Thursday, July 13, 2023

Kildaire Farm Road and Harrison Avenue Improvements


Folks have been asking me about the Kildaire Farm Rd. and Harrison Ave. construction projects. Since I am sure many of you also have questions, I wanted to provide y’all with some information on both projects.

First and foremost, I apologize for the inconvenience. Both the Kildaire Farm Rd. and Harrison Ave. closings have indeed been a challenge to say the least. 

The Kildaire Farm Rd. construction is one of Cary’s Intersection Improvements Projects. The purpose of this program is to identify and help address intersections that experience higher levels of congestion and or vehicle and pedestrian safety-related concerns.

Kildaire Farm Rd Improvement Project

These improvements will realign and eliminate the current skew motorists' experience as northbound Kildaire Farm Road crosses Walnut Street. This will improve both pedestrian and vehicle safety. It also includes new sidewalks, upgrades to pedestrian signals, crosswalks, and ramps.

In conjunction with the intersection improvements, the town also replaced the aging water mains. The watermains in this area were installed in the 1960s and ‘70s and are at the end of their useful life. As part of the project, they too were replaced with larger diameter pipes that have a lifespan of over 100 years. Approximately 1,200 linear feet of new pipe is being installed to replace the aging mains to eliminate the risk of failure and ensure reliability for decades to come. In Cary we identify and replace aging water mains before they fail. This also keeps us from having to rip up the new road again in the future causing further disruption(s).

The Kildaire Farm Rd. project is getting close to being finished. They are working to install the median within Kildaire this week. No more detours are planned, just some flagging operations.  We are shooting to complete the project in late July or very early in August.

The S. Harrison Ave. construction is also part of Cary’s Water Main Replacement Program. They are replacing aging pipe that, like Kildaire Farm Rd., is at end of its life cycle and needs to be replaced and upsized to meet current water supply and fire flow specifications. This project is dual purpose as it replaces aging infrastructure and ensures adequate capacity for future development.

Water Main Replacement Program highlights 

This is a much larger project than Kildaire Farm Rd. and as such, will take longer to complete. Beginning in early- to mid-August, they will close the intersection of Dry Ave and S. Harrison so they can set the tee and get the services flipped to the new water main in Dry Ave.  S. Harrison Ave will remain closed.  They are coordinating with Cary Elementary School and the Cary Arts Center to minimize disruptions as best they can.

By the end of August, all area residents will have been moved to the new water main and S. Harrison between Chatham and Dry will be repaved and reopened.

There will however be intermittent closures of S. Harrison south of Dry Ave. one block at a time over the following several months as they continue to complete the project. The entire project will be complete early 2024.

Yes, doing both at the same time was less than ideal and we will do better in the future.

I hope this helps explain the “why” things are a pain in the rear right now, and again, I thank everyone for their patience. You can learn more about Cary’s Water Main Replacement Program at the link below. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments. You can email me at or call me on my cell at (919) 612-6870. Thanks again.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Potential Redevelopment of Cary Town Hall Campus

I have received a number of emails and comments on social media regarding media stories pertaining to the possible redevelopment of the Cary Town Hall property. I have mailed a letter to folks in my council district to provide you with factual information and my perspective so that you are informed on what is or isn’t happening and why. I am also posting a blog friendly version of that letter here.

Yes, the town is considering the potential redevelopment of town hall campus as we need additional space to better serve existing and future residents - especially in regards to police, fire and parks. That said, the site does also present an opportunity for some private development so the town is exploring that possibility. The key word is considering.

I am sure that by now many of you have seen the conceptual drawings that illustrated 10-15 story buildings on the site.

Please know that the artist’s renderings are purely conceptual in nature. They illustrate what could occur over time - like 20-30 years’ time - if the town were to allow private development on site. Yes, the concept drawings are bold - too bold in my opinion. They were the artist’s best attempt to demonstrate the maximum potential of the site as to not limit creativity from interested parties. Should town hall campus redevelop however - and that is a question that has yet to be determined - I see scope and scale more in line with what we are currently seeing downtown. The town could also decide not to partner with a private developer and simply add space for additional employees, or some combination of the two.

I apologize for the manner in which the town has begun this exploratory process. Cary citizens should have been informed of the town’s plans by the town - not learn about it through the media. Residents should have also been given the opportunity to provide input on the front end so that whatever vision the town pursues best reflects our community’s values and wishes. Please know that while there was always going to be opportunity for citizen feedback, the timeline in which that were to occur was wrong. We will not make this mistake again and we will be rolling out a community input process in the near future so stay tuned.

I know many of you have questions. I want to speak to those I have received thus far.

Regardless of any redevelopment of the town hall site, a multi-modal transit facility will be built. This will better serve existing and future residents with increased bus and rail service. It will also be constructed in a manner so that the trains do not block the roads when they stop. Thank goodness.

The Page Walker Hotel and associated gardens must absolutely be preserved and continue to remain a focal point of town hall campus. Should anything develop in close proximity to the Page Walker, it MUST be context sensitive and compliment the hotel – not detract from it.

The Herb Young Community Center - or a new and improved version - must remain on site to have my support. Any elimination of such is a non-starter for me. The existing facility has aged to a point where it is becoming a maintenance problem and no longer adequately serves the surrounding community. Regardless of what happens on town hall campus, I support redeveloping the center to a more modern facility with increased offerings for our citizens. It must also remain The Herb Young Community Center to continue to honor Mr. Young's many contributions to our community.

