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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Live blogging the Raleigh City Council meetings today

Posted by on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 1:03 PM


12:55: Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council live blog! There's a lot going on today and the Council chambers are filling up fast.

12:58: This is not on the agenda (too last minute), but at yesterday's UDO work session, Councilman Maiorano made a motion to place consideration of two parcels of land off of Falls of Neuse Road—one being the "Publix" site where Falls of Neuse intersects with Dunn Road—with valid statutory protest petitions opposing rezoning (as slated under citywide remapping), on the agenda today.

This precedes a conversation North Raleigh residents are scheduled to have with City Planning director Ken Bowers on August 17 regarding the parcels of land. (City staff has agreed to meet with all residents who expressed concern about citywide remapping in two public hearings last month). If Council votes on the Falls of Neuse parcels today, the citizens won't get their opportunity to have that conversation with city staff and, to put it nicely, they will be mad. So, stay tuned!

1:07: Meeting's called to order.  

1:17: The Raleigh Music Guild—which just received a city grant— is saying "thanks!" We're being treated to some violin and other string music. It's delightful. This will be the highlight of today's meeting, I'm already calling it. 

1:22: The musicians have been invited back. On to the consent agenda. It's approved except for some recusals from the usual suspects: MAB, Maiorano, Gaylord.

1:24: Special Items. This is the Dillon rezoning, conditions are still being filed. Deadline on those is Thursday, this will be on the agenda at the first meeting in September. 

1:25: Buffaloe Road/New Hope Road rezoning. This is the one that wants a Wal-Mart pharmacy/grocery combo. In Odom's district and it's unanimously approved (except for Maiorano, who recused).

1:26: Stream buffer requirements get the go ahead. Oh, and there's "one additional item under special items—" they almost forgot!

1:27: The items under UDO rezoning with protest petitions are both on Falls of Neuse Road. The attorney is explaining that Stephenson intended to vote against putting this on the agenda yesterday, so that makes him and Crowder who opposed this. 

1:28: Mayor Nancy says we're going through UDO remapping and pulling out separate items to vote on them. So this is now Z-27-14 A, to clarify, the very first one, special! Odom says he favored discussing this today because conditions submitted by Falls of Neuse developers' attorney were submitted. He says he is willing to hold this over until September, to allow city staff to speak with the citizens. However, it is time to make a decision and move forward, he says. 

1:30: The public hearing closed July 21st, so developers have until the 20th of August to submit new conditions. Stephenson "appreciates" Odom offering neighbors time to discuss the rezoning with staff. Mayor Nancy wants to make it clear, city staff doesn't have the ability to add conditions. 

1:31: Mayor Nancy says we will hold off until week 1 of September to discuss these new conditions. Council votes in favor. Welp, that seemed fairly pointless. The people with have their meeting after all. 

1:32: Manager's report. Moore Square is up. The park is being updated and there are some priorities. Business owners and downtown residents and visitors want to get this ball rolling. Here is a presentation: we are in the "priorities report phase." Data got collected, summarized, prioritized. Here are findings:

1:34: There are ten. Flexibility: Move away from single, large events to more small scale ones. 2: History. Tell story of cultural history of that space. 3. Safety. Moore Square is so dangerous! Not really, but people feel that way. (Will we be "moving away" the homeless folks)? 4. Love the trees. Make them healthy. 5. Play. Families want that, etc. And it should be "natural" not "traditional," because we're all hippies who just feel unsafe sometimes. 6. Streetscapes. 7. Public art. 8. "Connection to context..." whatever that means. 8. Amenities such as food and restrooms, which make sense. 9. Moore Square should be built to last...10 is ?, because, ooops, I missed one!!

1:37: So these reports will be launched into "schematic design." KC: What is a "dignified frame"? Good question from Crowder about "streetscapes." It is embracing street presence, sidewalk presence, like with a wall (?), staff says. Integration?, KC suggests. Sure, staff says. Council approves the priorities report.

1:38: Ah the lower Longview Lake dredging project. It began in 2008 and is ongoing. 

1:43: There will be more dredging. That will give water access to residents and remove algae. This is good. But residents will still be landlocked by wetlands, which is a challenge. There are 4 funding options. City staff thinks funding through line items is the best way. 

1:48: Wow, there are all kinds of dredging options. Full, limited, other. Full dredging will cost $1.6 million. (This is not easy to follow. Don't envy Council right now.) Staff recommends limited dredging, funded through an assessment. 

1:50: Wait, what is dredging? 

1:51: Neighbors want the full dredging, but they are OK with the compromise because you still get a lot of suspension of the total solids in the water *and* phosphorous removal. Neighbors don't think they should be assessed anything, of course, but in order to move the project forward, "they are willing to be assessed."

1:53: The resident spokesman says vote for the proposal, because it benefits the city and the people who live around the lake. 

1:56: Odom says all the neighbors have to agree to being assessed for the dredging. But the neighbor says the neighbors can't afford to be assessed...So don't put a dam there, because that will make everything worse.

