Sunday, September 21, 2014

Historic Preservation, Harrison Ave, Trees and Another Volunteer Opportunity

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. To say life has been busy would be a huge understatement – but I’m enjoying the ride!....especially in the race car! I did, however, want to check in on a few noteworthy items that have occurred over the last couple of months that ya’ll may have heard about. And if someone else can come up with a better title for this post, I'm open to suggestions. ;-)

Proposed “road diet” along Harrison Ave. between Chapel Hill Rd. and Maynard Rd.

Staff had proposed eliminating two vehicle travel lanes along this section of Harrison Ave. to allow for the installation of bike lanes and center turning lanes. This was a difficult decision as there were pros and cons with the proposal. The addition of center turning lanes would be helpful in that it would remove vehicles wanting to make a left turn off of Harrison into one of the neighborhoods from the travel lanes, and the addition of bike lanes would also encourage more folks to use this section of road for bicycle travel. However, the removal of two vehicle travel lanes (one in each direction) to accommodate this proposal would surely impact vehicle traffic and possibly create traffic back-ups worse than we experience today. It could also result in folks having a harder time getting onto Harrison Ave. from the surrounding neighborhoods as there would be less breaks in between cars as two lanes of cars would now all be in one lane.

When these proposed changes were originally brought to council for consideration, they came to us with no citizen feedback to consider. Such a drastic change to Harrison Ave (or to any town road for that matter) warrants the community’s input as it is the community who will be most impacted by the proposed changes. You deserve a voice in the process. The council called for a public hearing on the proposal before making a decision.

And that is one thing I love about this town – when we ask for the community’s feedback, ya’ll aren’t shy. ;-)

The majority opinion was to re-pave Harrison Ave. in its current configuration, and that was the option chosen by the council.

My position was that while the addition of bike lanes would be nice to have along Harrison Ave., the negative impact to the 13,000+ vehicles a day that utilize Harrison Ave. was not a good trade. Even if you saw an additional 100 bicycles a day use Harrison Ave.as a result of the bike lanes, that’s still 13000 cars vs 100 bikes. I personally believe a sidewalk along the east side of Harrison is warranted more-so than a bicycle lane, and that was not included in the proposal – and may never occur given the impacts to private property and challenges in topography.

The first rule in governing is that if you can’t help, at least do no harm. And that’s what I believe we as a council elected to do.

Historic Preservation Commission

I am pleased to announce that the council has created a HistoricPreservation Committee which will work to preserve the historical, cultural and architectural heritage of Cary for future generations.

Council concerns regarding the loss of historic structures and properties to new development led to the creation of the Town of Cary’s Historic Preservation Master Plan. Part of that plan calls for a Historic Preservation Committee. Interviews have been completed for the committee membership and the council will make those appointments official at our next regular meeting.

The Historic Preservation Commission’s general scope of work is to identify and recommend Cary Historic Landmarks to Town Council for its review and approval, and to review applications and hold quasi-judicial public hearings for proposed alterations to or demolition of Cary’s designated Local Historic Landmarks to ensure conformity with adopted design guidelines. National Register properties are not regulated at this time.

The Historic Preservation Commission shall have the following additional powers and duties within the town’s zoning jurisdiction, to be carried out in accordance with the terms of the Cary Land Development Ordinance:

  • To undertake and maintain an inventory of properties of historical, pre-historical, architectural, and/or cultural significance.
  • To recommend to the Town Council areas to be designated by ordinance as "historic districts."
  • To recommend to the Town Council that designation of any area as a historic district or part thereof, or designation of any building, structure, site, area, or object as a historic landmark, be revoked or removed for cause.
  • To review and act upon proposals for alteration, demolition, or new construction within locally-designated historic districts.
  • To prepare and recommend the official adoption of a historic preservation element as part of the town’s comprehensive plan at the request of the Town Council.
  • To enter, solely in performance of its official duties and only at reasonable times, upon private lands for examination or survey thereof.  However, no member, employee or agent of the commission may enter any private building or structure without the express consent of the owner or occupant thereof.
  • To conduct educational programs with respect to historic properties and districts.
  • To negotiate at any time with the owner of a building, structure, site, area or object regarding its preservation when such action is reasonably necessary and appropriate.
  • To prepare and adopt principles and guidelines for altering, restoring, moving, or demolishing properties, not inconsistent with NCGS 160A, Article 19 Part 3C, designated as landmarks or within historic districts.
Please keep in mind that while the commission will make recommendations to council, the council still retains the power to accept or deny the commission’s recommendation(s) – just like with our other boards and commissions.

