Friday, May 5, 2017

Downtown Park Design Firm Selection Process

At our workesession last night the council agreed to move forward with a new process for selecting a design consultant to work with the community, town staff and the council to design phase 2 of the new downtown park.

In a nutshell, four nationally recognized design firms will be competing for the job.

Why do we want to engage a nationally renowned award winning design firm with this project you ask? Well, if you want to build the best park in the country, you look for the best park planners. While Cary absolutely has some amazing and beautiful parks throughout town, we are cranking this one up to 11 😀

An interdepartmental team of town staff members researched a number of design firms who have created award winning parks and public spaces across the country and whittled that list down to four that they recommended the council consider. They presented this list along with examples of their work for council to consider.

The four design firms recommended are being considered because of their proven record of repeated success and commitment to shared design goals which include:

  • ·         The importance of engaging the community and incorporating unique features from the community into the park design.

  • ·         Emphasis on the development of large and small spaces creating the right balance for each unique park setting.

  • ·         Experience working with a variety of funding models to include public/private partnerships and/or community foundations to support design and construction of the parks.

  • ·         An understanding of the relationship of the park’s immediate proximity to its surroundings be it a museum, a performing arts center, restaurants, shops, commercial and residential development so  the entire area thrives along with the park.

Each firm will visit Cary to learn about our community, visit the park site and review current plans and meet with staff and council. They will return at a later date to present their ideas and proposed approach to working with our community to create the master plan for phase 2 of the downtown park. Upon the completion of this process, the council will select one of the four that best demonstrates our community’s vision and values.

So, ya, you could say that I’m a little excited 😀 I can’t wait to see how this process plays out.

I do want to be clear that this specific process in not to design the park – only to select the best design firm possible. Design will occur after this process is completed and will include significant community input. This will be your park after all.

Thanks to everyone who has worked to get us to this point and special thanks to the members of the interdepartmental team who spent extra time outside of their usual responsibilities and maybe even stepped outside of their comfort zone a little to be a part of something remarkable. You all never cease to amaze me! It’s great to be Cary!

Oh, and since I know you are going to ask 😉 the four design firms selected to participate and some examples of their work include:

James Corner
Previous park projects include The High Line in New York City, Public Square in Nashville and Navy Yards Central Green in Philadelphia

Office of James Burnett
Previous park projects include Klyde Warren Park in Dallas and LeBauer Park in Greensboro.

Nelson Byrd Woltz
Previous park projects include CityGarden in St. Louis and Centennial Park in Nashville.

Hargreaves Associates
Previous park projects include Belo Garden Park in Dallas and Discovery Green Park in Houston

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017 Bad Bills of the Year

I wanted to bring to folk’s attention a number of bills that are working their way through the state legislature that, if passed have the potential to negatively impact Cary.


This bill revokes Cary’s and other North Carolina municipality’s abilities to charge impact fees on new development.

Impact fees help to offset some of the financial “impact” that new development places on our infrastructure as well as the costs of providing public services to new development.

Proponents of impact fees claim they ensure that growth pays for itself. Opponents claim that they raise the cost of housing or doing business.

They are both correct.

I believe that a balance of fees and new tax revenue best works to ensure that growth pays for itself; and in Cary we have worked very hard to strike that balance so that we do not burden existing taxpayers while at the same time keep Cary an affordable place to live and do business as possible.

Let’s be honest, more often than not developers do not pay impact fees anyways – the end user does. And in Cary, if a developer makes a transportation improvement for example above a collector road standard and they enter into a developer agreement with the town, we credit the costs of that improvement towards the fees they would otherwise pay - but I agree that this gets very complicated and hard for folks to totally understand.

Apparently other cities or counties in North Carolina have not been as responsible with the manner in which they assess their fees and have drawn the ire of state legislators. It only takes one bad apple I guess. The “impact” to Cary’s budget - and you the taxpayer - should this bill become law would be in the neighborhood of $11.5 Million annually. That equates to roughly 5 cents on our property tax rate. However, since the majority of these fees are for water and sewer, the greatest impact would be on folk’s utility rates.

The bottom line is that existing Cary citizens should not have to pay for infrastructure or services that are directly attributable to new development. If this bill passes, that is exactly what will happen.

UPDATE – After writing this blog but before posting we learned that H436 was heard in Finance Committee on Thursday, April 20. NC Representative and Finance Committee Vice-Chair, Nelson Dollar along with NC Representative Robert Reives spoke out against the proposed bill as written. Mr. Dollar specifically mentioned the negative impact this bill would have on Cary. An amendment was offered to make this a study bill instead and that amendment passed. While this is good news for Cary we will continue to keep a close eye on this one. Thank you Representatives Dollar and Reives!


This bill would further restrict Cary’s local authority regarding wireless communications facilities.

It would eliminate local zoning authority related to small cell wireless installations. It would also force Cary and other cities to expedite all wireless application review processes, limits the amount we can charge them for such services and reduces our authority regarding installations in the public rights-of-way.

