• Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Harold2015This was another busy week which is typical of the fall and spring.

Since there was a regularly scheduled council meeting during the week I called all council members to hear of any questions or concerns about the agenda. The agenda was short so there was very little feedback from council members.

Later I met with Mayor Pro-Tem, Department Directors and other management staff to go over the agenda. Since there were no questions the meeting was short.

Monday night I attended the Mayors Association meeting. Mayors from Morrisville, Rolesville, Apex, Fuquay Varina, Holly Springs, and Zebulon were also in attendance. In our meetings we usually go around the table and ask about current issues. I spoke about the NCAA/ACC announcement and its impacts and also our downtown development.

Tuesday the council held its second regularly scheduled council meeting of the month. There were 13 items on the Consent Agenda, 2 Public Hearings, and 2 items for discussion. Council unanimously agreed to submit the ADA Bus Stop Improvements Project and the Design of the Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility to CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) for funding. In addition, the council unanimously agreed to close a portion of right of way on Wilson Road. After 2 closed session items the council adjourned. The meeting took a little over an hour.

Wednesday I attended the monthly meeting of CAMPO’s executive board. The meeting lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. Items of interest included the 2040 study of Highway 54. To widen the corridor from I540 to Maynard Road would cost an estimated $240 million. The section from Park West to Maynard Road would cost under $40 million. Announcements included that the DCHC (Durham, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill Metropolitan Planning Organization) will join us in a meeting on November 30th.

Later Wednesday I met with the Executive Director and a staff member to go over the current Cary CAMPO projects. They want to provide help to Cary to get projects done sooner than later.

Thursday the council held one of its last work sessions on the Imagine Cary Planning process. Council was presented with a summary of the draft plan public outreach efforts and key themes from feedback. Then we recommended some changes and refinements for the public hearing version. Council commented on densities per acre in the Green Level special planning area. Council is unsure that using lot sizes rather than densities per acre is the best way to proceed. Staff will bring back examples of how this works. This plan is scheduled for a public hearing at the October 27th council meeting. A second public hearing will be at the November 10th council meeting. The Planning and Zoning Board will hold a public hearing on December 19th and council is scheduled to take action in January.

Friday I participated in the Triangle Oktoberfest opening at Koka Booth amphitheater. The Apex Sunrise Rotary club and the Cary MacGregor Rotary club co-host this charity event for the Alzheimers North Carolina organization. There was traditional Bavarian food and fare, entertaining events, and of course plenty of local and authentic German beer. I tapped the first keg along with Mayor Olive of Apex. Then later I tapped a second keg at one of the sponsor’s tents. The weather was perfect and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Sunday I attended the Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources annual volunteer picnic at the Booth amphitheater. There were probably about 100 in attendance enjoying the good food and fun games. I even had enough time to join council member Bush in a spirited game of badminton against two of our younger citizens. This is one of two annual events we hold to thank over 400 volunteers and to let them know that we appreciate their time, commitment, and contributions. Cary would not be the town it is today without its volunteers. God bless all those who give for the benefit of others.

This week the Cary Chamber of Commerce issued a statement on HB2:

“The Cary Chamber has been encouraging the North Carolina Legislature to take action to remedy the negative economic impact of House Bill 2.  As a result of HB2 and national reaction to it, Cary is experiencing unnecessary economic losses from delays in business expansion, difficulties in attracting new businesses, and most recently the loss of hard-earned NCAA and ACC Championships.  As a former NCAA Championship Community, one of only six that were recognized nationwide, Cary is faced with losing our identity as a premier sports destination, a recognition that has been a key attraction for new residents and businesses.  The Cary Chamber joins with other chambers, businesses, and other organizations around the State in calling for the immediate repeal of House Bill 2.”  

Thank you to the Cary Chamber for continuing to look out for the interest of our businesses and our community.

