Wake Wired

There's a sewer monster living underneath Cameron Village. There's a man in Moore Square who plays football all by himself. Somewhere in Raleigh, we've heard, there's a kudzu vine that looks just like Alfred Hitchcock. These small marvels don't always fit inside a regular newspaper. A lot of them are too funny for those highfalutin' pages. So we've tucked him in here, where they'll be safe. Take a look and let us know about the oddities in your life. We'll show up and snap a picture.

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On a Carousel

On Tuesday night, a crowd will gather at City Hall to protect one of Southeast Raleigh's oldest treasures: the Chavis Park carousel.

Built circa 1920 and placed in the Southeast park in 1937, the carousel's hand-carved animals are rivaled only by the older merry-go-round in Pullen Park 2 miles to the west.

Supporters of the park resist the city's plans to move it from its historic spot to a new home within the park, and they are also pushing for improvements that would bring the park back to its glory days when it was segregated and used by blacks from all over the state. Backers hope to bring back a kiddie train, which Pullen still has, and a Tuskegee Airman-style plane from World War II, which also used to grace Chavis.

 The meeting begins at City Hall at 222 W. Hargett St. at 7 p.m. Supporters ask that Chavis backers arrive 15 minutes early to occupy the front rows.

Obama Supporter on TriangleMom2Mom

TriangleMom2Mom features Barack Obama supporter Felicia Willems as part of an October series featuring politically active moms in the Triangle. Willems is a member of the Triangle chapter of the national group MomsRising and writes about personal reasons why she supports Obama's health care proposals.

Read more about Willems by clicking here.

TriangleMom2Mom is The News & Observer's Web site for moms, featuring blogs, forums and a calendar of family-friendly events. Every Monday, the site features local moms.

McCain supporter on TriangleMom2Mom

Every Monday in October, TriangleMom2Mom.com, The N&O's Web site for moms, is featuring local politically active moms who are supporting either McCain or Obama for president. The first mom, Katy Benningfield, is featured today. Benningfield, the mom of a three-year-old boy, is an active blogger and conservative.

Read more about Katy by clicking here

Raleigh Wide Open 3: Coming to a theater near you soon....

The two-day party known as Raleigh Wide Open 3 has begun, so we figured now is a perfect time to share a few of the taglines we wish the city had used in marketing the event. Feel free to submit your own.

Raleigh Wide Open 3: This Time It's Personal

Raleigh Wide Open 3: Our Convention Center Goes to Eleven

Raleigh Wide Open 3: This September the Meeting Begins

Raleigh Wide Open 3: They say convention centers never strike twice ... They were wrong.

Raleigh Wide Open 3: Not Quite Heaven. Not Quite Hell.

 

 

Wake educators endorse Norwalk

The Wake affiliate of the N.C. Association of Educators has endorsed Stan Norwalk for county commissioner.

Norwalk, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Kenn Gardner for a seat on the county board from District 4, which is in southwestern Wake. Gardner has held the seat since 2000.

Wake commissioners run for election county wide, but must live in the district they're running from.

Zany Street Names

A story I wrote last week about odd street names in subdivisions around the Triangle prompted some funny responses I thought I'd share.

A Wake County woman reported the following:

"We just moved from the Landover subdivision off of Forestville Rd. To get there, you had to go down Landover Lane, go past Landover Dale, Landover Glenn, to Landover Crest Drive. If you want to drive around the neighborhood, you'll go past Landover Woods. They even use the house numbers (4 digits) twice, in a 60-home neighborhood. We constantly received others' mail, and had ours lost. Would hate to call 911 in this place."

 

Do architects rule the City Council?

When City Councilman Thomas Crowder took his colleagues on a 5 p.m. bus tour earlier this month, he could have easily still been at work.
At each stop on the 90-minute tour Crowder, founder of the Raleigh architecture firm Architekturpa, explained why the property in question represented some the worst in modern urban architecture.
“Quality construction,” Crowder said sarcastically at one point in the tour.
Focusing on, and debating, the aesthetics of development in Raleigh has become a staple of this City Council, largely because of the presence of Crowder and Councilman Russ Stephenson, who is also an architect with his own practice.
While their frequent trumpeting of the urban form is welcomed by many, it also has its critics.
Philip Isley, the only council member who was unable to attend Crowder’s tour, said he frequently hears complaints from developers who say Crowder and Stephenson want to redesign projects they don’t like.
Their objections can be particularly infuriating for developers who have spent months, even years, working to meet the recommendations of the city’s Planning Department and the Planning Commission.
“Sometimes the desire to get everything just perfect, as architects do, becomes maddening,” Isley said.
Councilman Rodger Koopman, who admits to being a layman when it comes to architecture, said he understands the frustration some developers must feel.
“At the same time, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if it forces developers to pay attention to the aesthetic component,” Koopman said.
Koopman also notes that Crowder and Stephenson each represent one vote on the 8-person council, meaning their support is not required for a project to get approval.
Crowder and Stephenson were both elected to the council after serving on the Planning Commission. Crowder joined as the District D representative in 2003; Stephenson as one of two at-large members in 2005.
Each has shown a willingness to raise aesthetic concerns about a wide range of projects — with varying degrees of success.

* In 2006, Crowder crusaded for the use of stone walls instead of synthetic stucco on the new Marriott Hotel along Fayetteville Street. Although he failed to excise all the stucco from the project, the developer did eventually agree to trimming back the stucco to 25 percent of the hotel’s exterior, all of it on the upper floors.