There must also be meaningful, open public and green spaces. People, not buildings, are what make places special. The site must create a sense of place. No, we don’t want to create another Fenton. We have Fenton for Fenton. The media is who used the word Fenton to describe what might occur at town hall – not the town.

Traffic will be addressed as best we possibly can. Road improvements are coming to Chapel Hill Road/54 for example but we cannot move buildings to widen Chatham Street nor would we want to. Four lane + roads do not promote pedestrian safety or walkability. Most traffic downtown is caused by those who are driving through downtown to go to work, run errands etc... They will naturally choose an alternative route to avoid delay if traffic becomes too bad for them. We want people to drive TO downtown – not THROUGH it. Additional sidewalks, a pedestrian bridge over the RR tracks and increased bicycle facilities will continue to be a priority.

Affordable/workforce housing would absolutely be a component should any private development occur on the site. We have been very successful as of late in encouraging private developers to include such in their projects. The town would far exceed private sector efforts in this regard.

Cary’s annual growth rate is roughly 2-3%. Some of that growth is from residents who have moved here over the years and some of it is caused by expanding families. My wife and I have six children and seven grandchildren for example – all born and raised here in Cary. My family and every family in Cary are part of the growth problem.

To put things in perspective, if we could build a wall around Cary and not allow anyone new in, we will still need a lot more housing and services for all of our children who were born here – that is if we want them to stay in Cary and remain close to family. I sure do.

That said, developing in Cary isn’t easy nor should it be. We have the strictest development standards allowed by state law to ensure that what does get built is of the highest quality possible and best protects the environment. Most proposals fail before they ever make it to council for consideration as they do not, or are not willing to, meet our community’s high standards. 

Cary is one of the greatest communities to live in America. We are consistently ranked one of the safest cities. We have great schools, amenities, parks and greenways and most importantly, economic opportunity. There are jobs here. People can talk about quality of life all they want, but the reality is that quality of life begins with a good paying job so folks can take care of their families. The bottom line is that the only way to slow or stop growth in Cary is to make Cary a less desirable place to live, and nobody wants to do that. I sure don't.

During my time on the council, I have tried to balance the town and citizen’s desires to revitalize and redevelop parts of downtown while protecting that which makes Cary special. I was successful in convincing my council colleagues to preserve the look and feel of South Academy Street by prohibiting tall buildings there. We are leaving the old library site green space. We repurposed/redeveloped old Cary Elementary into the Arts Center to preserve that magnificent piece of Cary's history and provide a wonderful amenity for our citizens, and I successfully fought to keep the town from allowing the majority of the downtown park site to be developed.

There are pros and cons to all of it, but I remember not too long ago that at 5:00 pm they rolled the sidewalks up and everyone went home. Downtown became a ghost town. For a lot of folks, the only reason to come downtown was to hit the post office, get your car fixed or grab a soda and hotdog at Ashworth’s. Now our downtown is alive with people out and about and places to go. It has become a place where people and business want to be and that is a good thing. I remember when our kids were growing up, they couldn't wait to get out of "boring Cary". Now they love it here and thankfully chose to stay and raise their families here.

I get that all of the changes downtown seem like a lot at one time. They are. That said, many of the projects under construction today have been in the works for quite some time. The Jordan/First Baptist project for example has been planned for over ten years. The Downtown Park is 20 years in the making and will finish soon. The Academy Street Improvement Project seemed like it went on forever and no one was happy about it but look at it now. It is absolutely beautiful and everyone loves it. That said, we understand the inconvenience(s) and have already talked about doing a better job of spacing future projects out to reduce the burden on our citizens. We can and will do better.

I hope this helps answer any questions you may have. If you have any further questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or on my cell at (919) 612-6870. I am always happy to talk town business and my door is always open.

In your service,

Don Frantz

Mayor Pro Tem and District B Representative

Town of Cary, North Carolina

Friday, March 25, 2022

Affordable Housing and the Laurel Street Proposal

 We are truly blessed to live in one of the greatest communities in America. Cary is consistently ranked one of the best small cities to live, work, raise a family or start a business and we remain one of the safest cities to live in the country.

People want to live here. Those who already live here don’t want to leave. Believe it or not, Cary’s fastest growing demographic are seniors. People are retiring here. School aged children also make up 25% of our population but they can’t live at home forever. Nope. No. They. Can’t. 😉 It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. 

All of this has created a huge demand for housing and supply is not keeping pace with that demand. As a result, home prices continue to rise making it increasingly difficult for our children, young professionals, seniors, service workers and folks like teachers and first responders to afford housing in Cary. Make no mistake, those who work in Cary should have the opportunity to live in Cary.

The housing affordability crisis isn’t unique to Cary. It is a nationwide problem. And while we have investigated other communities for best practices to address this problem, there are no silver bullet solutions. Just ask Seattle or San Francisco. The harsh reality is that no matter what we do, we aren’t going to solve the problem entirely – but we can make a dent in it.

For background, existing Cary programs that provide housing assistance include:

Healthy Homes Cary, our Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Housing Program, was revised and relaunched in early 2020. It is a grant program operated through non-profit agencies, with the lead agency being Rebuilding Together of the Triangle. It combines up to $12,500 in grant funds per applicant with volunteer labor to do a large variety of improvements. Since the relaunch eighteen months ago, approximately 80% of our participants have been seniors, so it is proving to be an important means of helping our citizens age in place. Our program was also adopted by Apex, Wake Forest is considering it, and TJCOG is now helping provide guidance to other communities interested in our concept.

Cary’s Oasis Utility Bill Program helps our citizens in need with emergency utility funds.

