• Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Harold2015This week was a typical slow summer week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also talked about trends and transit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emails from citizens this week included:

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

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

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 31st.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, July 17th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emails from citizens this week included:

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

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

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 24th.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, July 10th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Chief,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emails from citizens this week included:

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

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

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 17th.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, July 03rd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our meeting concluded after about an hour.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 10th.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Harold2015This week consisted of a lot of late nights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emails from citizens this week included:

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

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

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 3rd.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Harold2015This was my first week back after a two week vacation with the family. We celebrated my 60th birthday and spent time at the beach.

Sunday after I returned to Cary I attended the Green Hope High School graduation in downtown Raleigh. I was able to witness over 600 graduates including two of my Sunday School students and several friends’ sons and daughters. Council member Bush, who has been a friend of mine before I was mayor, got to hug her son after he received his diploma. What a special time for them.

Monday I attempted to contact all council members for any questions or concerns they might have had about the regularly scheduled council meeting agenda. I was able to contact all council members but one and there were no questions. Later in the day I met with key staff members to go over the agenda. Since the agenda was short the meeting was quick. I predicted that council meeting would last about an hour.

Monday night the council held a work session on the budget to go over items that we asked to review with more information. At the work session the following decisions were made:

  • The downtown park Master Plan will be included in the budget. The $100,000 cost will be funded from the additional $25 million in “green” money from the General Fund.
  • The MacDonald Woods Park Restrooms will be included in the budget. The $300,000 cost will be funded from the additional $25 million in “green” money from the General Fund.
  • The Reedy Creek Road widening project will be removed. Council agreed to investigate installing sidewalks on Reedy Creek Road and Louis Stephens Road at the fall mini retreat. These will probably be funded by a bond referendum in the fall of 2018 if council decides to hold a referendum and if it passes.
  • A motion to master plan Cameron Pond Park and Morris Branch Park together for this year failed. Council members discussed this at length. Council members made points that a study may mislead the public into thinking both would be getting built and that the cost of such a study would be a waste of taxpayer dollars; All property for the Morris Branch Park has already been acquired and Cameron Pond would cost almost $2 million more; and it is possible that a future bond referendum could provide funding for the Cameron Pond Park.
  • A motion to master plan Cameron Pond Park instead of Morris Branch Park failed due to previously mentioned reasons.
  • Council asked about the missing Panther Creek greenway connection closest to the American Tobacco Trail. That cost would be $1 million and would be difficult since there are multiple property owners including the corps of engineers who would not easily sale their property. That section would also require 4 bridges.
  • Council also asked that “Fest in the West” be considered with this year’s operational cost. The parks director and management stated that some funding was possible but running the event would require additional staff of public works, police, parks, and other support staff.

At the end of the work session the council agreed that another work session on the budget was not needed. However, the council will review technical adjustments to the budget at the June 22nd work session and will vote on the budget at the June 27th  regularly scheduled council meeting.

Tuesday I met with the Deputy Town Manager for our weekly one on one meeting. The meeting didn’t last long and included discussions about the budget and the hotel/meals occupancy tax.

Wednesday I attended a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board (CAMPO). Most of the meeting was spent discussing issues with Locally Administered Projects Program (LAPP). This is used to prioritize and program all projects in the region that will utilize federal funding. Distributing this type of federal funding is the responsibility of the CAMPO and includes things like local roadway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects, and will result in an annual program of projects in the Transportation Improvement Program. Since it was established in 2010 the federal government has rescinded projects programmed that did not utilize funding. This has only happened once and resulted in a $50+ million dollar loss of funding. Currently most of the CAMPO projects that have been OK’d for funding have not reached a point they can receive funds. This leaves unobligated funds that are at risk of once again being rescinded by the federal government. Reasons for not being ready for funding include unexpected environmental approvals, lack of local funding, and project manager changes that result in requirements not being met. I plan to talk with our staff about projects that we may have at risk.

Thursday the council met for its first regularly scheduled council meeting of the month. There were 11 consent items, 3 public hearings, and 2 discussion items. Most of the speakers spoke during the budget public hearing. The 2 discussion items were on the Cottages at Wellington rezoning. Council members stated that they weren’t excited about the Wellington proposal but acknowledged that the owner had the right to developer their property and there weren’t better alternatives. Council member Smith, who represents the district, voted no and all others voted yes. The meeting concluded after 36 minutes which is highly unusual.

Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro mayors. The meeting was spent going over current bills being considered in the legislature and the negative impact it will have on municipalities. It was also pointed out that the session is close to ending so local bills will need to be put on the fast track. Our meeting lasted about 30 minutes.

Saturday I attended a Project Phoenix event on Wrenn Drive. Project Phoenix is designed to help residents, owners and rental property managers keep drugs and other illegal activity off their property through education and community involvement. To find out more about project Phoenix go to https://www.townofcary.org/Departments/police/Community_Services/projectphoenix.htm.  This event included all kinds of activities for children and adults. It was well attended by about 1000 people from the neighboring apartment complexes. I introduced council members in attendance, gave a few remarks, and thanked those in attendance for being there and being involved in their community. I enjoyed talking to those present and stayed for about an hour.

Later Saturday I attended the ribbon cutting event for Gigi’s Playhouse in the Swift Creek Shopping Center. There were several hundred people in attendance. GiGi’s Playhouse is a one-of-a-kind achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community. GiGi’s Playhouse offers more than 30 therapeutic and educational programs that advance literacy, math skills, fine and gross motor skills and more; all of which are free of charge. They serve infants through adults with programs that are created by professional therapists and teachers who generously donate their time and expertise. All programs are based on learning styles specific to Down syndrome, and customized to ensure individual success. GiGi’s Playhouse is headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois; with nearly 30 locations throughout the United States and Mexico. At this event I gave a few remarks along with my good friend Mayor Sears of Holly Springs. Then I toured the facility and had my picture made with the directors. I talked with a lot of folks who all seemed to be having a great time. I was too and even did a selfie, clowning around with the clown in attendance. Gigi’s Playhouse is a great addition to our community and will serve our residents well. If you can give your time and talents for this worthy cause I would urge you to do so.

I received lots of emails from citizens this week and while I was on vacation. Some of the topics included:

  • Changing the budget to include Cameron Pond instead of Morris Branch Park. (The Cameron Pond Park would serve 5,000 fewer residents and would cost about $2 million more.)
  • Saving Lake Crabtree Park. (This area belongs to RDU and not to Cary and Morrisville. While we will always advocate for our citizens and parks, it is ultimately their decision. And it is my belief they will eventually redevelop this area regardless of what we want. My hope is that this redevelopment is decades away.)
  • Several comments about problems with builders, contractors, inspections, etc. (These are operational issues which is out of the scope of the town council. I usually contact the town manager’s office with these and make sure they are addressed – which they always are.)
  • A complaint about contractors working on Academy Street.
  • A complaint about the Jack Smith Park delays.
  • A complaint about the lack of events in west Cary.
  • A complaint that Cary should widen Reedy Creek Road (This is a state road. Council discussed this at a work session this week. Council stated that we will address this at our fall retreat and would be interested in planning to install sidewalks.)
  • A complaint about fake trees for cell towers. (Unfortunately, we are very limited in what we can do to stop this. In the past the town has been sued for not allowing cell towers and lost.)
  • A request that all Cary and American immigrants be required to speak only English. (There were other ridiculous comments in this email but I stopped reading. Cary is a diverse community and we embrace our differences. It is only through mutual understanding and respect that we will reach our potential as a community and a nation. Period!)
  • A complaint about a proposal that would move the Ivey-Ellington House.
  • A complaint about the council considering brick on the parking deck being planned next to the new library.
  • A request for more bike lanes on major roads.
  • A concern for pedestrian safety at Kildaire and Lochmere Drive.

Next week’s activities include a Mayor’s Association meeting, a dinner with visitors from France, a council work session, staff reviews (council’s staff is the town manager, town attorney, and town clerk), and a quasi-judicial meeting.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 26th.  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.

• Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Harold2015This was my last week before a long two week vacation and it was a busy and eventful week.

As I do on weeks with regularly scheduled council meetings I called all council members to hear of any concerns or questions they might have with the upcoming regularly scheduled council meeting. I was able to contact all council members except one. None had any issues with the agenda.

Monday afternoon I met with management, legal, public information, administration and others to go over the agenda. There were no surprises and based on input from staff I estimated the council meeting would last about two and a half hours after the work session.

Later Monday I met with the two assistant town managers. We talked about a few current issues that included the upcoming budget work session.

Monday night I briefly attended the scholarship fund banquet for the late Alok Sharma. Alok was a friend of mine and many others. He volunteered in many different ways to make his community better. This banquet, paired with a golf outing, was to raise money for a scholarship fund in his name. The scholarships are for those planning on attending N.C. State who demonstrated leadership, are involved in extracurricular activities, have had solid work ethics and a commitment to academics, plan on being productive citizens, have demonstrated a commitment to diversity, and recognize the value of all people regardless of religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or ability.

