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. ;-)


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 fa├žade 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

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?


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.


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 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!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

FY16 Budget

The council has a number of key responsibilities – none more important than the town’s budget. Nor does any one responsibility require more focus, time and effort than the annual budget process. #gladitsover

We completed that process Thursday evening when the council unanimously approved Cary’s FY16 budget. The budget totals $295 million - $218 million for operations and $77 million for capital.

Operations is exactly what it says – the day to day operations of the town’s functions and departments to include police, fire, administration, public works etc…

Capital is the brick and mortar part – the police and fire stations themselves, community centers, water treatment plants, infrastructure etc…

The operations budget is roughly a 4% increase over last year’s budget – mainly due to the addition of 25 new town employees to include an animal control officer, police officer, three new firefighters, customer service representatives and a position to administer Cary’s new open-data program. #lorisbaby This will increase the number of Cary town employees to 1255 – or 8.1 employees per 1000 residents; one of the lowest employee to citizen ratios in the state and lower than last year’s ratio of 8.2. The town of Cary continues to do more with less. #carystaffisawesome

The capital budget is roughly $25 million higher than FY15 yet $25 million lower than FY14 – sounds odd I know, but given the size and scope of capital projects, such variation really isn’t out of the ordinary. A seven mile long water pipeline (to increase water treatment capacity and reliability) in this year’s budget is $19 million alone. We didn’t have to build/fund that last year. #thatsoneexpensivepipe

This was our second year using the new priority-based budgeting process. I talked about that change in process in my blog post about last year’s budget so I won’t repeat it again, but if you aren’t familiar with it and would like to learn more, please click here.

I will say however, that I prefer this method over the previous as it better removes politics from the process. Priorities are ranked by staff based on factual data and need – not politics. #politiciansruinstuff

The first draft of the budget presented to council recommended a three cent tax increase – two cents to cover the voter approved bond projects and an additional cent to cover a projected loss of $1.5 million in revenue as a result of the North Carolina General Assembly’s elimination of the business privilege license tax. #thanksformakinguswholeguys

However, after updated revenue and spending projections – not to mention a lot of calculating and recalculating by the fine folks in Cary’s budget office - it was determined that the third cent increase was no longer necessary.

To give an idea of just how hard Cary staff worked to squeeze every penny possible, after reevaluating interest rates and current rates of return, they found an extra $340.00 in Cary’s fleet fund investment earnings. Seriously, in a $295 million budget, they worked to find 340 bucks. #Karlthebudgetslayer

Staff also identified an additional $57,000 in beer and wine tax revenue. #staythirstymyfriends

Other notable items in this year’s budget include:

·         A new fire pumper truck
·         $800,000 in sidewalk and pedestrian facility improvements
·         Kilmayne water storage tank (water tower)
·         ADA and access improvements to Sertoma Amphitheater
·         Resurfacing of 23 miles of town streets
·         Remove the stupid medians and install a traffic signal at Morrisville Parkway + Carpenter Upchurch intersection
·         Support for the town-wide Google and AT&T gigabit fiber installations
·         Increases transportation development fees paid by developers by 10%

Not surprisingly there just isn’t enough money to do everything the town would like to do. To add anything into the budget means something has to come out. Its really no different than how you prioritize and balance your own budgets. Do you get the new roof or paint the house instead? Do you buy a new car or keep the old one going another year? #Iknowagoodmechanic

That 800 grand in sidewalk improvements above was originally projected at $1.6 million. But to help eliminate that extra cent tax increase and make the desired improvements at Morrisville Parkway and Carpenter Upchurch, something had to give. That’s but one example of the tradeoffs we made.

I can’t thank the folks in Cary’s budget office, our department directors and Town Manager, Ben Shivar enough for all their efforts. This was, in my opinion, one of our more difficult years given the continuing challenges with the economy and changes in state law – not to mention we had already cut quite a bit in previous years to cope with the recession.

Special thanks also to the many citizens who provided input during the budget process – it was very helpful as we worked to better identify what was most important to the community. #ilovecary

Saturday, June 20, 2015

He's Ben Great for Cary

This council works very hard to ensure transparency in our deliberations and decisions because you, the citizens, deserve to know what it is we are working on and how we vote – we do work for you after all.

Once in a while however, we have to hold a closed-session meeting to discuss the occasional personnel matter, lawsuit, or economic development initiative that must remain confidential for legal reasons until it can be made public.

Economic development initiatives and unfortunately the occasional lawsuit are fairly common closed-session topics for city councils. Personnel matters not so much as the council is only responsible for the hiring and firing of three town staff members – the town manager, town clerk and town attorney. The town manager and department directors are responsible for the other 1220 +or- town employees.

The last time the council was informed that we would be holding a closed-session to discuss a personnel matter was when we learned that Cary Town Clerk, Sue Rowland was retiring. Ya, that stunk.

Well, this past Tuesday shortly before our budget worksession, the council was informed once again that we would be holding a closed-session meeting to discuss a personnel matter. Uh-oh….

As the council walked to the closed session room, I kept looking over my shoulder to see who would be joining us.

