Dunn Road

Starting a little more than a week ago development commenced on four acres of land at the corner of Dunn and Falls of Neuse roads.  It saddens and angers me to see so many trees cut down and the land nearly clear cut as happened recently in Wakefield to make way for a gas station.

In 2015 former Councilor, John Odom, voted in one of his last acts to rezone the property to what is called neighborhood mixed use zoning that allows commercial development. This rezoning was part of a larger city-wide rezoning to convert to new zoning districts under the newly adopted Unified Development Ordinance. Many of us fought this effort but lost to pro-development members of Council such as Odom, Nancy McFarlane, Wayne Maiorano, Bonner Gaylord, and Mary-Ann Baldwin.

Not having members of Council willing to represent us and protect neighborhoods from the kind of clear cutting happening now is the main reason I ran for Council in 2015 and defeated John Odom. Despite my election win, those of us who wanted to protect neighborhoods were still in the minority on Council.

Sadly, a new owner purchased the Dunn road property and challenged the one thing that could have prevented today’s clear-cutting – a requirement to preserve 40% of the property as forest. The new owner challenged this requirement at the Board of Adjustment and won a 100% variance allowing him to preserve none of the required 40%.

Council could have challenged this decision. However, there was a limited window of time in which Council could legally do so. Without the votes on Council to move forward, that window of opportunity closed.

And, today, the trees are gone – piled up in the mud waiting to be hauled away and likely chipped into mulch.

Sadly, the same variance process was used to allow the clear cutting that has happened in Wakefield where the Sheetz is being constructed. As with Dunn Road there were not enough votes on Council at the time to challenge that decision either.

After the 2017 election Council changed. Mary-Ann Baldwin is gone. Bonner Gaylord is gone. Especially with the election of Stef Mendell in District E, the balance of power on Council has shifted. After the election, Council sent a letter to the Board of Adjustment.

Up to that time the Board of Adjustment had been hearing an argument that the forestation requirement in the new UDO was a typographical error. After the new Council was seated, we made it quite clear to the Board of Adjustment that they have no authority to disregard any part of the City’s ordinances. Only the City Council can change the ordinances and until Council does so, the Board is to enforce the 40% forestation requirement.

Sadly, for Dunn Road and in Wakefield the damage was already done.

Elections matter. Who you elect to Council matters. The clear cutting of Dunn Road and in Wakefield could have been prevented and would have been prevented if only those on Council at the time cared.

2018 Year in Review

2018 for Raleigh City Council began December 5, 2017 when the current Council held its first meeting. On that day our first act was to recognize Tom McCormick, Raleigh’s long time City Attorney who retired after more than 40 years with the City.

Our second order of business was to establish several Council committees. There was disagreement between the Mayor and Council about committee membership. These disagreements are rare. Historically, Mayors reach consensus by meeting with Councilors prior to the first meeting. However, this term consensus was not reached. The Mayor presented a list of committee assignments that contrasted with the desires of Council members. Ultimately, Council voted 5-3 for the following assignments (the asterisks represent the Committee chair).

  • Economic Development & Innovation – McFarlane,* Thompson, Branch, Stewart
  • Healthy Neighborhoods – Stephenson, * Stewart, Mendell
  • Transportation & Transit – Branch,* Crowder, Cox
  • Growth & Natural Resources – Crowder,* Thompson, Mendell, Cox, Stephenson

Environment

Durant Nature Preserve – One of Council’s first actions was to authorize the City Manager to execute a contract for a study that will determine the most appropriate and cost-effective design for improving the dam and spillway at the Upper Lake, and in turn, preserve the prominent six-acre lake that flows over the earthen dam into a 100-foot-long change toward the Lower Lake. The study is expected to take 18 months to complete sometime in mid-2019.

The Richland Creek Watershed – The Richland Creek Watershed protection overlay district encompasses an area from Falls of Neuse east to Capital Blvd and from Durant Road north to the city’s boundary with Wake Forest. The watershed protection overlay district was established by the State of North Carolina to protect the water quality of the Neuse River.

During the request to rezone land at the corner of Dunn and Falls of Neuse it was learned that the City code requires lots within all watershed protection areas when developed need to preserve 40% of the lots as forest. This requirement compels developers to either preserve existing trees or to plant new trees to provide the 40% coverage. Many developers disagreed with this requirement and routinely went to the City’s Board of Adjustment to request a variance. Routinely, developers were granted variances reducing the 40% preservation requirement to 0%.

One of my first acts this term was to bring this state of affairs with the Board of Adjustment to Council. In December Council authorized the City Manager to send a letter to the Board of Adjust instructing the Board to enforce the forestation requirement and to discontinue the practice of granting variances to the requirement.

Swift Creek Land Management – This year Council voted unanimously to execute an interlocal agreement to protect the Swift Creek Watershed area. In the 1990s the County of Wake, the City of Raleigh, and towns of Apex, Cary, and Garner adopted by mutual resolution the Swift Creek Land Management Plan to protect the water supply within the watershed. An accompanying Interlocal Agreement (ILA) was developed at that time as part of a multi-jurisdictional effort to administer land use guidance for the Swift Creek watershed area. For reasons unknown, the original ILA was never officially executed by the participating communities charged with administering the plan.

Despite the lack of formal agreement each community has followed the guidance contained within the plan for the last two decades, however with no agreed-upon procedure for amending land use designations within the watershed or a process for changing jurisdictional boundaries, land use issues have arisen from time to time. Most recently the lack of formal guidance was brought to Council’s attention during an Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) Relinquishment case in early 2017.

