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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council Live Blog

Posted by on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 1:07 PM

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Happy Tuesday, everyone. The agenda's looking pretty light today, but if you're wondering what's been up with Union Station recently—there's a giant drill, and a family of groundhogs living on the site, per my personal observations—you are in luck. City staff will provide a construction progress update, a "summary of challenges" and a timeline overview. 

1:12: Mayor Nancy called the meeting to order, is taking a moment to discuss recent events re. police officer killings in several U.S. Cities. Our hearts and minds are with them and their families, she says. Raleigh has a diverse community that works together to make us stronger. But we still struggle with trust and understanding in our community. Building healthy communities is the enduring role of governments. We each have a role to build a safe, healthy Raleigh. The city is preparing for a community dialogue to bring together diverse voices to generate ideas and build common ground. There will be a series of conversations aided by a trained, neutral professional listener. There will be informal sessions focused on bringing about positive change. Will announce details soon. "We are more a like than we are different." She says these conversations may be difficult but will make us stronger. 

1:16: City manager Ruffin Hall is honoring city employees who may not often get a chance to be recognized for their hard work every day. First recognition is the Carl Dawson Teamwork Award (former Public Works director). Three or more employees will be honored. 26 nominations were submitted and it was a difficult decisions. There are three finalists. Parks and Rec User Fee team is number one; Central Business District Clean Team is number two, they keep downtown Raleigh clean; and third is Solid Waste Services and Public Utilities Combined Call Team. They give a one-stop call center for services, improving productivity and efficiency. They're the winning team.

1:20: Next up: Employees of the Year. Ruffin says all employees should win because everyone does a great job. But these employees demonstrated extraordinary service! Fellow employees make these nominations, an employee committee reviews and selects one form nine department groups. Customer service, efficiency and work performance are evaluated. The winners get a plaque and $250. Congrats to all the winners.

1:22: There is one more award to be given. Event manager Kelly Lindsey is City of Raleigh 2015 city employee of the year. She gets a standing ovation from City Council. 

1:25: City of Raleigh is an ISO Class 1 rating for being a "superior fire protection district," which saves citizens and business owners money on fire insurance rates. Raleigh got an upgraded rating which will go into effect August 1. Only eight of (100) other eligible cities in N.C. and around 204 (out of 48,000) in the U.S. have this superior rating. N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is here to present the award. It's the highest achievable public protection classification, a first-ever accomplishment by the city of Raleigh.

1:33: Mayor Nancy says she speaks for everyone when she says we are eagerly anticipating the drop in our insurance rates.

1:34: Agency grantee presentation us up. It's the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative. They partner with governments and land trusts to protect and provide clean drinking water, and work with landowners all over the Upper Neuse basin. 

1:43: Consent agenda is up. It's approved, with one item pulled, re. engineering services for phase II of the Hillsborough Street project. The item's approved.

1:44: Planning Commission has no report. A text change on construction surety is held for two weeks. Another text change proposal to regulate height for 14 pre-existing NCODs with specific height is up. The measurement technique will be to the peak of the roof for new NCODs, the midpoint of the roof in NCODs that specify that.

1:46: Parks staff will provide an update on the Dix Park master plan advisory committee. Kate Pearce is presenting. Master plan executive committee has 8 members. They will select consultant team that will make decisions for master planning process. The Master Plan Advisory Committee has a hands-on role. The process is: public application, advertised through media and outreach happened. That period has ended, with 415 applications to serve on the committee. Kate Pearce says the quality of applicants was amazing. "A lot more than 45 people want to be involved in this process, so we have to work hard to make sure those who want to be involved can be involved."

1:49: So 45 were selected with diverse interests and specializations, geographic diversity, other diversity etc. 

1:51: For those not selected, they can still join work groups, volunteer and attend meetings and events. 

1:52: The council approves staff recommendations for people for the committee. Union Station update is up. Ruffin says we have had good news with the process so far. "So far, so good." Rich Kelly from engineering services is presenting.

1:54: We're looking at slides of photos of the site. A slide says "construction is going well." It was approximately 17 percent complete as of June 15. There's deep excavation throughout the site, Kelly says, which would explain the drill. 

1:57: Here are some challenges: contaminated soils because it's a Brownfield's site and there's a high water table, which means water needs to be removed and disposed of. Water on the site is considered contaminated and needs to be disposed of in a special way which drives up costs. They encountered a layer of coal throughout the site, four feet deep at some points, which has been challenging and costly to dispose of.

