Friday, May 27, 2016

Town Manager, Publix and Downtown

Town Manager

After a nearly nine month long process that included over 80 applicants from all over the country we finally have a new Town Manager. The council unanimously selected Mr. Sean Stegall who comes to us from Elgin Illinois where he has served as their city manager since 2009.

Mr. Stegall’s first official day on the job will be August 4th, but he will visit a few times prior to that to better familiarize himself with the town organization, staff as well as our community….and probably try and find a new place to live ;-) His experience and success in local government, upbeat and energetic personality, and a fresh set of eyes will serve Cary well.

While this process took a lot longer than we had hoped, I believe it was worth the time and effort. Selecting a town manager is one of the most – if not the most - important decisions a council can make for their community. Get this one wrong and we will face the consequences for years to come. I am confident we made the right decision.

I want to thank Deputy and Interim Town Manager, Mike Bajorek and his staff for their hard work to keep Cary moving forward during this process. Mike is a good man and I have the utmost respect for him personally and professionally. He will play a key role in helping Mr. Stegall transition into his new position and I am confident both he and all of our town staff will do an excellent job just like they always do. Cary town staff are an amazing and dedicated group of public servants and it is an honor to work with them.

You can learn more about Mr. Sean Stegall here and here.


Publix

At our council meeting this past Thursday we approved the Lewter property rezoning (Publix) at the corner of Green Level Church Road and Carpenter Firestation Road by a vote of 6-1….oops, I mean 5-2. A second “no” vote came in a little late and caught most of us by surprise….especially since the majority of that person’s comments were positive. But I digress….

When this project first came to council I didn’t believe it would garner majority support without some significant changes. I applaud the applicant and area residents for working together to do just that. Sure, the residents didn’t get everything they wanted. Neither did the applicant. But at the end of the day they worked to craft a project that the majority of the surrounding community could support and is worlds better than the high density apartments that could have been built today.

The overwhelming majority of complaints the council receives from west Cary residents includes traffic, lack of shopping/services and school capacity. Eliminating residential development at this location helps in regards to school capacity and lack of shopping/services. And while traffic in the immediate area will increase, the number of vehicle miles traveled will decrease as area residents will not have to travel as far for goods and services as they do today.


I realize not everyone is pleased with our decision. Quite frankly I don’t think some ever would be no matter what the applicant offered. But when so many who were originally opposed to the project now support it, I am inclined to do the same.

Downtown

Much of the public investment in downtown Cary over the last 8+ years has been done with the goal of incenting private investment. We are beginning to achieve that goal.

The Mid-town project along Chatham St. near Walker St. is currently under construction. Jordan Lake Brewing Company is also under construction. Bond Brothers Brewery recently finished construction and is open for business (I highly recommend their Cary Gold. Yumm…..). Crosstown Pub and Kababish Café are doing very well and a number of other businesses are either on the way or looking for sites – a few of which I really wish I could talk about but can’t….yet – sorry!

We are also experiencing record numbers in regards to home improvements/remodel permits and new home construction in and around the downtown area. Residents are now comfortable investing in their own properties since that the town has demonstrated our commitment downtown. The residential market in an around downtown is better than ever!

But “the big one”; that one development project that will really put downtown Cary on the map may soon become a reality.

Northwoods Associates has proposed a $50 million project at the corner of Chatham St and Harrison Ave that would include high density residential, office and restaurant/retail along with structured parking adjacent our downtown core. This would be a joint partnership with Northwoods Associates, The First Baptist Church and the town. The town would be a partner in the public parking component and assist with road construction and/or improvements to the tune of $5 million.


As with everything, I have heard from folks that are concerned with the proposal; some solely due to the impact on the historic Ivey Ellington House. The overwhelming majority of folks that I have spoken with however enthusiastically support it because at the end of the day they realize that we aren’t going to get the number and types of restaurants, businesses or employment centers we are looking for without an increase in density. They also understand that we aren’t going to see property values increase to a point that incents owner occupied housing vs rental in our surrounding neighborhoods unless downtown continues to redevelop and becomes a destination.

In regards to the Ivey Ellington House, I support relocating the home to another site where it can be restored and utilized either as a private business, home or possible town amenity. Academy Street, Park Street or maybe even the downtown park are some places that come to my mind.

A few others – to include a council member - have expressed some concern with the “look” of the proposal. I would caution against judging the appearance at this time as what has been illustrated thus far is purely conceptual in nature and will likely change as this moves through the process. I remember a number of folks who were also critical of the first sketch of The Mayton Inn and look at it now – gorgeous. Ya, the road is still a mess. As someone who drives through it multiple times a day I am as sick of it as most of you. Thank you again for your patience.

We have a number of beautiful and established single family neighborhoods in and around downtown. We have no intention of changing that; in fact it is just the opposite, we intend to protect those neighborhoods. But those neighborhoods alone are not enough to support increased business development and growth we hope to achieve downtown. So again, we need some density where appropriate.

