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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Welcome to the Raleigh City Council Live Blog

Posted by on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 1:05 PM

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Buenos dias, friends. I hope you've all thawed out from yesterday! Welcome to our bi-monthly City Council live blog. Today's agenda is not very long, though the consent agenda, at 14 pages, is rather lengthy. 

Probably the most exciting things we've got coming up today are: an update on a possible bike share program, and a public hearing on the Downtown and Hillsborough Street Municipal Services Districts. 

1:10: The meeting's starting, with an agency grantee presentation from the Tammy Lynn Center. MAB is not here today. 

1:14: Onto the consent; two items have been pulled and the rest is approved. The first pulled item is the New bern Ave. sidewalk and transit improvement project. Corey Branch says it's a great project and the Council approves it.

1:15: Other item is Google Fiber huts. David Cox wants to know if they could e redesigned landscaped somehow because they have weird fences around them that make them look like 'little prisons." City manager says he has received similar comments and will send that feedback. City staffer says the city will be landscaping several of the huts after winter.

1:17: DC:  Yeah but the fences tho? They could probably be easily breached? Staff says it is something they can go back and discuss with Google. 

1:19: Planning Commission report: they're holding a Hillsborough St. rezoning case open for two weeks. 

1:21: City manager report is up: Poole road sidewalk project. Corey Branch says this location definitely needs a sidewalk but the community around Poole Road needs to be made aware, move forward with the design and make sure to share it with residents. 

1:23: Next up: Raleigh Bike Share! Eric Lamb from transportation planning will present. So this will be automated self-service bicycle rentals for short, one-way trips from station to station. You could by a daily or annual membership and there would be a dense network of stations you can get to from point to point within a half hour. The stations could be on sidewalks, plaza areas or within streets. 

1:26: This was recommended in the city's 2030 Comp. Plan, drafted in 2009. There was a feasibility study in 2014, though funding was not allocated in the FY 2016 budget. It's feasible and there is an implementation plan already. Raleigh is attractive for it because of the number of institutional and cultural attractions.

1:27: Charlotte has a bike share but Raleigh is even better positioned for a bike share program. We still need to develop size of the program, phasing schedule and details of station locations. State property installations may make it tricky. 

1:28: There wold be 30 total stations with 5 at N.C. State (maybe via a partnership). This would be Phase 1. Projected 600 annual members and 11,670 daily memberships.

1:29: Business models include: publicly owned, privately owned, non-profit owned (and operated) + hybrid models. Phase 1 construction would cost $2 million. The city was awarded a CAMPO grant for $2 million and the city would have to match $425,000. It would cost $653,000 a year to operate. $1,440 operating cost per dock per year.  There would be a funding gap that would need to be made up for somehow. 

1:31:There are opportunities for branding and sponsorship, for bikes themselves and their kiosks, websites, apps, membership keys etc. 

1:32: Outstanding questions: should we pursue bike share? Should city provide financial support or capital? Will city match $425,000 if we use the CAMPO grant? What ownership model should we use? How much fundraising and sponsorship can the private sector support. 

1:33: Mayor Nancy: 30 stations seems like a lot to start with. Could we consider less? Lamb says there is an economy of scale; if you cut a third of stations, you would not be cutting a third of operating costs. Also we need more stations for managing the inventory...like moving bikes around from station to station and having enough stations for people to put their bikes back in time. 

1:35: Dickie Thompson has questions. Docking station locations are not set yet. 30 potential have been identified. All the universities and colleges have stations associated with them, but no determination on final locations. No station proposed for Dix yet, and that would be a priority for the city to purse. 

1:37: DT: As far as annual fee- $80- is that good for any other city or just Raleigh? Lamb says it depends on the vendor we end up using. Like if we use Charlotte's they offer membership agreements with other cities. DT: Is there a helmet rental provision? Is this for commuter or recreation use? Lamb says mixed. A lot pf people said they would like them on greenways. This is intended to provide short distance car offsets.  There are logistics associated with helmet rentals; there is no requirement to wear a helmet if you're over age 16. So children could not participate if they did not bring their own helmet. 