Tuesday midday I was notified by the Human Resources Director that the council had received a signed contract from Sean Stegall as our new town manager. We spent many, many hours, days, and months searching for a town manager. This process took much longer than the council expected but we wanted to make sure that we found the right person to succeed Ben Shivar who retired last September. We all wholeheartedly believe Sean is that person.

The council and the citizens of Cary owe has HUGE thanks to Deputy Town Manager Mike Bajorek, Assistant Town Managers Russ Overton, and Tim Bailey. They did an incredible job keeping this town going for eight months, creating a budget, and put in an unprecedented amount of extra work in making sure that Cary’s high levels of service did not suffer. Thank God for these great public servants!

Sean Stegall will begin as the new town manager on August 4th. Sean is from Elgin, Illinois and has relatives in North Carolina.  He is highly qualified and has spent 20 years working in government, has an MPA (Master of Public Administration), and has spent time at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The council is very excited about his fresh ideas, his attitude about people, and his passion about the town. He has a great respect for Cary’s town staff and has met some of them earlier this year before applying for the job. I believe he has really done his homework and will hit the ground running. The council is confident that Sean has the right blend of education, experience, personality, and heart to lead this town to the next level of excellence and we are excited about this new chapter for our organization and our community.

Tuesday evening the council held a work session to go over the proposed budget. There was no council feedback on the proposed operating budget so staff will move that forward for formal council approval. The council did spend about an hour on the capital budget and was OK with most of it. We asked staff to come back with options on a couple of items. For example, the MacDonald Woods Park is the only park in Cary without restroom facilities. This is mainly because the park is in a flood plain. So the council asked staff to give options of what in the capital budget we can reduce to get funding to build restroom facilities at the park.

After the work session the council went into closed session to discuss two items. That lasted about 15 minutes.

After closed session I met with the Deputy Town Manager and Assistant Town Managers. I told them that the council had offered the town manager job to Sean Stegall and he accepted. Our meeting lasted about 15 minutes. After meeting with the managers I met with the Town Clerk, Public Information Officer, and the Human Resources Director. We talked about adjusting the agenda to allow a vote for the new town manager. We also talked about notifying the Town of Cary Directors, and issuing a press release after the vote at the council meeting. This meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

Wednesday morning I met with Chinese investors who are looking at Cary to start a hotel business. I talked about the town, its history, and what I see happening in the next few years. Then staff presented a slide presentation on the Imagine Cary planning process. I plan to meet with these investors again this summer.

Wednesday evening I taped the June episode of Cary Matters with Council member George. This was the last Cary Matters with the old format. The new Cary Matters should be more conversational and in different locations. Our taping lasted a little over 30 minutes.

Thursday started with a meeting of the town’s directors. I announced to them that Sean R. Stegall will be our next town manager and gave a little background information on him. My belief is that this great group of professionals will work hard to make Sean feel right at home and do whatever it takes during the transition period. We are so blessed to have the greatest staff in the state, if not the nation, right here in Cary.

Thursday afternoon the council held a work session on the integrated art that will be incorporated into the parking deck next to the new library. The artist presented some ideas and the council provided feedback on those ideas. The artist will come back with more detailed concepts in July.

Thursday night’s council meeting was a long one and an important one. There were 5 public hearings and 4 discussion items. The public speaks out had several speakers opposing the proposed Publix grocery story and shopping center on Carpenter Fire Station Road. The budget public hearing also had a lot of speakers asking for items to be included in the budget. Most of those requests were for park related items.

Under discussion items, the council deliberated on the Publix proposal and the majority felt that the proposal was as about as good as it was going to get. The alternative of denying and allowing apartments to be built was a concern of several council members. The proposal was approved with affirmative votes stating that it was much better than the original proposal.

Our next discussion item was the Wake County Occupancy and Prepared Food and Beverage Tax which drew strong words about how this tax is administered from me and the rest of council. FYI, Cary and Morrisville combine for about 40% of the revenue collected from this tax. Cary has seen very little return and Morrisville has seen nothing. In addition, the decision makers of these projects are Raleigh council members and Wake County Commissioners. A great deal of this money is going for operating costs for Raleigh venues (Cary pays its own operating costs). In addition, it is my understanding that there is a request from Raleigh to use these monies to build a soccer stadium in downtown Raleigh. That would mean taxes collected in Cary would be used to compete against our venue. That is ridiculous. There are some council members, including myself, that are considering asking the legislature to allow Cary and Morrisville to keep their collected taxes within our municipalities. If not, then we have almost nothing to lose if it is abolished. These are strong words but I believe it is time for a change. The ball is in their court.

