Consistency with the City’s Comprehensive Plan for Neighborhoods

Raleigh’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan formally states the City’s goals to guide future development. When a rezoning request comes to the City, the Planning Department uses evaluates the request’s consistency against the stated goals and policies of the Plan.

Regarding development Downtown, the Comprehensive Plan says the following:

Central Business District – This category applies to the Raleigh Central Business District, and is intended to enhance Downtown Raleigh as a vibrant mixed use urban center. The category recognizes the area’s role as the heart of the city, supporting a mix of high-intensity office, retail, housing, government, institutional, visitor-serving, cultural, and entertainment uses. Multiple zoning districts might apply within the CBD, corresponding to the different character and vision for its various neighborhoods, with DX being the primary district for the mixed use core of downtown.

But the Comprehensive Plan is as much, if not more, about neighborhoods as it is about downtown.  The Plan calls for tapering heights as we move from the downtown core toward the surrounding neighborhoods:

Heights in the downtown could reach as high as 40 stories in the core, but would taper down to meet the adjacent neighborhoods as a height of three to four stories.

The downtown core has long been recognized as Fayetteville street and as we move away from Fayetteville street we approach neighborhoods such as Glenwood South, Mordecai, South Park, Oakwood, and others.  Following the Comprehensive Plan, heights on Peace and Capital currently allow 12 stories just a few blocks from Glenwood-South.  In between there is a buffer that allows 3 story structures.  To the east, heights taper down to 7, 4, and 3 stories before reaching Mordecai and Oakwood.

Today, two zoning requests are moving towards City Council for consideration to allow 40 story structures.  Approval of this request will signal a major change in direction for Raleigh. If approved, there will effectively be no tapering down to meet the Glenwood-South neighborhood.  If approved, we will have set the stage to eliminating tapering down from the core to meet the adjacent neighborhoods.

Whichever way Council chooses for the future, make no mistake that the decision will be critically important for Raleigh’s future.

In keeping with my commitment to neighborhoods, it is this choice that I will consider when evaluating rezoning requests for Downtown.

On Gentrification

I received this email from Gregg Warren, President of DHIC, Raleigh’s premier developer of affordable housing. He asked that we share his message.

Good evening—

I hope that you had a wonderful and fulfilling Mother’s Day. Below is an Op-Ed that I recently sent to the N&O. Apparently, the editorial staff chose not to publish it. So, I’m putting it out there for anyone to share. There is much mis-information regarding the changes that are occurring in our neighborhoods that adjoin downtown Raleigh so I thought I would offer my perspective having worked at DHIC for 30+ years.

Feel free to post this elsewhere if you find it helpful.
Gregg Warren
President
DHIC | HOME TO OPPORTUNITY
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Subject: Let’s not debate whether gentrification is good or bad – it’s action that counts

Downtown Raleigh recently made the front page of the New York Times as an exemplar of gentrification – the process that dislocates traditional low-income residents, typically people of color, and changes the social fabric of a neighborhood. South Park, the historically black Raleigh neighborhood near Shaw University, was cited for its steep increase in higher income white residents in the past five years and the resulting fears of longtime black residents that their neighborhood will become both unaffordable and unrecognizable. 

In response, the N&O weighed in with Ned Barnett’s opinion piece, wondering whether gentrification is indeed a “bad thing”. True, our gentrifying neighborhoods make it possible for younger, mostly white professionals to live near downtown and to walk/bike to work and for a vibrant food and entertainment scene. Gentrification can also be a boon for existing homeowners, Black families that have lived in southeast Raleigh for generations who are willing to cash out on their appreciating properties and move out of downtown. That’s if they get a fair purchase offer.

But Barnett makes no mention of the many low-income renters near Raleigh’s downtown who see no upside to gentrification. They are losing their lower cost rentals to the high-priced homes that gentrification ushers in. Given Wake County’s shortage of affordable housing – a gap estimated at 56,000 units – their search for affordable replacement rentals will be difficult indeed.

If we want to get serious about tackling the downsides of rapidly changing communities in and around downtown, we need to understand the challenges and talk about what we are doing to make sure that longtime, low-income renters and homeowners (almost entirely people of color) can afford to remain in their homes and neighborhoods.

The City and County have made creating and preserving affordable housing a priority and have created dedicated sources of funds to make their actions count. Raleigh City Council increased the property tax rate by 1 cent to generate about $5.7 million a year for affordable housing and the Wake County also increased the tax rate by 1 cent, generating about $15 million a year for affordable housing.

Both the City and County invested in the preservation of Washington Terrace, located in east Raleigh where gentrification is rapidly changing the face of the neighborhood. Originally built in 1950 as Raleigh’s first rental community for middle class Black families (who were denied access to predominantly white neighborhoods), Washington Terrace fell into disrepair and was in foreclosure when DHIC bought it in 2014. Today, following a year-long community planning process, the 23-acre property is newly redeveloped with 234 permanently affordable rental units for both families and seniors. More importantly, the redevelopment of Washington Terrace took place without displacement of the original residents.

The City and County are also helping to fund Beacon Ridge, 120 units of affordable rental apartments, at the new YMCA and Southeast Raleigh Elementary School site off Rock Quarry Road, partnering with the Southeast Raleigh Promise and DHIC. After years of worry about what will happen with the affordable Sir Walter Apartments on Fayetteville Street, firm plans are now in place to renovate and preserve these rental homes for seniors, with the help of low-cost City financing.

