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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council live blog

Posted by on Tue, Nov 3, 2015 at 12:59 PM


It's November (already), and in four short weeks the new City Council will be sworn in. By tonight, we'll know who the new District A Councilman will be. Dickie Thompson? Or will it be Eddie Woodhouse? Our money's on Thompson, though Woodhouse claims to have out-raised the "millionaire developer" (Woodhouse's words) by about $1,000 in the last month, which he's taking as a good sign. If you live in District A, please go vote today. 

But there's still a lot of unfinished business that needs addressing in the meantime. On the agenda, we've got short-term residential lodging (AirBnB, in layman's terms), a report on the outdoor seating ordinance and downtown night and weekend parking.

And tonight, there'll be a public hearing on the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area Plan for the East College Park and Washington Terrace neighborhoods. Neighborhood activist Octavia Rainey is so mad about the plan that she just took a delegation to Washington D.C., to bring the issue to HUD's and Wake Congressman David Price's attention. 

1:07: Meeting's called to order. Raleigh just celebrated an international festival, representing 65 countries. 

1:10: The Lower Longview Lake dredging project has been pulled from the consent agenda. 

1:11: Report from the planning commission: short term residential lodging is up. There's a proposed text change trying to find a balance between neighborhoods' and individuals' rights. Steve Schuster says it's a good balance. KC wants more information before it goes to public hearing. She wants it to be a special permit issue, and what does an onsite manager look like? How do we know who he is? Who's keeping tabs on this guy? She's got questions. 

1:12: Schuster says Planning doesn't have that detail and says they are happy to bring back a definition. Odom thinks it's a zoning issue in conflict with new and old UDO. "It makes me nervous," he says, ppl just renting out their bedrooms willy nilly. 

1:13: He says abuse of this would be huge in his district, the city doesn't have funds to monitor it. Also, says Crowder, AirBnb/short term residential lodging "starts to segregate people from income and place". People now rented to people at a reasonable price now becomes very attractive to the residential rental business. If we believe in affordable and mixed workforce housing, IDK how this will fit in.

1:15: MAB makes a motion to send it to public hearing, bc important to hear from the public on this. KC wants to get her questions answered first. Who's enforcing on site managers etc? 

1:16: RS: this will legitimize de facto rooming house situations. But he likes the idea of AirBnb and has used it in other cities. He wants to create this as an overlay district, so neighborhoods can opt in, rather than legitimizing it citywide. There's a motion to send it back to Planning. Also, the Legislature hasn't ruled on this yet, RS says. 

1:17: MAB is the only one against sending it back to the Planning Commission. That's where it goes.

1:18: Two rezoning cases scheduled for public hearing. Stephenson opposes them both because "both go against the Comp Plan and the Future Land Use Map. They are on Oakland Drive and Six Forks road; rezonings go to public hearing December 1.

1:20: Schuster says there's a lot variation among 20+ CAC's and how they vote on determining a rezoning, which makes it hard for the Planning Commission to consider their votes before making a recommendation. CAC's want staff reports, Stephenson says. Planning staff needs to take responsibility to complete staff reports for CACs. 

1:22: Travis Crane says Planning already does this but time constraints. Stephenson wants adjustment to time limit between filing a rezoning and consideration by the Planning Commission. 

1:24: Speshul items. The street connectivity text change that will not die. Bonner wants Council to retain authority to decide whether to close/not connect a street, instead of giving it away to private interests. Stephenson supports the text change because it gives the Council "authority to use their judgment." Sounds like they want the same thing, then. 

1:28: Maiorano asks how the text change abdicates authority to determine street connectivity closures to the private sector? It's just like a condition that a developer would agree or not agree to make? We're not abdicating anything?

1:30: The text change gives Council the authority to make street connectivity decisions in rezoning cases only...this is so confusing.  

1:33: MAB says the point of this was to encourage connectivity and now we're back tracking on this. She wants criteria for connecting a street or no laid out plain. 

1:35: MAB asks to hold this again so we get the connectivity criteria.

1:37: Can staff come back with criteria written in that staff would consider on making connectivity decisions that would address Council's concerns and get those criteria implemented early on in redevelopment process? Travis Crane says that is doable-ish. 

1:40: Whatever, we will hear this again in two weeks. 

1:41: Night and weekend parking!! Ruffin has comments: this conversation is difficult. Parking gets ppls attention in personal, professional experiences. Original proposal was to balance parking interests downtown of many stakeholders. 2 questions: who pays and what level of service in parking decks do we want? Strike that balance!

1:42: We started from free weekday nighttime parking, now we here. "We've looked hard to find strong compromise options," Ruffin says. On street parking is still free after 5 and on the weekends—this is  just about decks, just decks. 

