Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week in Review - 10/20/12-10/27/12

Our town council meeting this week was a long one. The good news is that we had a number of public hearings and rezonings – things seem to be picking up a bit.
Notable discussion and decision items included:
Consideration of a rezoning and preliminary development plan approval for a senior life care community located off of Cary Towne Blvd. adjacent to Cary Town Center Mall and Triangle Aquatics Center. Geared towards seniors ages 55 and older, the proposed facility includes 128 units and would also provide a number of life care services to include cooking, cleaning, laundry, transportation and even a barber shop/hair salon. The site’s proximity to services, schools, and parks also make this an ideal location for such a facility.
With Cary’s booming senior population – our fastest growing demographic - the facility helps to fill a growing demand in our community and also allows Cary seniors to remain in town and close to their families. The council unanimously approved the request.
There was however an associated roadway improvement waiverrequest that was denied 6-1. I was the one.
The Town of Cary’s Land Development Ordinance (LDO) requires that developers mitigate the impact they create on Cary’s road network. In this case, the developer would be required to construct 600 linear feet of an additional lane of roadway and sidewalk along Cary Towne Blvd, OR provide a payment-in-lieu of $244,897.50 because Cary Town Blvd. is shown on our transportation plan to be a six lane median divided roadway.
The reasoning behind the waiver request was that, well, seniors don’t drive all that much and that the facility provides a number of services on site to include shuttle bus services that would take residents anywhere they needed to go.
I supported the waiver request because I didn’t believe a few more seniors in their Buicks and a shuttle bus were creating a $250,000 impact to Cary Towne Blvd.
Next on our agenda was a public hearing for a multi-family townhome project on the Herndon Burt Property located at the intersection of Hwy 55 and Turner Creek Road. A large number of residents from the Harmony and Chesney Glen communities attended the meeting to express their opposition to the project as currently proposed. After conducting the public hearing it was clear that there is still a lot of work to do and we encouraged the applicant to continue to work with existing residents to address their concerns.
The council also held a quasi-judicial hearing to consider an appeal of administrative denial of the Lynch Parcel Subdivision located between Bishop’s Gate subdivision and Westwood Baptist Church. Being a quasi-judicial hearing, this one’s pretty complicated – I’ll do my best to keep it simple ;-)
The applicant proposes 38 single family homes on roughly 20 acres of land that is divided by Crabtree Creek. Cary’s connectivity ordinance requires this subdivision to connect to the Bishop’s Gate subdivision and the church. Connecting to the Bishop’s Gate subdivision would require crossing Crabtree Creek.
Crossing the creek to connect both subdivisions would require raising the creek bed 18 feet and installing 100 foot of 72” pipe. This would take over 1200 cubic yards of fill and impact over ½ acre of wetlands. A significant number of champion trees and vegetation would also be lost…all for a road that would see very little if any vehicular traffic.
Due to the significant environmental impacts and costs associated with the stream crossing, the council supported the applicant’s appeal of Cary’s connectivity ordinance. The developer will however construct greenway connections between the subdivisions and also pedestrian access to the church.
Last but not least was consideration of a Request for ReviewComments from Wake County on a Swift Creek Land Management Plan Variance. In a nutshell, a Dutchman Downs and Wake County resident wanted to install a pool in their backyard. Wake County approved the pool permit under the stipulation that after construction the impervious surface of the site be at or below the 12% threshold as recommended by the Swift Creek Land Management Plan (SCLMP). Pre-pool construction the site was 14.2% impervious. After pool construction and removal of a parking pad/turn around area, the site is now 13.9% impervious – less than before construction but still higher than the 12% recommended by the SCLMP. The SCLMP also recommends connection to municipal sewer for properties that go above the 12% threshold.
