• Monday, March 30th, 2015

harold2011_small2This week consisted of a work session, a regularly scheduled council meeting, and several other meetings.

Monday I called all council members to find out their concerns or questions about Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting agenda. While I was able to talk with all council members briefly, only about three of them had read the agenda at the time of my call. Concerns and questions were on the Cary Towne Center rezoning request, Land Development amendments, and a waiting period waiver for the Canterbury Downs rezoning proposal.

Later in the day I met with staff to go over the agenda. Our meeting lasted about 15 minutes. I predicted that Thursday’s meeting would last until about 8:30 or 9:00.

After the agenda meeting I met with the town manager and the deputy town manager. Topics included location and appearance of Google Fiber huts, the golf course noise ordinance, SAS Championship parking, private retention ponds, and the upcoming budget. Our meeting lasted about twenty minutes.

Tuesday council held a work session that lasted three hours. The first two hours were spent on providing recommendations for Phase 2 of the Imagine Cary process and the last hour was spent debriefing on the January 2015 council-staff working retreat.

Imagine Cary policy recommendations for “How will we get around?” include:
• Evaluate the Town’s transportation network to ensure the safety of all roadway users, regardless of age or ability including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists.
• Apply “complete street” design guidelines for the cross-sections and intersections of all streets, collectors, and thoroughfares based on system demand and each street’s land use context.
• Incorporate transportation improvements along corridors in a context-sensitive way, balancing community character and aesthetics with transportation and mobility needs.
• Focus transportation investments on bridging connectivity gaps between employment centers, neighborhoods, and mixed-use activity centers. Improve connectivity within and between these destinations by providing opportunities for all modes of transportation: driving, walking, biking, and taking transit. This also includes improving opportunities for connectivity via greenways and trails.
• Major roads that are being developed or widened to add additional lanes should be limited to four-lanes with landscaped medians, wherever possible. Any expansions beyond this standard should be focused in areas with the highest levels of congestion and critical bottlenecks.
• Improve pedestrian and bicycle crossings in activity centers, across major roads, and where greenways cross roads to build connected bicycle and pedestrian networks that are comfortable for all ages and abilities.
• Target transit investments to support and sustain mobility choice and improve the C-Tran bus system through increased frequency to major destinations, expanded service to new locations, reliability improvements to reduce travel time, and efficient interconnections with other transit systems throughout the region.
• Ensure a well-maintained transportation system by emphasizing the need to provide adequate funding for system maintenance needs.
Imagine Cary policy recommendations for “How will southwestern Cary grow?” include:
• Ensure that Southwestern Cary is characterized by the transition, east to west, from more intense suburban development patterns around the Triangle Expressway (I-540) to lower densities at the rural edge in Chatham County.
• Organize the pattern of new development around important natural and historic features, landscaped corridors, open spaces and community gathering spaces.
• Require standard street improvements (curb and gutter, sidewalks, street lighting, etc.) along roadways in Southwestern Cary.
• Support development of a signature mixed use activity center at Green Level West Road and the Triangle Expressway (I-540) that incorporates special features which acknowledge its location at a major interchange in an environmentally sensitive area.
Imagine Cary policy recommendations for “How will downtown thrive?” include:
• Foster the unique and authentic character of Downtown Cary that is reflective of the Town’s long history and evolution over time. New development will both highlight and complement the character of established downtown areas. For existing buildings that reinforce the historic character, there should generally be an emphasis on retention and adaptive re-use rather than redevelopment.
• Encourage all areas within downtown to share, reinforce, and capitalize on a common downtown identity. Each of the geographically distinct parts of downtown, including downtown’s surrounding neighborhoods, should be designed and developed to foster a more tightly integrated physical fabric.
• Focus transportation investments within the Maynard Loop to support the vision of downtown as a multi-activity destination. Improvements should focus on creating a safe and accessible environment for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders. Necessary parking and related infrastructure should also be provided.
Imagine Cary will now move into Phase 3 which should flesh out these policies.

The debriefing of our working retreat was the second. Staff noted direction given by the council from the retreat that included:
• Maintain the Cary “look and feel” which includes classic and traditional.
• Design is important and is being addressed through council’s review of guidelines.
• Downtown continues to be a priority.
• Eastern Cary is defined with a northern border of Chatham Street, a western border of Maynard Road, an eastern border of I40, and a southern border of the mall.
• Eastern Cary is important for economic development opportunities.
• Eastern Cary should be a connection to downtown.
Much of what was discussed at the retreat will be incorporated in economic development and Imagine Cary.

Wednesday I joined council member Yerha in taping the April episode of Cary Matters. The main topic for the episode is our traffic management system. If you would like to find out about traffic signal synchronization and emergency vehicle signal preemption, you might want to give it a viewing. The taping of the April episode lasted about 30 minutes.

Later Wednesday I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Smith, council member Bush and Yerha to welcome the 12th class of Cary’s School of Government. In the class the students learn how municipal government functions, what services are provided, and how citizens can become involved. Students will get a behind-the-scenes look at Town government structure, culture and decision-making.

Thursday was the longest council meeting of the year so far with the meeting lasting about 5 hours. Most of the time was with speakers talking about various issues such as the connectivity on Fordland Drive, the mall rezoning to allow three stories, and a land development amendment on connectivity. The council also spent a lot of time discussing issues. The council denied a one year waiting period waiver for the Canterbury Downs proposal and passed a resolution to the legislature supporting the Historic Tax credits. While I wholeheartedly support Historic Tax credits I voted against the resolution. For the most part I believe most resolutions are a means to make those doing the resolutions feel good about what they believe and really don’t have much of a positive impact. As a result I view them as non-productive. In this particular case I don’t believe a resolution will do anything to help get Historic Tax credits and it might even be viewed negatively. With the current legislature, who in Jack Smith’s words are “ruling instead of governing”, anything can happen.
Emails from staff this week included an update on bids for the Academy Streetscape. Apparently because the town’s bid dates coincided with a lot of other work, our original bids request received a limited response. We re-opened bids for Academy Streetscape and had two bids. A staff report for the bid award will soon be coming to council for a decision. Once council accepts a bid the streetscape the project will move forward. Based on the feedback the town has received the bid opening for the downtown park should have several bidders.

Emails from citizens this week included complaints from folks living on Fordland Drive, a question about a rumored budget hotel on Harrison Avenue, a concern about the noise ordinance for golf courses, and several comments about a proposed height rezoning at the Cary Towne mall.

Next week should be a light week for me. It consists of a few meetings and a talk for the Cary Leadership class.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 5th. 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, March 22nd, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was a week filled mostly with meetings.

Monday began with a short one-on-one meeting with the town manager. There were no new items to discuss. Instead we talked about items I have mentioned in previous postings.

Monday night I attended a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. All twelve mayors were in attendance. Our guest speakers were Wake County manager Jim Hartmann, a staff assistant to the manager, and David King of Triangle Transit. The county manager’s presentation was on transit choices and the existing advisory committee who are exploring all transit options. He talked about projected population densities, poverty maps, congestion maps, average bus ridership, and other pertinent information related to transit. He pointed out that the biggest decision will be whether or not to have higher ridership or higher coverage and the impact that will have on capital funding. The next advisory committee meets in April with a final recommendation scheduled for September. To find out more go to http://WakeTransit.com.

