Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 - December

With the holidays, the last couple of weeks have been relatively light in regards to council responsibilities while heavy on the fun and festivities! The only downside is that with so many holiday events, you just can’t make them all. Highlights for me were the Heart of Cary Association’s Ole Time Winter Festival, the town’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Cary Jaycees Christmas Parade. Congratulations and Thank You to all the volunteers and town employees who worked so hard to make all of these events a huge success! And thanks to the man upstairs for the great weather!

And while we’ve had a lot of fun, we did have some work to do.

Notable items from our December council meeting included the swearing in ceremonies for newly elected council members, a number of public hearings and annexations, specific council initiated requests and ordinance amendments pertaining to telecommunications towers.

The meeting began with the swearing in ceremonies for Mayor Weinbrecht and Council Members Adcock, Bush and I. After we were sworn into office, the first order of business was to elect a Mayor Pro-Tem. Congratulations to Cary’s new Mayor Pro-Tem Gale Adcock! I am confident she will be a great ambassador and represent Cary's interests well.

Following the election of Mayor Pro-Tem, Mayor Weinbrecht announced the new committee assignments for council members. The list is long and boring so I will let the Mayor post it on his blog. ;-) I will say that I (finally) get to Chair the Planning and Development Committee and I remain the liaison for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources (PRCR) advisory board and the Town Center Review Commission (TCRC).

Notable public hearings included:

C-Tran fare increases and changes. Changes include the elimination of free transfers – this is consistent with both CAT and DATA, modifying the current bus pass structure, and allows for seniors and children to now ride fixed route for free, but remember, ID is required (just not to vote). You can view a complete list of changes here. The council unanimously approved the amendments.

Land Development Ordinance Amendments regarding telecommunications towers (cell towers). Proposed amendments provide incentives to telecommunications providers to utilize stealth technology – hopefully resulting in fewer ugly cell towers throughout Cary. The incentive is basically an administrative review and approval process vs. the current costly, time consuming council approval process. If a proposed cell tower is NOT of stealth design, it must still come through the council…and considering previous council decisions…well…good luck with that. The proposed amendments now go to our Planning and Zoning Board for review.

Site Plan for the old Austin Foods site in Downtown (at the E. Durham Road/E. Chatham Street Intersection) Basically the applicant wants to take an old, ugly, environmentally contaminated site and make improvements that will not only allow for re-use of the existing structures and improve aesthetics downtown, but also better protects our environment and reduce stormwater runoff. The council unanimously approved the request.

Council initiated requests included:

• A request from Councilmember Adcock and Mayor Weinbrecht to direct staff to investigate and report back to council the pros and cons of amending our ordinances to restrict or eliminate the tethering of dogs in Cary. This request passed unanimously.

• A request from Mayor Weinbrecht and I to direct staff to investigate the pros and cons of implementing a trap, neuter and release (TNR) program in Cary to reduce the number of feral cats in Cary. This request also passed unanimously.

• A request from Council member Bush and Mayor Weinbrecht to direct staff to investigate suggested actions the town may take in regards to hydraulic fracturing (AKA fracking) in town limits or Cary’s extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). This request passed 5-2. Both I and Councilman Smith voted “no”.

I opposed the request because:

• Fracking is currently illegal in NC – what problem are we trying to solve?

• I would prefer to work on real issues facing Cary today and not waste time and resources making a political statement.

• Would a ban on fracking in Cary – the intent of this request – even address our concerns?

From the discussion at our meeting it is obvious that no one has a clear understanding of what fracking really is, or what the impacts to our community may or may not be; and given the amount of media sensationalism and special interest spin on both sides of this topic, I don’t know that we could ever get the truth.

But the reality is that even if state law is changed to allow fracking, it’s probably not going to occur in Cary (zoning, property values etc..), so trying to ban it really doesn’t do anything to address any concerns we might have. If anything we should be more concerned with what might occur in neighboring jurisdictions – especially those near Jordan Lake – our water source.

If the state legislature is going to allow fracking in NC, then it makes more sense that we work with our law makers to ensure that whatever legislation is passed provides for the highest environmental protections, best management practices and transparency as possible so that regardless of where any drilling/fracking occurs, all of NC is protected.

We cannot ignore the potential economic impact of drilling in North Carolina, nor can we ignore the potential environmental impacts. Fracking has worked well for many communities across America while others have concerns. Let’s learn from the success and failure of others and see if we can find something that works for us.

Following our council meeting we held a closed session to discuss a number of legal matters, none of which I can tell you about. Confidential, sorry.

Our December Planning and Development Committee meeting lasted a whopping three minutes. We had only one agenda item for discussion that was a no-brainer. I also met with Town Manager, Ben Shivar to discuss a few items.

That’s about it for this post. I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season and have a Happy and Safe New Year!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week(s) in Review - 11/14/2011 - 11/25/2011

Sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks – the Thanksgiving Holiday, family obligations, work and the hot-rod (not necessarily in that order ;-) have taken priority over blogging. I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Highlights from the last couple of weeks include:

A number of area elected officials and I attended a town hall session in Morrisville hosted by NC Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis. We discussed a number of issues including transportation funding options, healthcare costs and increasing competition in the marketplace, reducing unreasonable regulations on business and other accomplishments from this year’s legislative session.

Afterwards I high-tailed it over to Cary Town Hall to tape the December edition of CaryMatters with Mayor Weinbrecht. This went well considering that both the Mayor and I had been recuperating from bad colds and our voices weren’t 100%. Topics included cell phone towers, golf carts on public roads and leaf collection. Check it out on Cary TV channel 11 starting December 1st.

Following the taping session the Mayor and I met with a number of folks interested in implementing a trap, neuter and release (TNR) ordinance for feral cats in Cary. The gist of what they are seeking is to require that Cary Animal Control Officers – when responding to a cat complaint – offer the citizen 2 options. 1) the officer can trap the cat and take it to the shelter where it will most likely not be adopted and killed (BAD), or 2) they can call a number of area providers that will trap the cat, have it neutered and give it all of its shots and return it to where it was captured – at no cost to the citizen (GOOD). Needless to say their request makes a lot of sense and the Mayor and I have included this item for discussion on our December meeting agenda.

Prior to our November 17 council meeting we hosted a reception for this year’s Hometown Spirit Award nominees. This was a lot of fun and I was blown away listening to each nominee’s accomplishments and records of community activism. All four finalists were truly deserving of being named this year’s award winner – but in the end their can only be one. Congratulations to Cary’s 2011 Hometown Spirit Award Winner, Keith Bliss.

Council meeting highlights included recognition of Ms. Jessica Elliott of Gladys, Virginia for her heroic efforts to provide emergency medical assistance to Cary Officer Chad Penland after his motorcycle accident on July 15, 2011 (not a dry eye in the room); 2 quasi-judicial public hearings for a storage unit and auto care facility; and a public hearing on proposed land development ordinance (LDO) amendments.

Notable LDO amendments proposed include the reduction or elimination of parking requirements, streetscape and road improvements and sign regulations in downtown. Reducing these over-burdensome regulations will further help incent new businesses looking to locate downtown, and allow existing businesses the ability to further grow their business without penalty. The amendments now go to the Planning and Zoning Board for review before coming back to council for decision.

Council also held a worksession on November 15 to discuss Cary’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and Transportation Development Fee (TDF) requirements and to receive an update on downtown initiatives.

The APF/TDF part of the worksession was painful to say the least. The council had expressed concerns that our ordinance was inequitable (it sometimes punished the last guy in because previous developers used up all the allowable vehicle trips), created gaps in our road network (wide road/skinny road) and that it is over-complicated (it is). About a year ago we directed staff to investigate and report back to council with options on how we can modify our APF and TDF ordinances to make them more equitable and easy to understand (at least that’s how I remember it). That’s not what we got.

What we got was a liberal mass-transit loving consultant from Maryland whose top suggestions included raising fees on developers and existing citizens, and even mobility fees/taxes. He offered very little – if anything – about how to address our concerns of complexity and inequity, and seemed more interested on increasing revenues – especially to pay for mass transit, which the council NEVER even mentioned as a reason to review our ordinance in the first place. We also learned that the citizen input part of this process only included input from 3 citizens. This is unacceptable (note – the next morning I sent a list of over 30 citizens for staff to contact for another citizen input meeting. Other councilors did the same)

I want a simple and fair system that folks can understand and addresses our concerns; one that says, “If you build X, you must also build or fund Y to offset your impact on Cary’s road network”. That’s it.

