Hapy Tuesday everyone and welcome to our live blog!

We’ve got a pretty long agenda today, with the biggest item probably being the Appearance Commission’s design review committee’s recommendations to the city council regarding outdoor dining standards.

Back in November, city staff reported on a three-month pilot period for an outdoor dining ordinance that included a 1 a.m. shutdown time for outdoor eating and drinking on weekend nights (midnight shutdown on weekdays) and a city permit requirement for outdoor seating, with a $100 fine for noncompliance. (The Raleigh Public Record has a list of outdoor dining citations issued since last September here.)

After a painstaking eight weeks of meetings, the Appearance Commission’s eight-member design review committee came up with recommendations around three areas: stanchions, outdoor furniture design, signage and occupancy.

Some of their recommendations include sectioning off dining space with city-issued medallions a la Durham, using durable outdoor furniture that “complements the architectural character” of the area and having the city provide maximum-occupancy signage.

You can see the committee’s final report that it submitted to the city council today below.

1:15: I’m a little late getting started here but the meeting has been called to order and we’re on the consent agenda. MAB and Corey Branch are absent today. Russ Stephenson has questions about an item scheduling a public hearing for the sales of city-owned properties.

1:16: Some of these properties will be sold in the College Park neighborhood for its revitalization. There will be a public hearing May 3.

1:17: The mayor has pulled an item on the Moore Square Phase I construction plan. The city is recommending Holt Brothers for construction management at-risk (CMAR) team, over two other firms; Holt Brothers stood out because they “rose above” baseline criteria for construction, because they are better with trees and have a better plan for engaging stakeholders.

1:19: Councilor Crowder wants to see the metrics behind how the top three firms were scored, says it would be nice to see how all of them were evaluated, to know exactly what drove the decision.” Mayor Nancy wants to see those details as well, and which firms have urban park experience, bc this is a really important project and she wants to know who has experience with urban parks.

1:21: Staff says Holt Brothers brought a more comprehensive plan for protecting trees, a staffer says. He says the criteria point is well taken. Dickie Thompson wants these proposals sent to a committee to look at the metrics. It will go to the Growth and Natural Resources Committee so the council can get a better understanding of what they are looking for.

1:23: Eric Lamb is here to speak about proposal for the Peace Street bridge at Wade Ave. Councilor Crowder says the same money used for this project will be used for the widening of I-440. She wants to make sure there will be enough money left over after doing these enhancements to Peace and Wade bridge. Lamb says it is hard to say at this project, but the city is expecting money back from DOT and DOT will cover a lot of the costs for the I-440 widening.

1:26: Crowder says she isn’t ready to vote today on enhancing Wade and Peace bridges if they can’t predict if there will be enough money. Mayor Nancy says, are you willing to not do this? Crowder says no, but how can we make the bridge enhancements cheaper? Mayor Nancy: I’m not comfortable going back and changing the design on the bridge bc we’re worried we might not have money for the 440 project. Lamb says we have other pools of money available for 440 project. They approve. End of consent, Special Items is up.

1:28: First is a rezoning case on Trailwood, which is delayed. Next is a Hillsborough Street rezoning. There are outstanding issues Mayor Nancy wants to talk about. This is the student housing project near the Stanhope student housing project, the building at the top of Hillsborough Street with the ginat tractor on it.

1:30: Attorney Lacy Reaves says one issue outstanding is the amount of retail that will be available; he says applicant is prepared to double amount of available retail to 10,000 square feet. He also says the applicant is willing to preserve the iconic tractor on the building, if the city approves that. It would require an amendment to the city’s sign ordinance; if the city approves that the developer will make a condition to preserve the tractor. “This would be a win-win,” Reaves says.

1:32: Reaves asks for deferral to add these further conditions. He says the applicant will make retail actually retail, not just like a private gym for the residents to use. The applicant says if a gym leases space from the development, that is retail but if it’s a gym for residents that would not be counted towards the 10,000 square feet of retail space they’re offering.

1:35: “Blair you’re a nice guy but there has been a constant education for four or five months to citizens, staff and city of your intentions,” Crowder says. “The problem is conditions you are submitting are not exactly what have been promised.” The saving of a historical sign is an example, she says. Due diligence should have been done earlier to get done what’s been promised. It’s now the 11th hour and these things can’t be done in 2 weeks. The two-week extension may fix the retail situation but it won’t address the historical marker that you expressed openly and honestly to the community that you would restore.

1:37: She says an extension just moves the ball down the road and you’ll come back in two weeks and say you won’t be able to actually restore the sign.

1:38: Reaves says the saving the sign issue has always been contingent on city approval of the rezoning. he says the applicant is prepared to do that but there is a clear path to doing that. But he always understood that that would take place in the site plan approval process, after the rezoning goes through.

1:39: Also, Mayor Nancy asks, is the sign included in the height restrictions on that building? RS echoes Crowder’s comments. There is a disconnect in language of whether the 3 story height limit that was promised to neighbors will be in conditions. Things presented to resident unresolved in the applicant’s conditions. How will he guarantee these things will be done as promised? RS says it’s the 13th hour now, and the due diligence has not been done to the effect that there is no question that what has been promised will actually get built.