The last discussion item of the evening was the appointment of the new town manager Sean R. Stegall. I made the motion and it was seconded by the entire council. We can’t say enough how very excited we are about him coming to Cary and the possibilities he will bring to our future.

After a closed session the council meeting adjourned around 10:30.

Cary received another accolade this week. This week, Cary ranked number one in driver safety in a study of the top 200 most populous cities in the United States according to NerdWallet. I just wonder how much safer it would be if people stopped texting while they drive. Just sayin…

Emails from staff this week included information about parks in the Cameron Pond area. Council received several emails this week on this topic. Staff explained that each year when planning for the budget they reassess all proposed projects. Their analysis of the Morris Branch and Cameron Pond Park sites indicated that there were approximately 11,000 residents living within a 1 mile radius of Morris Branch and 5,000 residents surrounding Cameron Pond Park. Their analysis also indicated that Cameron Pond Park would cost at least $1 million more to construct than Morris Branch.  In addition, the town would need to acquire an additional parcel to have complete frontage along Carpenter Fire Station Road before construction could start on the Cameron Pond Park. The good news for Cameron Pond residents is that the Town is investing $3 million in Mills Park and the extension of the Panther Creek Greenway. That greenway will extend from Mills Park to Cameron Pond. Both of these projects are designed and will go out to bid in a few months.  As a result Cameron Pond residents will have a greenway from their neighborhood to Mills Park as well as to the Mills Park Elementary and Middle Schools. The trail will also link to the pedestrian underpass located under Green Level Church Road, which will in turn link to the greenway that extends around Cary Park Lake.

Emails from staff also included an answer to a question about what will be going in the old Golden Corral site at the Centrum. It’s going to be a restaurant called BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.  I’m told it is not affiliated with BJ’s Warehouse. If you want to find out more go to http://sitesubplans.townofcary.org/BJsRestaurantAndBrewhouse_15-SP-051/planindex.htm.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • An email campaign about “defunding” Cameron Pond Park. (This park has not been master planned, designed, or funded. So it was not defunded.)
  • A complaint about someone’s neighbors.
  • A complaint that the council did not make a statement against HB2. (It is our policy to not issue statements or take positions unless the entire council agrees. A statement was issued soon after HB2 was passed.)
  • A complaint about bicyclists.
  • A recommendation to plant Dawn Redwoods in traffic circles.
  • A complaint about a proposed Publix.

Next week and the following week will be my annual family vacation. I will do my best to unplug and not answer the phone or emails. I should be back in town by June 12th.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 19th.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Harold2015This week was made up of long nights and a trip out of town.

Monday I talked with the Interim Town Manager about current issues impacting the town. A lot of the issues were focused on downtown construction and the planned changes. The intersection of Academy Street and Chatham Street is now closed nightly and on the weekends. The latest delay in construction is the need for 36 consecutive hours without rain on a weekend to remove existing materials at the intersection of Academy and Chatham. The hope is that all this construction will be completed by early this fall.

Tuesday I had the honor and privilege of playing the Augusta National golf course as a show of gratitude for volunteering in my 38th Masters Golf tournament. It rained the entire time but it was still fun. I was even able to crank a long drive (for me) of 270 yards. After I hit my big drive I told my playing partners, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” It was a memorable time and I was back in Cary by nightfall.

Wednesday I attended a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board (CAMPO). The board approved the FY 2016 program of Section 5310 projects. Afterwards there were a few public hearings and informational items. The board then recessed until the public hearing for the Wake Transit Plan and Interlocal Governance Agreement had been completed. That public hearing was held with the officials from the GoTriangle Board of Trustees and the CAMPO executive board. Mayor Bell from Durham presided. There were 34 speakers with 30 speaking in favor of the plan. Speakers who did not speak in favor of the plan included one who was against because it should be funded by private investors, another who believed it didn’t do enough transit, and two who were OK with the plan but had many reservations and concerns. After the combined boards listened to speakers for over two hours the public hearing adjourned.  Then the CAMPO executive board resumed its meeting and unanimously passed a resolution supporting the plan. The plan will be voted on by the GoTriangle board at their next meeting and then by the Wake County Commissioners on June 6th. If all goes as expected the plan will be on the November ballot for voters to decide.

