3/3 meeting summary AND 90 days post: new bus shelters, neighborhood meetings
90 days at the table! I still feel so lucky each meeting for the privilege to represent this city, thank you. Below is a summary of our most recent council meeting, followed by a brief highlight of what we have accomplished in these first 3 months:
1. At the meeting this week we approved the purchase and installation of new GoRaleigh Bus Shelters. The city initiated a design competition for new shelters in 2016, a design was selected in 2017, but no decision was made about whether to use the new shelters. The city recently sent a survey about the new shelters, and results indicated community support, though there was confusion about how much extra the shelters cost. It turns out, when constructing a bus shelter, the actual shelter itself (the upright structure) is the smallest cost, and most of the cost is associated with engineering and construction of the flatwork. Overall, the new shelters cost 14% (*in the initial draft of this post I stated 8% – my math was wrong. But the figures we examined are the same) more than the previously-used, standard shelters, but offer increased visibility and awareness, better branding for our transit system, quality design, and more protection from the elements. We decided the benefits of the new shelters were worth the additional 14% investment. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NATCO) says that bus stations should be designed as gateways and introductions to the transit system. Attached are pictures of the old, standard shelters and the new shelters that we approved.
2. We approved a text change to allow new regulations for short term rentals (Airbnb, Vrbo, etc.). Under the old rules, whole house rentals were to be banned, and there were strict limitations on renting rooms in a house. Under the proposed new rules, these rentals are allowed through a permitting process, and there is a “3 strikes you’re out” rule. We also agreed that the rules will be reviewed in 6 months and 1 year to make sure there a no unintended negative consequences. I am glad we are making policy decisions based upon data, and not fear. We will be adaptable, and if issues arise, we will address them and make changes. The proposed new rules will go to Planning Commission for public hearing and then back to City Council for public hearing and final vote.
3. During the part of the agenda titled “Individual Reports from the Mayor and Council Members” I asked for an update on the city’s plans for protected bike infrastructure, including funding needs and ways to expedite delivery. We are 5 years into our 10 year priority bike projects and are lagging behind on implementation. We must do better. We agreed to have a work session on this issue in April.
4. We approved a text change to require a neighborhood meeting between residents and developers for large and/or impactful rezonings. This additional meeting will take place after staff confirms submittal of a completed application and before Planning Commission consideration, around the same time Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs) used to vote on these issues. It’s important to note that this function of CACs was never written into our code, and this is the first time, ever that this type of neighborhood/developer interaction is required as part of the city planning process. State law requires meeting notice of 100 feet, we are requiring notice of 1,000 feet, and a sign will be posted on the subject property to alert all nearby residents of the meeting. Concerns raised at this neighborhood meeting are recorded and submitted to the Planning Commission for consideration, and anyone who is unable to attend the meeting may submit additional written concerns or comments to the Planning Commissions. A city staff member will also attend this neighborhood meeting and submit a report to the Planning Commission. I believe this type of feedback will more accurately capture neighborhood concerns, as opposed to the yes/no vote that was previously reported from CACs. A yes/no vote is not solution-oriented feedback and only sets up a fight.
5. I asked the city attorney’s office to look at a section of our code that deals with public notice requirements. Currently, our code specifies that notice is sent to “property owners.” I asked that the city attorney review ways to include more residents, including renters, in this process, and to come back to council with recommended changes or ideas to include more individuals in the city planning process.
90 DAY SUMMARY:
1. Sent micromobility issue back to committee for new rules that will allow us to lead in this area;
2. Initiated text change to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) citywide by right;
3. Adopted new rules of decorum and public comment, making it easier to speak at council meeting, including removing 2 week advance sign up requirement;
4. Authorized text change to remove parking minimums downtown;
5. Created Police Advisory Board, after years of debate and discussion by prior councils. It’s not everything I wanted it to be, but it’s a start;
6. Authorized text change to make it easier to build townhouses and duplexes in more residential districts;
7. Authorized text change to make it easier to build senior housing;
8. Created compassion fund to assist vulnerable residents find permanent housing;
9. Hosted “Raleigh Unleashed” an unconference to get ideas from our boards and commissions;
10. Voted to change and modernize our community engagement process and to build a system that will work and make us better for the next 50 years, and beyond.