Monday afternoon I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz in the lawn of the Page Walker Hotel for a taping of Cary Matters. The topic was on the 10th anniversary of the SPRUCE litter reduction and beautification program. During the past ten years volunteers have collected over 150,000 pounds of litter in this program. Our taping was completed with three takes.
Town Manager One-On-One
Monday evening I talked with the town manager in our weekly one-on-one. Topics included the DEI task force (which will be announced at our April 7th meeting), candidates for police chief, the Sports and Rec Center, three major park projects, and the Fenton. Our meeting lasted about fifteen minutes.
Tuesday through Thursday I joined two staff members and council member Robinson in a trip to Ft. Lauderdale as part of a RTA group of 84. The group included the mayors from Raleigh, Durham, and Cary along with council members from those and other municipalities. Also attending were Wake County commissioners and other elected officials from the triangle region. Making up the bulk of the group were those with vested interest in transit and rail.
Tuesday evening, I attended the opening reception where we heard from the Raleigh mayor, the NCDOT Secretary, GoTriangle, NC Railroad, the Vice Mayor of Broward County, and a representative from Visit Lauderdale. Throughout our trip in various locations, we saw and heard numerous presentations from various leaders of transit with vested interests in the Miami, Ft. Lauderdale area. I am not including those presentations or Q&A in my summary of the trip.
After attending breakfast with speakers on Wednesday from Broward County and South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the group rode the Tri-Rail from the Fort Lauderdale station to the Miami Airport station. The Tri-Rail is a commuter rail with double decker cars that has been in use for some time. It was originally planned to get workers into Miami. But now there is just as much ridership the other way. The Miami-Dade location was the point for intermodal connections. At this point we boarded the Miami Metrorail which took us to downtown Miami.
Under the Metrorail in downtown Miami is a linear park called the Underline. This ten-mile linear park is not only a greenway for walking and running but has active spaces with “rooms” for games, yoga, mini soccer, basketball, and more. It also allowed for easy, quick food deliveries in a dedicated lane. I witnessed some delivery bikes in this lane moving much faster than cars. This was an amazing space and something I envision us doing in Cary. For example, between the Fenton and the downtown park.
The group also road the downtown Metromover to get to the light rail station for the Brightline high-speed rail. The Metromover was very interesting. It ran on tracks dozens of feet in the air through the high-rise buildings in downtown. It was one car with no seats and had stops every few hundred yards. I don’t see this in our area in my lifetime, but you never know what will be needed in the future.
The Brightline is a high-speed rail that will eventually go from Miami to Orlando. Since their start in 2018 they have built and opened the section from Miami to West Palm Beach. They expect to finish the Orlando line by the end of 2022 and start carrying passengers between Orlando and South Florida in early 2023. It is a luxury rail service with stations that include restaurants, bars, and shops. Their stations even pump in desirable smells. In addition, their trains are like airlines with steward carts serving drinks and snacks. The Brightline is the nation’s only privately owned, higher-speed intercity passenger-rail service that runs on track owned by Florida East Coast Railway.
One of my biggest takeaways from this trip is the reaffirmation that you cannot pave your way out of today’s or tomorrow’s congestion. The solution must include multi-modal transportation. A big part of that multi-modal transportation is regional rail and that takes years of planning to implement and build. I expect the triangle region to double in population within the next thirty years. If we don’t start moving forward with multi-modal transportation plans now, we will be retro fitting in the future. And that is MUCH more expensive. A big thank you to RTA and all the sponsors who made this trip possible.
Friday started by addressing a group visiting Cary from Frisco, Texas which is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Their population is similar to Cary’s and were the fastest growing city in the United States in 2017. They are probably most known as the home of the Dallas Cowboys’ training center called the star. The focus of their visit was to get ideas for their parks, get more involved in amateur sports, and see various performing arts venues in the triangle. Their group consisted of their mayor, council members, members of the chamber, and business leaders from the community. I was very honored that they were visiting Cary especially since we visited them on our intercity visit to Fort Worth and Irving in 2019. We have so much to learn from each other and I look forward to our continued relationship.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding
Later Friday morning I briefly attended a regional infrastructure summit on preparing for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding. The speakers covered implementation at the federal and state levels, analysis of policy and funding implications, and visions from regional partners. Unfortunately, I had to leave the meeting to attend the North Carolina Metro Mayors meeting.