* In September, Crowder held up the approval of a new McDonalds on Peace Street because he felt the design could be more pedestrian-friendly. A McDonalds representative said only stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn had the characteristics Crowder was seeking. Crowder said he’d seen them in Tennessee. The council approved the project, with Stephenson and Crowder voting against it.

* Last month, Stephenson wanted to delay approval of the Powerhouse Plaza project in downtown’s Glenwood South district because of concerns about how the facade on a parking deck would look. Mayor Charles Meeker pointed out that, in addition to meeting the city’s current standards, the developer had already agreed to make changes to the facade that will be visible at street level. The council approved the 11-story project with only Stephenson voting against it.

Crowder and Stephenson deny they are against projects that doesn’t meet their personal architectural standards.
“We’re not here trying to impose a personal critique on every project that goes through,” Crowder said. “I see it as helping to educate.”
Stephenson said he doesn’t prefer one architectural style over another — rather, he just wants something that improves the surrounding community. He said he’s trying to raise the bar for what kinds of developments get built in Raleigh.
“For a long time, there was this idea that we were just Raleigh. We can’t aspire to being a really top-notch city,” Stephenson said. “I think that’s changing. I think people want more and expect more.”
Even Isley admits that, as one of two lawyers on the council, people could make the same argument against him and Mayor Charles Meeker as they do against Stephenson and Crowder.
“I’m sure people look at the mayor and me and say ‘they’re meddling in things that we don’t need to be meddling in,’” Isley said.
And if enough Raleigh voters become convinced that two architects is too much, there’s always the ballot box.
“The whole notion behind elected officials is that they will be representative of the community,” said Gordon Whitaker, a professor of public administration and government at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government. “It’s up to the voters to decide which they want to have representing them.”

Cooke needs more time on travel docs

Wake Manager David Cooke needs more time to send documents related to excessive spending and travel by county solid waste employees to District Attorney Colon Willoughby for possible criminal prosecution.

Cooke had pledged to get the materials to Willoughby’s office by Friday, but county spokeswoman Marshall Parrish said the effort has been hampered by staff being out for vacations and other delays.

Parrish said the documents will be sent to the DA by the end of next week.

Former Solid Waste Management Division Director James Reynolds resigned last week in the wake of public outcry over the spending of fired recycling manager Craig Wittig. In the little more than two years he worked for the county, Wittig took at least 50 out-of-town trips — an average of two a month.

He and five subordinates racked up $161,233 in travel costs and other expenses to credit cards issued by Wake County and paid for with public money.

Parrish said Friday that Cooke is still considering personnel action against other employees involved in the scandal.

Wake Forest: 5; J. Russ: 0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners unanimously (5 to 0) approved a 55 acre annexation that , according to Raleigh City Manager J. Russell Allen, would create a "huge issue" for the completion of the Little River watershed, Allen wrote in a strongly worded letter to the town.

The land, near the intersection of Capital Boulevard and Jenkins Road,
is next door to an established subdivision and in the Falls Lake
watershed. Raleigh is opposed to allowing any water and sewer lines into the property.

View Larger Map

Running lines into the watershed willy-nilly could jeopardize Raleigh's credibility with the state and the feds when it needs to get approvals for the Little River Reservoir.

No problem, Wake Forest said, we've already got lines out there. According to chief planner Chip Russell, Wake Forest ran water and sewer lines to the property pre-merger with Raleigh, assuming the land would eventually be annexed.

Reached by phone Allen said, even with existing lines the Tuesday vote could hurt approvals.

"It puts them and us in a difficult situation."

"All is not lost" at Little River, Meeker says, but what about Richland Creek?

Mayor Charles Meeker opened yesterday's City Council meeting by discussing the Wake County Board of Commissioner's recent rejection of stricter development rules in the Little River Watershed. "It's not a situation where all is lost," Meeker told the council.

But he also said that it is not at all clear that adopting the minimum requirements in Little River will be adequate. Meeker proposed a 3-step plan to try to persuade county commissioners to reconsider their recent decision, which was unanimous.

Basically, the plan involves reminding Wake County folks of the years of cooperation between Raleigh and the county to get the Little River project this far; a discussion between City Manager Russell Allen and his county counterpart, David Cooke; and a meeting between the county commissioners and Meeker, Councilor James West and the mayors of Wake Forest and Garner.

What's striking about these steps is how easily they could have been taken before the county commissioners voted on the tougher restrictions.

All told, last week was a bad week for Raleigh's interests in the surrounding watersheds. In addition to the Little River vote, the state Environmental Management Commission last week issued the city a notice of violation for failing to adopt tougher rules in the Richland Creek Watershed in North Raleigh. (Scroll down to the 5th action item on the EMC's agenda.) The city now has 120 days to get in compliance. Getting in compliance means adopting stricter development rules that will impact 4,994 property owners located in Northeast Raleigh, including neighborhoods like Wakefield and Falls River. The rules would make it harder for those owners to add a deck or build an addition.

Raleigh has been trying to convince the state for four years that the tougher restrictions are not necessary, but their long struggle appears over. The new rules are designed to protect a possible source of drinking water on the Neuse River at the old Burlington Mills textile plant off Capital Boulevard. Nobody is using the water now, though Franklin County has expressed interest in tapping it.