Times of Change

(On the decision to appoint At-Large Councilor Russ Stephenson to the GoTriangle Board of Trustees)

Every new City Council brings change. Change happened after the 2015 election when Corey Branch, Dickie Thompson, and I joined the Council. And change continued after the 2017 election with Nicole Stewart and Stef Mendell joining Council. Prior to 2015 Kay Crowder had served only part of a term. Compared to 2013 all but two of the members of Council are new.

After the current Council was seated, we began discussions regarding assignments to boards and commissions. These discussions were happening as early as January with some of them documented in the January 9th City Council minutes regarding transit:

Councilor Stephenson expressed the opinion that Council should have a stronger voice in ensuring that planning for transit is in sync with the current Council’s vision. GoTriangle was specifically cited and Councilor Stephenson noted that getting transit funding and projects rolling out is painfully slow. Councilor Stephenson asked about accelerating the process of getting service on the ground. Council specifically discussed the Raleigh Transit Authority, TPAC, CAMPO, and the GoTriangle board and Council’s memberships and relationships to these organizations.

Since January individual Council members have continued to review the memberships of these organizations. Councilor Branch serves as liaison to the Raleigh Transit Authority, Mayor McFarlane serves as member of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) that oversees roads and highways,  and Councilor Thompson serves on the Airport Authority. TPAC (Transit Planning Advisory committee) is a staff-level advisory committee. The only regional transportation or transit organization that Raleigh does not have Council representation is GoTriangle (formerly known as the Triangle Transit Authority).

From the GoTriangle website:

GoTriangle is governed by a 13-member Board of Trustees. The region’s principal municipalities and counties appoint ten (10) members to staggered four-year terms. The North Carolina Secretary of Transportation appoints three (3) ex officio nonvoting members. By law, the Board of Trustees is authorized to make decisions and enact policy for the agency.

Representation of municipalities and local governments by elected officials is as follows:

  • Cary: Jennifer Robinson, Cary Council Member
  • Chapel Hill: Michael Parker, Chapel Hill Council Member
  • Durham County: Ellen Reckhow, Commissioner
  • Durham County: Wendy Jacobs, Commissioner
  • City of Durham: Steve Schewel, Mayor
  • Orange County: Mark Marcopolos, Commissioner
  • Wake County: Sig Hutchinson, Commissioner
  • Wake Forest: Vivian Jones, Mayor

Appointed by the Secretary of Transportation:  Valerie Jordan, Nina Szlosberg-Landis, and Andrew Perkins, Jr.

The City of Raleigh had no Council representation and the majority on Council decided to appoint At-Large Councilor Stephenson. Moving to this decision was no secret. Raleigh is limited to two positions on the Board of Trustees. Given that Mary Ann Baldwin had been a member since 2009, was previously Council’s representative but gave up her seat on Council, it was logical to replace Ms Baldwin with Mr. Stephenson.

I think it is unfortunate and, frankly, unfair for Ms. Baldwin to publicly characterize this decision as political retribution. I have had no personal conflict with Ms. Baldwin. On the issues of the day such as granny flats we mostly agree.  I acknowledge that I have been a much stronger supporter of protecting neighborhoods from the negative impacts of commercial development. However, any differences of opinion on these or other issues certainly do not rise to the level of exacting political retribution.

City Council did change in 2015 and again in 2017. More than 90 million dollars a year are now being collected for transit. In my view it is important that this Council’s direction be represented well and that those tax dollars be spent responsibly and in a manner that reflects that values and goals of the current Council and the electorate.

Like Ms. Baldwin, Councilor Russ Stephenson is an At-Large Councilor elected by all the citizens of Raleigh. As an architect and urban planner Mr. Stephenson has long been involved in transit. He is well qualified to represent Council’s interests on GoTriangle’s Board of Trustees.

Councilor Stephenson’s qualifications include:

  • Professional urban design and planning experience for communities from Virginia to Florida including work incorporated in Raleigh’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan (Stanhope Village Small Area Plan)
  • Received NC American Planning Association awards for multiple town plans
  • As Planning Commissioner in 2003-2005, led efforts to draft Raleigh’s first Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Ordinance
  • Since elected to Raleigh City Council in 2005, led every Council discussion on transit and land use, including transit and land use elements of Raleigh’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan and Raleigh’s 2013 Unified Development Ordinance
  • Directly responsible for incorporating “Complete Streets” policies in Raleigh’s Comprehensive Plan to promote multi-modal mobility.
  • Directly responsible for incorporating all transit modes in the UDO’s “Infrastructure Sufficiency” standards

It is my honor to support Councilor Stephenson’s appointment to the GoTriangle Board of Trustees.