Our next presentation was from Triangle Transit’s CEO and general manager David King. Triangle Transit is governed by a 13 member Board of Trustees whose vice chair is Cary council member Robinson. Currently Triangle Transit is adding express bus routes to help with congestion due to the “Fortify” project. One of those express bus routes is from Cary’s town hall to downtown Raleigh. In addition, Triangle Transit has added the Bus on the Shoulder program as another transit option. King talked about the triangle region doubling in size within the next 20 years and how the bus systems needed to be more coordinated. As a result the Go Triangle regional bus system was created which will coordinate all the bus systems. This will be implemented over the next two years.

Once the presentations were done the mayors went through their regular agenda. One of the discussion items was about creating a citizen committee to discuss the proposed change in voter registration in Wake County. The rest of the time was spent talking about legislative action and how it does or does not impact various municipalities in Wake County. While specific statements in a Mayors Association stay within the room I can tell you that several are concerned that standing up to the legislature could invite retribution. Our meeting concluded after about 3 hours.

Tuesday I met with developers interested in a large project in downtown. This proposal is in the infancy stage and they were just wondering what I thought of their ideas. Of course there would probably be town funded improvements needed for something this large so there would be much future discussion if this does actually come forward. But it encouraging that developers continue to show interest in downtown.

Later Tuesday I had the pleasure of touring PDQ at Davis Drive and High House with the operating director and marketing director. All of their food is fresh and made to order. Their menu consists mainly of chickens and salads and was delicious. One interesting note is that they don’t advertise on TV or radio. Instead they would rather help market themselves through fund raising events in the community. They are looking for opportunities to help with fundraisers. So if you have a fundraiser coming up you might want to give them a call.

Wednesday I attended the executive board meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. It was my first meeting as vice-chairman. There was not a lot on the agenda and very little that impacted Cary. One interesting note from the Fortify presentation was that NCDOT was recycling hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete. That was good news to hear.

Thursday I chaired a meeting of the Western Wake Partners Policy Advisory Committee. Our meeting was very brief and included approval of the 2015 Western Wake Regional Wastewater Management Facilities Interlocal Agreement. This is our new $300 million wastewater facility in New Hill. Our only other action was to approve the fiscal year 2015 operating budget for the Western Wake Regional Wastewater Management Facilities and capital budget updates for the facility.

Later Thursday I met with general managers from Prestonwood and MacGregor Downs to talk about the proposed changes to the town’s noise ordinance as it relates to golf courses. We had a great conversation and they pointed out several facts related to golf course noise that most people probably don’t realize. It is my hope that these stakeholders are able to provide information to all council members before we make a decision on this topic.

Friday I participated in the Metro Mayors weekly legislative update. The ongoing war between urban and rural representatives continued in the legislature this week. Legislative action this week included an attempt in the committee to compromise on a bill to eliminate citizens’ protest petition on developments. These protest petitions require a super majority to approve so removing them only makes it easier for developers. The voiced vote clearly sided with the compromise amendment but the chair denied the amendment saying the vote failed. So it looks like the developers will soon have free reign without obstacles from citizens. Can you say “Publix in North Raleigh”? This is just another example of the daily partisan politics in the legislature. Other shenanigans included the sales tax redistribution which is aimed at punishing the big three counties including Wake. Legislatures have actually said they wanted to punish the three richest counties. It is a shame that we are seeing more elected officials act like children than representatives of the citizens. Hopefully, that will change one day. A great Abraham Lincoln quote “You can’t make the weak stronger by making the strong weaker” and part of the state’s official toast “…Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great…” kinda sums up my views and wishes. Too bad the majority of the legislature thinks otherwise.

Saturday I joined council member Yerha in celebrating Arbor Day at the Ivey-Ellington House (home of Cary’s farmers market) in downtown. I was presented an award, on behalf of the town, from the NC Forest Service recognizing Cary as a Tree City USA. This is the 32nd year we have received this award. Only about a dozen communities can boast that. In my remarks I talked about the Tree City USA award and the town’s beautification and litter reduction program called SPRUCE. The next litter sweep is scheduled for April 11th. I hope everyone will participate. To find out more about SPRUCE and how to participate go to http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/publicworks/Environmental_Outreach_Programs/Environmental_Volunteering/Spruce.htm.

Emails from staff this week included an update on downtown construction and events. The Academy Streetscape and Downtown Park Projects will be kicking off late spring.
As a result Lazy Daze and other large street festivals (Wheels on Academy, Ritmo Latino, Eid Festival, etc) will be relocated to North Academy Street around Town Hall Campus. Chatham Street ChowDown (Food Truck Rodeo) will return with 3 event dates (April 19, July 26 and Oct 4). This event will be located on Chatham Street between Academy and Harrison and is held on a Sunday due to the availability of the food trucks. Given the strong attendance last year most of the merchants will hold special hours to be open during this event. The April and October date will be Noon to 4:30pm and the July event will be in the evening from 5:00pm to 9:30pm. The Downtown Performers series and 7 o’clock rock series will be postponed for this year. Information to the general public about all of these changes will begin within the week.

Emails from citizens this week included comments about Fordland Drive connection with the new Pritchett subdivision, questions about the Morrisville Parkway – Carpenter Upchurch intersection, questions about Google Fiber, and several requests for meetings and events.

Next week will be a busy week with a regularly scheduled council meeting and a work session. In addition there will be a Cary Matters taping and a School of Government kickoff event.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 29th. 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, March 16th, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was a typical week with a council meeting and a few meetings and events.

Monday I attempted to contact all council members to understand their concerns and questions about Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting agenda. I was able to contact all council members but Frantz and Robinson. Most of the questions I received were about the proposed noise ordinance change for golf courses. Later in the day I met with management, legal, public information, and other managers to step through the agenda. After hearing that the Dellinger property at Crossroads asked to be tabled the believed our meeting on Thursday would end around 8:30.

Later Monday I met with the town manager and deputy town manager for our weekly one on one meeting. There were no pressing issues and our discussion briefly touched on Google fiber, a personnel matter, whether or not to have an additional debriefing of the retreat, and the town’s downtown park site. Our meeting lasted about 30 minutes.

Tuesday I was scheduled to have a quarterly meeting with the town attorney. Earlier in the day she stated that she didn’t really have much to discuss so we decided to cancel our meeting.

Wednesday I met with a group that is interested in creating a homeless mission in Cary for the non-chronic homeless. In the meeting they pointed out that municipalities usually start needing a homeless facility once 10% of their population is below the poverty rate. Currently Cary has 6% of its population at or below the poverty rate. Their target population is single women and women with children. Those people will have to commit to a 6 to 12 month residential program to increase their self-sufficiency and prepare for transitional or permanent housing and they must be drug and alcohol free. The group was made up of 12 organizations including 10 churches and they are proposing a site in an unused building of a church. Their next steps include working with staff to make sure current zoning allows for building modifications.

On Thursday the council held the first of two regularly scheduled council meeting for March. There were 5 public hearings and 9 discussion items. Only one person spoke at the public hearings. Two of our discussion items were tabled: the Dellinger PDD for townhomes in Crossroads and the golf course noise ordinance. Council approved senior housing on Indian Wells Road and medium density housing at Turner Creek Road and Highway 55. I voted against the Turner Creek Road project because of the 5 foot side yard setbacks and the 5000 square foot lots but it was approved by the majority of the council. The council also approved the funding of additional staff to help with departmental issues related to Google fiber. Our meeting ended shortly after 8 PM.

Friday I was part of the weekly Metro Mayors legislative update. A good portion of the time was spent talking about two areas of the state where the legislature was changing the voting districts for representatives of councils and commissions. Of course one of those was Wake County. If that proposal goes through, which is likely, then there is a potential that Cary, which is the 2nd largest municipality in the county, would have no representation. It is very disappointing to me that our legislature is spending more time playing politics with local governments rather than focusing on critical issues related to the state such as the budget, transportation, and the environment.