Thankfully the downtown portion of the worksession was more positive. The council discussed a number of options for the development of the new Downtown Cary Theater before unanimously deciding to construct a three story addition to the theater to provide additional classroom, storage and meeting space as well as leasable business/office space. The town will also be making water/sewer and stormwater infrastructure improvements in the area along with streetscape enhancements. Oh – and those downtown LDO amendments I spoke about earlier? Once approved, the theater can utilize neon lighting both in the architecture and marquis sign! Neon in Cary?!?! Woo Hoo!

We received even more good news this past week with the announcement that the town has closed on a few more properties in downtown – including the building adjacent to the downtown theater (used to be the old Mitchell’s Pharmacy and most recently the India Bazaar) and a large L shaped property that fronts both Academy and Chatham St (formerly owned by the Suggs family). The old pharmacy will be updated and leased/sold to a private retailer, and we are pursuing a public/private redevelopment opportunity with the other. Great things are happening in downtown Cary!

And last but certainly not least, the hot-rod should be back from the body shop soon. ;-)
Well that’s it for now – as always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week in Review - 10/24/11 - 10/29/11

This past Tuesday I served as a judge for the 2011 Red Ribbon Poster Contest. This was no easy task as this year’s entries were probably some of the best I have seen in the four years I have been judging this event. The theme this year was “Peace out to Drugs”. While some posters were funny and colorful with hippies and VW buses, others were more hard hitting and spoke to the negative effects of drugs on one’s family and life. If you happen to be near town hall, stop by and check them out – good stuff.

Council held a worksession Tuesday evening to receive an update on Cary’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources master planning process and to discuss the upcoming council retreat.

The information gathering phase of the master planning process is now complete and included a very comprehensive public input process to include a mail in survey, an online survey, focus groups, community meetings and meetings between boards and commissions. These findings were presented to council for review and discussion.

While much of the presentation wasn’t anything we hadn’t already heard before, a few things did stand out to me. Past surveys had indicated a lack of cultural facilities space, but this survey didn’t. It appears that the new Cary Arts Center is filling this need as intended. Folks are also looking for more festivals and special events – especially in the downtown area.

Which leads to a meeting I had on Wednesday with staff and a few car buffs to discuss the Town of Cary’s first ever Classic/Custom Car Show!!!! That’s right folks; Cary will be hosting a car show near the end of March 2012 in downtown Cary. How cool is that??? If you know someone with a classic or custom car or motorcycle that might want to participate, send them our way. More information will be coming soon once we get farther along in the planning process.

Our council meeting on Thursday was relatively light with only one public hearing regarding a rezoning on Old Apex Road near Laura Duncan. The applicant was requesting a change from commercial to townhomes. Two citizens spoke at the hearing to voice their concerns over stormwater runoff. After a healthy discussion regarding stormwater management and development standards the council unanimously approved the request.

Town Manager, Ben Shivar also presented an operational update to include a financial report. The bottom line from the financial report is that a number of funds are doing better than budgeted, and at this time, we are projected to end FY2011 with about a $4 million surplus.

Friday evening Lisa and I attended the 53rd annual Cary Band Day reception at Cary High School. Council member Gale Adcock and former Cary Mayor Koka Booth also attended. This is always a wonderful time as decades of CHS alumni and supporters come together to celebrate and reminisce. Congratulations to all the volunteers – especially Cary Band Day Chair Sandra Williams – for all their efforts towards making Cary Band Day a huge success. If only they could control the weather…

Unfortunately this year’s Cary Band Day Parade had to be cancelled due to rain, but the Band Day Competition did go on as planned.

Well that’s about all for this week. Have a Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week in Review - 10/17/11 - 10/22/11

After last week’s elections - and all the craziness associated with that – it was nice to see things return to normal; or as normal as life was for me anyways. I worked to get caught up on a number of things that were put on hold until after the election was over, and I spent a lot of time with Lisa and the family. We even had three home cooked meals in a row! Woo Hoo! ;-)

I cannot thank Lisa and the kids enough for all their love and support, and for the sacrifices they make so that I can serve you on the council. Lisa is my inspiration and motivation in life, and I am so blessed to have her by my side.

Our council meeting last Thursday was fairly light with only a couple of discussion items; a quasi-judicial hearing for the Sri Venkateswara Temple located on Chapel Hill Road, and proposed improvements to Wake Med Soccer Park.

The folks at the temple acquired one of the homes along Chapel Hill Road with the intent of using it for additional classroom space. Institutional uses such as churches are permitted in residential zoning districts with a special use permit, and therefore are required to come before council for approval. After conducting the required hearing the council unanimously approved the request.

The proposed improvements to Wake Med Soccer park, for the most part, were pretty straight forward and weren’t anything we hadn’t already seen before. They include new locker rooms, seating, parking and concessions. While Cary would be fronting the money for these improvements up front, the town will be reimbursed by Wake County over time via the hotel/meals tax revenue. What did however generate concern among some council members – myself included – was the proposed Trinity Road extension to the park from Cary Town Blvd. Staff was requesting $250,000 to design the road and associated stream crossing. To actually build the road however would cost an additional $1.3 million.

The council unanimously approved the soccer park improvements, but we split 5-2 regarding the road design funding. Council member Robinson and myself voted against the design over concerns that given current economic conditions, we may not have $1.3 million to build the road when the time comes; and if it turns out we did have the money, is this road project a higher priority that other needed transportation improvements throughout Cary? While I hope we will be able to meet our obligations three years from now, I need more assurance than hope before I will vote for something. I don’t vote for hope. That’s somebody else. ;-)

Gary Roth from Capital Area Preservation “officially” presented Cary with the Anthemion Award for our work on The Cary Arts Center. I look forward to receiving more Anthemion Awards from CAP once we complete work on the downtown Cary Theater….and the Jones-Foy House….and….

My wife Lisa and I had the honor and privilege of attending the Occoneechee Council Boy Scouts of America Dinner honoring Ralph and Daphne Ashworth for their lifelong commitment to our community and the Boy Scouts. This was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed all the stories from the Ashworth family and friends. Cary truly is a better place because of the Ashworths.

Our Planning and Development Committee meeting consisted of three discussion items;

• Transportation improvement waivers, Highcroft Village

• A transportation improvement waiver for the Barber property along Piney Plains Rd.

• Modifications to the town’s Housing Rehab Program

You can review all of the staff reports for these items here, here and here.

Highcroft Village was requesting a waiver for a right-turn lane, and instead offered a payment in lieu equal to twice the amount of constructing the turn lane, and they were also seeking to partner with the town in the funding of a stream crossing for the construction of Morrisville Parkway to Hwy. 55. The connection of Morrisville Parkway to Hwy. 55 is critical for Cary citizens in West Cary and this partnership with the developer will allow this project to be completed sooner than later, and at a lower cost to Cary taxpayers!

The Barber property is a 1700 sq. ft. home that is proposed to be used as a small office. They were requesting a waiver of required road improvements along Piney Plains Road, but would dedicate the necessary right-of-way. This office use might generate a dozen or so vehicle trips a day – to require them to widen 135 feet of Piney Plains Road makes little sense, and would prevent the re-use of and improvements to this site. The town can require road improvements if and when this property ever redevelops.

Modifications to the town’s Housing Rehabilitation Program include a deferred loan for income eligible applicants and seniors and an amortized low interest loan. Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds will be used and all applicants must meet Federal HUD requirements. We are working hard to better focus available resources towards improving existing affordable housing instead of just trying to build more of it. Cary already has a great supply of affordable homes – especially inside the Maynard Loop – that with a little TLC would make great homes for new families or folks on fixed incomes.

All three items were unanimously approved by the committee (Mayor Weinbrecht, Council Member Adcock and I).

Afterwards I met Lisa and Liz for a few hours of fun at the North Carolina State Fair. They had a hard time dragging me away from the food – YUM!!!!!