This week Money Magazine ranked Cary the #1 place to live in North Carolina and the #37 place to live in the United States. To read their comments about Cary go to http://time.com/money/4469039/cary-north-carolina/. It should be noted that no other North Carolina cities made the list. I am proud to be mayor of such a great town that continues to be recognized nationally as one of the greatest places to live, work, and play.

The town manager’s report for this week includes:

Mayton Inn – HUD Loan

We have a goal of closing this month the Town’s Section 108 loan with HUD and to receive reimbursement from HUD for the $1.4 million the Town, in turn, has loaned to the Mayton Inn. Among the documents required by HUD for the closing is an updated appraisal of the value of the Mayton Inn now that it has been completed. The appraisal was received, and Town staff, along with our outside attorney, is completing the remaining closing documents. Barring any unforeseen issues we are on target for meeting the September 30 goal.

Floodplain property issue

A property on the 300 block of Waldo Street has erected a concrete wall made of stacked bags of quickrete along the stream bank behind his property. Also, there are two large soil piles in his yard. This property is within the TCAP de-lineated floodplain, and therefore our ordinance does not allow filling or structures to be placed within this floodplain. The wall and soil piles are in violation of our ordinance, LDO 7.5. The wall is also potentially in violation of state and federal regulations. The Town plans to issue a notice of violation (NOV) and seek correction to avoid possible impacts to other properties resulting from these actions.

Google Fiber Notice of Cable Franchise

Google has filed for a franchise agreement with the State of North Carolina to be able to provide cable television services in our area. If there request is approved, the State, and not the Town of Cary, will oversee regulatory matters affecting the company, including how citizen complaints are resolved.  Both AT&T and Time Warner Cable have franchise agreements with the State as opposed to local agreements with the Town of Cary.

East Cedar Street Public Parking – Open!

The East Cedar Street Public Parking Lot is now substantially complete and open for use. The project is expected to come in approximately 70% under budget. Citizens have already started utilizing the parking spaces while downtown.

Downtown Streetscape

Staff met with the contractor for the downtown streetscape project last week. They stated that Academy Street is expected to be open to two-way traffic by the end of September and that the entire project would be complete by October 17, weather permitting.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Complaints about HB2
  • A complaint about the proposal to move the Ivey-Ellington House.
  • A complaint about the condition of major thoroughfares in town (major thoroughfares are maintained by the state).
  • A complaint about a proposed rezoning near Green Hope.
  • A complaint that Cary is approving too many apartments.
  • A complaint about recycling options.
  • Several invitations to events.

Next week will include a joint meeting of the boards, commissions, and council, two interviews, a movie screening, and a meeting with private developers.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, October 2nd.  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, September 19th, 2016

Harold2015This week was very difficult for me and was dominated by multiple interviews from many media outlets on the announcements by the NCAA and the ACC to cancel championships in Cary due to HB2.

Monday I participated in a Pro-Am at the Cary Tennis Park as part of the Cary Tennis Championships which is here for the 2nd year. There were six pros and six amateurs. We played a tie-breaker format and alternated pros about every 10 minutes. It was a great time and I had a blast playing with people one third my age that can hit the ball twice as hard (and I have been told I hit the ball hard).

Late Monday the NCAA announced that it will no longer allow championships in North Carolina because of the HB2 law. While this hurts everyone in North Carolina, Greensboro and Cary took the brunt of this decision. Cary conservatively lost over $2 million in hotel rooms which was estimated to be around 5300. In addition, there is no telling how much of a negative impact this will have on other events and businesses considering North Carolina.

As a result of the NCAA announcement I spent most of Tuesday doing interviews. They included The Cary News, The News and Observer, The Durham Herald, ABC11, NBC17, Reuters, CBS talk radio out of Los Angeles, and NPR.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse the ACC announced they were also pulling events out of North Carolina. This generated another round of interviews from the folks I mentioned before and new interviews from WRAL, WRAL Sports, Triangle Business Journal, The Cary Citizen, sports radio from Winston Salem, and more.