Saturday I was a guest reader at Farmington Woods Elementary Saturday school tutoring program. I met with three classes from third through fifth grade. I read each of them a book, talked about the importance of reading and math in my job as mayor, and answered questions. What a great program for those kids that need the extra help. I was honored to be a guest reader and hope to be invited back.

Sunday morning I gave welcoming remarks at the Tobacco Road Marathon which started and ended at Thomas Brooks Park. It took six minutes and forty seconds for the over four thousand runners from all over the world to cross the starting line. I would have loved to have joined them but my knees won’t allow it. However, I did do fifteen miles on the elliptical with maximum height and length settings which took me about an hour and forty minutes. I figured that would have almost been an equivalent of me running a half marathon.

Sunday evening I had the joy and pleasure of attending the Basant Bahar celebration held at the Cary Arts Center. There were over one hundred talented performers participating in this event put on by Hum Sub. This was the second biggest Hum Sub event of the year. The biggest event will be Diwali in October.

Emails from citizens this week included comments about housing density in Cary, a concern about run down houses in Cary, a complaint about barking dogs, concerns about connectivity to Fordland Drive, and a question about the Morrisville Parkway and Carpenter Upchurch intersection.

Next week my calendar includes a meeting of the Mayors Association, a meeting of the executive board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, a meeting about the golf course noise ordinance, an Arbor Day event, and several other meetings.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 22nd. 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, March 08th, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was a busy week as the town council and staff began holding some of the postponed meetings.

My first event of the week was on Monday at Kingswood Elementary where I participated in Read Across America Day. I visited a 5th grade class of STEM students and read a small book written by Jamie Lee Curtis. Afterwards I answered a couple dozen questions. Some of the easy questions included my favorite sport, color, subject in school, etc. Some of the more sophisticated questions included town recycling efforts and the town’s involvement in the building of the Mayton Inn. My entire visit was less than an hour. I had a wonderful time and hope to get invited back in the future.

Later in the day I met with the town manager for our weekly one-on-one meeting. Most of our time was spent talking about the upcoming placement of Google Huts around town. From my understanding these huts are necessary as a type of junction point for the fiber. The huts are roughly fourteen feet by twenty-two feet and have been made of precast concreted in other cities. They will be located on town property. Since these aren’t attractive structures, it will be our hope to get them appropriately screened.

Other items the town manager and I discussed included technology and the upcoming budget. The budget will once again be challenging this year with requests far outpacing our operational capacity. This is of course exacerbated by the NC legislature which continues to take revenues away from municipalities. In addition, Cary is scheduled to have a two cents increase in taxes this year as part of the 2012 Bond Referendum. If we are able to create a budget at that tax rate we will likely continue to have the lowest tax rate in the county.

Tuesday I met with lawyers, the town manager, deputy town clerk, and town finance people to sign bonds that were sold as part of the 2012 bond referendum. These bonds were purchased mostly my large insurance companies who spent millions.

Tuesday night the council held the first of two work sessions planned for the Imagine Cary’s second phase to provide direction in six major plan areas. Before we began the work session we council went into closed session to talk about economic development and a law suit. The remaining hour and fifteen minutes was on Imagine Cary. At this work session we focused on three of the four general policy topics.
Council provided feedback and agreed to the following general policies under the “Where would we live” topic:
• Recognize and preserve the quality and character of existing residential neighborhoods as they mature and change over time.
• Provide opportunities for a greater variety of housing types within new residential neighborhoods.
• Provide the greatest variety of housing opportunities, housing types, and densities within mixed use activity and employment centers.
• Support new residential development on infill and redevelopment sites that is designed to acknowledge the context of its surroundings.
• Maintain Cary’s existing supply of affordable housing, and encourage the development of new affordable housing units in suitable areas throughout Town that are proximate to services, transit, and employment.
Council also provided feedback and agreed to the following policies under the “Where will we work” topic:
• Reserve and provide sites for employment and economic development – especially for major industries or employers – within Cary’s existing traditional suburban office and industrial parks.
• Incorporate commercial and housing uses into selected suburban office/industrial parks, evolving them into mixed use employment centers.
• Reserve and provide sites for employment and economic development opportunities within a targeted set of new or existing mixed use activity centers.
The last topic of “Where will we shop and dine” had the policies that received feedback from council and were agreed on:
• Facilitate the redevelopment and revitalization of Cary’s aging or poorly-performing activity centers. Redevelopment of older centers is preferred over the development of new activity centers.
• Focus commercial, retail, dining, and entertainment uses within existing and planned Mixed Use Activity Centers.
• Support the development of a limited number of centers that have higher densities/intensities, are transit supportive, and have the greatest potential to be high-functioning, premier centers.
At our next Imagine Cary work session on March 24th will focus on the last general policy topic, the southwest area, and the downtown area.

Wednesday I talked with a group of high schools students who were part of the Cary Chamber’s Youth Leadership Program. They were spending the day learning about local government, touring various parts of town, and listening to various government speakers. I told them about my duties as mayor and then answered questions for about ten or fifteen minutes.

About an hour later I gave the State of the Town address to the Cary Newcomers Club 30th Anniversary meeting. There were over one hundred people, mostly ladies, in attendance. I talked from power point slides that were very similar to the ones I presented at the Cary Chamber in January. Then I answered about a couple of dozen questions. My presentation seemed to be well received. I do hope they invite me back in the future.

Thursday Cary was once again threatened with inclement weather. After consulting with staff we agreed that it would be a rain event and decided to proceed with four annexation public hearings and two quasi-judicial hearings. The four public hearings for annexations had no speakers. The first quasi-judicial hearing was for 70 homes in a subdivision along Indian Wells. The main purpose of the hearing was to allow a payment-in-lieu for construction of a portion of Highcroft Drive. Since there was no other part of that road to connect to the DOT decided not to permit them to cross a stream which they were required to do as part of the town ordinance. So the council agreed to allow this payment especially since they had no other choice. In addition, they wanted to use a retention wall as part of their edges for stormwater management which council also allowed. And their final issue was to remove one of seven champion trees on the property. Since it was a sweet gum tree, which is a lower tier tree, council agreed for the removal and replacement of this tree. Our second quasi-judicial hearing was tabled at their attorney’s request.

Friday I participated in the weekly Metro Mayors legislative update. About two dozen mayors and representatives from municipalities participated. Here are some of the bills introduced this week in the legislature that could impact Cary:
• Exempt from property tax the increase in value of real property held for sale by a builder to the extent the increase is attributable to subdivision or improvements by the builder. It also changes the definition of builder from a general contractor to a taxpayer.
• Boost the film grant program’s funding to $66m in recurring funds. The fund may be too high for independent filmmakers to participate.
• Increase the cap on turnpike projects from nine to eleven pending approval of Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
• Allow 5% of voters in a city to petition to require a vote of the public on typically non-voted debt.
• Change the Wake County Commissioners from running at large to running in districts and increase the size of the Commission.
• Create a fund to provide loans to local government units for the development of sites and buildings.
• Phase out some of the transfers from the highway fund over five years starting in 2017-18 and finishing in 2021.
Additionally our briefing and discussion also included the following points:
• No bills have been introduced for tax reform.
• An economic incentives bill passed from the house to the senate. It includes a JDIG expansion, increases disbursement to the rural Utility Account, requires urban local government to participate with local incentives, increases requirements for urban job creation, allows the Utility Fund in rural areas to do job retention in addition to job creation, allows businesses to pay taxes only on sales within North Carolina, a jet fuel tax exemption, and a datacenter sales tax exemption on electricity.
Our meeting concluded after about an hour.