The homeowner has asked Wake County for a variance to increase impervious surface area to 13.9% and a waiver from connection to Cary sewer. Wake County was asking for our opinion on the request since the property is in Cary’s planning jurisdiction.
Cary staff were supportive of the variance to allow impervious area of 13.9% provided that the homeowner install a stormwater management device (BMP) but were recommending the sewer connection.
The council unanimously supported the waiver from connecting to Cary sewer as the nearest connection was over 200 feet away and would cost the homeowner over $20,000 to construct. The council was divided 4-3 however on whether or not to support the 13.9% variance without construction of a BMP.
I supported the waiver without the BMP requirement as the site is less impervious than it was before pool construction, and quite frankly, I couldn’t understand why the pool couldn’t qualify as a BMP. I mean, the water that rains into it stays in it right? ;-) To me this is another case of unreasonable regulation – the homeowner made his property more environmentally friendly yet it isn’t good enough for government. I am so surprised…..
This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending Cary VFWPost 7383’s Inaugural open house with Mayor Weinbrecht and Councilman Jack Smith. This was a wonderful event to honor our veterans, active military personnel and their families. The event even included a classic car show and silent auction. Being parents of two sons in the Army – one deployed in Afghanistan and one in Alaska – we can’t thanks the folks at the VFW enough for all they do to support our past and present military service men and women. It was an honor to be in their presence.
Council member Jennifer Robinson and I taped the November episode of Cary Matters this past week. Jennifer wrote the script and did a great job. The main topic was Cary’s Land Use Plan Update/Visioning process which we are calling the Cary Community Plan. Cary’s current plan was adopted in 1996, and while we have made some tweeks to the plan over the years to keep up with changing economic conditions and development patterns, a lot has changed since then and the council felt it was time to undertake a more comprehensive view of the town’s plans for the next 20 years. There will be A LOT of opportunity for citizens to participate in the process. If you would like to participate – and we know you do! – Please visit the town’s website here to learn more and make sure to submit an application by November 30th.
Lisa and I attended a fundraiser for Gubernatorial Candidate Pat McCrory on Friday with special guest New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. We have known and supported Pat for a number of years now and we are so excited for him to be North Carolina’s next Governor! The highlight of the event however was getting to meet Governor Christie (sorry Pat! ;-). While I don’t agree with him on every issue (gun control for example), I respect the heck out of anyone who’s not afraid to call it like they see it, regardless of political consequences. He has demonstrated the courage to make difficult choices no matter how unpopular that decision may be. He’s also a pretty funny speaker – we had a great time.
I attended a meeting between Silverton residents and Singh Development regarding a development proposal at the corner of Cary Parkway and Evans Road. If this sounds familiar that’s because it is – Singh has been working to develop this site since before I joined the council in 2007 and has offered a number of different development plans over the years – the last of which was a mixed use plan that appeared to have majority community support. Unfortunately however the economic recession and the development of Park West down the street appear to have sunk that plan. Singh is now proposing an all residential upscale multi-family project. While I did prefer the mixed-use plan, I fully understand the impact of Park West on the viability of a commercial product at this location, and the last thing Silverton area residents want is a bunch of vacant commercial buildings.
The greatest concern appeared to be the required widening of Evans Road and associated median installation and vehicular turning restrictions. The residents see no need for the widening of Evans Road and prefer to see it stay as-is. I informed them that the developer could apply for a waiver and/or dedicate the right-of-way and offer a payment-in-lieu instead. That way “if” the town ever wanted to widen the road, we would have the necessary right-of-way and funding to cover this section of Evans.
Well that’s about all for this past week. As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 2012

