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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Raleigh City Council Live Blog: Evening Edition

Posted by on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 7:04 PM


Welcome back everyone. The agenda is full this evening as is council chambers. We've got ten citizens lined up to speak and eight public hearings, including five rezoning requests.

And before all that there's historic landmark designations on the Anna Riddick House on Cowper Drive, the Horton-Beckham-Bretsch House on South Blount and the Wilmont Apartments on Hillsborough Street. 

7:06: And the meeting is called to order. RHDC's hearing on landmark designations is up. Mayor Nancy says we're having some hardware/software problems, so Tania Tullley is going ahead with her presentation sans pretty pictures.

7:08: Horton-Beckham-Bretsch is at 11 South Blount Street. It was built in 1895 and relocated in 1982. Some sisters lived there for a long time and ran a boarding house out of it. 

7:09: Anna Riddick house dates back to 1952. Mid-20'th century Georgian Revival style "designed for a single woman," Tulley says. It's a townhouse plan with a narrow footprint. Anna Riddick was one of Raleigh's earliest interior decorators with a 20 year career from the 1920's through the 40's.

7:11: Wilmont Apartments were built in 1926, at 3200 Hillsborough Street. 

7:12: No one is here to speak on these historic designations and the council approves them all. Requests and petitions of citizens, 3 minutes!

7:13: Suzanne Harris is up first from the Homebuilders Association of Raleigh-Wake County. She wants a revision to the infrastructure construction and acceptance language in the UDO regarding the two-year construction two-year warranty period. She wants to change it to three-year construction, one-year warranty period. Two-year construction is aggressive in nature, she says. The time frame is too constraining so she would like an extra year on the construction side, but keep four-year time period overall. City staff is fine with moving forward with the text change. Staff will come back with text change language.

7:16: Scott Benrube, who has had all kinds of problems with his property on Leesville Road, is back. He was here at the last two meetings. His driveway and curbing was repaired but uh-oh, more issues. Like there are a bunch of drainage points north and south of his property but not in front of it, which is causing flooding. And other non-drainage points also causing flooding. Water runoff from Leesville Road doesn't drain to the road's median, but rather to his property. We're looking at pictures of his flooded yard. And now he's cut off.

7:19: Chris Johnson from Public Works will respond. Some repairs have been made. Drainage from the road is being caught in the curb line and going back into his property. A design consultant and stormwater staff have been out there and they can't figure out how additional water is getting into his property from how it's been since before construction. 

7:24: There is no drainage for 400 feet in the middle of the road, which Benrube says is the problem. Basically he would like more drains fronting his property. Mayor Nancy says the drainage issues are not coming from this city project, maybe from other projects. 

7:27: Dickie Thompson says he realizes this is upsetting, but the water is actually sloping toward the road. "I know you have water issues but it's not coming to the road." MAB is yelling at him, says he's making her angry and she is trying to offer a solution. Stormwater says they can look at the flooding issue. David Cox asks if we know where the water is coming from? Staff says it's an existing condition. Mayor Nancy moves along.

7:30: Khaled Assell says he is "an American citizen BTW." He's also got a flooding issues. He has a property with a pond that's being polluted by stormwater, says fish in the pond are getting poisoned. He's tried to sell it and no one wants to buy it. Sounds like he's trying to get the city to buy the property, or at least to fix the stormwater problem. He says he will accept any solution as long as it doesn't stay as it is. Stormwater staff member says the property is actually fully consumed by a lake. There are properties that historically drain to it and there is no value in the city buying it. "You purchased land that is a lake," Mayor Nancy says. "We're not responsible for your private transactions."

7:34: Kay Crowder says the city was not involved with his private transaction and has no responsibility for this, in a stern voice. "You're done for tonight," she says. 