1:57: KC asks if possible for lakefront people to pay more? Neighbor says problem is, there are retired folks with lakefront properties who have lived there since 1960 and are not moving away; but, are they blaming global warming? Some might agree with the larger assessment, some may not. "People can work with $20-$30 a month," he says. 

1:58: The dredging will cost $300,000 and 29 properties fronting the lake will pay for it is the proposal. MN: Would more people other than lakefront owners be willing to pay? Neighbor says probably, it's good for the property values.  

2:01: Odom says people will need to realize there will be a lien on their properties until this project is paid for. 

2:02: Mayor Nancy: We're attempting to help fix the problem by redoing the stream, but the main problem is not a water quality issue but a quality of life issue. Should we be using taxpayer dollars to clean a private lake? If no, maybe assessment should go beyond lakefront people to extend to all neighbors. 

2:03: The neighbor says that is inaccurate, it does actually improve water quality. Attorney says for the city to pay, the project will have to be categorized as a drainage improvement. BG perspective: let these decisions be decided by science and engineering. Let the science drive the decisions! There needs to be a public benefit. We can't just negotiate with private lakes. 

2:05: KC says it's a public benefit because it encourages a larger tax base. WM says he hasn't heard anything to suggest there will be a material impact on the financial value of the properties. Stephenson said some sediment got in there because there was no stream restoration to begin with. MAB makes a motion to approve the staff rec, which is $300k for limited dredging, neighbors pay 100% of that, then $300k out of the city's general fund for stream stabilization as "drainage improvement."

2:08: Odom thinks city is responsible for private lakes as well as public "to some degree." 

2:10: If they vote for this, neighbors will be assessed. Whether they want it or not.

2:14: All Council agrees on limited dredging. And agree to pay $300k for stream restoration. They vote in favor. 

2:17: And ask neighbors to fund 30% of dredging. That passes 5-3. Neighbors will be polled to see if they're willing to be assessed. And then there will be a public hearing. Moving on!

2:19: A street access text change is up. This will be  a change to the UDO to allow zoning conditions to modify street connectivity and access. There are 4 options, all of which require a UDO change. Change the block perimeter standards. 

2:25: The fourth option is the preferred option.  They vote to refer it to the Planning Commission. Planning Commission will consider super-majority vote as part of design adjustment. 

2:30: Warehouse district parking facility request for qualifications. Maiorano, Stephenson and Gaylord are excused. 

2:32: Update: Council has approved  the need for public parking in the Warehouse district because of Union Station, and everything else that is already there that requires public parking space. City received two responses from qualified applicants who will be able to build a deck facility by December, 2017, with 250 parking spaces minimum. 

2:33: Qualifications have been evaluated. There is one from FCP/Kane, as in FCP/John Kane, who wants the Dillon project. Kane will build a deck with 850 spaces as part of a mysterious mixed use development located at the Dillon Supply site. It meets 100% of code required parking for their development—500 spaces— and the city would pay for and own an additional 350 spaces for public parking.

FCP/Kane would manage the deck and the city would pay a pro-rated share based on number of spaces. Cost per space would not be more than $32,500 to build, which seems outrageous. All spaces except for 300 would be public (others reserved for apartment tenants). City would receive a percentage of net cash from the deck. 

2:36: Council can authorize staff to negotiate terms with Kane and bring back the terms in September. Then there will be public hearing in October. 

2:38: This will depend on how many spaces Kane get, though, right, asks JO. That is correct. JO moves approval of the recommendation to negotiate terms. Remember, these are just proposed terms. Council passes. 

2:39: Council is voting on request for proposals for a City of Raleigh Incubator in Southeast Raleigh (to replace the corrupt one?), because the city is "committed to small business, innovation and economic vibrancy in southeast Raleigh." Riiiight. 

2:43: Parks. There's a plan for River Bend Park. A "system integration" plan. Council approves the plan.

2:52: Here are some historic landmark applications, which are approved without discussion.

2:52: Budget and Economic Development Committee. Authorize sale of a property on Falls of Neuse for $60k. Approved without discussion.

2:53: And same with Church at North Hills Street property.

2:54: Comprehensive Planning Committee report: Approve text change on fuel sales. Approved with no discussion.

2:55: Law and Public Safety. MAB is talking about the new PUPS ordinance proposal from that committee, with a 6 month trial period.

She says we struggled with hours of operation, agreed to set occupancy rate on sidewalks at 15 square feet per person which would significantly reduce number of people outside an establishment; that would help reduce noise issues. And we ask RPD and the city fire department to work with inspections to provide enforcement. Business owners will need to communicate with patrons and provide notification of issues, because "it seems like sometimes something would happen but bar owners wouldn't know anything about it." The hospitality "committee" (not task force) made these recommendations. MAB wants a report back in 3 months and in 6 months, because it will be pointless to just look at what happens in the winter months. 