On Saturday Mayor Weinbrecht and I attended the 11th annual Cary Diwali Festival at Koka Booth Amphitheater. Diwali is the Indian festival of lights and celebrates the victory of good over evil. It was my honor to address the crowd and present the proclamation from the Town of Cary designating October 22nd as the 11th Annual Cary Diwali Celebration. This event is always a lot of fun and I look forward to it every year. If you have never attended Diwali you must check it out. Congratulations to Hum Sub, the Town of Cary and all the volunteers who worked so hard to make this event a huge success.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me at don.frantz@townofcary.org .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Downtown Cary Theater Renovations to begin next week!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2011

Cary Downtown Theater Begins Extreme Makeover

CARY, NC – As part of its renovation project, contractors working on behalf of the Town of Cary will deconstruct the fa├žade of its downtown theater located at 122 E. Chatham Street. The removal is set to begin October 24, weather permitting, and finish in November; while no traffic implications are expected, pedestrians in the area will be detoured and are asked to use the alternative sidewalk routes. Reconstruction of the building is anticipated to begin this spring.

“The transformation of Cary’s downtown as a viable entertainment district is a major priority for the Town, and the renovation of the downtown theater is an important step in achieving this,” said Eric Simpson, Engineer. “Thanks to the cooperation and preparedness of our construction partners, we are pleased to be working on schedule and still on task for a winter 2012 completion.”

Cary purchased the property at 122 E. Chatham Street over the summer with the intension of renovating and repurposing it as an intimate cultural venue perfect for movies, music, comedy, and theater on the smaller side. While the 65 year-old building was the former site of the Town’s first indoor movie theater, it has also operated as a clothing store, auto parts store and recording studio.

To follow the renovation, search “Downtown Theater” at http://www.townofcary.org/ or call (919) 380-4204; for more information on Cary’s plan for downtown, search “Downtown Development” at http://www.townofcary.org/ or call (919) 462-3870.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Forbes Names Cary NC one of the Top 25 Retirement Communities

Forbes Magazine has named Cary one of the top retirement communities in the Nation!

But we already knew that.

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eeik45egge/cary-north-carolina

Thank You Cary Voters!

Thank you Cary voters for your faith and trust in me to continue to serve as your District B Representative on the Cary Town Council! This victory wouldn’t have been possible without your support and encouragement; especially that of my amazing wife, Lisa and family.

It has truly been my honor and privilege to serve as your voice in town government.

Four years ago you elected me to give citizens a greater voice in your government. You sought leadership that was in touch with our community and better understood our concerns. You wanted representation that was swift, courteous and most importantly, effective.

You were concerned Cary was growing too fast and that your quality of life was declining; that Cary was losing sight of some of the things that made our town such a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. You were worried about the town’s finances and increasing debt, and the council’s lack of focus in Cary’s older communities.

Despite these challenges, together we have worked to address a number of community concerns. We have made great progress in Cary over the last four years, but we still have work to do.

During my second term I pledge to continue to work to make growth a benefit to our community, not a burden; to balance the rights of folks to develop their property while protecting the rights of communities from the negative effects of development. Great things happen when all stakeholders are involved in the process. Under my leadership Cary has managed a sustainable growth rate of 3-4%.

I promise to continue to practice fiscal restraint and budget responsibly; to make Cary a friendlier place to do business; and I will continue to fight to ensure that all areas of Cary receive their fair share of town investments.

Most importantly, I will continue to listen. My door is always open. If I can be of any assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can reach me at don.frantz@townofcary.org or 919-612-6870.

Thanks again for your support and I look forward to continuing to serve you as your District B Cary Town Councilman. Together we are making a difference!

In your service,

Don Frantz
Cary Town Council
District B

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Week in Review - 9/12/11 - 9/17/11

What a busy but great week!

Monday began with a meeting with our Town Manager, Ben Shivar. We discussed a number of topics including a recently discovered leak at major water supply line near Highway 55 and Jenks Road. Crews have taken this supply line out of service and are re-routing water through another line while repairs are made. You can read the full press release from the town here. Repairs should be complete mid-October.

Afterwards I attended Cary’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory board meeting. We heard a wonderful presentation from the folks out at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market in Cary about their desire to locate in the future A. M. Howard Agricultural Park. I really like the concept and this is a good time to be having this discussion since we are currently updating the town’s master plan.

The WWFM not only provides citizens access to quality, locally grown produce – they also conduct a wide array of demonstrations to better educate folks about healthier living. Unfortunately the market loses their lease at their current location next year, so I hope we can work something out sooner than later.

Council held a worksession on Tuesday evening to discuss whether or not to begin charging multifamily development (apartments and condos) impact fees to pay for parks like we do for single family development.

This is an equity issue. You can’t charge one group of residents without charging the other.

The council unanimously voted to begin charging multi-family development the fees.

Wednesday was the Cary Community Candidates Forum taping at town hall. This was a lot of fun. The District B tapings (my race) was first and I stayed to watch the other three. You can catch all of the forums on Cary TV Channel 11 every day from now until the election, or you can watch them online here. I encourage everyone to watch and judge for yourselves who is best prepared to lead Cary forward for the next four years. I already know who I’m voting for. ;-)

Cary’s Planning and Development Committee meeting was relatively light with only two agenda items; amending the Town’s sign ordinance to further prohibit the placement of signs in the town right of way, and consideration of whether or not to waive the one year waiting period for a rezoning near the Waycroft subdivision in North West Cary.

Cary already prohibits the placement of signage in right-of-ways on roads located in and maintained by the town. The state however passed legislation a couple of months ago allowing political signage on state right-of-ways. In Cary that would be roads like Highways 54 and 55, and portions of Kildaire Farm and Maynard Road. This ordinance amendment clarifies that Cary is still allowed enforce its regulations on roads in and maintained by Cary. It passed unanimously.

After hearing from a number of concerned citizens in the Waycroft subdivision regarding the proposed Carpenter rezoning, we unanimously recommended denial of the applicants request for waiver and encouraged them to continue to work to better address resident’s concerns, and come back when more progress had been made.

Friday I had the privilege of participating in the Cary High School Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. This is always so much fun and I enjoy watching the emotions of the award recipients and their families – and listening to all their stories. One of this year’s inductees, Gary Nobles called it “one of the five greatest days of his life.” I believe it. Cary High School is such a big part of so many people’s lives and for many, a second family. Once an IMP, always an IMP. Congratulations to all the inductees for your recognition and for your accomplishments both on and off the field.

The only thing that could have made the day any better was a win over the Bengals. Unfortunately Cary lost 19-8.

That's about it for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Week in Review and Hurricane Irene

You know life is busy when the nice lady at the Wendy’s drive-thru says, “good to see you again, Don”.

With work, my council responsibilities and a reelection campaign to run, I haven’t had dinner with the family in a week. I can’t thank Lisa and the kids enough for their unwavering support.

Council held a worksession on Tuesday to review and discuss a number of items to include:

• The Western Wake Water Reclamation Facility (WWWRF)

• Aerating a section of Jordan Lake to improve water quality

• Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance Amendments

• Board and Commission Appointments.

Cary has secured all necessary permits and construction will begin on the WWWRF on September 1st. Construction is expected to take three years to complete.

Council also discussed the concept of aerating a portion of Jordan Lake to better improve water quality near Cary’s water intake. The theory is that by improving water quality BEFORE the water goes into the treatment plant, we will reduce the amount of energy and chemical treatment required to treat the water; thus saving Cary water customers money while at the same time improving the environment in and around Jordan Lake. Council approved the concept, but asked for a cost/benefit analysis prior to moving forward.

The council also reviewed proposed amendments to Cary’s telecommunications ordinance that will better incent stealth tower design and installation. This includes reduced set-back and buffer requirements for stealth facilities. The goal is to make it easier and more cost effective to obtain approval for stealth towers than it will be to go through the process for non-stealth towers. Cell companies aren’t stupid (the folks in customer support are a different story, but I digress…). They will choose the past of least resistance that still meets their needs.

I am optimistic these amendments will not only improve the visual landscape in Cary, but will also help cell providers better meet their customer’s needs.

Board and commission appointments were pretty straight forward with no surprises. I serve as the liaison to the Town Center Review Commission (TCRC) and the Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board (PRCR). PRCR Chair, Denny Hoadley and I interviewed a few candidates prior to making our recommendations.