North Carolina Metro Mayors
The summary of the North Carolina Metro Mayors meeting from the Executive Director is as follows:
- President Biden has proposed a FY 22/23 Federal Appropriation to Congress.
- As part of the annual appropriation process, a number of our NC Congressional Delegation members are now accepting proposals for local earmarks or “Community Project Funding.” If you check on their websites and don’t see anything about applying for funding – we recommend directly calling or emailing your Congressional offices to inquire about the process for earmarks projects they may consider.
- ARP and Affordable Housing – HR 7078 – Lifeline Act – a bi-partisan effort, led by NC’s Rep. Adams (D) and Rep. Rouzer (R), have co-sponsored a bill to amend ARP funding restrictions by adding eligibility of the funds for affordable housing projects that include loans and low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC). While ARP funds can be used on affordable housing, they are not currently authorized for use in projects that include both loans and LIHTC. Some municipalities successfully found solutions to this restriction by supplanting other local costs using ARP funds and then flexing the newly unencumbered local funds for worthwhile LIHTC affordable housing projects.
- The Lifeline Act would certainly make it easier for locals to use ARP for affordable housing projects. AND most significantly, it would unlock $170M in ARP funds the State has designated for the workforce housing loan program that are currently stalled due the ARP restrictions that HR7078 would overcome.
- We have seen growing support amongst our NC House members (Reps. Rouzer, Adams Budd and possibly Price and Murphy) and we are hopeful that our two Senators will support it when a Senate version is introduced. Given that affordable housing is a high priority for Metro Mayors Coalition members, we will continue to monitor this issue.
- Things remain quiet relative to legislative work. The General Assembly is currently in an adjournment period, so legislators have been focused on electoral fundraising efforts.
- The legislature will return next week (April 4-6). We anticipate non-voting sessions and no issues to be taken up.
- Governor Cooper, Speaker Moore, and President Pro-Tem Berger collaborated to help bring Vietnam-based VinFast and over 7,000 auto-manufacturing jobs, to a Chatham County mega-site. There will be a legislative appropriation for site preparation that was part of the incentive package for VinFast. It is unclear as to whether we will see legislation for that appropriation prior to the short session in late May.
- REMINDER: Local bills need to be submitted to bill drafting by 4:00 PM on Monday, May 9 and filed by 4:00 PM on Tuesday, May 31.
- All local bills for the short session must have consensus by each member of the delegation (House and Senate).
Transportation – nothing new to report.
Public Safety – nothing new to report.
Economic Development – nothing new to report.
Local Control/Local Revenues– nothing new to report
Special Update & Discussion: Short Term Rentals – AirBnb and others
Mayor Esther Manheimer, Asheville
- The short term rentals in Asheville are having a huge impact on housing affordability.
- Asheville regulates short term rentals within the City with a “home-stay” concept, a tool that Buncombe County does not utilize.
- The Asheville Tourism Development Authority (independent authority) just announced $40M in revenue from their occupancy tax receipts – with 38 percent of that coming from short term rentals. The large and growing market share for STRs is causing great concern in the local lodging industry. This market share in Asheville/Buncombe is another indicator of STR’s impact on the local affordability crisis in the real estate market.
- Asheville has reached a creative compromise with the STR industry representatives. AirBnB corporate representatives that both sides seem to be able to live with.
- Asheville’s focus is on a “home-stay concept” which means they don’t allow a whole house rental inside the city limits (some were grandfathered-in to remain whole house rentals). Anybody can use up to two bedrooms as STRs, in an otherwise occupied home (this also includes other conditions, such as requirements for parking).
- Asheville is home to a number of “condo-tels”, that include a large portion of short-term rentals in multi-family condo buildings, with more being built in downtown. This poses a continuing challenge to affordability, as local residents struggle to afford the high costs in the city that is so impacted by STRs.
- The City of Asheville is happy to share its model ordinance/home-stay concept with other cities.
Mayor Bill Saffo, Wilmington
- Wilmington has a STR separation requirement of 400 ft within the city, except for properties in the Central Business District.
- Each STR is required to register with the city, then a lottery is used to award registrations within the 400 ft constraints.