1:39: Family parks provide a significant revenue system, but families would have to bring helmets for their kids. DT: This sounds expensive. For a family of four, you're paying $50 an hour and that's expensive for family entertainment for an hour. "We need to look at it more bc it is very expensive right now. Could we get the county or other private sponsors to participate? Or totally privatized?"

1:41: David Cox questions. Are we giving consideration to places like Horseshoe Farm Park or Buffalo Aquatic Center near Neuse River greenway? It does not meet transit goals but we could raise money to help pay for the program. I would like to see analysis done to see how much we could make to dedicate some stations for rec purposes and others for transit purposes. Also $600+k a year is high to operate. I want to understand the cost in more detail. What are ongoing costs for leasing stations? How locked in if we purchase space from a company? What if they raise prices? Size of coverage area? Population of it? How many bikes per 1,000 residents?

1:44: DC: I think a bike program is an interesting idea but I'm worried about financials. Lamb says the station locations are not far and wide based on rec spots. Overwhelming favorite station was the NC Museum of Art. He says isolated facilities would not have continuity so they would be strictly recreational. DC says it will be source of income. Lamb says goal of this is to have linked compact system. I don't know if it would meet grant criteria. Leases wdre not explored. The city would have to purchase bikes, but we could see if leasing was an option. 

1:47: DC: In addition to providing these stations: will we purchase bike racks where people can leave the bikes? Lamb: No because the timer starts once you rent the bike. The system is commuter oriented.

1:48: Corey Branch questions: How did you go about citizen engagement in 2014 for feedback? Lamb: we held a couple public meetings and an online campaign. 

1:50: Kay Crowder: I like the idea of bike share but also worried about cot. This kind of program went into default in Seattle. A city our size looking at transportation bond and building a transportation pyramid-which we are at the bottom now- bike share seems like it is at the top. Is this not the perfect vehicle for the private sector to put its arms around and say we are innovative? We live in a city with great opportunities and corporations that it would behoove city and all taxpayers to find those individuals, a standard person who would do this and then engage smaller organizations to do this. How many cities do we know who have had problems with the program like maintaining bikes and number of stations? I love how well it could work but in areas it does not work how do we avoid the failures? I don't want the city to be in the bike business. I want the private sector to be in the bike business. We do well at the infrastructure side. That's the city's obligation. 

1:53: Mayor Nancy says Citrix is here, as well as Commissioner Hutchinson from Wake County. No education centers have committed financially to supporting this. Can you put bikes on a bus? Lamb: no they are heavy. The intention is to keep them close to transit stations, like bus stops. 

1:55: Stephenson: So there is $2 million in grant funding out there,  not available if we go private. But there is time limit before we have to decide? Lamb says self imposed date is April 1. To allocate to another area in e region an don't have to surrender money back to the feds. No outreach to private vendors during feasibility studies.

1:56: Commissioner Sig Hutchinson will speak: "this is a transportation system. you have stations, pops out of one, put back in another. It is designed to take you to the bus, not to go on the bus, and then you go with the bus somewhere else. It can be transportation and recreation. 70 cities across the country already use this kind of program There is a great deal of interest from private sector to sponsor this. Amazing level of support out there. Re. operating costs: Charlotte has been doing this a long time. I spoke with their director. They seem to think they can get price down and work with use. Downtown Raleigh Alliance is in conversation abut taking on operating costs.

1:59: Now onto his comments: "Bike Share, by Sig Hutchinson." It's a poem. Wow even Oklahoma City, Sparta, Omaha and Charlotte "are all kicking our butts" in doing this. "We all love bike share, it's one vote away, it's making Raleigh cool, let's make it happen today." *Applause*  A lot of people here stand to support bike share. KC asks if he brought the county checkbook with him today? Sig says he's working on that. 