The ILA was revisited in response to Council’s noted concerns and the concerns of the Swift Creek Management Plan partner communities and has resulted in formalizing a process to resolve issues. The Public Utilities and City Planning departments, in coordination with the City Attorney’s Office, have been involved with the development of the ILA and the agreement is fully consistent with the City of Raleigh Comprehensive Plan. The other jurisdictions party to the agreement have received approval of the respective governing boards.

Brockton Drive Lake and Dam – Phase one has been completed. On April 18, 2017, the City entered into a contract with Carolina Civil Works, Inc., to complete construction for the first phase of the Brockton Drive Lake and Dam Project. This work includes rehabilitating the upper lake dam to prevent structural failure of the dam by removing the dam’s non-functioning outlet structure and replacing it with a 3’x 6’ box culvert, reducing the frequency and severity of flooding to adjacent structures during smaller storm events by lowering the dam embankment elevation, and improving the water quality of the lake by removing sediment, establishing a free-flowing natural stream channel, and restoring a 50-foot stream buffer along both banks of the stream channel. Phase two should begin shortly in 2019.

Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 Initiative – In September I brought to Council a proposal to participate in the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 initiative which is an initiative for whereby cities can commit to 100% clean energy. Currently more than 70 cities nationwide have made this commitment. I noted that the Sierra Club is already working with Wake County and several other North Carolina communities on this initiative and that Raleigh should do so as well. Council moved that staff will explore this initiative.

Falls of Neuse Small Area Plan and Development in Environmentally Sensitive Areas – The Falls of Neuse small area plan is also listed below under Growth and Development because the plan provides important guidance for development in the area of Falls Dam and Falls Lake Park. I include this initiative under Environment as well because the development guidance in the small area plan is there largely to protect the environmental integrity of the Falls of Nesue corridor that is borders and includes the Falls Lake watershed and Richland Creek watershed protection areas. There is tremendous pressure to expand development – particularly commercial development – in the Richland Creek watershed. A prime area for greatly intensifying development is along the now 4-lane Falls of Neuse. My initiatives for this area as well as the Falls Lake and Richland Creek watershed is to limit development in these environmentally sensitive areas that include Falls Lake, Falls Lake Park, Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve, the Neuse River, the Neuse River Greenway, and the NC Mountain to Sea trail. My goal is to preserve as much as possible the environmentally sensitive areas throughout the city.

Growth and Development

The Aspens – During the rezoning case for commercial development at Dunn and Falls of Neuse we heard repeatedly from citizens, “don’t turn Falls of Neuse into another Capital Boulevard” in reference to the miles of strip malls that were developed along Capital during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the aftermath of that case a developer came forward with a new proposal to build housing for seniors. Expected to be completed this year, the Aspens is a 190 unit apartment building for those 62 years of age an older. In addition, the developer has preserved nearly a third of the existing trees with more to be planted as landscaping proceeds.

Wakefield Hills – Wakefield Hills are recently constructed affordable apartment homes in Wakefield Plantation. Constructed and operated by DHIC, Wakefield Hills offers 80 two and three bedroom apartments with easy access to schools, employment, public transportation, shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Occupancy is restricted to households of less than 60% of the median area income for Wake County with rents starting at $380 a month. Amenities include professional on-site management, handicap accessible apartments, clubhouse, picnic area, and playground.

The Piedmont – The Piedmont is another development for apartment homes now under construction. This development features about 390 market rate apartments for one of the City’s designated growth areas at Triangle Town Center. This apartment complex will consist of seven buildings, a nearly 6,000 square foot clubhouse, a 1,500 square foot swimming pool, outdoor kitchen area, electric vehicle charging stations, garages, and a dog park.

Capital Blvd North Corridor Study – Mid year 2018 the City kicked off the start of the Capital Boulevard North Corridor Study to plan the future of Capital Boulevard between I440 and I540. The study focuses on future land use and zoning, neighborhood revitalization, commercial corridor revitalization, transportation and transit improvements including improvements for pedestrians and alternative modes of transportation such as bicycles. A strong emphasis on citizen engagement and involving citizens in developing the future of Capital Boulevard is being pursued throughout this study.

Falls North Small Area Plan – The Falls North Small Area Plan revises and extends the original Falls of Neuse Small Area Plan that guides development along the Falls of Neuse Corridor between Durant Road and the Neuse River. Residents throughout the corridor participated in developing recommendations for the plan that are consistent with the character of the corridor which is dominated with residential development, Falls Lake Park, Falls Dam and Reservoir, the Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve, the Neuse River, the Neuse River Greenway, the NC Mountain to Sea trail, and the Falls Lake and Richland Creek Watershed Protection Areas. A first draft of the plan has been delivered to City Council after review of the Planning Commission. It is expected that the plan will be finalized in early 2019.

Oberlin Village Historic Overlay District – This year Council established the Oberlin Village historic overlay district. All buildings along Oberlin Road included in the district boundary were built for African Americans during the district’s 1873 to 1970 period of significance. The Oberlin Village Historic District retains a remarkable level of integrity in spite of the fact that its built environment created from the 1870s through the 1960s has been engulfed by the city of Raleigh since 1970. The district’s historic street layout is intact and its pattern of development during the period of significance remains essentially intact. Five Raleigh Historic Landmarks, one church and four dwellings, anchor this streetscape. In addition, two Raleigh Historic Landmarks are situated just off Oberlin Road: Oberlin Cemetery and the Latta House and Latta University Site. Although annexed to Raleigh in 1920, Oberlin remained a distinct segregated district until after World War II. It was my honor to vote to establish this important historic overlay district to help preserve this part of Raleigh’s past.