Thursday the council met in closed session for over four and a half hours on the subject of the town manager search. We are still on schedule to appoint a town manager within the coming weeks.

Friday I had an interview with Elite Reports who works with Newsweek magazine. They are doing an in-depth report of North Carolina with a focus on innovation. Some of the questions I was asked in the interview included:

  • What is the town council’s role in innovation?
  • What is the importance of e-commerce in Cary
  • What other ways does Cary and the council use innovation in their processes such as energy education and other town activities?
  • How does innovation contribute to Cary’s overall economic performance?
  • What are the main areas of excellence in terms of innovation enterprises and research?
  • What sets Cary apart from other Triangle cities and American cities?
  • What impact does quality of life have on economic performance?
  • Contrast Cary and the Triangle’s success with the state as a whole.
  • What are you doing to create a business-friendly environment for investors/entrepreneurs?

The interview concluded after about 30 minutes. It is my understanding that this should be published in print and online by the first of July.

Emails from staff this week included a summary of all intersections that have been considered for traffic signals during the past 6 years. 40 intersections have been studied and only 13 met warrants for a traffic signal. It is important to understand that just because one or more warrants are met, a traffic signal may or may not be installed. The decision to install a traffic signal is made by NCDOT and is made only after it is determined that a traffic signal is the most appropriate solution. Those intersections meeting warrants that are funded include:

  • Cary Parkway and West Chatham Street: NCDOT funded
  • Cary Parkway and Old Weatherstone Way: Town funded
  • Carpenter Fire Station Road and Cary Glen Boulevard: Town funded
  • Green Level Church Road and Morrisville Parkway: Town funded

Other intersections that met warrants that are not funded include:

  • Cary Parkway and Norwell Road
  • Cary Parkway and Professional Park Place
  • High House Road and Bond Park Drive
  • High House Road and Jenks Carpenter Road
  • Maynard Road and Lake Pine Drive
  • Maynard Road and Old Weatherstone Way
  • Waldo Rood Boulevard and MacArthur Drive
  • Weston Parkway and Sheldon Drive
  • Yates Store Road and O’Kelly Chapel Road

It also should be pointed out that the minimum budget for each signal is around $250,000. A specialty or enhanced feature signal could push cost to about $300,000.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A complaint about the proposed downtown mixed use project.
  • A complaint about someone holding a training camp next to a residence.
  • A complaint about a proposed development in Carpenter Village.
  • A complaint that the town council illegally created a statement about HB2.
  • A complaint about the Sheetz proposal in Northwoods.
  • A complaint about the Academy Street construction.
  • A complaint about the intersection at Chapel Hill Road and Chesterfield Drive.
  • Concerns about Cameron Pond Park not being included in this year’s budget.
  • And a very lovely and very kind appreciation note for my service. Thank you!

Next week will be another busy week but is my last week before a two week vacation. It includes a regularly scheduled council meeting, a budget work session, speaking at a banquet, a taping of Cary Matters, and a work session with the parking deck artists.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Friday, May 27th.  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, May 15th, 2016

Harold2015This week was full of events and included a regularly scheduled council meeting.

Monday I contacted all council members to hear their concerns and questions about the regularly scheduled council meeting for Thursday. There were only minor clarification questions. Later Monday I met with management, administration, legal, public information, and other staff to review the agenda items. The meeting was rather short since there were no public hearings and only two main discussion items. I predicted at the time that the meeting and the closed session would last about an hour.

After the agenda meeting I met with the Deputy Town Manager, and Assistant Town Managers to go over current issues. We talked about the Academy Streetscape project. The Dry Avenue section should be completely opened on Monday and the Chatham Street intersection will start seeing closings on Monday. We also talked about the state property and the hotel/motel tax.

Wednesday I gave remarks at the Senior Tennis Appreciation Day held at the Cary Tennis Park. I then joined the pro and two citizens in an exhibition. It was a lot of fun and Cary is blessed to have such a great facility.