2:02: Bonner says there are still opportunities for sponsorship, 3-year commitments. Citrix marketing rep is here.  "Citrix does strongly support bike share program. We believe it provides a much needed alternative for transportation for our citizens and employees, as well as healthy lifestyle opportunity. And increases Raleigh competitiveness from economic perspective." Like Boris-bikes in London. Citrix is very interested, and interested in being named sponsor for the program should the city move forward." *Applause.*

2:05: Rex healthcare PR director is here to support public private partnership, and items hat align with the community's health and wellness goals. Look froward to seeing how Rex could support bike hare in the community. David Diaz from DRA says the nonprofit is interested in exploring the bike share option as well. DRA could subcontract with groups who are in charge of maintaining bikes, as is done in Charlotte. The DRA would thereby assume some of the costs (using city money though). 

2:09: Corey Branch proposes sending this to a work session. Mayor Nancy says we need options on where capital match is going to come from. KC asks corporations if they will financially support: Citrix rep says they are exploring options to support bike share financially. 

2:10: CB: We represent entire city; does everyone in the city have an opportunity to participate in the city funding? 

2:11: KC: There seem to be a ot of open questions as to what kind of system, can CAMPO money be pushed toward a private organization to run it? Who in the corporate world wants to be involved? How much? Do we have a lead sponsor? How long will they commit? If it doesn't work and we have a revenue shortfall, where does money come from to make that difference up. 

2:13: Lamb says if we agree to move forward, we can move up the April 1st deadline to work out logistics. This will come back at the March 15 Council meeting.

2:15: Next up: citizen requests and petitions. Neil Riemann is speaking. He is president of Cameron Park Neighborhood Association. He wants a text change regarding a special case of residential transition involving alleys to go to the Planning Commission. It goes to Planning. 

2:19: Next up will be Jona Marie Ricci who will address "apparent lack of concern for the current and future financial welfare of residents participating in the City's Housing and Neighborhoods programs; absence of response or cooperation from the City Manger when a serious issue is repeatedly brought to the attention of his office; failure of City departments to provide specific documents critical to a residents project." 

2:21: Ricci says she will make 3 presentations on each issue. She is a resident participating in neighborhood development program. It allows assistance to homeowners facing significant repairs and rehab to their property. She was offered an option where a contractor would correct problems timely. She brought to attention of the city's only rehab specialist, up the list to Larry Jarvis because nothing was being one to fix code violations in 2 categories:  some of paramount importance that need to be corrected, others that were...her time is up. "Nothing was being done by Larry Jarvis' group to correct the situation. He exacerbated problems by saying no work would be done by anyone even though a contract said contratcors had to do things."

2:25: Mayor Nancy asks manager to look into this and send a report to Council. Ricci says manager office has been non responsive. She asks Council to look at it on their own. She says she has no recourse to get work done. She is living without a kitchen where entry ways etc are not stable. MN says the Council needs a report. 

2:27: DC asks manager to look into each specific issue Ricci has brought. Ruffin Hall says they will look into each issue and report back. 

2:28: Lisa Rowe from Families Together is asking Council to do a basic pave of Plainview (gravel  road) Road without curb and gutter. A lot of formerly homeless families live on the road. It's hard for families to walk along the road with strollers etc.  It would make it easier for people who have to do a lot of walking to bu stop etc, in bad weather etc. The nonprofit owns two buildings for housing on the road. 

2:31: Ruffin says two issues here: policy and funding. Look at your road repaving policy associated with this: now policy directs neighborhood to ask for petition assessment. City does not have funding for this kind of activity, though it is valid. So consider this as part of funding strategy for future transportation bond. 

2:32: We have a lot of unpaved roads in the city, apparently. Staff will bring back options for Council to consider.