The only staff member following us was Cary Town Manager, Ben Shivar.

I knew what was coming.

As you have probably heard by now, Cary Town Manager Ben Shivar informed us that he had made the decision to retire at the end of September.

Ben has worked in local government for over 39 years – 19 with the Town of Cary as Assistant Manager and Town Manager. We hired Ben as Town manager in 2009 after the retirement of former Town Manager, Bill Coleman.

I believe this to be one of – if not the - best decisions we ever made.

Ben is a leader – not a boss. Anyone can be a boss. Not everyone has what it takes to be an great leader. Bosses bark orders and expect them to be followed. A leader sets an example for their employees to follow. They inspire and motivate their employees to do better not just for the organization, but also for themselves. Leaders understand there is no “I” in team.

Entrepreneur, Jim Rohn once said, “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

He must have known Ben Shivar.

As a member of the council I have had the pleasure – or not – of interacting with a number of other city managers and council members. I have yet to meet or hear of another manager held in such high regard by their community, staff and council as Ben.

Cary is a better place because of Ben’s leadership.

While I truly hate to see Ben leave, I wish him the very best in retirement - although I am sure that after 39 years Laura has a pretty long “honey-do list” by now ;-) Be careful what you wish for I always say ;-)

The council will make a decision soon about a recruitment and selection process for a new town manager. I would imagine it would be similar to the process we used in 2009.

Congratulations and Thank You, Ben. You have very big shoes to fill.

We'll Miss You Ben!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Council Worksession on TDFs and Building Design Standards Downtown

The council held a worksession this past Tuesday to discuss a number of items to include a proposed increase to Cary’s Transportation Development Fees (TDFs), Land Development Ordinance Text Amendments and updates to the town’s Building Design Standards.

Council members Robinson and Smith were both absent from the meeting.

Transportation Development Fees:

Town staff and consultants recently completed a comprehensive study of Cary’s transportation development fees on the basis of full cost recovery of thoroughfare improvements and presented their findings and recommendation for a fee increase to council.

The two primary recommendations and discussion items were;

1)      Increase Cary’s TDFs to 60% of full cost recovery. This represents an approximate 10% increase over Cary’s existing TDFs.

2)      Continue to increase TDFs annually at a rate of 5% during the budget process.
Cary’s TDFs were last increased in 2013 and 2008 respectively.

Town staff and consultant’s justification for the proposed increase include inflation and rising construction costs.

Current TDFs for a single family detached home in Cary are $1359.00. The proposal would increase that amount to $1573.00. Raleigh currently charges $1661.00 and Durham charges $1405.00 so while Cary’s fees would become higher than Durham, we would still be lower than Raleigh.

The cost differentials remain about the same for multi-family construction as well – Cary would still be lower than Raleigh but higher than Durham.

Office and commercial construction is a different story.

TDFs for retail development in Cary are currently $1466.00 per 1000sq ft. The proposed increase would take that number to $1637.00. Raleigh currently charges $2695.00 and Durham’s fees are $4423.00. Both Raleigh and Durham’s fees would remain significantly higher than Cary.

TDFs for office development are currently $2004.00 per 1000 sq ft. The proposal would increase Cary’s fees to $2113.00. Raleigh’s fees are currently $2055.00 and Durham’s are $3366.00. This would make Cary’s fees higher than Raleigh, but lower than Durham….whose fees on commercial and office are ridiculously high when compared to their neighbors.

Note – Cary’s numbers above apply to development outside the central district (inside the Maynard Loop) Cary’s fees inside the Maynard Loop are set lower to incent new development/redevelopment.

My concern(s) with the proposed fee increase pertains to the commercial/office side more so than the residential. I struggle with increasing costs on the job creators. You know, the folks like MetLife, Bass Pro Shops, CBC Americas, Deutsche Bank, HCL, SAS and hundreds of small businesses; many of which have fled high tax/fee states looking for a more business friendly climate and highly educated and talented employees like we have here in Cary. Heck, Cary was even one of two finalist cities for USA Tennis out of New York. Unfortunately we lost out to Orlando on that one (tough to compete with Disney World, beaches and year-round warm weather) but it’s just another example of what we have to offer here in Cary and what employers and organizations are looking for.

Unfortunately (for me anyways) Cary does not have legislative authority to only increase fees on say residential but not office or commercial. If we choose to increase our TDFs, we must increase them across the board.

So again, while I might could be ok with a TDF increase on residential, I really struggle with increasing costs on businesses here in Cary.

Cary’s unemployment rate is around 3.5% which blows away most everywhere else in the country. I want to keep it that way. So if lower costs are an important factor in why many businesses are relocating to Cary, why would we want to increase their costs? And when you consider that a number of companies were provided city, county and state financial incentives, well, I just don’t see how increased costs compliment our job recruitment efforts.

Building Design Standards

Much of the discussion centered around the proposed changes for building materials in downtown and Cary’s Historic Districts.

Cary’s design standards throughout town call for a minimum of 35% masonry material on new construction of commercial or attached residential. In 2012 the council raised the masonry requirement for downtown to 75%. The thinking was that the increased standard would result in higher quality development downtown.

