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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council Live Blog

Posted by on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 1:21 PM

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It's that third Tuesday again. While not quite at capacity, council chambers has got a lot of visitors, including firefighters and their supporters who are still fighting for that raise, even though the council approved the budget—sans raises for first responders—yesterday afternoon. 

1:14: Mayor Nancy has called the meeting to order. Alfred Leech, chair of the board of directors of Passage Home, is here. The nonprofit aimed at "breaking the cycle of poverty" in Raleigh is here; it gets grant money from the city of Raleigh. It restores buildings, builds new housing etc. in southeast Raleigh.

1:17: Mayor Nancy says it is a great organization that has done incredible things in the community. The consent agenda has been approved.

1:18: Report and recommendation of the planning commission is up. There's a text change re. allowing town home ownership in the New Bern-Edenton Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District. Bonner supports the text change and moves for approval, but it actually needs a hearing. Kay Crowder says there is confusion over the text change so brings it to her Growth and Natural Resources Committee.

1:20: Another text change for North Ridge South Neighborhood, Oberlin Village NCOD and Sandy Forks Road rezoning go to public hearing on July 5. A Rock Quarry Road rezoning case is approved. Merrimon-Wynne house gets its amplified entertainment permit for a three month trial period approved.

1:22: No report from the manager. Bicycle and pedestrian advisory commission is reporting. They have a work plan for 2016-2017 and asks their board chair asks council for approval. Branch asks if there are any budget impacts? There aren't. Council approves it 

1:24: John Chavis Memorial Park Implementation study is up. It went to park board twice, there was a public hearing April 21. Met again in May and the board unanimously approved the implementation study for Chavis Park. 

1:25: Here's an overview. Chavis is on the National Historic Register of Places. It was an important destination for African Americans across the region and it's a community asset to Raleigh. The initiatives and passion are "very strong" from the community says Parks and Rec's Matthew Keough. 

1:28: Stakeholders involved include city officials, community members and project staff. The idea for renovations to Chavis came to council's attention in 2008 via a citizen petition. A park master plan was established in 2014; in the last two years, planners have been prioritizing what needs to be done in the park. Staff has been looking at the site, interpreting the master plan and deciding how to steward $12.5 million in park bonds funding for the plan. Clearscapes are the designers.

1:30: Steve Schuster from Clearscapes is speaking. The challenge was to find the right balances of uses in serving roles as community park, historic park, downtown/destination park.  They looked at other urban parks and best practices and have goals of increasing attendance, improving safety and circulation and having a mix off sustainable amenities. 

1:32: So there were some updates to the 2014 master plan that evolved out of the recent study. You can read more about the plan here.  Basically there will be a new, bigger community center as the focus of the park; it was the top priority. There will also be a central plaza for events space and upgrades to the original carousel building (including catering and temporary concessions).

1:38: Next steps are a one-year design process, to be completed this time next year. The neighborhood will continue to be engaged through meetings, and contract bids would go out next fall. The first phase would be fully implemented in spring/summer of 2019. David Cox is asking about a raised indoor track inside the community center; something similar was planned for Abbot's Creek, but it never materialized. Cox wants t know if $9 million will be enough to build that track. Schuster says for this sized facility, we "feel confident we can deliver on the budget that we have."

1:41: Thompson wants to know why their can't be a 400-meter track if there's a regulation sized football field? Staff studied it, but community wants fitness courts—multi use tennis and basketball courts— instead. Mayor Nancy asks if there have been discussions about partnering with Shaw?

1:43: Keough says they spoke with Shaw but it never got to the partnership level, and that the community wasn't necessarily ready for competition-ready tracks, but doesn't have to be part of Phase 1. Shaw said it may be willing to partner down the line. 

1:44: This is a phased master plan, we're tying to look into the crystal ball and not paint ourselves into a corner, Schuster says. The evolution will continue over time; nothing is disallowed from happening in the future. The full-size track will be studied again in the future.

1:45: Mayor Nancy is asking about earlier issues about the carousel building; Schuster says they are planning to restore it with the goal being it could some day be used as a cafe. The overall project will be in the $52 million neighborhood, Corey Branch points out. "There is a lot more to do than what's in Phase 1." Mayor Nancy says we need to be "as value-oriented as possible."

1:47: The last thing I want to do is come here after bid day and say we're over budget," Schuster says. Stephenson commends the latest efforts to engage the community. Says they turned the trust around in the community. Council approves, and the Chavis project will move onto the design phase. 

