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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Follow INDY Week's Live Blog of Raleigh City Council meetings today!

Posted by on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 9:38 AM


Afternoon session starts at 1 p.m. Evening sessions starts at 7 p.m.

It's a big day for the Raleigh City Council. 

This afternoon, they'll take up home rental services, relocation of the Rex Senior Health Center and the sale of Stone's warehouse, plus two controversial rezoning cases— the Dillon Supply building, and the restored Gethsemane Seventh-day Adventist church—whose owner wants to turn the rehabbed building into a restaurant that serves alcohol to the ire of some southeast Raleigh residents. 

And this evening, before the public hearing on the massive rezoning of 30 percent of the city, Council will hear from downtown business owners who want the city to reconsider its parking fees.

We'll be in the Council chambers all day so you don't have to. Follow our live blog to keep up with the discussion in real time. And remember, it's an election year, so if you don't like the way the Mayor and Council members are running things, you can always vote them out in October!

Happy Tuesday everyone! We're live here at the Municipal building where the first city council meeting of the month is about to get underway!!

This here live blog idea is highly experimental so bear with us the inevitable SNAFUs and technological glitches, misspellings and other minor disasters as we bring you the latest from the City Council with our running commentary.

The live blog will update in as close to real time as possible.

Here's a key to the people who run the city:

Around the INDY offices, Mayor Nancy McFarlane is known as "Mayor Nancy," so she's MN.

WM= Wayne Maiorano. WM is "with us by phone" according to MN
MAB= Mary Ann Baldwin
KC= Kay Crowder
BG= Bonner Gaylord
EW= Eugene Weeks
RS= Russ Stephenson 
JO= John Odom

It's Parks and Rec month and the Council just approved the consent agenda.

SPECIAL ITEMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Home rental services. That's AirBnB n such. 

The mayor wants to know how state and County taxes collected for home rental services,.I mean, do they do it through a registration program or what?

MAB: (She's chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee which just got done looking at home rental services) AirBnB collects taxes and reimburses a county or state.

They'll get "staff" to work on the tax thing. 

KC: I would like the Planning Commission to look at neighborhoods who wish to opt out of being in a home rental service business and how about we self-fund enforcement, so we have a funding source to police what were doing and how we are doing it?

Good points, both.

RS: He's had "uniformly fantastic experiences" with AirBnB, but like, in other cites, there are these "unscrupulous absentee operators" who buy properties, rent them out and and abuse regulations. How do we keep service high -quality in Raleigh? How do we weed out abusers? Enforcement will be a continual problem. 

JO: Basically agrees with KC and RS, says there's been problems with absentee owners in his district. "I'm very nervous. I love entrepreneurship. I have read about other cities and the problems they are having and to make sure Raleigh is ready for it."

MAB: That's all well and good but we *already* have 500 AirBnB's operating in Raleigh! There have been 3 complaints, one unfounded, so we are creating a problem that doesn't exist. Most cities which have abuses of the system are large cities like New York and San Francisco where people are buying condos, resort homes to rent out. We need to provide balance between entrepreneurship and regulation based on common sense and reason.

JO: All cities are having problems. Ours is too, like in his district, was MAB not listening??

MAB: We're not New York City, ok.

KC: That doesn't mean the same problems can't happen here. Is there a way to work through this? Can we get a funding source for staffing or an opt-out program??

The Council just voted to send home rental services to the Planning Department.  "Staff" will look at a way to make them legal in city ordinances rather than have it keep on existing in a legal no-man's land. 

Done.

Next up will be Relocation of the Rex Senior Health Center and Sale of Stones Warehouse.

Larry Jarvis, Director of housing and Neighborhoods, is presenting.

Transfer LLC, a bunch of young, hip developers, will buy Stone's Warehouse. Sales proceeds will be used for affordable housing in southeast Raleigh, like Stone's Warehouse was originally supposed to be used for. Oops!

Stone's will be a mixed use facility with housing. The developers will preserve the Warehouse but not the Rex Health Center.