Exciting things are happening in downtown Cary, and if all goes as planned, this project will be the first of many significant investments to come.

Well that's about all for now. As always thanks for reading!

Friday, February 26, 2016

February 2016 Worksession, Council Meeting and Town Clerk

On Tuesday the council held a worksession to discuss a number of items - half of which we never even got to as time ran out. It never ceases to amaze me how some things that seem so simple become so complex and vice-versa.

On the agenda was a review of quasi-judicial proceedings, consideration and discussion on a number of Imagine Cary chapters, and the impact of House Bill 44 on development adjacent to stream buffers.

House Bill 44 is entitled “AN ACT TO REFORM VARIOUS PROVISIONS OF THE LAW RELATED TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT” was approved and became law on September 23, 2015.

This law sucks.

Some of the “reforms” in this law include:

§ 143-214-23A.  Limitations on local government riparian buffer requirements.
(e)     Cities and counties shall not treat the land within a riparian buffer area as if the land is the property of the State or any of its subdivisions unless the land or an interest therein has been acquired by the State or its subdivisions by a conveyance or by eminent domain.  Land within a riparian buffer area in which neither the State nor its subdivisions holds any property interest may be used by the property owner to satisfy any other development-related regulatory requirements based on property size, including, but not limited to, residential density and nonresidential intensity calculations and yields, tree conservation purposes, open space or conservation area requirements, setbacks, perimeter buffers, and lot area requirements.

(f)      When riparian buffer requirements are included within a lot, cities and counties shall require that riparian buffer area be shown on the recorded plat.  Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to require that the riparian buffer area be surveyed.  When riparian buffer requirements are placed outside of lots in portions of a subdivision that are designed as common areas or open space and neither the State nor its subdivisions holds any property interest in that riparian buffer area, the local governments shall attribute to each lot abutting the riparian buffer area a proportionate share based on the area of all lots abutting the riparian buffer area for purposes of development-related regulatory requirements based on property size, including, but not limited to, residential density and nonresidential density calculations and nonresidential intensity calculations and yields, tree conservation purposes, open space or conservation area requirements, setbacks, perimeter buffers, and lot area requirements.

What all of that gobbledegook means is that for individual lots platted adjacent to a stream buffer, the area within the stream buffer must be treated as part of the lot for the purpose of determining compliance with lot size, setback and perimeter buffer requirements, and there isn’t anything Cary or any other municipality in North Carolina can do about it.

So if you’re a fan of development occurring closer to buffers, smaller lot sizes, increased storm water runoff and reduced environmental protections, you’ll love this new law. I don’t.

The council also had a refresher course on quasi-judicial hearings with Town Attorneys. The Council holds quasi-judicial hearings primarily for special use permits and certain subdivision and site plan applications – typically when minor modifications to town code is requested. In a quasi-judicial hearing, the council acts as judge and jury during deliberations. The council can only consider factual testimony from “experts” in our decision making process. Applicants and attorneys present their case and both sides can be cross-examined much like in a court of law. I believe the refresher was helpful both for existing council members and especially our newest council member, Ken George who hasn’t had much experience with the quasi-judicial process.

The council also discussed the proposed Green Level Special Planning Area and the types of development and uses we would like to see occur this area. We unfortunately did not have time to discuss the Carpenter Special Planning Area or the Shape Downtown Chapter – that will occur at a future worksession.

Town Clerk

I am pleased to announce that after a nation-wide search - of which there was 119 applicants, the council unanimously selected Virginia Johnson to serve as Cary’s Town Clerk.

The Town Clerk is responsible for giving notice of Council meetings; preparing the Council agenda; recording Council proceedings; serving as custodian of permanent Town records; keeping the Town Seal, attesting all Town documents; maintaining the Town Code; managing the citizen advisory boards and commissions; administering Hillcrest Cemetery; and providing support services to the Town Council. Staff includes the town clerk, the deputy town clerk and two administrative assistants. This position is only one of three that the council is directly responsible for hiring - the others being the Town Manager and the Town Attorney.


Virginia – or Ginny as she is known to most everyone – has served as our interim town clerk for the past couple of months as we went through the selection process and has done a phenomenal job. We are all confident that she will do Cary proud!
Ginny and her family with council members after her swearing in.
On Wednesday I taped the March edition of CaryMatters with Councilmember Jennifer Robinson. The topics of discussion were infill and redevelopment and the Eastern Cary Gateway Plan which is the area around Cary Town Center Mall to I-40. You’ll have to watch the episode if you want to know more!

Council Meeting

Notable items from our council meeting this past Thursday include consideration of the comprehensive plan amendment for the Lewter property (the intersection of Carpenter Firestation Road and Green Level Church Road) and a rezoning on High House Road for 10 single family homes.

The Lewter property is where an applicant has proposed a Publix grocery store on land that is currently designated as medium/high density residential.

