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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council live blog

Posted by on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 1:08 PM


Welcome back to the INDY's City Council live blog.

On the schedule today, we've got a realllly long consent agenda, the Dillon Supply Company rezoning, the Person Street Seventh Day Adventist Church rezoning, bids for the city-owned property at 301 Hillsborough Street and much, much more!

And make sure you tune in this evening at 6 p.m. for the continuation of the city-wide remapping public hearing—the city-sponsored equivalent of playing "The Boys are Back in Town" on a bar jukebox 83  times—which my colleague Jeff Billman will bring to you, live, from the Fletcher Theater at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts.

1:13 p.m.: And we're jumping right in, to Warehouse district public parking needs. Oh, are there needs! This has to do with public private partnerships, and we'll get that worked out by fall. Great!

1:16 p.m.: We're talking left turn restrictions on Fayetteville Street. MAB wants this in Law and Public Safety, because of noise concerns downtown. 

1:17 p.m.: There's some confusion about what left turns have to do with noise complaints. Apparently, no left turns moves people out of downtown quicker, so they can shut up more. MAB says you can't get down Fayetteville Street at 2 a.m., and it's contributing to noise. Fayetteville Street already noisy as hell at 2 a.m. I guess that makes sense. Anywho, it's going to Law and Public safety.

1:21 p.m.: It's Planning Commission report time. Talking text changes. Development standards and non-conformities. Exemptions form stormwater control. Different rezoning on Hillsborough Street, west of Dan Allen Drive. Ken Bowers is wearing a blue seersucker suit!

1:27 p.m.:  All of this will be discussed at a public hearing September 1. You're welcome. Special items is up.

1:28 p.m.: So new conditions have been submitted on the Dillon rezoning, but it's not ready to be voted on. Crowder is talking about ground level design. She says it needs to engage pedestrians with windows, signage, scale and cool stuff, like stores. And some frontage; it's next to Union station for goodness' sake! That cost $70 mill by the way. And finally, lack of design frontage could result in a boring-ass parking structure with no active use. That sounds horrible, and definitely not engaging to the peds. We are looking for a very active use on all four sides of the Dillon building, she says; Kay Crowder has been listening to the neighbors!!! This has not been proposed in the conditions, she says. Attorney Michael Birch says Kane et al are trying to address this, need more time.

1:30 p.m.: Seventh Day Adventist Church now has new conditions. What's new? No pawn shop, adult shop, breweries and distilleries- basically no fun. Restriction on outdoor seating, 65% of indoor. Hours and delivery hours limited. IF it becomes a restaurant.

1:32 p.m.: Weeks says this has been discussed a lot at Central CAC. So he's opposing the rezoning. They are not cool with the sale of alcohol, so everyone in the CAC voted against it, and so did Shaw university. He's going to abstain, wait no, he means he's going to vote against it.

1:33 p.m.: RS weighing in. Yep, it's the only African American district in Raleigh, so let's not walk all over the people who want to redevelop this appropriately. He's listing everyone who opposes it. Shaw, CAC, local churches. He's opposing too. 

1:35 p.m.: It passes anyway.

1:36 p.m.: Report from the City Manager. There will be a power point about the construction market and capital projects. People aren't bidding realistically on the Lake Johnson Woodland center.

1:38 p.m.: The economy is rebounding so construction projects are getting more expensive, staff explains. We will spend $691.4 million on public utilities. Construction demand is up, so are prices. And they'll keep going up.

1:40 p.m.: So the city has construction projects, companies are bidding on them and um, the lowest bids exceeded the city's construction budget in 16 instances. That ain't good. What's driving the higher costs? There are no contractors because they all went out of business during the recession. There's too much demand and it's hard to get an easement without getting sued. You can just kiss that Woodland center goodbye, mmm-k. 

1:42 p.m.: Just kidding! We got solutions. Like getting other money somewhere, coordinating with other projects and not being so damn ambitious. 

1:44 p.m.: The answer essentially is, if the lowest bid exceeds the construction budget, just review stuff and make it cheaper. 

1:46 p.m.: Successfully, staff has brought bid prices down for the Lake Johnson Woodland Center. Thank God, Lake Johnson can't go on without a woodland center much longer. WM says don't sacrifice safety for cost reasons, but you know, quality is also way important. Maybe we just shouldn't do some projects instead of just doing everything we want to do all the time. Tough decisions, tough decisions. 

1:49 p.m.: WM brings up the parks bond. Long list of projects. Have we done any financial planning on that? City manager says no, no we have not. WM is "a fan of proactive behavior;" city staff apparently not. 

1:50 p.m.: 301 Hillsborough Street is up! James Sauls running down the options. We're going with the negotiated offer, advertisement upset bid. The Lundy Group made an offer in 2014. Then John Kane made an offer, with a grocery store condition. Budget and Economic Development committee said city should rezone. It did that in May, when Council shot down affordable hosing on the site for good. The Lundy group offered $3.1 million this month. Staff recommends the city accept that bid, advertise on website and in N&O for ten days until another bid comes in (if one does). 