I sure hope they kiss us first. Man they have good lobbyists.

Now we all want better cell service, but we also want to protect the beauty and character of our community too. I think Cary has done a pretty good job at balancing both over the years, but what do we know…

A growing trend in telecommunications equipment is to mount them on traffic signals or power poles – something like the images below. If this bill passes there will be little to nothing we could do to regulate the appearance of such installations.




Makes that fake tree cell tower not look so bad huh?

S94 and H64

These bills would change all local offices currently elected on a non-partisan basis to partisan and moves local elections to the same year and date as national and state elections.

One of the things that this council takes great pride in is how not-partisan we operate. That’s because there really isn’t anything partisan about roads, water, sewer, public safety, parks etc… I’ve never seen a Republican pothole or a Democrat traffic signal have you? We simply don’t allow partisan state and national issues to impact our decisions or our relationships with one another and we only focus on those things that are within our control. It’s part of the reason we have been so successful. But apparently we could do so much better if we put partisan labels on everyone.

Now let’s be honest, political parties today are active in local non-partisan elections and they do work to get their candidates elected…. if you consider primarily handing out slate cards at the polls “working”. But the great thing about odd-year elections is that voters can actually focus on local candidates and issues and not get lost in all of the noise of a presidential, gubernatorial or congressional election.

Another negative is how this change could discourage unaffiliated candidates from running for local office. Candidates not affiliated with either political party would now be required to collect the signatures of at least 4% of eligible voters in the district they are running for before they would even be allowed to file for election – but if you’re a member of a political party you don’t have to. That’s fair right?

Oh, and if more than one candidate of the same political party files for the same office, a primary election would now be required before the general election. And I still don't understand what would happen if a Democrat, Republican and two Unaffiliateds all ran for the same seat and nobody reached the 50% threshold. Would a runoff election still be required possibly resulting in three separate elections for a council seat?


This bill amends environmental laws by limiting a local government’s authority to require riparian buffers larger than what the state requires.

So those strict riparian buffer laws that Cary enacted years ago that have led to improved water quality and reduced stormwater runoff? Ya, screw those. Developers need that land to meet minimum lot size requirements. (rolls eyes)

These are just some of the bills making their way through the North Carolina General Assembly right now that would have a negative impact on Cary citizens and how we operate. There are others. I would encourage everyone to contact your state legislators and let them know your thoughts. We need all of the help we can get. Thank you.

You can reach state lawmakers who represent at least some portion of Cary at the email addresses below.

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Inter-City Visit to Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona

On Wednesday the town council along with members of our town staff, our economic development agency, business and community leaders and members of the Cary Chamber of Commerce traveled to Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona for an inter-city visit. Our mission was to learn from them about their experiences – both positive and negative - regarding economic development and redevelopment. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What would they change if they could do it all over again? Stuff like that.

Our first stop was to a public/private redevelopment project in South Scottsdale called SkySong.

I can’t describe SkySong any better than they can:

SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center is one of the premier economic engines in the Valley of the Sun. The project’s success is a direct result of a focus on innovation and technology that attracts companies ranging from some of the world’s best known brands to one- or two-person startups.
These companies come to SkySong because of its strong connection to Arizona State University – including the ASU SkySong incubator – as well as the exceptional facilities and ideal location in Scottsdale.

The goal of SkySong is to attract cutting-edge and innovative companies and their base of knowledge workers from around the world, integrating the resources of ASU with the opportunities of the private sector. SkySong is a true epicenter of economic activity in the state of Arizona. The 42-acre mixed-use development will include more than 1.2 million square feet upon buildout. SkySong 1, 2 and 3, all approximately 150,000 square foot of continuing education buildings, are near full occupancy.


Skysong and artistic shade structure. Photo courtesy of Skysong

Corporate tenants at SkySong include, Cannon, ASU, Ticketmaster, GroupOn, CenturyLink, Workiva, Yodle and Pearson.


Scottsdale Mayor, Jim Lane, city planners, SkySong personnel and Plaza Companies – the project developer - spoke about the public/private partnership forged between the city of Scottsdale, ASU and SkySong; and how that without the commitment from the city and University the project would not have been possible. They also talked a lot about branding; specifically their efforts to re-brand South Scottsdale.


Cary Delegation Learning About Skysong

It was fascinating to hear about South Scottsdale’s past and see firsthand how far they have come. It wasn’t too long ago that South Scottsdale really wasn’t a desirable place to be. Businesses had fled to other areas of the city and there were a lot of abandoned properties. Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Tent City” was nearby. But since the development of SkySong and a commitment by the city to improve South Scottsdale, they are experiencing significant growth in both new development and redevelopment. South Scottsdale, as they like to say, is "humming".
South Scottsdale is Humming!

