’s basketball, a meeting about USA diving, a quasi-judicial hearing, and a work session on the council calendar for next year.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 7th.  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.

• Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Harold2015This week was a typical slow summer week.

Monday started with my weekly one on one meeting with the Deputy Town manager and one of the Assistant Town managers. We talked about several issues including the Academy Street construction which is now projected to finish around October. I was also told about an announcement that La Farm Bakery, which will open its second in downtown Cary, would be made Friday. This project had been in the works for quite some time so I was glad to finally hear that it was happening. Other topics included the state property next to the Wake Med soccer park, Jack Smith Park, the downtown park, and the Cary Chamber retreat that was held Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday I was presented a preliminary master plan of a development on Morrisville Carpenter Road near Davis Drive that will include a 130,000 square foot Wegmans. Wegmans is the number 1 rated grocery chain in the United States. In addition to the Wegmans the proposal includes a 162,600 square foot assisted living facility, 25,000 square feet of office, 3,600 square feet of retail, 15,600 square feet of child care, and 42,000 square feet of general residential and office. With this proposal there is a potential for the first two Wegmans in North Carolina to be in Cary.

Tuesday afternoon I contacted the Apex mayor about citizen concerns raised about an apartment proposal in Apex on the Cary border. Here are the points he made:

  • The land is question is planned for high density.
  • It is already situated next to apartments.
  • It will have walking access to retail.
  • It will have walking access to the park.
  • The developer has reduced the number of units from 300 to 270 with 50% being one bedroom apartments.
  • They will continue to work on traffic issues.

It is important to understand that Cary has no authority in Apex. However, Cary and Apex have a great working relationship. And the Apex mayor is always willing to work and discuss issues between our two municipalities.

Later Tuesday I met with a developer who recently proposed a storage facility behind the shopping center at Kildaire and Maynard that was denied. He expressed an interest in getting a waiver from the required one year waiting period after a proposal is denied. In addition, he is interested in getting two of the parcels of the original proposal rezoned to commercial without specifying what would be built. If that were approved then a council decision would not be required for a storage facility. If this is the case council will view this as a circumnavigation around the process. We’ll see how this moves forward.

Wednesday the council held a work session scheduled to cover three topics: The downtown library with the parking structure design, the Eastern Gateway Plan, and the 2017 council calendar. The council spent three and a half hours on the first two topics and decided to work on the 2017 council calendar after their August 4th quasi-judicial hearing.

Some of the takeaways from the work session on the design of the library and parking structure included:

  • The parking structure wall facing the park will have a facade that looks trees during the day and include a firefly effect at night.
  • Council asked that all other sides of the parking deck be addressed and options brought back at the August work session.
  • The library will be mostly glass but will include some brick with windows that look similar to the Art Center to help tie the two structures together. Based on the sketches presented I estimate that 80% of the exterior will be glass.
  • The council decided that the space under the library should have restrooms for the park, a lobby area, and an unfinished area for future use.
  • In August the consultants will present the final building exterior character, the final public art integration, and the final site development plan.
  • Bidding for this project will be in the summer of 2017.
  • Construction is scheduled to be from August 2017 through October 2018.

This part of the work session took a little over an hour.

The work session on the Eastern Gateway lasted about two and a half hours. The Eastern Gateway is bounded by Chapel Hill Road to the north, Walnut Street to the south, I40 to the east, and Maynard Road to the west. Visions and designs were presented to council which was discussed at length resulting in a few changes. Some of the most interesting takeaways from this work session included:

  • The State site which is bordered by Walnut Creek, Cary Town Boulevard, the future extension of Trinity Road, and Maynard will be an employment center with the majority of the square footage office, and the rest balanced between residential and retail. The idea is that the residential and retail will support the office.
  • The soccer campus to the north of the state site will have the soccer park as the prominent anchor with future uses to enhance the park’s character.
  • The Office campus which is bordered by Chatham Street, Cary Town Boulevard, I40, and the future Trinity Road will be high rise office. Some office buildings may be 20 stories. 80% to 90% of this space will be office with only a little supporting retail.

