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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council Live Blog

Posted by on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 1:11 PM

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Happy Tuesday, y'all. As we may have mentioned multiple times elsewhere on this blog, it is indeed an election day, so please go vote if you haven't already.

City council has an afternoon of fun lined up for you: important items to watch include proposed changes to East College Park developments, outdoor dining regs and some UDO related matters. The real action starts tonight at 7, with a public hearing on the proposed budget and the Airbnb vote. City manager Ruffin Hall said yesterday to expect an overflow crowd. 

1:13: The meeting has been called to order. 

1:15: Communications director Damien Graham says the city has an exciting new social media campaign. The people of Raleigh make it unique and special, he says, so there is a new campaign called reflect Raleigh. There's a giant mirror (right now in the city's Exchange Plaza, I saw it!) where people are encouraged to take pics of themselves with the mirror and tag it #ReflectRaleigh. 

1:17: Raleigh City Council members are super fun and they found the mirror and tagged themselves in it yesterday. MAB wishes it was a "skinny" mirror.

1:19: Attorney Tom McCormick just introduced city interns. And here's an agency grantee presentation. The agency is North Carolina Opera. They are five years old and have a budget of $1.5 million. They have a full season lined up including a costume party for its Halloween performance. Mayor Nancy has been a couple of times and enjoys it. And there are subtitles to the operas in English, so you can get what's going on.

1:22: Consent agenda is approved. Planning Commission report is up. A Strickland Road rezoning has been withdrawn (commission didn't recommend approval...) The other items are comprehensive plan amendments.  Kay Crowder wants to send zoning district frontage changes and build-to requirements item to a work session. Omnibus text amendment goes to Growth and Natural Resources. 

1:27: Council approves Economic Development and Construction Surety for public hearing June 21. Manager's report is up. First is Bike and pedestrian improvements to Lumley Road, Westgate Road, Ebenezer Church Road. The city negotiated a contract with Stewart Engineering for $56,000 to do a feasibility study.

1:32: The improvements would include curbs and gutters, drains, sidewalks, bike lanes, paths, road widening, pedestrian signals and guardrails. The study is done now and now there's an agreement for $438,229 with Stewart to design the improvements, which the council has to approve. Total cost for all three phases of the project is $2.256 million and $550,416 more in funding is needed.

1:38: Cost would be $65 per foot of the project. 

1:41: Bonner moves for approval. Dickie Thompson agrees the project is needed but wants to find ways o bring the cost down. So they'll now be moving forward with $2.256 million and the council approves. Next is East College Park development alternatives.

1:42: Council already approved infrastructure—water, sewer, stormwater—for ECP. Hall says if the city knows what kind of designs will be allowed there, it will be easier to put in that infrastructure. The city wants a mix of housing types (town homes, single family homes) at different price points. The 2 design alternatives are: neighborhood plan, meaning more townhomes instead of apartments, single family development. Branch says the community wants more single family homes, not apartments, limited townhomes. No blank lots with nothing, no landholding. 

1:46: Putting single family homes back in the community where we had them before is the best solution, Branch says. That would make plans for apartments to be townhomes, townhomes to be single family. Bonner has concerns about losing 15 plus units in doing that. Branch says it's important to keep it as it has been before, keep options for people who want to live in a neighborhood of single family and town homes rather than apartments. There will be high density development all over the New Bern Avenue corridor anyway. 

1:48: The final count of units would be 128, down from 172 or 169 units. It would be a loss of affordable housing, MAB asks. BUt not clear what the dollar amount loss would be. Mayor Nancy says all units are not equal. We want to provide affordable housing but respond to neighborhood's request to have more single family homes. "It's a balance," she says. 

1:51: There will be 169 units at nearby Walnut Terrace when built out in Phase 1. Total planned is approximately 400 units. About ten community members are here holding signs opposing the East College Park Re-Development Plan. 

1:53: Russ says there will be nearby senior housing anyway. "This is an opportunity to balance interest of neighbors here with something more historically compatible with what was there before and still achieve mix of incomes, mix of density goals of the NRSA." That would balance all the interests, he says.

1:54: David Cox asks about opportunities to tweak the design in future? There is but initial costs have already been included, and there would be re-construction. DC: So real issue would be to go to higher density? Correct. Motion is to go with combo apartments, townhouses, single family homes at 15, 40 and 45 percent ratios, and replace apartments in another area with town homes. 

1:56: It passes unanimously. Onto report from Historic Cemeteries Advisory board. The board has work plan for the next year, and last year funded a lot of important projects. Council approves it.

2:00: Parks board is presenting on the Pullen Arts Center improvements plan, paid for by $6 million from the 2014 parks bond. There's a building and site concept. Design begins this summer, and construction begins in fall 2017. Construction should take a year. Council approves unanimously.