Afterwards we boarded the bus and headed to Tempe for a working lunch with the Mayor of Tempe, Mark Mitchell and their Public Information Officer, Nikki Ripley. They too were undertaking a rebranding campaign and spoke to us about the initiative and their efforts to engage citizens in the process so that their “brand” truly reflects who they are. Good stuff.

We also had the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, and learn about his efforts to transform ASU into a “New American University” that combines the highest levels of academic excellence, inclusiveness to a broad demographic and maximum societal impact. ASU isn’t just working to make their university better – they are working to make the surrounding community and Arizona better. Dr. Crow has worked to transform ASU from a bureaucratic, faculty focused institution to one that is student and community focused.

ASU also partners with area high schools to improve student success and graduation rates which in turn provides for greater access to higher learning. Unlike most universities, ASU actually LOWERED admission requirements. ASU now accepts EVERY Arizona high school student who applies that has a B average or better while at the same time graduates a higher percentage of freshman students in four years than most every other university in the nation. They support and participate in economic development initiatives that create opportunities for students, citizens and businesses and improves the community’s quality of life.

Hearing from Dr. Crow was one of the highlights of the trip. I could have listened to him talk for hours. It is absolutely amazing what they have accomplished at ASU and their continued efforts to make ASU a “New American University” and redefine the landscape of higher education – so much so that I texted my wife, Lisa that we should consider ASU for our daughter, Elizabeth. Seriously. Google him and watch some of his online videos. This guy is amazing. A few of us even commented afterwards that this guy should be Secretary of Education.

After hearing from Dr. Crow it was back on the bus to head to Tempe’s Transit Center to meet with their Community Planning Director and Transit Director for a discussion about transit and transit oriented development. While it was a very informative discussion, I really can’t say I learned much of anything new here as I have heard about how transit will influence development many times before – but I believe that it was valuable for some of the others on the trip and I did take away a few nuggets.


Tempe Transit Center. Photo Courtesy of Tempe, AZ

For dinner we got to have a little fun. We went to Scottsdale Stadium to watch the San Francisco Giants play the Seattle Mariners. Scottsdale is the spring training home for the San Francisco Giants and boy do they love their “home team”. The game was sold out… for a spring training game! The stadium hot dogs were excellent and really complimented the beer ;-)


Scottsdale Giants baseball game. From L-R Council members Jack Smith, Don Frantz, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, Lori Bush, Ed Yerha and Police Chief Tony Godwin

The following morning our first stop was Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. The museum is owned by the city of Scottsdale and operated by a non-profit. The museum has a number of exhibit spaces both indoor and outdoor as well as an auditorium and facilities for special events.

Then it was back on the bus to go meet with Scottsdale’s Assistant Manager, Brent Stockton and their Planning Director, Randy Grant along with the developer of Scottsdale Waterfront to learn about Scottsdale’s amazing waterfront redevelopment and mixed use projects. I know what you’re thinking – waterfront in Scottsdale Arizona??? It’s like that song right? I was surprised too. But I gotta say this place was really cool. High rise condos, office and retail adjacent to Scottsdale’s waterway – it was an amazing mixed use project that was 20+ years in the making. It also makes one wonder what can be done with flood prone areas of a community to turn water problems into amenities.


Scottsdale Waterfront Redevelopment Project(s)

A really interesting tidbit that we learned was how difficult it is to get any tall building approved in Scottsdale. Nobody wants their view of the mountains blocked – which after seeing the mountains I can understand. They are absolutely beautiful.


Beautiful View of the Mountains

They are however very flexible in regards to design guidelines. For example, you can paint your building any color you want to...as long as it is Navajo White. ;-)

They also love their public art in Scottsdale, and the really cool thing about most everything that I saw was that you can actually tell what it is without having to read a plaque. This particular project was fascinating in that once inside it becomes a kaleidoscope and you see like 20 of yourself….including the bald spot on the back of your head…. That your wife said wasn’t bad…. She lied. ;-)


Scottsdale Door Kaleidoscope Art

This however was my personal favorite. Killer right?


Statue of Indian outside of Scottsdale's Museum of the West

The afternoon was “free time” for everyone to explore Scottsdale or Tempe on your own. Council member Lori Bush and I chose to explore a new outdoor mall adjacent to our hotel. Ya ya…, I know what you’re thinking. NO, I didn’t go shopping. I don’t shop. The mall is a mixed use project with residential and office above retail or restaurants and we wanted to see the project firsthand as this type of development is exactly what we have been trying to encourage in certain areas of town such as downtown, the state property off of Cary Town Blvd. and the Cary Town Center Mall property. The project was very walkable with a number of small, green areas peppered about for folks to relax and enjoy that shake you just got. Shake Shack is awesome btw. ;-) The one pictured below was extra amazing in that it also offered an outdoor LED screen that showed movies for kids – the kids can watch movies while momma shops. Awesome.