Thank you.

David Cox, PhD
Raleigh City Council, District B

Accessory Dwelling Unit Overlays

Raleigh is a large city. One regulatory idea is that neighborhoods could petition the City to allow ADUs in their area. The process is referred to as creating an overlay district.

Overlay districts are used today. Some are historic overlay districts for preserving historic sections of the city such as Oakwood or Glenwood-Brooklyn. Others are neighborhood conservation overlay districts for preserving the architectural style of an area. A good example is the Five Points East neighborhood overlay conservation district.

For ADUs there could be two ways to apply overlays. In one way, ADUs would be permitted if a neighborhood requested them (the opt in approach). In the second approach, ADUs would, by default, be allowed everywhere but neighborhoods would create an overlay to disallow their use (the opt out approach).

For this poll, there are two additional options: allow ADUs everywhere without requiring any overlays and disallow ADUs everywhere without requiring overlays.

Which ADU overlay option do you support?

 

Short Term Rentals – Moving Forward to a Solution for Raleigh

Raleigh IS moving towards legalizing short term rentals. Raleigh’s short term rental task force recommended three types of short term rentals. As Council and the residents consider what is best for Raleigh, here is how the task force’s recommendations compare with those of Asheville, Austin, and New Orleans.

Asheville

In June 2017 Raleigh’s Short Term Rental Task Force delivered a report containing definitions and recommendations for regulating short term rentals. Since that time we have obtained more information including what City Council recently learned from a trip to Asheville where we met with Asheville’s Mayor and city officials.

Raleigh’s STR Task Force recommended three types of short term rentals referred simply as Type I, Type II, and Type III:

Type I rentals – defined as short term rental of less than 30 days in which the owner or property manager is present during the entire period of the rental.

Type II rentals – defined as short term rental of less than 30 days in which the owner or property manager is not required to be present during the entire period of the rental, but must reside on the property for more than 180 days of the year.

Type III rentals – defined as short term rental of less than 30 days where neither the owner or property manager resided on the property.

It is instructive to compare these definitions to what Asheville has implemented. One type of short term rental is called a “homestay.” Homestays are rentals of up to two guest rooms where overnight lodging is provided for compensation in a residential district. Homestays are stays limited to less than 30 days and are managed by a full-time resident of the property who is present and residing in the home when lodgers are present.

In order to be “present during the homestay term,” the full time resident shall be at the property overnight and not away on vacation, visiting friends or family, traveling out of town for business or personal reasons, etc. during the homestay term. However, the full-time resident may be temporarily absent from the property for purposes related to normal residential activities such as shopping, working, attending class, etc.

Asheville’s homestays most closely correspond to the Task Force’s Type I rentals. Asheville allows other short term rentals that are for 30 days or less that are not homestays. Those short term rentals are referred to as short term vacation rentals (STVRs) and are restricted to certain non-residential districts that allow lodging. STVRs most closely correspond to the Task Force’s Type III rentals.

Asheville does not provide short term rentals that correspond to the Task Force’s Type II. However, if a property doesn’t meet the homestay requirements, an applicant can submit a conditional use zoning for a STVR. My interpretation is that this would be the mechanism for allowing whole house rentals in residential districts.

Aside from the general definition of a homestay, Asheville has several requirements for them:

  • No activities other than lodging shall be provided
  • No additional displays of goods, products, services, or other advertising shall be visible from outside the dwelling
  • No additional off-street parking is required
  • Only one homestay shall be permitted per lot/parcel
  • Homestay permits shall be limited to one person at any given time
  • No signage shall be allowed for homestays
  • The length of stay of guests shall not exceed 30 days
  • Exterior lighting shall be residential in nature and shall comply with the lighting requirements of the UDO
  • The homestay owner or operator shall maintain liability insurance on the property, which covers the homestay use and homestay guests
  • The homestay owner or operator must pay any applicable taxes, including occupancy and sales taxes, to the appropriate governmental entity
  • The homestay must be reviewed annually and inspected for compliance

To compare, let’s consider the details of what the Task Force recommended for Type I rentals.