1:42: Reaves says they are not in a position to assure approvals that are not yet within their control and if they gave an iron-clad commitment and couldn’t get things approved they wouldn’t have a building. RS says you can’t have it both ways. You should have told people you cannot commit to a condition if you cannot actually do that.

1:43: Thompson says the city is under no deadline to get this through. Says he has no problem deferring but “when you come back, you need to make sure this is all straightened out.” DT says the sign issue really needs to be addressed. Reaves says approval is needed from city before rezoning to be able to commit to that.

1:45: Rooftop signs are prohibited by code, the way the tractor sign exists now does not conform to code so it’s unclear how that would be addressed, says staffer Bynum Walter. Crowder motions to approve the rezoning; it is not approved, with Crowder, Stephenson definitely voting against.

1:47: Next is the Six Forks Road Corridor study. There are four options for designing vehicle lanes with bus access that are being presented. RS has concerns about doubling the capacity for vehicle traffic on Six Forks. He likes idea of widening existing lanes, putting in medians and including wider sidewalks and bike paths; wider 4-lane option with wide right-of-way is the way to go rather than option for six lanes.

1:57: Mayor Nancy says we are looking for a way to scare people towards transit. She also has concerns about six lanes.

2:00: It’s a priority transit corridor.

2:05: RS says stakeholder vote majority asked for a 4-lane option, an “urbanizing street” that doesn’t turn into Capital Boulevard. Six-lanes would make it that, and no one wants that. It should be a walkable urban center around North Hills.

2:06: Bonner motions to approve the option of four travel lanes with an additional outside lane in each for dedicated bus lines. It passes unanimously.

2:07: Next up: manager’s report, an update on the Hillsborough Street Project. Chris Johnson from Public Works is giving a recap. Phase I was completed in 2010, construction bid process just opened last week. There are two bids so far.

2:08: The project will improve efficiency and safety for all modes of travel, including for bikes and pedestrians, replace water/sewer infrastructure, improve property frontages and make it an improved link to downtown Raleigh.

2:11: There will be a streetscape with trees and planters and rain gardens and medians and bike racks and trash cans.

2:14: There have been a bunch of outreach efforts already, pre-construction. There will be a business resource guide, brochure, webpage, monthly meetings with property owners etc.

2:16: Construction will begin in June 2016 and the project will be completed late fall 2017.

2:20: It will cost $12.8 million, $2 million over budget, mostly in roadway and telecommunications. Next is an update on Raleigh-Cary Rail Crossing study.

2:21: Todd Delk from Planning says this has been in the works for two years. It’s part three of CAMPO rail study from Raleigh to RTP. Studied feasibility of light, commuter, passenger and high-speed rail. DOT, cities of Raleigh and Cary and rail companies funded this study, “an unusual feat,” Delk says.

2:23: There was a break last year to let the Wake Transit Plan revamp to catch up to the study, so they could know their options.

2:26: Design options are considered: rail over road, or road over rail at crossings?

2:34: If the Council endorses the study, the city’s Streets and Future Land Use Plans would be updated, and they could look at how to fund implementing it. It would involve coordinating with Wake County transit plan, especially the rail component.

2:38: Council endorses the study. Last item: an update on Dorothea Dix park from Kate Pearce. The update will cover specifics on what’s going on there today, fundraising, master planning options, upcoming tours and meetings with stakeholders.

2:39: Past month include meeting with neighbors and community organizations, like N.C. State and the Farmer’s market. Also working with DHHS on joint-use parking.

2:40: Looking at options for bathrooms, pet waste stations and trash cans. Goal now is to get people out there to explore on foot or on a bus tour. There will be fitness classes, yoga i the park, art activities, nature walk, all kinds of programs out there. “Something for everyone, starting in May,” Pearce says. They will vet these ideas and schedules will be available on city website.

2:45: Pearce is talking about the planning process. There will be an advisory committee appointed by mayor and council after vetting by city and staff. There will also be a lot of other community engagement and outreach (public meetings, workshops and events) after there is a consultant team on board in early 2017.

2:47: Council next steps is to approve an MOU between city of Raleigh and Dix Park Conservancy and approve master plan committee structure. They do, meaning the conservancy is allowed to raise funds for Dix Park.

2:50: Mayor Nancy has a special request for Greg Poole, “the driving force behind Dix Park for over ten years now.” It’s a framed copy of a city map of Dix Park. Greg Poole calls it a great day for all of us.

2:53: The Appearance Commission is presenting the outdoor dining recommendations now. Mayor Nancy wants to refer it to committee right off the bat. It’s up at the top of this blog if you want to read it all.

2:57: Big thing is eliminating use of stanchions, use medallions to delineate seating areas. The city maybe shouldn’t require “no alcohol beyond this point” signs. No recommendations around occupancy: a lot of concerns captured in the report.

3:02: Mayor Nancy brings up outdoor dining in city plazas. The committee discussion would help address that. Russ says make sure people know about these committee meetings.

3:03: Here’s a presentation on the Crabtree Creek West Greenway Trail Plan. Basically there are proposals for upgrades to it using park bond money. It’s the last link of Crabtree Creek into Umstead Park. There is a long timeline on it. Dating back to 1976 in fact.