Saturday I gave welcoming remarks at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Train Hosts Association. These men and women are part of more than 100 volunteers from across the state serving as goodwill ambassadors on the Piedmont and Carolinian trains. Train hosts volunteer their time to ride the trains to assist passengers, promote passenger services and answer questions about the route, ground transportation and area attractions. Each one of these volunteers completed a one-day training session and committed to making at least one host trip every 60 days. What a great group.

Emails from staff this week included and update on bid awards for the Academy Street project and the downtown park project. The Academy Street project received only a couple of bids so the town is rebidding the project. The downtown park project did not receive bids. The schedule is being impacted by these delays. Staff will be looking at how bid delays will impact the overall schedules. In addition, with less competition the price has a tendency to go up. Bid prices have already increased significantly for other projects recently. Staff will continue to look for ways to lessen the impact on the schedule and keep the costs as low as possible.

Staff also provided an email with February’s construction activity report. Here are some of the notable points:
• In January single family permits were down 3.1% nationally, down 9.2% statewide, and down 4.9% in Cary from the previous month.
• 43 new Certificates of Occupancy were issued for single family homes in 20 neighborhoods last month.
• 7 new Certificates of Occupancy were issued for 199 multi-family units.
• Cary had 15% of the new single family permits in Wake County last month.
• 30.42 acres were annexed into Cary in the month of February.
• The average single family home was 4,281 square feet in February compared to 3,603 square feet in February of 2011.
Plans under review since the beginning of the year include:
• 4 modular classrooms at Mills Park Middle School.
• 27 townhomes in Waterford at Cary Park.
• 20,184 square feet of office and 2,876 square feet of retail on Chatham Street.
• A 9,600 square foot restaurant at Cary Town Center.
• 19 single family homes on Stephens Road.
• 32 single family homes on Indian Wells Road.
To see all the 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 kudos for help with a plumbing issue, a request for help with a school issue, and a request to honor an achievement of a student.

Next week we will try and get back to normal and hope that they weather will be nice. My activities include several meetings, a council meeting, being a guest reader at Farmington Woods, making remarks at the Tobacco Road Marathon, and attending the Basant Bahar at the Cary Arts Center.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 15th. 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, March 01st, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was once again dominated by snow and ice resulting in the cancellation or postponement of several of my activities. Once again the Cary A-Team (snow and ice removal team) did a fantastic job.

Monday started with calls to council members to get concerns or questions about the agenda for Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting. I was able to contact all council members but Frantz and Robinson. In my conversations council members had questions about the staff report for additional funding to handle the installation of Google fiber and questions about a staff report that was changed by the applicant to be age restricted. Later in the day Mayor Pro-Tem Smith and I met with management, directors, public information, legal, and administration to review the agenda. Our meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

After the agenda meeting Mayor Pro-Tem Smith and I met with the town manager and deputy town manager to talk about technology. That meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Monday night I joined all council members but Robinson at the annual Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources volunteer banquet. Each year the banquet has a theme. This year’s theme was the Wizard of Oz. In keeping with the theme I gave a welcome modeled after the Munchkin City Mayor from the movie. Though it was a little corny I believe it went over well. The remainder of my remarks were in a normal tone and included the following:

… “‘There’s no place like home.’ It’s one of the Top 100 movie quotations in American cinema, and it couldn’t be more applicable to tonight. Because of you—all 900 volunteers who have supported our parks, recreation and cultural arts programming— Cary has arguably the highest quality of life in Wake County. From facility volunteers, advocacy groups, advisory boards and committees, athletic coaches and event logistics, your support to make our recreation and cultural arts programs enjoyable and appealing is critical to our Town’s success.
A volunteer is a precious resource. The time you spend with staff to ensure our classes and programs go off without a hitch is priceless to those who experience these programs and events both first-hand and to our community as a whole. …”

Following dinner I was joined by the council members as we handed out awards. The banquet ended after about two hours.

Tuesday everyone in the region was surprised by a 3” snow event. Since the weather forecasters didn’t expect it very few were prepared. Cary’s snow removal team used equipment, salt and sand to clear the roads. By the end of the day most Cary roads were in great shape. However, to be on the safe side we postponed a work session on Imagine Cary to make sure anyone could attend if they desired. The work session was rescheduled for next Tuesday, March 3rd.

Wednesday I met with representatives from WakeUp. WakeUP is a nonpartisan citizen group concerned about growth and the future of Wake County. Their vision is a sustainable, healthy and prosperous region in the long run. In our meeting we talked about the Jordan Lake rules and future transit. Our meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Wednesday night into Thursday was Cary’s second snow storm of the week. This storm had heavy wet snow that damaged a lot of trees. My neighborhood got about four inches which was enough to uproot several large Leyland Cypress and put them across the road. Cary’s A Team had the trees off the road and the road plowed by 2 PM. This was another example of a great job by the best snow removal crew in the state.

Thursday I consulted with staff and we agreed that the regularly scheduled council meeting should be postponed. We decided to move the public hearings back one week and move all discussion items to the March 12th meeting.

Friday was a scheduled call of the metro Mayors of North Carolina to discuss legislative action for the week. Since the legislators didn’t do anything because of the snow it was cancelled.

Friday a little past midnight I came down with the flu (kinda fit for the week). After a day of a high fever, sleeping and not eating I was much better but did have to cancel all appearances for the weekend. I will also cancel Monday’s just to be on the safe side.

Sunday the town experienced its third weather related event of the week with freezing rain. While it didn’t have as much impact as the other two storms it did create dangerous conditions on bridges and harm trees and plants.

Emails from staff this week included information about Cary’s A Team. Here is what was at work during Thursday’s storm:
• 15 town spreaders
• 13 town plows
• 4 contract tandem spreaders
• 11 contract tandem plows
• 21 contract pickups plows
• 2 contract loaders with 10 foot plows
• 1 contract grader (To work highway 55.)
In addition Public Works pre-position backhoes and personnel at Fire Stations 5, 6, and 8. Public Works had two emergency shifts. Personnel included 162 workers for Wednesday night into Thursday and 190 during the following day. Cary budgets for these events to have a very high standard for snow removal.

The town received numerous emails and letters thanking us and congratulating us on snow removal and garbage pickup. Many of the town’s employees went above and beyond the call of duty. Here is one letter I received that is a perfect example:

“Dear Mr. Mayor,

On Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 in the middle of our horrible cold spell, our garbage was picked up a day late because of weather. Our home faces north so we get no benefit of sun melting on our driveway.

I asked the driver (David) to use his ram to push our empty garbage container as far up our driveway as he could, to minimize our having to walk on the thick white ice.

David accommodated us, completed his street run, and then returned with a shovel to clear a path. My husband is disabled and I am in my 70’s and we wanted to express our gratitude.”

There is no doubt in my mind that we have the best public works department in the state. God bless them for their service!

Other emails from citizens this week included an inquiry about owning a domestic goat; comments about sharing recycle bins, a request to allow dogs on e-collars, and comments about upcoming rezoning cases.

Next week should be a busy week and a warmer week (I hope). My activities include Read Across America, a rescheduled work session on Imagine Cary, a State of the Town address presentation, a quasi-judicial hearing, and opening remarks at the annual meeting of the NC Train Host Association.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 8th. 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, February 22nd, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was dominated by snow and ice resulting in the cancellation or postponement of most of my activities. The good news is that I had more time to spend with my wife. The bad news is that almost all of my meetings, activities, etc, were rescheduled which will make for much busier days in the future.