1:43: We need to improve cleanliness and maintenance of heavily used decks. People who park here should pay for that. It's not just about cleanliness, though that has a "visual impact." There are a couple alternatives here. 

1:44: Mayor Nancy calls this a difficult transition from not paying to paying. How do we get people to pay without impacting businesses? We're trying to encourage retail growth...charging for parking during the day on Saturday might be a hindrance to that. Thursday evening is non-committal to most ppl, so charging for Thursday evening parking could be a deterrent. 

1:46: Mayor proposed Friday and Saturday evening only, 5 to 5, $5 flat fee. Mayor Nancy's 5-5-5 plan. Downtown employees still get their discount. 

1:48: After 5pm on Friday and Sat, you'd start paying on entry. You'd pay an hourly rate up to 5 pm on Friday, and $5 on entry after. If you went in at 4:30 on Friday, you'd pay hourly rate + $5 flat fee upon leaving.  Saturday is free until 5. Thursday evening is still free. 4 nights of janitorial service; that passes unanimously. 

1:51: $5 at 5 Friday and Saturday; starting Dec. 31. And that is that.

1:52: Six Forks Road rezoning case. That passes. 

1:53: Union Station budget amendment. Ruffin says Union station is a critical facility for downtown and as part of the overall transit strategy. But concrete is steel is expensive, because the economy. More bidders on this project, and it's complicated bc a lot of different partners and agencies, environmental questions etc. "It's complicated, contributing to the bidding environment." 

1:55: So there are choices: reduce scope to project vs. budget amendment. 3 options, plus Council requested fourth- funding thru budget amendment to make up for funding gap. 

1:56: Maiorano wants to fund the project in total. He thinks it's critically important to the city in investing in quality, get all we can potentially get out of it. It set the tone for our expectation as to what we can get from the provate sector. This will help facilitate transit options and growth of downtown. 

1:57: These are appropriate uses of public dollars and he moves to fund the project in total without removing aspects to the project. Crowder says she is all for all kinds of transportation modes. She's concerned about rail not being part of what we're not moving forward with. She moves forward with trepidation.

1:58: Mayor Nancy asks Ruffin to comment on rail: Wake County published follow up docs about recent discussions on rail. Disconnect in media reports vs. what Wake County is presenting as actual discussion he says.(Read my Wake transit story in tomorrow's INDY!) Rail is a question of when, not if Ruffin says.

2:00: Stephenson doesn't think a canopy is that necessary but supports the project anyway. They vote to fund Union Station in full, unanimously.

Outdoor seating ordinance report is up.

2:01: We've learned, Ruffin says. Derrick Remer will present a 90-day update on the ordinance. 

2:02: Outdoor seating is part of Private Use of Public Space handbook. PUPS went under review last winter to make it more applicable city-wide. Changes to outdoor seating specifically couldn't wait and were brought forward in June. This was all heard in Law and Public Safety. People agreed on most items, enforcement, cleanliness etc. Enforcement began August 14.

2:04: Goals: address public safety, American Disabilities Act needs, regulating the right of way that gives access all the time to everyone. Make everyone's sidewalk experience better. Protect city's investment in Downtown revitalization.

2:05: Public safety issues have been addressed, eg. overcrowding, and people wanting to be able to walk on sidewalks and establishments complying. Make a clear formalized application process. Address ADA issues and enforce rules consistently. And balance the needs of all the stakeholders. 

2:06; Application process: once submitted, application is reviewed by Zoning Dept. and urban Design Center. The applicant got a 30-day condition permit. The application is reviewed until it comes into compliance. 

2:08: Is it working: Yes, because applications are now drawn to scale and identify public right of way. 42 applications have been submitted. 3 permits have been issued and 37 have met conditional approval.

2:09: There are quality of life issues, August to October: alcohol violations, assaults, begging, damage to property and most others except outdoor sleeping have had reductions. 

2:10: Other items discovered: Existing encroachment agreements remain in effect. State rights of way have different restrictions the city has to abide by before issuing permits. 5 establishments are pending on working this out with the state. 

2:11: next steps will be working with establishments to ensure compliance, transition away from Police and Fire Dept. enforcement. Next steps for Council are authorize 2 more PUPS staff members, recommend appearance standards, consider adjustments to ordinance brought forward today.

2:12: The technical adjustments are to simplify the ordinance, according to the city attorney. 

2:13: Bonner says ordinance is more than is necessary and more complex than needed. He proposes 2 am cessation of outdoor space use, delineate and mark space on the ground and make sure people are seated within it. 

2:14: Crowder has questions for law enforcement: What is Police recommendation on where we are? Police chief says we are encouraged. 30 percent reduction in Quality Of Life violations. It is encouraging he says. But vast majority of permits not issued yet. 