Our council meeting was pretty uneventful with the only notable topics being a public hearing for proposed Land Development Ordinance (LDO) Amendments, Thomas Brooks Park Site Plan Revisions, and a request by councilmember Robison to direct staff to investigate the possibility of working with Wake County and Apex to complete the missing segment of the White Oak Greenway.

I also met with a number of land owners in west Cary to discuss an upcoming rezoning and hear their concerns and suggestions. I am optimistic a compromise can be reached that all parties can be satisfied with.

It’s that time again! Cary Council campaigns are heating up and my reelection campaign is full speed ahead! I attended a number of political events and meet-n-greets over the last two weeks to hear from folks in the community; and to talk about my work on the council and my vision for Cary over the next four years. It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve you on the council and I hope that through my efforts, I have earned your trust and support for a second term. We’ve made a lot of progress over the last four years, but we still have work to do.

For the safety of our citizens, vendors and artists, Cary decided to cancel this year’s Lazy Daze Festival due to Hurricane Irene. It is the first time the event has been cancelled in its 35 year history. While unfortunate, we cannot take chances when the safety of our citizens is at stake.

The town has spent the last week preparing for Hurricane Irene by cleaning culverts, clearing vegetation away from power lines, test running generators and equipment, and making sure we have shelters ready for those in need. Should you experience a non-life threatening emergency, please do not call 911, and instead call the Cary Police non-emergency line at 919-469-4090. Let’s keep 911 available for those who need immediate assistance.

Be smart and stay safe. Possessions can be replaced – your life cannot.

Lazy Daze Cancelled Due To Hurricane Irene

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2011

For the Safety of Everyone Involved, Cary Cancels Saturday's Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival

Event will not be rescheduled for later this year

CARY, NC – After consulting with local, state, and federal forecasters and emergency management officials, the Town of Cary has cancelled Saturday’s Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival because of the significant potential for unsafe conditions due to high winds from Hurricane Irene. This is the first time the event has been canceled in what would have been its 35-year history.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our artists, entertainers, guests, volunteers, and workers,” said Town of Cary Festivals Coordinator Joy Ennis, who recalled the August 13th weather-related collapse at the Indiana State Fair that killed seven an injured 40 people. “For over three decades, we’ve built a reputation for providing one of the most wonderful festival experiences in the nation, and with our not being able to meet that standard this year, we’re really left with no other choice but to wait until Lazy Daze 2012.”

Ennis pointed out that, for several reasons, the festival could not be postponed to Sunday or moved to another date entirely. “First, we set up the festival one day before, so with the Hurricane’s effects being here on Saturday, there would be no way to prepare for a Sunday festival. And, if we do sustain damage in Cary, we’ll know that on Sunday, and our first priority will have to be to help our community recover from the storm. As for picking another day later this fall, most of our artists, venders, and entertainers are already committed to other events, so we wouldn’t be able to get them here on what for them would be such late notice.”

Next year’s Lazy Daze is scheduled for Saturday, August 25, 2012. But if you can’t wait for good art until then, mark your calendars now for Cary’s Annual Spring Daze Arts & Crafts Festival, which will be held on April 28, 2012.

For information about Cary’s arts festivals, search “Festivals” at http://www.townofcary.org/.

###

PRIMARY CONTACTS:

Joy Ennis, Festivals Coordinator, (919) 462-3864

Lyman Collins, Cultural Arts Manager, (919) 462-3861

Deanna Boone, Deputy Public Information Officer, (919) 462-3908

Susan Moran, Public Information Director, (919) 380-4240



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Smells Like Town Spirit!

Cary Residents Invited to Nominate the Person With the Most Hometown Spirit in Cary

CARY, NC – The Town of Cary is looking for the most community-minded of all to receive the Town’s Hometown Spirit Award, an annual award that recognizes a citizen who enhances the quality of life in Cary by preserving, promoting and carrying out positive and quantifiable small town community values and traits. Cary citizens can submit nominations now through 5 p.m. on September 9, 2011 using an official nomination form available at www.townofcary.org. Nominations should be submitted to Town Clerk Sue Rowland by email at sue.rowland@townofcary.org, by fax at (919) 460-4910 or by mail to Town Clerk, Town of Cary, P.O. Box 8005, Cary, NC 27512-8005.

“The Town Council decided long ago that no matter how large Cary’s population grew, the community would always be called a town, not a city, to reinforce our small town heritage and values. This award is the perfect opportunity to recognize outstanding Cary residents for the role they play in helping keep Cary’s small town charm thriving,” said Town Clerk Sue Rowland.

Cary residents ages 21 and older are eligible for the award. Nominees should demonstrate leadership and integrity and be respected by peers. In addition, nominees should exemplify at least one of the following criteria: helps out neighbors and fellow Cary residents; demonstrates hospitality; promotes and preserves traditional American past-times; shows a concern for preservation and works to preserve traditions and the small-town atmosphere in the community; promotes entrepreneurship through supporting locally owned business; promotes a sense of community in their neighborhood and all of Cary; demonstrates patriotism through promotion and preservation of the country's symbols and dedication to the U.S. military, past and present; and serves the community through business.

The Town Council will recognize all nominees at a reception from 5-6:15 p.m. on November 17, 2011 in the lobby of Cary Town Hall. Immediately following the reception, the mayor and the 2010 Hometown Spirit Award winner, Kay Struffolino, will announce the 2011 winner at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Council meeting.

For more, search “Hometown Spirit Award” at http://www.townofcary.org/ or call (919) 460-4941.

(apologies for the blog title - that's as creative as I can be at the moment)  ;-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Council Update - 7/14/11 - 7/22/11

Our July council meeting agenda was light. Notable discussion items included the Walnut Street sidewalk project and consideration of a request by Councilmember Adcock and I regarding traffic concerns in the Wellington Park and surrounding areas.

Due to concerns regarding impact to property, the Council directed town staff to amend the proposed Walnut Street sidewalk project from five feet wide to four back in March. Since a portion of Walnut St. is a state road this required NCDOT review and approval. NCDOT unfortunately denied the town’s request for a four foot wide sidewalk along Walnut St. from Walker St. to Ralph Dr. as this portion of Walnut is state maintained, and therefore must meet state standards. The section of Walnut from Walker to Kildaire Farm Rd. however, is town maintained and not subject to state requirements. The council voted to make this section of sidewalk four foot wide where necessary to mitigate the impact to sensitive properties; many of which were constructed 50 years or more ago, with no thought of sidewalks in mind, and who have already lost much of their front yards when Walnut St. was widened years ago. They simply don’t have much front yard left.

After a brief discussion the council supported Councilor Adcock’s and my request to direct staff to direct town staff to investigate traffic concerns in the Wellington Park and surrounding areas and bring back to council a summary of available options and associated costs for consideration.

The council has been hearing about traffic concerns from folks in the Wellington Park community for years. Whenever new development is proposed nearby they protest it because they know that any development – regardless of type of use – will make existing traffic issues worse; and they are right. It is long past time that we investigate these concerns and see what, if anything we can do to help.

Council held a worksession this past Tuesday to review and discuss the proposed 2011-2012 Downtown Work Plan. Goals of the plan include:

• Finish Town Site Acquisition (downtown park site – we have acquired 70% of the property to date)

• Theater Restoration

• Chatham St. Public Parking Lot

• Chatham St. Improvements (incl. level and repair sidewalks, curb, gutter and stormwater improvements)

• Downtown Entries

• Better Support Existing Downtown Businesses

• Academy Street Improvements

• Wayfinding Installation

• New Development

• Recruitment and Marketing

To better incent new development and investment downtown, the council also agreed to eliminate impact fees, parking requirements and streetscape improvements downtown for the next three years. Not only will this help offset some costs associated with redevelopment, but it also sends a message to the development and business community that we are serious about our efforts downtown and that we are open for business. While the town does have a role downtown, the private sector is who will ultimately decide downtown Cary’s future. The town can’t do everything alone and nor should we.