1:48: MAB moves to approve Buffaloe Road Dog Park Jaycee Park Dog Run designs and an overall, comprehensive analysis of dog parks in the city of Raleigh.

1:49: Committee reports are up since it's not 2 o'clock yet. There are a couple items in Growth and Natural Resources including drainage assistance policy revisions, omnibus text amendments that go to public hearing in July...this has to do with bins for trash and recycling on downtown streets. Stephenson asks if this is the long-term action for bins? Travis Crane says it would just create more space for recycling though would not prevent people from rolling bins out on the sidewalk.Raleigh doesn't have allies so there aren't a lot of options to store trash bins.  

1:52: Stephenson says he is concerned that trash just sits on sidewalk until hauled off; "it seems like there are better ways," he says. MAB makes a motion to study the issue further, staff can come back in six months or a year. Council approves that motion. And there is proposal for solar and co-generation initiatives...there is a recommendation to remove that. Stephenson wants to know why.

1:55: Staff says it has met with postilion from the industry though the city is still working with clean energy center over at N.C. State. Mayor Nancy clarifies that we are keeping incentives for solar, just not using this specific technology. Staff wants to continue to look at its options for solar incentives. All these items will go to public hearing in July. 

1:58: Report of Mayor and Council members is up. David Cox has nothing. Stephenson says proposal to have an equity consultant come in and do training for senior staff. He says council should also have a session with the equity consultant. The strategic plan has equity goals because it's an economic driver, promotes prosperity for all residents and, like, it's the right thing to do. They will have a work session with the equity consultant. 

2:04: Corey Branch mentions some events in Southeast Raleigh. Dickie Thompson wishes everyone a happy 4th. MAB requests some money from the contingency fund for a Habitat for Humanity project and she wants council to take action on the change collection boxes for the Raleigh Wake Partnership to End Homelessness. Council approves. MAB also praises Kate Pearce who is leading Dix Park study. 

2:06: It's 2 o'clock, so request and petitions of citizens is up. Sarah Wilson is here to speak about downtown infill. She lives next to an acre and a half, it was completely cleared last year. There was no tree protection, some trees being torn down on the property line before a permit box was put up; she couldn't find out who was in charge to speak to. Dumped dirt from footings on to her property; she complained, and the builder then did a survey. The builders took down two pine trees that  actually had been on her property. They put up a construction fence, then took it down. She has a lot of concerns. "I feel like the city bears a responsibility here, building a 35 foot house five feet from the property line cannot be done without encroaching on property next door." Her time is up. She is a resident since the 1970's  and says "this should not be happening here in Raleigh. I would like to see y'all make some changes (to the infill standards) so we don't have to deal with all this trouble."

2:11: Crowder says Growth and Natural Resources Committee is addressing this. City staff had not looked into this because they didn't have enough information. Mayor Nancy says look into building on five foot setback. Wilson says staff has been helpful.

2:12: Emelia Cowans-Taylor from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences is here. There will be a new exhibition at the museum in 2017 called "Race: Are We So Different." She asks for $50,000 to help secure the exhibition. The AJ Fletcher Foundation and Capitol Broadcasting have committed more than $100 thousand, but the museum needs a total of $250 thousand to bring the exhibition and associated events. 

2:16: Public hearings now. The first is an unsafe building on 4004 Wingate Drive. No one speaks and it's approved. Property liens are up. They adopt all of them. Next is the rezoning case on Jones Franklin for an anti abortion rights group that wants a site next to a women's health clinic that provides abortion services. It would go from residential to office mixed and the Planning Commission recommended approval. West CAC voted 30-17 in favor of rezoning. The city mis-scheduled the public hearing however...the attorney recommends holding the hearing now, since there is not a meeting tonight. Around twenty people are here to speak on the case.

2:21: Only one person who lives within 100 feet of the property is here. They can start the hearing today, and keep it open until the July meeting. MAB says let's wait until end of the hearing to make a decision. Hearing will start now. Comments are limited to 8 minutes per side.

2:23: People in support of the rezoning will speak first. Timothy Kane, real estate appraiser is speaking first. It's consistent with 2030 Comp. Plan, conforms to surrounding area. The applicant is 350 yards south; they are moving north to a space they own. "Bottom line is it's consistent, reasonable."

2:25: John Summers, a Raleigh resident says he is here to bring attention to the public: when rezoning a case from residential to office, city's interest is in protecting remaining residents. "Residents have expressed support," he says. It requires a 20 foot buffer yard, 50 foot restrictions adjacent to the residences. Though Hand of Hope Pregnancy Center does not plan to change the building.