2:13: Economic Development and Innovation committee report is up. There's a recommendation to approve the building upfit grant program; it's $500,000 year set aside in the capital budget. The first year of the program is a test year. Projects can ask for between $5,000 and $100,000. If the cap is too high, council can re-evaluate. Council approves. Next up is the outdoor dining on city plazas. The committee recommended no outdoor seating on city plazas by a split vote.

2:15: Mayor Nancy says the ordinance acknowledges plazas are different from sidewalks. "You really need to have attention and a plan for these plaza spaces," she says. City just completed Market and Exchange plazas. Vote is to say treat them differently from regular sidewalks. So they're taken out of the overall outdoor dining ordinance and council can explore different guidelines for the plazas. 

2:18: Kay Crowder question: Plazas are easements as opposed to plazas? Yes, but doesn't make a difference to this vote. Next part of motion will refer DRA, Urban Design Center and CVB to decide how the plazas will be used. Crowder asks if possible to bring it to a work session co council can talk about what their vision for downtown plazas would be. 

2:21: Council approves the first motion to treat plazas separately. Next is to refer use to council work session, DRA, special events office, Convention and Visitors Bureau and Urban Design Center. Next is the outdoor seating regulations for sidewalks. 

2:23: Stephenson says he is concerned by going from stanchions to medallions, benefit to operators when there is good compliance but doesn't see any indication operators are going to self enforce the medallions. Like, would a server do it or who? That will leave it to inspectors and they will be in a difficult position because medallions are hard to enforce. "I'm concerned we're setting up a conflict situation where operators won't be incentivized to self enforce and will challenge citations because of three-strike rule," he syas. For people who follow the rules great, but some operators will oppose enforcing the rules. He proposes alternative: when there is conflict over violation (valid or not): one of three violations gives you get out of jail free card where the operator will go back to stanchions which are easier to enforce. Not charged for violation and go back to stanchion, or they can accept the violation.

2:26: That's a substitute motion for how to enforce outdoor dining rules. Mayor Nancy understands his point. There has been a lot of debate. A lot of onus on business owner and it's easy to tell who is and is not following the rules. They asked for this, so council will let them do it. "Give the business owners some credit and let them try this," she says. Bonner says they reserve the right to switch to stanchions if they want. 

2:28: Cox seconds Stephenson's substitute motion. He says it's fairer to businesses to get out of a violation, fairer to inspectors. "Not making it harder for people to operate but giving them option of nt getting a violation, but a stanchion instead." MAB says a reason for medallions is to make Fayetteville Street look less like a flea market. "Going back to medallions doesn't make sense to me," she says. Bonner says you're essentially adding a fourth strike. Switch to stanchions after fourth violation. 

2:31: Kay Crowder wants to know if we can handle that process logistically? Wants to know how many violations there have been of dining rules so far? There have been 31 for after hours, no permit or violation of layout. 

2:35: Stephenson withdraws his substitute motion and the council approves as is. 

2:36: UDO Height Limits and Building Setbacks concerns remains in the Growth and Natural Resources Committee. 

2:37: Report of Mayor and Council members. David Cox thanks mayor, council and staff for helping his transition on council be painless and rather enjoyable. He says as a newbie, it's important to say what's important to him going forward. He thinks employee salaries and benefits is very important topic. Ity is undergoing salary/compensation review. he regrets that the study wasn't completed in time for this year's budget. He wants to see it completed ASAP and reflect on conclusions of study and make adjustments necessary. He says staff info re. salaries for police and fire employees have been made available. Over period of ten years minimum salaries for police have grown 6% and fire salaries 8%. They have grown very little over ten years, and inflation has been a factor. "I just want to say growing forward i think employee salaries are extremely important," he says. And does not agree with spouse surcharge for health insurance.

2:41: Corey Branch wants people to be aware of the WakeMed farmers market. Kay Crowder asks that Planning Commission be involved in selection of site for new Oak City Outreach Center. I would like it if "we could ensure this won't be a barrier to continuing growth to south down South Wilmington Street," so include planning staff in the process. 

2:42: Bonner Gaylord wants approval of District E Neighborhood Alliance monthly meetings—wants more staff time to attend. Crowder says staff needed at some District D meetings, sometimes staff not needed though. Bonner says there is flexibility in scheduling. It's a staff workload issue, Hall says. These meetings are on weekends or at night. No policy needed necessarily but have everyone be aware to balance resources. Bonner just wants the flexibility. 

2:49: Thompson introduces new director of convention center and performing arts complex, Doug Grissom. 

2:50: MAB says she has received call from developers about developer services, praises staff. 

2:51: Edie Jeffries is nominated to the Planning Commission. MAB moves for approval of all re-appointments to four commissions. Withdraws because one member on one commission only attends 57% because of international travel. They'll hold approval for that commission, so council approves everyone except for Raleigh Convention and Performing Arts Center Authority. 

That's it for now. Join us for the evening session. It's going to be lit, as the kids say. 

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