Capital Plaza Hotel – The Capital Plaza Hotel was once a centerpiece of Capital Boulevard. Today it is a burned out wreck serving as the city’s most prominent eyesore. In 2018 it was hoped that this property would take a turn for the better with interest from developer to tear down the buildings and construct a new housing community. At year’s end the deal to buy the property fell through as the developer discovered various issues as they pursued their due diligence before purchase. However, in December the same developer contacted me to say that the deal wasn’t quite finished. In the meantime, the State legislature passed some new laws that might make it easier for cities to deal with abandoned commercial properties. In 2019, I will continue to pursue options to deal with this property.

Affordable Housing

The Affordable Housing Improvement Plan – adopted by City Council in 2015, identified expanding the supply of affordable rental housing as a priority need of the City. Programmatically, the plan identified soliciting and supporting tax exempt bond financed projects (referred to as the 4% tax credit) as the mechanism most effective for significantly increasing affordable housing production. Subsequently in 2016 City Council authorized an additional one-cent on the ad valorem tax rate for affordable housing, utilized here to provide gap financing for such projects as well as to continue support of 9% tax credit projects. In April/May of 2018 Council approved eight housing projects for a total of about 1,000 housing units through a combination of city and federal financing. It was my honor to support this initiative.

Transportation

Accessible Parking – Every city has special parking for those with disabilities – right? That was always my assumption. It came as a surprise to learn that Raleigh had no on-street accessible parking for those with disabilities. For me with a niece and nephew who depend on the use of wheelchairs, this was not an acceptable situation. In July I met with Raleigh’s new Director of Transportation to discuss the situation. He immediately agreed and began a survey of downtown and selecting places where we could reserve spots for accessible parking. An initial map was drawn up and reviewed by the Mayors Committee for Persons with Disability and the Accessible Task Force working with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. In November with both groups’ support, Council adopted the plan and began implementation.

Free Parking for Attending Public Meetings – In February Council adopted a measure to provide free parking for citizens attending public meetings such as City Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, etc. This measure was adopted to make it easier for citizens to participate in their government. One of the hallmarks of my campaigns to run for City Council has been to increase citizen engagement in their government. Although our country is a Republic where power rests with elected officials, our country is also a Democracy that encourages citizen engagement and self-government wherever possible. It is my honor to find constructive ways to support our continuing goal of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Mitchell Mill Road Widening – The first public meeting for the Mitchell Mill road widening project was held in September 2010. By 2016 the design for the road was completed and the construction contract was awarded. After nearly two years, the project has come to completion with the installation of landscaping, shrubs, and trees in December. The road has been widened to four lanes with sidewalks, bike lanes, street lights, and a new water main installation.

Old Wake Forest – In November Council approved a project to widen Old Wake Forest Road from the intersection with Litchford to Capital Boulevard. This section of roadway will be widened to four lanes with a 17 foot wide median. The design is novel because bike lanes will be separated from the roadway. On one side of the road there will be a 12 foot wide multipurpose path and on the other side there will be an 8 foot sidewalk. Both will be wide enough to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. This design that separates bike/pedestrian travel from the roadway where speeds will posted at 45 mph will help to reduce accidents with bikes and pedestrians that often result in serious injury.

Parks and Greenways

Neuse Crossing Greenway Connector -The Neuse Crossing Connection Project originated from a citizen-led request for a means to access the Neuse River Trail from the Neuse Crossing and surrounding neighborhoods east of the river. Existing conditions prevent access from these neighborhoods to the trail due to a stream and pond. The project includes construction of a boardwalk and trail connection that will provide safe access to residents of the Neuse Crossing neighborhood, as well as residents from other areas east of the Neuse River and NC 401, to the Neuse River Trail, Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, and the future River Bend Park. The project will also connect to new sidewalks being constructed with the Mitchell Mill Road Widening Project.

Brentwood Park Master Plan – The Brentwood Park Master Plan was developed through a community planning process that included public workshops, citizen engagement and monthly meetings with the Citizen Planning Committee (CPC) to form consensus around the planning decisions and priorities.  The values developed by the CPC for Brentwood Park include play, nature, safety, connectivity, and accessibility. Designed to fulfill these five values, the master plan provides a flexible framework that will continue to evolve as the neighborhood grows. In April Council formally approved the plan.

Achieving Diversity

The topic of achieving and ensuring diversity on the city’s boards and commissions has come up recently. This is an important topic and as a result I have had discussions with other City Council members and the City Attorney about how best to achieve this goal.

Importantly, the Constitution prohibits discrimination. However, we can still take steps to ensure equal opportunity and I’ve been looking into best practices to ensure that everyone does, in fact, have real and meaningful equal opportunity. Importantly, the City Attorney has offered to help. So, here is my email to her and the rest of Council this morning to start a discussion at the Council level.

I welcome your thoughts and will keep you posted as this unfolds.

As always, thank you for your input. You can email your thoughts and ideas to

citycouncilmembers@raleighnc.gov

My email to the City Attorney and Council:

I would definitely like to have a more in depth discussion about achieving diversity. First, achieving diversity is an important goal and one I support. Our boards and commissions should reflect the diversity of our community. I have begun looking into ways we can achieve this goal and am mindful of your caution about the courts. That said, some ideas that I have read about are

– improving communications to ensure that all citizens are aware of the opportunities on our boards and commissions

– reaching out to various communities and organizations directly to ensure that they and their members are aware of the opportunities

– being clear about desired qualifications

– perhaps changing our process to eliminate our nomination of candidates and simply voting for those who apply

Of course, these are just some suggestions. I would welcome a more comprehensive discussion. Could the City Attorney’s office lead this?




Height Standards

This week the Growth and Natural Resources committee will continue to consider proposed changes to height standards for new development in mixed use districts. Here are the current standards. Under the UDO each mixed use property is assigned a height. For example, CX-3 is a commercial mixed use district limited to 3 stories.