2:16: Odom asks if we have reduced the number of places that are open? No, more have opened since. They have provisional outdoor seating as before- no one has been shut down. There have been violations issued to places that were operating without having applied for a permit and they have submitted applications since. 

2:17: Stephenson supports expanding hours as long as enforcement standards and cleanliness etc. remains the same. 

2:18: RS: Are markings on the ground adequate? Police chief says it's most helpful. Mayor Nancy asks if this can go to the Appearance Commission? It can. 

2:19: Mayor Nancy is asking about "use of uniforms" inside businesses- can uniforms not all of a sudden be in a place of business at 1 o'clock in the morning freaking ppl out? There would still be police presence outside. 

2:21: Bonner's motion for 2 am, remove 15 sq/ft per person provision and send delineation recommendation to appearance commission. So there won't be a requirement of how many people per space. Maiorano says that sounds like a free for all. 

2:22: We looked at other cities to evaluate what they are doing, he says. We may be a city of creativity and innovation, but drinking on the sidewalk is as old as creation. lol. Remer says generally cities that allow ppl to stay outside longer had more restrictions. A balance struck between the 2. 

2:24: Maiorano has been in 3 different cities in past 2 weeks and has observed the same kind of activity we enjoy and want to encourage. "But they've got permanent stanchions," eg on Glenwood where they have been done in a tasteful way. Clearly delineated and reasonable cutoff time. We have all recognized we needed to make ownership of the downtown experience. The 90 day exercise has shown we can do better. so why take the guard rails down? We've seen the lessons apply here and in many other places. We're backing up from the hard work undertaken by our staff safety professionals and by our community. he won't support the motion.

2:25: Mayor Nancy: U right, and we have seen some positive outcomes. 90 day trial was to see effects on everyone. I wanted to hear the effects on business. The one to 2 o'clock thing was confusing- if you're at capacity inside at 1 am and then people outside have to come in, who do you kick out? She supports letting people stay outside til 2, if they're in seats. 

2:27: We've had people submit drawings based on 15 square feet per person. Is it problematic if we change that now?

2:28: Foundation's co-owner Vincent Whitehurst says that should be up to the business owner to take on. He doesn't think there's a problem with outdoor occupancy. Having clear delineation without stanchions makes sense to me. People don't like to feel like they're sitting in a pen. Clear rules about where people can and can't be, and enforcement- that's huge. A three strikes policy is a huge motivation for owners to self-police and self-regulate. Enforcement is having a huge effect.

2:30: Maiorano wants something well-defined and predictable rather than making adjustments to the ordinance at the table. "Everything we did to define a process, we are breaking that down and redoing it. I can't support that/. We have had success working with the business community, let's keep doing that and bring it back to the table for consideration.

2:32: MAB suggestion: We get fuzzy on the outdoor capacity thing. How about 2am closing Friday and Saturday, and get an evaluation on 15 square foot per person rule. Stanchions and signage go to appearance commission. Capacity goes to staff. 

2:33: Stephenson says Appearance Commission should look at furnishings on the street overall, and get that coordinated. How can DRA be more actively engaged in helping us do enforcement cleanliness aspects of this? Great question, where have they been in all of this?

2:34: MAB says DRA has already been directed to do that. RS says he's asking staff to offer their own ideas because they are more engaged than DRA in cleanliness issue.

2:35: John Odom has  a statement: We've come along way since '93 when you couldn't have a sandwich board on the sidewalk. Mecca Restaurant, which has been there forever...small businesses need to be considered, it would be a shame if places like that are limited in their seating.

2:36: So 2 am Fri/Sat closing, add two inspectors to PUPS, send stanchions and signage to Appearance Commission, reconsider 15 square foot per person deal. Incorporate small businesses being impacted, get staff report on DRA involvement on cleanliness. Bonner's original motion stands.

2:38: All but Crowder and Maiorano vote in favor. We can drink outside until 2am again, just in time for winter. (Actually that will have to be considered and approved at next meeting.)

2:40: Reports from Environmental Advisory, Fair Housing Hearing Board approved. Budget and Economic Development committee approved. 

2:56: A text change from the Comp Plan Committee regulating nonconforming structures and development standards was approved. 

3:02: Maiorano asked about the status of Ethics/Code of Conduct for Council report. 

3:04: Mayor Nancy proposes adding additional seat to Convention and Visitors' Bureau board. She nominates John Odom to that seat and he is approved unanimously. 

3:05: MAB asks staff to look at city options for giving grant money to Southeast Raleigh Capital Project, an economic development project in southeast Raleigh. Mayor Nancy says we have worked hard to have a predictable budget process; MAB says she's just asking for options. 

That's it! See y'all tonight. 
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