Monday’s postponements included a meeting with the town manager and a banquet for the Parks volunteers. In addition, a meeting of the Mayors Association was cancelled. Tuesday I had a scheduled dinner that was postponed. On Wednesday the monthly meeting of CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s executive board) was cancelled. Friday the Metropolitan mayors’ weekly legislative update was cancelled.

The morning after all big snow/ice events I always go for a long walk (about 5 miles). This winter event was no exception. So I headed towards the Crossroads shopping center about 11 AM. On my walk I happened to see the town’s A team in action. By the time I saw them they had already been working for hours. By the afternoon they had finished all major roads in town and were working on secondary roads and in neighborhoods. By the end of the day they had completed their mission in a town that has over 660 miles of roads. I actually witnessed five plows completely clear the length of Piney Plains Road in less than fifteen minutes. Wow! What an impressive performance. A huge thank you to the town staff for the many hours of overtime to make sure Cary roads were the first cleared in the triangle!

The only meeting I held this week was with the town manager and deputy town manager via phone to discuss several issues. Among the issues discussed was the council’s potential participation in the design of the town’s skateboard park, proposed options for the noise ordinance as it relates to golf courses, and Google fiber.

Apparently Google is not happy with last week’s journal entry speculating that Morrisville and Cary might be the first places Google fiber is installed. My comments were based on staff information that included Google spending more time with Cary and Morrisville staffs than other municipalities. I apologize for my speculation and will only provide facts about Google in the future. I would recommend that Google’s public information start providing more information as soon as possible. That would eliminate all speculation. Just sayin’…

Friday I did join most of the Mayors in Wake County and their guests at a hockey game. The Wake County mayors were the guests of the Centennial Authority which hosts the mayors twice a year. It was a good time to talk with other mayors in an informal setting to find out what is happening in other parts of Wake County.

Emails from staff this week included interesting information about the town’s traffic management system which will be the topic of April’s Cary Matters. Yes, it is true I am already working on that. Some of that information includes:
• All major corridors throughout Town utilize traffic signal coordination including, but not limited to: N Harrison Avenue, Cary Parkway, Maynard Road, Davis Drive, NC 55, US 64, Walnut Street, and Kildaire Farm Road.
• A typical intersection has between 4 – 6 timing plans per day. For all locations, there is a peak hour plan for the morning and afternoon.
• A typical traffic signal can cost $150,000 to $200,000, depending on the size of the intersection, pole type used, and features required (like pedestrian crossing signals). A typical CCTV camera installation can cost $50,000.
• By the end of 2015, the Town will operate over 190 traffic signals and 30 CCTV cameras along over 100 miles of fiber optic cable.
• Traffic signals are preempted by emergency vehicles. The system gradually adds/subtracts time to a cycle to get the traffic signal back into sync.
To learn more about the traffic management system check out the town’s website or watch the April episode of Cary Matters.

There were very few emails received from citizens this week. Several emails commended the town on the snow/ice removal. Other emails included invitations to various events.

Next week will be busy for me. Some of the activities and events include the Parks Volunteer banquet, a work session on Imagine Cary, a regularly scheduled council meeting, events, dinners, and speaking engagements.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 1st. 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, February 15th, 2015

harold2011_small2This was a typical week that included meetings, presentations, and a council meeting.

As I always do in weeks with regularly scheduled council meetings, I called all council members to listens to their concerns and questions about the upcoming council meeting. Then later in the day I met with management, legal, public information, and others to go over the agenda. Based on the comments and emails I believed plan amendments and rezoning proposals would be the focus of much of the discussion during the council meeting.

After the agenda meeting I met with the town manager, deputy town manager, assistant town managers, and Mayor Pro-Tem Smith to talk about upcoming items of concern. One item we talked about was the Google installation. It appears Google will start installation in Cary and Morrisville first. This will have an impact on Cary finances since we will have to have staff to address issues and to inspect over one hundred contractors all working at once. It is estimated that our cost might approach one million over three years.

Tuesday started with a presentation to me by The A.D. King Foundation from Naomi King who was the sister-in-law to Dr. Martin Luther King. Afterwards I talked with the board member making the presentation about how we can grow and create similar events such as the MLK event held in Cary.

Tuesday night I had the honor and privilege to hand out Lazy Daze grant checks to organizations involved in Cary cultural arts. Lazy Daze raised $35,000 this year for this cause and has raised over $565,000 since its inception. Thanks to all the organizations that work so hard to make Cary a better place.

Wednesday I visited Buhler Aeroglide in Cary to welcome the US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, NC Secretary of Commerce John Skvarla, and Buhler Aeroglide President Hans-Joerg ILL. The purpose of the visit was to talk about the apprenticeship programs at Aeroglide, in the State, and around the Country. Currently there are about 500 companies in the State of North Carolina participating in apprenticeships. The Buhler Aeroglide apprenticeship program takes high school students and puts them through a four year program in addition to school. At the end of the apprenticeship program individuals will have graduated high school, obtained an associate’s degree from Wake Tech, learned several skills such as welding, and will be offered a job. According to the Buhler Aeroglide officials their investment per apprentice is about $150,000.

This was my first meeting with a member of the President’s cabinet and it was an honor to meet and talk with the US Secretary of Labor. Secretary Perez arrived about 30 minutes late in a two car entourage with what appeared to be three secret service men (but they could have been staff for all I know). At our initial greeting the Secretary knew who I was and that I worked in the IT field. So it appeared he was briefed on everyone he was to meet. I would have loved to see the briefing on me. Next we toured the facility. Most of his conversation during the tour was with the President of the Company and the NC Secretary of Commerce as it should be. However, Secretary Perez was very good in stopping along the way to talk with workers who were not expecting it. Those were great conversations and he was very skilled in getting them to talk. He also made time to talk with me about getting apprenticeships in the IT field. My impression was that he was a very kind and very sincere individual who was excellent at what he does.

I also had an opportunity to meet briefly with the new NC Secretary of Commerce who started his position in January. He congratulated me on MetLife and said he is looking forward to some other things that are in the pipeline. Me too!

Wednesday evening I met with the executive director of the Triangle Land Conservancy or TLC. Over the last 30 years TLC has conserved over 16,000 acres and own and manage six nature preserves. Their mission is to safeguard clean water, protect natural habitats, support farms and food, and connect people with nature. In our discussion we talked about all that Cary is doing and how we could work together along with developers to create something special in Cary. We acknowledged that opportunities to preserve land is becoming more and more limited and that our future successes might depend on working with specific developers interested in creating open space with their projects. I am sure we will be talking again in the future. Our meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting lasted approximately three hours. The council made decisions on several discussion items. Council unanimously supported the sale of revenue bonds that could save the town $1.8 million with refinancing existing revenue bonds. Council unanimously agreed to approve a comprehensive land amendment on High House next to the Bradford development to allow low density single family housing instead of higher density. Another plan amendment next to Crossroads that would have eliminated office for multi-family was tabled to hear the recommendations from the Imagine Cary process. Those recommendations will be presented within a few weeks at a council work session. Before the tabling Crossroads plan amendment it appeared from our discussion that it would have failed. In another decision the council passed an agreement with CASL for soccer fields which will include two artificial turf fields. This agreement will provide more field time for non CASL players in addition to CASL players. The discussion item on the Carpenter Neighborhood Park and associated items was unanimously approved by council. The council also approved a license agreement for downtown economic development with David Gardner, Alex Osadzinski and Whitney Rowe to provide professional advice and consultative services to promote business investments in its Downtown Business Improvement District (BID). This agreement will include the creation of a business incubator for startup and early-stage businesses, and help the Town identify and coordinate potential public and private actions in the downtown area in exchange for the shared use of Suite 301 in 122 East Chatham Street. The council’s last discussion item was a rezoning proposal to allow multi-family on Stephens Road just off Piney Plains Road which was denied.