However, the current standard is more nuanced. Under the current standard a three story structure can be up to 50 feet tall. A four story structure can be up to 62 feet tall. And a five story structure can be up to 75 feet tall. Here is the full list of heights under the current standard:

    • 3 stories, 50 feet
    • 4 stories, 62 feet
    • 5 stories, 75 feet
    • 7 stories, 90 feet
    • 12 stories, 150 feet
    • 20 stories, 250 feet
    • 40 stories, 500 feet

If your property is zoned for 7 stories, you can build as many as 7 stories up to a height of 90 feet. If your property is zoned for 12 stories, you can build as many as 12 stories up to a height of 150 feet. And so on.

The current standard also has a provision if the mixed use property is adjacent to a residential property by providing for a height transition. Under this provision no building can be within 50 feet of the property line. Then, beginning at 50 feet from the property line, the building can only be 40 feet tall. For every foot further away from the property line, the building can be another foot taller.

For example, consider CX-3 again. At 50 feet from the property line the building can be 40 feet tall. Or, at 55 feet from the property line the building can be 45 feet tall. At 60 feet from the property line the building can be the max of 50 feet tall.

Within the 50 foot transition area certain structures such as parking lots can be built. So, just because there is a 50 transition area, don’t expect that it will all be nicely landscaped and filled with trees.

The Proposed Changes

The Growth and Natural Resources committee will consider the following changes:

    • Increase the 4 story height maximum from 62 feet to 68 feet
    • Increase the 5 story height maximum from 75 feet to 80 feet
    • For 7 stories and taller, remove the height maximum altogether and allow the cost of construction and the market determine the height in feet. The reasoning is that a developer will not build higher than is cost effective or that the market will bear. Thus, we are unlikely to see a 7 story building 300 feet tall, etc.

I generally agree with the reasoning for 7 stories and taller. These buildings will generally be located in growth centers such as downtown away from residential. However, I am still considering if removing the maximum height requirement altogether is really a good idea.

However, I don’t agree with the proposal for 4 and 5 stories. Three, four, and five stories are more likely to be built next to residential and potentially next to your house. Going taller does not match my philosophy or what I believe are the values of most in Raleigh. Structures adjacent to residential should be more in scale with residential rather than the other way around.

Examining the current standard further we can see the following. Under the current standard a 5 story building can be at most 75 feet tall. That is an average of 15 feet per story. Also under the current standard, a 4 story building can be at most 62 feet or an average of 15.5 feet per story. And, under the current standard, a 3 story building can be at most 50 feet or an average 16.67 feet per story.

That is quite a variation in the average height per story of nearly 2 feet. My proposal is for 3, 4, and 5 story buildings to standardize on and average of 15 feet per story adjacent to residential – the current standard for 5 stories. Using this standard, a 3 story building adjacent to residential will be at most 45 feet and a 4 story building will be at most 60 feet. A 5 story building will remain at most 75 feet.

After all, if an average of 15 feet per story is fine for a 5 story building, then that standard should be fine and should apply to 3 and 4 story buildings.  The result will be 3 and 4 story building that are a few feet shorter than under the current standard but more consistent with the adjacent residential properties.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic by emailing me at

We will see how this goes as we move forward with these proposals.



Proposed Encroachment Agreement for Dockless Scooters

The Proposed Master Right of Way Encroachment Agreement between the City and a scooter operator Licensee provides for the regulation in the matters of General Operations, Parking, and Safety. These matters are summarized below with included provisions to add sufficient detail and understanding of the breadth and depth of regulation that will be required.

1. General Terms & Conditions

A. Term

In order to effectively evaluate the scooter operators, including Licensee, and their ability to safely operate and comply with the terms of a master encroachment agreement, the duration of the Agreement will be for a period of one (1) year, until January 1, 2020, or upon the issuance of an RFP to select vendors, whichever first occurs. Any renewal or continuance of the Agreement will be at the sole discretion of the City of Raleigh.

B. Termination

The Agreement will contain termination provisions that allows for the City to review and revoke its continuance, taking into consideration factors such as compliance with the law by both the Licensee and its Users

1) The Agreement is revocable at will by the Raleigh City Council.

2) The City reserves the right to terminate the Agreement and require that all scooters be removed from the City’s Right-of-Way (1) if Licensee fails to comply with the Agreement, (2) violation of any local, state, or federal law by Licensee, (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or a knowingly false statement with respect to a material fact in the Agreement by Licensee, or (4) consistent failure by Users associated with Licensee to comply with applicable laws.

C. Liability

User Agreements between the Licensee and its Users tend to eliminate responsibility for the scooter operators for damages regardless of cause, with the costs of damages left to be paid by the person injured or to be the responsibility of the User. Responsibilities for costs and liability for damages, including both personal injury and property damage, are detailed in this Agreement. The Liability provisions within the General Terms & Conditions provide for the following:

1) Licensee is responsible for its own operational costs.

2) Licensee is responsible for damages and repair costs incurred by the City, including:

a) Property damage, personal injury, or death of any person caused by or arising out of the negligence, errors, omissions, defects, and/or willful misconduct, of the Licensee, its agents, employees, contractors, independent contractors, or subcontractors, and any cause of action arising out of the operation of said encroachment.

) Costs related to public property repair and maintenance costs that may be incurred by the City, including but not limited to any costs of repairing or maintaining damaged public property caused by the Licensee, or its Users, the removal and/or storage of improperly parked or abandoned scooters, and any violations of the Agreement, or any local, State, or Federal law.

c) Licensee is to obtain a continuing indemnity bond with sufficient surety, to reimburse the City for future public property repair and maintenance costs that may be incurred.