Pocket Park with play space and movies for children
The majority of dinner was spent discussing everything that we saw and learned and how that relates to what we are trying to do – or not do – in Cary.
Cary and Scottsdale/Tempe are very different places – VERY different – but we also have a lot of things in common like:

Encourage the redevelopment of older or distressed properties
Promote walkable sustainable development
Public/private partnerships
Branding – Cary will soon undertake a branding effort - especially in regards to economic development
Transit and transit oriented development
A commitment to parks, greenways and open spaces

In all I found the trip to be very educational and worthwhile. It also recharged the batteries a bit. I really want to thank everyone at the Cary Chamber of Commerce and our town staff for all of their efforts in planning the trip, and special thanks to both the Scottsdale and Tempe town staff and elected officials for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. We really appreciate it and I hope that we can return the favor one day.

All that said, It’s great to be home!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

NO PARKING


Non-consensual Towing

Odd term right? What it means is that your vehicle was towed and you didn’t consent to it.

Let’s say that you and your friends are going out to dinner. When you get to your favorite restaurant you find that their parking lot is full because the place is awesome. You notice a lot of available parking at a closed business across the street so you park there and go inside the restaurant. You’ve had a wonderful evening – that is until you return to where you parked your car and its gone. Your first reaction is that your car has been stolen, and only after searching for your vehicle do you discover a small, inconspicuous “no parking tow-away sign”. You’re angry and rightfully so. Had you actually seen the dang sign you wouldn’t have parked there.

So you call the towing company to try and get your car back only to be told that their fee is $175.00 and that they only accept cash. And on top of that they tell you that if you can’t get to their lot in the next 10 minutes, they won’t be able to give you your car back until 8:00 the next morning. Nice…

Angry just became infuriated. Who carries that much cash? Where is the closest ATM? And like they expect you to get to both an ATM and their storage lot on foot in the next 10 minutes? Even Uber isn’t that fast.

You’ll show them! You call the police department…. only to learn that there isn’t much they can legally do to assist you. You did after all park in a tow-away zone, and NC general statutes prohibit the regulation of fees that tow companies may charge. The towing and release of private vehicles is largely a civil matter. About the only thing the police department can do is respond with an obligation to help prevent a fight between you and the towing operator.

Unfortunately this scenario has happened far too often in Cary. Cary PD has been called over 150 times for situations just like this since 2010.

It’s sad, especially in an area like our downtown where parking for some businesses is challenging as the current use – a restaurant, brewery etc.. generates more traffic than the original use was designed to accommodate. That happens a lot with redevelopment. Since we all want to see downtown Cary succeed you would think that businesses that are closed in the evening and don’t need their parking would allow adjacent businesses that really need extra parking in the evening to use theirs right? We do. But no….some people gotta be a #&$@ about it.

While unfortunate, there are some things we can do to hopefully limit situations like the one above from occurring.

Thanks to the hard work of the Cary Police Department and our legal department, we were able to pass a new non-consensual towing ordinance that complies with North Carolina general statutes and better protects vehicle owners, property owners and tow operators.

The new non-consensual towing ordinance does the following:

Requires the posting of visible signage in prominent locations that clearly notifies motorists of any parking prohibitions. Signage must also include the contact information for the specific towing company as well as on-site release requirements.
Towing companies must notify the police of any non-consensual tow along with the vehicle make, color and license plate number so that if a motorist calls the police, the police can inform them of the appropriate towing company information.
Towing companies must respond in person to a motorists call within 30 minutes of receiving a call.
Towing companies must respond to the vehicle storage location within two hours of receiving a release request. Exceptions include between the hours of midnight and 6:00 am.
Towing companies will now be required to accept cash and at least 2 major credit cards – one must be a VISA or Mastercard.
Vehicle storage lots may not be located more than 15 miles away from where the vehicle was towed.
Should a motorist return to their vehicle while a towing company has initiated a tow, the tow truck operator must release the vehicle on site upon the payment of a release fee.
Establishes penalties for towing operators who do not comply with the ordinance. $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, $500 for the third, $750 for the fourth and so on.

We really hope that this new non-consensual towing ordinance helps alleviate some of the problems that motorists, and in some cases towing operators have experienced. We will also continue to work to better educate business and property owners – especially in our downtown – about the benefits that shared parking affords the surrounding community. Rising tides do lift all ships.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 Town of Cary Council/Staff Retreat

This past weekend the council traveled to Wrightsville Beach for our annual council/staff retreat.

We began the retreat with a tradition we started a number of years ago where the council heads up the night before and has dinner together in an effort to get to know each other better. We ate at the Blockade Runner Hotel restaurant. The food was terrible. Seriously, $16 for a burger that tasted like it was frozen a half hour before I ate it. Hamburgers are my favorite food in the world. I eat probably 10 hamburgers a week - I know a tasty burger when I eat one. They need a Crosstown Pub, Tribeca or an Abbey Road in Wrightsville Beach bad. Anyways, we enjoyed each other’s company and learned a little more about one another.

