Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council Live Blog | News

Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council Live Blog

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! Hopefully you all survived yesterday's hail storm and are gearing up for round 2 this afternoon. We've got an agenda full of Airbnb, an update to the city's facade grant for businesses, an annual progress report on the 2030 comprehensive plan and much, much more. Will the city renew its contract with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to provide municipal services to downtown? Of course it will Follow the blog to find out!

At the top of the consent agenda (which is 13 pages long) we've got two items dealing with affordable housing. 

The first is a joint venture rental program which provides low-interest loans (leveraging city funds and federal tax credit) to developers of affordable multi-family housing to build/purchase/rehab privately owned and managed rental units. Three proposals were submitted for redevelopment, including 72 units at Booker Park North, 42 units at Amber Spring and 72 units at Beacon Ridge, all serving elderly folks.

The other affordable housing item is a bond funding recommendation to provide gap financing for developers applying for low-income housing tax credits. The city could authorize a total of $3.9 million in bond financing to DHIC and Steel Properties, which are working on affordable housing projects and are waiting for to receive tax credits from the feds. 

1:12: The meeting is called to order. The wireless situation in council chambers is a little sketchy today, so if this blog goes dark, that's the reason. 

1:14: May 2016 is national historic preservation month. And this will be the 37th anniversary of Artsplosure, one of Raleigh's annual arts festivals, this year. It's going to be amazing. Mayor Nancy is looking forward to it because it's "always a great time and a fun party."

1:17: We're inducting some people into the Raleigh Hall of Fame today, honoring Raleigh-ites and orgs and "centennials—" meaning posthumously since 2005. Nine people and two organizations will be inducted. 

1:26: The organizations are the Boys and Girls Club and Triangle Family Services

1:28: And now there's a presentation from PLM Families Together- they address urgent housing needs for families in Wake County, where some 4,000 children will experience homelessness this year. They try to keep families together, find secure affordable housing for families and create a system of care to work to end homelessness. 

1:31: The goal this year is to house 90 families with children, a 50 percent increase over last year. A combination of a lack of affordable housing, low wages and high cost of childcare leads to homelessness in many instances. 

1:32: Consent agenda is approved, a couple items pulled, including the Joint Venture Rental program. MAB asks about a conflict of interest. Corey Branch asking why Beacon Ridge in southeast Raleigh is on the list because it is part of a larger project by the YMCA; Larry Jarvis says it would be premature to move on Beacon Ridge because needs a school, health care etc. on the site. 

1:36: Dickie Thompson says the school is in the works at Beacon Ridge, and moves for approval on the loan for all of these projects. Mayor Nancy asks if these, all in Raleigh, would put other projects in the county or city at risk? Jarvis says it's unusual to have 3 in Raleigh. Bonner says there have been changes in these projects in recent days. 

1:39: Mayor Nancy asks if we are putting other affordable housing projects like Washington Terrace at risk by putting funding toward a project that is not ready? MAB asks worst-case repercussions if Beacon Ridge goes on the list? Jarvis says it could jeopardize Washington Terrace, or Amber Spring or Evergreen. Could but not necessarily will. 

1:41: Branch says there is great need and great demand; we don't know if it is going to be approved or not but for the city to hold it up does a disservice to the community. Mayor Nancy is concerned about the school not have been negotiated yet.

1:42: John Mills from YMCA is here. He says discussions with school board have been ongoing. They're looking for a commitment before June; a store and medical facility will follow with a community engagement process, starting in July. The school could open Fall of 2018 or 2019. 

1:44: YMCA is leading on purchasing, developing the property. Mayor Nancy says she is extremely supportive of the project but wants to balance risk of other projects moving forward. Kay Crowder says waiting another year for funding may work better for their timeline. Mills says YMCA has been building momentum for years, DHIC will be getting this funding, trying to find partners on site. "It's not a perfect stacking of timelines but having housing completed by end of 2017 fits perfectly with the funding," Mills says. 

1:48: Bonner doesn't want the scattered site policy, newly adopted and still working kinks out on, to hold up this project. Dickie Thompson calls the question and it passes unanimously. 