Community Development Block Grants: Our CBDG Program is distributed directly to non-profits for the purpose of building capacity, providing services and developing housing. This is typically $650,000 per year, however FY21 was $1,100,000 and FY22 is $1,400,000 due to additional COVID disbursements. This includes funding organizations such as Carying Place, Transitions LifeCare, Dorcas Ministries, White Oak Foundation (and many more).

The Cary Council Nonprofit Grant Funding also provides support to some housing related services. It is funded from the general fund in an amount equal to Cary’s population, $172K last year.

We continue to partner with Habitat for Humanity. Their most recent project includes seven single family homes that are under construction on Trimble Avenue. These have been developed as workforce housing, accomplished through a combination of smaller unit size, volunteer labor, and low-rate financing (in addition to CDBG funds provided a few years back).

We have also been working with developers to site more workforce housing into their projects. While Cary CANNOT BY STATE LAW require developers to set aside some of their units as affordable/workforce housing, we do use what leverage we have to meet our community goals. To date this has resulted in 30 workforce units recently approved with more are on the way. I know that’s not much but it’s a start.

We must also say “YES” to more housing. As previously stated, we have a significant supply problem that is driving up housing costs. Think about it – even IF we could wall off Cary and not let anyone new in, 25% of our population are school aged children and will need housing soon. They can’t wait for someone to move or die before they find a place to live and they probably aren’t going to be able to afford (or even want) a single-family home right out of college either. Seniors need places to go for when they age out of their single-family home.

Earlier this year we finalized The Cary Housing Plan and are now working to implement the recommendations of the plan. 

The Plan includes three main goals: 1) A community of choice, 2) A place where residents experience high quality of life, and 3) Regional and nonprofit partnerships.

The housing analysis found that we have done very well in establishing single-family residential. Approximately 70% of all residential in Cary are SF homes. 25% are apartments. Areas of opportunity for more choice include 2-4 unit structures (duplexes, townhomes, etc.), urban apartments or condominiums (like we are accomplishing downtown), and additional opportunities for Accessory Dwelling Units.

The population analysis found that in-migration is increasing with our younger population (25-40 years old), however we are still aging as a community. Our existing population is choosing to stay in Cary through retirement. We also have significant diversity (particularly Asian population) and very high educational achievement. Areas of opportunity relate to addressing the needs of seniors, first time homebuyers, special populations (needing ADA or other accommodations), and affordability (particularly workforce housing). This correlates with the range of housing types discussed above and with specific accommodations to meet the needs of these populations.

The Plan discusses the relationship with other related priorities, including transit and the environment. Increased transit opportunities reduce personal vehicle dependence which can save folks hundreds of dollars a month by eliminating car payments, insurance, fuel and maintenance costs – money that can go towards other cost of living expenses.

Finally, the Plan suggests various program, legislative and funding strategies, which our staff will continue to evaluate and develop for Council to consider. But yeah, if you want to see us do more in this arena, we need help from our state legislature which means we need help from you in November.

Now to the Laurel Street mixed income project folks have been talking about.

One of the strategies in the plan is to identify under-utilized public lands for housing. The 5-acre parcel on Maynard Rd. that was originally purchased in 2007 for a new water tower - but not used for that purpose as we rehabilitated the Cary High School water tower instead - is currently Cary’s best opportunity. We recently purchased an additional 2-acre parcel from Wake County adjacent to East Cary Middle School to create a combined 7-acre parcel.

The selected developer, Laurel Street, is a mission-based developer. Consistent with the Plan, we are pursuing a mixed-income development (half market rate and half workforce/affordable). A total of 130 units are proposed (65/65). This site was selected for such a multi-family project as it checks a number of boxes related to housing affordability. It is in walking distance of three schools, shopping, retail uses and employment centers and is situated along a major transit line and future bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor.

This proposal is not something akin to section 8 housing. The 65 affordable/workforce units will be for those making 50-80% of average median income. The AMI for Cary is roughly $107,000 so households living in these units will be earning somewhere between 50-80K. These folks could be our children’s teachers, first responders, personal service workers, nurses etc…

This proposal will come before council for public hearing soon – April 7th I believe. Our town staff continues to work with the surrounding community to address their concerns – at least those which we can.

Some of the adjustments to the proposal that Cary and Laurel Street have made in response to resident feedback/concerns to date include:

Moved the greenway further away from 603 Ryan Road's property line, per homeowner request

Decreasing the building height from 5 stories to AT MOST 4 stories. Keep in mind however that reduced building height impacts our ability to serve more families and/or runs the risk of increasing the building footprint resulting in a loss of green space and tree canopy

Moved the location of the building on the site to preserve more trees

Exploring road improvements to calm traffic and enhancements to project road access/landscaping

Updated construction plans to increase energy efficiency to potentially include solar

As is typical of most development projects, I am sure a few more changes will be made as this proposal works its way through the process – and there remain questions regarding management and selection criteria. That said, if anyone can work all this out it is our amazing town staff. If you have ever interacted with Ms. Mansa or Ms. Widmar, you know what I’m talking about. I also want to commend Councilmember Lori Bush for her vision and leadership on this project.

I also thank those who have contributed to shaping this proposal and for caring enough about your community to get involved. Like it or not, you have made this a better project.

Citizen feedback has been mixed with dozens of people contacting us both in support and opposition of the proposal. To that end I wanted to make sure that folks had current, accurate information in which to form an opinion and offer feedback. We will have a lot more detailed information once the staff report is completed soon.