1:54 p.m.: RS is talking about a grocery store on the site. Incorporate that condition in property disposition negotiations, he says. Accept a lower offer if grocery store is offered as condition. The people need a grocery store. Do we have the authority to accept offers with grocery store as a condition on the ground floor?

1:55 p.m.: The city attorney says: NO! Under action taken by BED committee, we have to sell at cash price to realize the max. value of land for the public. If you want to sell it with conditions, you need to go back and start all over again. Booooo. Because the Lundy group thought this would be a cash transaction and that would not be fair on them. But if you sell for $3.1 mill, you will have funds to incentivize a grocery. That is what is known as a "silver lining."

1:57 p.m.: MAB thinks this is "part of a larger policy discussion." We need a retail strategy, alright. We don't know if this is best location for grocery store. RS says we have a draft vision for ten year success in downtown, which we paid Sasaki half a mill for, because we just loooove throwing money around. The Downtown Plan says we need a grocery store and this is a good site for a grocery store. Russ says he was approached by someone who wanted to bring forward an offer with a grocery. Why would we poo poo that?

1:59 p.m: Ok, we all want a grocery says WM. But we need to move forward with selling this sucker. BG thought we were looking at all offers, not just price? Bc that's how rezonings work, we ask for conditions? We are offering this property without any qualification? No opportunity to vet the offers? That's not cool. He's not supporting this without having flexibility. 

Mayor Nancy wants to clarify, are we obligated to take highest dollar offer? Attorney says you don't even have to sell at all. But by and large he says, be smart with selling public land and get the most you can. You know, for the public. Which wants a grocery store.

2:01 p.m.: Mayor Nancy says there are lots of different definitions of a "grocery store." So, let's not leave them out of this. MAB also wants to add that the offer came to Council in 2014. "We already had one issue with this property with affordable housing, and now we have another issue last minute. This could cause lack of confidence in our ability from the development community!! It sends the wrong message. Let's vote on this." RS wants to fight it out. 

2:03 p.m.: RS says we need to move forward with coordination of our vision for downtown. JO says we have already had way too many opportunities to talk about this. He is done-zo, let's sell this property for cash. MAB says RS is a member of the BED  committee and he had his chance to talk about this then. BURN. 

2:05 p.m.: Whatever, it's going up for bid, against the wishes of Crowder, Gaylord and Stephenson. 

2:06 p.m: We're talking street connectivity. Block perimeter. We need to meet those. 

2:13 p.m.: Like we seriously need to meet those. We have options. Three options. Council looks bored. The Mayor is texting. No one on Council cares about this, can we just keep arguing about the grocery store? 

2:17 p.m.: Russ and MAB disagreeing on another thing, shocker. BG says we really need to make street connections to move people around. WM agrees with everyone. 

2:20 p.m: RS getting the last word. We have Comp plan goals to decrease cars. Streets need to connect for pedestrians, not cars. Increase connectivity that reduces car trips. More bikes and walking. JO makes old peoples joke. "We did not do a good job of implementing connectivity in the past," he says. RS: so there is no process to talk about this?

2:26 p.m.: MN says people need more time to read about different connectivity options. Move along.  

2:28 p.m.: The Blue Ridge Corridor Alliance wants things. The New Bern Avenue Corridor Alliance also wants things. Both would like $50,000 please, to do things. To implement their district plans. To pay admin, operations and support contracted through the Hillsborough Street CSC. 

2:31 p.m.: Mayor Nancy say these groups did a good job, BG agrees and says "it's a one time thing." They will both get things. Things that they want.

2:32 p.m.: Report form the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission. We're hearing from Mike Dayton. They're working on updating the Bicycle Plan, making Raleigh a walky-friendly community. Making sidewalks more awesome. Making Raleigh a bicycle friendly community. 

2:34 p.m.: Council approves the work plan. Parks, Rec and Greenways advisory now presenting their work plan. Council doesn't want to listen to it, approves it. 

2:35 p.m.: Requests and petitions of citizens. Cason Maddison and Alissa Hennen are here from Safety Village of Raleigh. They feel like they are in the shark tank, they say. They want to present  an idea for a child injury prevention non-profit, to stop kids getting hit by school buses. Teach them to stop, drop and roll, learn about stranger danger and not to panic in crises. (Do they not learn this at school any more?) This is needed in Raleigh, like at a community center, or open classroom, they say. Can't see Council having a problem with this, or they have no souls. 

2:40 p.m.: MAB wants them to talk to non-profits and other groups (that share space with the city). Collaboration is key!

2:42 p.m.: As usual, Council cannot make a decision without consulting with staff. WM suggests having conversations with the school board. Actually, they have reached out to the school system and have not had much success. That is why WM suggests the school board, were they not listening?

2:44 p.m.:  Ruffin Hall says city staff is in favor of children's safety. For the record! But it's a "significant amount of resources." We can't do this under our existing budget. We'll look at it, but you know, no promises. We will likely find this is wayyyy too expensive. Maybe it could be a budget item in the future. 