Other parts of this plan include area north of Chatham, east of the soccer campus, and the mall site. Some options will be brought back on how to best connect the mall site to the state site across Cary Town Boulevard. This will include bike and pedestrian access. The Eastern Gateway is part of the Imagine Cary process but has been accelerated to finish earlier.

Thursday I traveled with Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha to the Cary Planning Conference in Wrightsville Beach. I was surprised when I was asked to give remarks to the attendees before dinner. I thanked the crowd made up of a who’s who of those that have stepped up to help Cary in various ways. I then recognized our soon-to-be town manager and thanked him for attending.

Friday morning before the beginning of the planning conference sessions I had breakfast with the Wake County manager and we talked about the Hotel, Meal, and Beverage tax. He said that he and his staff will soon tour all of the current Cary facilities. This is a great start. I hope that from their tour they realize that Cary is truly an amateur sports mecca and is drawing thousands of people and creating millions of dollars in economic benefit. Bringing tourism and dollars to this area is the purpose of the tax.

Later I attended the morning sessions of the planning conference which included updates from the Wake County manager. Some of the take away points from that presentation included:

  • Wake County is the second fastest growing county in the nation.
  • It is adding a quarter of a million people every year.
  • The population of Wake County will double by 2054.

He also talked about trends and transit.

The next presentation was from the Wake County School superintendent and a school board member. Some of the take away points from that presentation included:

  • 2000 students are being added every year or about 1 classroom a day.
  • The school system has a $1.4 billion operating cost.
  • They are aware of the problems caused by the cap at Mills Park but it will probably stay for the near future.

They did state that they get up-to-date accurate information from Cary that helps them plan.

I next introduced Sean Stegall who will be our next town manager. He talked about why Cary is so special and why he wants to be in Cary. He will be sworn in on August 4th at 7:30.

The last topic before lunch was from the Executive Director of the Regional Transportation Alliance. He talked about the transit plan and the upcoming bond referendum. He made one point that people might not be aware of. The vote in the fall is the funding of the plan not a vote on the plan. The plan has already been approved.

After the morning sessions were complete the Mayor Pro-Tem and I returned to Cary.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Complaints about proposed apartments in Apex on the Cary border.
  • Complaints about proposed hotels off Harrison Avenue (council has not seen the proposal).
  • A suggestion to change water restriction guidelines.
  • Complaints about a proposed Sheetz station in Northwoods.
  • Questions about the Cary Town Center mall.
  • A correction that I inadvertently called firestation 2 firestation 9. (The new station was the 9th station but was named 2 and the old 2 was named 9. How confusing is that?)
  • Questions and concerns about the new downtown library.
  • And a question about a 1 year waiting period waiver from proposals that have been denied (It takes 6 out of 7 to approve a waiver).

Next week will include a regularly scheduled council meeting on Monday which is very unusual. Activities also include a ribbon cutting, and a meeting with a school board member.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 31st.  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.

• Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Harold2015This week’s activities were about the average pace one would expect during the summer.

Since this week included a regularly scheduled council meeting, I called council members to hear of any questions or concerns regarding the agenda. I was able to contact all but one and there were no questions since the agenda was limited. Later in the day I met with staff and the Mayor Pro-Tem to go over the agenda. Because of the very short agenda our meeting lasted about five minutes.

Later Monday I met with the Deputy Town Manager and the two Assistant Town Managers. We talked about several topics including the potential bond referendum and a potential move of the Ivey-Ellington house. Regarding the potential bond referendum, it could be held next year or the year after. The size of the bond referendum will probably be limited by our 15% debt ceiling. The potential referendum would likely contain a fire station, roads projects, and one or two parks but that is all a guess at this point. Council will need to decide by October of this year if it wants to have a bond referendum in 2017.