3) Indemnification of the City to include any claim, suit, action, demand, or proceeding made or brought against the City, its officers, councilors and employees, or on account of the investigation, defense, or settlement thereof, arising out of the Licensee’s, or any of its Users, agents, employees, contractors, independent contractors, or subcontractors’ use of the public space, public right of way, or public structure.

4) In addition to complying with the City’s standard Insurance Coverages, the Licensee is to provide insurance coverage for both Users and Contractors.

2. Operations

The Agreement includes operational regulations for each Licensee, including a maximum number of scooters, staffing requirements, and informational requirements. Some of the key provisions include:

A. The total number of scooters for all Licensees within the City not to exceed 1500 scooters. The City, at its sole discretion, may amend the maximum total.

B. Licensee may not exceed 500 scooters.

C. Licensee shall provide the City with a direct local contact for staff persons that are capable of rebalancing, relocating, and removing the scooters within two (2) hours of notification.

D. Licensee shall provide a twenty-four (24) hour Customer Service telephone number for persons to report safety concerns, maintenance issues, complaints, or ask questions.

E. Licensee shall relocate or rebalance the scooters daily.

F. Licensee shall provide User, prior to User’s operation of the Equipment, in-app messaging that notifies Users of proper use of the scooter and the fees and hourly rate to be paid by the User.

3. Parking

The Agreement sets out the specific location where scooters may not be parked in, on, or adjacent to, informing the Licensee that it is their responsibility to educate their Users that this is not allowed. The consequences of improper parking may result in removal of the scooter by the City at the Licensee’s expense.

A.

B.

Scooters shall not be parked in or on:

1) The pedestrian corridor, any vehicular travel lane, or any bicycle lane; or

2) Blocks without sidewalks.

Scooters shall not be parked in, on, or adjacent to:

1) Transit zones, including bus stops, and shelters, loading zones, accessible parking zones and/or associated loading zones;

2) Public benches, trash containers, parking pay stations, transit information signs, or other fixtures requiring pedestrian access;

3) Any building access, exits, or any emergency access or exit ways. Building access and building exits must maintain a 10-foot clearance;

4) Any emergency facility, fire or emergency related fixture;

5) Any driveway or cross-walk;

6) Any area within the public right-of-way improved with lawn, flowers, shrubs, or trees;

7) Any location where the clear space for the passageway of pedestrians is reduced to less than five (5) feet;

8) Parklets or sidewalk dining; or

9) Curb ramps, signal push buttons, or other facilities provided for handicapped persons.

If notified of public access and safety concerns by the City, Licensee shall repark/rebalance the identified scooter(s) within two (2) hours. If a scooter is not removed timely by the Licensee, the City may remove the scooter and take it to a designated facility for storage at the Licensee’s expense.

Licensee shall conduct a daily check for improperly parked or abandoned scooters.

When deploying, rebalancing, or relocating scooters, Licensee shall not place more than four scooters on a single block face.

Licensee shall remove all scooters from the public right of way no later than 10:00 PM EST for overnight charging and/or storage. Scooters may be re-positioned in the public right of way no earlier than 7:00 AM EST each day.

The City shall have the sole discretion to prohibit use or parking of any scooters within a designated area(s) for special or emergency events that require street closures and/or space upon street or sidewalk. 4. Safety

The Agreement sets forth safety requirements that echo those found in other municipalities for the purpose of safe operation of the scooters within City limits, including:

A. All scooters must meet local, state, and federal standards for manufacture, safety, financial responsibility, and registration.

B. Each scooter is limited to use by the number of persons upon or within such vehicle, including the operator, which it was designed to carry.

C. Licensee shall limit Users to persons aged eighteen (18) and older.

D. Every e-scooter shall have a unique identification number that is clearly displayed on the e-scooter and visible to the user and to enforcement officers at a distance of ten feet.

E. Each scooter shall display “No Riding on Sidewalk” on each scooter and prominently within the operator’s user app.

F. Every e-scooter shall have a customer service number that is in service at all operating hours and clearly displayed on the e-scooter and visible to the user.

G. All scooters must be equipped with technology, such as GPS, that allows the scooter to be located and tracked by the Operator at all times.

H. Any inoperable or unsafe scooter must be removed immediately from the right-of-way, and in no case more than twenty-four (24) hours from notice by any means to the Licensee; said scooter must be repaired before it is placed back into the City right-of- way.




Memo on Dockless Scooters from Michael Moore, City Transportation Director

Here is the memo that I just received on dockless scooter:

 Background 

Dockless scooters, sometimes referred to as shared electric mobility scooters, were introduced to Raleigh in July 2018. Bird initially deployed approximately 150 dockless scooters in downtown Raleigh, Glenwood South, and Cameron Village; the Bird fleet has now grown to over 1100 scooters all over the city. Lime, the company that provides dockless bicycles to the North Carolina State University campus, later deployed approximately 200 dockless scooters in September. Neither company currently operates with permission or license from the City of Raleigh. 

Dockless scooters proponents say the scooters provide a viable low-cost mobility option for short trips, including first mile/last mile connections to transit and to parking. Dockless scooters can also increase the catchment area for businesses and community attractions. The reduction in automobile trips can help improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Opponents of the technology point out potentially negative consequences. Improperly parked scooters can impede sidewalks and create tripping hazards for pedestrians and the visually impaired, and scooter use (riding) on the sidewalk create additional hazards for pedestrians. Vehicular traffic is not yet accustomed to scooters utilizing the street space, and some scooter users are not observant of basic safety rules and parameters. 