1:49: There could be a change of contractor on the Stone's Warehouse project, so it is sent to the Growth and Natural Resources Committee for discussion. A bid award for Phase II of the Hillsborough Street revitalization is pulled too. MAB wants staff to address issues with the roundabouts in the plan's design. Staff has data weighing in the favor of roundabouts. (The Wake County Taxpayers Association begs to differ.)

1:51: Staff can provide comparisons on how roundabouts manage traffic vs. non-roundabouts. Staff capacity may be impacted because 5 or 6 large projects are starting this spring. They may have to hire consultants/look at other options.

1:55: Construction will run from June to mid-November. Mayor Nancy moves approval. It's approved. 

1:55: Report and recommendations from the Planning Commission. Aribnb, or "short term lodging" is up. Steve Schuster, chair of the Planning Commission, has brought the text change to the city's UDO, "an appropriate starting point" for regulating Airbnb. There will be a public hearing on it, and the council will be able to make changes to the text change following the public hearing. Here's what the commission came up with:



Main point of contention seems to be whether people can rent out their whole house; right now, the commission recommends "no." Also being considered is overnight parking associated with short term rentals. A public hearing will happen June 7, as well as a public hearing on a Leesville Road rezoning for the two people that are interested.

2:03: Trailwood rezoning is held til next meeting. Presentation on the facade grant program is up. It's part of the economic development toolkit, a part of the city's strategic plan. Toolkit goals= promote economic development in all of Raleigh and support businesses. Facade grant is for small businesses.  Other tools in the toolkit are for larger businesses. 

2:04: The facade grant started in the 1980's as a resource for downtown businesses. It's assisted 120 businesses and awarded close to $1 million in funds, generating $3 million in investment. Now goals focus in low or moderate income areas to cure blight. Buildings have to be mixed use or commercial in eligible areas. Construction has to be completed in 12 months, building has to be maintained for ten years. It's a 50/50 matching award, and funds are awarded after construction.

2:06: MAB suggests adding Shop Local Raleigh and the Merchants Association to the grant's partners. Onto the manager's report. 

2:10: Comprehensive plan update is first with an annual review of everything associated with it; it is received as information. Next is master planning for downtown city campus: "the future of downtown facilities."

2:13: City of Raleigh workforce is expected to increase by ten percent in the next few years. City needs to consolidate services to improve staff efficiency in providing services. That will mean selling off buildings and building a "civic campus" near the Nash Square project area in the downtown plan. It's part of the civic campus. 

2:23: Staff is asking the council to authorize them to begin the master planning process for the downtown "civic campus." Council approves.

2:25: North Ridge South Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District is up. A citizen petition requested an NCOD study in December to protect the character of the area. Rezoning would have to happen before the neighborhood could get the protections. People in support of the NCOD, around two dozen, are raising their hands.

2:32: It's unclear why the neighborhood was originally zoned at not-dense R-6 level. Council votes to authorize staff to initiate a text change on this.

2:34: Next is up is votes to renew contracts for DRA and the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation in Municipal and Hillsborough Street Services districts. This means keeping these areas clean and maintained, cleaning benches and tree grates, etc. 

2:43: DRA and HSCSC will facilitate conflict resolution in these areas too. 

2:47: The council votes to renew these contracts.

2:47: Report from RHDC is up; council approves landmark designation for Anna Riddick House, Horton-Beckham-Bretsch House and approves a boundary change for historic Wilmont Apartments.

2:47: Report from Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board is up. Council adopts a comprehensive park users fee policy.

2:49: Here's a presentation from the Retail Task Force. Retail Task force met first in August, had six meetings since. They met with retailers to determine expectations of the city, to identify barriers and challenges to market entry and while operating, and to identify advantages for retail in all of Raleigh. DRA, Shop Local, small business owners etc. were on the task force.

2:52: Pam Blondin, owner of Deco, is presenting. There are recommendations for retail recruitment and for support. Blondin says they grappled with the geographical scope and says they focus really is on downtown Raleigh and connecting to the downtown plan. 