There has been a lot of confusion on what exactly the council was voting on. The only thing before us was consideration of a request to amend the comprehensive plan from medium/high density residential to medium density residential and/or commercial and to include the property in the Cary Park Mixed-Use Community Activity Center. The council was not considering the rezoning or approving any specific site plan. That will be considered at a future meeting.

Also note that the council does not consider the specific business(s) proposed during the comprehensive plan amendment process – only the type of use. Businesses come and go and plans can fall through. Sometimes applicants obtain entitlements and then flip the property to another buyer.

In its simplest form, the question before council was, “do we believe that medium density residential and/or commercial uses to be a better use for this site than medium/high density residential?”

Given the amount and intensity of residential development in the area versus commercial, the answer for me – and 5 of my council colleagues – was “yes”.

That does not however mean that we support the current site plan that has been presented to area residents thus far. I think we all are looking for something better than your typical shopping center - we are looking for something that creates a sense of place, promotes walkability and better protects adjacent residents.

Adding the property into the activity center is also a huge benefit to area residents as the required zoning would now be MXD (mixed use). MXD zoning requires the applicant to include a preliminary development plan (general site plan layout) which also becomes a zoning condition. It raises the bar in regards to gaining council approval as we get to see their site layout prior to approving or denying their request. If we don’t like what we see, we can simply say “no”. It also gives area residents a greater voice in the process.

Without the requirement of a preliminary development plan – as exists today – and as long as the applicant met Cary’s land development ordinance, the applicant could build high density apartments and there is absolutely nothing that area residents or the council could do to stop it.

There is still a lot of work to be done on this and I am optimistic that the applicant and citizens can work together to craft something both sides can be satisfied with.

The High House Road rezoning in itself wasn’t that controversial as it is only ten homes. The rub however is that a few other properties along High House have been approved for development – none of which met the threshold to trigger a traffic study. Had they all been considered at the same time however, it would have triggered a traffic study and possible transportation improvements.

The town is limited in what we can and cannot do by state law and NCDOT. Please know that council members are already meeting with area representatives and town staff, and will be meeting soon with NCDOT to see what solutions might be available to resolve resident concerns and improve traffic safety and movement.

That’s all for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, February 1, 2016

RETREAT! 2016

This past weekend the council and town staff traveled to Greensboro, North Cackalacky for our annual council/staff retreat. The main focus of the retreat was on infill development and redevelopment.

Redevelopment is exactly what it says – the redevelopment of existing development to include the demolition of old buildings to make way for new construction, or the repurposing of older structures into new uses.

Infill development is the development of vacant land that is surrounded by existing development.

Infill and redevelopment is, and will continue to become more of an issue in Cary as there isn’t much undeveloped land left available for new development (roughly 15%) and as older development ages out (Cary Town Center Mall for example).

While Greensboro and Cary are very different cities, Greensboro has experience dealing with many of the challenges of redevelopment and infill development, and provided a good example for us to learn from. What did they do right? What went wrong? What would they do differently if given the opportunity?

We began the retreat with a session to better familiarize ourselves with planning updates in the Triangle region. We first heard from Mr. Lee Worsley, Executive Director of the Triangle J Council of Governments about how communities can better work together to achieve their goals. Mr. Bob Geolas, President and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation spoke about Research Triangle Park’s plans for a mixed use development project at the park. And after that we reviewed the land use plans of other Triangle communities and adjoining jurisdictions to not only better understand their plans are, but also how that might impact what we do here in Cary.

We then visited Center Pointe, a redevelopment project in downtown Greensboro that used to be the home of Wachovia Bank. It is a 17 story building that had sat vacant for a number of years and was falling into disrepair. The building was ultimately redeveloped into luxury condos and has become a huge success story for downtown Greensboro. The first floor of the building also includes a restaurant. This was a very impressive project, and while Cary thankfully does not have any abandoned 17 story buildings, we do have a number of empty shopping centers and buildings that we are concerned about. Center Point was a good example of how a city and a developer working together could achieve something remarkable.

The building also provided a great look at Greensboro’s new downtown library which has a parking deck adjacent to their new Downtown Park and arts center. Sound familiar? ;-)

After our visit to Center Pointe we heard from Greensboro’s Planning Director, Mrs. Sue Schwartz, about their efforts to amend their development ordinances, policies and procedures to better incent redevelopment and infill development in and around Greensboro’s downtown area, and how they worked to manage a number of challenges to include inadequate infrastructure, community opposition/cultural tension and the economic viability of such projects.
Some of the key takeaways include:

·         Growing inward is harder than growing outward as the development of greenfield sites is much easier than redevelopment of existing properties. Ordinances and policies must be different for redevelopment vs new development.
·         Change can be very uncomfortable for folks.
·         Public/Private partnerships are an important part of redevelopment.
·         Historic preservation is also important – you don’t have to knock every building down to accomplish something great.

