Monday, December 15, 2014

December 2014 Update - Transit and a Worksession

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!! Got your shopping done yet? Ya, me neither.

I had the privilege of attending the Heart of Cary Association’s Old Time Winter Festival and the Town of Cary’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony last week. Unfortunately Mother Nature was a Grinch as it was cold and rainy pretty much all day. This was the first year I can remember that we had to host the tree lighting festivities inside town hall. It was the most people we ever had inside council chambers that weren't angry. ;-)

The council also participated in the 35th annual Cary JayceesChristmas Parade in downtown Cary. We all rode together on a float (fancy term for my decorated car trailer) again like we did last year. Not only is it a lot more fun than riding separately in cars, we also believe it sends a positive message to the community that we all genuinely like each other and work well together. I can’t think of any other local governing boards that can really say that. Thanks to everyone with the Heart of Cary Association, the Cary Jaycees and Town Staff for all your efforts to make these wonderful events a success.

Please also don’t forget that the Jewish Cultural Festival will be held on December 22 at the Cary Arts Center from 4:30-9:00.

Wake County Transit Advisory Committee

Council member Lori Bush and I were selected to serve on the Wake County Transit Advisory Committee. It was the council’s feeling that if we were going to appoint two council members to serve, that it would be best to pick two with somewhat opposing views regarding public transportation. Lori is the ying to my yang….or am I ying and she’s yang? I don’t know. Maybe there’s an app for that? If so, Lori’s got it. ;-)

Now don’t get me wrong. I support bus service for public transportation. Rail not so much. Actually, rail not at all. Billion dollar boondoggle if you ask me. And quite frankly it really bothers me that the planners behind this are pushing communities to alter their land use plans and development standards to better accommodate rail. Are they trying to design a rail system to better serve our communities, or are they trying to redesign our communities to better serve rail? What is the focus here?

Improved bus service makes sense. It utilizes existing infrastructure. It is far more cost effective than rail service and unlike rail, routes can be adjusted or moved based on demand. Once the rail tracks are down that’s it – you aint moving them.

So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was that after a 3 ½ hour meeting on public transportation, rail was not mentioned once. Now maybe we just haven’t gotten to that part yet, I don’t know, but so far so good if you ask me!

A large portion of the meeting was spent designing our own bus transit system in a fictitious city. Each table was given a map of the city and different color wax sticks that represented bus routes. The different colors represented route frequency – red sticks were 15 minute routes, blues 30 minutes and green 1 hour. You were only given a certain number of wax sticks to represent a budget – once you ran out of sticks you ran out of money. The fictitious city had a high density downtown, a university, employment centers, suburbs, and a low income area.

Each table engaged in a priorities discussion about where their transit system should go and why, and then proceeded to place the wax sticks on the maps to represent bus routes. It was an interesting exercise as out of 16 tables with the exact same map and number of wax sticks, no two transit proposals were the same with some being worlds apart. We then had a group discussion about the reasoning behind each table’s transit system, and the pros and cons of each.

Consultants and planners will use the group’s input as they continue to work on Wake County’s transit plan. This was our first meeting – we have more to come. I’ll keep you posted.

Worksession

The council held a worksession this past week where we discussed a number of topics to include whether or not to appoint a replacement for the soon to be vacant District D seat, tree protection enforcement, land development topics, mass grading, lot sizes and density, townhome recreation standards, connectivity and a partridge in a pear tree.

District D Council Seat

The council decided not to fill the vacancy created by Gale Adcock’s election to the North Carolina House of Representatives. You, the voters will decide next fall. The majority thinking was that by the time we got through the holidays, took applications, conducted interviews and ultimately made a decision we would be into spring. Candidates would be gearing up for council campaigns in summer. This would not leave much time for a newby to come up to speed before they had to turn around and run for election…. Assuming they’d still want the job ;-) The council also expressed concerns about giving someone a leg up in next year’s elections.

Some council members also felt that with three at-large council members – one of which lives in District D – that district is still well represented on the council. And the reality is that all council members represent every district in town. Heck, 80% of the stuff I vote on isn’t in my district – same with everyone else. The concern about possible tie votes wasn’t really an issue either as we rarely ever have 4-3 votes now.