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while; life has been busy. We also went on vacation – first one we’ve taken in years. We took the family and a few of their friends to Topsail beach. I didn’t turn on a computer, check email, text or voice messages for almost a week. It was nice.

We surfed fished, ate killer food (LOVE fresh flounder and swordfish!), played with the dogs (they love the big pond and chasing birds ;-) and just relaxed on the beach with a margarita or few. Good times. Now we just need a vacation to recuperate from our vacation ;-)

While the beach was nice, I’m glad to be home…until I checked email that is; 397 of them. Yay…;-) I’m caught up on most everything now except blogging so here we go!

Council Meeting – 10/11/12: Notable discussion items included the purchase and conveyance of property for economic development – downtown hotel, Bees, sound level increase for three shows at Koka Booth Amphitheater and electronic gaming.

Property buy and sell for ED – downtown hotel: This one’s kinda complicated, so I’ll do my best to keep it simple. The owners of the King’s Daughter’s Inn in Durham want to construct and operate a 46 room boutique hotel in downtown Cary at the corner of Park and Academy. We want them to do this as well. The town owns two of the three lots needed to construct the hotel and rehab two historic structures – the Waldo Rood House and the Mayton House.  We acquired the third lot and then sold all three lots to the owners of the hotel. They agree to construct and operate the hotel AND restore the two historic homes which will be incorporated into the project. The hotel will have a restaurant and bar and the “backyard” will be the downtown park.

A great example of a public/private partnership; we assist them them with financing the project (the town gets paid for the property at a rate of 6%) and they construct and operate a significant investment which will serve as a catalyst for our downtown revitalization efforts, generate tax revenue and create jobs.

The council also unanimously approved the bid award for the downtown Cary theater project.

While maybe not as sexy as chickens ;-) the council approved an ordinance allowing for the keeping of bees in Cary. Kinda similar to what we did for chickens – limits on # of hives, set-backs, stupid $50 fee, etc…

We also agreed to increase the sound levels FOR THREE EVENTS at Koka Booth Amphitheater for next season. The last sound level increase to 95 db last year seemed to work out ok and the thought is that by allowing three shows to go to 98 db might help us land even better acts and increase revenues and reduce taxpayer subsidy.

I had a great time meeting with Kingswood Elementary 3rd graders to talk about local government and more specifically, why government works better when multiple opinions are considered; “Why do we have seven members on the town council and not just one person calling all of the shots?” “Good question”, I said. “It would be so much simpler if the others just stayed home and let me handle everything” ;-) Kidding!....sort of…..;-)

The council held a worksession to discuss future traffic improvements at the intersection of Cary Parkway and High House. Yes, we’ve been working on this one for a while now. Staff presented additional options for improvements to include everything from turn lanes to three roundabouts – three lane roundabouts at that. The council agreed to direct staff to move forward with plans that include additional turn lanes and is sensitive to existing structures and landscaping.

We also held a session with board and commission members to receive their annual reports and say “thank you” for everything they do to make Cary an even better place to live. The manner in which the boards presented their reports was very creative and entertaining. The planning and zoning board, for example, decided to sing their report – I’ll leave it at that. ;-) Council members served as wait staff with each of us responsible for serving two tables. We all had a good time while learning about the work and accomplishments of all our boards and commissions.

Cary Community Investment Bonds: A number of folks have inquired about the bonds. I would encourage all of you to visit the Town’s bond website here to learn more about the three separate bond referendums that will be on this November’s ballot; fire, transportation and parks and recreation.

Bottom line is that all three bond referendums total $80 million. If approved by you, the voters, taxes will increase 2 cents in 2013 and 2 cents in 2015. If the referendum(s) fail, it is unlikely that any of the proposed projects will be completed in the next 3-5 years.

So again, please visit the bond website to learn more about the specific projects and financial impact to you, the taxpayer and please VOTE on November 6th.

I also wanted to comment on the firing of Wake County Public Schools Superintendent, Tony Tata. This was an epic failure of board leadership.

Superintendent Tata was removed from his post for doing nothing wrong other than having been hired by the previous school board majority. This was political payback. Tata is a leader who achieved a number of successes in a very short period of time; he brought calm to an angry and divided community, student achievement is up and he worked to improve special needs services just to name a few.

Superintendent Tata’s achievements in what could easily be described as a hostile environment earned him the respect and support of parents, students, teachers and community partners.

From the News and Observer: School board members Hill and Sutton stated the problems with Tata included his inability to bridge the partisan gap on the board. Are you kidding me? It is Tata’s fault that board members can’t put partisanship aside and work together??? Hill and Sutton (and all the board members for that matter) need look no further than a mirror to see what many of the board’s problems are.

I have yet to speak to any teachers or parents who are pleased with the decision. I have spoken with many who are angry – very angry. One teacher told me, and I quote,“No superintendent has done more for teachers and students in such a short amount of time than Superintendent Tata.”

Tata’s only fault that I can see is that he wasn’t a yes-man – something most folks look for in a leader. If we could afford it, our daughter would be in private school yesterday.

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