Wednesday I participated in a meeting of the Cary-Morrisville Joint Issues Committee. Here are some of the notable items from the meeting:

  • The NC54 corridor study from Maynard Road to I540 has been completed by DOT. Staff has not heard the results of this study. Funding for the portion from Morrisville to I540 has been approved by the state. There is currently no funding for the Maynard Road to Cary Parkway portion.
  • The Western Corners development will be held to partial CO’s until all road improvements have been completed.
  • Schools and public private partnerships were discussed. Morrisville should get state approval for a Charter High School soon. This will open in 2017 and will be a Montessori-type high school.
  • The Wake Transit Plan will be presented to the county commissioners in June for a vote. It is anticipated this will be on the ballot for voter approval in the fall.
  • Morrisville is working with the county to get a community library.
  • Morrisville 911 calls go to Raleigh for dispatching. This is slowing their response times. Staffs are investigating having them use the Cary 911 center.
  • A proposal for 70 homes on Morrisville-Carpenter road is being considered. A discussion was held on potential developments on that road and the impact. It was decided that staff should present a comprehensive look at all east-to-west connectors at our next meeting.
  • Morrisville expressed concern about the Kellogg expansion. To date the expansion is planned to be capital improvements which will not add more employees and create more traffic.

Our meeting concluded after about an hour.

Thursday the council held a regularly scheduled council meeting. There were 21 consent items, no public hearings, 4 discussion items, and a closed session for two items. The public speaks out portion of the meeting had several speakers in opposition to the proposed Carpenter Village rezoning. Under discussion, the item that created the most council conversation was the proposed land use amendment and rezoning to allow a storage unit behind Mayfair Plaza (old Kmart site). Both were voted down by council with the majority of council members wanting it to remain part of the plaza in hopes of seeing that plaza redevelopment. As one council member put it “in a few years this could be the gateway to downtown”. The closed session, which can’t be discussed, included an economic development opportunity and a personnel matter on the town manager position. We are continuing the process of learning about candidates for the town manager position and are excited about finding out more about them in our pursuit to determine who would be the best fit. Our meeting concluded after about two hours.

Friday I participated in a meeting of the Metro Mayors to hear the weekly legislative update. Topics for this week included the NC House budget which is expected to go over to the Senate next week, a bill to limit the length of the short and long sessions, a bill to punish cities that continue to be sanctuary cities, and discussion about sales tax redistribution. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes.

Saturday started with remarks to about 100 people participating in the Purple Cloth 5K race. This is the 5th annual event and I have been lucky to attend them all. The purpose of the event was to raise money for Dorcas ministries. Dorcas is a Cary non-profit with a mission to provide crisis relief to area residents who seek stability and self-sufficiency through food and financial assistance, scholarships, training programs, referrals and an affordable thrift shop. After giving remarks I put on a number and ran the race. I finished right at 26 minutes. My time was 18th overall and 2nd in my age division.

Later Saturday I attended the 12th annual Ritmo Latino event in Cary put on by Diamante. Ritmo Latino means Latin rhythm which fits with Diamante’s mission of preserving, developing, and promoting of the culture, heritage, and artistic expressions of the diverse Latino/Hispanic population in North Carolina. I gave remarks along with council member Ken George who translated. We had fun with the translations. Then we surprised WRAL’s Leyla Santiago by asking her to translate the proclamation that I read. She did a fantastic job and was a great sport. The event was a great time of music, dance, food and fun and seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.

Mail items this week included a letter that I sent to the Mayor of Raleigh and the Chairman of the Wake County Commissioners about the Hotel/Motel tax. Basically, money is collected from municipalities and pooled to create and help venues promote tourism. The convention center in downtown Raleigh is an example of how this money is being used. Over the years Cary has received less than what it has collected which was the reason for my letter. Here is that letter:

Dear Mayor McFarlane and Chair West:

Thank you and congratulations on creating on open and informative process to review the Interlocal Agreement for the Occupancy and Prepared Foods and Beverage Tax. Good Information has been shared, which has been extremely helpful for our Town staff, many of whom are new to the process. We are excited about the revenue outlook and the opportunity to do new things to enhance the region, and we are confident the Town of Cary can continue to play an important role in the effort’s overall success and economic impact.

As you continue with the significant work that lies ahead, we thought it might be helpful to share observations for your consideration as the process continues.

