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


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

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.