After three years on the council I finally feel like we are moving forward. We have gone from being a town that talks downtown, to a town that’s doing downtown. One of the reasons I ran for council was my frustrations regarding inaction downtown. We planned, planned and then planned again but we never did anything. Well now we are and I can’t help but feel proud to be part of the reason why. Much of what we are doing isn’t anything new, and some of the initiatives we are working on now others indentified years ago. What didn’t exist however was the political will to act on them. We didn’t have a council majority that believed in the vision for downtown. Now we do, and it shows.

This past Thursday and Friday I had the pleasure of attending the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Planning Conference in Southern Pines. Agenda items included:

• Presentation on current economic conditions and political environment

• Business Development

• Wake County Update

• Downtown Cary

• Transportation

• Education

I was a panelist during the downtown discussion (surprised huh? ;-) Friday morning’s agenda included a meet the candidates forum and Q+A. Councilor Gale Adcock, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, Michelle Muir, Zeke Bridges and I participated. While other candidates are expected to announce, none have done so as of yet. Monday is the first day of filing so we’ll find out soon enough!

Saturday was CaryCitizen’s annual Cary Scavenger Hunt. This was a blast! Our shop was one of the clues so we got to see most of the teams in action. Afterwards I headed over to the Cary Arts Center to watch the judging and awards presentation. The event was a huge success with the only complaint being the 102 degree heat. Thank goodness for the air conditioned Arts Center lobby! Congrats to everyone at CaryCitizen and thank you for everything you do to support Cary. Ya’ll are awesome!

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Campaign Announcement - Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Don Frantz (919) 612-6870

Don Frantz Announces Run for Re-Election to Cary Town Council

CARY, N.C., -- July 13, 2011 – Cary Town Councilman and Businessman Don Frantz announced his run for re-election to the Cary Town Council today.

“It has been an honor to serve Cary citizens on the council. Together we have accomplished a lot in four years, but we still have work to do. I hope that through my efforts I have earned your trust and support for a second term.” Frantz said.

During his service on the council, Frantz has been a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility, economic development and environmental protection, while serving as a voice for small business and “old Cary”.

“I have worked hard to provide the high levels of service that our citizens demand at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer, and to create an environment that encourages business growth and creates jobs.” Frantz said.

Frantz also highlights his efforts to increase government transparency and accountability. “Through my blog and social media I have kept citizens informed of what it is I am working on as a member of the council and how I vote.” Frantz said. “We may not always agree, but folks will always know where I stand.”

Don Frantz, 40, was elected to the Cary Town Council in 2007 and also serves as the council liaison to the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Advisory Board and the Town Center Review Commission. Don is also a member of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Leadership Council, is a past President of the Heart of Cary Association, and represented Cary on Wake County’s Growth Issues Task Force. Don has lived in Cary since 1991. It is in Cary that Don married his wife Lisa and where they decided to raise their six children as well as start their small business, Frantz Automotive Center. Don and Lisa Frantz were the recipients of the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award in 2008 and were recognized as one of the Top 100 North Carolina Small Businesses in 2010 by Business Leader Magazine. For more information about Don’s re-election campaign, please visit http://www.frantzforcary.com/.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tryon Place

This is going to be a long post, but I have a lot to say. I apologize in advance.

I am sure a number of you have heard about Tryon Place – a three story 206 unit luxury apartment complex proposed at the corner of Cary Parkway and Tryon Road. A number of residents have opposed the project.

For the project to move forward, the council must vote to rezone the property from commercial to residential. Section 3.4.1(E) of Cary’s Land Development Ordinance sets forth the following criteria that should be considered in reviewing rezonings:

1. The proposed rezoning corrects an error or meets the challenge of some changing condition, trend or fact;

2. The proposed rezoning is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan set forth in Section 1.3 (LDO);

3. The Town and other service providers will be able to provide sufficient public safety, educational, recreational, transportation and utility facilities and services to the subject property while maintaining sufficient levels of service to existing development;

4. The proposed rezoning is unlikely to have significant adverse impacts on the natural environment, including air, water, noise, stormwater management, wildlife and vegetation;

5. The proposed rezoning will not have significant adverse impacts on property in the vicinity of the subject tract;

6. The proposed zoning classification is suitable for the subject property.

In simpler terms, the proposed use must do no more harm than that which could be developed under current zoning. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to automatically approve something just because it isn’t any worse than what could be built today. A lot of time, money and careful consideration went into crafting Cary’s land use plans and they have served our community well. We’re not just going to throw all that away. But we must also recognize that development patterns and market demands do change.

Applicants must provide compelling reasons and offer clear, tangible benefits to our community before I or any other councilmember will consider granting a change in land use. There is greater leverage during a rezoning process as proposals are held to a higher standard.

After careful consideration the rezoning was approved with conditions at our council meeting by a vote of 4-3. I voted for the project for the following reasons.

Traffic: The proposed apartment complex of 206 units will generate significantly less traffic than that of a commercial project at the same location. The traffic impact analysis reports 1,370 average daily trips for Tryon Place. Commercial development however, could generate anywhere from 2800 to over 11,000 average daily trips depending on what type of commercial get’s built. For example: a gas station with 10 pumps would generate 5400 trips.

But not being one to believe that everything presented to me is fact, I decided to do my own traffic study. I staked out the parking lots of the Amberwood apartment complex and the Wellington shopping center for 15 minutes each on a Friday afternoon from 5:00 – 5:40. I counted vehicles coming in one entrance only. I counted 157 at Wellington and 13 at Amberwood. Based on my observations, I believe the traffic studies to be accurate.

I don’t believe there is any question that commercial development generates significantly more weekend traffic than residential.

Increased Environmental Protection: Tryon Place will provide for reduced impervious surfaces, increased buffer protections, better stormwater management practices, and greater open space preservation than a commercial project.

• 61% of the total site will be preserved as open space.

• Over 2 BUILDABLE acres will be forever preserved as open space.

• Tryon Place will be a Green Certified development

• Nearly 50% of parking will be located under the buildings.

• A 200 foot buffer between the adjoining residents in Lochmere Village vs. 65 feet required of commercial.

The proposed development promotes sustainability by adding a much needed residential component to the existing activity center. Many existing businesses in the Wellington shopping center lack the traffic needed to support and grow their businesses, which leads to high turnover and vacancy rates. Adding more commercial across the street will only exacerbate this. Adding residential however, promotes walkable, pedestrian friendly development and better supports existing businesses.

The majority of adjoining residents – those most impacted by this project - support the proposal vs. the commercial alternative. To me, their opinion carries more weight than those who do not live adjacent to the site. They are the ones who will see it every time they look out their kitchen or bedroom windows. They are the ones who will be subject to the noise, lights and smells of commercial development on a daily basis.

The area is already saturated with commercial, and with Waverly set to reopen soon it’s only going to get worse.

The proposed development provides for no vehicle drive access between the buildings and adjoining residents as you would most likely see with commercial development – resulting in improved aesthetics and no early morning trash trucks or late night tractor trailer deliveries.

Those are many of the reasons why I support Tryon Place. While not perfect, it is better than what could be built today.

I in no way want to discount anyone's opinion or position on this issue. I listened to each and every one of you - both for and against - before making my decision and I heard a number of reasons why I should support or oppose this project and I respect all of them - I really do. Most everyone I spoke with was polite, professional and respectful.

I must however address some of the misinformation that has been disseminated to the public by a couple members of the opposition via email or their website.

The opposition has intentionally misled the public by choosing only to present data from those years which support their claims, by mixing staff approvals (already zoned and meets our codes)with council approvals (rezonings), and blaming this council for prior council decisions. The simple truth is that this council (we took office Dec. 2007) has approved fewer apartments than any council before us. How many exactly? 3 including Tryon Place. In fact, we have made the approval process more difficult for developers by requiring that both they and town staff participate in a community workshop with area residents and hold an additional public hearing at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting prior to council consideration – not to mention that we know the word “no” and aren’t afraid to say it.

Their website claims we approved 1690 apartment units in 2008. This is false. This council approved ZERO apartments in 2008. Their website claims we approved 815 units in 2009. This is also false. We approved ZERO apartments in 2009. Comments such as “…there seems to be a fast track approval process for apartments”, and “the council is out of control” have no merit whatsoever and only work to destroy one's credibility and the process.

It is fair to say that apartment aprovals were trending up in 2006 and 2007. This council however, is reducing that trend.