I hope this helps and if anyone has further questions or comments you can contact me at or you can email the entire council at . 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

I can't speak for Minneapolis, but this is how Cary does it.

The murder of Mr. George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis is abhorrent and disgraceful. My heart breaks for his family, his friends and their community. I pray they receive the justice they deserve. I also pray that the riots taking place across the country stop. They do not honor Mr. Floyd and nor do they bring justice to him or his family. Destruction and fear will only further divide us.

A number of you have reached out to us wanting to know if we are taking the appropriate steps to make sure that the tragedy that occurred in Minneapolis doesn't happen here. We appreciate the questions and concern.

First and foremost, the focus of the Cary Police Department’s Subject Control and Arrest Techniques is to safely gain control of a non-compliant suspect without injury to the suspect or officer.

Cary Police Officers train quarterly on Subject Control and Arrest Techniques. State law only requires this training during the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy. Cary far exceeds the state requirements.

Cary Police Officers are instructed in gaining physical control of non-compliant or combative suspects by controlling hips, arms, and legs. Officers are NEVER instructed in techniques involving chokes or strangleholds and are in fact instructed that those techniques are prohibited.

Officers are instructed to use only appropriate force and to stop using that force the moment compliance is gained. Officers are taught to gain compliance through utilizing limb control and leverage, rather than pain control.

Officers are additionally instructed to place a handcuffed suspect into a seated and upright position as quickly as they can to ensure that breathing is not labored.

The Cary Police Department uses “reality-based training” to conduct the physical portion of their use of force and de-escalation training. Each block of training is designed to mirror a use of force incident that has, or may have happened nationally. They utilize role players and simunition (non-lethal training ammunition) to give the officers the real experience of dealing with the unknown. Officers never know if a “suspect” is armed or not and will have to deal with the situation appropriately. Every evolution of reality-based training offers an opportunity to de-escalate or change tactics.

Focus has been on dealing with calls of suspicious persons where the officer has no idea if any law has been broken or not, they are merely “dispatched” to a call of a suspicious person much as they would be when a citizen calls the police with little details. The officer must deal with this just as they would any call. The goal is to simulate real calls for service and evaluate and train the officers on the correct response. 

When Cary PD added de-escalation training to their continued curriculum, they noticed that many courses of study offered a variety of techniques. They emphasize active listening but the primary focus of training is “De-Escalation of Self.” There is no guarantee that Cary officers will be able to de-escalate someone else, but they can always de-escalate themselves. This is done by focusing on breathing and self-control so that they are able to step back if needed and re-assess any situation so that they can handle it with a clear mind and make the best decisions possible.

Cary Police Officers also receive training regarding people with mental health crisis, those who may be suicidal or irate, the non-compliant, hearing impaired and those with whom we may have a language barrier (for which we have interpreters).

Regarding the use of force, Cary Police Officers attend Use of Force Training every year with topics covering different levels of force and their appropriate use. 

The officers must qualify on their firearm with a requirement that exceeds the state minimum by 10%. Officers must also qualify on a tactical firearms course involving movement, decision making, and “shoot/no shoot” targets. 

Cary Police Officers exceed state requirements by attending additional firearms training annually which further addresses decision making, team work, advancing and retreating with safety and casualty evacuation. 

They also train annually on law Enforcement Trauma Care and have learned to treat traumatic injuries. This has resulted in the life saving field application of several tourniquets on persons experiencing arterial bleeding. 

Cary Police Officers also receive training on response to active shooter incidents and have done so in partnership with our schools utilizing role players and reality-based training to simulate an incident to the best of their ability.

Simply put, Cary Police Officers receive the most comprehensive, rigorous and relevant training available. 

And last but certainly not least, the Cary Police Department has done yeoman’s work to build bridges throughout our community through a number of initiatives to include:

Project Phoenix: Project Phoenix is designed to help residents, owners and rental property managers of multi-family housing communities keep drugs and other illegal activity off their property.

This initiative brings Cary police and apartment managers together to share information, review crime trends and develop strategies for solving problems and reducing the fear of crime in and near multifamily housing developments. Team officers partner with residents and management staff to become involved in community affairs and tailor services to the unique characteristics and needs of the participating properties.

Barbershop Rap Sessions: The Barbershop Rap Sessions began years ago thanks to the leadership of Tru Pedigrew of TruAccess and Former Cary Police Chief, Tony Godwin. The sessions are hosted monthly at Headlinder’s Barbershop in Cary and encourage an open and honest discussion on a wide range of topics between the African-American community, Cary Police officers and citizens. The initiative has become so successful that it has expanded to other communities throughout the region. Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. WRAL did an amazing piece on the rap sessions and their impact on our community here

School Resource Officers: The School Resource Team, a component of the Services Bureau, emphasizes early intervention in the lives of youth who are at risk. The team consists of 12 uniformed officers assigned to the schools. The goal is to redirect negative behavior before it lands a student in the court system and build positive relationships between students and police officers.

Team members are active in the Wake County Teen Court program, which diverts minor offenders from the juvenile justice system. Programs are designed to empower youth to take charge in situations that could adversely affect them. School resource officers and juvenile crime detectives work together and are regularly in contact with the same youths.

A full-time school resource officer (SRO) is assigned to each middle and high school in Cary. The officers work with school administrators on security and safety issues and investigate crimes in which students are victims or suspects. 

The list goes on and on.

I am especially proud of Cary Police Chief, Toni Dezomits who along with countless Police Chiefs and Departments across the country have condemned the actions of the Minneapolis Police Officers involved in Mr. Floyd's death. Here is an excerpt from her press release.