7:35: Nicholas Voss is up. There is a "police protected night club" on Paula Street. It violates noise ordinances by leaving their doors open etc. Neighboring nightclubs have received dozens of citations but this one hasn't. It doesn't even have an Amplified Entertainment Permit. That's an arrest-able offense then, so why aren't police taking it seriously. It's a biker club called the Hog Pen (?) It finally got a citation but nothing is changing. It is owned by law enforcement he says. He's cut off. 

7:38: RPD Captain Tommy Cline will address. He says he has met and spoke with Mr. Voss "many, many times," and provided info about which clubs have gotten citations. He says the Hog Pen has been cited twice, for not having a permit and for a noise violation. He says the club has been cooperative with RPD whenever there have been violations. Other clubs have had more noise violations. Cline says there is no evidence of the club being a police-owned operation. "I'm not saying officers don't go there," he says. 

7:41: So there are 4 clubs in that area around Paula and Hodges Streets. MAB asks that city attorney look at the information Voss has brought to the council and follow up. 

7:43: Sarah Preston from the ACLU of NC is up. Council approved purchasing and using police worn body cameras and has things for council to think about in developing policy. It's a win-win for community and police she says. But some policies need to be considered in advance. City should consider and adopt polices addressing condition under which camera can be activated and de-activated. They say encourage it whenever LE is interacting with members of the public. But public should be able to de-activate, e.g during a domestic vioence incident. This needs to be in place in writing she says, with consequences to avoid editing on the fly. Next, policies must include reasonable public access, especially that subjects of recording be allowed access to recording to view. Allegation of police use of force should be released publicly, with privacy protections lke blurring faces and distorting voices. Clear and straightforward retention guidelines are also needed.

7:46: Wanda Hunter, Geraldine Alshamy and Charnessa Ridley are speaking as a group. They are from PACT. President of Save Our Sons, NC is speaking as a stand-in for Hunter. They serve male youth incarcerated and post-incarcerated. She says there is genuine concern among community about what city has planned related to safety and police accountability. There has been a lot of talk about community policing but that hasn't happened at all. She's asking for a transparent, accountable police oversight board.  She says not trust without transparency. They need subpoena power and investigation power. She says it's an atrocity that their sons are arrested for marijuana searches, false probable cause etc. She says thank you for passing the body camera policy but that wont' do it alone.

7:50: Geraldine Alshamy, an artist and advocate and PACT member is speaking. There is a Facebook video of a young man targeted for reasonable suspicion of marijuana in Southeast Raleigh. She says this is representative of what we see in our communities every day. A young black man was pulled over, handcuffed in front of his wife and children because of suspicion of marijuana. Someone else filmed the officer. "This kind of policing damages the relationships between the community and the police and takes up tie that could be used for something more impactful for the community." Whites and black use marijuana at the same rates, but black people are disproportionately arrested for it in Wake County. She says there is a hopeless cycle of arrests and criminalization of black youth. She wants marijuana arrests to be classified as low-priority because this is a very dangerous situation. People applaud. 

7:54: Ridley, a sexual assault awareness advocate is speaking. She says there are barriers to victims of sexual assault seeking help, including engaging with the criminal justice system. Those barriers exist in communities of color, where law enforcement can represent a system they don't want to engage with. She supports the recommendation of the community oversight board. She says policies need to be informed by people who are affected by these issues. 

7:56: City attorney Tom McCormick says council does not have authority to pass an ordinance to enforce and not enforce criminal laws. But there is a national movement now about how those laws are enforced everywhere, so that is the city response to marijuana law enforcement, but it's not something council can direct the police department to deal with. Re. the oversight board, the city also cannot give subpoena power to a board, though they could of course create an oversight board. McCormick says the council is in effect a citizen review board, elected by the people and responsible for its officers. Raleigh city council is very transparent by letting people come in and speak before council each month. A separate board might cause conflicts with the city manager's office. He says Raleigh is different from northeastern cities where there are such boards, but here, we need to rely on the city manger/city attorney offices. 

