The newly seated mayor and Town Council eased into the new year Wednesday with updates from staff and a look at changes that could make it easier for the public to track town business.
Mayor Pam Hemminger and council members suggested several changes, such as posting council meeting agendas (bit.ly/1C2SHgG) on the town’s website by the Wednesday before the next week’s meeting, he said. Agendas previously were published on Fridays.
Staff also has added pages to the town’s website that will help council members and the public track the progress of petitions, or citizen requests, (bit.ly/1ISNpIE) to the council and the schedule of upcoming public hearings (bit.ly/1UzjgyR).
Other changes are designed to keep council members informed, including an early alert about new development applications.
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“You’re talking about user experience and how do we make that experience better for people trying to involve themselves in the decision-making process and the community, and how they can influence that process,” Town Manager Roger Stancil said.
His assistant, Rae Buckley, also updated the council on several downtown initiatives, including the 2020 strategy, which could advance prior conversations about the future of Rosemary and Franklin streets.
Staff has been meeting with UNC, businesses and other stakeholders to map out a strategy that isn’t too specific, Buckley said, or a laundry list of wants and needs. It could require more ongoing communication than would a traditional development plan, she said.
“What I think we may need in this situation is something that has a lot more conversation, a lot more checking in, a lot more understanding of the fluidity in the conversation,” Buckley said.
Other initiatives are:
▪ Northside: Town is working through state changes affecting the Northside Conservation District, meant to preserve neighborhood character. The town launched a pilot home repair program, Promise of Home, and used money from UNC’s $3 million no-interest loan to buy six properties. One was sold.
▪ Downtown streetscape: The council will consider priorities Monday, Jan. 11, for spending $3 million in sidewalk and infrastructure bonds.
▪ Commercial development: Council members met last year with a consultant to talk about their visions for retail and commercial development. The consultant is continuing to work with town staff and other community stakeholders, including UNC and business owners, to refine a draft plan.
▪ Rosemary Street: Road paving this summer will create an opportunity to add bike lanes, complete sidewalks and make other improvements, including lighting and safety updates.
The Town Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Town Hall Council Chamber, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Several items are on the agenda, including how to spend $40.3 million in voter-approved bonds and renovation plans for the Cedar Village Family Fare BP station on Weaver Dairy Road.