"I too share in your emotions and sentiments regarding the heartbreaking and senseless death of Mr. Floyd. The actions of the officers in Minneapolis were deeply disturbing, inexcusable, and were void of basic human compassion. As a result, this incident has invoked strong emotions across all communities in this country and threatens to degrade the trust and positive partnerships many police departments have worked tirelessly to foster within our communities."

You can read her full message here.

The bottom line is that the Cary Police Department is doing anything and everything that they can to ensure that Cary Officers are properly trained and prepared to handle most any situation that may arise while also treating our community with the dignity, respect, compassion and transparency they deserve regardless of race, sex or national origin.

They will continue to do even more because that is the Cary way.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Twofer Tuesday

I get asked two questions often.

The first is, "What motivated you to run for town council?"

And the second is, "What brought you to Cary?"

So we made a couple of campaign videos that speak to both questions as well as my desire to seek reelection to continue working to keep Cary great. Thanks for watching!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Don Frantz Cary Town Council Reelection Announcement

     I am excited to announce that I am running for reelection to the Cary Town Council, District B!

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

     My record on the Council is one of collaboration to address key issues in our community. I have earned a reputation as a no-nonsense pragmatic leader. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I strive to keep citizens informed both through my blog and social media. Council members must be held accountable and that begins with an informed citizenry. You will always know where I stand.

     Over the last four years I have worked hard to provide the high levels of service that our citizens demand at the lowest possible cost to you, the taxpayer, and to create an environment that encourages business growth and creates jobs. I championed our successful downtown revitalization efforts and I support sustainable smart growth policies that help us grow better, not just bigger. I have a proven record of supporting initiatives that further protect our environment and improves water quality, and I worked to bring additional senior housing and assisted living facilities to Cary so that as our parents and grandparents age, they have more opportunities to stay in town and remain close to family.

     Cary is one of the safest cities to live in America, our parks and recreation amenities are second to none and we are consistently ranked one of the best cities to raise a family.

     We have accomplished a lot, but we still have work to do. Today’s ever-changing world presents new challenges. Keeping Cary great means staying ahead of the curve on issues ranging from infrastructure and infill development to housing affordability and technology. Working together we can continue to address complex problems with common sense, data-driven solutions. I am excited about what the future holds for Cary.

     Thank you for your faith and trust in me to serve as your voice in town government. I hope that through my efforts I have earned your support for another term. I humbly ask for your vote for reelection on October 8th.

     In your service,

     Don Frantz

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hillcrest Cemetery Monument Restorations

I am pleased to announce that Cary has contracted with Verville Interiors and Preservation, LLC to repair, restore, and preserve cemetery monuments in our local historic landmark, Hillcrest Cemetery. Work by expert craftsman, Michael Verville, also includes leveling leaning stones and stabilizing loose stones. Rest assured that the work will be completed in accordance with the US Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation and Conservation and Cary's Historic Preservation Commission will be involved as well.

What? You’ve never heard of Hillcrest Cemetery? Well, with burials dating back to the 1700s, Hillcrest Cemetery is a special place of great historic significance to our community. It is the final resting place of a number of men and women who made considerable contributions to the Town of Cary’s social, economic, political and religious growth, and development. Interred at the cemetery are fifteen former mayors, educators, and business leaders to include members of the Jones, Page, Templeton and Guess families, and Cary High principal Marcus Baxter Dry, Esther Ivey, Russell O. Heater, Alfred “Buck” Jones, and R. S. “Dad” Dunham. Hillcrest Cemetery was designated a historic landmark in 2014 and is Cary’s only municipal cemetery.

Hillcrest Cemetery, Cary NC

Restoring these monuments to their original glory is the least we can do for those who gave so much of themselves for Cary.

So where is Hillcrest Cemetery? I’m glad you asked! The cemetery is located at 608 Page Street just south of downtown. The Town of Cary acquired most of the cemetery in the 1960s and 1970s, making it the Town’s only active municipal cemetery.

Cary’s American Legion Post 67 hosts an annual Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony at Hillcrest Cemetery and The Friends of the Page Walker also promotes walking tours through the cemetery to better educate visitors about Cary’s history. You can learn more about Hillcrest Cemetery from the Friends by clicking here.

In partnership with the Town’s Spruce Program, the Town will also hold one clean-up day in the Cemetery on September 7 from 9 – 11 a.m.  Volunteers can perform light cleaning of headstones/markers and/or just help with a little landscaping maintenance. Sign-up will be available through the Town’s website here.

Spruce volunteers donate their time and energy to help keep Cary clean and green by working in our parks, streets, streams, and other public spaces. From trail maintenance to litter cleanups and many other projects in between, the Spruce Program supports our citizen’s efforts to have a direct positive impact on both the beauty and the environmental health of our community.

I look forward to seeing everyone at Hillcrest Cemetery on September 7th and thanks in advance for coming out to help. If you have any questions about the monument repair and/or the scheduled clean-up day, please shoot me an email at or contact the Town Clerk’s office at .

Saturday, May 11, 2019

2019 Cary Bond Referendum

This past Thursday the council and members of our town staff held our third quarter meeting at the SAS Global Education Center. These quarterly meetings are invaluable in that they foster a collaborative environment where the council and staff work collectively to better implement our community’s vision and keep Cary great.

While each quarterly meeting is important, I always consider the third quarter the most critical as it is at this meeting where we begin our annual budget deliberations – which we did. This year however was a bit different as we also spent a great deal of time discussing the upcoming 2019 Bond Referendum.