Friday I participated in the weekly Metro Mayors conference call to hear a legislative update. Some of the notable items include:
• The latest state revenue forecast anticipates collections for the current fiscal year to come in about $271 million below the $21 billion the General Assembly budgeted for the year. Revenues in the current fiscal year have grown by only 2.9 percent, rather than the 4 percent growth predicted in May 2014.
• The Senate gave final approval Thursday to legislation, Senate Bill 20, that would cut the state gas tax this year before placing a floor of 35 cents that will likely push the rate higher than it would have been – enough to raise a projected $1.2 billion for transportation needs by 2019.
• Savings from the Gas Tax bill will be achieved partly by cutting 500 occupied jobs and 50 vacancies in the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It puts layoff priority on DOT administration staffers, maintenance jobs that could be outsourced, and positions that allow the agency to reduce management layers.
• The House passed a bill which would prevent government from seizing property for private development. The goal is to ban eminent domain in cases where government seizes property only to sell it to a private developer.
• Governor Pat McCrory has been touring the state and speaking about the value of restoring the state’s historic tax credits, which expired at the end of 2014.
• Bills have been filed to eliminate municipal Extra Territorial Jurisdictions.
The conference all lasted about 30 minutes and had roughly two dozen mayors participating.

Emails from staff this week included the construction activity report. Some of the interesting data include:
• In January the average single family dwelling was 3,936 square feet and valued at $249,585 compared to January 2011 when the average single family dwelling was 4,069 square feet and valued at $191,328.
• In December 2014 Cary had 15.9% of single family permits issued in Wake County. Only Raleigh had more with 21.3%.
• In December 2014 single family permits were up 4.55% nationally, up 14.8% statewide, and up 20.9% in Cary from the previous month.
• Five development projects were staff approved in January including: 53 townhomes on 14 acres and a 39,420 square foot office building in Cary Park.
We continue to see strong growth in Cary.

Emails from staff this week also included information on available acreage for development within our planning jurisdiction. The total acreage for Cary in both Chatham and Wake Counties is 8,464 acres which is a little over 13 square miles. The developable acreage in Cary’s portion of Wake County is 6,010 acres or 9.39 square miles. Developable acreage includes properties that are vacant, or have extremely low value of improvements relative to parcel size and do not have approved or submitted site or subdivision plans. These figures do not include developed or under-developed sites that have the potential for redevelopment.

Emails from citizens this week included a concern about Lake Crabtree Park, a concern about potholes on Cary Parkway, a request to know the opening of a hot yoga business, and several requests to approve and deny rezoning proposals.

Next week’s activities are all meetings and events. They include the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Volunteer Banquet, my first meeting as vice-chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board, and a Mayors Association outing.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 22nd. 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, February 08th, 2015

harold2011_small2With the exception of one day this was a light week.

Monday I met with the town manager and the deputy town manager to catch up on issues. Most of our discussion was focused on two issues. First we talked about an organizational change that we all believe will help our staff respond to customers more effectively and efficiently. Then we talked about last week’s planning retreat and how we would structure future planning retreats. Our meeting concluded after about 45 minutes.

Tuesday the town held a quasi-judicial meeting. Quasi-judicial hearings are different than regular public hearings in that they resemble a court hearing where testimony is presented. The Town Council must make a decision based solely on the written and oral evidence actually presented at the hearing itself. This means that the Town Council should not receive any information about these cases outside the hearing, including emails, phone calls, letters, etc. There were three hearings at this meeting.

The first was a dispute about a daycare paying for a reclaimed water line. There were many circumstances presented as to why and why not this should happen. In the end the applicant offered to pay half the cost which I thought was a good compromise. As a result the council approved.

The second was the annexation, special use, and site plan for an elementary school on the Durham County line. While this was not an ideal location it was one of the few pieces of land that was available to the Wake County School System. The council unanimously approved all items related to the school which should be operational in the summer of 2016. Once it is opened it should have a domino effect starting with Briar Creek Elementary. According to the school system it should also provide some relief to Alston Ridge and Mills Park.

Our last quasi-judicial hearing was for the Phillips Place Townhomes site plan. Since this was tabled the quasi-judicial rules remain in effect and I cannot provide any information. Our meeting for all three hearings lasted a little over 3 hours.

Wednesday I met with the Board of the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel to hand out Certificates of thanks for awards the group recently received from the North Carolina Society of Historians. In case you are not familiar with Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel, they serve as guardians for the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, advocate for the preservation of Cary historic sites, and archive town history. In addition they facilitate history education and promote the cultural arts. The awards received included the Malcolm Fowler Society Award, Willie Parker Peace History Book Award, Evelyn Davis Miller Museum Award, and the Joe M. McLaurin Newsletter Award. If you are interested in becoming involved in the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel go to http://www.friendsofpagewalker.org/.

Friday I participated in the Metro Mayors weekly conference call on legislative actions. Some of the discussion topics I noted included:
• It is believed that Historic tax credits can be renewed if 4 Republican Senators favor the tax credits.
• Economic Development incentives were discussed. Legislators are excited that these incentives could bring an auto manufacturer to North Carolina. Many in the legislature believe this is better than bringing something like a MetLife because it will create other businesses to support it. I disagree. The high paying jobs brought by MetLife create a huge economic benefit in the region from homes sold to all things needed by a family. This supports small businesses which are the backbone of our economy.
• The governor’s $2 billion in transportation will have a hard time getting enough legislative support.
• Rural legislators are “angry” with the prosperity of the Triangle and Charlotte and they are the majority of the majority.
• Eminent domain bills are a concern. This may impact municipal interests for air rights and transit systems.
• HB150 (aesthetics bill) is moving rapidly and will be easily approved. This will eliminate a municipal’s ability for certain aesthetic controls like colors or types of bricks in developments.
• Bills, backed by the homebuilders association, to remove or reduce the effectiveness of protest petitions are moving forward. A likely compromise would be to change the definition of a valid protest petition from a 5% requirement of adjacent properties to a 25% requirement. Developments with a valid protest petition require a super-majority. In Cary that would mean 6 out of 7 council members for a development to pass.
The meeting concluded after about 40 minutes.

I received phone calls and emails this week about crime, traffic, and growth in general. Cary is ranked as the safest community in the nation by the FBI. But if you are a victim of a crime you do not feel safe and may have the feeling that you will never feel safe again. I believe that was the feeling of one crime victim I talked with. I assured him that we are doing everything within our authority and means to make our community safer and safer.

Much of the traffic complaints I receive are in western Cary where much of our growth is occurring. This week complaints included Davis Drive and High House. Unfortunately, neighborhoods along Davis Drive are having an increasingly difficult time turning onto Davis Drive. Sadly this will only get worse. NCDOT maintains this road and most major thoroughfares. Once they determine that left turns from neighborhoods are no longer safe on Davis Drive they will close the medians. This will force residents to turn right and then make a U-Turn. I do not think this will happen in the near future but I predict it will happen.

Weekly I receive emails about growth in western Cary. Interestingly some of these developments were approved before this council was elected. Other developments were stalled because of the recession, and then others were approved right after the recession. As a result there is a massive amount of development occurring in western Cary. While the town’s growth rate is 2.85%, western Cary residents describe growth there as “skyrocketing”. There is also a perception that council is rubber stamping each and every approval which couldn’t be further from the truth. Council reviews each and every proposal on its merits. It is our duty to make sure there is enough police and fire protection, water and sewer capacity, parks, roads, and schools. While most of the roads and all of the schools are out of our control, it still matters in our decision making. As a result, development proposals in western Cary are finding it very difficult getting any rezoning request approved.