- Wilmington’s STR procedures have been challenged in court by VRBO, contesting the city’s registration fee being charged to STR. Despite the case being argued on appeal in November, no opinions have been issued by the court yet. The case includes a significant challenge to the city’s STR registration requirement as a tool for their program.
- Without a registration requirement, it is impossible to manage the STRs in the neighborhoods and communities in the City of Wilmington. The Superior Court case, which may be decided in April will be a critical juncture in the regulation of STRs in NC.
Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, Raleigh
- Raleigh went through a four-year process to establish a regime for STRs. The previous city council adopted a model similar to the Asheville “home-stay concept.”
- The new city council has implemented different rules, including a registration program.
- The planning department has been monitoring the process and carefully tracking whole house rentals.
- In order to prevent “party houses,” Raleigh has a “3 Strikes” rule that removes the registration on the third strike of complaints/disruption at a STR property (although, they have not had to go that far yet).
- Would caution that “one size does not fit all” – Raleigh is very different from tourist cities, like Asheville and Wilmington. NC cities have unique challenges and needs and may require varied tools to address those unique needs in the specific communities in cities across the state.
City of Charlotte staff report
- The City Council is in the process of developing a quite complex and broad Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), that includes STR registration, as well as controls their density and attempts to prevent unruly “party houses.” The first draft was released in October 2021, and the public engagement period ended on March 18.
- Charlotte had a lengthy public comment period for the complex UDO, and STR’s was the topic that attracted, by far, the most public feedback.
- One of the topics that elicited disapproval during public comment was the proposed 400 ft of separation distance between STRs. As a result of the feedback, the 400 ft separation may be reconsidered for the next version of the proposed UDO.
- The next draft should be released in late May and council plans to adopt the UDO in July.
Mayor Pam Hemminger, Chapel-Hill
- Chapel-Hill’s process has taken over two years to develop, with broad public input. The town received neighborhood complaints about “party houses” in the past and this has become a high-profile topic.
- The town is attempting to put a registry together and has implemented a rule that each STR must have a local presence/person/contact that can be called to fix something or respond to a complaint.
- Residents can rent out rooms if it is your primary residence, similar to the “home-stay” concept and Chapel Hill also has the “3 strike” rule.
- New townhomes, condos, and apartments that require conditional rezoning now include language that does not allow STR units within them (avoiding the “condo-tels” that Asheville referred to).
Update from state level:
Erin Wynia, NCLM Government Affairs Director and Beau Mills
- During the short session, we generally don’t see the legislature wanting to take up high profile, controversial issues like STR, but we need to be well prepared and vigilant as always.
- This issue has continually come up over the past few years and the NCLM has worked closely with the NC Restaurant and Lodging Association to help maintain the option for local controls to meet local needs.
- One indication of greater engagement from the STR industry at the state level/legislature – AirBnB has hired a well-known lobbying firm to represent them this year (McGuireWoods). Previously, corporate STRs have not had lobbying representation from the large, well known lobbying firms.
- Details of local ordinances have previously been discussed and even voted on in the legislature (House included restrictions on local STR authority in the House version of the budget last year), but it has NOT passed in both chambers. Some of the legislative discussions have included complaints about the 400 ft rules as well as local government requirement for registrations and location tracking of STRs. The issue of “local registration requirements” for STRs, has especially been a flash point/bone of contention for the issue in the legislature.
- This is one of the League’s top priorities and concerns for the short session. While NCLM staff are hopeful that state preemption of local STR programs won’t be a topic during the legislative short session, NCLM and Metro Mayors will be keeping a close eye on the issue. Based on today’s conversation amongst metro mayors, and on past experience with NCLM members – it is clearly important that local governments retain the ability to address this fast emerging and impactful issue, without a “one size fits all” preemption of local control from the General Assembly that could harm neighborhoods.
- If you hear anything from AirBnB or other industry representatives, please let us know.
- The work that Asheville has done with AirBnB (home stay concept, grandfathering of pre-existing STRs) has appeared to address most of the STR industry concerns. Asheville continues to work with the industry representatives, with largely positive results, but still have sticking points over the enforcement and the industry’s willingness to share information/data with the city.