Wednesday evening I attended the annual Cary Chamber banquet which had about 200 attendees. I accepted the Business of the Year award on behalf of the Town of Cary. The Town of Cary organization is run by some of the greatest professionals in the country. They provide the highest level of service at the lowest price in Wake County. In addition, they are always looking to make things better. They partner with other communities and businesses and because of the great partnerships, especially with the Chamber and Cary businesses, Cary continues to thrive and prosper. I am honored to play a role in this great organization and it was a privilege to accept the award on the behalf of the Town of Cary

Wednesday night, after the banquet, I hurried over to the Booth Amphitheater to catch ZZ Top. I was lucky to get there just as they walked on stage. They were pretty awesome for 60 something year old dudes. It was a great show and I, along with my guests, had a great time.

Thursday the interviews continued but there wasn’t as many. Thursday afternoon I met with the town manager and assistant town manager. We talked about Imagine Cary and what Cary might look like 25 years from now. The town manager asked a great question: “If Cary had the same quality and level of service 25 years from now would you view that as a success?” Personally, I believe we should always strive to get better if possible. It would be interesting to hear what the citizens of Cary think about this.

Friday things calmed down a bit. And any interview requests were mostly of political nature which I declined.

Saturday began with a very difficult experience for me personally. I had to say goodbye to a pet and a friend who provided me with unconditional love every day for close to 15 years. Tears were shed and it was an emotional time. Those that have pets and have lost them know the pain and grieving that follows. Unfortunately, I only had about twenty minutes to grieve before my first event of the day.

Saturday Cary was blessed to hold the Triangle Area Dragon Boat Festival for the third consecutive year. The Dragon Boat festival started over 2300 years ago in southern China during the Zhou dynasty. In Cary it is a day of boat races and a celebration in diversity with multiple cultural performances and cuisine. I provided welcoming remarks which included the following:

“… We’re proud to have such a diverse community, and it’s events like this that help keep our community strong and successful as we get to know the values, experiences, and talents that each of us offers, like the great entertainment to will be showcased here today. And every day in Cary, Asian contributions are felt in our business community. Your influence on our community is tremendous, and we’re all the better for it.

Of course, we know that no matter how different our cultures may be, we still have so much in common. We all want good government, safe communities, a clean environment, great educational opportunities and respect. It’s only through mutual understanding and respect that we can reach our full potential as a community and truly have a reason to celebrate. …”

Remarks were also provided by the Congressman David Price, Morrisville Mayor Pro-Tem, a North Carolina Senator, a North Carolina House Representative, and a Wake County Commissioner. Afterwards the dignitaries went to the dock and got in one of the race boats for photos. Then it was time for me to leave for my next event.

It was an honor and a privilege for me to be invited to the 10th anniversary celebration of the Miracle League in Cary. Robin Rose and Tony Withers were inspired to establish the Miracle League of the Triangle 10 years ago with a goal of providing children with special needs the opportunity to play America’s favorite pastime of baseball. It has been a huge success and now there is an additional location in Raleigh. Between the two sites there are over 400 players and 30 teams. I was blessed to have the opportunity to thank all those who volunteer to help make this such a huge success. Their gift of time and love not only helps the players and their families but improves the quality of life of everyone in Cary.

Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the finals of the Cary Tennis Championships. This was our second year in hosting this event. One of the players who played last year said it was much better this year. Great news! I had the honor of giving out the trophies for the doubles finalists and winners and gave remarks in the singles awards ceremony. It was a great tennis week and we look forward to hosting this tournament again next year.

This has been a very difficult week for Cary. If multiple media outlets want an interview with you, as an elected official, it is almost always a BAD thing. And I did about 20 interviews this week. Here is a statement summarizing most of the things I said in interviews:

“It is important to understand that the NCAA’s and ACC’s decisions are not based on the actions of Cary but with the leaders of this state. Cary shares the NCAA’s and ACC’s values of inclusiveness and we have an impeccable record of providing events that welcome everyone. Unfortunately because of HB2, the perception nationwide and globally is that North Carolina is no longer a progressive state but instead is moving backwards. Many label our state as discriminatory which is embarrassing.

