Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week in Review 10/26/08 - 11/02/08

This was a very busy week.

On Monday town staff and myself met with residents from the Russell Hills subdivision near downtown to discuss proposed changes to the low density residential (LDR) zoning designation throughout the town center area. When the Town Center Area Plan was adopted, new zoning designations were implemented throughout downtown. Properties that were previously zoned R-12 changed to LDR. The biggest difference between R-12 and LDR is that the minimum lot sizes and property set-backs of LDR zoning are less than that of R-12. What happened in Russell Hills – a well established neighborhood with large lot sizes – was that builders began to buy homes in the neighborhood and then subdivided the existing lot to construct two homes where one once stood. This was significantly altering the character and charm of the existing neighborhood. To address the neighborhood’s concerns town staff has recommended increasing the minimum set-back restrictions of LDR zoning – effectively eliminating the possibility that any more lots may be subdivided as there are no lots large enough in Russell Hills that can be subdivided while meeting the new minimum set-back restrictions. The residents were pleased with the proposed changes, and staff will soon be bringing them forward for public hearing and council decision.

Council held a worksession on Tuesday to discuss issues/changes in regards to Koka Booth Amphitheater. The discussion mainly centered around excessive noise and it's effect on the adjoining neighborhood. After much discussion council agreed to change the manner in which we monitor sound levels from a ten minute average to a five minute average. I am not sure if this is the best approach - in my opinion we just need to increase the amount of the fine. If the fine is significant enough to where the bands will lose money if they exceed our noise limits, the bands won't exceed the limit. We'll give this a year and see how it goes I guess. I am however very pleased with the direction the amphitheater has been going over the last couple of years.

Wednesday morning I attended the Cary Senior Center Memorial Garden and Plaza Remembrance and the A. Marie Kappen Media Center Dedication. It was an honor to attend and learn more about A. Marie Kappen’s selflessness and dedication to our town. Everyone I met spoke very highly of her – I wish I had had the opportunity to know her.

Afterwards residents of the Silverton community, town staff, and myself met with representatives of Singh – the developer of a proposed commercial/office development at Winfair, Cary Parkway and Evans Road - to discuss resident’s concerns over the project. Previously Singh had proposed a mixed-use development at this location which would have required a rezoning and council approval. That proposal received significant neighborhood opposition resulting in the developer pulling the project. The developer has now brought forward a commercial project which conforms to the existing zoning, meets town ordinances, and requires only administrative approval - yet this project impacts the surrounding community much more so than the mixed use proposal would have. The town and myself continue to work with the developer towards addressing the neighborhood’s concerns, and staff and I have a follow up meeting with the developer this week to discuss the resident’s concerns further.

Thursday morning I had the pleasure of serving as a judge for the Red Ribbon “Paint the town drug free” art contest. I must confess that this was much more difficult than I imagined it would be because of the creativity and talent displayed in all of the entries. Regardless of who wins (I’m not the only judge so I don’t know), everyone who participated in this contest is a winner. If you happen to be near the Herb Young Community Center over the next week or so, stop by and check out the artwork for yourself – it’s really good!

Thursday afternoon council held a worksession before our council meeting to discuss the search process for our new town manager. After much discussion council decided to hire two separate firms to aid us in our search. The first specializes in national recruiting. They will conduct the national search for us and then make a first round cut of applicants. At that point the second firm who specializes in executive candidate evaluations will then take over and further analyze, interview, and conduct simulation exercises to widdle the number of applicants down to 6-8 or so. Council will then interview and evaluate the remaining candidates before making our final decision.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. The main topics of interest included public hearings for an annexation and rezoning for property owned by White Oak Baptist Church in Cary’s southwest area. After hearing from a number of concerned residents, council referred the rezoning request to our Planning and Zoning Board for review. Council also spent a good amount of time discussing a proposed comprehensive plan amendment to our South West Area Plan to include uses such as life care communities and nursing homes. Council ultimately denied the comprehensive plan amendment request. Council believed it best to not “blanket approve” some institutional uses in an area planned as rural and would prefer to judge each request on a case by case basis. Council also approved designating the Guess-White-Ogle House (the pink house on Academy St.) and the John Pullen Hunter house (also on Academy) as Cary historic landmarks.

The meeting I had requested between council, the public art advisory board, and staff to discuss the proposed art on the fly tower at Cary Elementary was held at noon on Friday. I am pleased to report that after a healthy discussion regarding the proposed art – as well as process – that council agreed to instruct the architect/design team to bring back a number of different options for council to consider along with the existing proposal. Regardless of which design is finally approved we will be making changes to the process in which public art projects – especially those of significance – move along in the process. It is a waste of time and resources to allow a project to move from concept to final design if council is just going to vote it down. I believe the manner and timing in which this meeting took place to be a good model to use going forward.

Friday evening Mayor Weinbrecht and I attended the Cary Band Day’s 50th Anniversary reception at Cary High School. Nearly every previous band director for the last 50 years was in attendance, as was former Cary Mayor Koka Booth. On Saturday morning the Mayor and I also attended the Cary Band Day Parade.

Afterwards council participated in a 3fer – the official dedication ceremonies for the name change of Kid’s Together Park to Marla Dorrel Park, the opening of the Hinshaw Greenway, and the artwork on the pedestrian bridge over US 1/64. All three dedications took place at Kid’s Toget….oops, I mean Marla Dorrel Park. ;-) A bagpipe band escorted everyone from the park to see the pedestrian bridge – this was really cool as I like bagpipes. ;-) Then finally on Saturday evening I attended Sophie’s Social – a benefit event for Heaven Sent Adoptions - at the Page Walker Hotel. Heaven Sent Adoptions is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of awarding grants to adoptive families to assist with adoption expenses.

That’s all for now – until next week, thanks for reading!