8:00: He mentions a shooting years ago that city attorney office was directed to investigate, which it did. Other investigations have also led to changes, like with wastewater treatment. DA is involved and ultimately criminal liability ultimately lies with the SBI rather than the city policies department. The General Assembly would have to approve a board with subpoena power "and I'm pretty sure that they're not in the mood to give us that right now." 

8:01: Mayor Nancy is asking for a staff report into what the city could do on the topic of community policing. City staff will report back soon. They are looking at improvements to community/police internship and training programs.

8:02: Corey Branch asks if there is a 20th century process for the council to look at complaints fro citizens. Ruffin says staff will look at that too as part of its response. 

8:03: On to matters scheduled for public hearing. Here's a presentation on the city's HUD action plan that describes how the city will use more than $4 million in federal funds from HUD.Priorities include increasing affordable housing, which lines up with city's affordable housing plan and strategic plans. Like enhancing homeless to housing continuum and revitalizing neighborhoods like College Park and South Park. All kinds of loans available.

8:06: MAB asks about families living in hotels because they can't afford housing. Shawn McNamara from Housing and Neighborhoods says this is something that is being addressed holistically by Raleigh-Wake Partnership to end homelessness. It's looking at who is falling through the gaps and addressing it he says. He says single women/families needs are being looked at and a program around all the needs will be designed. A city outreach center will be key here. 

8:08: MAB says that answers her question in a roundabout way. Some nonprofits address different populations of homeless people: men, women, families, McNamara says. But those needs will be identified going forward.  

8:10: HUD mandates two public hearings on use of these funds, this is the second and we are in the middle of a public comment period. "We hope council will see fit to adopt the final action plan," so they can submit it to HUD, McNamara says. They haven't received comments directed to the apartment but did receive some comments at Tarboro Community Center recently and they will be going to CACs. 

8:12; Public hearing is open. Octavia Rainey is here to speak. She is addressing the analysis of impediment part of annual action plan. She is going to talk about civil rights. She says she is finding in updated AI that there are problems with civil rights. I found 125 areas that concerned me, she says. This was supposed to be the greatest AI of them all, but says it is pretty much the same as earlier ones form the 80's and 90's. Verbage is the same, she says. 

8:14: "I am concerned about how we use public hearing notices," she says. "The AI does not address citizen participation plan. Engaging people is a civil rights issue. How can you bring forward a document to HUD that doesn't address citizen participation." She says open house processes need to be addressed, that the city needs to explain to citizens what's going on. She says it is rather for developers. She calls the document a threat and says it needs to be updated. She says poor black people in southeast Raleigh cannot afford housing, and that is a threat. No one is connecting the dots to community development.

8:16: A woman from southeast Raleigh (did not hear her name) lives in an old house her parents owned and says it needs a lot of work. City inspectors are coming to her hoe on a regular basis citing her. "Every time they come back they're finding different things." she says. She says she cannot afford to replace/remedy some of the citations she's getting. Inspectors have not tole her about programs that could help her rehab her house, though those exist. There is yearlong waiting list for seniors, but she only has a few weeks to take care of repair issues around her home. 

8:19: Corey Branch says she can speak with Shawn McNamara about this. 

8:20: Another woman (also did not hear her name) asking if council is aware that each year Raleigh Housing Authority gives out 1,000 Section 8 housing vouchers that are not being used? Because stigma behind Section 8 means landlords won't take some people. Money was allotted for 1,000 vouchers but was never used. Why can't the city of Raleigh use that RHA money to do projects itself for affordable housing? She says not everyone has affordable housing, and in SE Raleigh, where people work, they live in homes that landlords aren't taking care of. She says there is a feeling of "weed and seed," weeding black people out and replacing them with white people She asks if the council can use that money instead of making people feel like they'e not wanted. 

