In the coming year, Raleigh leaders will tackle several issues, from police and firefighter pay to a new branding logo.
The eight-member Raleigh City Council, which is without a Republican for the first time in years, could create policies in 2017 that affect the city for years to come.
Here’s a rundown:
The City Council is currently reviewing applications from six architecture firms to design a master plan for Dix Park, a 308-acre property on the south side of downtown. The city bought the land from the state for $52 million in 2014 and raised the property tax rate by 1 cent to help pay for it.
The Dix Park executive committee – which includes Mayor Nancy McFarlane, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson, Capitol Broadcasting Chairman Jim Goodmon and others – is expected to meet with the design teams over the next few weeks and make a recommendation to the council in March.
The city hopes to turn the property into a destination park that draws people from around the state. City leaders have said they want to preserve much of the land and many of its old oak trees.
The selected architecture firm will get a $3 million contract. City staff expect the design process to take two years.
Raleigh police and firefighters picketed in front of City Hall last summer to lobby for pay boosts of 5 percent to 15 percent.
An entry-level Raleigh firefighter earns a base pay of about $33,600, while an entry-level police officer makes $35,300 – the lowest starting salaries among Wake County’s 12 municipalities, according to compensation data provided by the towns.
The City Council approved raises of up to 3.5 percent for all city employees, and members said they would re-examine public safety employee salaries after a lengthy study of compensation in nearly every department.
The study is expected to be finished this spring, and the council is expected to consider raises while crafting its 2017-18 budget, which is typically approved in June.
For two years, Raleigh has been trying to craft regulations for residents who want to rent out space in their homes on a short-term basis, which the city defines as 30 days or less. After deadlocking 4-4 in a vote on a proposal in June, council members failed to come up with a solution in 2016.
They are mostly hung up on whether residents should be allowed to rent out their entire home through online services like Airbnb and VRBO.
The council formed a task force of residents who will re-examine the issue this winter.
City staff is also in the process of drawing up regulations for Mordecai residents to use their detached buildings – known as granny flats or backyard cottages – for housing. Council members say their goal is to allow the cottages in Mordecai, located north of downtown, and then evaluate whether cottage housing should be permitted elsewhere in the city.
The City Council in December postponed a vote on rezoning a site at the corner of Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads to make way for a developer to build a $50 million mixed-use project.
D&N Development wants to build 160 condominiums, a 50,000-square-foot grocery store and about 56,000 square feet of retail space on 17 acres at the North Raleigh site.
The proposed project has been polarizing, prompting terse exchanges between some council members and the developer’s attorney.
Opponents say the project would bring more traffic and an unnecessary grocery store. Supporters say it would improve the community.
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because residents in the area fought off a similar proposal for the corner of Falls of Neuse and Dunn roads in 2015. The developer, who wanted to build a Publix grocery store, withdrew plans after a group led by Councilman David Cox protested.
Traffic on Six Forks Road
City leaders want to improve traffic flow on Six Forks Road near North Hills, but they have struggled to reach a consensus on how best to do so.
The council last March balked at a city staff recommendation to widen Six Forks to six lanes along a 2.3-mile stretch from Lynn Road to the Interstate 440 Beltline. Council members were divided on whether they should incorporate a lane exclusively for buses.
City staff will soon unveil a plan that focuses mostly on improving sidewalks and adding bike lanes behind the curb, said Eric Lamb, Raleigh’s transportation planning manager. The new plan would keep much of Six Forks Road four lanes, slightly widening some portions to make them safer.
The city plans to hold a public meeting to gather feedback sometime in February, Lamb said.
The most common image associated with Raleigh is the city’s seal, a gold and green image of an oak tree. But city departments have created and are using a variety of alternatives.
Seeking to modernize and bring consistency to the city’s logo, the City Council recently requested proposals from design firms interested in re-branding local government. The city received nearly 30 applications from as far away as Scotland, said Damien Graham, the city’s communications director.
City staff plan to recommend a designer at the Jan. 3 council meeting, Graham said.
“My goal is to have a finished product that the council can look at by late spring,” he said.
Every City Council seat is up for election in October.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane, 60, says she’s “still thinking” about whether to run for a fourth term. McFarlane was a successful pharmaceutical company owner before joining the council, and she seems enthusiastic about her role on the Dix Park planning committee.
Her decision could have large implications for the rest of the council, half of whom McFarlane endorsed or donated to during the last election. None of the current council members have ever challenged McFarlane, and she faced weak candidates in each of her mayoral races.
Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who manages North Hills for Kane Realty, had about $150,000 in campaign cash this summer and has expressed interest in someday running for mayor.
Candidates can file in July to run for mayor and City Council.