The following day began with a bus/walking tour of downtown Greensboro to see firsthand and learn more about many of their redevelopment and infill projects. I was impressed at how well they blended into their surrounding communities – you wouldn’t have guessed it was new development.

Now the fun part, right Ed? ;-)

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for a hands-on exercise with our staff. Each council member was teamed up with a few staff members and were given a large aerial photo of an actual 18 acre site in Cary that we would like to see redevelop one day….. and Legos…..yes, Legos.

The Legos represented different types of development, and each Lego block represented 2500 sq ft. Red blocks were commercial, blue was office, orange was multi-family and so on… Each council member then redeveloped their site by placing the different color Legos where they thought they were best suited on the site. We also had to account for things like road access, parking requirements, buffers etc…


Here is my development.


The orange is multi-family very similar to what we have at the Arboretum to include structured parking wrapped with residential. The yellow is townhomes with garages underneath. The red and blue blocks are commercial on the first floor with office above. The tall blue building represents a hotel or office building and the dark gray around it represents structured parking. The green is a small park and/or gathering space, and last but certainly not least, the single red buildings are a Chili’s and a Red Robin. Hey, this is my development remember? ;-)

So, ya, it needs work. I only had an hour to work with ok? And trust me, nobody’s Lego development was perfect. But the jist of this exercise wasn’t to design a perfect development – it was to better identify what is important to us, and more importantly our community, when it comes redevelopment or infill. What types of uses do we want and where? How dense are we willing to allow those uses to be? Structured parking or surface – or maybe both? Things like that.

Each council member then presented their development to the group and explained why they developed it the way they did, and then we talked about it.

It was a good discussion with few surprises - it’s not like we haven’t had similar discussions before. We prefer a mix of uses and development that creates a sense of place. We value protecting the character and charm of adjacent communities but could support increased densities where appropriate. We support transit friendly development yet understand that the car is and will continue to be the predominant means of transportation for folks. We love structured parking. We would consider public/private partnerships. We expect public gathering spaces – stuff like that.

We also understand economics. We get that in order for redevelopment to occur, it has to be economically viable. Like it or not, the reality is that if the developer can’t make a buck, he aint gonna build it; and while market forces might be beyond our control, regulatory reform isn’t.

Cary’s land development ordinance has historically applied to new, green-field development – and the overwhelming majority of Cary’s development over the last few decades has been exactly that. But if we want to encourage the redevelopment of older, underperforming sites in Cary – and we do – it will require changes to Cary’s land development ordinances to make it happen.

With the ongoing Imagine Cary process to include our recent worksession to discuss the Eastern Cary Gateway Plan, it was a very timely discussion and I look forward to seeing the work that comes of it.

Thanks so much to our town staff for all their efforts to make this year’s retreat a success and to the city of Greensboro for their hospitality. It is greatly appreciated.

2016 Town of Cary Council/Staff Retreat

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 2015 Update

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been trying to dig myself out of a honey-do hole since the election ended. ;-) It has also been nice to get back in the swing of things at work and get my hands dirty again. I am thankful I get to make a living doing something I really enjoy, and plus I get to work with my wife so that’s awesome – if we didn’t work together we’d hardly ever see each other.

There’s a lot to talk about since I last posted. I’ll do my best to keep it short and sweet but I’ll also go ahead and apologize in advance for it running long. ;-)

Post-election

Congratulations to Cary’s newest council member, Ken George. I look forward to Ken joining the council and participating in a meaningful way. Ken is a long time Cary resident having raised his family here and he owns and operates his business here. Ken has a good feel for the community and the Cary way and will serve District D and Cary well.

Thanks again to the 60% of District B voters for your faith and trust in me to serve as your representative for another four years. To the 40% who preferred one of my opponents, I promise to work even harder to earn your support.

Here is our new council group photo.


Just kidding ;-)

Congratulations also to my good friend, Michael Schlink on his reelection victory to the Morrisville Town Council and also to Satish Garimella for his election victory. Michael is a great guy. I don’t know anyone in Morrisville who cares more about their community than Michael and he deserved another term to continue his work to make Morrisville a better place. I also had the pleasure of getting to know Satish during the campaign and he, like Michael, also brings a community over politics attitude to their council. Given the partnerships and regional interests of both our communities, a quality council in Morrisville is important.

Who’s got Spirit?

Anne B. Kratzer, Brent Miller and Desiree Kettler that’s who! Anne, Brent and Desiree were the nominees for this year’s Hometown Spirit Award and who are all extraordinary folks who give so much of themselves for our community and are deserving of such recognition. I’m glad that council members aren’t on the awards committee ;-) The winner of the 2015 Town of Cary Hometown Spirit Award Winner is……….., Anne B. Kratzer!!! Congratulations to Anne, Brent and Desiree for being nominated and thank you for all that you do for Cary!