Yes, Cary voters will have the chance to decide on roughly a $225 million bond referendum this fall for numerous transportation and parks projects throughout town.

Notable bond referendum projects include:


Nearly $14 million in additional funding for street improvements beyond the FY2020 budget amount of $5.4 million. This will provide for asphalt patching, overlays and resurfacing of town maintained streets.

$5 million for new sidewalks. This is in addition to our annual appropriation of $1.75 million for sidewalk construction. These funds will help us to fulfill citizen requests for neighborhood sidewalks, complete gaps along major streets and provide for ADA upgrades and handicap ramps – not to mention it will further help us move closer to our goal of creating a more walkable and pedestrian friendly community and promote healthier living.

$4.8 million for the Cary Parkway sidewalk and bridge at the Black Creek Greenway. This project will complete the sidewalk gap from Evans Road to N. Harrison Ave. AND construct a pedestrian bridge over Black Creek Greenway next to the existing Cary Parkway bridge.

Pedestrian bridge will be constructed next to the existing bridge AND provide access to the greenway below

$28.7 million to widen Green Level Church Rd. from McCrimmon Parkway to Kit Creek Rd; Widen O’Kelly Chapel Rd. from Green Level Church Rd. to NC55; and widen Carpenter Fire Station Rd. from NC55 to the Cameron Pond neighborhood.

$5 million for intersection improvements at congested intersections – similar to the recent improvements made to the Cary Parkway and High House intersection.

$23 million for NCDOT Betterments. These include enhancements to and in concert with numerous NCDOT projects above and beyond what NCDOT would typically construct. Examples include two greenway tunnels under NC540; Pedestrian and bicycle facilities on bridges; median and sidewalk upgrades to Cary standards and improved landscaping/aesthetics.

$21 million for transportation improvements associated with the Fenton project at Cary Town Blvd, Trinity Rd. South, Quinard Drive and the I40 interchanges.

Parks and Recreation

$50 million for the complete design and construction of phase II of the Downtown Cary Park.

$4 million for playground upgrades at 10 parks to include Rose Street Park, Dunham Park and Godbold Park.

$2.2 million for historic preservation/renovation of town owned historic properties with an additional $1 million should philanthropic goals be met (what exactly that looks like yet we don’t know but is something we are working on)

$8.9 Million for the construction of Carpenter Fire Station Park

$6.1 million for McCrimmon Neighborhood Park

$2.2 million for complete tennis court replacements at Dunham Park and Annie Jones Park

$2 million in improvements to Sk8 Cary Park – this includes a roof structure so that the facility can be used year-round and ungraded lighting and ramps.

$10 million for construction and design of Tryon Road Park

$2 million for improvements to Veterans Freedom Park to include restroom facilities, additional parking and a memorial loop trail.

Veterans Freedom Park

$20 million for open space acquisition and land banking for future park sites.

So yeah, I know what y’all are thinking right about now – how much is this going to cost me? Well the good news is that as a AAA rated municipality, Cary has a long history of conservatively and successfully managing its finances and debt. As a result, the proposed 2019 bond program does NOT have any tax increase associated with it at this time. The town is currently able to absorb these additional costs due to the retirement of previously issued debt, a healthy fund balance and our ongoing efforts to manage operating costs.

With the lowest tax rate of any municipality in Wake County and beyond at 35 cents per $100 valuation, Cary continues to do more with less.

I wholeheartedly support the proposed bond referendum and I hope you do too.

I will follow up with a separate post about the FY2020 Budget soon as there is still work to be done there. Stay tuned!

Thanks so much to our amazing town staff and my council colleagues for all of their work on this. It is truly a privilege to work with such an amazing group of dedicated public servants. Thank you also to Cary citizens for your faith and trust in me to serve as your voice in town government. It is my honor to serve you. And special thanks also to SAS for hosting our meeting this past Thursday – we are so blessed to have you in our community!

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

Downtown LDO Amendment Worksession

Approved in 2001, the Town Center Area Plan (TCAP) was Cary’s vision and planning document for downtown redevelopment. Also approved at that time was the current zoning downtown.

TCAP Zoning Map

This vision was reaffirmed and further defined with the adoption of the Cary Community Plan – specifically the downtown special planning area chapter. The Cary Community Plan took nearly four years to create given the unprecedented amount of community input and scrutiny. It is our community’s long-range planning document created by Cary citizens for Cary citizens.

The vision for downtown Cary as defined in the Cary Community Plan is: Downtown Cary will be a vibrant, sustainable, historic, pedestrian oriented urban downtown, rich in charm and character. As the “heart and soul of Cary,” people will work, live, visit, recreate and shop in downtown. There will be an emphasis on office, residential, retail, entertainment, and civic development. Downtown will be supported by a multi‐modal transportation hub serving pedestrians, bicyclists, bus transit, train and motorists. Downtown Cary will be a community gathering place for surrounding neighborhoods, all of Cary, and the Triangle Region.

Thanks to targeted public investments, regulatory amendments, community support, Cary town staff AND a council who actually has the political will to act upon established plans and implement the vision, meaningful private investment is occurring downtown and there is a lot more on the way.

There are however, conflicts between that which the Cary Community Plan calls for and the zoning that was established with the TCAP that need to be addressed if we are to truly realize our community’s vision for downtown.
Building height is the primary issue. The community plan breaks downtown up into six sub-areas:

• East Chatham Gateway
• North Academy
• Central Chatham
• South Academy
• West Chatham Gateway
• Supporting Neighborhoods

In each of those sub-areas the recommended building height is defined by stories (number of floors). The zoning however - which is what can legally be constructed – does not speak to stories and instead defines height by feet.