I am very proud to be a part of this initiative to better protect and preserve Cary’s history and heritage.

Champion Trees

The council also recently adopted a new set of Champion Tree regulations that we hope will better protect Champion Trees, perimeter buffer trees and significant understory trees from new development.

While a very complicated ordinance (like all our ordinances), in a nutshell it states that developers must do everything in their power to preserve any champion trees, perimeter buffer trees and other significant understory trees on their site. Should they find themselves unable to do so, they must come before council for approval.

This will be no easy task I promise you. And considering the cost and time involved to go through this process, and the real possibility that they could be denied, it is our hope that more often than not the developer will plan their site accordingly and work around these valuable trees so that they do not have to come before council in the first place. Should they find themselves before council asking for relief of the requirements, they better have a darn good reason for us to say “yes”.

“We can’t get as many units on the site as we would like to because of the trees” is not a good reason. It is not the council’s job to make a development project financially viable for an applicant. It is the council’s job to protect and preserve the character of our community.

Town Clerk

I’m sure you all have heard by now, but in case you haven’t, the council has chosen Sherry Scoggins as our new Town Clerk and she has been on the job for almost two months now. Sherry was selected out of a field of 159 candidates from all over the country. Sherry is the former Town Clerk of Clayton, NC. and a certified Master Municipal Clerk. I look forward to working with Sherry for as long as I have the honor of serving.

A very special “thank you” to everyone in the Clerk’s Office – especially Karen - for all their efforts to help get Sherry better acquainted to her new position and responsibilities. Ya’ll are the best!

More Cary Jobs

Cary continues to attract business investment. HCL America has announced their plans to create 1237 Technology Services jobs in Cary. They will also invest $9 million in a new Global Delivery Center in Regency Park. While HCL could receive almost $20 million in state incentives, that is far less than they were offered to go elsewhere. New York offered HCL almost $57 million, yet HCL selected Cary largely because of our area’s high quality of life, low tax burden and a pool of highly educated and talented employees.

This is the second major jobs/investment announcement in Cary in less than two years. Last year METLife announced their plans to construct a $90 million technology center on Weston Parkway and create 1300 jobs with an average salary over $100,000.

Not to mention the 100 jobs that Novozymes plans to create at a new research and development facility in Cary, aap3Blue BellBass Pro Shops…. And who knows how many new small businesses.

While much of the country struggles, Cary continues to experience economic growth. Many thanks to our Local and State Economic Development folks, the Cary Chamber of Commerce, town staff, elected officials both past and present and especially our citizens for everyone’s contributions towards making Cary one of the greatest places to live and work in the world. We are so blessed.

Volunteer!

And just in case you want to get more involved with your town, the Town of Cary’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department is currently seeking members to fill vacancies on its Athletic Committee, Greenway Committee and Cultural Arts Committee. These three committees serve as advisory bodies to the Town Council through the PRCR Advisory Board and Town staff. Members attend monthly meetings and select special events.  Interested Cary residents should complete an online application available on the Citizen Advisory Committees page at www.townofcary.org; applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. on October 3, 2014. For more information, call (919) 469-4061.

Well that's it for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Loans, Taxes and Budgets oh my!

After a number of council staff worksessions and an unprecedented amount of citizen input the council approved the Town of Cary’s FY2015 budget.