Tuesday started with a great announcement that Relias Learning was expanding in Cary with 450 more jobs and an additional $4.5 million in investments. This is the first big job announcement since HB2 went into effect and will be a big boost to Cary’s economy. I arrived about 20 minutes before the ceremony and was escorted into a conference room with the Governor and leaders from Relias. They spent their time discussing education in various areas and how Relias could help in many areas of state government. The official ceremony began with officials from Relias speaking, followed by the Governor, and eventually me. In my remarks I expressed our excitement in hearing of their expansion. I also noted Cary’s special connection to education – North Carolina’s first public high school was at the site of the current Cary Arts Center. The entire ceremony lasted about 30 minutes.

Tuesday night I attended a soccer match between the Carolina RailHawks and West Ham United of the Barclays Premier League, England’s top tier of soccer. These are the best players in the world. And while some teams from the Premier League play matches in the America, none have ever played in this region and especially in Cary. So this was a big deal for us. The match was a 2-2 draw with the RailHawks playing great and West Ham using a lot of substitutes. The stadium was packed with a record crowd and everyone seemed to have a great time even though there was a 30 minute delay for a thunderstorm. At halftime in the match the RailHawks announced that they signed Omar Bravo who is considered by some a Mexican superstar. Hopefully these two significant events will keep the RailHawks matches close to capacity the entire year.

Wednesday morning I happen to come across another sports event in Cary. Apparently the NHL’s Pittsburg Penguins backup goalie lives in Cary. The Penguins are the Stanley Cup champions. Each player gets to have a day with the Stanley Cup and Wednesday happened to be his day. So when I saw him he was planning to take the Stanley Cup around the golf course as he played. I understand that later in the day he was planning to take the Stanley Cup to a swimming pool. How cool is that to have in Cary?

Thursday the council held its first regularly scheduled meeting of July. There were 14 consent items, 1 public hearing, and 1 discussion item. The public hearing had no speakers but there were two speakers at Public Speaks out. For the discussion item the council unanimously agreed to ask staff to pursue a sister city relationship with Wardha, India. After closed session the council adjourned around 8 PM.

Friday I attended the Cary Visual Arts 9th annual outdoor sculpture exhibition opening reception. I gave remarks as part of the 30 minute ceremony thanking the Cary Visual Arts for all they do for our community improving our quality of life and congratulating them on their first 20 years. The ceremony also included awarding artists from local schools and then hearing from the artists who created the eight outdoor sculptures that are currently on or near town hall campus.

Saturday I had the honor and pleasure to spend time with firefighters at our newest station 9. I was joined by council members Bush and George. We also had firefighters from other companies in Cary. The purpose of the event was to get to know our firefighters and experience a small fraction of what they train to do. Our first task was to slide down the fire pole which was actually a lot of fun. We all did it twice. Next we climbed the extension truck’s ladder all the way to the bucket while it was fully extended which is about eight stories. We then got in the bucket from the ground and were taken as high as the bucket would go to look at the surroundings. What a different perspective than what you see on the ground. After all the activities we were joined by the firefighters for a lunch of firehouse subs. How appropriate. We all had a great time and I can’t thank our firefighters enough for all they do. They are truly the best of the best.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A remark about my praise of our police officers in last week’s blog.
  • Several comments to vote against a Sheetz gas station proposal at Maynard and Reedy Creek.
  • A complaint about the lack of a signal at Morrisville Parkway and Green Level Road.
  • A comment about a proposal to move the Ivy-Ellington House.
  • A request to fund O’Kelly Chapel Road at the American Tobacco Trail Intersection. (That is not in Cary’s jurisdiction)
  • A request to stop an Apex proposal for apartments next to a park that borders Cary. (We have no authority with other jurisdictions but I do plan to talk with their mayor to let him know of citizens concerns.)

Next week’s activities include a meeting of the Mayors Association, a work session on the downtown library, the Eastern Cary gateway, and the council meeting schedule, a trip to Wrightsville Beach for the annual Cary Chamber Planning Conference, and other staff and citizen meetings.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 24th.  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.

• Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Harold2015This week was a holiday week so activities were on the lighter side.