This all began when Charlotte passed an ordinance which would allow people to use bathrooms of the sex they identified with. Immediately the House speaker and Senate Pro-Tem threatened retaliation. The NC Legislature passed HB2 with very little discussion or thought of consequences. The HB2 law is unenforceable unless someone is going to be at every bathroom checking body parts. Interestingly, before the Charlotte decision I did not hear of ANY issues related to bathrooms. Now there are political ads by the Governor defending HB2 as a safety law. Come on. Really? This is politics in its purest form plain and simple. Regardless of one’s views of this bathroom issue, it is harming every single person in North Carolina through lost revenue, lost business, and a negative perception which has unknown implications. Is supporting a law that is unenforceable worth all the damage being created? I think not!

As elected officials we should always consider the impacts of actions we take before and after a decision. In doing so sometimes we will find that we need to tweak, change, or even repeal an action. We should never create laws that are unenforceable as they serve no purpose except to further a political agenda. And there are rarely any positives in political issues only divisiveness. As elected leaders we should be asking ourselves at every decision point, “is this in the public interest or is this to support a personal or political cause?” It is time that our legislators and our Governor ask themselves that question. How much longer must the citizens of Cary and citizens of this state suffer before this political game ends? Enough already! In the words of Gale Adcock, former Cary council member and the loudest voice for Cary in the legislature, ’It’s time to put on your big boy pants and do the right thing’ Amen sister!”

It is my hope that the political leaders of this state will look into their hearts and do the right thing for what is important to this state. If not, I dare say North Carolina will suffer for years and maybe decades from the negativity being created.

At the end of the week I sent letters to the NCAA and the ACC letting them know of our continued commitment to bring events back to Cary. Here is the letter to the NCAA:

Dear Mr. Emmert:

I wanted to reach out to you personally to reiterate Cary’s continuing commitment to our shared values of ensuring that events are welcoming to all as well as our desire to host future NCAA championships. As you know and since 2004, the Town of Cary has had the privilege to host 24 NCAA championships. It’s been an honor for our community, and we’ve enjoyed working closely with the NCAA to ensure that these experiences were positive and successful.

While some media reports regarding the NCAA’s announcement to relocate tournaments from North Carolina have suggested that some affected by the difficult decision may pursue efforts to recoup from the NCAA estimated lost revenues, we will not be a party to such actions despite our disappointment in losing several hosting opportunities.

We have been proud of our NCAA Championship City designation, and we will continue to work hard to provide an inclusive and respectful environment so that the championships we have hosted for so many years return to Cary.

The letter I sent to Swofford of the ACC was similar.

The town manager’s report included several items this week. Here are excerpts from that report:

NCAA and ACC update

Following this week’s announcements from the NCAA and ACC, Mayor Weinbrecht sent letters to both organizations reiterating Cary’s continued commitment to our shared values of ensuring that events are welcoming as well as our desire to host future championships.

Because of the NCAA and ACC decisions, WRAL has made a public records request for our completed non-discrimination questionnaire submitted to the NCAA, including any attachments or supplementary materials submitted as part of the response. Staff is working to satisfy this request.

Google Fiber Update

Google continues actively constructing in Cary and has shared they will open enrollment in other parts of the Triangle soon. Residents can check their address at the above link to be among the first to know when sign-ups open in their neighborhood.

Imagine Cary Community Plan

At next week’s work session (9/22), staff will present a summary of feedback on the Cary Community Plan. Additionally, staff will present a summary of outstanding issues and recommended modifications prior to the public hearing. Examples of how the proposed plan policies will be utilized in guiding future rezoning and development decisions will be included. The Cary Community Plan is on schedule to be adopted by January 2017.