The approved budget totals nearly $261 million with $209 million allocated for operations and $51 million to fund capital projects. This is also the first budget approved utilizing priority based budgeting practices adopted by council last year. While previous budget years have been guided by the town’s mission statement and statement of values, at the 2014 council retreat the council and town staff developed a list of goals and practices to better define our community priorities. These include:

·         Attractive, well planned and liveable community
·         Economic vitality and development
·         Effective transportation and mobility
·         Quality cultural, recreational and leisure opportunities
·         Reliable and sustainable infrastructure
·         A safe community

Priority based budgeting provides for a comprehensive review of the entire town organization and the programs and services offered. It then analyzes each one (501 total) to determine costs and relevance to the goals and practices identified by council above. Every program or service was then ranked and divided into four tiers with the most important in the top tier and the least at the bottom. Highest priorities get funded – those at the bottom not so much.

Some budget highlights include:

·         No tax increase. Cary continues to maintain the lowest tax rate in Wake County and one of the lowest in North Carolina
·         No new debt
·         Building permit fee increase of 5%
·         Water and sewer rate increase of 3.5% to help cover the costs of the water plant expansion – this is lower than originally projected last year
·         The hiring of six new police officers for a new police beat in west Cary
·         At 1222 total town employees, or 8.2 per 1000 residents, the town continues to maintain one of the lowest staff-to-citizen ratios in the state. The town gets more done with fewer employees than darn near anyone else. The ratio of 8.2 is also lower than Cary had in 2007
·         $600,000 for sidewalk repairs and pedestrian improvements
·         Roughly $1 million to continue our downtown improvement efforts
·         22 miles of street repaving and improvements.
·         Numerous greenway and park facilities improvements.
·         Expanded C-Tran hours of operation

I want to thank all of our town staff – especially those in the budget office – for all their hard work. Developing a budget for a town of our size is no easy task and takes the better part of a year to achieve, and come Monday morning I’m sure they will begin working on Cary’s FY16 budget. You can view the adopted FY15 budget here.

And while I can’t say everything in this year’s budget was sunshine, puppies and rainbows, I was 90-95% satisfied. I would have liked to have seen suggested improvements to Sk8 Cary make it in to the budget. I wasn’t thrilled with the expansion of C-Tran services this year. But that’s just me and I’m not king. One of the great things about this council is that we operate as a body – not individuals. There were items that other council members wanted that did not make it into this year’s budget either. I’m sure Lori would have liked to have seen more of a focus on technology. Gale wanted to expand C-Tran more than was proposed. But at the end of the day we only have but so much of YOUR money to go around. Everyone compromised on something and we all worked really hard to focus on our greatest priorities. Priority based budgeting really helped in that regard.

Cary High School/Maynard Road Water Tower

If you haven’t heard, staff has completed their study regarding the Cary High School/Maynard Road water tower. And yes, one of the possible options includes keeping and rehabilitating the iconic tower. Staff will present study results to the public on July 9th from 4:00-7:00 at Cary Town Hall in room 10035. Please stop by and hear from staff and provide your input. You can read more about my thoughts on the tower in a previous blog post here.

Municipal Privilege Taxes

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately regarding the North Carolina General Assembly’s efforts to eliminate or cap the local business privilege license fee (tax) and the impact that will have on municipal revenues. More than 300 cities across North Carolina charge businesses a tax or fee for what, in many folk’s opinion, appears to be for nothing more than “the privilege of doing business”. The rate charged varies from city to city and is often based on the amount of revenue or size of the business. A coffee shop in a small town might be charged $5.00 while a big-box store in a larger city might pay upwards of $20,000. The elimination or cap on such a tax/fee are part of the NCGA’s tax reform efforts to improve the business climate across North Carolina. Given recent studies and news reports, many of those efforts appear to be working.

I support the NCGA’s effort to eliminate this tax. Businesses – especially small business – are the engines of the economy. They provide the jobs and paychecks to employees and more often than not provide their employees with health insurance and other benefits. So why in the heck should businesses be taxed for the “privilege” of doing that?

Initial reports from Cary’s budget department indicate that the elimination or cap of the privilege license tax could impact Cary’s bottom line to the tune of around $2 million. Then again, we might discover that reducing the tax burden on Cary businesses $2 million incents job creation and property investment resulting in increased sales tax and property tax revenue to the town. Time will tell I guess.