8:23: Laura Gaines, a Raleigh HS student is speaking about climate justice. She asks that Raleigh adopt environmentally responsible practices a it grows and develops and create the wealth of the people who have the least. She says growth in the areas has not been good for everyone, poverty has increased, people getting pushed out of neighborhoods bc of housing costs and utility costs. She urges Raleigh to adopt a comprehensive energy efficiency plan and reject fossil fuels. Building energy efficient hoes will generate jobs and not using fossil fuels will reduce carbon footprint. Asks for equitable and sustainable tomorrow for all Raleigh residents. 

8:27: Hearing is closed and comments will be included in consideration of HUD application. Next there are petitions for annexations on Magnolia Grove Apartments and Cardinal Gibbons High School. Council passes that.

8:28: Rezoning hearings will begin. The first is on Hillsborough Street, 6.4 acres of residential to residential with conditional use. A protest petition was filed on this originally, in 2013. Right now the area is wooded, abutting other single family homes and apartments. 

8:33: Two people are here to speak in favor of the rezoning. The property owner's daughter is speaking. She says the owners have worked with neighbors to try to address their concerns. There's a Neuse River riparian buffer on the property. 

8:36: Another resident says this rezoning will support activities currently going on at nearby Wolf Creek Apartments. He says it will continue to provide a beneficial neighborhood. 

8:38: No one is here to speak in opposition. Mayor Nancy is asking about the protest petition. Kay Crowder says this has been going on for a long time. She drove out to the property and says residential up to 10 stories makes sense, but says people there are already having problems with flooding and doesn't see how adding density to the property will be beneficial. 

8:40: Dickie Thompson knows the site too and says it is very sloped and water challenged. He agrees with Crowder, says there would not be an advantage to changing the zoning and that it would not be fair to neighbors.

8:42: The existing zoning could permit up to 22 units total anyway. Council will send this case to the Growth and Natural Resources committee. 

8:43: Next is a rezoning on Trailwood, 5.6 acres from residential, six stories max. to maximum of four stories. Density would be 14 units per acre, residential with a transit easement. The Planning Commission recommended approval 7-3.

8:49: Attorney Lacy Reaves is here to speak in favor of the rezoning. He acknowledges it has been controversial. Will file more conditions limiting the property to ten units per acre, residential. He's asking to defer action. Kay Crowder says she appreciates the approach the applicant has taken to engage with the community. 

8:55: Opponents will speak. Tom Kwak, a Trailwood resident and community representative says that they have attended several meetings and has opposed the proposal even as it has been modified. But they have come to "somewhat of an agreement." He says a development here looks like it will be marketed to students. "We have a hard time saying we support the project with new conditions as Mr. Reaves suggested," he says. They have not seen conditions in writing and oppose the rezoning as is now but would maybe support with conditions. 

8:58: Reaves said he would prefer a two-week deferral and will provide updated conditions to neighbors. If still controversial in two weeks, he asks to defer it again. So this will come back in two weeks.

9:00: Next up is another rezoning on Hillsborough Street to rezone 3 acres to neighborhood mixed use. It's near the Stanhope student complex and a historic building on the property is on the National Register of Historic Districts; it would be redeveloped for student housing too it looks like. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval but Wake CAC opposed. 

9:10: Kay Crowder says she loves that building an wishes something better could happen to it. Lacey Reaves is up again on behalf of the applicant. Reaves says this site is literally on top of NC State. Reaves is arguing to add another story of height to a portion of the redevelopment. He says it would be the same type of development as Stanhope, but only 4 stories, 3 stories on portion adjacent to Rosemary Street where Stanhope begins. 

9:18: Kay Crowder asks about number of bedrooms on the project. It has not been specified but the applicant is open to discussing that. The ground floor will be developed for retail Reaves says, but it is not in the conditions. Crowder says it's not real until it's in the conditions. They ask for a conversation on that too. Reaves says they are prepared to make that commitment.

9:20: RS says it's not clear where the project transitions from 3-4 stories. Reaves says that has been defined. 