  • A Type I short term residential lodging facility must have a resident manager. The resident manager may be either the property owner of the Short Term Residential Lodging Facility or another person appointed by the property owner.
  • This resident manager must be domiciled on the premise for at least 181 calendar days per year and must be present in the dwelling unit throughout the rental period. Proof of address of the resident manager and telephone number must accompany the application.
  • There shall be a maximum of five total bedrooms permitted within a Type I short term residential lodging facility.

There are no caps for either Asheville’s homestays or Type I rentals.

Austin

Austin also defines three types of short term rentals: Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3.

Type 1 are owner-occupied or associated with an owner-occupied principal residence. Austin includes the rental of an entire dwelling unit in their definition of Type 1. Austin also defines Type 1 to include only part of the unit, at a minimum a sleeping room (with shared full bathroom), is limited to a single party of individuals, and the owner is generally present during the rental.

Austin requires the short term rental applicant to prove that he or she owns the property as their primary residence.

Type 2 are not owner occupied single family or duplexes. Austin places a cap on the percentage of STRs allowed to legally operate in each census tract of the city. Type 2 rentals are only allowed in certain commercial zoning districts:

  • Central Business District (CBD)
  • Downtown Mixed Use (DMU)
  • Planned Unit Development (PUD)
  • General-Retail – Mixed Use (GR-MU)
  • Commercial Services – Mixed Use (CS-MU)
  • Commercial Services – Vertical Mixed Use (CS-V)
  • General Retail – Vertical Mixed Use (GR-V)

Type 3 rentals are also not owner occupied but are limited to multifamily properties such as apartments and condos. They include the rental of an entire unit. Applicable geographic caps must be adhered to. It appears that the distinction between types 2 and 3 is that Type 2 rentals are limited to certain commercial districts whereas that restriction isn’t stated for Type 3 rentals.

New Orleans

New Orleans also defines three types of short term rentals:

  • Accessory Short Term Rentals
  • Temporary Short Term Rentals
  • Commercial Short Term Rentals

Accessory rentals are owner occupied and limited to three bedrooms. The owner must be present during the rental.

Temporary rentals require an in-town property manager who is available at all times while the unit is rented. Temporary rentals are limited to 90 nights per year. Occupancy is limited to 2 guests per room with a max of 10 guests, whichever is less. Entire units can be rented.

Commercial rentals are limited to 5 bedrooms and 10 guests. The owner/occupant does not need to be present during the rental period. There is no limitation on the number of rental nights per license year. Commercial rentals must be in a non-residential zoning.

Raleigh’s Boards and Commissions

Interested in serving on one of Raleigh’s Boards or Commissions? Vacancies currently exist on the following. If you are interested, please visit this website for more information.

For more information: https://www.raleighnc.gov/government/content/BoardsCommissions/Articles/BoardsCommissionsCommittees.html

To apply, please complete this form: https://raleighnc.seamlessdocs.com/f/BCInterestForm

  • Board of Adjustment – One Vacancy
  • Housing Appeals Board – One Vacancy
  • Planning Commission – One Vacancy
  • Raleigh Transit Authority – One Alternate Member Vacancy
  • Stormwater Management Advisory Commission – One Vacancy
  • Arts Commission – One Vacancy
  • Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission – Two vacancies
  • Raleigh Convention and Performing Arts Centers Authority
  • Environmental Advisory Board – Three Vacancies
  • Human Relations Commission – Three vacancies
  • Substance Abuse Advisory Commission – One Vacancy

Council Improves Bike Safety

At Tuesday’s Meeting, Council unanimously approved a recommended bike plan for 11 out of 13 streets by providing striped bike lanes.

In the two remaining cases the recommendation was to eliminate parking on one side of the street and reserve the space for a dedicated bike lane. In those cases, we opted to keep the parking.

The two streets were Glen Eden and Spruce Tree Way.

For Glen Eden there will continue to be a bike lane and parking on one side of the street (as they co-exist today) and parking and a “bike sharrow” on the other side. Spruce Tree Way is a much narrower street and the option was to use bike sharrows only.

It is notable that some studies indicate that sharrows are not correlated with fewer accidents. On the other hand, some studies suggest that they are safer

(e.g. http://safersim.nads-sc.uiowa.edu/final_reports/UI_1_Y1_Final%20Report.pdf)

but not quite as safe as bike lanes with restricted parking.

To play it safe (pardon the pun) we opted to provide the sharrows for the two streets.

Overall, I think that what Council adopted will lead to greater bike safety on our streets.

Thank you!