While the economy in Cary remains strong and our unemployment rate is around 3.6%, other municipalities can’t say the same. Business and job growth will help in this regard. All of North Carolina citizen’s quality of life is important to our state leaders. If you aint got a paycheck, chances are your 
quality of life stinks.

Mayton Inn Hotel

At our Thursday meeting, the council approved the acceptanceof the section 108 loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and amended the purchase and development agreement for the Mayton Inn hotel project in downtown. This was pretty much the final step in what has been a very arduous process given the many different agencies and entities involved.

In a nutshell, this project is receiving both private and public funding/financing (Town of Cary, Federal Govt. (HUD) private lenders). All funding/financing had been approved except for the $1.4 million section 108 HUD loan. The town finally received notification from HUD that the town’s application had been approved and that HUD funds have been committed to the project.

Construction can now begin although the town will not receive the HUD funds until HUD holds its next public offering bond sale. The HUD loan is to be repaid by the owners of the Hotel – not the town. The town does however guarantee the loan repayment to HUD via Cary’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies that we receive from HUD. Should the hotel be unable to repay the loan, the town essentially loses that amount in CDBG funds we would get from HUD. The town currently receives around $500,000 annually in CDBG funds.

I know what you are thinking, “how can you use HUD funds on a boutique hotel?” I had the same question when I first heard about it. HUD’s section 108 loan program allows the use of HUD monies on economic development projects that create a certain amount of jobs for low/moderate income folks. The hotel has committed to creating 40 of these jobs.

I kinda like the program honestly. It helps to give low/moderate income folks a hand up – not a hand out.

The council does recognize the risk involved should the hotel be unable to fulfill their commitment with HUD, but we believe that risk to be low, and a risk we are willing to take.

You should see construction begin very soon. I’ll apologize in advance for the mess but it won’t last forever I promise. I wish the Crossmans the best of luck and thanks so much to everyone involved who put so much time and effort into this. I know it wasn’t easy but all your hard work appears to have paid off. I hope to see you all at the ribbon cutting next year!

Well that’s about it for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Veterans Freedom Park Monument Dedication

Thirteen years ago, Jim and Anne Goodnight of SAS Institute and members of the National Veterans Freedom Park Foundation (NVFPF) had a vision for a memorial park in Cary to honor the service and sacrifices of our nation’s veterans both past and present and to serve as a permanent reminder of the freedoms they gave so much to protect.

On May 21, 2014, their vision finally became reality with the opening of the Veterans Freedom Park in Cary and the dedication of the 90 foot tall monument located in the center of the park. It was an incredible event and I was honored and humbled to participate.

Hundreds of veterans from wars and conflicts as far back as WWII were in attendance as were the founding members of the NVFPF, Jim and Anne Goodnight, representatives of Veterans Affairs North Carolina, The USO, VFW, American Legion, members of the community, council members Jack Smith (the council’s only veteran), Mayor Pro Tem Gale Adcock and Ed Yerha and Cary Visual Arts.

The Goodnights and SAS Institute donated the nearly 13 acre site to the NVFPF and paid for the design and construction of the park’s monument.


I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we cannot thank them enough for their generosity and support for our veterans. The park has now been gifted to the town and the town will be responsible for all maintenance and future park improvements.

There will be future improvements made I promise you.

The monument is a sight to see and is surrounded by a wall with five entryways symbolizing the five branches of the military. At each of the five entryways is the seal of each of the branches.

You can see the video of the event on the Town of Cary’s youtube channel here.

Unfortunately not everyone who attended the ceremony was supportive of the park’s intent – specifically the use of the word “freedom” in the parks name or monument. A kook and his sidekick showed up who do not believe our veterans fought for freedom around the world – and take offense to the use of the word. Seriously.

I have no tolerance for those who attempt to dishonor our nation’s veterans or otherwise impugn their service. As a parent of two sons in the Army, the son of a Sailor and the grandson of a Marine, I know exactly the type of person a veteran or active duty soldier is. They are people of honor and values. Words like integrity and valor mean something to them. They believe that things like Liberty and Freedom are worth fighting for, and so many paid the ultimate sacrifice. Freedom isn’t free.

