City Councilman Wayne Maiorano heard strong opinions from all sides last week at his first town hall meeting – a rare chance for North Raleigh residents to sound off without coming downtown to city hall.
Five months into his term, Maiorano launched the first in a series of public forums in his district. In Southeast Raleigh, Councilman Eugene Weeks is starting a similar series with a town hall Thursday at John Chavis Community Center.
The meetings mark the first district-specific town hall meetings in recent memory, though council members often attend Citizens Advisory Council meetings, and Southwest Raleigh Councilman Thomas Crowder meets with constituents through the District D Neighborhood Alliance.
Both Maiorano and Weeks are starting with open-ended forums that address any topics residents might bring up. Later meetings will focus on specific subjects, such as water resources, transit and Six Forks Road.
At last week’s meeting, development issues were on many speakers’ minds. Tim Niles is among a group of North Raleigh residents fighting a proposed Publix store on Falls of Neuse Road. He said the city’s new zoning code should better address the size of permitted businesses in neighborhood retail districts. He called on Maiorano to “open it up and fix” the code.
Donna Bailey lives near Hillsborough Street – well outside Maiorano’s district – but also urged the councilman to pay close attention to Raleigh’s comprehensive plan for future development.
“I want to know your commitment to implementing and following the comprehensive plan,” she said.
For his part, Maiorano said it’s too soon to comment on any pending development proposal – the Publix store or the Hillsborough apartments that Bailey says goes against Raleigh’s plan.
“The comprehensive plan and the (development code) aren’t road tested,” Maiorano said. “Did we get it right completely? We’re figuring that out.”
Maiorano also heard from several members of the conservative Wake County Taxpayers Association, who cautioned that Raleigh should slow its borrowing habits.
“The decisions that we keep making on the city council and other places is going to cause further debt and further problems, and I don’t want to keep looking to government for further solutions,” Paul Fitts said.
Maiorano and city manager Ruffin Hall replied that the city’s AAA bond rating mean that finances are in good shape. “We all understand very seriously the value of the taxpayer dollar,” Maiorano said.
Other concerns brought up at the town hall ranged from ensuring future water supplies to synchronizing stoplights to ease traffic problems. One man urged Maiorano to raise impact fees that developers pay, arguing that city planners have become too cozy with developers.
Future town hall meetings in Maiorano’s district are set for May 20 and June 4.