Dockless scooter perceptions are further complicated in that the behavior of individual users are sometimes conflated with the conduct of the scooter companies. This perception is further complicated by the companies’ “hands-off” approach to self-policing. The existing regulatory environment is also an imperfect fit. For example, the State of North Carolina indicates that dockless scooters are best categorized as a “moped”, but the Department of Motor Vehicles has not aggressively enforced requirements for registration and license plates. In its pilot program for dockless vehicles, the City of Charlotte has elected to treat dockless scooters in a similar manner as bicycles due to their similar operating characteristics.

There are very strong opinions about the presence and operations of scooters in the Raleigh area. In an effort to realize the benefits and mitigate the negative effects of dockless scooters, the Department of Transportation, the City Attorney’s Office, and Raleigh Police Department have collaborated to produce a draft master encroachment agreement. A summary of the key terms of the agreement is attached to this memo. The master encroachment agreement can be the licensing/permitting mechanism for dockless scooter operators. The encroachment agreement terms include the rules and regulations for City Council’s consideration. This approach can also be the model for other shared mobility options like dockless bike share. While the agreement terms are largely based upon research and benchmarking of other cities’ regulations, they are heavily based on the City of Durham draft regulations and the Charlotte Pilot Program current regulations. 

Key Questions 

Dockless scooters present several important policy questions for City Council. Central to those questions is this – “are dockless scooters a valuable addition to Raleigh’s mobility options and can the safety and welfare of users and pedestrians be preserved during their operations?” Secondly, “can dockless scooters be staged by both the company and the individual user to ensure clear and safe access along city sidewalks and minimize impacts to our neighborhoods?” and “should the City permit a private, for-profit company access to the City’s right-of-way for the purposes of offering this mobility service?” We can offer some perspective on each of these, but ultimately Council will set the policy direction for any future actions. Let’s consider these questions in reverse order. 

“Should the City permit a private, for-profit company access to the City’s right-of-way for the purposes of offering this mobility service?” 

The City of Raleigh has permitted private uses of the public right-of-way for a variety of uses ranging from utility installations to outdoor café seating. These uses have been permitted through either a major or minor encroachment agreement. Each agreement has standard language addressing concerns about indemnity, insurance, duration, etc. and language outlining specific terms and conditions for the use of the right of way. For example, hours of operation or road restoration requirements may be included. The master encroachment agreement proposed for dockless scooter licensing/permitting is a subset of the major encroachment agreement category and follows this same model. 

The master encroachment agreement includes the rules and regulations for dockless scooter company operations. The agreement is a versatile permitting structure, regardless of the process (first come/first serve, request for proposals, etc.) for determining which companies Raleigh may allow to operate. The master encroachment will also collect fees based on the number of dockless scooters operated by each company. When benchmarked against other cities, the proposed “per scooter” fee is at the high end of the fee range. However, the initial application cost is low, and the fees will be used to offset program costs and scooter parking implementation. 

“Can dockless scooters be staged by both the company and the individual user to ensure clear and safe access along city sidewalks and minimize impacts to our neighborhoods?” 

The proposed master encroachment agreement terms address this question in several different ways. Several regulations specifically address how and where scooters can and cannot be parked and staged. For example, scooters cannot be left within the walk area of the sidewalk, cannot be placed in accessible curb ramps or in driveways, and are not allowed to block entries. Other regulations on scooter parking and staging address the clutter concern by limiting the number of scooters that may be staged on each block face (4 per operator) and prohibit parking scooters on streets without sidewalks. This rule addresses scooter placement in predominantly residential neighborhoods where sidewalks are sometimes absent. 

The agreement terms also provide the Department of Transportation latitude to further restrict parking and to prescribe designated parking areas in high pedestrian activity areas. Please note that the City will need to make investments to implement this approach. Operators will be responsible to re-park or remove improperly placed scooters within two hours of receipt of a complaint by any party. Operators are also required to remove scooters from the street each night. This last requirement ensures that dockless scooters are properly staged to start each day; it has the additional benefit of removing the scooters from the street late at night. 

The agreement terms also provide for a maximum fleet for each user (capped at 500) and for the City as a whole (capped at 1500). This cap will ensure that dockless scooters are staged in areas of high demand; however, as a condition of the master encroachment agreement, operators are required to deploy at least 20% of the fleet in underserved communities, as determined by the City. 

“Are dockless scooters a valuable addition to Raleigh’s mobility options and can the safety and welfare of the user and pedestrians be preserved in the course of their operations?” 

Several regulations included in the master encroachment agreement address the matter of safety for both users and pedestrians. The agreement terms clearly state that operating a dockless scooter on any sidewalk is prohibited. The terms require the statement “No Riding on Sidewalk” to be physically displayed on the scooter and prominently featured within the operator app. Regulations also include provisions to prohibit operating within certain areas like City garages and GoRaleigh Station. Staff has discussed using the same technology that “fence” these areas to similarly “fence” city sidewalks; however, the technology is not advanced enough at this time. City Council will need to take an action to permit dockless scooter operations in bike lanes, as dockless electronic scooters were not an anticipated mode of transportation and are prohibited in bike lanes. Regulations require users to abide by all applicable traffic laws. 

City Council will ultimately make the decision weighing benefits and liabilities to determine the value and place of dockless scooters in the overall transportation environment. 

Enforcement 

No set of regulations or rules can be effective without education and enforcement. Certain aspects of the regulations are more easily enforced than others. Parking and staging of scooters can be addressed through a multi-pronged approach of guidance in the agreement terms, education, and enforcement. The agreement terms themselves provide stronger guidance to the scooter companies than exists today, and prescribed parking areas for high traffic sidewalks will provide users clear, unambiguous, and properly located parking zones. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has also offered its Safety Ambassadors to assist with education about appropriate parking locations. 

Transportation’s Parking Division currently has a position vacancy that can be filled and dedicated to scooter parking enforcement (a civil citation that would be sent to the dockless scooter company). One enforcement officer can reasonably monitor and enforce most parking activities in the downtown area. Additional resources may be required if a high level of service is necessary in other areas. 