Because of our nation’s veterans, this idiot has the freedom to be a moron, and I have the freedom to let him know what I think about that, which I did. I probably said some things I shouldn’t have, but my blood was boiling.

Only a despicable individual would attempt to tarnish an event honoring our nation’s veterans. Thank goodness that he and his ilk are but a very small minority of our community.

Besides that five minutes of stupid, it was truly an amazing and emotional event. I was so proud for our veterans and our community. A special thanks to the project team and contractors for getting this ready in time for Memorial Day and to all those responsible for the day’s events.

I hope that as you all enjoy this holiday weekend that you take a minute to reflect on why we celebrate; to honor and pay tribute to the brave men and women who fought and gave their lives for a cause greater than themselves. We remain the land of the free because of the brave.

Thank you veterans. We are forever grateful.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

We're Sued...



If you haven’t heard the sad news, Cary Town Clerk Sue Rowland is retiring. I know, how dare she right?


Council members Gale Adcock, Jack Smith and I are on the town clerk selection committee and have been working with HR (Thanks so much Renee!) to whittle a list of 159 applicants down to four who we will conduct face to face interviews with. After interviews it is our expectation to get down to two finalists for the entire council to interview, and ultimately select Cary’s next Town Clerk.


This is no easy task let me tell you! I mean, how on earth do you replace mom? That is what I think of Sue. She is Cary’s – and especially the council’s - mom.


Sue’s “official duties” include giving notice of Town Council meetings, preparing the Council meeting agenda, recording all council meetings, worksessions and committee meetings and creation of associated minutes, serving as custodian of all permanent town records, keeping the Town Seal, attesting all Town documents, maintaining the Town Code, managing the various Boards and Commissions, management of clerk’s office staff, notary services and the administration of Hillcrest Cemetery. She is responsible for all public records requests and manages Sunshine Week activities. Sue prepares proclamations and resolutions for community events and my personal favorite - provides support services to the Town Council and town staff.


And does she ever. Sue coordinates – and often attends - individual or group council member and staff meetings. She makes sure we are where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there and that we have everything we need when we get there. She even makes sure we are dressed appropriately for special events! (some of us need more help than others). She makes pimento cheese and chili for staff and council members for those really long meetings and she makes sure I always have at least one cold Monster in the fridge. She swears at…oops, swears IN newly elected council members ;-) and she never misses celebrating a council member’s birthday.


Sue also serves as the unofficial council psychologist. I have gone to her office on many occasions to discuss something that was troubling me. Her door is always open (I know because I disabled the lock ;-) and she always listens and does her very best to try and help. I ALWAYS leave her office feeling better than I did when I got there…even if it was me who is in the wrong….which never happens ;-)


Sue is oftentimes a citizen’s first contact with the town – whether they need to schedule a meeting with staff and/or council, have a general question about a town program or service or they need help with an issue they are experiencing, Sue does her very best to get them what they need. Sue puts everyone else first and never seeks the spotlight or asks for credit for a job well done. Cary’s success is what is important to Sue.


Sue manages all of council’s emails, snail mail and phone messages which is pretty dang impressive in itself as I have a hard time managing all that. I can’t imagine that times seven. Sue also has this amazing gift of getting folks with strong differences of opinion to come together and work towards something we all can be satisfied with, and she’ll even make you smile doing it! Sue eats drama for lunch.


Sue gets more done by 10:00 am than most of us probably get done all day! Just like mom.


The only thing I can think of that Sue has ever done wrong is retire…and dang it, she even makes you feel good about that…sort-of…not really….well maybe….good for her! See? Her last day is August 1st I think….I don’t know, my calendar doesn't have an August.


Given the caliber of applicants I am certain we will find another highly qualified and talented town clerk. I remain optimistic we will find a new mom. I can't help but feel that Cary’s success depends on it.