Other claims include:

“40% of all apartments in Cary have been built or approved in the last ten years” That statement, while true is very misleading. It ignores the fact that 40% of EVERYTHING in Cary has been approved or built in the last ten years. But including that information would not help their cause, so they leave that part out. Cary grew 100% every decade until 2000, and has grown 40% since. In 1970 the ratio of single family homes to multi-family in Cary was 75%-25%. Today that ratio remains 75%-25%.

“The applicant didn’t listen to us”. This is also false. The applicant worked with those area residents who chose to participate in the process, resulting in a number of concessions (see above) from the developer. When originally proposed, this project was 4 stories and 256 units. In an effort to respond to community concerns regarding building height and density, the applicant reduced building heights to 3 stories and capped the number of units at 206 – even though they really didn’t need to do this in order to avoid a valid protest petition (which would have required 6 of 7 votes to pass instead of 4). The majority of border residents – again, those most impacted by this proposal - actually supported the project at 256 units vs. the commercial alternative. You can’t say, “There is nothing the developer can do to make me consider apartments” and then complain he won’t work with you.

“The applicant is using scare tactics and threatening residents with a tire store should his project not be approved.” This claim was taken very seriously by council. Councilmember Erv Portman personally spoke to all but one border resident about this. They all stated that the claims of intimidating behavior were false and without merit. In fact, Councilman Portman reported that all had positive comments about the applicant, and were surprised anyone would make such an accusation. A number of border residents have also spoken in support of this project at public hearings.

But the reality is that if this project were denied, then yes, the property would most likely develop as commercial. Allowable uses under commercial zoning include fast food restaurants, drug stores, a hotel, gas station/convenience store, car wash, and yes, a tire store. It would never come before council and would be approved at staff level.

“Town Staff have been unresponsive to questions.” Totally false. Town staff have spent countless hours providing detailed answers and data to residents who requested it, to include additional research and the creation of documents and spreadsheets outside the scope of their duties. Just because you don’t get the answer you were looking for doesn’t mean you didn’t get a response. The council and staff have received over 150 emails from one individual alone. There are only so many times you can answer the same question.

The opposition complains that we even considered a change to the town’s land use plan - but ignores the fact that their neighborhood and homes could not have been built had a previous council not approved a change to the land use plan.

The opposition has on numerous occasions stated that they would support a medium density project instead of high density. Yet in 2006, when a medium density project was actually proposed, they opposed that project as well. The simple truth is that some don’t want to see anything built there, period. They know the site doesn’t lend itself well to commercial, and that if they continue to oppose residential development it will remain trees.

I fully understand that there are those who want to see nothing built here. What I don’t understand is the preference for more commercial, nor have I heard anyone make a compelling case for it. Tell me why we need another strip mall here. We seriously want another drug store? Heck, the majority of council that was elected in 2007 was elected to stop putting drug stores on every corner. What benefit does more commercial bring to the already struggling businesses and vacant stores across the street?

Upscale apartment development provides additional housing options for young professionals, new families and senior living. When I moved to Cary in 1990 I rented an apartment for a year until I found a home. I am forever thankful it was there as I might not have settled in Cary. There is no data that suggests that this development will increase area crime or decrease property values any more or less than a commercial project might. I cannot make a decision based simply on the fear of “apartment dwellers”.

I believe that given the choices before me, I made the better decision for Cary’s future. I understand there are those who do not agree and that is fine. I have never made a decision based on political consequences and I’m not going to start now. It’s actually pretty easy to make a decision when you know what your values are.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May Update

Sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks. Life has been very busy – and that’s a good thing.

I want to wish everyone a very happy Memorial Day. One can’t turn on the television or read the news without being reminded of how precious and rare the freedoms we enjoy really are. As you enjoy this weekend with family and friends, please take time to remember those patriots who paid the ultimate price so that you and I can live free. Freedom exists as long as there are those willing to stand together and fight for it.

I had the honor and privilege of attending the Town of Cary Firefighters Awards and Promotions Ceremony last week. I cannot begin to express my appreciation and support for all of our brave men and women in uniform for everything they do to help make Cary one of the safest communities in the nation to live. A number of awards were presented and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride listening to the stories behind the awards. Each response being recognized had a specific fire call designation number (Fire Call #2546 for example) yet not one of the awards was actually given to anyone responding to a fire. Every award recognized exemplary service in response to an accident, trauma or heart attack victim. Our firefighters are most often our first responders, and they respond to all life threatening medical emergencies. Congratulations to everyone recognized and thank you for your service to our community.

Council has held two budget worksessions and appears to have settled on the FY2012 budget. There will be a public hearing on June 16 prior to council decision on June 30. Some highlights include:

• Total Budget is about $222 Million – This is a 36% Decrease from the previous year.

• 27 new positions – includes 15 Firefighters and 10 Police Officers.

• $8 Million allocated for downtown initiatives/infrastructure

• $3.7 Million for WakeMed Soccer Park – the majority of which will be reimbursed to Cary via the interlocal hotel/meals tax revenue.

• No tax increase. Cary continues to have the lowest tax rate in the county

• A 5.9% increase in utility rates to help cover the costs associated with the state mandated Western Wake Regional Wastewater Management Facility and other utility system upgrades and maintenance.

• $2 Million for street and greenway repaving

You can view the proposed budget here: http://budget.townofcary.org/budget/fy2012/budgetfy12proposed.htm and feel free to email the council with any comments at council@townofcary.org .

Our council meeting was relatively short, with the notable decision item being the Town’s new redistricting map. The new plan was presented for public hearing at our May 12 meeting. No one spoke at the public hearing, and the council unanimously approved the new plan. I gotta pat us on the backs on this one; I am very proud of the council and how well we worked together on an issue that typically becomes a heated, partisan battle. We set clear criteria with predetermined goals, stuck to them and got the job done with no conflict.

Councilmember Portman was absent from the council meeting as he was attending a democrat party meeting where he was selected to replace resigning Wake County Commissioner, Stan Norwalk. Now I gotta admit it – if ya told me two years ago I would be a sad to Erv leave the council I might have laughed at you. But I am honestly a “little” disappointed to see him go ;-). Erv and I have worked well together over the last couple of years – especially on budget/development related items. As business owners, we share a number of real world experiences and try to bring our knowledge and talents to work for the town. I wish Erv the best on the County Commission. Cary’s loss is the county’s gain. I hope that he can remain on the council until July 1 (that start of our fiscal year) so that he can see our budget process through. It wouldn’t make much sense for him to go to the county commission and be expected to vote on a budget he is not familiar with.

I believe the council should and will fill this vacancy as soon as possible. Cary citizens deserve adequate representation. To leave the seat open demonstrates a lack of leadership, as evidenced by Morrisville’s decision to not fill the seat vacated by newly elected State Representative, Tom Murry. We are better than that.

Harold and I taped the June episode of CaryMatters this past week. The main topic is Cary’s FY2012 budget. You can watch CaryMatters, as well as other town meetings here.

I also had the pleasure of attending graduation ceremonies for Cary’s School of Government. This was a lot of fun as the topic for the last class was downtown – one of my favorite topics. The speaker for the evening was Cary’s Downtown Development Manager, Ed Gawf. Congratulations to all the graduates and thank you so much for caring enough to become more involved in your government! Our community is what we make of it – the more who get involved, the more our community reflects our desires. While there are a number of reasons that our community is one of the greatest places to live in America, none is greater than the citizens who live here, and give so much back to our town.

Another item I am sure a number of you have heard about is the proposed apartment complex at the corner of Tryon and Cary Parkway. I will speak more about this project later, but in the meantime I wanted to provide you with a couple of links so that you can learn more about the proposal.

Click here to be directed to the site opposing the project.

Click here to be directed to the project’s website.

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We Want YOU!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2011

Apply Now to Serve on Cary's Boards and Commissions

Community-minded citizens are encouraged to apply for one of 26 upcoming vacancies on the Town council’s nine advisory boards and commissions. Use your talents and take an active interest in your community on one of the following: Economic Development Commission; Environmental Advisory Board; Information Services Advisory Board; Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board; Planning and Zoning Board; Public Art Advisory Board; Town Center Review Commission; Zoning Board of Adjustment; and Citizen Issue Review Commission (for Cary’s School of Government graduates, only). Selected applicants will serve for three years starting in October, except where unexpired terms are being filled, and advise the Town Council on their board/commission’s cause. Applications can be found at http://www.townofcary.org/ and will be accepted until 5 p.m. on June 30, 2011. Learn more at “Boards and Commissions” at http://www.townofcary.org/ or call (919) 319-4508.