Desiree, Brent and Anne

The “That is so cool Award” however goes to Brent Miller. Brent nominated Anne. How cool is that? ;-)

Veterans Day Celebrations

I had the honor and privilege of participating at Cary’s Veteran’s Day Luncheon at the Herb Young Community Center and Cary’s Veteran’s Day Celebration at the Veterans Freedom Park Memorial. Both events were a moving tribute to our nation’s veterans and their families. We are forever grateful for their service and sacrifices.

I also had the privilege of speaking to Cub Scout Pack 208 about elections and my service on the council. I always enjoy speaking to kids. I especially enjoy the questions they ask! Kids don’t sugarcoat a thing – I love it. I do my best to answer those that I can without scarring their minds or upsetting the parents or teachers ;-) But once in a while I do find myself staring at them for a few seconds before I smile and say, “next question” ;-)

The funniest political question I ever got - While speaking to 3rd graders I had a kid ask me, “What is the difference between a Republican and Democrat?” I looked at the teacher with a smile and said, “Can I answer that?” She thought about it for a few seconds and said, “Probably best you don’t”. Smart…. ;-)

Next question!

Downtown Library Update

The council held a worksession to discuss design considerations for the new downtown Cary regional library, an update on Imagine Cary, and to talk about the upcoming council retreat.

While the topic that received the greatest discussion was the library building and parking layout options, we also learned a little more about the library itself.
The new library will be between 22,000-25,000 sq ft and two stories tall. It will include large and medium sized multipurpose programming rooms as well as a quiet study lounge. There will be 11 librarians on staff - compared to 3 at the existing library - and over 125,000 books along with increased public computer space.

In order to stay on schedule and not jeopardize Wake County’s Bond funding requirements the library needs to be completed by the fall of 2018. To make this happen Wake County needs to begin design work by January. If we do not hustle, the downtown library will have to wait until Wake County passes another Library Bond referendum, and all of our work to get the downtown library included as a bond project will be lost.

The council affirmed previous decisions. The library will go where we always said it would and we will be constructing a 4 level, 350 space parking structure in conjunction with the library. The deck will not only serve the library; but also provide public parking for the Cary Arts Center, the park, downtown events and future private development.

The council also agreed to invest in a façade that disguises the deck as a residential/office building to soften the views from the park. In a perfect world we would have preferred to wrap the deck with residential and office development, but given Wake County’s time constraints and the complexities of bringing in a private developer to make this happen, well, it just isn’t going to happen. And that’s OK.

The end product will be remarkable. Private development will occur between the deck and Walnut and Walker Streets similar to the image below. Private development – especially office or commercial – needs the visibility and access from the street to be viable.


Council Retreat

The council will be traveling to Greensboro for our retreat. Our main discussion topic will be redevelopment and infill development as this will be one of Cary’s biggest challenges from here on out as there aren’t many large undeveloped tracts of land left in Cary. The majority of future development will be infill or redevelopment of older properties and we need to better understand how to support that while protecting the character of existing development and especially neighborhoods.

Town Manager Search

The council has spent a great deal of time reviewing potential candidates to be Cary’s next Town Manger. After narrowing a large field of quality applicants down to our “top ten”, we then whittled the field down to six. After a day and a half of interviewing those six candidates we then narrowed the list down to three finalists so we’re getting close! Unfortunately there isn’t much more I can tell you as this is a confidential personnel matter, but please know that we are working as hard as we can to find the best person possible to be Cary’s next manager.

Council Meeting

We had a long meeting this past Thursday. Highlights include:
The council held a public hearing for the proposed Lewter property rezoning at the intersection of Carpenter Fire Station and Green Level Church Roads. The land is currently zoned for medium to high density residential. The applicant is proposing commercial to include a Publix grocery store.

A number of folks showed up to speak in opposition to the project with a couple of folks speaking in support of the proposal. Council has also received a number of emails on the topic and those run about 50/50 for and against.

At the end of the day, the question for me is do I believe the best use of this property to be commercial development or more apartments? I have my thoughts but will let the process run its course before commenting further. Cary’s Planning and Zoning Board will review the case and make a recommendation to council prior to our decision.

The council also approved a new connectivity ordinance that creates three tiers to determine whether or not connectivity to adjoining properties would be required. This – hopefully – will provide greater flexibility to applicants and neighborhoods who oppose connecting adjacent properties when public safety and traffic flow requirements are adequately addressed.

In a nutshell, new development adjacent to older properties (those approved prior to 1999 that were not planned for connectivity and have adequate public safety and traffic access) would not be required to connect to the existing development. Pedestrian and utility connections however would still be required.
Newer developments however (those planned for connectivity to include those with street stubs) would still be required to connect. Another bonus is that this decision can now be considered at the time of rezoning and not have to wait until site plan giving residents more security that what is proposed will actually happen.

The council also approved the concept plan and phase two for Mills Park as well as the next phase of the Panther Creek Greenway. The greenway connections will create a continuous trail from Cameron Pond to Cary Park developments, Mills Park and Mills Park Middle School.