I had the pleasure of attending a couple of ribbon-cuttings this week for two new area businesses (kind of) – Carolina Pottery and City Barbeque. Carolina Pottery has relocated from their Harrison Avenue location to the old Kmart building on Kildaire Farm Road. City Barbeque is a new business to Cary and the first to open in North Carolina. They are also located on Kildaire Farm Road next to IHOP. If you’re in the area please check them both out!


The council held another – although brief – worksession to discuss, you guessed it – a fountain. Yes, we are meeting a lot on this one. Staff is proceeding very cautiously and checking in with council often to make sure they are on the right path. I have no idea why all the concern….ok, yes I do ;-) It’s all my fault and, well, I can’t say I feel that guilty about it. If we are going to do this – which we are – then we are going to get it right!


I, along with the rest of council, was very pleased with the latest designs. While each of the three concepts had elements that the council liked, it was also clear that we preferred one design over the other two. Staff will now work towards a final design based on our feedback. And while it all hasn’t been sunshine, puppies and rainbows, I do want to express my thanks to staff for all their hard work so far – I really do appreciate it guys.


Our last council meeting was a quasi-judicial meeting which basically means we act as judge and jury and can only consider factual testimony in our decision making process. It is very similar to that of a court of law. The most difficult case was a home day-care behind Cary Town Center Mall. I hate daycare cases as they often pit neighbor against neighbor and create a lot of animosity in the neighborhood.


Both sides presented valid arguments for why the case should be approved or denied. But in the end the facts were on the side of the applicant. State and municipal law allow the use as long as certain criteria are met, and it was my belief, and that of the majority of council, that was the case.


I am however hopeful that the applicant not only heard the concerns of her neighbors, but works to address them as best she can. While not a legal requirement, it sure would go a long way towards mending fences in their community.


I want to remind everyone about one of my favorite Town of Cary events coming up – the 3rd annual Wheels on Academy Car Show in downtown Cary. This year’s show will take place on May 17th from 9:00 am to 2:00. Participants should arrive between 7:00 and 9:00. There will be close to 200 classic and custom cars on display, live music, an art car project, a Model T take apart demonstration, fire trucks and arts and crafts for the kids, a detail clinic and lots of food and vendors! The Mayor will even be on hand to choose the Mayor’s Award this year – no pressure, Harold!


I’m thinking this year I might take the race car so the kids can sit in it and take photos if they want. They always seem to have a blast with that.
That’s about it for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 Stuff


Long time no hear from eh? C’mon….admit it. You know you missed my blog posts ;-)

Well life has been a little hectic these days to say the least. Mostly good stuff though. We have two sons getting married soon, some long overdue remodel projects are underway (we’re finally getting a new bathroom!!!), work (the one that pays the bills) is busy and I’m restoring a 1948 Chevy Pickup.

See Ed, who says I don’t care about Historic Preservation ;-)

And I have to admit, when I have to decide whether to spend time with the family or write a blog post…well…it’s a pretty easy choice. Family. Unlike, Lori, I can't bang these things out in 15 minutes. Hi Lori! ;-)

All that said, we have some catching up to do!

Walnut Street Repaving

I’m sure you all heard a lot about this one. Repave Walnut Street (from Kildaire Farm Rd. to Cary Town Blvd.) as-is or eliminate two travel lanes and construct a landscaped median and bike lanes.

I first want to commend our town staff – especially Lori Cove and Kyle Hubert – for all their efforts and outside the box thinking on this project. When planning the Walnut Street repave, they decided to take a second look and see if maybe there was a better way to move cars and people while also improving aesthetics. Believe it or not, both options presented would be about the same cost.

Staff spent a great deal of time presenting both alternatives to the public and gathering feedback. Given the number of emails the council received from citizens this was no easy task.

And to make matters even more complicated, a few bright citizens suggested a possible hybrid of the two options – an option C if you will. This option would still allow for one travel lane in each direction and bike lanes but would not construct the median. Town engineers however were not supportive of this option.