Here is a list of streets that will get the lanes and markings

  • Arco Corporate Drive, from 8081 to 8001
  • Arnold Palmer Drive from Brier Club Lane to Brier Creek Parkway
  • Common Oaks Drive from Falls of Neuse Road to 370 feet west of Popes Creek Drive
  • Corporate Center Drive from Chapel Hill Road to Trinity Road
  • Country Trail from Pinecrest Drive to Glenwood Avenue
  • Crabtree Boulevard from Raleigh Boulevard to Capital Boulevard
  • Forest Pines Drive from Common Oaks Drive to Wakefield Plantation Circle
  • Glen Eden Drive from Glenwood Avenue to Ridge Road
  • Ileagnes Road from Wyncote Drive to South Saunders Street
  • Lineberry Drive from Joanne Drive to Bliss Street
  • Marvino Lane from Country Trail to Ebenezer Church Road
  • Morningside Drive from Blue Ridge Road to Wycliff Road
  • Spruce Tree Way from Falls of Neuse Road to Wakefield Pines Drive

December 2017 Town Hall

I will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on Saturday, December 2nd at 9am at the Abbott’s Creek Community Center located at 9950 Durant Road.

The purpose of the meeting is to focus on issues important to the portion of District B that I will refer to as Falls North. This is the area north of I540 from Falls of Neuse to Capital Blvd. What is happening in Falls North? What needs to be done to move forward? How can you get involved?

Some topics on the agenda include the following:

  • The widening of Falls of Neuse Road
  • The transformation of Capital Blvd into a freeway
  • Northern Wake County Transportation
  • Public transit in northern District B
  • The Falls of Neuse Small Area Plan
  • Raven Ridge rezoning
  • The next phase of Forest Ridge Park
  • The future of the Leonard Tract
  • Long range development of Falls North

Future Town Halls will focus on other parts of District B. In January I will be planning a Town Hall for the Brentwood area of District B. I will work around the District in the first quarter of 2018 to meet residents throughout District B.

Thank you to Raleigh’s Police and Fire Fighters for your continued support


After the September 5, 2017 City Council vote, I realized a serious mistake had been made. For all the anxiety and uncertainty that this caused you and your families, I apologize. I am extremely grateful for your understanding and continued support as we worked together to correct this mistake.

At the last Council meeting there was an item in the consent agenda for policy changes that were there for implementing the pay structure and raises. What I didn’t catch was that there was some language that affected vacations and holidays. This was unexpected because the policy changes were supposed to only address the new pay structure. Benefits were not supposed to change. Indeed, items on a consent agenda are supposed to be non-controversial business items which this was not – and I am quite concerned that the item was presented to us in this manner.

I did receive criticism for failing to see this before voting. I have been very critical of myself for not seeing this because taking away benefits is not what I stand for. I am very grateful to everyone for working with us to correct this situation.

My dad worked both as a telephone lineman and as an installer and was a member of Communications Workers of America and served as vice-president and union representative. A main lesson he taught me was the importance of working people. Growing up I watched as he went on strike to fight for fair wages and benefits. When he passed away two weeks after I filed to run for Council in 2015, I vowed to do the same as a City Councilor.

I also have two brothers-in-law and a nephew who are firefighters. My wife’s uncle was a fire fight as was her grandfather. I know full well the risks that they take to protect us.

Simply put, had I known that these changes were there, I would not have voted for them. And, I will vote on Tuesday to remove them and fix this.

Now, here is how these changes were reviewed before they came to Council. First, the changes were created by the HR department. They were then reviewed by three groups of people.

They were first reviewed by the Department heads including the Police Chief and Fire Chief. They did not say anything about the loss of benefits. This is surprising because the Police Chief and Fire Chief have reputations for speaking their minds and fighting for officers and fire fighters.

They were also reviewed by the Civil Service Commission which includes two employee elected representatives. One of those representatives represents the Police union. The Civil Service Commission did not catch these changes.

Finally an employee advisory group did not catch these changes.

When the changes came to Council, they were packed together in the consent agenda which is supposed to contain non-controversial, business as usual items. Again, the expectation was that these changes were simply meant to implement the new pay structure. And, I am quite annoyed that they did not. Determining why so many people including those most affected by these changes did not notice them is something I want to find out.

When I learned of these changes and their impact, I immediately issued a statement explaining what had happened and that I will seek to rescind them. I also was able to visit 13 fire stations and personally explain this situation.