- It was recommended by several mayors that collaborating with nearby smaller communities can be a powerful way to grow awareness of the impact of STRs. For example, small mountain communities like Brevard, Highlands and Cashiers have been interested in implementing local STR ordinances.
- It was suggested larger cities would have more success explaining and conveying the importance of the regulating STRSs to state legislators if they were to approach the issue in concert with smaller jurisdictions in their region that share similar concerns. Example might be a community such as Kings Mountain that is concerned about the impact of unregulated STRs on their community as their tourism industry grows with a new casino opening in their community.
- PLEASE actively engage your neighboring municipalities on the topic and make sure your state legislators are aware of your community concerns and share your efforts to address community concerns regarding STRs.
The meeting concluded after about 45 minutes.
Cary-RTP Rapid Bus Extension
Friday afternoon I attended a stakeholder team meeting for the Cary-RTP Rapid Bus extension. This will build upon the Wake BRT which is currently under development as a separate project. The first phase of public engagement occurred in the fall of 2021 and the second phase, occurring now, is evaluating the three alignment alternatives. You can find out more about this study at https://wakebrtextensionsstudy.com.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included
This week I signed a letter agreement with the new owners of South Hills Shopping Center to set preliminary terms for locating a community recreation and sports center in their new development. Our next step will be creating and signing a Memorandum of Understanding. The new owners remain very excited about the possibility of our working together as are we.
Enjoy your weekend in spite of the pollen.
Group Visits from Frisco, Texas
This week, Cary hosted a group of city and business leaders from Frisco, Texas. During the group’s three-day trip, they had the opportunity to learn about Cary’s downtown development, housing, and economic development projects. Their trip also included a visit to Research Triangle Park and Koka Booth Amphitheater. Click here for more information on their visit to Cary.
Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival
Council Member Jack Smith provided closing remarks at the 12th Annual Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center on Sunday. More than 100 people attended the festival honoring Greek poet Constantine P. Cafavy. Attendees enjoyed readings, music, and the keynote address by Dr. David Liu. Following the event, guests enjoyed a reception of Turkish and Mediterranean delicacies. The event was presented by the American-Turkish Association of North Carolina, Duke Middle East Studies Center, Cary Sister Cities, North Carolina Poetry Society, and the Town of Cary.
Willow Structure “Fly Away Home” Is Complete
Last Friday, folks gathered in front of Patrick Dougherty’s latest public art project, Fly Away Home, which is located at Carpenter Park. A large group of community volunteers, including Council Member Lori Bush, helped the artist create the willow sculpture. A group of volunteers, including high school students, will help maintain the sculpture over the next two years.
Spruce Environmental Volunteer Service
In this quarter, Cary’s environmental volunteer program, Spruce, hosted 42 projects with 270 volunteers who worked a collective 685 hours to support the environmental health of our community. Scout troops, businesses, families, and religious organizations performed projects such as removing invasive plants from our greenways, constructing gardens, and removing 2,905 pounds of litter from Cary’s streets and parks.
Compost Giveaway Workshops and Farm Tours
Environmental Outreach staff hosted a series of Compost Giveaway Workshops from March 22-26 at Good Hope Farm. In support of Cary’s waste diversion and storm-water mitigation goals, 220 residents received instruction on how to convert their fruit and vegetable scraps into compost for the health of their own lawns and gardens. Additionally, participants received gardening and composting guidebooks, tips for pollinator protection strategies, and a collective 660 cubic feet of compost. Each session closed with a tour of Good Hope Farm to experience first-hand Cary’s commitment to food security, environmental conservation, and historical preservation.
Heroic Life-Saving Effort
On Wednesday, Green Hope High School Principal Camille Hedrick and staff hosted a special recognition ceremony honoring the heroic actions of Capt. Brian Smith. On Feb. 5, Brian immediately started life-saving measures by performing CPR on Mr. Gresham and his quick actions revived Mr. Gresham. Dr. Hedrick and staff presented Brian with the “Excellence in Service” award. Mr. Gresham and his family were in attendance and were able to meet Brian and embrace each other for the first time since the events of Feb. 5. During the ceremony, Mr. Gresham’s son, Robert Gresham, Jr., thanked Brian for saving his father’s life. In typical Brian fashion, he said he was “just doing his job.” Click here to read more about the story.
