12/1/2020 meetings summary, 1 year on City Council summary

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We had afternoon and evening council meetings yesterday, December 1, 2020. Below is a summary.

Also, today marks 1 year of my term on Raleigh City Council. It was certainly not the year any of us expected, but I am proud of the work we have accomplished, and I thank you, so much, for the opportunity to serve. I’m including in this summary a list of some goals that were accomplished this year, acknowledging that there is still much work to do.

YEAR ONE:

1. Created new Rules of Decorum for Public Comment, eliminating the 2-week advance sign up and allowing public to address Council Members by name, individually;

2. Created a Police Advisory Board to review policies and contribute to fair policy development. Publicly called upon NC Legislature for authority to provide more transparency and oversight for our Police Advisory Board and added this issue to our legislative priority agenda for 2021;

3. Approved an Affordable Housing Bond in the amount of $80 million which was overwhelming passed by voters;

4. Approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) by right, citywide.

5. Removed the ban on Short Term Rentals;

6. Eliminated parking minimums downtown and on transit corridors;

7. Expanded cottage courts in more residential zoning districts;

8. Created new rules for micromobility (scooters), working with micromobility companies and other cities on best practices for issues like fees and parking;

9. Included renters in the city’s mailed notice requirement for projects under our city code;

10. Simplified parts of our city code, making it easier to do business in Raleigh, including removing barriers to constructing senior housing, reducing overall cost of construction by reducing amount of land needed to build a residence, reducing time required for construction plans, new categories for site plans to assist business owners in opening new stores and services.

Next up in early 2021 are text changes to allow more missing middle housing in more residential zoning disctricts (-plexes and townhomes) and to create new rules for short term rentals, allowing the industry to work in Raleigh.

I will continue to approach new ideas and challenges from a place of “yes” to to create a fairer, more accessible, and progressive Raleigh.

DECEMBER 1, 2020 MEETINGS SUMMARY:

1. We approved a deferred loan to Healing Transitions from Affordable Housing Bond proceeds for the expansion of their residential shelter. Healing Transitions offers peer-based, recovery-oriented services to homeless, uninsured, and underserved individuals with alcoholism and other addictions. Their facilities are operating beyond capacity, and they are in need of additional funds to add 200 more beds and to expand their living, programming, and ancillary spaces. We authorized the City Manager’s office negotiate terms for a forgivable or deferred loan up to $3 million; the terms will come back to council for final approval.

2. We approved funding for the next phase of the Deveraux Meadows Park project. The city continues its work to create a 14-acre park along Capital Boulevard in downtown, which would include a greenway connection and restoration of the Pigeon House Branch creek. We allocated funding for phase 2 of the project, which will cover preliminary planning work, including further engagement with NCDEQ concerning contaminants on the site from previous industrial use and remedial investigations.

3. We approved the Midtown Comprehensive Plan. The plan has produced a vision for future growth and public investment in the midtown area of Raleigh to make it more connected, dense, and pedestrian-friendly.

The plan focuses on “Seven Big Moves,” including adding crossings over the beltline for bikes and pedestrians, creating a green street for safer places to walk and bike, improving the street grid for better connectivity, investing in multiple, frequent transit options including bus rapid transit (BRT) and commuter rail, creating a waterfront district using the Crabtree Creek, and allowing more housing options.

You can review the Walkable Midtown report, with some illustrations, here. 

4. We approved a rezoning for the new Bandwidth headquarters. The site is located near PNC Arena and Carter Finley Stadium and near Umstead State Park. The land was owned by the State of North Carolina, but earlier this year they approved the sale to Bandwidth in an effort to keep the headquarters expansion here. They plan to build a new headquarters campus, including outdoor amenities and greenway connections.

5. We approved another text change to make it easier to build housing. A prior council had enacted a text change that resulted in confusion about how to measure and build infill houses. Applicants expressed frustration with the process, its time consumption, and confusion with the language of the code, and as a result, new housing permits dropped significantly. This new text change is very technical, but in overly simple terms it makes it easier to calculate the height and setback (how far off the street) limitations for a new house in an existing neighborhood. I am committed to making it easier to grow and invest in our city.

Our next regular meetings are January 5, 2021 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The mayor has requested a potential special meeting and public hearing for the Downtown South project on December 15, 2020, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. if the Planning Commission makes a recommendation and refers the rezoning case to City Council at their meeting next week. I supported the special meeting, in part, because it affords 2 hours for the public hearing (1 hour each side, typically public hearings are 16 minutes, 8 minutes per side).

Thank you, and happy holidays, Merry Christmas!
jonathan.melton@raleighnc.gov

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