2:27: Tanya Baker Nelson, founder and director is here. They currently do business at Your Choice Pregnancy Service. All services are free, confidential, they do provide abortion education/ "We do not protest, that is not who we are to advertise ourselves to the community." She asks the council to approve. 

2:28: Emily Moore, a supporter of Hand of Hope, says she is aware of neighbors concerns about protests. Again, not who we are. Graphic signs would deter women from coming to our center, so we would not support that. Concern that we would coerce people into making a certain decision, again not who we are. "We have been committed to being truthful and honest about all options women have. Make women feel guilt...that is not who we are." They offer post abortion counselling, help women "find hope and healing." She knows people who run the ministry well. They are not divisive, but truly care about men and women in this situation. They have "nothing but compassion for people in this position."

2:30: Opposition is up. Sharon Mixon, a neighbor is her to speak. I am here to tell you how much I hate Whole Foods. She says she started a ministry to stop people from paying too much for food. She is going to start a phony Whole Foods to get people not to shop at whole foods. It's an analogy. True subject i am here to discuss: I assumed there were two abortion clinics on Jones Franklin Road. They seem like competitors but just like my fictional business do not sell food, this business is a ministry. Not a health facility. Says the realtor withheld the name of the business and owner, was not straightforward about what type of business or its name. "This group has been intentionally misleading. They say they do not picket but go to their website and you'll see a little girl holding an anti abortion sign in front of this house. They exercise their right to party and you don't need a permit to do that. Ask them to put their actual name on their deed, not to be misleading and call themselves a pregnancy clinic when they are actually a ministry.

2:33: Calla Hales, NARAL N.C. rep. She is administrator at Preferred Women's Heath Clinic, the clinic next door. They have been there, operating as an abortion clinic, since 1997. She asks council to vote against the rezoning. This has everything to do with security, she says. While they say they don't picket and protest, i had to call the police this morning on someone who claimed to be from hand of Hope. Maybe they don't personally picket but others use that as a catalyst. It is irresponsible knowing their intentions and allowing this situation to escalate. I have personally face physical violence from protesters in the last year and would never want that for my staff, residents or anyone else around me. I ask you to think about what your responsibility is to making sure everyone in this community is safe.

2:35: Carrie Rogers, neighbor. She's raised two daughters in the neighborhood and passed that property for ten years. On our way to Target, Home Depot, Harris Teeter and the move theater...one point I have made when there were protesters, I hoped my daughters didn't see signs the picketers had. I would not take them to a movie that shows signs that violence. "I don't want her to look at the bodies of dead fetuses," she says she has been raised in family with an OB-GYN,she knows about medical processes OB-GYNs are involved with, she knows about the birds and the bees. he realizes for safety of patients and privacy of individuals that it's important these people don't go in next door. They said they don't protest but they have been there as recently as last week, and I cannot believe there won't be protesters there. Other neighbors feel the same way. For our children. 

2:38: Galiya Paliga, resident. Time ran out on her. She says she would have to re-writer her comments to hand them in. She says council can put conditions on property. So, they would have to re-notice the hearing to say it's held over, the attorney says. Thompson says we should send letters out and post a sign. The hearing will be held open, people within 100 feet will be re-noticed. 

2:43: Anyone who hasn't spoken today will be given eight minutes per side July 5th.

2:44: Comprehensive plan amendment on economic development is up, establishes priority areas. The text change will promote small businesses in high poverty, commercial areas. Stephenson says this is a double edged sword; while bringing development, it could bring gentrification. The map does not include residential properties, however. So it will not cause dislocation, Stephenson asks. It's aligned with the same targeted zones for small businesses, says James Sauls, economic development director. 

2:53: Council approves it. Appointments are up. There are four applicants for Raleigh Historic Development Commission. MAB nominates four as nominated by the commission and closes nomination period. Council approves. Raleigh Convention and Performing Arts Center: Thompson said he had a chance to speak with Terri Lomax, a member who wants to be re-appointed but missed several meetings in the last two years. He has requested Lomax's attendance record from her first term of service and moves to re-appoint members Betsy Buford and David Clegg; council approves. 

2:58: There is some confusion about nominees to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. There will be four names on the ballot and the council will select two at the next meting. We also need a Tourist and Convention Related representative, there's no nominee. The citizen at large, Kevin Howell is re-appointed.

3:02: Historic Resources and Museums Advisory Board has a recommendation for a vacant seat; their nomination is approved and there is a vacancy on the Substance Abuse Advisory commission. That's it, meeting adjourned. 

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