The second phase of Mills Park with include a playground for children, new restroom facilities, a 30 car parking lot and picnic shelter.

That's all for now. As always, thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thank You Cary Voters!

Thank you Cary District B voters for your faith and trust in me to continue to serve as your representative for another term! I am forever grateful and humbled by the level of support we received throughout our campaign and on Election Day.

Winning an election is truly a team effort and we could not have succeeded without the hard work and support of a number of folks.

First and foremost I want to thank my lovely wife Lisa and my family for their love, encouragement and especially their patience not only throughout this campaign, but also during my service on the council over the last eight years. Serving and campaigning can really take its toll on one’s family. Without family support, most will fail at the ballot box, at home or both. My family has always been behind me 110% because we believe in something bigger than ourselves – we believe in our community.

I want to thank my campaign team for all their efforts and the personal sacrifices they made which took time away from their families and jobs to help us win reelection. This was a group effort and I am thankful to have the best team in Wake County! Your support and friendship means the world to me!

I also want to thank all of my council colleagues past and present for their public support of our campaign – especially those who stood strong and supported my candidacy over that of their political party. While serving on the council is non-partisan, oftentimes getting elected isn’t. To publicly oppose the wishes of one’s political party takes guts and speaks volumes about one’s character and integrity. Cary is truly blessed to have such wonderful people on the council and in Raleigh who believe in community over politics.

I am also very proud that despite all the “noise” during the campaign we remained positive and professional. Cary citizens deserve nothing less.

I am excited about what the future holds in Cary. Over the next four years we will see the completion of the Town Square Park, Academy Street and the new Downtown Regional Library. Additional commercial, office, residential development and parking is on the way. Cary’s older neighborhoods will continue to experience increased private investment further promoting home ownership and increased property values. Great things are happening in and around downtown and I am thrilled that I get to continue to be a part of that.

I promise that we will continue to practice fiscal restraint and to budget conservatively while furthering our efforts to make Cary a more business friendly community. Quality of life begins with a good paying job.

I also pledge to continue to support growth management practices that protect the character and charm of existing neighborhoods and communities; and contrary to what you may have heard, environmental protection remains a priority of mine and this council.

And last but certainly not least, I remain committed to open communication and more importantly, I promise to continue to listen to the citizens I serve - I do work for you after all.

Congratulations also to my colleagues and good friends Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Council Member Lori Bush for their election victories as well. I was a little worried that the Mickey Mouse might pull an upset, but they persevered. ;-)

Thank you all again for your support. It has been a pleasure to get to know so many of you during my time on the council and I look forward to continuing to work with you to make Cary an even better place to live, work and raise a family.


In your service,

Don Frantz
Cary Town Council District B
919-612-6870

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Setting the Record Straight

Other than my campaign announcement for re-election, I have avoided using my blog for political purposes. That isn’t what I created it for. I started blogging over seven years ago to not only communicate with Cary citizens about what it is I am working on as a member of the council, but to also inform you of how I voted on a particular topic and why I voted that way.

Unfortunately however, my opposition has been spreading lies and misinformation and I must set the record straight.

Communication and Transparency

Not only has he accused the entire Cary Town Council of failing to communicate with Cary citizens, but he has gone so far as to state that we are somehow “engaging in backroom deals”.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

This council has been the most transparent in Cary history. All of our meetings are open to the public and advertised well in advance. Council meeting agendas are posted on the town’s website the week prior to our meeting and we also have an email notification system that alerts subscribers to upcoming meetings with links to our meeting agendas. We then follow that up by sending out another email after our meeting to inform citizens of council actions. If you aren’t already subscribed to the town’s email notification system, you can do so by clicking here.

To further promote citizen input, we moved the “public speaks out” portion of our council meeting to the beginning of our agenda so that citizens are given the opportunity to speak on any topic before any council action is taken.

We also initiated a new process that requires developers to meet with nearby property owners to explain their proposals and receive citizen input BEFORE the first council meeting and public hearing is ever held. Citizens now often learn about a potential project before we do.

We created the Cary Matters television program where we discuss topics of interest, and the town now even has a Facebook and Twitter page to further disseminate information. We are also currently working to update the town’s website to make it even more user friendly and easier for folks to find the information they are looking for.

This council works very hard to communicate with and listen to our citizens.

The Mayton Inn

My opponent has also been critical of the Mayton Inn – the hotel currently under construction on Academy Street in Downtown Cary. He accuses the council of spending “millions in taxpayer dollars” on the project. That is false.

The town sold the property to the hotel and assisted with a $1.4 million HUD loan from the federal government.

The town is self-financing the sale of the property. That will be repaid to the town over a 10 year period with interest. Cary will actually make money on this deal.