The council ultimately decided to go with repaving Walnut Street as-is. This was no easy decision as there were a number of pros and cons to both options. For me however, the kicker was that if we constructed the median, while it would surely improve aesthetics, many folks who live along Walnut would have to drive past their home and make a U-Turn to get to their driveway. When leaving home, depending on their destination, they might have to make another U-Turn to get to where they are going. I know that if I lived along Walnut Street (I live just behind it) this would drive me insane. I couldn't vote to drive folks insane ;-)

Repaving is scheduled to begin sometime the end of June first of July.

Academy Street, Downtown Park and Fountain

Ya know, I guess we are pretty blessed when our biggest issue lately seems to be a fountain ;-)

The council has held a number of meetings over the last few months to discuss both the Academy Street Improvement Project and the Downtown Park/Town Square/Fountain.


The Academy Street project is moving through the engineering phase just fine. About the only changes made have been to eliminate the proposed arch(s) and reduce the number of artistic elements. The feeling was that a little art goes a long way and we could way over do it if we weren't careful. Plus we are going to have a lot of art in the park already. The council also decided to align the vehicle travel lanes at the intersection of Dry and Academy (if you've been through there you know what I’m talking about).

Engineering of the town square component of the downtown park has also been moving along just fine, well, almost – except for that pesky fountain.

I know it sounds trivial as you wouldn't expect a friggin fountain to cause so much controversy. And honestly it probably wouldn't have had the consulting/design team listened to council direction on the front end. They didn't.

The council was clear – crystal clear – that we wanted a fountain that was classical and traditional in nature – one that respected its historic surroundings while at the same time having that “wow factor” that would make folks want to come see it. Art could be incorporated to the design, but the fountain’s primary purpose would be a fountain – not the other way around.

They came back with this.


Needless to say I was not pleased. Neither was council. In no way is the above image remotely close to what we were looking for. While this might work on SAS campus, Disneyland or Sea World, it sure as heck doesn't work in Cary’s historic district.

Somewhere along the way, the artist the town hired to work with the design team on the park morphed into a fountain artist.
I was angry and disappointed and I let everyone know it. But to be fair I also apologized to the artist who was in attendance for being misled – by whom I don’t exactly know - because he was never hired to design the fountain. We made that clear. He was hired to help us incorporate artistic elements into the park.
So, where are we now? Where we should have been at the first meeting – reviewing images and elements of fountains and deciding which ones we would like to incorporate into Cary’s fountain. Staff and the design team will now take that input and bring back to council a few concepts to review that are in line with our expectations.
It has been a long and painful process, but things do seem much more positive now. In the end I am sure it will be worth it.
Finances
At our last council meeting we received some very good news. Revenues are beating budget by over $5 Million! Many thanks to everyone in the Town Manager’s office, the Budget and Finance Department and Department Directors for a job well done!
Bass Pro Shops
Do I really need to say anything about this? I mean, its Bass Pro Shops! In Cary! How awesome is that!
Dumb Median
Council member Jennifer Robinson and I recently met with NCDOT and Secretary Tony Tata to discuss removing the median at Morrisville Parkway and Carpenter Upchurch Road. This median was a NCDOT and CSX requirement. It was not the Town of Cary’s idea. NCDOT and the railroad required this median when Morrisville Parkway was extended to Highway 55. They believed it would increase public safety. They were wrong ;-) What we have discovered is that not only does it impede traffic flow, but folks are actually driving over and around the median further putting their lives and those of others at risk. It was a very positive meeting and we are optimistic that NCDOT will allow the removal of this median. You can see Mrs. Robinson and I discuss this issue in more detail on Cary Matters here.
NC House 41
I can’t tell you how many people have asked me about the NC House District 41 race so far. I guess it is because I know both Tom Murry and Gale Adcock pretty well? Anyways, I do have the utmost respect for both of them. I admire and look up to one of them. They both possess impressive resumes and records. Given the makeup of the district and previous election results, the key to winning this district will be turnout. Whichever candidate gets their voters to the polls will win period. I expect both sides and especially outside special interest groups will spend well over $500,000 on this one race to sway less than 2% of unaffiliated voters. I wish them both the best of luck.
What? You thought I was going to pick a favorite? Silly reader…… ;-) Not yet anyways.
But it will be interesting to see if the same folks who were critical of me running for the state house and “using my council seat as a springboard” will treat Mrs. Adcock in the same manner. Ya, I know….silly Don ;-)
Downtown Cary Farmer’s Market
Just a heads up that the Downtown Cary Farmer’s Market will be open this Saturday from 8:00 – 12:30. Their new location is on Chatham Street in between Ashworth Drugs and the Adcock Building on the lawn of the historic Ivey Ellington-Waddell House (the old house with the green roof – you can’t miss it). I would love to say “see you there!”, but we gots a young’n getting hitched this weekend! ;-) Which reminds me, I need to go pick up my suit from the tailor.
Well, that’s what I have for now – as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Imagine Cary Update


