August 18, 2020 meeting summary: micromobility, Human Relations Commission, COVID-related updates, summary correction

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City Council is back in action after a 6 week summer break!  Though we did not have meetings during the break, I worked to stay on top of calls and emails.  I also took full advantage of the additional time, specifically, my partner and I got engaged and I had knee surgery.  Below is a summary of our work session and regular meeting yesterday, August 18, 2020.

1.  At the work session we received an overview of the history and mission of the Human Relations Commission as we seek to fill 5 vacancies with deliberation.  More information on the Human Relations Commission here.

One area of need is an appointee who is between the ages of 16 and 21.  If you are interested in serving, or if you know someone who is interested in serving, please fill out this form.

We also received an update on the work staff has done to improve community engagement in the city planning process.  This work is separate and apart from other initiates we’ve implemented regarding community engagement citywide and focuses specifically on planning issues.  Staff has developed a Public Participation Playbook that you can view here.

As a reminder, regarding other issues, we’ve hired a consultant to work on increasing community engagement citywide, we’ve also added a second, required neighborhood meeting for most rezoning cases, and we’ve initiated a code change to expand notice requirements to renters.  Further, we revised our Rules of Decorum and Rules for Public Comment, eliminating the 2-week advance sign up requirement and prohibition on addressing council members by name.

2.  At the regular meeting, we received an update on downtown public safety and economic recovery.  55 storefronts downtown still have boards, which is approximately 33% of affected storefronts (mostly due to a back order on glass, though some of the businesses are still determining their strategies for reopening).  Pedestrian traffic is down, due in large part to downtown offices operating at 15-20%.  Food and beverage sales are down 56% from the same month in 2019 but improved 46% from the previous month this year.

There is some good news too, over 100 restaurants are open in some capacity, sales are increasing, and residential occupancy is still high.   Also, commercial development and sales have continued and no major projects have been canceled.

Downtown Raleigh has the largest collection of locally-owned businesses in the region.  Please support these businesses, if you can.  More information on which businesses are open, including which businesses offer outdoor dining, here.

 

3.  We took a big step toward micromobility (scooters!) returning to Raleigh.  We approved a new definition of micromobility, which addresses the operational characteristics of the electric standup scooters and potential future innovations in the micromobility industry. We also granted authority to staff to approve new micromobility contracts, instead of making it a council decision, which would slow the process and is too myopic of an issue for council to decide, in my opinion.   At the Transit and Transportation committee meeting next Thursday, August 27, 2020, we will approve  terms for new operating agreements.  These new terms were decided after working with micromobility providers and other cities on best practices and will address some pertinent issues that have hindered this process in the past (for example, fees and parking locations).  Once approved by council at our next meeting, you should see a return of micromobility options in the market in Raleigh!

4.  Unfortunately, we canceled all major events through the end of the year, and we decided to continue virtual meetings through the end of the year.  Events with 25 attendees or fewer will be considered for permitting (for
example, a neighborhood block party) and the cancellation does not include Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
or Raleigh Convention & Performing Arts Complex programs.  We are working with the organizers of other major events on how they might occur virtually or in a socially distant capacity, such as New Year’s Eve celebrations.

5.  We announced a $150,000 donation from the Carolina Panthers to build a playground and challenge course at Barwell Road Park in southeast Raleigh.  We also approved a construction contract for other projects at the 50-acre park
and community center.

Our next regular council meetings are Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Correction to prior meeting summary:  In the summary I provided of our June 15 and 16, 2020 meetings, I wrote about the rezoning to allow more residential units near Shelley Lake Park.  You can read that summary here.  In the initial edit of that summary, I called one of the zoning conditions a “tree buffer.” Though there are presently trees on the lot, the zoning condition does not mandate anything regarding trees, but the buffer prohibits construction of the housing within 215 feet of the park.

I send these updates in an effort to provide transparent information, and because I enjoy connecting with all of you.  If you believe I have summarized a point in error, I am always happy to review, and if appropriate, clarify or correct.

Thank you for reading.  I am happy to answer any questions: jonathan.melton@raleighnc.gov

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