Riding on the sidewalk and riding without a helmet is more difficult to enforce. These offenses have criminal (misdemeanor) penalties, Responsibility for issuing misdemeanor citations rests with the Raleigh Police Department; Parking Enforcement can only write civil citations. The Raleigh Police Department has limited resources and will provide enforcement as circumstances demand and resources allow. 

The dockless scooter operators recognize this issue of enforcing their own rules of use. Bird indicated that they are working to develop technology solutions to identify and report offenders, including poor parking behaviors. Notices through both their technology solution and City enforcement can be documented and logged, and user accounts could then be suspended and/or revoked based on this violation information. While this approach has promise, to Staff’s knowledge, it has not yet been implemented by either company. 

Options 

Staff has outlined four options for dockless scooter regulation for City Council consideration. These options include: 

OPTION 1: Direct Staff to present master encroachment agreements with the current operators for dockless scooters to Council for approval, with detailed requirements for operations. (The encroachment agreement will be in effect until July 31, 2019, when operators will be solicited through a Request For Proposals (RFP)). 

Advantages to this approach include: 

  • A regulatory framework for current operator and user accountability is quickly created and placed into effect. 
  • The approach provides adequate time and opportunity to produce a thoughtful comprehensive request for proposals to competitively select the best operators. 
  • The approach affords Staff the time to solicit stakeholder input into the request for proposals. 
  • The General Assembly may act on the issue in early 2019, providing some clarity and guidance. 

The current dockless scooter operators would continue to offer service under the encroachment agreements. Some stakeholders may consider retaining these operators a disadvantage to this approach. Also, some level of resources is required to verify compliance. 

OPTION 2: Direct Staff to prepare a RFP to select a vendor(s) most advantageous to the City’s goals based on criteria that includes operations, equity, and safety, as soon as practical, with scooter companies continuing to operate as they do today. 

Since little will change in the interim while Staff develops a request for proposals, few resources are required. The status quo may be considered an advantage by some stakeholders. 

Disadvantages to this option include: 

  • There is no clear regulatory structure for scooter operations and the current state of “non-regulation” remains in place. 
  • There may be possible broader community concerns that current safety and sidewalk blocking are not being addressed. 
  • Development of the request for proposals would be performed quickly, without opportunity for stakeholder input. 

OPTION 3: Direct Staff to prepare a RFP to select a vendor(s) most advantageous to the City’s goals based on criteria that includes operations, equity, and safety, as soon as practical. Do not permit scooter operations in the interim by issuing a “cease and desist” directive to current operators. 

Advantages to this approach include: 

  • Unlicensed, under-regulated operators are removed from the streets. 
  • The approach provides adequate time and opportunity to produce a comprehensive, thoughtful request for proposals to competitively select the best operators. 
  • The approach affords staff the time to solicit stakeholder input into the request for proposals. 
  • The General Assembly may act on the issue in early 2019, providing some clarity and guidance. 

Disadvantages to this option include: 

  • There may be possible rider/user concerns about the suspension of the program. 
  • A low-cost, low-carbon mobility option is temporarily removed from users. 
  • Some level of resources is required to verify compliance.

OPTION 4: Ban dockless scooters altogether. 

Advantages to this approach include: 

  • Unlicensed, under-regulated operators are permanently removed from the streets. 
  • No potential safety/sidewalk conflicts would be created by scooters. 
  • No long-term resources for program management, infrastructure maintenance would be required 

Disadvantages to this approach include: 

  • There may be possible rider/user concerns about the prohibition of the program. 
  • A low-cost, low-carbon mobility option is permanently removed from users. 
  • Some level of resources is required to verify compliance. 

Recommendation 

Staff recommends Option 1.

Staff would advise Bird and Lime, the current dockless scooter operators, to apply for a master encroachment agreement. Concomitant with the master encroachement agreement, staff would proceed with developing a RFP to solicit any interested dockless scooter operators. Staff would commence the RFP process in order to have a set of operators ready at the conclusion of the initial term of this master encroachment agreement, which is July 31, 2019. 

This approach provides an opportunity for a rapidly evolving industry and technology to mature. Also, the North Carolina General Assembly indicated they may consider legislation in this time frame that could offer more clarity for community policy makers. The proposed Option 1 quickly places rules in effect to address the current situation (few rules, little accountability) while affording staff the opportunity to solicit meaningful stakeholder input into the RFP process and to engage a broader group of potential dockless scooter operators. This time provides the opportunity to produce a more comprehensive, thoughtful RFP to find the best operators for the Raleigh community. 




Not Getting Your Taxes Worth…

A few years ago Raleigh hired a consultant to conduct a community survey. A key result of that survey is the need to address transportation. Transportation was the top concern of our citizens.

Not long after that survey the City Manager and the Planning Department began an update of the the City’s Comprehensive Plan. It has been more than ten years since the City’s plan for transportation has been updated.

This past week I have been reviewing staff’s update on the Comprehensive Plan. Amazingly, despite spending thousands for the community survey and thousands more on the update, the City Manager’s update to the Comprehensive Plan does NOT include transportation. It will now be several more years before the City Manager addresses transportation.

In the meantime we have no meaningful transportation plan for north Raleigh and despite spending millions on sales taxes for transit, no plan to improve bus service in north Raleigh.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Manager Ruffin Hall, why has updating the City’s transportation plan been sidelined?