3:06: It will use $4.4 million from parks bond. Design is ready. Crabtree Creek will run all the way from Umstead to the Neuse, fully connected waterway when this project is complete.

3:12: The plan is consistent with all the many other city plans. Construction to begin early 2017, complete spring 2018. The Council approves unanimously.

3:13: Requests and petitions of citizens. First up is a living room couch on a porch which violates city code. A doctor recommended the couch/homeowner “sleep outside occasionally” because of health issues, hence couch on porch. The woman who is not here appealed her violation notice, and the city rejected it. Council also rejects her appeal.

3:16: A homeowner wants an extension of 3-4 months to work on his home at 420 Montague Lane. This has been in the works since 2012, progress is slow staff says. The council approves 90 days.

3:17: Jennifer Holler who moved here recently began building a home during a time when there were height restrictions that she was happy with. Now the restrictions in her neighborhood across from Cameron Village aren’t being enforced. She says she’s noticed very large homes now being built in her neighborhood, with driveways being built all the way up to properties. She’s showing pictures of driveways going up to peoples’ windows. So since height restrictions not being enforced, three story homes are being built. Setbacks aren’t compatible.

3:20: The language is confusing. There is 25 foot maximum height limit or 2 stories. A text change to the overlay district standard in UDO would need to be required. Crowder asks isn’t this already happening? It is.

3:24: Basically this needs to be addressed in a text change. Holler says and/or language in the overlay district makes height limitations irrelevant. You can’t buffer huge houses being built right next to your property, she says. She’s really upset about this.

3:30: Russ says we’re just in the beginning phase of applying the UDO and it’s time to evaluate if the rules adopted are working. It will take a text change, per the city attorney. It will go to the Growth and Natural Resources Committee.

3:32: Matters scheduled for public hearing up now. No one here for public nuisances. No one here for the Fonville Road annexation. Both are adopted.

3:34: Next up: hearing on Downtown Municipal Services district. There’s a presentation. Basically this is the budget contract for downtown services like cleanliness, safety, economic development (retail strategy) etc. that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance and Hillsborough Street Community Services Committee? Commission? provide.

3:43: Jason Smith, owner of 18 Seabard et al, is here to speak. He was able to expand his company’s space and open more restaurants with DRA /city support. He says downtown resurgence has been amazing through partnership of city and DRA. Says there is huge amount of momentum coming from DRA.

3:53: Basically a whole bunch of people have been praising the DRA for the last ten minutes. The council will vote on DRA, Hillsborough Street CSC to provide municipal services in downtown/Hillsborough Street districts on May 3.

3:58: Mayor Nancy is making a statement about HB 2. She says Raleigh has focused on the local impact of the bill. Council has heard from many community groups and citizens that HB 2 doesn’t reflect their values. We also heard from the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, businesses, etc. and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce opposes it too. Mayor Nancy says we want to assure the public we have heard them and are working on it. It does not reflect Raleigh’s values and does not change our culture of acceptance, inclusiveness and diversity. She asks that council endorse the Chamber’s statement and join in in offering to be a part of a broader coalition of elected officials, businesses and residents in protecting citizens and their dignity, privacy and prosperity.

4:00: Kay Crowder seconds and they all vote in favor of endorsing the chamber’s statement against HB 2, which is effectively a resolution opposing it.

4:06: There’s a hearing on a Forestville Road rezoning. It will be 100 units of affordable/workforce housing.

4:23: Some opposing residents say they already live in an area with too much affordable housing, which could affect their property values. They want the new development to be sectioned off with a fence.

4:28: There’s concerns from council members about transit up there.

4:33: An opponent says Raleigh used to be a friendly city, now it’s all about the dollar bill. He doesn’t want his peaceful community on Forestville Road to be overrun with affordable housing that will bring down his home values. “These people come in here, we don’t know these people from Adam,” he says. He asks for the proposal to go into committee.

4:34: Attorney Michael Birch has 2 minutes to respond. The applicants say national studies show no effect on property values, some show increased property values.

4:36: Mayor Nancy says there are still outstanding questions on this case like transit. There’a May 13 deadline for affordable housing tax credits the developers want so the case has to go to committee and come back by May 3.

4:41: Council members urge the developers to speak with the neighbors, go over differences between workforce and subsidized housing. David Cox says HOA there hadn’t gotten notice of this rezoning. Letters went out. It’s going to the Growth and Natural Resources committee next week and the hearing is closed.

4:43: Crowder asking for report back on Ethics Review process that Wayne Maiorano requested before he left the council. Crowder says it is important for Raleigh to avoid conflict of interest on anything that might come before the council….hmmmm…wonder what she’s talking about….

4:45: Mayor Nancy wants Parks Dept. to look at possibility of dog park in Fletcher Park.

4:46: Dickie Thompson moves to allocate a one-time amount of $20,000 from the council contingency fund to a supportive housing place for women. That’s approved.

Attorney McCormick says he has never heard a council member second their own motion before, as Kay Crowder did earlier.

And that is it from me! Til May 3.