2:46: Hence why they should looking at collaboration and collective impact is important, MAB says. Right, they say, but they need police and fire department support. They will use in-kind donations as much as possible, they say, but they really just need a third of an acre of land. For the kids. That's looking too be a little bit too much for the city right now.

2:49 p.m.: Michael Jackson is speaking next. That is notable because his name is Michael Jackson. 

2:57 p.m.: Request to rezone 16 acres on Buffaloe/New Hope Road to Neighborhood mixed use, three stories max. with conditions. (NX-3). The developer wants more retail and office density. The Northeast CAC wants it as well, 40-12.

3:03 p.m.: Attorney Lacy Reaves says most people in this neighborhood are cool with the rezoning. The developer agreed to no gas sales (everyone hates gas stations now!), limited hours of operation, keeping buildings away from houses, saving trees and such. They will also add a condition to develop the property as a shopping center, including a grocery store with a pharmacy. 

3:09 p.m.: No one's here to speak against. It could be a Wal-Mart. Everyone likes the Wal-Mart grocery/pharmacy concept! It's a "neighborhood market," like in Cary and Morrisville, two places Raleigh definitely strives to model itself off of. It's a new and well-received concept, Reaves says.

3:11 p.m.: MAB: Wait, but who wants this? Reaves says a Council member requested it. Stephenson and Odom requested it, because neighbors at the meeting asked for it. Uhm, Council members are developers now? RS: look, the people want the Wal-Mart. 

3:15 p.m.: Council will decide in two weeks if the people will get their Wal- Mart. Next, because everyone still hates gas stations,  we have the vehicle fuel sales text change.

3:16 p.m.: So the fuel sales text change differentiates fuel sales from other retail. It will be "it's own specific use," with standards, and will be allowed in residential neighborhoods with some limitations, under the new text change, which has apparently been altered from an earlier version. 

3:21 p.m.: Tom Worth, attorney, is cool with the fuel sales text change. He calls it a "responsible compromise."

3:22 p.m.: Joe Johnson is not cool with the fuel sales text change. "A lot of residents didn't know about the text change committee meetings," he says. He says many residents opposed gas stations close to residential districts. Gas sales and related uses should be limited to commercial and industrial districts, not adjacent to residential, he says.

3:23 p.m.: Michelle McIntosh. Also not cool with the fuel sales text change. It should restrict gas sales next to neighborhoods but it does not." She says gas fuel industry reps. are behind this text change. "It represent car-centric development and is unsafe for pedestrians." We're supposed to be promoting walkability, right? She asks Council not to approve the text change because it was written in the interest of profits over quality of life. She asks that they work to make sure the UDO represents vision of 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

3:26 p.m.: Ooooh, a Sheetz rep. He opposes the text change, because it puts  too many restrictions on fuel sales. Some may make sense, he says, like lighting, number of pumps and noise restrictions. But he says they are arbitrary. because they affect fuel sales. Don't attack fuel sales! 

3:29 p.m.: So the Sheetz rep. and the residents oppose fuel sales text change for different reasons. Sheetz rep. name checks MAB: "don't send the wrong message to the development community by getting to the end of the code rewrite and then changing things."

3:30 p.m.: Another resident. She prefers initial fuel sales text change, restricting hours of operation and number of gas pumps near residences. It protected neighborhoods, she says. She calls Sheetz "awful, bright and obnoxious." Heh. 

3:34 p.m.: Worth is advocating for the text change again. He says Council should vote for the text change because opposing sides are both not happy, so therefore, it's a compromise. 

3:38 p.m.: Crowder says move the original and altered text changes on fuel sales to the Comp Plan committee. And that's what happens. 

3:56 p.m.: MN is speaking re. tonight. Limit yourself to 2 mins. 6 p.m. sharp. And, ahem, "some attorneys have signed up to speak." They are repping multiple clients. Will they speak 2 mins per property, which will take another hour, or 2 mins. per attorney and then turn in the rest of their comments? Mayor Nancy says she's leaning towards letting them speak for four minutes each, and then turning in the rest of the material."

3:58 p.m.: So, they're addressing less than 20 properties. JO: "I think most people are happy, they just don't know it yet." LOL. WM says we are penalizing folks for hiring an attorney by limiting the attorneys. 

4:00 p.m.: WM: Several dozen people spoke about a single piece of property of concern; 45 mins about one property. He's concerned about the arbitrary decision about residents with lawyers being limited. 

4:02 p.m.: Tom Worth says attorneys will hit the things that need to be hit. On the time, he suggests, 4 mins. "It will be woefully, potentially inadequate. So give us more than 4 minutes, and we will not abuse it!"

4:05 p.m.: MN: What's the pleasure of the Council? BG: Make it clear, the Council will reward brevity. The attorneys will speak for 2 minutes per client. Done and done. 

4:06 p.m.: There will be follow-up work sessions after the public hearing, staff will present changes and an updated downtown remapping plan

4:08 p.m.: And that, folks, is all. 

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