Street Closure Update
Beginning early next week, message boards will be located on Walnut Street, Kildaire Farm Road, Cary Towne Blvd, and Dry Avenue in advance of upcoming construction that will impact downtown traffic operations beginning on April 18. Traffic will be reduced to one way heading outbound on Walnut Street between Kildaire Farm Road and Walker Street. Inbound traffic will be detoured to Maynard Road or Byrum Street and then to Kildaire Farm Road. Construction is related to private development located at the corner of Kildaire Farm Road and Walnut Street and expected to last through mid-May.
Clean Transportation Demonstration Day
On Tuesday, members of the Police Department’s Traffic Safety Team and Fleet attended the Clean Transportation Demonstration Day at the NC Highway Patrol Training & Driving Facility in Raleigh. Hosted by North Carolina State University’s NC Clean Energy Technology Center, the event highlighted clean energy vehicles across multiple professional fields and served to educate attendees about the benefits of electric or hybrid energy to promote a sustainable energy economy. In addition to demonstrating the agility of our Tesla Model Y patrol vehicle on the closed course track for riders, Police staff also test drove the Mustang Mach-E and the Zero motorcycle. A special thank you to Fleet Division Manager Brandon Pasinski for lending his team’s perspective on the Tesla Model Y during a lightening round presentation to attendees.
Water Pressure Increase Update
On April 6, approximately 200 homes in the Piper’s Crossing, Piper’s Grove and Pritchett Farms Subdivisions will experience a pressure increase of between 10 and 20 psi. The South Hills Baptist Church will also be included and is prepared for the change. This work is part of Cary’s water system management strategy to ensure a more resilient and reliable water system. Citizens have been notified of the pressure zone change with letters, public meetings, Nextdoor, HOA communications, and integrated voice response messages. Staff also completed more than 40 pressure checks requested by citizens. Staff will be stationed throughout the abovementioned neighborhoods Wednesday morning monitoring the operation and being available to answer citizens’ questions.
2021 Water Resources Year In Review
The 2021 Water Resources Year In Review report is now available and provides meaningful snapshots and historical trends about Cary’s excellent utility service. Some of the fun facts in this year’s report include a check on Cary’s per capita usage as well as the water demand of the overall service area of the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility. Continue reading the 2021 Water Resources Year in Review to see how water usage numbers relate to treatment capacity, and the impact of rainfall and seasonal changes on water demand.
Procurement Month Success
During the month of March, over 200 Cary employees expanded their knowledge and gained new insight into navigating the procurement process by attending Cary’s first-ever Procurement Academy. With seven virtual classes and one in-person class offered as part of National Procurement Month 2022, participants delve deep into requisitions, procurement processes, contract fundamentals, and Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) principals and best practices.
Technology Speaker Series
The Marketing and Information Technology (MIT) Department has started a monthly speaker series in partnership with RIOT. Each month, the series will focus on new or existing technology to spark creativity. In March, we focused on augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR). MIT invited Mark Lambert with VArtisans and Derek Alan Rowe, an immersive filmmaker and entrepreneur, to talk about their experience with this technology.
Hybrid Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board
Monday, April 4
Hybrid Information Services Advisory Board
Monday, April 4
Zoning Board of Adjustment
Monday, April 4
Hybrid Senior Advisory Board
Wednesday, April 6
Thursday, April 7
Emails from citizens this week included:
- Requests to support the town-initiated Laurel Street affordable housing project
- Requests to deny the town-initiated Laurel Street affordable housing project
- Thanks for our police officers for helping with the Cary Greenway Marathon
- Questions about programming at the Dunham Tennis Courts
- Complaints about medians on Kildaire Farm Road, and along Cary Parkway near Lake Pine
- Thanks for speaking at a youth group of high school juniors
- A request to have Bocce courts
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a tour of Fenton, two presentations of the State of Cary address, an Atlantic Tire Championships Tennis Board meeting, the kickoff of Ed Yerha’s campaign, a regularly scheduled council meeting, speaking to 3rd graders at Highcroft elementary, the groundbreaking for the USA Baseball Expansion including a first pitch, and a USTA Tennis Industry Appreciation event.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Monday, April 11th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to email@example.com.