The $1.4 million HUD loan is a loan between the federal government and the hotel and is to be repaid by the hotel – not the town. The town does however guarantee the loan repayment to HUD via Cary’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds that we receive from the federal government. Should the hotel be unable to repay the loan, the town essentially loses that amount in CDBG funds we would otherwise receive from HUD. The town currently receives about $500,000 annually in CDBG funds.

I know what you are thinking, “how can you use HUD funds on a hotel?” I asked the very same question. Well 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 income folks.

I kind of like the program honestly. It helps to give low income folks a hand up – not a hand out.

In a nutshell we basically had two choices with the HUD monies. We could use those funds to provide for more subsidized low income housing options in Cary, or we could instead leverage those funds on an economic development project that creates jobs for low income folks, provides an amenity in our downtown and adds to our property tax base. Which would you have selected?

My opponent has also stated that “should the project fail, I fear the bank will turn it into luxury condos”. While I respect his opinion, it is speculation that it will fail and what the bank would do with it if it did. Heck, it hasn’t even opened for business yet and he is already trying to board the place up. But for the sake of argument let’s say that happens. My question then becomes would luxury condos in downtown Cary really be a bad thing? Really? Heck, I’d buy one.

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

While I agree with little my opponent has stated during this campaign, there is however one comment he has made that I do agree with, “the residential real estate market inside the Maynard Loop is stronger than ever.”

Why do you think that is? Our revitalization efforts inside the Maynard Loop and in downtown maybe?

Fracking

My opponent also claims that I want to Frack in Cary and that I “support adding fracking waste water to Cary’s drinking water.”

This is absolutely crazy and a perfect example of how far political opportunists will go in an attempt to scare folks into voting for them. Given who is advising his campaign I am not surprised.

For the record, I do not support fracking in Cary or anywhere near our water supply.

I do however support a safe and responsible way in which to extract natural gas from the ground. Let’s face it, we need natural gas to heat our homes, produce electricity, cook our food and even run air conditioning systems.

The quote from me that my opponent takes out of context and uses on a doom and gloom campaign mailing reads, “I think it [fracking] can be done in a safe and responsible manner.”

The key word there is “think”. I think it can. But is it currently? I honestly don’t know. Does anybody know for sure? The Obama administration seems ok with it.

But what I do know is that oil companies and government agencies should continue to work to improve upon the methods used to extract natural gas from the ground to ensure that it is being done in a safe and responsible manner. We can either take advantage of our own natural resources, or we can continue to send billions of dollars overseas to foreign countries who hate our guts.

I also supported a council resolution to the North Carolina General Assembly that stated that “IF” the state were to allow fracking in North Carolina, that we retain local authority over any potential shale gas development. That resolution passed unanimously.

And is this even a Cary issue or a state and federal issue anyways? Fracking in Cary? Really? Not happening.

If you want a self-proclaimed environmental activist as your next councilman, then by all means vote for my opponent. If you prefer someone who instead focuses on local issues that directly impact our daily lives and community and who has a proven record of delivering results, then I am your candidate.

In Closing

I do not expect anyone to agree with every decision I make or position I take. Heck, I can’t think of any elected official I agree with 100% of the time – including my council colleagues. But when I find one I agree with more often than not and who does what they believe is in the best interest of our community and is honest with me about it, I am going to continue to support them.

I am running for reelection to continue to work to make Cary a better place to live, work and raise a family and I hope that through my efforts I have earned your trust and support for reelection. I ask for your vote again on October 6th.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Downtown Library Update

The council held a worksession this past Tuesday to discuss the building footprint and parking considerations for the new downtown Cary library.

Wake County staff and their consultants need to begin conceptual programming in October so that they can meet their design deadline of January, 2016. Things will be moving pretty fast from here on out so that Wake County can meet their bond funding requirements and that the library can be completed by the summer of 2018.

The library will be approximately 25,000 sq ft – more than double the size of the existing library on Academy Street and will be constructed at the corner of Walnut Street and Kildaire Farm Road across from the Cary Arts Center and Cary Elementary school. We are also looking to partner with the private sector to locate office, residential and restaurants on the site. You can read more about why we selected this site for the downtown Cary Library here.

The two primary questions for the council pertained to how we would like to see the building(s) situated and parking options.


I am pleased that the council ultimately selected a building layout very similar to that which we approved in 2010, and that we prefer structured parking over surface parking as a surface parking lot with the required number of parking spaces would consume most of the available land left for development and jeopardize future opportunities.

Potential Library with Surface Parking
We also need additional parking to better serve The Cary Arts Center and surrounding area. Building structured parking in conjunction with the library helps to meet those needs.

It makes little fiscal sense to spend over a million dollars on a surface parking lot that would ripped out a year or two later to construct a deck. I’d prefer to put that money towards structured parking and do it right the first time. Private development also provides the opportunity for additional funding partners to help pay for it.