Eastern Cary Gateway Plan

Formal adoption of the Eastern Cary Gateway Special Area Plan starts with a scheduled Town Council Public Hearing on September 20th.  There will be another Public Hearing at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting on October 17th before being scheduled to return to the November 10th Regular Town Council Meeting for a vote for adoption.

Columbia Development

Staff met with Columbia Development and was informed that they are taking a fresh look at the site development. They mentioned a project they were looking as an example, called Avalon in Alpharetta, GA. One approach staff is considering is to facilitate a meeting with all active parties so we can discuss things like layout and connectivity. This could potentially include Columbia Development, Mall representatives, State Property, and Triangle Aquatic Center.

Targeted Smoke Alarm Installations

On September 24, the American Red Cross, with assistance from the Fire Department and Cary CERT, will go door-to-door and offer to install new smoke alarms in the area around Kingswood Elementary School. The area was selected based on the age of the houses; the goal is to reach 90 homes and distribute 400 smoke alarms. This is an annual initiative by the American Red Cross as part of its campaign to prevent home fires, and we believe this proactive effort benefits citizen and Town relations.

Recognitions

I’m happy to congratulate Nicole Raimundo for being selected by NC Technology Association (NCTA) as the 2016 Public Sector CIO of the Year. The NCTA hosts the awards gala on November 10 at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • A complaint about traffic on Morrisville Carpenter Road.
  • A complaint that the town’s LED lighting is too bright and should be removed in certain areas. (It is my understanding that the LED street lights belong To Duke Energy. Any neighborhood, HOA, etc and request, and pay, for a different kind of light.)
  • A summary recommendation from the Friends of the Page Walker about the development proposed around the current location of the Ivey Ellington House.
  • Multiple requests for interviews. The furthest away was from California. There were also interviews from Florida, Charlotte and Winston Salem.

Next week will be another busy week for me. It includes the 2nd regularly scheduled council meeting of the month, a work session on Imagine Cary (without Eastern Gateway), a Mayors Association meeting, a Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Board meeting, the Oktoberfest celebration, and an appreciation picnic for the PRCR volunteers.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 25th.  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, September 12th, 2016

Harold2015This week fall began in earnest as events and meetings became more frequent.

Monday was Labor Day and I spent that like many Americans, laboring in my yard.

Tuesday started with contacting all council members since the week included a regularly scheduled council meeting. Since the agenda was very short there were no questions or concerns from council. Later I met with staff to go over the agenda and prepare for the meeting later in the week.

Afterwards I met with management, legal, and public information to go over several items. Included in our discussion were the quasi-judicial meeting process, the town’s sign ordinance, and the upcoming work session on the downtown library and parking deck design.

My final meeting Tuesday was with the Economic Development Committee. The committee first discussed the potential economic impact of the Imagine Cary’s Eastern Gateway plan. It was expressed that if office should be the focus and if not we are missing one of the few opportunities we have left for undeveloped land. Some of the points made in the quarterly report included:

  • Cary CoFounders lab in downtown has invested in 11 startups with $2.5 million.
  • La Farm Bakery will be moving their production operation along with a café to downtown Cary at the corner of Chatham and Harrison. It will keep its Preston location. Production will be relocated by the end of the year and the small café is projected to open next spring.
  • A lot of interest in bringing jobs to downtown including one needing a 100,000 square foot building.
  • In July Relias Learning announced 450 jobs and $4.5 million in new investment.
  • Recent accolades include:
    • #11 best city for online startups (Highspeedinternet.com – August 2016)
    • #8 best place to live in North Carolina (Smart Travel – August 2016)
    • #10 most educated mid-sized city in America (Mysidewalk.com – July 2016)
    • #13 safest city to raise a child (safewise.com – June 2016)
  • There are about 3715 jobs in the pipeline with about $287 million in new investment mostly in IT
  • Cary’s class A office space vacancy rate is about 8%
  • Cary’s unemployment rate is about 3.6%, Wake County is 4.3%, North Carolina is 5%, and the US is 5.1%

Our meeting concluded in less than an hour.