At our latest Imagine Cary worksession, consultants presented 12 Vision and Value Statements drafted by the Committee for the Future for council review prior to being “tested” by the community via a mind-mixer website. The 12 Vision and Values statements spoke to the following topics:

·         Regional Context

·         Land Use

·         Redevelopment and Infill

·         Arts and Culture

·         Economics and Fiscal Health

·         Environment

·         Facilities and Infrastructure

·         Historic Resources

·         Housing and Neighborhoods

·         Parks and Recreation

·         Services and Safety

·         Transportation

After review of the Vision and Value Statements, the question to council was, “do you have any apprehension about testing the statements in their current form?”

With some, yes – others not so much.

One of concern was the Transportation Value Statement:

 “We believe in providing a wide range of functional and well-designed mobility choices – driving, walking, biking and transit – that facilitate moving into, out of, and around the community with a design emphasis on people and the human experience.”

Huh?

What the heck is “the human experience” anyways? And what does it have to do with Cary's vision for transportation over the next 10-20 years?

It gets a little clearer when you look at the “themes” used to craft that statement.

The “themes” unanimously agreed upon by the committee include:

·         Need for more bike facilities and culture

·         Provide more walkability (safety/facilities)

·         More regional connectivity (multi-modal)

·         DECREASE reliance of cars

·         Need for transit convenience

·         Better localized transit

·         Need for rail transit

·         Need for bus transit

·         Design for people, not cars

So in other words, transit, transit and more transit! The human experience must be all the new friends you meet on the bus.

Notice anything missing from the unanimously approved Transportation themes list? Oh…I don’t know, like GOOD ROADS maybe?

 “Good Road Network” did make the neutral list – that means the committee was split on whether this was important or not.

I do not believe the majority of Cary citizens would agree.

But no worries – the consultants aren’t going to test the themes with the public – only the Vision and Values Statements. My concern with this is that the themes are the meat and potatoes of the statements – so why not tell folks what we really mean? Why only “test” feel-good statements than can be interpreted a number of different ways?

The council had similar concerns with a few other categories to include why such a significant focus on the arts and downtown? Heck, I’m as big a fan of downtown as anyone and even I thought it was a bit much.

The emphasis on affordable housing was also of concern. What does “…support for additional residential choices for a variety of lifestyles, ages, cultures, aesthetics and incomes organized in a walkable pattern” really mean? Is it a fancy way of saying inclusionary zoning? Is it a statement of support for subsidized housing? Let’s be clear about what we want to communicate.

And that’s what we tried to do. The council edited some of the Vision and Value Statements that we had concerns with to better reflect our community’s values and communicate our intent. These will now be “tested” on the mind-mixer website thingy ….that most average citizens won’t participate in…

To be fair and to the committee’s credit, most of the values statements required only a few word tweeks and/or the removal of a sentence here or there. There was one or two that were not edited at all.

But in the end, and regardless of the changes we made, I find myself less confident in the process than before. I have a greater concern of who is really driving the process – our citizens or special interests. Given the push-back we received from the consultant at our meeting I can’t help but wonder... Bottom line however is that if I do not have faith in the process, I cannot trust the outcome.

I appreciate much of the committee’s work and I thank them for their service.  I genuinely believe they have added value to the process and we couldn’t do this without them. I just don’t believe some of their recommendations to be representative of the majority of Cary citizens, and I’d like to better understand why that is.