Falls of Neuse and Policy Priorities

My wife and I moved into our house off of Falls of Neuse Road about eleven years ago. Shortly after we moved in we got involved with our neighbors as plans moved forward to widen Falls of Neuse Road from a two lane country road to four lanes. There was a plan at that time to plan ahead for a six lane super street by placing the four lanes on the outside of six lane corridor. We did not share that vision of six lane super street and advocated for a four lane parkway. That vision for a four lane parkway, except for two desired traffic lights, was adopted by City Council and is what is on the ground today.

There has always been a plan memorialized in the City’s comprehensive plan to maintain as much as possible the rural character of Falls of Neuse north of I540. Development along the corridor has been predominantly residential. Commercial development has been kept to a minimum and there is no industrial development. This character of the corridor is why thousands of people have chosen to live here and to invest in their homes. The Falls of Neuse neighborhoods together form a small town that just happen to be in a city.

It is this small town/rural character that we are working to protect. This is why some 600 people turned out a few years ago to vote overwhelmingly against a grocery anchored strip mall at Dunn and Falls of Neuse Roads. It is why this room was packed again to oppose another strip mall at Raven Ridge and Falls of Neuse.

And it is one of the main reasons why I first ran three years ago for this seat on City Council.

Falls of Neuse winds past more than a dozen neighborhoods – Wakefield, Bedford, Falls River, River Oaks, Wood Spring, Woodbridge, Daltons Ridge, River Run, Oakcroft, Falls Point, Raven Ridge, and Raven Point to name a few. On the west side of Falls of Neuse is the Falls Lake watershed protection area and home to the Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve and Falls Lake Park. On the east side of Falls of Neuse is the Richland Creek watershed protection area. And along the south side of the Neuse river run the Neuse river greenway that is a part of the Mountain to Sea Trail. And right on Falls of Neuse is the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church founded by former slaves and in continuous existence since the 1800’s.

The Falls of Neuse corridor is a unique location in Raleigh with a unique combination of low intensity residential, natural resources, and historic sites including the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, as well as the historic Falls Community. The vision of the residents and many visitors to the area is to preserve the character of this area as much as possible.

As the elected representative and a fellow resident of this area I am committed to that preservation. Make no mistake. The matter before us today is to widen a section of Falls of Neuse between Durant and I540. This widening is simply the first phase of three phases to transform Falls of Neuse from what is today a four lane parkway into a six lane super street.

As the duly elected representative of District B I want to be very clear to the community, to my fellow Council Members, and to the Mayor, that I do not and will not support transforming Falls of Neuse into a six lane super street. Keeping Falls of Neuse Road a four lane parkway and protecting the Falls of Neuse neighborhoods and community must, in my opinion, be a policy priority. And it is a policy priority that I represent and will fight for.

To that end, let us begin the discussion for a better plan for the future not only of the Falls of Neuse but all of North Raleigh and northern Wake County.

Thank you.




Regarding Scooters

From this week’s Manager’s update:

DATE: August 3, 2018
TO: Ruffin Hall, City Manager
FROM: Michael Moore, Transportation Director
RE: Bird Scooters

Background

Approximately three weeks ago, Bird, an electric scooter sharing company, began operating in the City of Raleigh. These scooters operate like dockless bike sharing companies, where users employ a smartphone mobile application to locate, unlock and rent their service. Approximately 150 Bird scooters are currently operating in Raleigh, with distribution focused primarily in Downtown, Glenwood South, and Cameron Village. In general, commercial activity that occurs in the right of way is not permitted without enabling action by the City. No such enabling action occurred prior the deployment of these scooters by Bird.

The City Attorney’s Office has determined that dockless scooters fall into a similar classification as mopeds. Mopeds require an operator to be a minimum of 16 years old and wear a helmet while operating the moped. Neither a driver’s license nor automobile liability insurance are required. Mopeds must also have a title and be registered with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, and while mopeds are motor vehicles, they are treated more like bicycles than automobiles or motorcycles for the purposes of North Carolina’s motor vehicle laws.

Benchmarking

Several other cities, including Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Durham, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Washington DC have implemented or are considering trial or pilot programs to more thoroughly evaluate the multitude of issues arising from dockless scooters in their transportation environment.

These cities have identified various operating parameters, addressing issues related to scooter specifications, permissible fleet size, fleet rebalancing, scooter condition and maintenance, parking locations, insurance requirements, data sharing, permitting, fees, and penalties.

Several cities, including Charlotte, have elected to permit scooter operations under pilot program or trial permit period. This approach affords local governments the opportunity to better understand the technology, the positive and negative issues it may generate, and its potential place in the local transportation system.

Current Work and Next Steps

City Staff, including representatives from Transportation and Police, met with representatives from Bird to further confirm the operating parameters of the company. A key focus of this conversation was, and will continue to be, ensuring public safety for all rental system users relative to other users of the public right-of-way.

Staff shared the City’s intent to maintain the quality of life for our citizens and to prevent any negative impacts on local neighborhoods or businesses. To this point, staff continues to share situations and issues where scooters were operated in contradiction to Bird’s terms and conditions of use (multiple riders, no helmets, etc.) or were improperly parked, posing tripping hazards for pedestrians.

In response, Bird has provided “push” notifications to their users and has a program to provide free helmets (for the cost of shipping). They have also conducted free helmet giveaways recently at the Downtown Farmers Market.

Raleigh’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) is currently discussing potential frameworks to recommend to City Council that would permit the operation of dockless bikeshare systems within Raleigh’s rights of way. While somewhat different than scooter sharing companies, these systems share many similarities with dockless bikeshare systems and can be permitted and regulated through similar mechanisms. Staff anticipates a final recommendation from the BPAC on an approach to dockless bicycles at their August 20 meeting that would be presented for the Council’s consideration on September 4.

Transportation staff will continue to work closely with the City Attorney’s Office on this matter and will provide another update to Council during the “Report of the Manager” portion of the regular meeting on August 21.