The result? No development.

Quality projects such as Samuel’s Keep, The Townes of Madison, Highland Village and my personal favorite – Frantz Automotive Center ;-) were developed under Cary’s 35% masonry standard and have added value to our downtown. We have not seen a new project like those since the masonry requirement was raised to 75%. It simply increases costs to the point where projects are no longer financially viable. Look at the two images below. Neither of them meet the current design standards of 75%. Why would we want to discourage any more development like this in downtown?

Samuel's Keep
Townes of Madison

Just so we are clear, a 35% requirement doesn’t mean that is all you get. Samuel’s Keep for example is roughly 42% masonry. It is simply the minimum that would be allowed.

I am pleased that at our worksession the council supported reducing the requirement back to 35%. Town staff and Cary’s Downtown Development manager, Ted Boyd also supported a reduction in the masonry requirement. There will be a public hearing prior to official action by the council.

In regards to Cary’s historic districts – Downtown, Carpenter and Green Level – the thinking was a little different. In downtown for example, many buildings have some amount of brick, while in Carpenter, most buildings are completely wood. To require a brick building in an area such as Carpenter would be very much out of character. In downtown however, a partially brick building would be in character with its surroundings. So, we decided to continue to require the 35% masonry in the downtown historic district while allowing for all wood construction in Carpenter and Green Level.

I am hopeful the proposed changes will spur more of the private investment in our downtown we are looking for. Time will tell.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Downtown Cary Library

At a council retreat in 2010, the council unanimously selected a site adjacent to the new downtown park near the intersection of Walnut Street and Kildaire Farm Road and across the street from the Cary Arts Center and Cary Elementary as the location for the new downtown Cary Library.

There have been a couple of articles in the Cary News lately that have implied that the council may be reconsidering that decision.

That is incorrect.

While one council member wants to reconsider that decision – the council does not.

While I can respect and appreciate this councilmember’s position, this decision was made years ago and there has been plenty of time for folks to express any concerns they may have had.

There are a number of reasons the council selected the site we did for the new downtown Cary Library.

·         Create a synergy with Cary Elementary School and The Cary Arts Center
·         The library’s location in a park setting will encourage folks to stay in downtown a while and maybe relax with their new book in the park, or visit one of downtown’s many restaurants and shops
·         The town already owns the property
·         Proximity to the existing Library’s location – pretty much across the street and near the corner of Walnut and Kildaire Farm/Dry Ave – a few hundred feet from Academy Street
·         Close to neighborhoods so that area residents can walk to the library
·         Potential plans include structured parking, which the Cary Arts Center desperately needs and could take advantage of – and not to mention our downtown festivals that mainly occur along that stretch of Academy Street
·         Our vision for downtown Cary is bigger than the intersection at Chatham and Academy Street
·         Allows for redevelopment of the existing library site – which Wake County wants to keep open until the new library is constructed

I do not subscribe to the notion that the new library “seems too far way to benefit our downtown businesses”, and that “people won’t want to walk half a mile to Chatham Street”.

If that is the case, then why are we spending millions to improve Academy Street to include wider sidewalks, lighting, bike racks and artistic elements to promote walkability if no one is going to walk up and down the street? Why did we invest $13 million in the Cary Arts Center at the end of Academy Street? Why did we partner with Belle at the Jones House restaurant at the corner of Academy and Dry or the Mayton Inn located halfway down Academy Street?

I also fail to comprehend how the same folks who don’t support the new library site out of concerns that it will not benefit businesses along Chatham Street are the same ones who supported a small 2-4 acre park in downtown so that the majority of land could be developed into high density residential, retail and businesses…. that would directly compete with those same Chatham Street businesses they are so concerned about.

While the council’s plan does allow for redevelopment of some of the “opportunity site” as some like to call it, the majority (7 acres) of the property remains what was promised to our citizens– a large downtown park.

The council recently visited downtown – excuse me, Uptown Charlotte for our council retreat. One thing we learned from them was not to solely focus on one area of downtown. Charlotte supports and encourages development and redevelopment anywhere and everywhere around downtown regardless of proximity to “the core”. They discovered that development doesn’t have to start in the center and work its way out – it can also occur on the fringes and work its way inward. The same can and will happen here in downtown Cary.

I am pretty sure that when the Metropolitan in downtown Charlotte was proposed that a number of folks probably asked, “Why are you building that way over there? How is that going to help us?” Heck, it even needed a new road constructed to even get to it. But just look at it now.

No one project will make or break downtown Cary. Each and every one is but a small piece in a rather large puzzle. The more projects we see completed in downtown, the more that will come – success breeds success.

One of the reasons I ran for council was that I was sick and tired of all the talk and no action downtown. The town talked a good game, but nothing was happening. Absent from the council majority was the political will to invest in downtown. That changed in 2007 when a new council was elected. Since then we have been making steady progress, but acknowledge that we have a long way to go.

I will always remember a comment I heard while on a visit to downtown Greenville, SC. a few years ago. “Downtown revitalizations are a twenty year overnight success”. It is so true. Nothing happens overnight, but if things keep happening, success will come.

I plan on keeping things happening.