9:24: RS says some additional conditions will need to be worked out here. He's asking about a parking deck wrapped on the first floor. Actually every level of parking structure but on the first floor would be screened. Mayor Nancy mentions sending it to committee. Reaves says the case has been delayed already and are in a serious timing situation regarding contract deadlines.

9:26: Opposition speakers are up. Donna Bailey is speaking on behalf of Wade CAC which she chairs. They opposed five stories originally and came back with a better transition to Stanhope. CAC's issue with the project is over the overall impact on Hillsborough Street with all these large student housing projects. Not necessarily the project itself. Consider the larger vision of Hillsborough Street.

9:29: Another opponent says she wants more space between nearby single family homes and the building. More offset for neighbors. 

9:31: Mayor Nancy is asking about the setback on Rosemary Street. How wide is the sidewalk? 6 feet with tree planting per the UDO. There will be more of a suburban context, he says. The southwest corner of the building will be 44 feet from sidewalk to roof, or three stories total. The parking deck will be on Concord Street side.

9:37: Dickie Thompson motions for approval. RS wonders if there is commitment to 51 percent 3-4 bedroom units (to cut down on parking). Russ wants that commitment. Reaves says there are time limits imposed. Dickie Thompson says we have seen this case for month and it's not fair to ask for that condition now. Russ says Crowder and he were under impression that commitment was going to be made. 

9:41: MAB asks if it is too late to add a condition? Reaves says no and that they could agree to 51% condition. But he's not involved in the contract. He says a two-week deferral would give them time to propose and submit additional conditions. The applicant says that messes up what they are trying to do contractually. 

9:42: So the building is already designed. Bonner says these issues already seem to be resolved already and it's kind of a late hour to start asking for this condition. Crowder is asking about retail. Will it be real retail? Applicant says yes, 10,000 square feet of actual shop space. Not defined in conditions. 

9:44: The applicant says he will defer two weeks but he is frustrated. Crowder says this is not the first time he has heard about retail. Crowder wants that in conditions to be made clear. The applicant will do that. MAB says she is ready to move forward. Motion and second to approve. 

9:46: The council approves it 5-3. Stephenson, Cox and Crowder vote against. The hearing is closed and there is no opportunity to revise the conditions but the case will be reconsidered on a second reading in two weeks. But MAB and Corey Branch will be absent. They'll still reconsider in two weeks. They have 15 days to file revised conditions. 

9:50: Next up: rezoning on 502 and 514 West Lenoir Street, rezone an acre from residential mixed use to industrial mixed use. Lots of prohibited uses, uses could include restaurant, food truck, retail, light industrial, research and school. development and  Planning Commission and Central CAC supported it as long as restaurant hours are limited to 11 pm. 

9:58: Attorney Ben Kuhn is here to speak in favor of the proposal. The applicant, James Goodnight, has a plant to rehabilitate the building on the property, not demolish it. He has to rezone for that reason. Kuhn says Mr. Goodnight takes interesting buildings around town and makes them much more interesting, like the Death and Taxes building, Raleigh Fire Station Number Four and the Nehi Bottling Company building on Hillsborough Street. He doesn't have a planned use for the property yet, and the existent tenant plans to leave the building soon. 

10:02: Being a good tenant for the community has been addressed too. The applicant put bars, night clubs and lounges open until 2 am as a prohibited use, though a restaurant open until 2 am could be permitted. The applicant can't prohibit closing time of 2 am however. It's a blighted area that will be made better with redevelopment. 

10:06: No one is here to speak in opposition to the rezoning. The council approves it unanimously.

10:07: Next up we have a text change pertaining to Glenwood-Brooklyn rezoning, and then the rezoning, which will apply a Streetside Historic Overlay District to the Glenwood-Brooklyn Neighborhood. There are lots of properties in that neighborhood that are on the National Register Historic District. These properties may in future be subject to certificates of appropriateness for alterations. 