Other emails from citizens this week included complaints about blasting near a development in western Cary and an opposition to a development proposal off Piney Plains Road.

Next week will be busier for me. Activities include a visit from the US Secretary of Labor, a council meeting, an award reception, and meetings.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 15th. 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, February 01st, 2015

harold2011_small2This was an exhausting week for me.

Monday I called council members for their concerns and questions about Wednesday’s regular meeting agenda. I was able to contact all council members but Robinson and Smith. The most comments were on the multi-family proposal on Stephens Road just off Piney Plains Road.

Monday afternoon I met with management, administration, legal, public information, engineering, planning, and others to step through the agenda. There wasn’t a lot to talk about and staff had not received much feedback on any of the proposals.

After the agenda meeting I met with the town manager and his staff for our weekly one on one meeting. Our meeting was short and most of the discussion was on naming rights of town facilities. A few years ago the council had directed staff to investigate the use of naming rights and they are now ready to present their findings.

Tuesday Google Fiber announced that they would be coming to Cary, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Morrisville, Garner and Carrboro. In the town’s press release I stated:

“Given that a recent national survey ranked Cary as the second-most wired community in the country, it’s only fitting that Google chose Cary to be a partner in its next deployment of community fiber. With over 97 percent of our citizens having access to the internet, our community has clearly demonstrated that they are heavy users and will certainly make great use of the additional resources that will come with the Google service. We’re thrilled, and it’s just one of the many ways in which our citizens-both residential and corporate-can thrive in Cary.”

I look forward to not only having Google in Cary but other fiber providers as well.

Tuesday evening the council held a work session to review two topics. The first was to hear the goals and work plans for each of the town’s boards and commissions. Each board chair or representative provided a report and council voted unanimously to accept all the reports. The town is blessed to have so many citizens that volunteer for boards to make our community better and we are grateful for their service.

Our second work session was to review the building design standards. These standards, which haven’t been updated since 2005, have worked well for the town resulting in high-quality and visually attractive nonresidential and attached residential developments. But a recent focus group made suggestions that might allow more flexibility and take into account additional materials that were not available ten years ago. The town council spent about two hours reviewing suggestions and made several recommendations to staff. Some of those recommendations included:
• Provide more information and examples of using wood and hardiplank siding in lieu of masonry materials within and near historic districts and in rural areas.
• Provide more information and examples of allowing formed concreate to mimic masonry.
• Masonry materials should be applied at logical and visually appealing breaks in the building. For example, not in mid-window like is seen in the Bradford development.
• Provide more information on painting non-residential brick buildings built before 1970 which is not currently allowed.
• Provide more information on allowing flexibility in materials that may not support masonry materials.
• Provide more examples of allowing the definition of transparency to include translucent.
• Provide more examples of allowing additional light reflectivity in colors on building accents.
Staff will take the direction given by council and hold another work session in the future to further specify building design standards.

Wednesday I presented the State of the Town Address to, what is typically, my largest audience of the year. After the address I answered about a dozen or so questions ranging from business sign issues to road concerns. My talk lasted about 35 to 40 minutes and the Q&A portion lasted about 15 minutes. You can read the official State of the Town address text file at http://www.townofcary.org/Town_Council/stateofthetown.htm and see the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVmIUjR2v74.

After the State of the Town address I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Smith and several Cary Chamber board members and briefly met with a group from Wake Med including their President and CEO Donald Gintzig. They talked about their new mission of improving the health and well-being of our community as opposed to their old mission of treating the sick and ill. We are grateful that Wake Med is in our community and I believe their new mission fits into exactly what we are trying to accomplish in Cary, which is a healthy and happy community.

Wednesday night was the last regularly scheduled council meeting for January. There were six public hearings and five discussion items. The public hearing to allow a school in the Amberly Planned Development District had several people speak against the proposal complaining about the busy roads that surrounded the site. Another public hearing for a rezoning proposal near the Chatham County line also had speakers complain about the proposal. These and other public hearings will go to the planning and zoning board for their recommendation and council will vote on them at a later date.

Discussion items included multi-family proposal along Stephens Road just off Piney Plains Road to allow 80 multi-family units. This proposal had a valid protest petition which required 5 yes votes for approval. I am strongly opposed to this rezoning since there is an overabundance of multi-family in this area. The council decided to table this since there were several people in the audience who wanted to speak that didn’t understand that there was not an associated public hearing. It will also give the applicant time to try and address concerns about the proposal. Council will vote on this at the next council meeting. The council meeting ended around 10 PM.

Thursday the council and management staff left on a train to Charlotte to hold our annual planning retreat. This year’s format was different from previous years and was almost totally interactive made up of tours and discussions. The purpose was to gather information, thoughts, and ideas about infill and redevelopment.

On our way to Charlotte the NCDOT Rail made two presentations including an update on all the projects along the Raleigh to Charlotte corridor. It was also pointed out that the Cary train station was ranked #2 in the nation for customer satisfaction.

Once we arrived in Charlotte we boarded a bus and headed to a redevelopment project. This North Hills type development, called the Metropolitan, replaced a rundown mall. There we heard from the president of the development company that built to project. He gave a project description, history, and lessons learned. The biggest take away was hearing how both the city and developer had to compromise to make this project happen. In the end neither got what they wanted but the result was a tremendous improvement over what was there. The relevance to Cary can be scaled to include current and future rundown malls and strip malls.

Friday started with presentations and discussions at the Charlotte Center City Partners. They are a combination of our chamber and planning staff. We also heard from city and county planners. Since the county is mostly made up of Charlotte it results in close planning between the city and county. The presenters talked about how the city is divided up into corridors of density, wedges of single family, and centers within those wedges. Most of the development they are seeing is multi-family south of the city’s center in an area called South End. The biggest take away from these presentations was how all groups are in sync and working toward a common goal. I believe Cary’s planning staff, chamber, and council are also doing this.

After the presentations we boarded the light rail to tour the South End. This area of the city is experience explosive growth with 5500 multi-family units currently under construction. As one might expect they are experiencing growth concerns from the residents especially related to traffic. In fact, the CBS affiliate was doing a story on growth related problems and interviewed me about why we were there.

The multi-family units we visited were on the light rail line and are very nice. They were mostly occupied by people in the 20s and early 30s. Interestingly, these units were a block away from very poor neighborhoods which created quite a contrast. And apparently crime is an issue for these units requiring elaborate security for entering the buildings and parking areas. The owners and operators of these multi-family units talked about the importance of working with the city on issues. They also said that they believed all the multi-family units on the light rail line would probably have been built anyway but maybe not as concentrated. One take away point here is that transit oriented development might not create as much new development as one might think but will certainly concentrate it in one area.

After lunch we visited several small businesses in the South End area. We heard from several small business owners that talked about the trials and tribulations of starting a business in an area near transit. Even though they all experienced a lot of difficulty they all stated that it was well worth it. They also strongly emphasized the importance of preserving older historic buildings and preserving the character with new buildings. Preserving character is certainly relevant to what are experiencing and planning in our downtown.