###

PRIMARY CONTACTS:

Karen Gray, Deputy Town Clerk, (919) 319-4508

Deanna Boone, Deputy Public Information Officer, (919) 462-3908

Susan Moran, Public Information Director, (919) 380-4240

Friday, April 29, 2011

Redistricting Update

Council held another redistricting worksession last night prior to our council meeting. After a brief discussion the council unanimously approved moving forward with the following redistricting proposal. Note - Precinct 05-05 currently shown in District A was moved to District B. Only 5 people live in 05-05. It made no sense to leave this in District A and continue to have District A span from Chatham County to the Airport.


The council will now hold a public hearing to solicit citizen input prior to making our final decision. For comparrison, here is the current map:


Please feel free to email the council at council@townofcary.org with any comments or questions regarding the proposed district map. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Week in Review 4/11/11 - 4/16/11

Saturday’s storms were the most violent I have seen since Hurricane Fran tore through North Carolina in 1996. Twenty two people are confirmed dead and hundreds are homeless. Businesses have been damaged or destroyed, and their employees now find themselves indefinitely unemployed. We can help. Please consider making a monetary donation or volunteer your time with the American Red Cross or Samaritan’s Purse to aid in relief efforts, or check with your church or area civic groups to see what you can do to help. You can also find more information on how to help here. Together we can make a difference and help North Carolina recover from this tragic event.


I had the privilege of participating in the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors Leadership Academy this week along with Wake County School Board Member Deborah Prickett and Raleigh City Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin. We were “guest panelists” for a session on Governmental Relations and Political Affairs. We spoke mainly about our call to leadership (why did we run for office?), our roles in our positions and what a typical day is like for each of us.


On Thursday the council held a worksession prior to our council meeting to discuss “sustainable site design guidelines”. Our town staff has been working to update Cary’s design guidelines in an effort to encourage development that creates more walkable, pedestrian friendly communities and better protects our environment through greater open space preservation.


Staff presented recommendations to council for consideration and feedback. My thoughts were that while I “liked what I saw”, I wanted to know more about the costs associated with these recommendations. Any time you create a new rule or regulation you add cost to a project, and we need to be sure that we aren’t imposing unrealistic burdens on small business owners in Cary. Sometimes blanket “one size fits all” ordinances don’t fit and might not work in a particular case. We need to ensure that there is flexibility so that when this happens – and it will – that we can resolve the issue in a timely manner.


Following the worksession was our council meeting. Notable discussion topics included the Pamlico Drive flood minimization and stream restoration project and associated greenway connection and sidewalk, and the Swift Creek Parallel Forced Main Project.


While residents in the Pamlico Drive area are eager for flood relief, they expressed concerns regarding the proposed greenway improvements – especially the greenway stub to their neighborhood and sidewalk. The council unanimously voted to remove the greenway connection and sidewalk from the project.


The council ultimately postponed a decision on the Swift Creek forced main project for two weeks to give our town staff time to resolve issues raised by property owners most impacted along Holly Springs Road.


The council also unanimously approved a quitclaim deed to relinquish property purchased from yours truly. I asked that I be recused from voting on this matter as it directly pertains to my property. You can read a detailed explanation on this item here.


I had a number of meetings this week including a meeting with Councilwoman Gale Adcock to discuss a number of items, as well as a budget preview meeting with our Town Manager and Budget Director.


On Saturday I had the honor of welcoming folks to this year’s Basant Bahar held at Athens Drive High School. Basant Bahar is the Indian celebration of spring and includes a number of beautiful dance and music performances. Unfortunately this year’s event was delayed due to severe weather and loss of power. Nonetheless the event was still a huge success and well attended. Thanks to everyone at HumSub for all your hard work and for your ongoing partnership with the town. Your involvement in our community is tremendous and we are all better for it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Wrong Right

I recently learned that I made a mistake that I must take responsibility for.

The downtown streetscape project was approved as a component of the town’s budget in 2008 by a vote of 6-1. I voted for it. After the project was approved, the town began to acquire the necessary easements and right-of-way to implement the project, up until the project was ultimately postponed by council in 2009 to reduce spending to cope with the economic recession. The vote to delay the streetscape project passed unanimously.

From the time the project was approved until the time it was delayed, the town had acquired right-of-way and easements from over 90 different properties. Ours was one of them. The town purchased a small portion of our business property frontage for $14,550. Land prices paid to all landowners ranged from $100 - $102,000 depending on the size and value of the property acquired.

We have since discovered that NCGS 14-234 prohibits the town’s purchase of our property outright given my position on the council. The town should have instead performed what is referred to as a “friendly condemnation”. The town would have still acquired a portion of our property and we would still have been compensated for it.

It’s not THAT the town acquired a portion of our property, its HOW the town acquired it that is the problem. It is a process issue. Neither I nor the town was aware of this.

To correct this mistake, I have already paid back the entire $14,550 to the town and our property will be deeded back to us. If in the future the town finds itself in a position to move forward with the streetscape project, we will proceed with the condemnation process at that time (which unfortunately is a more expensive process than a simple purchase).

I apologize for this mistake and take full responsibility for what happened, yet I take great pride in the fact that I was treated no differently than any other land owner downtown.

I had spoken with Cary’s legal department shortly after joining the council regarding voting on matters pertaining to downtown projects and initiatives. I was told that being a downtown business owner did not prohibit me from voting on matters concerning downtown, and that state law actually requires me to vote barring a legal conflict. It’s not much different than Mayor Weinbrecht or Councilwoman Adcock voting on matters pertaining to their employer, SAS.

My support for downtown Cary is no secret. Heck, it was a large part of my campaign platform when I ran for council and has remained a priority during my service on the council. I have championed a number of downtown initiatives including the Cary Arts Center, the streetscape project and Cary’s new Downtown Manager. I have worked with residents, business owners and Cary PD to reduce crime in our downtown neighborhoods; as well as our zoning enforcement department to address minimum housing violations and hold absentee landlords accountable.

And during this time I have worked hard to keep citizens informed about my service on the council right here on my blog. I have always been open and honest with you. We may not always agree, but you will always know where I stand. And when I make a mistake I am going to tell you about it and take responsibility for it.

Thank you for your understanding.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Almost There!

Here are a few photos I took inside the Cary Arts Center yesterday. Construction is progressing along nicely - and within budget! I can't wait until the ribbon cutting!

Main Entrance Lobby

Classroom Space

Another Classroom


Stage

Fly Tower Cable Controls

Looking out from the stage

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week in Review 3/21/11 - 3/27/11

Council held a worksession on Tuesday to discuss three topics: Quasi-Judicial hearings, redistricting, and the naming of the Cary Community Arts Center.

Council received information and training regarding quasi-judicial hearings from our town attorney and Mr. T.C.Morphis of the Brough Law Firm. A Quasi-judicial hearing is much like that of a legal court proceeding as the council acts as judge and jury. Discussion topics included the responsibility of the Mayor and council, what type of information may be entered into the record (council may only receive factual information – not opinion) and who may give testimony. This session was very valuable as council is seeing more and more special use applications these days for projects such as cell towers and day-cares.

Staff presented a number of options for council to consider regarding redistricting. Cary’s growth over the last ten years has resulted in a significant imbalance in Cary’s council districts. District A (West Cary) for example has nearly 55,000 citizens where District B (Downtown to North Cary) has only 26,000. Council reviewed and discussed a number of options before narrowing our choices to just a few. We will meet again next month to discuss further and finalize Cary’s redistricting plan.

The council asked citizens to suggest a new name for the Cary Community Arts Center and did they ever! 191 different names were submitted in total with some names recommended numerous times. After a healthy discussion the council voted 5-2 to select the name “The Cary Arts Center”. Ya, I know – not very creative, but it works. It calls the center what it is – Cary’s arts center. We call our soccer park a soccer park, USA Baseball is USA Baseball, Cary’s Tennis Center is the Tennis Center and so on. It helps folks better understand what these facilities are, and who they serve. These are not private facilities – they are public.

