October 2014 Updates
- Duke Energy Progress on Friday filed its formal application with federal regulators for approval to bail out 32 Eastern North Carolina towns that are saddled with high power bills. The filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the $1.2 billion deal would retire about 70 percent of the $2.1 billion debt the towns took on when they bought into five power plants, including the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in Wake County. The towns include Apex, Clayton, Wake Forest, Wilson, Smithfield, Kinston and others dotting the eastern half of North Carolina. Their 270,000 customers pay, on average, $240 to $600 more a year for electricity than Progress customers.
- North Carolina’s insurance commissioner is considering a request from companies seeking to increase homeowner’s coverage costs by more than 25 percent on average while more firms demand even higher, unregulated rates. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin opened a hearing on the rate increase requested by nearly 100 companies selling homeowners policies in the state. Goodwin’s decision is not expected before late this year.
- Wake County is moving ahead with transit planning in hopes of crafting a strategy by next summer, in time to hold a fall 2015 referendum on a tax increase to pay for improvements. The public will get a chance to hear about the process at a Dec. 8 meeting at the Raleigh Convention Center, County Manager Jim Hartmann said at a Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday.
- The Board approved an automatic one-year automatic renewing lease with the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority on land the county uses as part of Lake Crabtree Park. The county’s 9 miles of trails on the site are heavily used by mountain-bikers and hikers. The Airport Authority is considering developing some of the land it owns that it doesn’t need for aviation, including the land the trails are on.
- Transportation Plan Amendments
- 2030 Land Use Map Changes
- Developers may be required to set aside more green space. Town Council voted unanimously to send to staff, is that every new subdivision of 50 or more units must build a recreation space equal to the number of units multiplied by .006 acres.
- Projects could add another 270 homes to west Cary. Cary town leaders have been discussing HALTING development in that area.
- The town could ask voters to approve $40 million to $50 million in bonds next year for long-term needs. If approved, the town could use $20 million of the bond money in 2016, and have at least seven years to spend the rest.
- The council will hear a report Oct. 27 on the Village Plaza apartments – 265 apartments and 15,600 square feet of retail proposed for South Elliott Road. The project is the first for the town’s new Ephesus-Fordham form-based code district. Form-based code projects need two permits: a certificate of appropriateness from the town’s Community Design Commission and a form-based code permit from the town manager. The council doesn’t vote on projects in the district.
- The council unanimously approved expanding its extraterritorial jurisdiction to include the Rogers Road neighborhood off Eubanks Road. The community is outside the town limits but part of Chapel Hill and Orange County’s joint planning area.
- Durham residents interested in giving their input on the infrastructure improvements needed to promote access around the future Durham-Orange Light Rail System stations should mark their calendars to attend one of three upcoming community meetings. The Durham City-County Planning Department is leading the Station Area Strategic Infrastructure Study, which is a multi-departmental and multi-agency effort to identify and prioritize infrastructure improvements that will promote access to transit and enhance neighborhoods and businesses around regional rail stations. Residents who attend these upcoming meetings will learn about the effort to improve infrastructure near the future rail stations; share their ideas about how to make walking, biking and riding the bus to the future stations easier; and join other residents, businesses and community groups in planning this initiative. The community meetings are scheduled as follows:
- Tuesday, October 28, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Historic Parrish Street Forum, 108 W. Parrish St.
- Saturday, November 1, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Holton Career & Resource Center, 401 N. Driver St.
- Thursday, November 6, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Asbury United Methodist Church, 806 Clarendon St.
For information about the Station Area Strategic Infrastructure Study, visit http://durhamnc.gov/ich/cb/ccpd/Pages/Current_Topics/SASI.aspx. Residents may also contact Hannah Jacobson with the Durham City-County Planning Department at (919) 560-4137, ext. 28247 or by email at Hannah.Jacobson@DurhamNC.gov.
- Development Finance Initiative: Received a presentation on opportunities to make redevelopment of the Historic Bellevue Mill more feasible. The Town of Hillsborough contracted with the Development Finance Initiative at the UNC School of Government to identify readily available economic development tools. The initiative collaborates with local governments to attract private investment to accomplish community economic development goals. Bellevue Mill is located at 206 and 215 S. Nash St.
- The town reaffirmed its commitment to a plan created among several transportation agencies, while also making it clear to the City of Raleigh there was no interest in adjusting the plan.
- The town will hold a public hearing on the Tree Rules Oct. 28 and is seeking public input. The council is expected to vote on the final changes Nov. 10.
- The establishment of a public hearing for November 5 surrounding the issuing of $21 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for the Bluffs at Walnut Creek Project, a proposed 198-unit apartment project district.
- Sign Force task force is proposing the following changes to the Unified Development Ordinance and to Part 10 of the City’s Zoning Code.
- Window Signage. Allow up to 50 percent of the windows per floor per building facade to be used for signage. This is an increase from the 30 percent maximum currently allowed by the Unified Development Ordinance. The task force is recommending removal of the requirement that a “free and clear” area must be maintained on a window between four and seven feet;
- Vehicle Signs. Create a definition for vehicular signage. Vehicle signs may not be located within 40 feet of the right‐of‐way, unless screened. Box trucks or tractor trailers with vehicular signage must be located at least 100 feet from the right‐of‐ Vehicles used solely for signage purposes would be prohibited; and
- String Lighting: Prohibit string lighting within 100 feet of a residential district. This would not apply to seasonal ornamental lights between the months of November and January.
- The City Council directed that the sign task force’s recommendations be referred to a subcommittee for additional study. The subcommittee will consist of members of the City’s Planning Commission and Appearance Commission, along with a representative from the City’s Office of Economic Development. The City Council would have to approve any changes to the sign ordinance.
- In the wake of the historic drought that affected the region in 2008-09, the City of Raleigh approved several policy initiatives aimed at maximizing water resources. On Sept. 16, citing a poor return on its investments, the Raleigh City Council placed a moratorium on one of the initiatives and directed the Stormwater Management Advisory Commission to review the current policies. The City of Raleigh offered residents and businesses the Stormwater Quality Cost Share Program in an effort to improve the quality of stormwater runoff from their property. Depending on the length of the owner’s maintenance agreement, the City would share between 50 and 75 percent of the installation costs of projects such as cisterns, rain gardens and bioretention devices, green roofs, backyard wetlands, and stream buffer restoration. However, the public response was limited and the cost benefits were less than expected. The Council agreed to place a moratorium on new applications for funding once the current cycle of applications is complete. The matter will be referred to the Stormwater Management Advisory Commission to review the current policies.
- On Nov. 4, Wake Forest voters will have the opportunity to head to the polls to weigh in on a $25.1 million bond for three separate capital projects totaling $55 million. The bond referendum calls for three ballot questions that voters will consider separately: Street & Sidewalk Improvements – $6.3 million, Parks & Recreation Facilities – $14.2 million, Greenway Improvements – $4.6 million. The goal of this site is to offer voters the opportunity to learn more about their options.
- Town commissioners approved a total of $11,000 last week to jumpstart two major Internet connectivity projects.