Saturday we visited a redevelopment site about five miles from the city center. This was an edgy area (tattoo parlors, electronic cigarette parlors, live entertainment, etc) but had a very well organized and involved community group. They worked hand in hand with the city to work on issues to help businesses, adjust public policy, and create infrastructure such as streetscapes and linear parks. While I thought this edgy area was interesting I don’t really want to see edgy in Cary. There were several very small takeaways from this area that I would like to see in Cary. A Harris Teeter didn’t have windows on the side but had integrated art instead and in addition had a garden roof with a seating area next to it. It would be worth revisiting our policies to try and create something like that in Cary. There were also several other interesting small things like painted designs in the crosswalks. Cary seems to only have striped outlines or bricked crosswalks. This is another thing to look at.

Our last tour of the morning was through some of the affluent areas of Charlotte that included Dilworth and Myers Park. Interesting developments there included a Lowes Home Improvement that was two stories with parking on the roof. This area showed that certain types of developments that might not be what one would think would fit in certain areas will work if done right.

After a late lunch we had the chance to talk with the Mayor Pro-Tem of Charlotte, the Charlotte city manager, and other representatives from the north of the city. Although the talks were brief they were interesting. They mentioned having the similar types of problems we are having.

The last tour of the trip was to the Music Factory. This facility is a collection of entertainment venues made to create a walking experience for patrons. They could walk to over a dozen venues that allow everything from live music, to comedy, to beer games. While it is an interesting concept I really can’t imagine where you would see something like that in Cary.

Saturday evening we headed to the train station, caught the train, and had a debriefing for about half an hour. We arrived home a little past 8 PM. This retreat, like all retreats, was very valuable and intellectually stimulating. But three solid days of this was exhausting for me. Needless to say I had no trouble sleeping Saturday when I returned.

This week the town’s first and only Information Technology Director, Bill Stice, retired. He took the town from basically no IT to one of the top municipal IT departments in the State. We will certainly miss him. His replacement will be hired by the town manager after a national search.

Emails this week included a monthly report from the Homebuilders Association. The report showed a 4% drop in new single family home permits for the last twelve months.

An email was also sent from staff that contained the 4th quarter report from 2014. Some of the most notable information included:
• Cary’s population was estimated to be 151,727 at the end of 2014.
• Cary’s population grew at 2.8% the last twelve months.
• Cary now covers 57.56 square miles.
• The town launched the Bike and Hike App to give trail conditions.
• The town installed advanced technology to reduce fuel consumption in its vehicles resulting in a 19% reduction.
• Cary experienced a 6% decrease in overall crime during the last 12 months.
• The town website overhaul has begun and will be finished in the fall of 2016.
Read the entire quarterly report at http://townofcary.uberflip.com/i/455347.

Emails this week included a complaint about sedimentation pollution which was actually on a Morrisville site. I also received emails from an individual complaining about the appraisal value of his property which is not something the town does. Other emails included comments for and against rezonings cases, thanks for working to bring Google Fiber to Cary, and a complaint about the “crime wave” in Cary.

Next week will be much slower for me. Activities include meetings, a quasi-judicial hearing, and a presentation.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 8th. 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, January 25th, 2015

harold2011_small2This was a busy week with tapings, meetings, and dinners.

Monday I joined Mayor Stohlman of Morrisville in a meeting with about a dozen Sri Venkateswara Temple leaders to discuss a break-in that occurred in their business office the previous day. After answering a few questions we committed to working together to making their facility more secure and to partner in deterring future crimes.

Monday evening I attended the monthly Mayors Association meeting in Cary. Nine of the twelve Wake County mayors were in attendance. Absent from the meeting were the mayors from Garner, Holly Springs, and Raleigh. Topics of discussion included setting up a meeting with the county commissioners and creating a legislative agenda. The biggest legislative concerns expressed by the mayors included the potential loss of revenue from a change in the sales tax formula, transportation issues, and school issues. Our meeting concluded after about two and a half hours.

Tuesday I taped the State of the Town address for Cary TV. The State of the Town address this year is over 3200 words which is my longest address ever. The producer broke the address up into three segments and we did at least two takes on each segment. The entire taping took about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Later Tuesday I headed over to the Page Walker to join council members in hosting the Wake County legislative delegation. We were honored to have Senators Barringer and Stein, Representatives Dollar, Avila, Hall, and Reives (Chatham County), and of course our good friend former Cary council member Representative Adcock. We provided dinner which was followed by a presentation on the town’s efforts related to the Interbasin Transfer process which is ongoing. Afterwards I walked the legislators through Cary’s legislative agenda. Here are my comments on each item:

• Advocacy principles – Our advocacy principles acknowledge that we are accountable to the citizens of Cary. They expect us to maintain our roads, use revenues wisely, be environmental stewards and plan carefully to maintain the ‘look and feel’ of Cary. We can best be accountable when we have the authority to make transportation, land planning, design, spending and development decisions that consider the needs of Cary citizens.
• Holly Brook annexation – we have received a request from homeowners in Holly Brook to annex their subdivision. The Town has been providing sewer services to this community since their on-site system failed many years ago. While the area has become suburban in the intervening years, it does not currently meet the criteria for either voluntary or involuntary annexation. Even though a large majority of homeowners desire it, we can’t move forward without your help. The Town is capable of providing services and we ask for your support by legislatively annexing this area.
• We are also asking for two other local bills – both to make Town government run more efficiently. First, we would like authority to simplify the process of disposing of unneeded easements by allowing Council to delegate approval to the Town Manager. And, second, we would like to be able to sell Town property subject to covenants or restrictions when council deems it in the best interest of the citizens (Ex: historic property must continue to be maintained as an historic property).
• As you know, the General Assembly abolished the privilege license tax effective the end of June. We are not asking you to reinstate this tax, but we do request that, as you consider additional tax reform, you look for ways to make us whole in overall revenues.
• The look and feel of Cary is very important to our citizens and we support legislation that makes it clear that aesthetic-based design standards are authorized for residential dwellings. What’s right for one community may not be right for another community. Developers can build and move on; our citizens have to live with it for decades.
• The Town would support legislation that establishes a revenue source to compensate municipalities for infrastructure damage caused by oil and gas extraction and grants municipalities authority to require that damaged infrastructure be repaired.

We talked about each of the requests and heard their thoughts on where they thought legislation was going. Representative Dollar did state that he felt the aesthetics bill would pass which will harm Cary. We also had a good discussion on the sales tax distribution formula which will take revenue from the urban areas and give it to the rural areas. Representative Avila said she understands the concerns but the rural areas will need to present how they would use the money. Our meeting concluded after about an hour and a half.

Wednesday I attended an executive board meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). The organization’s members are from governments in Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston and Wake Counties. There were a couple of items that are of interest to Cary. The first was the approval of the Locally Administered Project Program which funded 3 out of 4 Cary submitted projects. Those projects include Green Level West Road widening, Panther Creek greenway and trailhead, and Crabtree Creek greenway phase 2. The second item of interest was the election of CAMPO board members. The Holly Springs mayor was elected chairman and I was elected vice-chairman. The meeting lasted a little over an hour.

Thursday I was joined by council member Robinson as we taped the February episode of Cary Matters. Our main topic was on sustainable initiatives that the town is involved in such as energy projects, recycling, water, wastewater, and local food and community gardens. Our taping session lasted about half an hour.

In accolades this week the Raleigh-Cary area ranked in the top 50 among the world’s leading 300 metropolitan areas, says a new survey from the Brookings Institute. There were only 4 US metropolitan areas listed in the top 50.

There were very few emails from citizens this week and they were all requests for events or requests for proclamations.

Next week will be a busy week for me. It will include a council meeting, a work session, the State of the Town address at the Chamber breakfast, and the annual planning retreat that will start around lunch on Thursday and keep me away from home until last late Saturday night.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 1st. 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.