Double downtown fireworks set for July 4
Raleigh will host two downtown fireworks shows at the same time this July 4, city officials announced Tuesday.
At 9:30 p.m. on Independence Day, pyrotechnics will go off behind the Red Hat Amphitheater and behind the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The plan is a change from last year’s July 4 celebration, when the city held an early fireworks display on Fayetteville Street, followed several hours later by a separate show at the Red Hat Amphitheater.
Since moving the annual July 4 festival from the State Fairgrounds several years ago, city officials have heard complaints that downtown’s tall buildings make it hard to see the fireworks. The double fireworks display is the latest attempt to make the show visible from multiple locations.
This year’s downtown festivities will run from noon to 11 p.m. and include 20 bands on three stages, a beer tent and eating contests. A full schedule and maps of where to see the fireworks are online at raleighconvention.com/works.
No funding for Falls Whitewater Park
The Raleigh City Council rejected a request Tuesday to add $2.8 million to a parks bond to fund a whitewater park near Falls Lake.
Several dozen supporters of the Falls Whitewater Park had lobbied for the funding at a recent council meeting. The plan – developed several years ago – calls for building a whitewater course for canoes and kayaks on the Neuse River just below the Falls Dam.
“I could be supportive of it, just not right now,” Councilman Wayne Maiorano said. “We just put a tax increase on our taxpayers, and the county just put a tax increase on our taxpayers. Any increase in that would give me heartburn.”
Earlier this month, the council voiced initial support for a $91.78 million parks bond on the ballot this November. If the bond passes, it would require a 1.72-cent property tax hike starting in 2015.
Before voting unanimously for the $91.78 million amount, votes to increase the bond as high as $110 million failed. Some council members said aging facilities inside the Beltline should get funding as well as the whitewater park.
Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said the whitewater park could benefit the entire city. “This is an opportunity for us to really do something big in North Raleigh that would be a tremendous asset,” she said.
Council rejects Western Blvd. AutoZone
A divided Raleigh City Council voted down a proposed AutoZone auto parts store on Western Boulevard just inside the Beltline.
Councilman Thomas Crowder, whose district represents the area, said the rezoning would allow for any sort of shop and would make traffic worse. He said the existing zoning – which allows residential development on the property – is a better fit. “Townhouses can be served from the rear and are not dependent on access from Western Boulevard,” he said.
Councilman John Odom, however, supported the proposal, pointing to the 24-hour gas station next door to the property that could make residential development unattractive. An auto parts store, he said, “creates less traffic” than other types of development.
Neighborhood groups had spoken out against the AutoZone plan.
Wake Forest OKs tax increase for fire station
The Board of Commissioners last week passed a $56 million budget that includes a one-cent property tax increase to help fund a new fire station.
By a vote of 3-2, the board approved the budget for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins July 1. The increase brings the town’s property tax rate to 52 cents per $100 of assessed value, with 11 cents dedicated to fire services.
The commissioners and fire officials have complained that Wake County does not contribute its fair share to the independent department. Commissioners Zachary Donahue and Gregory Harrington both voted against the budget for that reason, saying town residents should not have to take on an additional financial burden that also helps county residents.
Commissioners Anne Reeve and Margaret Stinnett voted for the increase, as did Mayor Vivian Jones, in order to break a tied vote. Commissioner Jim Thompson, who was absent, had earlier indicated he supported the increase as well.
Stinnett said that while the county would benefit from the new station, too, it was important to move ahead with a new location that fire officials say is needed to improve response times to keep town residents safe.
Wake officials are awaiting a report that looks at the equity of fire funding between the county and municipalities.
The new fire station will be located near the intersection of Jenkins Road and Fullard Drive. A small, vocal group of neighbors continue to oppose the station.