Name as it appears on the ballot: KAY C. CROWDER
Party affiliation: DEMOCRAT
Campaign website: crowderforcouncil.com
Occupation & employer: Retired from a sales and marketing career
Years lived in Raleigh: Since birth
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?
Yes. Let me share the results of a recent comprehensive poll of what Raleigh citizens think of their city:
90% – quality of life here is “excellent” or “good.”
89% – “excellent” or “good” place to live.
84% – good place to raise children.
83% – good place to work.
Our fellow citizens are generally pleased with our city, though they still have lots to say about what we can improve, particularly the overall value they receive for their tax dollars. I listen carefully to both the compliments and criticisms.
Despite the general satisfaction right now, there are thousands of children living in budget hotels throughout Raleigh. Being the best place to live and work for every citizen is far and away our greatest challenge. We need to bank land along planned bus rapid transit lines, we need to raise more bond money for construction and renovation of affordable units, and we need authority from the legislature to implement inclusionary zoning. Our greatest obstacle to progress on a host of social issues is a recalcitrant state legislature that tightly limits city governance. Perhaps there is hope on the horizon with court-mandated redistricting.
In addition, I want to end development in floodplains, explore development and redevelopment along planned transit routes, and let all citizens ride the GoRaleigh buses at no charge.
2) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identify your priorities for your district. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces.
3. Development of transit-oriented communities served by bus rapid transit and other transportation alternatives that supplement automobile use.
2. Ending development in floodplains.
1. Affordable housing.
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?
I recently sat down with a local developer to discuss community values as they relate to rezoning and redevelopment. The end result was that for the first time the city council approved a major private residential development project in which the developer voluntarily included affordable housing units as a zoning condition.
As a member of the Dix Park Executive Committee, I was instrumental in getting all 8 members of council to approve the Dix Master Plan. There was a few weeks when I and others thought we might not all agree. I worked with staff and the council members to get all eight votes.
While the Mayor was out on medical leave, I was asked to work with council to get the budget done before July deadline. I worked with each member to learn what was important for their districts, as well as the at-large councilors. At the end of the day, we passed our first billion dollar budget and the first without a tax increase in 5 years. It took a lot of time, effort, and diplomacy to get the job done.
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?
Yes, I do. I have heard several comparisons between our city and Durham, which has a $95 million affordable housing bond on the ballot this year. No city has an affordable housing bond on every ballot, and cities do not coordinate to put bonds on the ballot simultaneously. While this analogy with Durham is not apt, Durham’s effort is admirable. I support bond sales for affordable housing, and I also recognize that developing a bond package, gaining public support, and getting it approved at the ballot is not a trivial task that is done quickly.
Raleigh does not have the authority to require affordable housing in new developments, so bonds are our most valuable tool. The City is currently planning for a bond referendum in the spring. The analyses and details are currently being worked out, but I hope the voters choose to raise $50-100 million.
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?
The city is considering $50-100 million, I favor the higher end. The money should be used to build new housing units and refurbish older units, including public-private partnerships initiated by the private sector, and to bank land along planned mass transit routes for future development of affordable housing.
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?
Many owners in gentrifying neighborhoods appreciate the opportunity to sell their properties for higher prices, but others that wish to stay are often squeezed out by rising property taxes associated with those rising property values. Tax relief for long-term homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods is certainly worth considering. For example, we can reduce property taxes for long-term owner-occupied homes and home of seniors, among others. The actual relief we can provide will have to be allowable by state law.
This is likely a good example of where a carefully crafted neighborhood conservation plan could offer some degree of continuity and security for the established historic community.
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?
Raleigh has at least 28 character preservation districts intended to preserve and enhance the general quality and appearance of established neighborhoods. Creation of these districts is citizen-led and reflects the will of the people, something not common enough in our democracy today.
I have seen no evidence that these districts restrict development. The least restrictive of these districts have standards on building setbacks and heights. The most restrictive require a design review process for new construction. These are overlay districts, in which the underlying zoning class determines the density of residential units. The underlying zoning can always be modified to increase or decrease density as desired.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
The block perimeter rules. In too many instances, these rules can result in a very large taking by the City of private land during redevelopment . That is wasteful and expensive.
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 believe it is an acceptable approach. There is considerable support among Raleigh’s citizens for ADU’s. Proponents often cite the survey of the Mordecai neighborhood, where 75% of residents support ADUs. But they neglect to tell the full story. 77% believe a standard more restrictive than the property’s zoning density limits should apply, such as a maximum number of ADUs per block. Design standards are also a primary concern. 82% support height limits, and 75% want a limit on the amount of window area on all ADU façades facing adjacent properties.
Proponents of unrestricted ADUs often cite the experiences of other cities across the nation. Many of those cities have strict and comprehensive architectural standards for ADUs, and many others require that the owner of the property live on site. Both of these restrictions are not allowed in North Carolina, the first by action of the legislature and the second by ruling of the state court.
Unfortunately, the proponents of unrestricted ADUs were unwilling to consider any of the few options we have to guide their development in a way that is acceptable to most residents. So the City Council passed the best ordinance it could at the time.
