Saturday, July 26, 2008

Week in Review 7/20/08 - 7/26/08

Doesn’t it seem like summer just began? - yet here we are just a few days away from August. Time does fly when you’re having fun! ;-)

Monday I met with town manager Bill Coleman and key members of town staff to follow up on a citizen’s concerns I had spoke about in an earlier post regarding issues they are now experiencing as a result of the Maynard Road widening project. I am pleased to report that it appears that the majority of their concerns will soon be addressed. I swear our town staff continues to impress me more and more each day. They are an incredibly professional and dedicated group of individuals – it is really an honor to work with them.

Tuesday evening council had a worksession to discuss the land development ordinance (LDO) amendments proposed by our town staff. The bulk of these amendments dealt with proposed changes to the southwest area plan (SWAP). Council also discussed our long term vision for the area. Other amendments we discussed were building height restrictions in the cottage business district of the downtown area, and a few modifications to our town’s sign ordinance.

On Wednesday key members of town staff, the Heart of Cary Association, and council members Jennifer Robinson and I traveled to Clayton and Smithfield to visit with members of their downtown development associations and elected officials. The goal of this trip was two-fold; to learn more about how their downtown development associations and downtown merchants work together with their respective town’s government towards improving their downtown areas, and more specifically, how each town decided to structure that relationship. Clayton, for example hired a full time employee to serve as their downtown development director. Smithfield on the other hand preferred to fund a position within the downtown’s non-profit association – much like Cary does with our Economic Development Director and the Chamber of Commerce. Both scenarios have their advantages and disadvantages. Considering Cary may be looking to create a similar partnership with the Heart of Cary Association in the future, this was a very valuable trip.

Thursday evening….and Friday morning ;-) was our council meeting. It lasted until 12:50 am. That’s what happens when you don’t have a council meeting for a month. There were eight public hearings on our agenda alone. The main issues of discussion pertained to a proposed office development at Crossroads, a comprehensive plan amendment, a railroad crossing closure, and a proposed storage facility on Highway 55. Other issues of note were the consideration of a proposed mixed use sketch plan submitted by SAS, and a proposal to consider allowing Cary citizens to keep chickens in town limits.

Care to take a guess which topic generated the most media attention, phone calls and emails prior to our meeting? You guessed it – chickens. While I consider every issue that comes before council important, one of the biggest surprises to me since I have been on the council has been what topics motivate folks to contact us. $300 million budget? 5 emails, no phone calls. Chickens? 10-15 emails, 20 phone calls, customers asking about it at work and so on. Heck, I even received a message on my Facebook page about it.

Feedback was mixed - about 50/50 honestly. While I voted against the proposal for a number of reasons such as smells, noise, and the potential for disease and predators, my biggest concern was how would the town police this program? While the majority of Cary citizens would surely follow whatever guidelines the town set up, there would be those who abuse it. Would the town have to hire more zoning enforcement officers to enforce regulations? Would folks have to agree to have their property searched if someone complained? Years ago the town imposed a limit on the amount of dogs and cats folks could keep. We couldn’t enforce that ordinance so we scrapped it. While most folks just wanted chickens for the eggs, what about those who want chicken for dinner? Would they be slaughtered in the backyard?

I honestly see no cost savings to a citizen by allowing them to keep chickens either (fresher eggs yes). By the time you pay for materials and build a chicken coup, buy chicken feed, and pay any administrative costs/permits/fees to the town, how long would it take to recoup that money saving a buck or so on a dozen eggs? I don’t buy the gas savings/environmental argument either - I know of no one that goes to the grocery store solely for a dozen eggs. For those who want farm fresh eggs I would recommend the Cary Farmer’s Market in the train depot parking lot in downtown.

Friday I met with Morrisville Town Council member Tom Murray (it was his turn to buy lunch, and I have never been known to turn down a free burger.) ;-) Tom and I try to get together every couple of months or so to discuss the issues we are facing in our respective towns, and what each of us working on to address them.

Many of the problems facing our towns are a regional problem – rapid growth, water, schools, and traffic to name a few. These problems are in no way unique to Cary or Morrisville. Regional cooperation and fostering relationships with leaders in our neighboring municipalities is critical to better addressing these issues - and sometimes there is just no better way to do that than over a burger and fries. ;-)

Well, that’s about it for this week. Tonight my wife Lisa and I are headed out to celebrate her 29th birthday….again ;-) ;-) and hopefully tomorrow I’ll get to watch some of the Brickyard 400. Thanks for reading!