Tree Protection Enforcement

This discussion was to provide staff with better direction regarding the council’s expectations regarding the responsibility of land owners to replace damaged or removed vegetation and any associated fines. We have had a few instances where either a developer or land owner has removed vegetation or denuded a buffer either accidentally or intentionally. The general thinking among council members was to clarify the existing ordinance to remove any ambiguity, revisit the appeals process and better inform property owners of Cary’s tree protection requirements.

Connectivity

The council’s favorite topic! Staff was seeking further direction on potential changes to the town’s connectivity ordinance and presented a potential tiered approach to when the town would require road connections to adjacent properties or neighborhoods.

The town’s existing connectivity ordinance was created in 1999. Properties developed prior to that weren’t really designed with future connectivity in mind. This has caused problems when a new development is proposed next to an older development and the town is requiring street connections. Connecting a new road to an existing cul-de-sac tends to tick people off – and rightfully so. Newer developments after 1999 however have had to plan for future connectivity with many neighborhoods having street stubs where a future road would one day connect.

Council is looking for flexibility regarding connectivity to older developments while maintaining public safety and traffic flow. We are also looking for the connectivity issue to be addressed earlier in the development process to ease citizen concerns.

Land Use Densities, Lot Sizes and Mass Grading

This is a very complex topic given the number of local and state development rules and regulations that impact the amount of developable land of a site. Bottom line however is that the council and our citizens have concerns regarding lot sizes and mass grading in low density single family housing development.

Are 8000 square foot lots really what we are looking for in low density development? And how is it that we are still having problems with mass grading given our existing ordinances?

What the town has discovered is that smaller lots are more likely to get mass graded while larger lots are not. Makes sense really. With a tiny lot you almost need to clear the whole thing to have any room to work. Larger lots not so much. Existing rules allow a builder to grade after the building permit is pulled. Well, it turns out that builders are pulling permits for multiple lots at the same time and then grading them all at the same time. It saves them, and ultimately the end buyer money. It also totally changes the character and topography of the land and removes mature trees.

The council has directed staff to first investigate requiring minimum lot sizes of 12,000 sq. ft. in low density neighborhoods. The thought is we kill a few birds with one stone - preferably geese. ;-) It would hopefully eliminate mass grading of multiple lots, reduce densities and put lot sizes more in line with the intent of low density zoning.

Townhome Recreation Standards

Believe it or not we have discovered that the open space and recreation requirements we enacted in 2012 regarding townhome communities are actually working better than expected. I know right? We were shocked too. We looked at five townhome developments constructed after 2012. They were required to provide roughly 18,000 sq. ft. of open space/recreation facilities. What they actually provided was nearly 340,000 sq. ft. The council decided to do nothing further at this time and then went out to celebrate actually doing something that worked! Just kidding on that last part….maybe. ;-)

That’s it for now. As always, thanks for reading.


Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Because Gale

Well, unless you happen to be the post office or an advertising agency, you have to be glad the elections are over. The constant barrage of negative ads and outright lies were absolutely nauseating to say the least. When did it become acceptable to knowingly mislead the public anyways? And when did winning become more important than ones integrity?

Ya, I know that negative campaigns are nothing new – but I just can’t recall a year as bad as this one. It is a wonder any good person runs for elective office any more.

Speaking of good people…..

As I am sure you are all well aware, my council colleague and friend, Gale Adcock was elected to the North Carolina State House last week. Congratulations Gale!

While I am so happy for Gale, I can’t help but be sad that she’s leaving us on the council.

It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve with Gale. She is good people – and good governance begins with good people.

Gale has been a consistent voice of reason. Things are never partisan or personal with her. She is firm but fair and stands for what she believes best for Cary - And when we’ve found ourselves on opposite sides of an issue – which honestly isn’t very often – we can agree to disagree.

She always does her homework and comes prepared to meetings. Nothing slips by her.

Gale is very much a process oriented person and it is that focus on process that has led to such great success in her life. Gale doesn’t just set goals - she makes sure that she achieves her goals by following a process. And then when she achieves those goals, she sets new goals because without goals, there is no process. I honestly don’t know which part she enjoys the most – reaching the goal or the process it took to get there - but either way, it works. As a member of the council, Gale brought that focus on process which has really helped us as we work to achieve our goals. We will surely miss that.