Wednesday I met with the public information officer, the town clerk, and the town manager to plan our presentation to the joint meeting of Cary’s Boards and Commissions. I plan to talk about current proposal trends, the Eastern Gateway, and give a fiber installation update.

Next I met with the town manager. We discussed the Hotel Occupancy and Meal tax, Information distribution between staff and council, and his new weekly update. In his new update he wants the council and public to know what he is doing. What a fantastic idea!

Thursday the council held its first regularly scheduled meeting of the month. There were 8 consent items, no public hearings, and 3 discussion items. Council approved a request from staff to apply for federal funding for vehicle charging stations. Council also gave staff direction to investigate planting medians that are less than 6 feet which would result in concrete today. On a tabled quasi-judicial matter, council approved the Amberly Glenn subdivision after the developer tripled gathering spaces, added round-a-bouts to calm traffic and reduced the number of units. After a close session the council adjourned and began a work session.

At the work session the council approved the final design for the downtown library and parking structure. Council agreed on artwork covering the parking deck’s north wall and the glass enclosing the stairwell. In addition, council agreed to providing restrooms under the library and to create a “dark shell” for future use. This was/is an expensive endeavor for council. The parking deck with its art work comes out to about $25 a parking space which is high. While I am disappointed in the high cost of everything I do believe the library and the parking structure is of the highest quality. And the artwork on the north wall will be an attraction in the core of our downtown. 

Saturday I was honored to speak at the dedication of Jack Smith Park. Here are some excerpts from my comments:

“It’s wonderful that so many of our friends and neighbors have joined us. I see members of the Bartley family, whose farm once stood where our 50-acre Park now resides. We also have council members Bush, Frantz, George, Smith and Yerha joining us, Cary’s former council member Representative Gale Adcock and individuals from JM Thompson the general contractor for the park. Thank you all for being here today.

As the longest serving Council member, Jack has preserved and protected the Town of Cary, always putting the community and our citizens first. His public service is nothing short of a sacrifice, and it is without hesitation that I can say confidently that our community is better because of Jack’s service.”

I was at the event about two hours.

Sunday I participated in the town’s third 9/11 Day of Service. I, along with volunteers and firefighters, built raised beds for vegetables at Fire Station #3 on Kildaire Farm Road. It is the least we can do to recognize the brave men and women who are dedicated and committed to making sure our community is safe. We completed the project in about an hour and a half.

Email from staff this week included the development and construction activity report. Here are some of the notable items from that report:

  • In August the average square footage for a single family home as 3,560 as compared to 3,911 in 2012.
  • Certificates of Occupancy were issued for 88 single family homes, 331 multi-family units, and roughly 200,000 square feet of non-residential.
  • Cary had 16% of the county’s single family permits which was third behind Raleigh and Apex.
  • Six new development plans were submitted including 84,336 square feet of commercial and 105,000 square feet of self-storage.
  • Sixteen development plans were approved for 236 single family dwellings, 59 townhomes, 18 condos, an elementary school (Horton Creek), and Homewood Suites at Crossroads.

Emails from staff also included the town manager’s 1st weekly update. The goals for his updates are:

  1. To increase ongoing communication with the Council for those items that fall outside the formal Council meeting process;
  2. To provide the Council with project updates, status reports, and other miscellaneous information in a manner designed to reduce the number of individual emails you receive;
  3. To consolidate in one section information that has been provided to individual council members in order that other members may receive the same.

Here are excerpts from his update:

Funding Request for Hotel Occupancy

I’m happy to report that the Town’s request for Hotel Occupancy funding from Wake County has been chosen as the highest ranked project and will be presented to Wake County Commissioners for their approval on Monday, September 12. Wake County has shared their presentation and full packet of information that will be shared with the Board; it is available on their website.