Over the years Cary has grown from a suburban boomtown to an established city that now competes with the likes of Raleigh, RTP, Charlotte and other cities across the country in regards to economic development and jobs. More people actually work inside town limits now than those who commute outside of Cary for employment.

Our Parks system is second to none. We offer an amazing array of cultural and arts programs. We host numerous festivals such as Lazy Daze (which has now grown into a two day event), the Chinese Lantern Festival, Diwali and Spring Daze just to name a few.


2016-2017 Chinese Lantern Festival

Cary’s strict development standards and good planning have helped to ensure that development met or exceeded our community’s expectations and reflected our values. Were there some mistakes along the way? Sure there were. But I think as a whole folks would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful or well planned community.

Cary is also less homogeneous than ever. 30% of Cary’s population is now “not white” with our fastest growing demographic being Asian/Indian.

I could go on, but the bottom line is that Cary is one of the greatest communities in America to live, work and play.

So how do we stay that way?

THAT was the primary focus of this year’s retreat.

Town staff shared a Buddhist saying (at least that’s what they told us – it could have been an internet meme for all I know 😉 ) that spoke to Cary’s challenges well; “If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions”.

Cary didn’t grow into a city of 159,000 residents overnight and like it or not, Cary will continue to grow. We are too darn awesome a place not to. That presents challenges; the most significant being our infrastructure.

Our present conditions are that a large portion of Cary’s infrastructure is 30-40+ years old and in need of repairs/replacement now and/or in the foreseeable future (more on this in just a bit). Our present actions include maintaining that infrastructure while at the same time planning for infrastructure that hasn’t even been built yet to accommodate future growth and development.

This isn’t news to anyone at town hall or the council. We have been doing this for years. Take water mains for example: In 2008 the town implemented a program to better identify those water mains in need of replacement and take care of them BEFORE they fail. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of water main breaks. In 2007 there were 15 separate water main failures. Since the initiative that number has dropped to an average of 3.75 failures per year. Believe it or not, 15 water main failures per year is less than average for a community of our size – but we don’t settle for average here in Cary.

While Cary is no spring chicken (you can’t have a Cary blog without using the word chicken once and a while), our boom years were predominantly in the 90’s and early 2000’s. A LOT of Cary’s existing infrastructure was built during that period. Cary currently has 1035 miles of water mains – 24% of which are 40+ years old and reaching the end of its service life. So while the good news is that 76% are less than 40 years old – the bad news is it won’t be too long before everything built in the 90’s hits the big Four O. With each passing year the number of mains that will need repairs or replacement will continue to increase and is something that we must better prepare for. The same holds true for all of our infrastructure such as roads, stormwater management devices, parks, greenways, town facilities, sewers etc…

As the need to maintain this infrastructure to Cary standards grows, so will the pressures on the town’s budget. What that exactly means yet we do not know. What we do know is that we remain committed to providing Cary quality infrastructure, services and amenities for our citizens at the lowest possible cost to you the taxpayer.


Working away at the retreat

Infrastructure isn’t the only thing aging in Cary. Nearly 50% of all buildings and homes in Cary were built from 1980 – 1999. 14% were built prior to 1980. Now just because something is old doesn’t mean that its broken, right Jack? 😉 Heck, Cary’s older neighborhoods are one of the things that makes Cary great – I wouldn’t live anywhere else. They typically have larger lot sizes, mature trees, and they don’t look like they were built by the same builder on the same day. But just like anything else that ages, our older neighborhoods will need more attention if Cary is to remain the premier community that we are.

12% of homes in Cary are rental. 22% of homes inside the Maynard Loop are rental. Now not all renters or landlords are bad at maintaining their property just like not all homeowners are good at it. We do have some really crappy looking owner-occupied homes in Cary. But the fact remains that rental properties do present different challenges. Renters are far less likely than homeowners to invest in their home as that is the landlord’s responsibility. Landlords typically aren’t going to invest in their rental property as long as the rent check keeps showing up. The landlord might not be local to our area and may not even realize that their property needs work. We can better educate them about that.

We discussed and will continue to work on ways to improve the condition and appearance of older neighborhoods either through greater code enforcement, infrastructure improvements, expanding Cary’s Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program and our Housing Rehabilitation Program or possibly even expanding Cary’s Project Phoenix to single family communities to address minimum housing issues. Targeted redevelopment initiatives and strategic capital improvements may also help.

Our infrastructure is aging, our buildings and neighborhoods are aging and guess what? So are you, our citizens. In 2000 the median age in Cary was 33.7 years old. The median age in Cary today is now over 40 years old with 11% of our citizens aged 65 or older. Of the 14 largest cities in North Carolina, Cary now boasts the highest median age of any of them.

The good news is that more and more folks are choosing to stay in Cary well into their retirement. The bad news is that they have less money to do that with than in previous years. In 2011 the national medium retirement income was $32,800. In 2015 that number has dropped to $26,600.