2:36: Public hearing for Downtown and Hillsborough Street Municipal services district. Ann Franklin, a downtown resident, is here to speak. We are interested in the scope of the services for this district." She is bringing comments from residents. "We see Raleigh as center of a huge spurt of growth and development. How we find balance between input from all parties is a challenge. Downtown Living Advocates wants to contribute to this process. We support safety and cleanup functions from DRA. Missing is a unifying voice for downtown. Leading the conversation, getting ahead on issues that affect all stakeholders. It's easier to be in a responsive mode but to be proactive s what we want to see. That will be result of effective collaboration, an alliance of businesses and residents working together. Re-alignment of DRA board to better represent business owners downtown. 90 percent of downtown businesses are independently owned and operated but make up 10 percent of board now. Residents represent only 3 percent. Most important, we do not have a communication platform neighbors and neighborhoods can all benefit from. It is not working today: we would like to see that communication network and platform be adapted to communication issues put into place. We will do all we can to help and collaborate."

2:41: MN says these are good points. RS: It is extremely important that request for proposals makes it clear that activities of MSD contractors support policies, goals and action items set forth in downtown and Hillsborough street plans. MN suggests staff move forward with drafting RFP and include the comments received. 

2:44: Next ACC Boulevard rezoning public hearing. This is North of Glenwood Avenue in Brier Creek area, proposal for large commercial mixed use development. 

2:55: Council approves. Rezoning 2: Request to rezone 3 acres on Poole Road from residential to residential mixed use. It will take the property from 29 dwelling units max to 100 (apartments). Corey Branch asks for a traffic study since 29 to 100 units is a lot; staff did not request one. 

2:58: The applicant is CASA. 10 apartments on the property serve chronically homeless residents. CASA has 401 apartments throughout the Triangle; this rezoning would be an affordable way to house another family in need. CB: Going from 29 to 101 units, what about the traffic load there? Just added bike lanes and a turning lane; traffic is a major concern, def. would like a traffic study. CASA has no current plans to redevelop the site. Owners long-term intention is to develop housing but don't have immediate plans. Traffic is already low there, and ample parking is in place. 

3:02: DT would also like a traffic study. Which is only required for 240 plus units. CB just wants to make sure everything is in order. But it would cost $8-10,000, and CASA probably could not proceed.

3:04: BG says look at this from fairness perspective. We may need to re-look at traffic study threshold and see where Council is comfortable. IN this case though, it seems like a small traffic impact. 

3:09: MN is ok moving forward, if and when it redevelops that staff take a look at traffic. CB says he won't let traffic question hold up approval. He motions to approve the project.All vote in favor except Dickie Thompson because of the inconsistent application of traffic study standards. But majority approves, it passes.

3:11: There will a study on traffic studies in a future work session somewhere down the road. 

3:12: Report of Council members. David Cox says he has requests from citizens to be allowed to hang flags on light poles. It is surprisingly complex. Is it possible to install flag holders on poles, and let neighborhoods design flags to hang on poles? City attorney says this brings up sign ordinance issues. But it can be looked into. KC says let's be cautious of visual clutter in the city. DC just says he wants to know what is needed to make it happen; it already exists in several areas in the city included downtown. 

3:17: MN says this will open a can of worms, take months of staff time and ends up badly. She cannot support it at this point. RS says there may be a system in place to work that out already. DC: How can they hang banners in downtown and Bedford, but nowhere else?? There is a downtown program for this specifically; Bedford may have some illegal signs. Ruffin suggest providing info on what already the city has. 

3:19: DC also wants clarification on regulations of tractor trailers parking on city streets. Attorney says they are illegal everywhere on city streets. So where can they park? Only on private property. RS has no report. Corey Branch say Go Raleigh Station groundbreaking is this Friday. We are moving forward with upgrades. Kay Crowder: District D has second bridge out, she is working to get an update soon as to what the deal is for Trailwood area. Could have as many as 5 bridges out at the same time. 

3:21: Mayor Nancy has no report. BG: look at Shaw University noise (?) study. DT: He attended NC League of Municipalities Conference last week that was informative.

That's it from me today. See you all March 3rd!

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