The Town’s project is for transitioning fields to artificial turf, adding public Wi-Fi at WakeMed Soccer Park, and adding spectator seating, lighting and court resurfacing at Cary Tennis Park.

Meeting Regional Partners

Per Council’s direction, I have made a concerted effort to establish relationships with our neighboring communities.  To that end, I have had meetings this week with Ruffin Hall, Raleigh City Manager, Jim Hartmann, Wake County Manager and Dennis Edwards of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. They were productive conversations focused on areas of mutual interest and opportunities to collaborate in the future.

One focus area was the Town’s share of the occupancy tax and the inequities contained therein.  All three gentleman who play a critical role in this decision making process understood our position and made suggestions on how Cary may better position itself in the future. The Town’s funding request project is an example of this increased level of collaboration.

I’ve also had the pleasure of presenting at the Heart of Cary’s monthly meeting as well as meeting with The Friends of Page-Walker.

Meeting with State Property Office

On Friday, September 2, Town staff met with representatives from the State Property Office and the Attorney General’s Office to discuss the soccer school at WakeMed Soccer Park and general questions regarding the lease and sublease. While it seems the school will be able to continue to operate for the remainder of the academic year, the meeting brought forward questions concerning the concept of what “recreation purposes” mean under the lease agreement. The Town will continue conversations with the State Property Office in hopes of crafting a new lease agreement.

Black Creek Bridge

Through a joint letter, Mike Hunter and Kyle Ward have formally requested that the Town of Cary assume the responsibility of rebuilding and permanently maintaining the Black Creek Bridge. This bridge is located near the lower end of Linton Banks Place on the Town’s greenway system. It was recently damaged in July due to flooding. As a first step, I have asked staff to put together information about what this potential takeover would mean for the Town.

Greenway Repairs Underway

Several greenways have been closed for repair after the flooding and storms in July. You authorized funding last month ($630,000) for repairs, and staff has been working to secure repair contracts. This is where we stand:

  • Construction repair contracts have been signed for Black Creek and Hinshaw Greenways and work will begin in the coming weeks.
  • Green Hope School Greenway boardwalk temporary repairs have been made and it is now completely open.
  • The design contract was executed for the Bond Park Lake Trail repairs and design should be complete this fall.

Carpenter and Jack Smith Parks are OPEN.

Co-location of Trash and Recycle Containers

At the October 2015 priority work session, Council directed staff to explore further and implement the co-location of trash and recycle cans at high-use facilities, to be determined by staff.

Approved in the FY17 budget was $10,000 to begin the purchase of such containers. Upon further investigation, we applied for the “Away From Home” grant, issued by N.C. Division of Environmental Quality. The Town was awarded the maximum potential grant of $30,000. This grant is effective October 1, 2016.

With the addition of the grant, the Town will have $40,000 to order the containers in early October. We plan to have them placed in high-usage areas by year-end. A staff report will be forthcoming for Council to approve the receipt of these grant funds.”

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Complaints about development on Morrisville-Carpenter Road.
  • A complaint that we should have spent money on Wake County’s park on the RDU site rather than build a parking lot at the trailhead of Black Creek greenway.
  • Several invitations to attend and speak at events.

Next week my calendar is booked with the Cary Tennis Championships and events. I will be involved in the pro-am and the award ceremony. Other activities include the Chamber banquet, the Dragon Boat festival, Miracle League’s 10th anniversary celebration, and the PRCR volunteer appreciation picnic.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 18th.  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, September 05th, 2016

Harold2015This week was a light week with the exception of a couple of busy nights.

Monday I met with the Deputy Town Manager to go over active issues in town. The meeting consisted of a couple of updates so our meeting was relatively short.

Tuesday I met with a developer interested in developing property near Crossroads. He wanted to know my interest in multi-family combined with a public-private partnership for a park. The town is always open to ideas and proposals so I made sure he was aware of that. However, I told him that additional multi-family in that area, which is already saturated with multi-family, would be a hard sell.

