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!