Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week in Review 8/18/08-8/23/08

Before I begin this week in review I want to take a minute to thank all of you who continue to visit my blog each week to learn more about what it is I actually do as a member of the Cary Town Council. It is very important to me that I communicate with you as much as I can. You deserve to know where I stand on the issues, what initiatives I am working on, and why I ultimately voted the way I did. Now I’m no wordsmith by any means – and writing this journal actually takes more time than you might imagine. But when I see visitor traffic steadily increase with each passing week, it lets me know you value communication as much as I do, and that my time on this journal is time well spent.

On Monday evening I met with residents in the Wicklow and Wrenn Drive neighborhoods regarding issues of crime, rental decay, and other nuisances in their community I spoke of in an earlier post. About 25 residents were in attendance as well as two of Cary’s finest to speak on behalf of the Cary Police Department. Clearly the majority of problems stem from a certain apartment complex or two, and existing housing that has, over the years become increasingly rental. I have had it with deadbeat landlords that care about nothing more than collecting their rent checks each month. It will take all stakeholders – including the apartment complex owners - working together to address these issues. As a member of the council, I am committed to doing my part to ensure the town does everything we possibly can to help.

While Cary PD is and has been doing a lot to address the resident’s concerns, I believe many of the issues can be corrected through zoning and code enforcement. It is long past time Cary gets tough on deadbeat landlords who have allowed their property to decay to the point where adjoining homeowners are seeing their property values decrease as a result of what’s next door. I have asked council to consider an ordinance that would prohibit residents from parking their vehicles in their yards for any length of time (washing the car is one thing – overnight parking is another). This ordinance, should it pass, will at least begin to address problems we are seeing at rental houses which appear to be used for nothing more than “human storage”, and whose tenants do not care about the health and quality of life in the community they live in. This will come before council at our September 11 meeting. It may not sound like much, but it’s a start.

On Tuesday and Wednesday Council member Jennifer Robinson, members of our town staff, the Heart of Cary Association, Cary Chamber and myself traveled to Salisbury NC and Greenville SC to visit with and learn from members of their respective town’s Economic Development Departments, Downtown Development Associations, and elected officials regarding their efforts to spur economic activity and reinvestment in their downtowns. Now I have taken a lot of visits to numerous downtowns over the years, but I have to say this was hands down the most educationally valuable downtown trip I have ever been on. We spent a significant amount of time speaking to folks who have spent years working to revitalize their downtowns, and we brought back a host of ideas that may work for us here in Cary.

On Thursday I met with the representative of the proposed Walnut Place development so that I may better understand the project before it comes to council. The property is currently zoned high density residential and they are proposing a retail/office development so there are a few issues we need to work through.

Thursday evening was our planning and development committee meeting and there were two topics of discussion. One pertained to issues the Russell Hills neighborhood is experiencing regarding the subdivision and redevelopment of residential lots, and the other was the proposed artwork which would replace the old water tower near Cary Elementary which will be decommissioned soon. I was very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. P+D directed staff to immediately pursue amending the current TCAP-LDR zoning designation in the Russell Hills subdivision to help better protect the character and charm of the neighborhood. We also sent the proposed art tower to council for discussion with a recommendation to deny. The majority of the P+D committee believed the art tower to be out of character with the downtown community.

Friday council had a breakfast meeting to discuss the qualifications and qualities we want in our next town manager. This was a productive meeting and I believe we created a good framework from which to select Cary’s next chief executive. Council will discuss how to proceed from here this coming Thursday.

Friday evening I met with citizens regarding their concerns over a proposed water supply line that – if approved as-is - will be placed on their property. I will meet with town staff next week to discuss further.

Saturday was Cary’s 32nd annual Lazy Daze festival in downtown. This was a lot of fun, and I think that for the first time in the event’s history the temperature was less than 95 degrees! The town’s festival committee members and cultural arts department did an incredible job coordinating and planning the event. It’s no wonder Lazy Daze is one of the premier arts and crafts festival in the nation.

Well that’s about it for this week. Next week’s schedule is already packed and on Saturday I leave for the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis – St. Paul. It is my hope to give daily blog updates from the convention. We’ll see how it goes. ;-)