Later Tuesday I met with someone about the process of making Cary the Olympic Training center for baseball. Cary is the USA national training center and baseball will be an Olympic sport starting at the next games. So it seems that it would be a natural fit. But an application process is required and it may be difficult because of the HB2 issue. The Town of Cary will do everything it can in spite of the legislature and their harmful laws that continue to hurt municipalities. It is my hope that we can be the Olympic training site and continue to host NCAA Champions, ACC Championships, etc. Time will tell.

Wednesday I traveled to Raleigh and toured a business. The business expressed interest in Cary. We continue to see strong interest in businesses and jobs coming to Cary.

Thursday six of seven council members met with a group of Indian Americans who were celebrating Raksha Bandhan. This is a Hindu religious and secular festival. In simple words, Raksha Bandhan means “Bond of Protection”. In the ceremony our guests tied a Rakhi, made up of a silk thread, around the right wrist of men and left wrist of women. It is to symbolize a promise of protection, their recognition and appreciation of civic leaders and public safety officers, and our promise to continue to serve and protect them. While in its purest form this ceremony is between brother and sister, it has been expended to help create a peaceful coexistence. Thanks to my Hindu brothers and sisters for making me a part of this.

Thursday night the council held a meeting to hear three quasi-judicial cases. Before the quasi-judicial cases the council ratified its decision to deny a request to rezone for a storage unit at SW Maynard and Gordon Street. In Cary, the Town Council holds quasi-judicial hearings for special use permits, certain subdivision and site plan applications and for certain other applications.  During a quasi-judicial hearing, the Hearing Body must hold an evidentiary hearing and make its decision based on the written and oral evidence presented.  Unlike legislative decisions like rezonings, a quasi-judicial decision must be based solely on the evidence presented and cannot be based on opinions of members of the Hearing Body.  Put differently, a quasi-judicial decision is one that requires the Hearing Body to find facts and exercise discretion when applying the standards of an ordinance to a specific situation.

The first quasi-judicial hearing was a site plan for Home Trust Bank at the Bradford. This was pretty straight forward and took about 15 minutes before council voted to approve. The only issue was the drive thru for the bank which was allowed in the current approved Bradford project.

The second quasi-judicial public hearing was an application requesting consideration of a subdivision plan to develop 286 lots comprised of 148 townhome units and 138 detached residential units. After discussing for over two and a half hours council continued this hearing until September 8th.

Our last quasi-judicial public hearing requested approval of modifications to the subdivision and site plan to accelerate construction on lots prior to the construction or opening to traffic of the O’Kelly Chapel Road crossing of the CSX railroad. The original site plan was approved by Council at a quasi-judicial hearing on December 12, 2013.  The Council approved a modification to the traffic mitigation table at another quasi-judicial hearing on November 13, 2014.  Council approved this request after about thirty minutes of discussion. 

Sunday I had the honor and privilege of throwing out the first pitch at a Carolina Mudcats game. I arrived before the gates opened, was escorted to a seat by the field entrance, and was given the ball I was supposed to throw. Once on the field I waited with a family of a young man from Cary who was preparing to sing the National Anthem (BTW he was awesome). After throwing the first pitch and taking a picture or two I headed up to my seat and watched the Mudcats win 5-0. It was a lot of fun and the weather was perfect.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A complaint from Heritage Pines about a lack of a crosswalk.
  • A complaint about shuttle service during Lazy Daze.
  • A complaint about Rachael Dolezal being at Dreamfest (as I said last week this is not my decision and I was not involved in this decision).

With the exception of Labor Day next week will be back to a normal schedule. Activities include the first regularly scheduled council meeting of the month, a work session on the library and parking deck, an economic development meeting, the dedication of Jack Smith Park, and a 9-11 service at Firestation #3 on Kildaire Farm Road.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 11th.  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 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.