While we agree that the dedication of the remaining 85 percent of the available funds to support the Convention Center was needed to fund and start the new facility, now that this has been accomplished, we believe a new model needs to be investigated for the future. As revenues have increased faster than inflation and are projected by the model to be similar going forward, it is not clear whether continuing the high level of funding using a fixed percentage is either necessary or appropriate. Our recommendation and request is to look at all qualifying contributing facilities’ needs for continued support to establish a fair, balanced, and holistic plan. As you know, many Wake communities, including Cary, have contributing facilities that also need attention. One of the more significant issues we are currently facing in Cary is the seemingly constant improvements needed to keep the WakeMed Soccer Park competitive for tournaments while also serving the needs of the Carolina RailHawks, now under new ownership/management. For a frame of reference, a quick summary of anticipated needs includes:

WakeMed Soccer Park – Stadium Expansion – $28 Million

  • Stadium Expansion from 10,000 to 15,000 Seats/Suites – $15 Million
  • Stadium Amenities (WiFi, Concessions, Ribbon Board Display, Lights, etc.) – $5 Million
  • Videoboard replacement/upgrade = $1 Million
  • Stadium Access
    • Construct 3rd entrance to Cary Towne Blvd – $4 Million
    • Parking Expansion and Shuttle Improvements – $3 Million

The second point I would like to raise is the Business Development Fund. While this has been a popular and worthwhile program, it seems inequitable to continue focusing solely on the Convention Center. The need to cover costs to attract certain events exists across all of the venues in Wake County. Many of the tournaments and events in Cary have similar challenges. We would welcome a discussion about which types of events and facilities could be eligible followed by the appropriate funding level.

Next, and similar to the Business Development Fund, is capital maintenance for qualifying contributing venues across the county. Just like Memorial Auditorium and others currently covering capital maintenance without assistance, Cary clearly has similar needs. Both Cary and Raleigh have been covering these types of costs, and I’m sure others have as well. Our goal is for an equitable, balanced arrangement to be established that considers all qualifying contributing facilities. Some items estimated for the short term capital maintenance in Cary include:

Sports Venues – Capital Maintenance/Renovation – $29 Million

  • Cary Tennis Park
    • Clubhouse and 16 Tennis Court renovation – $7 Million
    • Additional Seating and Amenities for Tournaments – $4 Million
    • 12 Additional Outdoor Tournament Courts – $6 Million
  • USA Baseball
    • Conversion of 2 field to Artificial Turf $2 Million
    • USA Merchandise Store and Maintenance Yard Expansion $2 Million
    • Stadium Videoboard $1 Million
  • WakeMed Soccer Park
    • Conversion 4 fields to Artificial Turf Fields – $6 Million
    • Cross Country Awards Pavilion – $1 Million

Finally, I want to raise an issue about operations costs. None of the Cary’s facilities generate revenues adequate to cover all operations costs, although some perform better than others. I understand that the Session Law allowing for the levy of the tax has limitations. Still, a discussion about ways to manage operations costs could be worthwhile. Just understanding the experience of others could be helpful. Our current annual sport venues subsidy is roughly $1.6 million.

Having served the citizens of Wake County beside you for many years, I know firsthand your commitment to work in partnership toward a better future for all our citizens, which is why I’m so optimistic about the outcomes that would come from our discussing these items. Please also know that in addition to talking about these important points, Cary does plan to submit new projects for funding consideration at the appropriate point in the process.

The Town of Cary looks forward to a continued bright economic development outcome through use of these funds.

Best regards,

Harold Weinbrecht, Jr.

Mayor

I look forward to working with Raleigh and Wake County to expand and promote our venues to everyone’s benefit.

Emails from staff this week included the construction and activity report for April. Here are some of the items of interest:

  • Town staff approved 57 townhomes, 167 single family dwellings, and about 50,000 square feet of non-residential.
  • A sketch plan for the Cary Town Center was approved.
  • Permits were issued for 2 multi-family units, 146 single family dwellings, and 53 non-residential.
  • The average single family dwelling was 3773 square feet as compared to 3215 square feet in 2012.
  • Cary accounted for 14.6% of all permits issued in Wake County, second only to Raleigh.
  • CO’s were issued for 71 multi-family units, 62 single family dwellings, and over 245,000 square feet of non-residential.

To view the interactive development map go to http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/Planning_Department/InteractiveDevelopmentMap.htm.

Another email from staff this week included interesting information about Cary’s residential makeup. So in case you were wondering Cary has:

  • 470 single family detached developments
  • 113 townhome developments
  • 67 apartment developments
  • 19 condominium developments

Staff noted that some developments combine to make neighborhoods. That is, a neighborhood may be made up of townhomes, single family residential, etc.