Whether through increased affordable housing options, senior/assisted living facilities, housing rehabilitation initiatives, parks and cultural programming, public transportation or other initiatives we must continue to look for ways to make Cary more livable for our growing senior population so that not only can they afford to live here, but enjoy living here.

One other retreat item we discussed outside of the scope above was the naming of Cary’s agricultural park, Good Hope Farm. The site is located at the corner of Morrisville Carpenter Road and Louis Stevens Drive in west Cary directly north of the new Carpenter Park. I am pleased that we used the word “farm” in the name instead of “park” as the site will focus primarily on Cary’s agricultural history and farming practices and provide educational opportunities for students and our citizens.

For the record, I along with Councilman Yerha voted against the name but for different reasons. I preferred the name “Brightleaf Farm” as this recognized the significance that tobacco farming played in the region’s history – and I just thought the name sounded really cool. Some council members however opposed this as they didn’t want the name to have anything to do with tobacco or it reminded them of Brightleaf Square in Durham and they wanted nothing to do with that. Whatever… Mr. Yerha voted against the name as he preferred the park’s original name, A.M. Howard Farm.

Another reason I voted against the name Good Hope Farm was more process than anything else. The naming of the farm had already been tabled twice so that council members could consider other options - none of which was Good Hope Farm. This name came up at the last minute and I would have preferred more time to research what someone was telling me – especially when I perceive someone to have a personal agenda on this item. That said, now that I have had that time to do just that, I am satisfied with the name.

One last note on the retreat – I truly believe this retreat was one of, if not the best retreats we have ever had. This was due largely in part to the involvement of all town staff members who attended – not just a select few.

I have been to retreats where six or seven staff members gave presentations and/or participated in the discussion while the other 15 or so sat there and did nothing for two days because the discussion topic wasn’t under their department’s purview. Yet regardless of responsibility - Police and Fire, Planning, Water Resources, Public Information, Clerk’s Office, Manager’s Office, Engineering, Finance, Technology Services etc… they are all experts on many things Cary and should have a greater role in the process. This time they did and I know why.

If you'd like to learn even more about our retreat please feel free to visit Councilwoman Lori Bush's Blog here or Mayor Weinbrecht's Blog here. Lori's is good. 😃

No matter our challenges, it is great to be Cary. I love this place. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stuff, Stuff and Stuff! Jan 2017

Hello!?! Is this thing still on? So, ya, it’s been a long time since I blogged. I know. Sorry about that. I have tried to keep everyone informed on town stuff via Facebook. Life is busy and what little free time I did have I found myself working on the race car. Ya, ya, I hear ya, “If you would quit crashing the car you wouldn’t have to fix it so much”. #racecarproblems

Anyways, after we finished the season at Wake County Speedway we decided to run races at Carteret County Speedway and Southern National Motorsports Park so that took a lot of time and preparation. We had a blast and did ok for our first time at both tracks. Shortly after that the holidays rolled around and, well, here we are. Good things come to those who wait right? ;-)

So without further ado (is that how you spell that? Spell check says its right but I thought it was some weird French word or something?) here is an update on some of the things that have been happening over the last few months.

Imagine Cary

Well, it only took four years but we did it. At our last meeting the council unanimously adopted the Cary Community Plan. The Community Plan is the result of Imagine Cary – a comprehensive planning effort led by our citizens, town staff, consultants, business and community leaders, planning and transportation experts, our town boards, commissions and council members to develop a single integrated update to Cary’s long range plan and set the course for our community’s future. The plan focuses on growth, development, transportation, economics, the environment and other related topics. It is way more than just a land use plan, the plan articulates Cary’s values and vision and will serve as our guide as the community grows over the next 20 years or so.

While that sounds all sunshine, puppies and rainbows, this was no easy task I promise you. There were a lot of hiccups and distractions along the way; a major one being the Eastern Gateway Plan. This is the area near Cary Town Center Mall and Cary Town Blvd. Developers were/are interested in developing this area with shopping, residential and office (to include a Wegmans Grocery) and we needed to have a plan in place that reflected Cary’s vision for that area fast. Imagine Cary was put on hold for a while so that we could focus on developing the Eastern Gateway component and adopt that first so that what gets developed here is Cary quality and meets our expectations.

On a related note, I cannot comment on the rumors of IKEA coming here. All I can say right now without running the risk of getting myself in trouble is that we hope to announce that a major global retailer will be coming to the Cary Town Center Mall area in the near future. You figure it out ;-)

Now as with any plan, I am sure that over time we will find a few things we got wrong. That’s what plan amendments are for. But we also tried real hard to build flexibility within the plan so it is our hope that any amendments will be far and few between. I can honestly say I am pleased with 90-95% of the plan. I didn’t think I would be able to say that two years ago. I love it when a plan comes together ;-)

Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard on and participated in the Imagine Cary process – especially our citizens. This plan is a better product because of everyone’s involvement.