The City and its partners are also making an effort to mitigate the negative impact of gentrification on renters in the South Park neighborhood so prominently featured in the New York Times.  Last Tuesday, the City Council approve $5 million in low cost loans that will produce 354 units of affordable apartments just a few blocks away from the South Park neighborhood featured in the NYTimes article.

To be clear, more needs to be done to ensure that all residents enjoy the economic and real estate boom around downtown Raleigh, and that starts with not just a theoretical debate on the merits or downsides of gentrification but a real commitment to making sure that longtime neighborhood residents most likely to be hurt by this change have the opportunity to stay in homes they can afford.

Gregg Warren is President of DHIC, Inc, a non-profit developer of affordable housing. With over 2,500 apartments under its ownership, DHIC is the Triangle’s largest owner of affordable rental housing.

For the second time…

For the second time in less than four years there has been another death from an officer-involved shooting. This is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the family of Mr. Soheil Antonio Mojarrad.

The five day report that was released is preliminary. Many questions remain and an investigation is ongoing.

I believe that City Council needs to review this incident carefully. We have had too many violent encounters between police and citizens. To protect citizens and police we need to review our procedures to ensure that body worn cameras are activated and to examine how we respond to situations that too often quickly become violent.

To find solutions let us work together to better understand these situations and prevent them from happening again.

ANNOUNCEMENT

I am humbled and grateful to have served on Council these past four years. Whether it is in emails, phone calls, at Citizens Advisory Council, City Council and Committee meetings, or a chance encounter, I truly thank you for the many kind words, wishes, and encouragement that I have received.

We live together in a great city with great neighborhoods, schools, universities and colleges, art and music venues, parks and greenways. Raleigh is one of the best places to live in the world because of its citizens with their diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging interests who are engaged and bring their skills and strengths to the community.

Because Raleigh is such a great place to live, the city has continued to grow. Growth and development remain the city’s biggest challenges. To ensure that we grow better for all people, City Council needs your input, your guidance, and your support. But for that to matter, you need a City Council that will truly listen and support you in return.

When first elected in 2015, my goal was to listen and be as engaged as possible with everyone. Going forward I renew that commitment and seek another opportunity serve you as your representative on City Council.

Therefore, today I formally announce my candidacy to run for re-election as City Council Member for Raleigh’s District B. Please cast your vote for me this October 2019.

Thank you.
David Cox

Motion to Reconsider RDU Quarry Decision

For the motion: Cox, Crowder, Mendell, Stephenson
Against the motion: Stewart, McFarlane, Branch, Thompson

March 1, 2019, the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Board (“RDUAA”) voted to approve a lease with Wake Stone Corporation (“Wake Stone”) to expand Wake Stone’s quarry onto land that is owned by the County of Wake, County of Durham, City of Raleigh, and City of Durham.

The RDU Airport is a huge asset to the Triangle, but the quarry decision has significant implications outside the traditional scope of airport activities, crossing over into a broader vision for sustainable growth and environmental protection abutting Umstead State Park in Western Wake County.

When the issue first arose in 2017, the RDUAA decided to “take a pause” and directed Wake Stone to “seek additional input from local governments, the broader community, and groups with concerns…” The Raleigh City Council was not contacted by Wake Stone to provide Council input.

Consequently, the Council is concerned that RDUAA’s decision was reached without a transparent and inclusive process that incorporated other offers to buy and/or lease the property, which could provide equal or better financial and environmental outcomes.

There is currently a dispute between the Airport Authority’s attorneys and the Umstead Coalition’s attorneys as to whether a formal release is required by the FAA to allow the Odd Fellows Tract to be leased for use as a stone quarry.

The Airport Authority’s attorneys say no FAA release is required.

The Umstead Coalition’s attorney says an FAA release is required and now reports this has been confirmed via a telephone call with Phillip Braden, Manager of the FAA Memphis Airports District Office – the FAA office in charge of overseeing the operations of RDU Airport.

Given the important intersection of interests and responsibilities, I make the following motion:

That City Council send a letter to the RDUAA leadership requesting that the RDUAA Board reconsider its vote to approve the mineral lease so that affected local governments will have an opportunity to work in collaboration with RDUAA to find an outcome that recognizes the increasing importance and competitive advantage of a closer alignment of goals and mutual support between the Raleigh-Durham Airport and the surrounding community.

The letter should also request that RDUAA agree not to disturb the existing conditions at the proposed quarry site, including refraining from clear-cutting activities, until all pending issues regarding the mineral lease have been resolved.

Finally, the letter should ask the Airport Authority to request a written response from the FAA Memphis Airports District Office to confirm whether the Airport Authority and co-sponsoring municipalities are required to obtain an FAA release in order to lease the Odd Fellows Tract for a quarry. Having a formal response from the Airport Authority and the FAA will inform future decision-making by the Council on this matter.

Never OK

News & Observer: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article226838384.html

On February 6 I attended a celebration at the Raleigh Convention Center that was sponsored by the Dix Conservancy. I am shocked about the events described in the News & Observer regarding Council Member Kay Crowder during that celebration.

It is not and is never acceptable for any man to put his hands on any woman. When it is done out of anger, it makes it all the more egregious.

Council Member Kay Crowder has my fullest support.

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?