The East Chatham Gateway sub-area for example recommends building heights at 5-6 stories but notes that buildings can go higher depending on context and suitability. A significant amount of property in this sub-area however is zoned MXD (Mixed Use) which caps building height at 45'. You simply can’t build a 5-6 story building and keep it under 45' tall.

At our recent council retreat we briefly discussed some potential Land Development Ordinance Amendments pertaining to building height - but we didn’t spend a lot of time on it as we were to have a more in depth worksession on the topic soon. I did however provide feedback that regardless of any changes proposed, I would not support increasing building height along South Academy St or the old library site when that redevelops to protect the character of the historic district and adjacent residences as best we can. Others who commented agreed.

That worksession was held this past Thursday.

The majority of the downtown core which includes the Central Chatham, North and South Academy sub-areas is zoned HMXD (High Density Mixed-Use). HMXD however has a range of building height limits depending on location. In the South Academy sub-area for example – which includes the downtown historic district - building height is capped at 65'. Areas of the North Academy and Central Chatham sub-areas however allow for 75-90 feet.

At the worksession it was proposed that we amend the HMXD zoning district to allow for 90 feet building heights throughout the district except within 100' of South Academy Street and Chatham Street between Harrison Ave and Walker Street.

Building setback requirements along South Academy were also proposed to be 30’-40’ in keeping with the existing street rhythm (this is great!) and a minimum building height of 35' was also recommended to eliminate one story new construction (current minimum is 20’)

Here are two images that illustrate allowable building heights today and what was proposed (sorry about the terrible image quality - I don't have the digital version of the images)

Existing height limits in the South Academy sub-area

Proposed height limits in the South Academy sub-area

While this proposal would limit building heights fronting Academy St to 65’, once that same building was 100’ away from the street the height could then increase (step up) to 90’. That could result in a 90' tall building directly adjacent to a single family/historic home. 

I was not pleased with the proposed zoning change to the South Academy sub-area. I found it insensitive to adjacent properties and the historic district and unnecessary. I believe 65’ is plenty tall enough – possibly even too tall along Academy St, Walker St and South Harrison Ave but there isn’t anything we can do about that. The zoning has been in place since 2001 and we can’t legally downzone someone’s property.

While we absolutely need to make some development ordinance amendments to align regulatory requirements with the vision laid out in community plan, that is not the case in the South Academy sub-area. HMXD with a height limit of 65’ meets if not exceeds the community plan recommendations.

From the South Academy Sub-Area Section of the Cary Community Plan: Along S. Harrison Ave., S. Academy St., Park St., and Dry St., building heights should complement and reinforce the historic built environment and small-town character, and will therefore be primarily 2 stories, except for landmark public and institutional buildings, such as the churches, Arts Center, and County Library. Buildings of 2-4 stories may be appropriate along Walnut and S. Walker Streets, in order to facilitate redevelopment, and since these areas are further away from the historic core of downtown. There will be cases where taller buildings can be accommodated, as long as designs are compatible with the predominant character of the street and adjacent and nearby properties, especially historic properties.

While I can appreciate the economic challenges the development community faces in regards to land acquisition and redevelopment costs, I haven't yet heard a compelling case made as to why we should allow 90’ tall buildings in the South Academy sub-area. If an applicant thinks that they can make a compelling case, then bring it to council for a request for modification and we’ll consider it. We consider modification requests all the time - but to allow it by right is concerning.

Our community invested nearly 4 years creating the Cary Community Plan. It’s a dang good plan. I think we should stick to it until a compelling case is made otherwise.

Based on worksession materials staff was to also propose amending the MXD zoning district to allow for 55’ for residential buildings and 65’ for mixed use buildings that would address the conflicts between the community plan and zoning like that in the Eastern Gateway example mentioned earlier - but we never got that far. We couldn’t get past South Academy. I have no problem owning that.

There will be a follow up worksession held soon. I look forward to it.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


Cary is one of the greatest communities to live in America. Yet after a heavy storm event, for some of our citizens, it’s all washed up.

Stormwater and flooding have caused problems for decades – especially in older areas of town developed before 2000 when Cary didn’t have many of the stormwater mitigation regulations and riparian buffer requirements that we have today. Some homes were literally constructed in a floodplain – a practice that is prohibited today. Aging and in some cases, inadequate infrastructure is also a concern.

Stormwater management is an incredibly complex topic. What might be required to address a problem upstream can have detrimental impacts to those downstream. A comprehensive and adaptive approach is required.

Earlier this year we created a stormwater working group comprised of impacted citizens, stormwater experts, engineers and town staff as part of a pilot program to model the impacts of stormwater using state of the art technology in the Walnut Creek Basin downtown. Assuming that our efforts are successful - and we have no intention of failing - it is our goal to implement this initiative town-wide.

The stormwater modeling provides a holistic look at how the area reacts during a storm event. This comprehensive model dynamically depicts current conditions, identifies potential issues and allows us to assess a variety of approaches to managing the floodplain. Potential “fixes” can be entered into the model allowing us to see if it actually fixed anything or not, and if it did, did it make it worse somewhere else? This will better help us focus town resources on actual solutions.

The pilot program also includes locating, verifying, and video documenting the condition of all stormwater pipes and culverts. There is approximately 10,000 feet of public storm drain pipes in the pilot area. To date, our Public Works department has completed maintenance on approximately 70% of them, with half of the pipes requiring cleaning. This information is then used to update our condition assessment tool and model to reflect actual conditions. These efforts are yielding results beyond just storm drain lines. They have also identified gaps in technology and processes that are being addressed, highlighting the importance of piloting these initiatives.