Gale has also been someone I can lean on. Whenever I’ve struggled with a particular town issue or wanted a different perspective - or even if something was bothering me on a personal level, the first person I call is Gale. I can always count on her to listen and give me honest feedback – even when she knows I may not want to hear what she has to say. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

Gale is also one of the most caring people I know. It’s probably what led her to a career in nursing. When I had surgery (all 3 times) the first person to call and check on me was Gale – and then a few days later she brings me her home-made apple pie! How cool is that?! Its almost enough to make you want to have surgery on a regular basis….almost ;-) And as much as I’d like to think that *I* am the reason why…..I’m not. That’s just the kind of person Gale is.

On election night I had the opportunity to attend a number of campaign celebrations. It was no contest as to where I was headed – I was going to Gale’s. And apparently I wasn’t the only one. The entire Cary Town Council was there to celebrate with her. That says something.

While Cary’s loss is surely North Carolina’s gain, I am confident that Gale will continue to represent Cary well in the state legislature. But I'm going to miss the heck out of her nonetheless.

And just a head’s up for those of you in Raleigh who may be working with Gale for the first time – if she tilts her head and say’s “bless your heart” with a smile – ya, that’s usually not good. ;-)

The council may or may not appoint someone to take Gale’s place on the council – not that anyone really could. We haven’t decided yet. I personally would prefer to see the seat left open until next October and let the voters decide. By the time we get through the holidays, take applications, conduct interviews and ultimately make a decision (process!) it wouldn’t be long before folks would begin gearing up for council campaigns. But that’s just me. We’ll know more in a couple weeks.

In the meantime I’m just not going to think about it and celebrate the holidays with family and friends. I hope someone is making apple pie ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back at it

I want to thank all of you who have reached out to check on me as I deal with my back issues. It really means a lot to me.

The problem(s) I am having is a ruptured disc in my lower spine and spinal degeneration. The docs can explain it better than I can but basically the disc/debris are impacting a nerve which is causing excruciating pain in my right leg. Some days are better than others, but at times it can feel like I dipped my leg in a deep fat fryer, and all I can do is bury my head in a pillow and scream…and I’m the guy who doesn’t even know I cut myself at work until I see the blood on the floor.

Now I know what you women might be thinking. Well, if the pain is even remotely close to what child birth feels like, I am so, so sorry, Lisa. It won’t happen again I promise ;-) (it’s a joke ok?)

Since I have already had two fusions in my neck, I am trying to tough it out as best I can in the hopes it will heal over time and avoid another surgery. The docs say I’ve got a 50/50 chance so I’m going for it.

We are currently attacking this with a combination of chiropractic care and medication. We are working towards physical therapy, but we have to get the pain under control first…without so many drugs.

My chiropractor is Dr. Tracy Watson at Cary Chiropractic. He’s awesome; a straight shooter – no BS kinda guy. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything and makes no promises that he can’t deliver on. He has also gone above and beyond what I would have ever expected from a doctor by seeing me on Saturdays and Sundays when he is normally closed, and even hand delivering my MRI results to me at work. I was, at first, seeing him twice a day. I’m down to about twice a week now. I genuinely feel better each time I leave his office, but given the physical damage there is only so much he can do over a short period of time (a little over a month). I need to slow down and take it easy to give the disc time to heal…which is really hard for me.

My neurosurgeon is Dr. Robert Lacin at Rex Neurosurgery. He’s the surgeon who did my previous fusions. He’s great too. I went to see him early on for his opinion. He believes there to be a chance that I could heal without surgery and encouraged me to try. To me, a surgeon who recommends not surgery just yet says a lot about his character and integrity. He prescribed oral steroids which helped, but didn’t last.

He then recommended that I see Dr. Singh over at Cary Orthopedics for a direct steroid injection to the affected area on my spine. I had the first treatment today and am currently resting in bed….blogging…..because daytime TV stinks! ;-) Seriously – umpteen thousand channels and nothing on. I can only watch Sportscenter so many times.

My first impression of Dr. Singh is, “wow”. A doctor who actually spends time reviewing your reports, X-rays and MRIs with you and explaining everything in detail and in a way that a guy like me can understand. He demonstrated a genuine compassion for my well-being and really worked hard to make sure I was comfortable throughout the treatment - not to mention that working a needle through my spine via X-ray is pretty dang impressive! But on the outside I was like, “Ya, well, I need to use a bore-scope every now and then to my job too.” ;-) He was impressed….sort of….maybe not.

I will have at least one more injection if not two more. Keep your fingers crossed! And thanks again for everyone’s thoughts and prayers!