Relocation will be to the Wake Health Services facility on Rock Quarry Road. Listen to this, Seniors:

It'll be way bigger. Advantages to you will include one stop services, parking, and it's well-served by transit (bus lines).

Current sales prices on Stone's is $2.02 million. The city will assist Rex with relocation.

JO: "This is a wonderful thing." Noted. 

The Council approved the sale, scheduled public hearing for Aug. 4th. All vote in favor. 

MAB: "I feel like applause should be appropriate." People note, and applaud. 

We're waiting for 2 o'clock for public comment hearings.

MAB says she has safety concerns about the Hargett and West Street intersection near Citrix downtown. She wants to put four-way stop signs there, rather than the LED stop-lights on West Street. "It's not working," she says. "It's not going to be on my head if there's a serious accident there." She says she's already seen a bunch of near accidents. 

JO: "Are they going to take down flashing lights?"

BG: "What are alternatives do we have?"

WM: "Whats there to talk about? There's an issue at stake."  

BG wants tech analysis from engineers to make sure the problem doesn't get worse.

MAB: Citrix requested 4-way stop signs. "The hundreds of people who work there want this."

No one from "staff" is here to address. RS wants input on range of options and outcomes. "It's a unique circumstance," he says. There's LED flashing signs!!! There's confusion...we need "staff's" opinion first...can't do anything without "staff." Staff, staff, staff.

MAB: when we put 4-way signs in Cameron Village, we just told "staff" this is what we wanted....We should be consistent. 

RS: I'm not willing to say this is an identical circumstance.

JO is still confused about the flashing lights. "Do we do that in the City of Raleigh?"

MAB really wants the stop signs. "There's a motion, a second, let's just take a vote and see what happens." 

JO: "Is this where this is a lot of texting while you drive in this particular corner?"

Because of all those damn Millennials?

They vote in favor of the stop signs. Outstanding use of 15 minutes.

Next up: Dillon Warehouse rezoning.

So... there could be two twenty story towers on the site according to "staff..."

John Kane is presenting. The city is growing and it's exciting. He name checks North Hills, surprise!  "The Warehouse district is about to be fantastic and distinct in its own right. Union Station will be fantastic. It will change the dynamics of the Warehouse district." Everything will be fantastic. 

Kane says there will be active street life and retail. He did the Stanhope on Hillsborough, so "we know how to do that."

Ok.

There will be a warehouse living area, hi-tech workplace to appeal to millennials.  There will be "extraordinary architecture." 

He's running through achievements of the architectural team, which is....

Duda Paine...he's from Durham, went to N.C. State. Duda Paine gets up there. 

"We always look for character and identity and having a warehouse district s a great place to start," Paine says. Capture the spirit of the place, etc.  

Correction: Duda Paine is not one guy. He's many, but the main two are Turan Duda and Jeffrey Paine. Not sure who was speaking, so will continue to refer to speaker as Duda Paine. 

"I hate it when a building is just iconic for the sake of being iconic," says Duda Paine.  Like the Dillon building now? He wants to take it to the next level but still "capture the DNA of the place."

Duda Paine's talking about scale. Make it feel like it fits in this neighborhood. "I'd like to say I promise you it's going to be a landmark building and I want to be sensitive to where it is. We're going to make it spectacular."

Michael Birch, Kane's attorney is addressing active use.  He says they haven't applied a frontage, because they are still working to understand how the parking deck will fit into the narrow block. (??) They def. want to promote street-level activity and are working to accommodate uses. 

MN wants to know if there are retail uses on the ground floor. Kane says yes, wherever we can put it. He is NOT being facetious. We intend to activate the street. Retail and restaurant activity FTW.

MAB has questions. No wider sidewalks??? She thinks people will be walking there a lot, so, um, can there be wider sidewalks?

Birch says yes. But they can't save the Dillon sign because that wall is too close to the sidewalk.

Re. the "staff" rendering (it looks a little different from this rendering). MAB says the rendering at Council today looks kinda bad. 

Wait no, they don't want to do two towers on the site. They just don't know where the one 20-story tower will go.

Ok! 