10:10: A UDO text change will amend regulations associated with the General Historic Overlay District to Streetside Historic Overlay District. 

10:12: Council approves the text change, now on to the rezoning. It's a 77-acre, mostly residential tract of land. Three people are here to support the rezoning, including Bob Fesmire, the acting president of the Glenwood-Brooklyn Neighborhood Association. He says the neighborhood overwhelmingly supports it and the merit of the HOD is clear. He asks that the council retain the district boundaries and think about the neighborhood long term. 

10:18: Don Davis is here in support too. He is vice chair of RHDC, which recommends approval of the HOD. He says people who oppose just don't want their properties included in HOD. He also asks to maintain the boundaries.

10:19: There are some opponents. Attorney Andy Petesch says 8-9 properties don't want to be included within the boundaries of the HOD because they might be restricted from a development standpoint. A business owner whose business on Peace Street is included says he supports the overlay concept, just has an issue with the line being drawn near Peace Street. He asks to move the line down West Peace Street and include all the properties on West Peace or none of them. He's just asking for consistency, he says. 

10:27: Resident James Johnson owns duplex apartments in the rezoning area. He says they have always been used as income-producing properties and doesn't want them included. Another resident doesn't understand the value of having the Peace Street properties included. They'e not associated with the neighborhood, weren't included in a survey of the neighborhood. He says this will reduce his ability to full grow his business. Another resident is in favor of HOD where he lives but not where his business nearby is located. Opposes for St. Mary's.

10:32: Time was reserved for rebuttals. Bob Fesmire says all property owners in the district were in fact surveyed either in person or via mail. Phil Poe says 98 percent of people in the neighborhood favored preserving the historical character of the neighborhood and preventing teardowns, or had no opinion. He says HOD has nothing to do with  use. It can delay a teardown 365 days. Twenty buildings, 18 contributing properties, are represented by opponents. Experts agreed on boundaries in 2002 and they are still appropriate. He says streets provide good transitions. And strategic plan says protect historic resources as an objective. There's applause on that.

10:36: An attorney is asking that the council vote not affect a site plan that's already in process.

10:37: Mayor Nancy closes the hearing. 

10:42: Corey Branch asks about the 365 days limit. Tanya Tulley says it's a tool to delay demolitions.

10:48: Dickie Thompson says Peace and St Mary's properties are all commercial. He said it would be unfair down-zoning for those properties who would later want to develop those properties. He moves for approval of HOD with exclusion of properties on Peace and St. Mary's. 

10:50: Russ says comprehensive plan calls for historic reservation and those properties on Peace and St. Mary's are contributing structures. Though HOD may be an imposition on property owners, redevelopment is hypothetical at this point and we need to weigh value of historic resources because once they are gone they won't come back. So they need to be evaluated on a project by project basis. So don't bury the boundaries that have been designated at state, local and national level. 

10:52: MAB believes including Peace and St Marys takes away property rights, and neighborhood is protected anyway. So she supports removing those streets as compromises. David Cox wants guidance on whether this is actually a "downzoning." He says making it a historic district could actually be considered a benefit. 

10:54: City planner Doug Hill says HODs increase value in neighborhoods across the country. Most of the structures on St Marys are contributing though. 6 of 8 are contributing to historic character on St. Marys. Bonner says historic distiricts do appreciate in value and end up being nicer and more expensive. He agrees HODs increase value but says those properties are isolated from that neighborhood. Residents disagree. He supports Thompson's motion to approve HOD with exception of properties along St Mary's, Brooklyn and one on West Peace.

10:58: HOD will go into effect immediately. The motion fails, 5-3.

10:59: Stephenson motions to accept Planning Commission's recommendation. It passes 6-2, so the historic boundaries will remain and Glenwood-Brooklyn will get its HOD, effective immediately. Meeting adjourned to a round of applause from residents. See you all in two weeks!

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