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House in the Snow at Night

Laura Duncan Road/Laurel Park Elementary

On October 27, 2017, a 10-year-old girl who was leaving Laurel Park Elementary School and crossing the street to go home was hit by a car on Laura Duncan Road. Fortunately, she suffered only minor injuries. What the incident did was expose issues that needed to be addressed. For starters, there is no crosswalk at the location where it happened. Also, Laurel Park Elementary School is in Cary, the neighborhood across the street is in Apex, and Laura Duncan Road is a state road in Wake County. When the accident occurred, the Apex Police Department handled the law enforcement response while the Cary Fire Department responded as medical first responders. And following this near tragedy, citizens requested increased enforcement efforts and a  crosswalk.

Yet when Apex and Cary were looking at safety improvements in the aftermath of this incident, it became clear that neither jurisdiction had authority to do so. To ensure that jurisdictional authority is clear and to protect the safety of the public in the future, this road needs to be included in the boundaries of one of the adjacent municipalities. Apex and Cary agreed that it made the most sense for it to belong to Apex since Apex-owned utilities are within the right of way. Apex has made a legislative request to add this area to its corporate limits, and Cary supports that request.

When looking at this situation further, however, it became apparent that similar conditions existed throughout Cary’s corporate limits. As a result, Cary is requesting that the General Assembly incorporate many NCDOT right of way areas into Cary’s corporate limits, thereby clarifying jurisdictional authority and making our streets safer for Cary citizens and the motoring public.

New Single Family Permits Issued

New Single-Family Permits Issued

New single-family permits for Q3 totaled 340, which was up significantly from the quarter’s five-year average of 275. New single-family permits were issued in 49 subdivisions with the top five subdivisions being Alston Village (44), Amberly Glen (39), Ridgefield Farms (33), Philips Place (30) and Pritchett Farm (15).

Residential Alterations and Additions

Residential Alterations and Additions Permits Issued

Residential alteration and addition permits for Q3 totaled 445, which was also up significantly from the quarter’s five-year average of 377. The continued upward trend of residential alteration and addition permits is consistent with the redevelopment theme in the 2040 Imagine Cary Community Plan.

strategic groups whiteboard

Stormwater

In our ongoing efforts to develop a transformational adaptive stormwater management program, we have begun implementation of a pilot program in the downtown area. The future development of the Downtown Park and redevelopment opportunities throughout downtown acted as primary catalyst in choosing the downtown area of the Walnut Creek Basin to initiate the pilot. The results and findings of this program will serve as a template for how we manage stormwater throughout Town.

Based on the outcome of the 2018 Council/Staff Retreat and as a first step in the ensuing third quarter, the Adaptive Stormwater Steering Committee formed five strategic groups:

  • Downtown Stormwater Citizen Working Group
  • Basin Model Pilot Development
  • Stormwater Ordinance Revisions
  • Extended Stormwater Infrastructure Maintenance Program
  • Open Space

The Stormwater Steering Committee is an innovative approach to strive to achieve a 360° view of stormwater in the Town by drawing on the expertise from a multi-departmental group of staff. In our efforts to break the traditional (autonomous) program development  mold, we also continue to add value to these evolving programs through the incorporation of the perspectives of our Downtown Stormwater Citizen Working Group. Below, please find updates from these program areas:

Panel at Citizen Workgroup

Downtown Stormwater Citizen Working Group

The Downtown Stormwater Citizen Working Group, consisting of nine citizens from a diverse range of backgrounds, met with staff for the third time in January. As a result, a new stormwater template was  co-created with the group. This more heightened, proactive approach examines stormwater from a broader perspective than most municipalities are willing to consider. We are looking beyond the Town’s right-of-way and exploring stormwater from a holistic, watershed perspective. We are proud to say this is an adaptive stormwater and floodplain management approach to address how we prepare for rainfall events.

Staff brought details of the Downtown Stormwater Working Group meetings to Council during the 2018 Council/Staff Retreat and asked for feedback on specific initiatives. Such initiatives included piloting a basin model, evaluating ordinances that consider the value of using Stormwater Impact Analysis and a proactive maintenance program to inspect and evaluate our existing storm drain  network.

The working group was supportive of using dynamic hydrologic and hydraulic basin modeling to evaluate redevelopment, new development and other future projects to ensure downstream impacts are mitigated. They also supported the extended maintenance program to help ensure that our stormwater infrastructure system is functioning as designed and to prolong the service life of our stormwater pipes.

Staff continues to engage these stakeholders. In April, the Town will conduct a downtown stormwater walking tour with this group to provide a firsthand look at challenges face with stormwater as well as observe some successes of past projects in downtown.

Basin Model Pilot Development

The Town has begun usingthe EPA Stormwater Management Model to predict the stormwater runoff produced from the downtown area of the Walnut Creek Basin. This is a dynamic, computerized stormwater model that provides a real time assessment of how rainfall runoff impacts both the public and private stormwater conveyance system. This allows us to identify our current system performance, highlight underperforming infrastructure, as well as quantify potential impacts from future  development while also providing an avenue to seek out opportunities for proactive stormwater and floodplain management. The Walnut Creek Basin headwaters, including the Downtown Park and much of downtown, were selected as the inaugural pilot area to demonstrate the Basin Model approach. In its infancy, it has already allowed us to begin to evaluate innovative approaches to  mitigate  flooding and prioritize capital projects.