Downtown

If you have been downtown lately – and I know you have because where else would you want to go? – you have surely noticed that the Academy Street Streetscape Project has been completed! About dang time right? It looks absolutely beautiful! If you haven’t yet walked the street and taken a look at some of the artwork please do – the benches are amazing! Phase one of the downtown park (the town square) is nearing completion and we hope to have that finished by March.

The Downtown library and parking deck have been approved and will begin construction soon. You can learn more about that here and here.

The construction at Midtown Square is nearing completion and we recently broke ground for the new Annelore’s German Bakery on Chatham Street. LaFarm Bakery is also currently under construction at the corner of Harrison and Chatham Street. A number of other businesses that have announced plans to come downtown or that have already opened include: Pizzeria Faulisi, Pro’s Epicurean Markey and Café, FRESH Ice Cream, Bottle Dog Bites and Brew and Hustle Fitness Studio. If I forgot anyone I apologize – it’s a lot to keep up with!

There are a number of other plans and projects in the works and we hope to be making more announcements soon! Exciting times in downtown Cary!

Cary Matters

Councilman Ed Yerha and I taped a winter weather preparedness edition of Cary Matters so if you’d like to learn more about what the town does when old man winter shows, click the video below (assuming it shows up correctly - I think I did it right?). We had fun with this one ;-)



WOOF!

Cary’s newest K9 officer, Lemm was sworn in on December 20th. Lemm is a 16 month old Belgain Malinois from Poland. Lemm is named after fallen serviceman Joseph Lemm who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2015 – the same year that Lemm was born. Lemm replaces Cary K9 Robby who unfortunately was forced to retire early due to an issue with his hips. Robby served for 5 years as a patrol and drug detection K9. The council approved a resolution that allows Robby to serve out the remainder of his life with his best friend and handler, Officer Humphries. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the North Carolina General Assembly – especially NC Representative Gale Adcock – who worked with cities and towns across North Carolina to pass a bill that allows service animals to remain with their owners/handlers once they are taken out of service.

Funding for Lemm was made possible thanks to the generous donation of $7500 from Richard and Judy Hendrickson of Cary. If you happen to see the Hendricksons please make a point to say, “Thank You!” We are forever grateful.

Cary got its first K9 in 2005. Since then Cary’s K9 program has expanded into a pack of three dogs, each with its own handler: K9 Chase and Officer Seth Everett; K9 Tayber and Officer Scott McInerny; and now K9 Lemm and Officer Phil Humphries. K9 Robby joins K9 Axel and K9 Max as members of the Town’s retired K9 Unit.

Retiring K9 Robby with Officer Humphries
Cary Wins Gold!

In October 2016, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) in partnership with the American Academy for Park and Recreation, awarded the Town of Cary the 2016 Gold Medal Award for Excellence in the field of Park and Recreation Management.  This is the highest award a community can receive within the field of parks and recreation.

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities throughout the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition. Entries are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of citizens, staff, and elected officials.

This is HUGE. Simply put, Cary has THE BEST Parks and Recreation Department in the nation among cities our size (population of 150,000 – 400,000). There is only one gold medal award winner - we don’t share this award with any other city. That is how big of a deal this is.

Cary takes tremendous pride in providing the best Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources amenities as possible and our parks system is one of the things that makes Cary the great place to live, work and especially play that it is. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a total team effort from our town employees, board and commission volunteers and most importantly, YOU, our citizens. Cary Rocks!

You can learn more about this major accomplishment here.

Simply The Best!

Alston Ridge Middle School

Cary is getting a new Middle School! At our December Quasi-Judicial meeting we approved the development plans for the new Alston Ridge Middle School in West Cary. The school will be located just south of Alston Ridge Elementary School. I know, creative name right? ;-) Anyways, it will be a 230,000 square foot three story building complete with athletic fields and an outdoor basketball court.

Cary has been in desperate need of another middle school for years and this will help (key word being help - not meant to imply solve) alleviate current overcrowding conditions in West Cary. 

Retreat!

This past weekend we held our council-staff retreat in Wrightsville Beach, NC. I will write about this in a future blog as there is so much to talk about and this topic really deserves it’s own post – and y’all are probably running out of interest on this one right about now ;-) I will say it was one of our best – if not the best - retreats ever!

That’s all for now. I’ll post again as soon as I get done working on the race car ;-) Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My thoughts on HB2 and Charlotte

Cary has been in the news a lot over the last week. Unfortunately it hasn’t been good news. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely heard about the NCAA’s decision to eliminate seven championship games from North Carolina in protest of HB2. The majority of these events were to be held in Cary.

Cary is – or was – an NCAA Championship City and has hosted 24 NCAA Championship tournaments since 2003 generating millions in economic impact to our town and the region. But truth be told, we’d probably host these events regardless of the economic impact – it’s what we do and who we are. Amateur sports has always been a big part of Cary.

