This is the first edition of a new bimonthly feature where will we take a look at a selection of some of the most interesting (or least boring: take your pick) items set for discussion at the upcoming City Council Meeting. It differs slightly from our old “Council Agenda Preview” in that it’s less comprehensive and won’t examine every single item on the Council’s oft-lengthy agenda.
- Affordable Housing: Only 90s Kids Will Remember This Edition: In the final years of the 20th century, Episcopal Housing Partners developed two affordable apartment complexes within Raleigh: Fox Haven, which has 32 two-bedroom and 16 three-bedroom apartments and rents ranging from $690 per month to $865 per month & Walnut Woods, which has 33 two-bedroom apartments renting for $700 per month and three three-bedroom units renting for $775 per month. The City of Raleigh provided “gap financing” for both these projects in the form of second mortgages; $256,000 for Walnut Woods and $500,000 for Fox Haven. Without getting two far into the weeds, the owners want to preserve the properties as affordable, and will be selling them to a nonprofit; the City will reduce the interest rate on both mortgages to zero and everyone will presumably live happily & affordably ever after. City Council will conduct a Public Hearing on this issue later today.
- Living Wages for City Employees: In keeping with a “formal compensation philosophy” adopted in February 2016, City staffers have been studying the best approach for determining how to pay City employees a “living wage.” While there has been some controversy over the lack of pay increases for Raleigh’s police and firefighters, this issue applies more to employees at the lowest pay grades, such as parking meter attendants. Staffers determined the best way to decide upon a living wage was, not surprisingly, to use the “Universal Living Wage Formula.” Other methods included a calculation based on the Federal Poverty Line; a Basic Needs Assessment; and a calculation based on Minimum Wage. Staff now recommends that Council “Adopt the proposed living wage policy for regular full-time employees with a standard work schedule, using the Universal Living Wage Calculation methodology and refer to the City Manager for implementation in a future budget action.” City Council will conduct a Public Hearing on this issue later today.
- No Parking on West Hargett: Buried deep within the Council’s consent agenda was an item of particular interest: a request to establish No Parking Zones on both sides of West Hargett Street between South West Street and South Boylan Street near the railroad crossings. This request coincides with construction plans for CSX Transportation — the owner of said railroad crossings — and would remove a total of six “unregulated” (free) parking spaces. Sad! Council will likely approve this request with little or no discussion at the top of today’s meeting.
- Lake Wheeler Watersports: In the 2014 Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources System Plan, Raleigh residents identified “lake-related activities as one of the top needs.” Interesting! Not surprisingly, Lake Wheeler was a central part of this discussion, and staff is now working with members of the region’s water sports community and the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board on a proposal for a watersport center at Lake Wheeler The two main options under consideration at this time are a simple storage building and a larger structure with basement-like storage and a multiuse facility upstairs. In its report to Council later today, the PRG advisory board will likely recommend a feasibility study for the facility, which is estimated to cost between $65,000-$100,000. It’s possible some of this cost will be offset by private funds.
- Union Station: In its 11:30 a.m. work session, Council will be discussing a strategy for leasing space at the new Union Station. Per the agenda, the discussion will explore “a preferred methodology for leasing of retail spaces in Raleigh Union Station. Items that may impact future tenants and negotiations of lease terms will also be discussed.” We hope they’re able to bring in some great tenants and not just those weird Best Buy vending machines that seem to be taking over the nation’s airports.