I am always open to revisiting development standards, but negotiation takes all parties willing to consider the legitimate concerns of the others.
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?
Traffic and parking are always significant concerns that demand much consideration. They are why we need to build a modern public transportation as quickly as practicable. Though significant public transit works are being planned now, they will be just a start to a comprehensive transit system that does not rely heavily on automobiles. We have a very late start on planning for mass transit, which means Raleigh is a long way from a convenient, reliable, and far-reaching public transportation system.
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?
The outskirts of downtown is a large, diverse area. I believe that adding height and density are appropriate in some of this area. The conditions depend on the individual projects. I will advocate for inclusion of affordable housing units. Mixed-use developments should be encouraged to provide services for the new residents.
The proximity to Dix Park in the vicinity of S. Saunders street is a feature that will encourage redevelopment. It is designated as a transit corridor. I have worked hard on the Southern Gateway plan that will help define this area for the benefit of the communities both established and emerging.
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?
Each issue is different. I am disappointed that the scooter companies that first came to Raleigh took the approach of “disrupting” the community rather working cooperatively with it. We have taken the right approach, and I expect those regulations to be revisited as both the city and the new scooter companies gain experience with their services.
I am not satisfied with our approach to enabling and protecting cyclists. Riding a bike on most roads in Raleigh is not for the faint-hearted. We do not have protected bike lanes. Many of the unprotected bike lanes end suddenly and without warning, often at busy intersections where dangerous encounters with motor vehicles are likely. Multipurpose paths, such as the one along Western Blvd in District D, are separated from the road but have so many busy driveway cuts so close together that they too are quite dangerous.
Making biking safe is a particularly difficult challenge. Too many bike lanes in District D are discontinuous lines recently painted on the ground that begin and end abruptly, leaving the cyclist to contend with heavy traffic. In downtown, the space along the edges of our roads is highly coveted for many uses, including bike lanes, bus lanes and stops, parklets, high-capacity underground waste collection containers (which I hope still have a future here), and still too often for car parking. How does a protected bike line navigate through all of this?
The City of Raleigh has been trying out dedicated bike lanes like cycle tracks. The City’s first permanent cycle track is planned between NCSU and Meredith College in District D. It’s very short but it’s a start! It will demonstrate to all of us how dedicated bicycle infrastructure functions.
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?
I am always concerned that our ordinances might conflict with state law. Too often, NC cities have passed ordinances that were subsequently made illegal by the state legislature.
I do believe that the city ordinance is the correct approach. Short-term rentals work well to supplement the income of the long-term occupants of the housing units. It is well documented that in popular destinations that do not restrict whole-house short-term rental, corporations buy multiple units – sometimes hundreds – to compete with the hotel/motel industry without regard to the health and safety standards that hotels must maintain. Renting a room or two in their home may be the only way some families are able to afford their home, particularly if life events like divorce or job loss change their financial situation. However, in some cities corporate interests have significantly reduced the number of affordable units available for long-term occupancy by converting them to short-term rental. That is not how the “sharing economy” is supposed to work nor who it is supposed to work for.
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?
Citizens Advisory Councils are just one example of many fine ways that Raleigh fosters engagement with local government. I am always amenable to improving our methods of engagement. Eliminating CACs, as some have called for, will simply reduce opportunities for citizen engagement.
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 do not support strip-mining of our publicly-owned land.
This is not a lease, it is a combined sublease and contract to sell a portion of the real property (the rock – legal term is ”profit a prendre”). State law prohibits RDU from disposing of real property without permission of the municipal owners of the airport. The rock and minerals under the surface are real property. The municipal owners have not given RDU permission to sell them.
The City should absolutely protect its ownership of property. Strip-mining will destroy the land forever, in return for a token payment to RDU. I have studied the projected income to the airport. I spent a large part of my career marketing investments, and I don’t know if I’ve seen a deal as bad as this strip-mine. This sublease is a good deal for a few, but not for you. Or the City of Raleigh. I fail to comprehend why some of my fellow councilors support letting a private company effectively take public property for a token payment.
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?
I do not agree with her assessment. In fact, those complaints waned during her 4.5 month absence earlier this year. This City Council is productive and cooperative. For example, in the first six months of this year, the council voted on 480 resolutions, from mundane contract approvals to contentious land use issues. 93% of those passed unanimously. Another 5% passed with a split vote, and the remaining 2% were rejected. The 98% that pass do not garner near the attention paid to the 2% not passed. That is the nature of politics.
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 do support an oversight board, though as you note we must stay within the bounds of our legislative authority or our board will be struck down by the North Carolina Courts (some of my opponents are promising things they cannot legally deliver; we all must work to elect a responsive legislature). This has not been a priority for the Mayor. The City has put together a plan to take to all the citizens of Raleigh starting in October, to get a better understanding of what they want and need from an oversight board. We must be careful to craft policies around that board that works for the community and the police as it relates to accountability. I do not believe we can continue with the status quo.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
I am delighted that the city council passed my resolution allowing teens to ride the bus for free. I want to work towards the day when the bus is free for all riders.