2:54: Blondin says a lot of landlords don't live in Raleigh. Now that there is a priority to activate street levels there has been conversation about connecting these landlords to the city plan. Though it may be economically more appealing to put a bar in or rent a whole building to a single tenant, they want to have those conversations, make those connections. Pop-ups were also discussed. DRA brokered a collaboration over the holidays (the pop-up shop Flight?)—we want more of that, connect people who want to do pop-up shops to spaces. 

2:56: Emphasize the retail zones in the downtown plan: Salisbury, Wilmington, Martin and Hargett Streets area especially. But that commitment to growing retail there needs to be "verbalized and formalized." What that looks likes—grants, incentives—is for the next phase. Next, really look at encouraging building owners to activate their street level. "That's really the key to this walk-able city idea is tho have the street level activated," Blondin says. "What do we do to entice landlords to do this? Activate the street level of the new municipal campus? It's not a bad idea."

2:58: Get the city to market downtown as a retail destination. Coordinate efforts with other organizations. Have an online support center of resources for people starting, or who have just started, small businesses. Put sign ordinances, zoning info all in one place.  Create a retail assistance team: come up with a concept for how a mashup of people from city, DRA, businesses, attorneys can help people build their businesses in the proper order to conserve time and weed out realistic prospects for retail versus what would work better inn a pop-up environment, shared space etc. This sub-group of the retail task force is already working on this. 

3:01: Blondin says the city needs to decide its priority on recruiting new retail: use the four blocks and a grant program? Or? MAB asks how to execute this? James Sauls, Raleigh economic development manager, says not to centralize on one thing but work with private sector and nonprofits to take on these recommendations. City may lead on some things, private sector may lead on some things. MAB says it would be a shame if this ends up as another report on the shelf. Kay Crowder says this collaborative effort will be really helpful for people downtown. Council votes to receive this as information. 

3:04:  We're onto committee reports. Growth and Natural Resources committee recommends denying a Hillsborough Street Conditional Use District. The applicant on the project has changed conditions on it. Councillors wanted this to be an affordable housing project but the applicant cannot commit to that. 

3:14: The council approves the case with the changes. David Cox asks if affordable housing rezoning projects can be reviewed by the city's Housing and Neighborhoods Dept. beforehand. Staff will look at that. Russ says this has not been the most transparent rezoning case, bad notification to neighbors issues.

3:16: A resident is here to speak about this case. He's talking about the Grayfield subdivision, but only has one minute and gets cut off.  

3:18: We're onto council comments. Corey Branch is talking about a presentation from a Shaw University student last night who is working on a device that measures noise, to be used in downtown. I was there, it was a pretty neat presentation. 

3:20: Dickie Thompson takes the opportunity to thank Ruffin Hall and his staff for answering all the council's questions. MAB asks staff to look at the crosswalk on Wilmington St. near Martin, because now there is a lot of pedestrian traffic there, and a lot of traffic traffic there. It's right in front of INDY office, so I can concur. Staff probably needs to look at this whole block, because it's a safety hazard. Also, MAB has an idea for an "ideas fund," a fund used to reward employees for innovative ideas. It would take $10,000 from the council contingency fund to start such a fund, city manager would convene a committee to execute this.

3:22: KC: Is there a scope defined? MAB says a committee will define that. MAB says she would expect an annual report on what's generated. "It would really fuel some excitement about things we can and want to do in Raleigh." Bonner says it could mesh with opportunities already existing, but says he would not pre-determine any dollar amounts. MAB says we need to set parameters, stick with the $10,000 to start wit. It's a good start, and can expand in the future. Also staff should look at diversity in this, focus in diverse areas. Dickie Thompson amendment says council will make a final vote after the committee meets, and revisit $10,000. Council approves. MAB also wants an update on the Pullen Road extension plan and on the R-Line study. Finally, she wants follow-up on the homelessness change program (installing change machines in airports etc. to collect money to put toward Wake/Raleigh Partnership to End Homelessness.)

That's it. I will not be here this evening, so see you all in two weeks!

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