2:58: At the last LPS committee meeting, a server talked about how cutting back her hours during the week and on weekends would significantly impact what she was able to earn and her quality of life. "When you consider the service worker community makes a large percentage of our workforce, that was very compelling to me," MAB says. 

2:59: MAB will break away from the committee's proposal and bring forward 2 a.m. Fri and Sat. and midnight weeknight closing, because to get people out at midnight, service has to stop at 11:30. At 1 or 2, figure it's half an hour before. So she is proposing 2 a.m. closing on weekends with everything else the same. 

3:00: BG seconds. Mayor Nancy: Was LPS  recommendation  unanimous or split? MAB says she voted for it to move it out of committee. BG says this all makes sense, but 1 a.m. closing "jumped out." He deals with these issues in his day job. The most problematic is when places are closing, it gets noisy when people are told to leave. If we close outdoor areas at 1 and inside is still full, some people will have to leave and that will be chaotic and noisy and disruptive at 1 a.m. And then the same thing happens at 2 but with fewer people. So 1 a.m. is best solution because both sides end up with something worse. He is stumbling with a baby analogy which no one seems to grasp.

3:02: MAB adds, she feels bad that they didn't bring something forward sooner. "At some point you have to make a decision, I recognize people have been waiting, but my hope is, by cutting occupancy rates on sidewalks, we will improve access, reduce noise, because people will be sitting in tables and chairs. And if that is not the case, they will be cited. There's an opportunity to put bar owners on notice that they will be held accountable. They need to improve circumstances for peoples' quality of life or lose their permits." She would rather hit someone with a velvet hammer rather than a sledge hammer.

3:04: EW says service workers come from his area, so he will go along with this motion. 

3:05: Maiorano has an observation: we've been talking about this for a long time and IDK that we have seen an improvement. I'm not convinced we have done a good job. He wanted midnight closing every day of the week.  He does not support 2 a.m. He goes for midnight because it works "in many other cities."

3:06: RS weighing in. Owners will be put on notice and they'll be held accountable to improve cleanliness standards. Offers amendment to give Council approval over outdoor furnishings. He says bar owners don't have a problem with a proposal coming from appearance commission. MAB accepts the amendment, but refers appearance to Urban Design Center.

RS: how will cleanliness be upgraded? MAB: DRA will coordinate cleanup efforts. We're asking for more receptacles to throw trash. Work with Parks and Rec to time cleaning activities (power washing) with moving of furniture. And DRA has their own cleaning mechanism.  make it coordinated, not haphazard. 

3:10: RS is talking about noise concerns. What concrete measures are included in this ordinance that will reduce continuous sidewalk revelry noise that occurs late night and weekends? MAB says the committee was looking at PUPS, not "other issues still out there," which the assistant city manager is still working on. But occupancy reduction should help with that. But there will still be noise, people congregate, roof top bars. Left hand turn prohibition (which is next) could move ppl out quicker. This is an experiment. We are going to look at whether this achieves those goals. 

3:14: RS is concerned about people standing in line to get inside making noise. What mechanisms does RPD have to regulate loud noises after 11 p.m. downtown? The attorney says nothing in ordinances that relates directly to noise. Controlling number of people will ultimately do that. Police can arrest people for obstructing the sidewalk, or if they're being drunk or disorderly. 

3:16: Mayor Nancy says it's some responsibility of the bar owners. MAB forgot to mention, we are requiring establishments to hire an outdoor manager responsible for maintaining order in outdoor areas. 

3:17: Nicolette Fulton says 15 square feet occupancy per person is pursuant to NC building code. 

3:19: KC: how do people who know how many people can be there? Fulton says there's a chart. KC: Is there a way for public to see that? Fulton says there will be a placard outside with designated occupancy. JO: He will be drinking tequila, "not looking at no damn sign." Kay Crowder says "it doesn't matter if you're looking at it, reading it or giving a shit about it, it just needs to be there." 

KC: We can't allow the sidewalk to be abused. The sidewalk is paid for by taxpayers, so bar owners need to abide by the rules. We have to be courteous to retailers, residents as well as you, bar owners. "If you don't follow rules, you can't have the business." KC says there is a lot of visual clutter downtown, it looks like a yard sale. We should try to address that. She prefers 1 a.m. compromise, look at it in three months. Rules need to be spelled out. 

3:24: JO is reading the committee recommendation. 

3:27: Mayor Nancy calls this a public safety issue, the problem has escalated. She doesn't want someone being hit by a car because the sidewalk is too crowded. She recommends 3-month trial period, 1 a.m. close on the weekends, everything else the same. 

3:28: Maiorano supports. MAB says how do you know if there's still disruption with 1 a.m. close, but she is in minority with Weeks and McFarlane. The committee recommendation—close at 1 a.m. and all— passes. 

3:31: Left turn restrictions passes, taxis will make their own plan in 60 days. 

3:33: Mayor Nancy went to NYC with James Sauls, Jesse Lipscomb from Citrix to talk entrepreneurship, innovation in Raleigh. That's her report and that's a wrap. 

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