KC wants to talk about trucks. And street activity. "Activity means more money." You want that don't you?

Kane says yes, duh. We'll put retail wherever!!!!

KC says she needs the conditions "seriously tightened up." She praises the choice of architect but needs to know what she's voting on. "I know you're capable of greatness."

But she doesn't see it in the conditions!

Dawson resident speaking now. He is a doctor and wants to make a request. No bars on the property is the request. NO. BARS. It's a public health concern because, sleep deprivation. Adults require 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, they need to go to sleep at the same time each night. Noise pollution is a culprit! bar patrons are noisy!!! They congregate after 10 pm. They're really loud!! They wake people up!! Even if you don't actually hear the noise, you're still exposed to astounding to health hazards!

Lonnette Williams Central CAC chair is speaking. CAC opposed the project 17-1. Because too big, not uniform in zoning. 20 stories is too high. They don't want to lose the historic character of the buildings there now. 

HQ Raleigh executive director is speaking. He's in favor of the project. He thinks it maintains character of warehouse district, enhances entertainment, keeps companies downtown. 

Another resident speaking, he lives on Glenwood. Sound and noise pollution is a challenge. He represents residents living on West Street. He supports the development but thinks it will be way too noisy as well. Wants to mitigate noise for residents who could be moving in.

Pamela Chestek, Park Devereux resident is speaking. "You've heard some wonderful yarn-spinning." She also takes issue with the conditions. Could they please define "non-parking use"? That is super vague. A wall? Loading dock? It could be anything.

Tall buildings don't necessarily mean active street life. That's in our own comprehensive plan! City should require retail on all four sides. Also why is this going to be twice as tall as city plan for Warehouse district?

MAB is texting.

Chestek continues. The iconic Dillon Supply sign can be torn down. "The Warehouse district deserves better!" Parking could go at street level on all four sides; do we want that?? Also, Kane is planning 350 parking spaces in excess of what is planned for? That contradicts walk-ability, bike-ability city talking points. "Every aspect of this building is contrary to the comprehensive plan the city worked so hard to develop in a planned way."

Stick with the Comp Plan!!!

Art Howard, PD resident as well. He wants to reinforce what Chestek says with a video. The video's not working! It's dark and people are panicking. Ok, now the video is working...kinda. "The city doesn't need dead space."

Dawson resident Robby Lawson: "Luckily I did not bring a video." He is in favor of the project. Likes the plans and designs proposed. Who would be better than Kane to develop this land. He's excited about new bars and restaurants! Retail!! Office! Residential. Maybe he'll move across the street!!! 

Birch gets a rebuttal. "20 stories is not that much higher than 12 stories, people. "Staff" was being conservative when they made 12 stories the height limit. People can address that through private rezoning which is what we're doing here!" WE PROMISE WE WILL DO RETAILLLLLLL!!!!!

They'll file revised conditions. Council will vote on rezoning July 21st. Public hearing is closed. 

Gethsemane Church rezoning: the church is downtown on South Person Street in a historic African American neighborhood. It was formerly an African American, Seventh Day Adventist Church. Developer Phuc Tran rehabbed the building

The developer is submitting revised conditions that were intended to appease residents.

"We weren't able to address all of the concerns of the CAC," says Andy Petesch, developer's attorney.

The biggest concern is that the church could become a restaurant that serves alcohol. Residents think this is an inappropriate use of the building  (Seventh Day Adventists don't even drink y'all!)  The developer's not making any concessions there though.

Residents are also worried about trash, outdoor seating, light pollution. Residences are super close to the church property and the neighbors do not want to deal with that noise. 

RS: "This neighborhood won't come back if we continue to advocate uses that are incompatible with the neighborhood. This is a very specific site, not a generic rezoning case."

Lonnette Williams, CAC chair is speaking again. Plans aren't specific, so how can concerns be addressed?? CAC disagrees with rezoning category— downtown mixed use— for the space. "The restaurant concept with alcohol permit continues to be problematic."

The new conditions are submitted, the hearing is closed.

That's all for now folks!! Join us this evening at 7 for the citywide rezoning discussion. 


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