Monday was the 4th of July and I joined thousands of people to celebrate at the Booth amphitheater. When I arrived the Cary Town Band was playing. As always, they do an amazing job. Then I greeted a couple from Japan that has been celebrating July 4th in Cary for years. This year they presented me with a custom made Uncle Sam hat from the Japan’s Haberdasher to the Emperor. What an amazing gift. We took pictures of everyone with these hats before I went on stage and welcomed the crowd. In my remarks I made sure to recognize our veterans in attendance because we all know freedom isn’t free. Afterwards we enjoyed the North Carolina Symphony, and then a 20 minute fireworks display. What a great way to celebrate our nation’s independence!

Wednesday started with a couple of quick meetings. I met with the town clerk to go over a couple of logistical things and then with an Assistant Town Manager to provide input on a couple of items. 

Later Wednesday I met with a member of the Friends of the Page Walker Hotel. The mission of this group is to be a guardian for the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, advocate for the preservation of Cary historic sites, archive history, and help with historical education. To find out more about this group go to http://www.friendsofpagewalker.org/. This meeting was to express the group’s concerns of a proposal near the intersection of Chatham and Harrison. While they generally support the proposal but they are concerned about the plan to move the historic Ivey-Ellington House.  The Ivey-Ellington House was built on its current site in 1874. They believe it would lose its historic designation if moved to a different location. They also believe the proposed 75,000 square foot office building would be out of character in this part of downtown. While I very much believe in the preservation of the Ivey-Ellington House I also want to see the proposal succeed. This proposed project has been in the works for nearly 10 years. I asked that the Friends of the page Walker sit down with the developer and let him explain why the Ivey-Ellington house would have to be moved. I look forward to hearing the details of that conversation.

Thursday the council held its monthly quasi-judicial meeting. There was one item on the agenda for a self-storage unit proposed for land near Chapel Hill Road and NW Maynard. Council decided to continue this hearing until the August 4th quasi-judicial meeting. Since this is a quasi-judicial matter, I am not allowed to provide my thoughts or comments about this proposal.

After the quasi-judicial meeting I, along with several council members, traveled to north Raleigh to a visitation for Council member Robinson’s father who recently passed away. It is a sad time for all of us when a colleague loses a loved one.

On Friday I woke up to the tragedy of police officers being shot in Dallas. I called the Cary police chief and left him voice mail. Here is generally what I said:

“Chief,

My heart was broken this morning when I heard the news of senseless shooting of brave officers in Dallas.

This tragedy reminded me of the brave men and women in Cary’s Police Department and how much you all do for our community. When Cary officers take the oath they are putting their lives on the line each and every day to keep us safe. Words cannot express how much I appreciate our officers. You have not only my utmost respect but I believe the utmost respect of our citizens. God bless you and thank you for all you are doing!

Please know that I am not only keeping those in Dallas in my thoughts and prayers but and thinking and praying for our officers as well.”           

It is important that Cary is known for having the best of the best. Our police department is the best! If you believe as I do please reach out to them and let them know.

Emails from staff this week included the construction and activity reports. Those reports included:

  • 17 development plans were approved in June.
  • The average size of a Single Family dwelling in June was 3,731 square feet as compared to 3,808 in June of 2012.
  • Cary issued more single family permits in May than any other municipality in Wake County (21.6% of all permits).
  • Single family permits were up 17.8% over the last year.
  • Non-residential permits were down 26.4% over the last year.

To see a map of development projects around Cary go to http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/Planning_Department/InteractiveDevelopmentMap.htm.   To see plans approved this year go to http://www.townofcary.org/Assets/Planning+Department/Planning+Department+PDFs/planreview/Current+Year+Approved+Projects+(sorted+by+Date).pdf  . To see plans under review go to http://www.townofcary.org/Assets/Planning+Department/Planning+Department+PDFs/planreview/Active+Projects+in+the+Review+Process+(sorted+by+date).pdf.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A question about construction near the American Tobacco Trail.
  • A concern about a proposed Sheetz near the intersection of Reedy Creek and Maynard.
  • Criticism about a design of the new library “… I groaned – another rectangular brick building…” (While council can, and does, provide feedback on the design, the decision is with Wake County since it is their library).
  • Opposition to the proposed move of the Ivey-Ellington House.