Vacuum truck the town uses to remove debris from pipes and culverts. It's like a giant shop-vac on wheels! 
But not all stormwater pipes are in the public domain. Many exist on private property. Some property owners may not even know that they exist if they have become inoperative or even buried over the years. In instances where we need access to private property, we have directed our town staff to work with property owners to gain a right of entry in order to perform a condition assessment for the purpose of resolving infrastructure impacts.

Buried pipe outlet that was causing flooding


Stormwater infrastructure is more than pipes and culverts. It also includes green infrastructure such as detention facilities, open space and channel improvements. The water feature in phase II of the downtown park for example will also serve as a stormwater device that will help to mitigate area flooding as well as serve as a visual amenity. All of this can be plugged into the model to test the level of benefit each provides. Going forward we will refine our policies and programs and further develop our open space acquisition criteria.

We have also directed our town staff to begin working on an ordinance amendment that will require new development to perform a stormwater impact analysis and model their project to the 100 year storm event. If the analysis shows any adverse impact, they will be required to mitigate it. Our current regulations require that development mitigates to the 10 year storm event. A 100 year storm event in Cary is roughly 7.5 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. The last time that happened here was July 2016 so we’re good for another 98 years right? Wrong. Just because it is called a 100 year storm doesn’t mean it only happens once every hundred years. This amendment will better ensure that new development does not exacerbate the problem, and in some instances might actually help to solve some of the problem(s).

These are some of the things that we are working on to help address the issue of flooding in our community. I am sure that as time goes on, and our modeling continues to improve that we will discover more. We remain committed to creating the most robust stormwater management program in the country.
Special thanks to our citizens and volunteers on the Stormwater Working Group. Your efforts are truly making a difference.

That's all for now and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

FY2019 Budget, Recycling and an update on the Downtown Park

The council and town staff held our third quarter meeting this past Thursday at the Matthews House in Downtown Cary. Our quarterly meetings are basically a mini council retreat where we reflect on noteworthy projects or initiatives over the last three months and discuss other important items while looking to the future.

Blogworthy discussion items included the budget, recycling and the downtown park.

We are still early on in the budget process and by “we” I mean the council. Town staff – especially those in finance – never really leave the budget process. As soon as one fiscal year’s budget is adopted they begin working on the next one. Who knew that collecting and spending $340 million was so complicated? 😉 Well, it is and we are blessed to have such talented folks working on it – even more so this year. This is the first year that our department directors; rather than simply submitting independent department requests to the Town Manager, worked collaboratively to identify the organization’s overall needs to submit a unified recommendation to our Town Manager. The result is a budget that more closely aligns the organization’s resources with our community’s priorities.

Proposed budget highlights include:

The addition of 12 new firefighters and a new ladder truck

$7.1 Million in street resurfacing

$1.75 Million in new sidewalks

$3.1 Million for Phase III of the Higgins Greenway

Master Plan Phase II of the downtown Park

$1.8 Million for Stormwater initiatives

$6.7 Million for Reedy Creek Road Widening


Proposed budget lowlights include:

Sanitation fees will increase $1 per month to help move the system closer to cost recovery

The Annual Vehicle License fee will increase $15.00 to help cover the costs of road improvements and sidewalks

Utility rates will increase 3% per household.

Recycling is becoming more expensive.

This was a very interesting part of the budget discussion. While Cary’s robust recycling program never came close to breaking even, historically we have been able to sell certain recyclables for about $10.00 a ton. Recent changes in the market however have resulted in us now paying $21.47 a ton to get rid of it. So what happened? Well nearly 40% of US recyclables are shipped to China. That is until China squashed that last year and announced that they would no longer be importing most recyclables. Supply and demand.

Cary delivers roughly 11,000 tons of recyclables to Sonoco Recycling in Raleigh each year. At $10 a ton that generated $110,000.00 in revenue. Paying nearly $22 to get rid of it equals a $220,000 expenditure – a $330,000.00 swing. That stinks, and I aint talking about the trash.

In the end however it is a values decision. Does our community support recycling enough to invest another $330K to keep doing it? Is diverting recyclables away from the landfill worth it? I believe so. In fact, according to Cary’s most recent biennial survey, 93.9% of Cary citizens support Cary’s recycling program - It’s the right thing to do.

Citizens can comment on the proposed budget at the Budget Public Hearing in Council Chambers on June 14th or via email at Citizens can also contact council members at

Downtown Park Update

The council voted 6-1 to hire the Office of James Burnett (OJB) as the downtown park phase II master plan design consultant.

I had previously blogged about the selection process and firms competing for the job here. All four firms are world class and there is no question that any one of them would do a wonderful job if selected. They didn’t get to where they are by being mediocre. After an extensive interview process however, the majority of our town staff and council believed OJB to be the best fit for Cary for a number of reasons.

What really resonated with me was their emphasis on programming, their understanding of the park as a driver for economic development and redevelopment and that Cary’s own Withers and Ravenel are their civil engineers.

While it took a little longer to get here than I had hoped, I am very pleased with the end result and look forward to the real work getting started and working with the community to develop a remarkable master plan for the park so we can start building it. Git r done!

Levy Park in Houston Texas is one example of OJB's work. Click on the link above to see more. Photo courtesy OJB.

That’s about it for now. As always thanks for reading and friend me on facebook or follow me on twitter for more town news and announcements.