Name as it appears on the ballot: Corey Branch
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.CoreyBranch.com
Occupation & employer: Associate Director – Technology (AT&T)
Years lived in Raleigh: 36
1) Given the direction of Raleigh government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
As a current city council member, I believe we are at a crossroads and the next 12 months will have a major impact on our future. Raleigh is no longer a small town and we need to address that first … we then can work towards building a metropolis all citizens can grow and have opportunities.
2) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity your priorities for your district. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces.
In District C I will continue to work with residents to address the housing pressures and adjusting our current code to allow more housing types within residential districts. Ensuring the community is involved in the implementation of our transit plan. Finally, work with the community on economic development tools and resources.
3) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the city council and as an advocate for the issues that you believe are important?
In 2015, as a candidate, I advocated for increased coverage of our transit system, this past January we provided new services within my district. I discussed the need to improve and widen roads and we financed the implementation of widening parts of Poole and Rock Quarry Roads with construction beginning in 2020. In the terms of affordable housing, Sir Walter Apartments and Raleigh North Apartments were saved. Meanwhile, Washington Terrence was revitalized with 90% of residents remaining. Lastly, for roughly four months in 2019 as Mayor Pro Tem, I was responsible for the city while our Mayor was out on medical, with all council members working together and passing a city budget.
4) Most people agree that Raleigh faces a housing affordability crisis. Do you believe the council made a wise decision not to place a bond on this year’s ballot? Why or why not?
A housing bond this year would have been rushed and no community partners available to lead the charge for the bond would have made passing a bond difficult. I desire the community understands the bond’s intent and the bond is properly developed is important to ensure we do right by the community.
5) Assuming the council places a bond referendum on the 2020 ballot, how much money to do you believe the city should ask for? What do you believe it should fund? Outside of a bond, what steps should the city be taking to promote housing affordability in Raleigh?
A bond around $60 million will allow the city to look at land acquisition, public private partnerships and address large housing emergencies. As a city, we have to look at how we can improve services so we can shorten the process time with hopes of developments speeding up. The city needs to work with the Raleigh Community Land Trust which is established now in Raleigh; in addition to Habitat for Humanities on projects across the entire city so we don’t economically segregate the city, which then impacts our schools.
6) Discussions surrounding housing often turn on questions of protecting neighborhoods’ characters or promoting density in the city’s core—i.e., what kinds of new housing the city should add, and where? At the crossroads of this conversation is the rapid gentrification of Southeast Raleigh. What role should the city play in ensuring that the longtime residents of those neighborhoods can continue to afford to live there?
We must review all legal options we have to assist resident with property taxes since North Carolina is a Dillion Rules state in order to aid longtime residents to remain in their community. Working with landlords when they chose to sell their property so a longtime resident first right of refusal to purchase the home is an option to consider. Lastly, our zoning codes need to be modified to allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in residential zones.
7) The city currently has twenty neighborhood conservation overlay districts, which can restrict new development. Do you believe this tool is being used effectively? How would you change the city’s approach to NCODs, if at all?
The neighborhood overlay districts were originally intended to protect characteristics, the environment or public good. While I believe some of the processes regarding the overlay have been subject to abuse, we must modify and refine the overlay process rather than abandoning overlay districts entirely.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
Being the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) is a legal document, I would first work with staff to create a cheat sheet to help citizens understand it. Also, we are still in making changes to the UDO for clarifying direction to staff. Duplexes, Triplexes, and Quadplexes need to be allowed in residential zones, as well as updates to the stormwater requirements to address our increase in rain/storm intensity.
9) Earlier this year, the council required homeowners who wish to build an accessory dwelling unit on their property to petition their neighbors through an overlay district process. So far, no neighborhoods have started the application process. Do you believe this is the right approach to ADUs, or do you believe they should be allowed by right? Please explain.
I did not agree with the 10 acres overlay then and will work to adjust this policy to make it easier to have ADUs without damaging the character of neighborhoods.
10) When considering new downtown development projects—e.g., John Kane’s proposed tower on Peace Street or new developments in the Warehouse District—how much consideration do you believe the council should give to automobile traffic and parking concerns?
Our infrastructure needs to promote and improve for non-vehicular traffic. Improvement to our transit infrastructure to reduce the need for automobiles is one major adjustment we must make. For projected developed downtown parking has to be included as in the case for the Peace Street (John Kane) project and consider connecting traffic studies for more height in projects. When Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) are done we need to ensure our intersections do not decrease to an F level and is paramount in relations to height requested.
11) Developers are eyeing at least three parcels on the outskirts of the downtown business district for twenty-plus-story buildings. Do you believe this area is an appropriate place to add height and density? What conditions should the city attach to such projects, if any?
Project with height have to improve or ensure the infrastructure is in place or doesn’t decrease to a negative level. There are water and sewer requirement which must be met to support exciting and new development, while we must also mitigate negative impacts. Going forward we must ensure our stormwater safeguards are followed.
12) What are your thoughts on the city’s approach to alternative transportation options downtown? Is the city handling issues such as regulating e-scooter companies and building protected bike lanes the right way? Why or why not?
The scooters serve as an effective “last mile” transit option for many. My overall objective regarding scooters is to ensure the city’s cost associated with the scooters are covered. Our overall street infrastructure has to be reviewed to identify where protected bike lanes would be appropriate.
13) Earlier this year, the city passed an ordinance banning whole-house rentals and regulating other short-term rentals. Are you concerned about claims that this ordinance might conflict with state law? Do you believe the city’s policy is the best way to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rentals? Why or why not?
Our current policy does not conflict with state law, but I am against the whole-house ban. We need to regulate the use to ensure our communities are protected. We must adjust our short-term rental policy to allow whole-house rental for no more than 25-30 days at a time for maybe 2-3 times a year. Residents should notify their neighbor and need a special use permit.
14) Do you think Raleigh’s system of Citizens Advisory Councils is the best way of fostering engagement with local government? If not, how do you believe the CAC system should be reformed?
How we engage citizens overall needs to be reformed. Currently every two years citizens have a chance to vote for a council they believe will represent their views and concerns. I have eight CACs and do believe they can be effective… as in any thing over time should be updated to improve effectiveness.
15) Four council members have called for the city to join a lawsuit over the RDU Airport Authority’s quarry lease with Wake Stone. Do you support RDU’s quarry lease? Do you believe this case is something the city should involve itself in? Why or why not?
I am against the quarry and I believe this matter can be resolved without a lawsuit once we improve overall communications between RDU Airport and property owners.
16) When Mayor McFarlane announced her decision not to seek reelection, she cited increasing incivility among council members. Do you agree with her assessment? If so, what would do to lower the temperature in city government and make the council more productive?
In leading a group or city you will come across strong personalities, and when you interact with the same individuals often people tend to have intense interactions. Our job as elected officials is serve and as Mayor Pro Tem when I had to sit in the Mayor’s seat for four months, my focus was to serve the city and be productive. I worked to lower the temperature by being as inclusive as possible and lead by example.
17) Do you believe the city needs a community police oversight board? If so, what should the board look like, and what powers should it have? Do you believe the city can or should challenge the state law that blocks access to certain police personnel records?
I am interested in a board that can investigate and provide recommendations back to our police chief, however state law prevents municipalities from creating an oversight board with any authority. Until the General Assembly gives us the ability to create a meaningful board, I believe the creation of an oversight board is merely doing something to say we did it but does not address the underlying issues that warrant the creation of an oversight board.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
As a city investment in our youth programs and partner with the private sector for paying interns are important to our future development as a city. Future trade positions will be critical to keeping cost down so housing is affordable, and citizens have livable wages.