Next week the pace will pick up for me. Activities include staff meetings, the Railhawks game with West Ham of the premier league, a meeting with developers about the state property, a town council meeting, the Cary Visual Arts sculptural exhibit, and a fire truck ladder climb.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 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 and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, July 03rd, 2016

Harold2015This week started off busy but eased up as we approached the July 4th holiday weekend.

Monday we had the second of our two regularly scheduled council meetings of the month which was unusual. Our meetings are usually on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month with quasi-judicial meetings on the 1st Thursday of the month. On the agenda were 11 consent items, 2 public hearings, and 2 discussion items. There was a public hearing for a Regency Park proposal that was continued until our August meeting so that the developer could work more with the residents.

A consent item was pulled by staff for consideration at another time. That item was for an Artist-In-Residence project. The last Artist-In-Residence project was the fire sculpture which was extremely controversial. This one looked like it might be controversial as well. It is important to understand that these Artist-In-Residence projects are part of the Parks Master Plan and staff is following that plan. So council will need to provide direction for these projects OR allow these projects to move forward without council becoming art critics. I would prefer that we avoid (at all cost) being art critics and provide more direction. It will be interesting to see how we move forward with this issue.

The meeting’s only public hearing was for an additional 9 homes between the Upchurch Farms neighborhood and the Park Village neighborhood. The addition of 9 homes was not controversial because it matched in density of surrounding neighborhoods. However the required connectivity that would have turned a cul-de-sac into part of a thoroughfare was extremely controversial and more than 100 residents filled up the council chambers in protest. It is important to understand that council has had a difficult time with connectivity and a few months ago adjusted our ordinance to eliminate certain connections. Our new connectivity ordinance language was intended to avoid these types of connections.

The council seemed to all agree that the connectivity was not warranted especially since one of the connections was from a cul-de-sac. But this created quite a conundrum since we are not allowed to address connectivity in a rezoning. However, our staff does have leeway in the connectivity ordinance to classify the connection in one of 3 tiers. And having this particular intersection classified as a tier 3 would eliminate the need for the connection. So at the meeting the staff stated they would review the connection at the Park Village cul-de-sac to see if it should fall under tier 3 which would not require the connection. Later in the week we were notified that the connection was a tier 3 connection which meant that it was not required by allowed. And I don’t believe the applicant would want to build this connection that would be controversial for more cost.  This public hearing concluded after about an hour and a half.

The discussion items included the budget which was passed and will take effect on July 1st, and a grant application. Both were passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 8:27 (I predicted 8:30).

Tuesday I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Yerha in the first taping of the second generation of Cary Matters. A few months ago the council decided to change Cary Matters to be tapped at a new location and use a different, shorter format costing the same amount of money. So the first taping was in a studio off Adams Street. It had one topic which was our new town manager Sean Stegall. It will air on July 1st. Please let us know what you think about the new Cary Matters.

Wednesday I attended the quarterly meeting of Cary’s Economic Development Committee. This committee includes the mayor, two council members, the town manager, the Chamber’s executive director, the chair of the Cary Chamber’s board of directors and three citizens. Most of our meetings, including this one, is used reviewing the economic development progress and discussing various issues. Interesting points from this meeting include:

  • CoFounders Capital Investment Company is completing their first year in the leased space of the Cary Theater building. They have made their 8th investment bringing their total investment in new companies to nearly $2 million.
  • David Gardner, Founder of CoFounders Capital will be joining the Cary Chamber’s board.
  • An inventory of existing class A office in Cary shows that the largest contiguous space is about 50,000 square feet.
  • Cary’s class A vacancy is about 8% which is extremely healthy.
  • Cary would need over 1 million square feet of class A office if all pending demand comes to fruition.
  • Highwoods is building a 165,000 square foot class A office building in Weston.
  • Construction of the 25,000 square foot Midtown Square office building on Chatham is scheduled to be open this fall.
  • In the last three months Cary accolades include:
    • #2 on Zippia Most Successful cities in America
    • #1 in nation for offering telecommunication jobs according to US Census Bureau for Raleigh-Cary area
    • #4 for least cost burdened households in the country according to SmartAsset
    • Top 30 in nation for safest community for children.
  • Currently there are 10 active projects considering Cary which has the potential for 4,472 jobs with $343 billion of new investment. If these all came to Cary it would mean $1,272,000 annually in additional tax revenue.
  • Unemployment rate in Cary is 3.4% as compared to 4.2% in Wake County and 4.7% in the rest of the country.

Our meeting concluded after about an hour.

This week the council learned of the passing of council member Robinson’s dad who had been in hospice care. Please keep Ms. Robinson and her family in your prayers during this difficult time.

Emails from staff this week included a determination of the connectivity between the Park Village and Upchurch Farms neighborhoods which were the most controversial item at the last regularly scheduled council meeting. Staff determined that a connection was allowed but not required. I believe feedback from council members at the meeting about our intent in the connectivity ordinance was a significant factor in that determination.

In other emails from staff we were notified that the town received a new accolade. Based on analysis of FBI violent crime data, sex offender populations, state graduation rates, and school rankings, after-school programs, and open spaces for cities over 10,000; Cary ranked among the 30 safest cities in the nation to raise a child.

Emails from citizens this week asked for the rejection of the $50 million private investment to keep an historic structure from being moved. Citizens also expressed concerns about a proposed hotel behind the Arboretum, concerns about connectivity between Upchurch Farms and Park Village, concerns about RDU’s future buildout plans, a complaint about construction debris on the road, a complaint about speeding in the Northwoods and Kingswood subdivision, a concern about a security breach on a water account, and a complaint about reckless drivers in Cary.

Next week is a holiday week so the schedule is very light. The only activities on the schedule are meeting with residents about the proposal that would move the Ivey-Ellington House, a quasi-judicial hearing, a funeral, and private dinners.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 10th.  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.

• Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Harold2015This week consisted of a lot of late nights.

Monday started with my weekly one-on-one meeting with Interim Town Manager Bajorek. First, we discussed Cary’s CAMPO LAPP (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Locally Administered Projects Program) projects and why they are delayed. Some of the things we also talked about included the budget, the hotel occupancy and meal tax, and the council’s roles in representing the town.

Later that evening I participated in a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. Mayors from Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Holly Springs, Morrisville, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell, and Zebulon were in attendance. Most of the meeting was spent talking about our each of the towns’ budgets. Most of the mayors reported that they will increase taxes, some by large amounts. For example, Zebulon will increase taxes by ten cents. And in case you are wondering, Cary is proposing to reduce taxes by two cents to be revenue neutral with the property reevaluation. Our meeting concluded after about two and a half hours.

Tuesday my wife and I had dinner with an old friend from our sister city in Le Touquet, France. We first met her about 15 years ago as a chaperone for the students that visit as part of the culinary exchange program with Wake Tech. We hosted students several times and we became friends during that time. Now she is retired and we stay in touch. My wife and I plan to visit Paris and Le Touquet next year. What a great side benefit of our sister city program.

Wednesday started with calls to council members to hear concerns and questions about council’s last regularly scheduled council meeting of the month. This meeting will be on Monday, the 27th which is unusual since our meetings are usually on Thursday. I was able to contact all council members and they only expressed concern about an item that was withdrawn by staff.

Wednesday night the council held a work session on three items: technical changes to the proposed budget, design goals for the downtown library and parking structure, and advocacy goals for the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM).

The budget’s technical changes were designed to be a review. However a council member made a motion to fund the master planning of the Cameron Pond Park. This motion was already denied at our last work session since Morris Branch will serve twice as many people with over a million dollars less in cost. It is not the practice of this council to review items that have already been decided but it is allowed since it is not violating any rules or policy. Once again the motion failed. Council agreed on the technical changes in the budget and we will vote on it at our meeting on the 27th. 