1:59: Complexities of the project: There are a lot of parties/funding sources involved with the project and a lot, more than thirty, agreements that needed to be executed. The project is sitting in a triangular piece of land surrounded on three sides by active railroads. And then the environmental issues. But there's a lot of financial and technical oversight at the private/special interest, local, state and federal levels. 

2:03: "Challenges" have run upa projected $5.2 million; most expensive include contaminated soil, de-watering. And it's been challenging to find elevators. That was the bad news. Good news is they went in with a $3 million contingency. The station itself represents half of a much bigger project. Partners managing the other aspects of the project have been able to find additional funds to offset the contingencies, so no new funds will be required to cover these challenges. 

2:06: They've managed the budget effectively and have been able to take on unexpected costs without additional funds being required. Next year will be huge. Major elements will take shape in spring, plaza finished in the fall and substantial completion of the building will come in around November, 2017. 

2:07: In August, council will vote to get the right money in the right place for the remainder of the project. Questions?

2:08: Mayor Nancy: Aren't these unexpected challenges supposed to be anticipated by the at-risk construction manager? Didn't you test for contaminated soil? They did. But the quantity of soil went beyond the contingencies available. Thompson says most of risk is below grade level? That's right. The challenges are just projections. The team knew these were issues we have been running into and knew they would have to take car of soil and water problems that couldn't be quantified Kelly says. They were caught off guard by interest in the community to participate. 

2:12: There won't be escalators but the infrastructure will be there to put them in in the future. Mayor Nancy is concerned that the contingency has been used up. Kelly says they feel confident about these numbers. 

2:13: Next up: update on Crabtree pipeline sewer, in the Crabtree Creek basin. It drains all of North Raleigh's wastewater and most of downtown's. It conveys 20 million gallons of water per day. There has been a history of sanitary sewer overflows, like from the heavy rainstorms this weekend. Flooding is a result of structural failures on the older line and lack of capacity to handle wet weather flow. Again, like this weekend. 

2:15: They have rehabilitated 1960's infrastructure for $10-11 million. They've built a new pipe along Crabtree Creek to handle growth in capacity. First phase of that is complete. We're talking second phase today, 21,000 feet of 54-inch sewer. There will also be rehab and expansion of Crabtree Creek lift station (near 540).

2:17: The new pipe will traverse a lot of the area where Raleigh citizens "live, work and play." Four tunnels at street crossings have been completed. The contract cost $15 million over twenty months, new contract will cost $20 million over two years. The city will get low interest loans from the federal government. 

2:19: Challenges: There will be more here than other projects' because of the size/depth and creek proximity of the new pipe. Roads will close. Hodges Street which closed last year will close again. Greenways will close too, because it's easier logistically than getting easements to close private property. And there will be direct impacts to residential properties; they're working with homeowners on that. And there will be blasting. There's a lot of rock in the Crabtree Creek area, so. Expect blasting through the corridor, folks. There's a whole separate communication effort dedicated to blasting.

2:24: SO tunnel construction, open cut construction is ongoing. Easement acquisition is ongoing. They have 25 of 42 easements secured. They expect to start on the new tunnel in early November, finishing at the end of 2018. Follow #crabtreepipeline on Twitter for updates, visit www.crabtreepipeline.com, email CrabtreePipeline@raleighnc.gov. Staff is out there getting the word out. 

2:28: Bonner says the communication on it has been exemplary, and that's important because it disrupts peoples' lives in a significant way.

2:29: There are no requests or petitions of citizens. Liens is up. 

2:32: A petition annexation for Sinclair Drive Mini-storage is approved with no one here for the hearing. Committee reports are up.

2:34: Growth and Natural Resources recommended upholding the Planning Commission's approval of a rezoning case on Leesville Road. David Cox visited the are on Saturday. He spoke with 23 neighbors; most were in favor of the rezoning because the developer has offered to turn their community into a gated community because they are concerned about cut-through traffic. It's not part of the rezoning request so the city is no privy to the agreement; it is a private agreement between neighbors and developer. 

2:36: Other neighbors are worried about traffic at intersection of Leesville Church and Leesville Road, because there is a middle school nearby. When parents drop of their kids, there will be a high level of service. And people worried about being a cut-through to Westgate Road. So maybe that neighborhood should also get a gate during school hours? The street, Bertram, is public so no. 