Extended Stormwater Infrastructure Maintenance Program

York Street Before ImageIn FY 2016, the Town began integrating a Stormwater Asset Management Program along with other Town-owned buried assets: water, sewer and reclaimed water. Though stormwater infrastructure is very similar to these other systems, it has distinctive factors that warrant a uniquely tailored approach to manage the life span of the system. The first phase of this pursuit included the development of a Stormwater Condition Assessment Program. This GIS based program is used to help transition our stormwater maintenance program from a reactive to a more proactive program. This program is being used to predict risk based on both the likelihood and consequence of failure of each pipe segment in the system. The output ranks each pipe in priority order. The end goal of this systematic approach is to focus efforts on maintenance with a goal of finding problems and addressing them before the issues disrupt the lives of our citizens and traveling public.

Knowing that stormwater system maintenance is a top priority, Public Works looked to the existing success of the sanitary sewer system maintenance program. In the past two years, Public Works has employed an innovative acoustic technology that quickly helps  determine if a sanitary sewer line is blocked and/or requires maintenance. This technology has allowed them to reduce the number of crews cleaning sewers and to shift a crew to stormwater maintenance. This repositioning of equipment and a crew has allowed  the  Town  to  increase  focus on its stormwater maintenance program. In March, crews began the extended maintenance program pilot and are concurrently collecting data for the Stormwater Condition Assessment tool as well as cleaning  pipes.

York Street After Image

Unearthed Outlet Unearthed Outlet_After

Early Success Stories

Prior to the crew mobilizing in March, the Stormwater Condition Assessment Program provided a ranking of pipes in the basin to help prioritize the efforts. We developed a Top 10 list of the highest-priority pipe segments for Public Works to begin cleaning using a jet-vac truck and CCTV to provide a visual assessment inside the drainage system.

Public Works initiated work on this list and immediately found two catch basins and associated pipe segments completely full of sediment along the streambanks of Walnut Creek; the culprit was a buried outlet. Public Works crews cleaned the system and worked to locate the pipe outlet to re-establish the roadway drainage. This is a great example of how the Town is maintaining pipes on private property when damages are being incurred inside the right-of-way.

Another similar example was located at the end of a cul- de-sac where, for years, water had been ponding in front of the stormwater inlet and eventually building up to the point that it would run down a private driveway to the stream below. In the past, Public Works would vacuum out the inlet, but because crews were unable to perform maintenance outside of the right-of-way, the root cause of the flooding—a buried outlet—was left untouched. This resulted in deterioration of the pavement condition to the point that it is on the list for repaving later this year. Knowing that it would be futile to repave the road before the pipe was cleared, Public Works recently unearthed the pipe and cleaned the entire system to restore its function. They also framed the outlet with rock so that the property owners can continue to maintain it in the future. Now the Town can come in with the paving operation, knowing that it will last for many years.

York Street Vac Op

While these two drainage system blockages have been addressed, we continue to perform work in the pilot area to improve the Town’s drainage system. Future issues that we need to address include extent of service and how to approach the public-private partnership that is vital to the operation of fully functioning stormwater conveyance system.

Tree in clearing

Open Space

A multi-disciplinary team of Town staff has begun looking at open space with the goals of documenting our past successes, identifying challenges and exploring future opportunities. Open space is a value-add to Cary through the aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits it provides to our community. This working group’s focus is looking for opportunities to preserve, protect, enhance and enjoy our current and future open space.

One of our past successes and a vital component of our open space is our riparian stream buffers and the Town’s Urban Transition Buffer. This area provides many benefits that we need to continue to focus on preserving.

A future opportunity that was identified in this working group was connecting the Downtown Park to  the Fenton Development via a greenway. The 2012 Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Master Plan identified the future Irongate Greenway in this location. This would promote strong neighborhoods and resiliency through the connectivity, added landscaping and installation of green infrastructure.

Many of the benefits of open space result from the presence of a tree canopy. The benefits of trees in stormwater management are well-documented in research and are considered by many as the original green infrastructure. Trees reduce the urban heat island effect, improve water quality, decrease surface runoff, reduce soil erosion, improve air quality, as well as provide wildlife habitat and aesthetic improvements.

In an effort to increase our green infrastructure in Town, we recently had five Town-owned properties planted with close to 200 trees and shrubs. These five distressed properties were purchased as far back as 2006 under Policy Statement 35 due to repetitive flooding. After demolishing the homes and returning them to open space, the Town has been mowing these lots throughout the growing season. In April, volunteers will be placing leaves collected by Town crews to act as mulch and suppress the weeds, helping these trees to become well-established in this first year. These leaves will also closely mimic a natural urban forest environment. Since these lots are all adjacent to streams, we are also reestablishing the riparian and Urban Transition Buffers that were removed to make way for the homes. By adding to our tree canopy and mulching this open space, we not only gain the stormwater management benefits listed above, but also decrease our annual operating costs by reducing the need for mowing.