Our second item at the work session was to provide design goals for the downtown library and parking structure. Here is some of the direction given:

  • The basement should be used. Options will be brought back that will include restrooms and space for commercial and other things.
  • The library should have a strong presence in the area but not necessarily look like the surrounding structures. As the architect put it the buildings “They should talk with each other not scream at each other.”
  • The materials for the exterior should make the library and the deck look like they belong together.
  • The library should have an extended day presence (into the evening) but not conflict with lighting from the deck. The lighting should be warm and inviting.
  • Stairs should be inviting and maybe have walls of glass.
  • Consider options of a catwalk into the deck.

The consultant will bring back options to the council in about a month. The project is on schedule with construction beginning in August of next year with a completion date of November 2018.

Our last work session item was on the NCLM advocacy principles. The town was given an option to present addition principles before July 1st. After much discussion we decided that what we offered were currently covered under existing NCLM principles. So we will just support their core principles.

After the work session the council held the annual performance review of the town attorney in a closed session with the town attorney. Since this is a closed session item I can’t divulge any information.

Thursday the council held a quasi-judicial hearing for two church projects. The White Oak Baptist Church was seeking a special use permit to build a 12,000 square foot building across the street from the church. No one spoke in opposition to this request and it was approved by council. The second was a request from White Plains Methodist Church on Maynard Road to build a parking lot. Several people raised concerns about traffic, noise, lights, and flooding. Most of these were addressed by the developer and some were unsubstantiated. Council also approved this request. The quasi-judicial hearings ended after about an hour and a half.

Afterwards the council did the annual review for the town clerk. We also reviewed the interim town manager position. Like the town attorney’s closed session, I am not allowed to give any information. I can say that our session lasted about an hour and a half.

Friday I participated in the weekly legislative update for the North Carolina Metro Mayors. It is getting close to the end of the short session so a lot of things are happening, some I consider unethical. For example, only non-controversial bills are supposed to be introduced in a short session but a local bill was introduced at the last minute to change the Asheville council districting and called non-controversial which is ridiculous. It seems the legislative majority can’t get enough of screwing local governments. Another strategy being used at the end of session is to take bills that have crossed from one chamber to another and strip them and fill them with unrelated stuff. Our legislature is in a sad state. We really need ethical leadership that will stand up for citizens and their local governments instead of special interests. I am very glad that Cary has former council member Gale Adcock defending our interests.

Sunday I attended the funeral for formal council member Melba Sparrow. She served on the council for 12 years in the late 80s and 90s. While I never served with her I do remember watching her as I got involved in 1997. From that observation I can tell you she was involved and committed to making her community the best it could possibly be. What a great public servant. We are all better off for her service. RIP Melba.

Cary received another accolade this week. Zippia ranked Cary as #2 in the nation for most successful cities in America. Their criteria included poverty level, median household income, and unemployment rate. They looked at over 289 cities. Here is what they said about Cary:

“There’s a reason Cary is one of the fastest growing communities in the country. It’s safe, it’s beautiful, the people are friendly… Okay, there are a lot of reasons. But more than anything, this place is SUCCESSFUL. And by that, we mean, these guys are makin’ money: $91,481 per year, to be precise (median income). Other than that, though, Cary also has the ninth lowest poverty rank and the 10th lowest unemployment rank. Ku-dos.”

To look at the entire report go to https://www.zippia.com/advice/most-successful-cities-in-america/.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A complaint that we are paying too much for town employee insurance.
  • About a half a dozen requests for help with various issues.
  • A request for a traffic light study at High House Road and Castalia Drive.
  • A question about a proposal for a garage.
  • A question about a Morrisville rezoning.
  • Comments about moving the Ivey-Ellington House.

Next week will be busy with a regularly scheduled council meeting, a taping of the first Generation 2 Cary Matters, and an Economic Development Committee meeting.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 3rd.  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.