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.