Emails from citizens included:

  • Questions about the failing Cary Town Mall.
  • Questions about Chapel Hill Road and Chesterfield Drive.
  • Complaints about the Carpenter Village proposal.
  • Requests to help with permits for a Down Syndrome Achievement Center.
  • Comments about various Cary greenways and sidewalks.
  • A request from St. Michael’s to help with parking overflow.
  • Criticism of council for our position on HB2. (Council only takes unanimous position and avoids political issues at the state and national level. Are purpose is to avoid dividing the community and focus on issues in which we have control.)
  • A complaint about a comprehensive plan amendment to allow residential in Wellington.
  • A complaint about a truck with “Cannabis means business” parked at a shopping center at Tryon and Cary Parkway.
  • A complaint about the fake cell tower tree off Tryon Road near Cary Parkway.
  • A complaint about neighbors holding a “football camp” in their yards.
  • A request to return the amphitheater name to Regency and remove Booth. (I along with several council members stated that we are not interested)
  • A complaint about local vendors not being able to get into Lazy Daze.
  • Multiple requests to attend events.

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a special called meeting of the council, and a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.  

And on a personal note the Weinbrecht’s are excited that our youngest daughter got engaged this week. Congratulations Cara!

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 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, May 08th, 2016

Harold2015This week was not as busy as last week which was a nice change.

Monday I met with town management and budget staff for a preview of the budget. The purpose of these sessions is for staff to get last minute individual feedback from council members before presenting the budget to the entire council and the public. While I can’t go into the details of what will be presented in the budget, I can say that it will be another tight year. Also, our tax base growth is slowing which may mean higher taxes in future years. Capital projects will continue to be a challenge and my guess is we might see a bond referendum within the next two or three years. My budget session lasted a little over an hour.

After the budget session I met with the deputy town manager and assistant town managers to go over current issues. Our discussion didn’t include any new information.

Tuesday the council met in closed session to discuss the vacant town manager position. Since I am not allowed to discuss what goes on in closed session I can only say that we are still on schedule to hire a town manager within the next few weeks.

Wednesday was made up mostly of private meetings.

Thursday started with me speaking to over 50 people at the Heart of Cary Monthly membership drive meeting. I gave them my vision and thoughts about downtown and downtown projects. Here are some of my opinions that I expressed:

  • I believe there is interest on council to fund the design of the final phase of Cary’s downtown park in this year’s budget and that construction funding for the final phase will be in a future referendum.
  • I believe that new library and deck will be online in 2018 and that council will put out an RFP for the old library site asking for a mix of uses.
  • I believe that if the Walker Street tunnel occurs it will become a major downtown thoroughfare. As a result that street will see lots of redevelopment such as 4 and 5 story residential building.
  • Chatham Street will continue to redevelop and we have had LOTS of interest from potential businesses. This includes bringing jobs to downtown.
  • I believe that north of Chapel Hill Road wants to organize to redevelop. If that redevelopment occurs it will be a significant mixed use project.

My talk lasted about 20 minutes.

Friday I participated in a meeting of the NC Metro Mayors to review legislative actions for the week. Items discussed included:

  • A bill to repeal the light rail cap was introduced and will be voted on Tuesday.
  • The House agreed to a total budget of $22.225 billion which is a 2.26% increase.
  • A bill was introduced to use the excess lottery proceeds to a grant program for counties based on its need and ability to generate sales tax and property tax revenues.
  • A bill was introduced to increase the state income tax standard deduction from $15K to $17.5K.
  • A bill was introduced to dedicate car rental funds for ports and airports.
  • A bill was introduced to set the minimum wage to $9/hour.
  • A bill was introduced to set the minimum income tax rate to 5.5%.
  • HB2 was discussed. I find it hilarious that the legislative majority is complaining about federal government overreach when that is exactly what they have been doing the last several years to municipal government. Talk about your “pot calling the kettle black” …

Our meeting concluded after about 20 minutes.

Each week I receive several cards and letters. They range from formal invitations, to events, to criticism about something the town is doing. Mostly the letters are criticisms. Rarely, will I receive something nice in the mail. This week was one of those weeks. A few weeks ago I received a request from a little girl in Indiana to send a card representing Cary for her project to contact someone from all 50 states. I received a thank you card with picture and art from her this week. It is beyond cute and made my day.

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A complaint about Academy Street construction.
  • A compliment about Academy Street construction.
  • A complaint about a railroad crossing.
  • A complaint about the potential movement of the Ivey-Ellington House.
  • A complaint about St. Michael’s parking overflow.
  • Complaints about the Carpenter Village proposal.
  • A request to extend Cary’s greenways.

Next week’s activities will include a Teachers Award ceremony, a Cary-Morrisville join issues meeting, a regularly scheduled council meeting, and several Saturday events.

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