I had the honor of participating in the national Title 1 Distinguished School Awards ceremony at Kingswood Elementary School in Cary this week. Title 1 schools are defined as those with high percentages of low income students as determined by those enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. To be considered for recognition – and the $10,000 that comes with the award – a school must demonstrate exceptional student performance for two consecutive years and/or close the achievement gap between student groups.

Only two schools in each state are selected each year by the National Title 1 Association. With over 1800 elementary schools in North Carolina, this is truly an amazing achievement for Kingswood Elementary. Congratulations to Principle Sherry Schliesser, her staff, teachers, parents, the PTA and especially the students for all their hard work and dedication. You have made Cary proud and hopefully will serve as a model for other schools to follow.

Our council meeting this past Thursday consisted of a few notable discussion items.

Northwoods Activity Center Rezoning: After conducting a public hearing, the council voted to approving the rezoning from commercial to high density residential by a vote of 5-2. I supported the request for the following reasons:

· High density residential provides for less vehicle traffic than commercial.

· Over 2 acres of buildable land will be forever preserved as open space.

· Increase buffer protections (the smallest section of buffer being 115 feet – the largest being over 450 feet)

· Area commercial is struggling – area already saturated with commercial.

· Applicant committed to exceeding town requirements for stormwater runoff and treatment. Ordinance requires they mitigate up to a 10 year storm event. The applicant has agreed to mitigate to the 50 year storm event.

· Applicant reduced building heights to address resident’s concerns.

· Residential adjacent to commercial helps to create sustainable, walkable communities.

· Applicant committed to supplement buffer beyond what exists today with evergreens.

· Our Planning and Zoning Board recommended approval by a vote of 6-1.

· Reduced impervious surfaces.

When a developer asks for a rezoning, they must convince the council that the proposed use will benefit the community more so than if the property developed under base zoning. The council has greater leverage during a rezoning process, and developers know they have a higher bar to reach in order to gain council approval. More importantly, they must also get the support of the majority of neighboring residents and property owners.

Should the property be developed under base zoning, it must only meet the requirements of Cary’s land development ordinance. The project is not required to receive council approval. In fact, it would never come before council at all. It would be approved at staff level – without concessions from the developer.

My first choice of use would have been office, but the property owner wasn’t asking for office. They asked for high density residential. Given the reasons above, I believe this change in use with conditions to be more of a benefit to the surrounding community than more commercial. The existing commercial is struggling as the area is already saturated with commercial, and more commercial is coming in the future along the east side of North Harrison. A change to residential will help the existing Northwoods shopping center and businesses.

This particular project was the first to go through Cary’s new community workshop process. The community workshop process was designed to help applicants and citizens work together to craft a project that all stakeholders can support. The process appears to have worked relatively well in that some citizen concerns (such as building height) were addressed. While a handful of residents remained opposed to the rezoning, the majority of the surrounding community appeared to support the change.

The council also approved entering into an interlocal agreement with Chatham County that would prohibit any involuntary annexation by Cary into Chatham County and require Chatham County approval for citizen-initiated annexations. I cannot begin to explain how wonderful it is to finally have a Chatham County Commission who understands the words “regional cooperation”; that we share many of the same issues and concerns that can best be addressed by working together.

Cary also held public hearings regarding land development ordinance amendments pertaining to signs, and Cary’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Afterwards council held a closed session to discuss a lawsuit and seek legal advice from the town attorney.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a reception at the Matthews House hosted by the Heart of Cary Association to welcome Cary’s new Downtown Manager, Ed Gawf. Ed brings a wealth of experience and a track record of success helping other communities revitalize their downtowns. Needless to say, a lot of folks can’t wait for him to get to work. We have high expectations of Ed, and I am sure he won’t let us down…but no pressure, Ed. ;-)

That's it for now - as always, thanks for reading!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hostage Situation Update.

Many of you have been asking for updates regarding the attempted bank robbery and hostage situation that occurred at the Wachovia Bank in West Cary in February. Unfortunately there isn’t much I can tell you as the State Bureau of Investigation has not completed their investigation as of yet.

I would however like to share some information I discovered on my own.

I am sure most of you are aware that one of the hostages, Mr. Lee Everett, has filed a complaint with the Cary Police Department alleging he was mistreated because he is black. The hostage-taker was black. Cary PD detained Mr. Everett until they could verify he was not the suspect.

Mr. Everett’s attorney, Mr. Alan (Al) McSurely sent the following letter to the town.

The name Al McSurely sounded very familiar to me – but I couldn’t place it so I Googled it.

The Duke Lacrosse case.

Mr. McSurely was (maybe still is) the attorney and legal director for the North Carolina NAACP during this fiasco. You can learn more about his efforts during the Duke Lacrosse case here, here, here and here. Please read and come to your own conclusions.

Mr. McSurely also happens to be the agent of organization of NC Fire! Films and Books LLC. - the publishing company created to publish Ms. Crystal Mangum’s (Duke Lacrosse accuser) book titled “Last Dance for Grace”.

Nice.

Mr. McSurely also represented the family of a Mr. Gil Barber in a civil lawsuit against the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and Deputy Thomas Gordy.

Mr. Barber – after crashing his car – broke into a nearby church and desecrated the property. Deputy Gordy responded to the call and found Mr. Barber inside the church…naked. Mr. Barber attacked Deputy Gordy. During the altercation Mr. Barber was able to gain control of Deputy Gordy’s weapon and shot the Deputy twice before he could regain control of his firearm, shooting and killing Mr. Barber.

Deputy Gordy should have received a commendation. Instead he was sued and called a murderer…by the family and representatives of the man who tried to kill him.

So who did win an award?

I’m sorry I can’t provide any greater details than that above, but at least now you know a little more about the man representing Reverend Lee Everett.

I wonder why the media has failed to report any of this???

On second thought, no I don’t.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hostage Situation

I am sure you have heard of the attempted bank robbery and hostage situation that occurred at the Wachovia Bank on Green Level Church Road in Cary this past Thursday. After a three hour standoff with law enforcement officers, 19 year old Devon Mitchell of Cary was fatally shot when he exited the building holding what appeared to be a gun pointed at one of the hostages.

We now know that was not the case. Devon Mitchell was not armed.

“Despite what the 911 call reported, despite what he said to the hostages, despite what he told our hostage negotiator, despite what we all thought we saw when he came out of the bank with something pointed at one of the hostages’ head, we know now that there was no gun,” said Town of Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore.

It doesn't matter - he made everyone believe he was armed and a threat.

Devon Mitchell played – and lost - a sick game with law enforcement. He claimed to have a gun and threatened to use it. For three hours Devon Mitchell instilled fear and terror in the lives of his hostages and their families. He had plenty of time to realize the error of his judgment and give himself up to authorities. He didn’t. He continued his charade until the very end, and now four outstanding law enforcement officers have to live the rest of their lives knowing they killed an unarmed 19 year old.

While the loss of this young man’s life is unfortunate and the outcome was not what we had hoped for, I could not be prouder of the Cary Police Department and supporting law enforcement agencies for the manner in which they handled this situation given the information available to them at the time, and my prayers go out to everyone involved and their families.

A number of citizens in the Cary Park area have contacted the town about their concerns regarding increased crime in their community. Some of the actions the town is working on include:

• Increased police patrols.

• The District 2 Commander for that area has begun implementation of a new effort called DDACTS (Data Drive Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety). This is a national based model that uses high visibility patrols and law enforcement presence to reduce social harm and improve quality of life.

• Cary is following up with the Grove apartment complex to encourage them to be a part of next month’s launch of Project Phoenix. This is a new crime prevention program that is being designed especially for multi-family communities.

• The town manager will meet with the police chief and the command team today to evaluate additional steps. They will brief council immediately after the meeting.

• The police chief, town manager, Mayor, I, and others will meet with the homeowners of Cary Park at their homeowners meeting on February 23rd at Panther Creek High School at 6:30. I look forward to hearing from area residents and any ideas that we as a town can do to improve folk’s quality of life in this area.