I always looked forward to hearing from student athletes and their families regarding their experiences here in Cary. Win or lose, they always had wonderful things to say about their visit and Cary’s hospitality. Families of student athletes from many of our area universities also appreciated having the tournaments so close to home so that the whole family could participate.

At present, it appears that Cary’s chances of hosting any future NCAA tournament events is slim at best.

Student athletes, their families and our community is paying the price for something they had absolutely nothing to do with. This stinks.

So how did we get here?

House Bill 2 (HB2) was a direct response to the City of Charlotte’s “Bathroom Bill”. It is bad legislation in response to bad legislation.

Little has been reported about what exactly the City of Charlotte’s law actually did. In my opinion, Charlotte’s ordinance was a solution in search of a problem as I honestly have no idea what actual problem Charlotte was trying to solve.
Most people think that Charlotte’s ordinance simply allowed transgender people to use the restroom, locker and shower facilities of the gender they identify with.

Yes and no.

First off – and this is important if you believe in separation of powers – Charlotte knowingly exceeded their constitutional authority when they passed their ordinance. Cities are creatures of the state and only allowed to do that which the state allows them to do. The regulation of anti-discriminatory laws are a state and federal responsibility, not a municipal one. Charlotte ignored repeated warnings by the state and passed their ordinance anyway.

Charlotte’s ordinance allowed transgender folks to use the restroom, locker room and shower facilities of the gender they identify with and required that private businesses provide accommodations. But the manner in which the law was written allowed anyone who “identified” or “expressed” themselves as the opposite sex the “right” to use restroom, locker room and shower facilities of the opposite sex. The latter is what concerns people – including me.

Now no one is afraid of the legit transgender and why would they be? No transgender has ever raped, assaulted or spied on anyone in a restroom that I am aware of. I actually know a few – they are good people. And quite frankly nor do I think most guys would care if a woman came in the men’s room either. But unfortunately we do live in a world where evil exists and we have a lot of sick people out there who might feel empowered by this law to dress up like a woman and go hang out in the ladies room knowing they would have legally protected access.

Yes, we already have laws against assault, rape and voyeurism; and yes, people could disguise themselves and enter restroom facilities of the opposite sex regardless of Charlotte’s ordinance. But unless one could demonstrate illegal activity, they would have every right to be there under Charlotte’s ordinance.

The bottom line is that people have a right to privacy and security in bathroom, locker room and shower facilities.

Now the NCGA basically had two choices to respond to Charlotte’s ordinance. They could sue them which would take years and cost a fortune – especially considering we haven’t really had an Attorney General for quite some time - or they could convene a special session and handle the matter themselves… or so they thought.

Now I’m no lawyer, but what I still don’t understand is why the General Assembly couldn’t have simply legislated Charlotte’s ordinance out of existence, clarified any and all anti-discriminatory matters to be a state issue and gone home. Heck, they take away our municipal authority all of the time – why was this any different? But that would have been too simple I guess. I mean, these are politicians we’re talking about.

HB2 actually does allow transgender individuals to use the restroom facilities of the gender they identify with….. IF they changed their birth certificate to reflect their new gender. Ya, like that’s not difficult or anything. Driver’s licenses could have been a bit more reasonable but still….

And if a non-transgender is found in the wrong restroom for the wrong reasons, what exactly is the punishment? Why is there no penalty associated with HB2? Or are they leaving it up to the folks that caught the sick bastard(s) to drag him out and beat the crap out of him? I mean, if that’s the case I’m cool with that, just don’t punish the good guys when it happens.

One can make the argument that HB2 discriminates against the transgender community. But contrary to what many folks believe, nothing in HB2 specifically discriminates against the gay community. HB2 is actually all-inclusive in its discrimination as it eliminates every North Carolina citizen’s rights to sue for discrimination in state court. I have yet to hear one legitimate argument as to how this benefits North Carolina citizens.

And the NCGA couldn’t stop there. They also included legislation prohibiting municipalities from setting their own minimum wage levels - which isn’t really a bad idea as this should be a statewide standard, but they felt the need to include this in anti-discriminatory/discriminatory legislation? Really?

This is the kind of crap that happens when lawmakers craft complicated legislation in such a short period of time without citizen input and adequate study. Sadly Republicans and Democrats were actually working on a compromise a couple of months ago until a certain candidate for Governor killed that idea. Nice.

So what should be done?

“IF” Charlotte and the NCGA genuinely care about the impact that this is having on our state, BOTH Charlotte and the NCGA should agree to eliminate BOTH laws, start over and work together to come up with something that both sides can be satisfied with and works for our state.

Personally I’d like to see both laws eliminated and be done with it. Like I said earlier, I’m not sure what problem they are trying to solve, or if government should even be a part of the solution.


In the meantime I am sure that both sides will continue to use this issue as a political football further degrading our great state and reputation in the hopes of winning a political campaign or two and everyone else will continue to suffer for it. Oh how I long for the days when grown-ups were in charge…