2:39: Kay Crowder says the rezoning has been extensively and transparently vetted. But Cox says half of people west of Leesville Road didn't even know about the rezoning, and the problem is the notification area was insufficient (because it's only 100 feet). Mayor Nancy says RCAC and Planning Commission are looking at a new notification process that will come before Council soon. It's approved 7-1, with Cox against.

2:42: New Bern-Edenton town homes are up. The committee voted not to approve the text change that would alter that neighborhood's NCOD. There should be a public hearing (contrary to what the agenda says). So Crowder moves to schedule for September 6. That will happen. 

2:43: Report from Mayor and council members is up. David Cox received an update on the city's pay study he has asked for and thanks the city manager. Russ Stephenson is asking about looking at a resident's petition re. HVAC units in relation to setbacks on new developments. This was discussed during crafting of the UDO, but Stephenson thinks there is a burn-in period that could address this. Mayor Nancy says if there is more concern expressed down the line they can adress it.

2:52: Corey Branch is addressing ABC audits. Central CAC has concerns about two mini marts in Southeast Raleigh, and asks staff to request an ABC audit on the stores. So council votes to request and ABC audit on those two stores. Branch says front yard parking is an issue that has come up. It's illegal in the UDO; send out something to alert citizens that front yard parking is not allowed. Parking on the grass is not allowed in District D; there's an ordinance that needs to be explained to people.

2:55: Crowder says Growth and Natural Resources will meet July 27th. A resident asked council to examine sideyard setbacks in all residential zoning districts; Crowder asks that planning staff look at that in all residential districts and bring that to the committee. Un-delineated setbacks from a next-door developer encroached into a resident's property. A tree got was cut down, dirt dumped in her yard. Bonner says he pulled up a Google maps view of the property in question before development started; says it showed developer was following the rules. He says be hesitant to act on one person's anecodte.

2:58: Mayor Nancy says she wants to look at if 5 foot sideyard setbacks are sufficient; look at that in all residential districts. Bonner calls it a can of worms. We worked vigorously on that in the UDO and this is continuing to re-hash things that have been done. Crowder says it does appear citizens believe this is something we should look at and examine, based on citizen's petitions. Developers need to not impede on next door neighbors. Cox supports, says 5 feet isn't very far. I would be reticent to say people are coming to council with exaggerations, they have legit concerns. RS reiterates the burn-in period; are we getting the kind of results we want from the UDO? Is the 5 foot setback adequate?

3:00: MAB asks if the sideyard setback has been an issue with other people? Staff says this is the only one he knows of. Actually two residents brought it. Crowder says it doesn't hurt to look at it. Maybe we decide nothing needs to be done, but it gives us an opportunity to take u to peoples petitions in committee. That's a motion, look at side setbacks in all residential zones. What were they before UDO and what are they now? Planning staff says there is no difference. So it could be a UDO change. Crowder says there were two petitions, do we want to address it or not? They will look at it just in R-4 and R-6 zoned districts. The motion passes 5-3 with Gaylord, Thompson and Baldwin dissenting.

3:04: Mayor Nancy wants to schedule a follow up mini retreat and training session on personal bias, communication, appreciating each others' perspectives. They can't find a day in next six weeks to do so, so she's asking for half a day or an evening session to do it. Mangers will work on it. 

3:07: Mayor Nancy has another item. The city's official break has been last two weeks of August historically and that's difficult for staff people who have kids in school. She wants to move that to the last 2 weeks of July. Bonner wants staff to look at maybe taking a whole month off. Thompson agrees with taking off the whole month of July. MAB says one whole month is a lot, they won't get business done. Mayor Nancy says let staff look at it. They will.

3:10: Bonner wants to authorize text changes re. build to and frontage requirements. RS wants to amend  language re. parking decks. They approve that. Thompson wants to give an attaboy to the utilities department for their work on the Capital Blvd. water main that ruptured last week. MAB thanks Mayor Nancy for her announcement about the community conversations. Calls it an important step she is looking forward to participating in.

3:13: Nominations are up. Dr. Carol Love and another  has been appointed to the Parks, Greenways and Recreation Advisory Board. Terri Lomax is re-appointed to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors' Bureau board. Some resignations and nominations. Minutes are approved and they go into closed session. Until next time!

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