I am proud of the fact that I led the efforts to raise pay for our first responders for the first time in years. I am proud to have been able to correct years of neglect. Cutting benefits is not what I am about.

Thank you for listening.

Thank You to the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association for Their Endorsement!

I am very grateful to receive the endorsement of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association.

The RWCA has been a longtime non-partisan advocate for improving life for minorities and and underserved communities. In August the RWCA sponsored a Candidates Forum in conjunction with the Wake County Voter Education Coalition, NC Black Women Empowerment Network and members of Raleigh/Wake Pan Hellenic Council.

Candidates answered questions pertaining to a host of issues affecting Raleigh ranging from citizens engagement to affordable housing. It is an honor to be recognized by the RWCA as someone who can help lead the city in addressing these important issues.

Candidates at the SE Raleigh Community Candidates Forum. Photo Credit: Edward Jones

Candidates endorsed by the RWCA general membership for Raleigh City Council include:

Charles T. Francis, Mayor

Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi – At Large Member

Russell Stephenson – At Large Member

David Cox – District B Representative

Corey Branch – District C Representative

Kay Crowder – District D Representative

Stefanie Mendell – District E Representative

The RWCA meets monthly on the third Thursday of each month at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.  Residents of Raleigh and Wake County are invited to meetings to share concerns, receive information, and to advocate for progressive policies that positively impact the community.

The Need for New Roads was Yesterday

Last night I attended an “open house” on a planned widening of a section of Falls of Neuse Road between I540 and Durant road.  This section of road serves the many residents of northern District B as well as communities such as Wake Forest.

I travel through this section of road everyday as it is on my way to and from work.  And, yes, there is a traffic jam most mornings.

The traffic jams are invariably from drivers waiting to enter I-540. At Falls of Neuse there is a single ramp onto I-540 that serves both the northbound and southbound Falls of Neuse traffic.  A traffic light stops vehicles in one direction to allow vehicles from the other direction to turn onto the interstate. The single ramp combined with the stopping and starting of traffic are huge contributors to the morning backups.

A more fundamental problem is that I-540 is regularly jammed with traffic. Drivers on Falls of Neuse as well as Six Forks, Creedmoor, and Leesville roads have no where to go. Often it is a crawl to get onto I-540.

Very simply, we have come to depend on a single road, I-540, to move traffic in northern Wake County.  Yet, growth continues unabated.  Last night’s open house was to learn about and discuss a plan to widen Falls of Neuse in the vicinity of the I-540 interchange.  It sounds reasonable enough.  But there are many concerns that the project does not address the fundamental problem – unabated growth without a well-planned road network.

There was a very large number of people at the open house. Most people had the impression that the widening project is a “done deal” and that they were only being asked to pick between two possible options for widening the road – both highly impactful.

Let’s be upfront about it.  With this project, there will be losers in terms of lost homes, lost businesses, and lost aesthetics from lost landscaping and trees. This project is guaranteed to turn this section of Falls of Neuse into another Capital Blvd.  The result will be six lanes of asphalt, a concrete sidewalk, and where business can remain, asphalt parking lots with few, if any, trees or landscaping.

So, let me begin by dispelling a myth. The project is not a “done deal”. I am in the process of arranging to meet with Governor Cooper’s office to discuss the many concerns that I heard expressed Everything, as far as I am concerned, is on the table including postponing or cancelling the project.

Repeatedly, I heard that this project does nothing to address the fundamental problem – whcih is no more room on I540.

I agree. Widening Falls of Neuse (with its many negaitive impacts) to bunch up as many cars as possible on Falls of Neuse is not the answer. Where will they go? It will still take just as long to get onto the Interstate.

The real issue is that we cannot have a future where an ever growing population north of Raleigh drives south to I540 to get to places like RTP. To support the level of growth that is happening, we need another road. In my view, the obvious choice is route 98. Route 98 needs to be improved so it can also serve as a path to places like RTP, Brier Creek, etc.

The area is growing rapidly but the roads are not keeping up. We also need to improve other arteries such as Creedmoor and Six Forks and move forward as quickly as possible with the planned improvements to Route 1/Capital Blvd.

Our road infrastructure shouldn’t be one and only one road – Interstate 540.

The time for a workable network of roads has come – and it was yesterday.

To express your views on this project, please send email to NCDOT Project Delivery Team Lead Ben Upshaw, PE, at bjupshaw@ncdot.gov. Please do this by September 7th. And please copy me at david.cox@raleighnc.gov.