Enough of that, let’s talk about something fun! Pop Quiz; what is the most awesome word that is spelled the same both forwards and backwards? RACECAR! A few of you have asked how long until Roger Penske calls….ok, so maybe no you didn’t ask that, but you have asked how my season went.


We finished 7th in points out of 23 with a best finish of 3rd. We started the season late and missed the last race of the season due to my back. I started 5 of 11 races so I’m pretty pleased with the results all things considered. I’m really looking forward to running the full season – and for a championship - next year, but honestly I’d just be as thrilled to get my first win. Championships come with wins.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped in the pits – especially my brother, Dan and Darryl – and for all my fans for coming out to cheer me on. Ya’ll are the best!

Ok – enough about me, let’s talk about you, Cary.

I am pleased to report that Cary has reached an agreement with the Amberwood apartment complex to replace the trees that were cut down and repair the damage to the buffers that occurred a few months ago.

The gist of the agreement states that:

·         Amberwood agrees to the Town of Cary’s re-vegetation plan
·         Amberwood will deposit $40,000 into an escrow account to ensure they comply with the re-vegetation plan which will begin next month and includes the planting of 110 trees and over 130 shrubs
·         Upon completion of the re-vegetation plan, Cary will refund to Amberwood $30,000. $10,000 will remain to cover maintenance costs and replace any dead vegetation
·         Cary will waive the $70,000 fine accessed to Amberwood.

The last one was a little tough for some on the council to swallow at first – myself included. The feeling was not only should Amberwood repair the damage they did, but that there should be some form of punishment for violating the town’s ordinances.

That said, the reality is that this would have ended up in the courts. Sure, we might have won – but at what cost? Not to mention that the fine(s) would have gone to the court system and not the re-vegetation plan. And in the end our goal was to right the wrong that was done. This agreement does that.

In other good news – at our most recent meeting, the council approved the bid award for Cary Fire Station #2 in Downtown. The project includes the construction of a new 13,395 square foot 2-story, 2-bay fire station and associated site improvements located at 601 E. Chatham Street. Construction of this project is scheduled to begin this winter and take approximately a year to complete.

Cary Fire Station #2

As part of the station relocation plan, the existing Fire Station #2 will remain open and convert a ladder or rescue company resource to an engine company resource to better serve the Walnut Street corridor.

Early voting begins Thursday, October 23 at the Herb Young Community Center in Downtown Cary and runs until November 1st. You can vote early in person on weekdays from 11-7, Saturdays from 9-1 and Sunday from 1-5. Please also know you do NOT need a picture ID to vote yet. That law doesn’t take effect until the 2016 elections. But don’t let the grass grow under your feet if you don’t have a picture ID yet – you only have about 740 days to get one for FREE before you need it.

Vote early or vote on Election Day, November 4th. Just make sure you vote! The direction of our state and nation depend on it.

Please also consider attending Cary’s annual Veteran’s Luncheon on November 7th from 11:30-1 also at the Herb Young Community Center downtown. This event is always a wonderful tribute to those who have served in our nation’s armed forces. While the event is free, given its popularity the town is asking for folks to pre-register so that they have an accurate head count for the event. Council member Jack Smith will also be speaking at the event, so if you want to hear what things were like during WWI, you won’t want to miss it. ;-) Hi, Jack! Love ya man! ;-)

The town also has quite a few Halloween events coming up – you can learn more about those here. Which BTW, if you aren’t getting the town’s email alerts, you really ought to sign up for them so that you are better informed of what’s going on in and around Cary. You can sign up here.

Oh, and last but not least, if you happen to see a neon green egg around town without a side of ham, it’s not a lost Dr. Seuss prop or an alien spaceship. It’s just Lori. Are you really surprised? ;-) I say it needs a little more bling – like maybe racing stripes and spinners and a bigger battery…or two. Let’s see what this thing can do! LOL…. How about it, Lori! ;-)

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Historic Preservation, Harrison Ave, Trees and Another Volunteer Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic Preservation Commission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Champion Trees

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

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

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

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

Town Clerk

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

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

More Cary Jobs

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

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

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

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

Volunteer!

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

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

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Loans, Taxes and Budgets oh my!

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

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

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

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

Some budget highlights include:

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

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

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

Cary High School/Maynard Road Water Tower

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

Municipal Privilege Taxes

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

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

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

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

Mayton Inn Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Veterans Freedom Park Monument Dedication

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

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

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

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


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

There will be future improvements made I promise you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you veterans. We are forever grateful.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

We're Sued...



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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