Council talking budget, gardens this week

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Tuesday evening will kick off the official budget deliberations for city council members. The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed $620-million budget starting at 7 p.m.

The city has a projected $7.5-million shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1 and councilors have to have a balanced budget passed by the end of June.

City Manager Russell Allen made his budget proposal two week ago, which includes no property tax increase but does add $5 to the city’s vehicle tax. Read an analysis of the proposal here.

State legislation threatens Little River Reservoir

Companion bills at the state legislature have the city Public Utilities Department worried about the future of the plan for the Little River Reservoir, where the city hopes to build a new dam to meet Raleigh’s future water needs.

The legislation on the table at the General Assembly would create hydrological models for North Carolina’s river basins and set minimum flow rates for the state’s major rivers. Flow rates dictate how much water can be diverted from a river. The bill could also prevent new reservoirs in the state.

City staff wants council approval to lobby for changes to the proposed law. Read the full report to council here.

Community gardens

Gardens are allowed in the city zoning code, but only as what planners call an “accessory use.” Having a garden as the primary use for a property, such as a community garden on an empty lot, is not allowed.

Planning Director Mitch Silver will give his take on how to change the city’s zoning code to allow community gardens in a report to council this week.

The issues over community gardens have come up twice in the past month during the council’s regular public comment and petition session.

The report says people should be encouraged to use private land for community gardens. As the city rewrites its zoning code this year, the report says the new code can take out barriers to gardens. But Silver’s report also says that city-owned land for public gardens would face a number of legal issues, including problems with runoff, pollution and other liabilities.

City Council Agenda June 1 2010

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