Artist's Rendering of Library and Structured Parking Wrapped with Private Development
The folks from Wake County will spend the next few weeks working to further refine the concept based on council feedback and will report back sometime next month. Town staff in the meantime will be working to identify funding options for council to consider.

Exciting things are happening downtown! Oh, I almost forgot, more good news is that once the new library is completed, the town can then sell the existing library site and land behind it for redevelopment which will provide additional funds to help offset the cost of structured parking or other town initiatives.

That's about it for now. I'll provide another update once we meet again with Wake County and town staff. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

I am running for re-election!

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the District B Representative on the Cary Town Council.

We are truly blessed to live in one of the greatest communities in America. I am excited to announce that I am running for re-election to continue to work to make Cary an even better place to live, work and raise a family - and to give back to the community that has provided so much for me and my family.

It has been a pleasure to get to know so many of you during my time on the council and together we have worked to address a number of issues in our community. We have accomplished a lot, but we still have work to do.

When I asked for your vote in 2011, I made a lot of promises. I promised to focus on economic development and job creation. I promised to continue our redevelopment and revitalization efforts inside and around the Maynard Loop and downtown. I promised to better manage Cary’s growth and I promised no-nonsense common sense leadership. Most importantly, I promised to listen.

I have kept my promises.

Economic Development and Job Creation

Quality of life doesn't mean much if you don't have a good paying job. During my time on the council I have worked hard to create a business friendly environment here in Cary that encourages business growth and creates jobs.
Sound fiscal policy, low taxes and reduced government bureaucracies have resulted in significant business growth in Cary and one of the lowest unemployment rates (3.6%) in the nation.

There are now more Cary citizens working in Cary than those who commute outside town limits for work. That was not the case before I was elected.  As a successful businessman I know what it takes to create jobs in a tough economy. As a parent of six I know how much that matters.

Cary is now a significant player in the state and southeast in regards to job recruitment and retention.

Downtown

One of the reasons I first ran for council was that I was disappointed with the town's efforts - or lack thereof - inside and around the Maynard loop and Downtown. Sure, the town talked a good game downtown, but nothing was happening. That is no longer the case.

I have worked hard to ensure that Downtown and "old Cary" receives their fair share of town investments.

I have fought to make sure that Cary keeps its promise to build a signature park downtown and prevented the majority of this land from being developed. Phase one of the park will begin construction in a few short months.

I championed the redevelopment of Cary Elementary into TheCary Arts Center which we paid for with cash that a previous council had earmarked for a pool. This project was completed on time and $3 million under budget.

The Academy Street and streetscape improvements are currently under construction along with the Mayton Inn. I have also supported a number of infrastructure improvement projects, festivals, public-private partnerships, and the elimination of impact fees downtown to further promote private investment. There is now a buzz and excitement in downtown Cary like never before. New restaurants, office uses and retail are locating in and around downtown - we even have a brewery on the way!

Great things are happening in and around downtown! With your support I promise to keep things happening.

Growth Management

The question isn't will we grow, it is how we will grow that matters. Let’s be honest – Cary is one of the most desirable places to live in the country. The only way to stop people from coming to Cary is to make Cary a less desirable place to live. Nobody wants to do that.

As a member of the council I have supported a balanced growth approach that supports quality development projects while maintaining a reasonable 3-4% growth rate. This helps to ensure that infrastructure and services keep pace with growth and that any new growth does not further burden surrounding communities. I support development that protects the character and charm of existing neighborhoods and oppose that which does not. I know the word "NO" and am not afraid to use it when a proposed development does not meet the community’s expectations.

No-nonsense Common Sense Leadership

We are all tired of elected officials who say one thing to get elected and then do another once they get elected. That isn't me. As a member of the council I have earned a reputation as a no-nonsense pragmatic leader. I say what I mean and mean what I say.

My values and life experiences are what guides me - not political ideology. Common sense solutions and principled leadership will continue to move Cary forward - not partisan politics. There is nothing partisan about water and sewer, public safety and good roads.

I believe that a transparent government is an inclusive government. So do a number of my council colleagues. That is why we work very hard to communicate with Cary citizens both through our blogs and social media. You, the voters deserve to know what we are doing on the council and how we vote. We do work for you after all.

You may not always agree with every decision I make, but you will always know where I stand.

I am also very proud of how well this council works together. If you have paid attention over the years you know that hasn’t always been the case. And while each of us are individuals of different backgrounds, beliefs and priorities, we also understand that this isn’t about us – it’s about community.

I believe our positive relationship to be largely responsible for our success. Of course we don’t always agree with each other, but we do understand that compromise is a two-way street and we work very hard towards solutions that all of us can be satisfied with and move our community forward.

I thank you for your trust in me to serve as your representative on the Cary Town Council. I hope that through my efforts I have earned your support for re-election and I ask for your vote again on October 6th.


Please visit my campaign website at www.frantzforcary.com to learn more about our work to keep Cary the greatest place to live in America and how you can volunteer to help. Thanks again!