Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week(s) in Review 7/26/10 - 8/7/10

Busy Week!

Monday began with our monthly Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Advisory Board Meeting. The main discussion topic was an update on the bad bug problem at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Aggressive Woolly Adelgids were discovered as the town was conducting an inventory of the Hemlocks. The bad bugs feed on the base of the tree’s needles which prevents nutrients from flowing to the needles - the needles drop and the tree dies. The town is currently working with a number of experts and agencies to develop treatment and management plans including the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, The United States Forest Services, NC State University, and Bartlett Tree Experts.

Rest assured the town and partnering agencies will do everything we can to protect and preserve our Hemlocks. Cary will also be releasing information to the general public soon so that those who have Hemlocks on their personal property will have the necessary resources to protect their trees as well.

On Monday evening Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson and I were the honored guests at a dinner with the Cary Chapter of the NC Police Benevolent Association. We were presented a plaque of appreciation for our work on the Town of Cary’s new shared leave policy. Councilwoman Gale Adcock was also recognized but was unable to attend.

National Night Out was this past Tuesday. National Night Out brings law enforcement agencies and citizens together with the goal of fostering partnerships for safer communities. I visited two neighborhood events with members of the Cary Police Department – Dutchess Village and Silverton. This annual event is always a huge success and a lot of fun, especially for the kids! The officers allow the kids inside the police cars and even let them play with the lights the siren! Heck, I’m 39 and I look forward to doing that! ;-) It’s always fun to see the looks on the resident’s faces as five police cars roll up with lights and sirens going.

I met with three different property owners this week to discuss their plans and my/citizen’s concerns regarding their proposed development projects. Two will be coming to council soon and one is still in the discussion/neighborhood meeting stage. I was pleased to see how hard they had been working to alleviate neighbor’s concerns and ensure that these projects benefit – not burden – their surrounding community.

I am also working with a resident regarding their concerns related to a proposed sidewalk installation on Walnut Street and will be meeting with staff next week to discuss further. Sidewalk installations in communities that were not developed with sidewalks in mind are always difficult. The public safety benefits of sidewalks are obvious, but folks are often hesitant to give up part of their property to accommodate them. We must be sensitive to the impact on property owners and design accordingly.

Over the last few weeks I have been working with our town staff to address an issue that has been negatively impacting certain small businesses looking to come to Cary. Cary’s water and sewer impact fees are calculated based on the type of use and square footage. The town uses a state of North Carolina chart that categorizes different uses and estimates their water consumption per 100 sq. feet to calculate peak water usage and determine the amount of fee. The problem is some businesses don’t necessarily fall into any of the categories, or the category they are placed in doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of water they use (over estimates) resulting in that business being overcharged for their “impact” to our water and sewer infrastructure.

Yes I do believe growth should ultimately pay for itself. But when the water and sewer impact fees for a 15,000 sq. ft. gym for kids that has no showers or kitchen (only restrooms) are calculated to be $150,000 we have a problem. When the fees for a 6,700 sq. ft. dance studio are calculated to be over $40,000 we have a problem. This discourages small businesses from locating or expanding in town and negatively impacts job creation.

Our town staff shares my concerns and has worked diligently to address this issue by allowing businesses to challenge the rate assumptions through data certified by an engineer that proves what their actual usage will be. I have proposed that Cary create its own fee calculation chart that better estimates usage, but unfortunately this may require hiring a consultant and conducting an extensive study which would cost thousands of dollars that we just don’t have right now. In the meantime our staff will work to better explain available options to small business owners until this issue can be resolved permanently.

Well that’s about it for now. As always, thanks for reading!