Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cary High School Band Day

It's that time of year again! Come one, come all to the 51st annual Cary Band Day parade and field competition. The parade begins at 10:00 in downtown Cary and the field competition starts at noon at Cooper Field at Cary High School.

Started in 1958 by the Cary High School Band Boosters, Cary Band Day is one of the longest running high school marching band competitions in the nation and the most highly regarded in the Southeast. High School bands from all over the state of North Carolina and as far away as Virginia and Tennessee converge upon Cary each year with the hopes of returning home as Cary Band Day Grand Champion. Who will win this year? Well you'll have to just come and see now won't you? :-)

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many parents and band boosters this event has become tradition in Cary. I can't ever imagine Cary without Cary Band Day - it just wouldn't be the same.

Oh - I almost forgot! Special guests at Cary Band Day this year includes the Western Carolina University Pride of the Mountains Marching Band. If you have never seen Western Carolina's band perform you MUST come and check them out. Electric guitars, keyboards, drum sets on platforms - they put on a show! Western Carolina's band takes the field at 5:45 immediately following Cary High School.

I'll see you there!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Week in Review 10/19/09 - 10/24/09

Council held a worksession on Tuesday to discuss the town’s adequate public facilities ordinance for roads (APFs) and our transportation development fee structure to determine if there is a more equitable way of ensuring that all development along a corridor pays its fair share. Currently the projects which develop early in the process don’t place too heavy a burden on our infrastructure, and therefore are not required to make as many improvements as those projects which come in towards the end when the need for transportation improvements are much greater, and much more expensive. All development taxes our infrastructure and therefore all development should pay its fair share. I feel like we left the worksession knowing what we want to do – we just don’t know how to do it yet. We’ll continue to work on it until we get it right.

I met with the applicants of a proposed cheerleading and tumbling gym in West Cary off of Davis Drive. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss their request for a 20% parking reduction from what our ordinance requires. The town calculates parking requirements based on building square footage and they are proposing to build a 10,000 sq. ft. facility; yet the majority of floor space is open gym space with spring floors and tumbling tracks. Our ordinance requires they provide enough parking to accommodate 185 people, yet according to the applicant they will never have more than 115 children there at any given time. They simply do not need the amount of parking our ordinance requires. Makes sense to me. Another positive is that reducing the number of parking spaces reduces the amount of impervious surface at the site which will result in less stormwater runoff and increased environmental benefits.

Afterwards Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson and I met with a family on Pamlico Drive to discuss the flooding issues in their neighborhood. We were shown a video the couple had created that clearly documented the flooding problem folks in this area are experiencing. It was truly amazing to see the amount of water behind these folks’ homes after only a half inch of rain – after just a few inches water was coming inside their home.

More and more folks – especially in our older areas of town – are experiencing increased flooding with each passing year. While I am proud that the council recently strengthened our stormwater retention ordinance to prevent future development from negatively impacting nearby property owners, we must also address the existing problems folks are experiencing now. Mrs. Robinson and I will continue working with our staff to determine the best course of action.

Prior to our council meeting Thursday evening the town hosted a reception for our outgoing board and commission members. Seeing everyone was a lot of fun. I cannot thank our board members for their dedication and service to the town. Cary is a much better place because of their efforts.

Of the five public hearings scheduled for our council meeting, two generated the most comments. The first was Round 13 Amendments to Cary’s Land Development Ordinance. A number of folks spoke in opposition to the proposed reductions to the number of children a home day care provider may keep at one time from eight to six. While existing providers would be “grandfathered in”, a number of folks expressed concerns regarding the current shortage of day care providers throughout town, and how these restrictions would further reduce folks ability to obtain child care for their children, as well as reduced income earning potential of home child care providers. Our Planning and Zoning Board will now review the proposed ordinance amendments and then make a recommendation to council.

The other public hearing which generated significant comment was the proposed rezoning of the Russell Hills community in our downtown area from TC-LDR to TC-LDR-12. A number of residents voiced their support of this proposal as the proposed zoning would in effect align the neighborhood’s zoning with the original covenants the neighborhood was developed under, and remain valid today. Russell Hills’ original R12 zoning was changed to TCLDR when TCAP was adopted back in 2001. This allowed for zero lot line development and reduced setbacks resulting in redevelopment that residents found out of character with that of the existing Russell Hills community. While Russell Hills residents originally requested that the town rezone their neighborhood back to R12, given the neighborhoods proximity to downtown we believe there value in keeping this community zoned town center (TC) and instead worked to create a new zoning classification that addresses the neighborhood’s concerns yet still provides opportunity for redevelopment and reinvestment. One property owner spoke in opposition to the proposed rezoning. This proposal now goes to our Planning and Zoning board before coming back to council for final decision.

Another item that generated some discussion - and quite a bit of frustration among most all on the council I might add - was a Comprehensive Plan Amendment for a parcel in the Carolina Preserve at Amberly on Pittard Sears and O’Kelly Chapel Roads. The applicant was requesting a change in the land use plan from low density residential (LDR) to medium density residential (MDR) as they are looking to expand their retirement community – a community which brings little traffic and adds no school aged children I might add. The parcel is surrounded by MDR except that which fronts Pittard Sears and O’Kelly Chapel Roads. Pittard Sears Road provides a good boundary between the existing MDR on the east side and LDR on the west side. Simply put, this amendment made sense…well, six council members thought so anyways.

One council member who after speaking with a Chatham County Commissioner very familiar with the proposed amendment just a few hours before our council meeting stated she would oppose the amendment because – in her words – the Chatham County Commissioner was “unsettled” about the proposal. That’s it. Not because she believed it to be a bad amendment or anything like that, but because a Chatham County Commissioner – who by the way is no stranger at Cary Council meetings and has communicated her thoughts to council on numerous Cary developments in the past including this one – was “unsettled”.

Another Cary Council member said it best, “I work for Cary”.

On Friday I had the honor and privilege of attending a retirement party for Mr. James Brice, Custodian at Cary Elementary School for over 33 years. After some brief remarks I presented him with a Proclamation from the Mayor and council thanking him for his many years of dedicated service to both Cary Elementary and the community. He will be sorely missed.

Well that's all for this week in review. As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Week in Review 10/12/09 - 10/17/09

Monday began with a meeting with Town Manger Ben Shivar. We discussed a number of topics including the upcoming budget worksession and the town’s financial outlook as well as next steps regarding the spray painted house on Maynard Road.

On Monday evening I attended a community meeting with residents of Russell Hills and our town staff to discuss the proposed rezoning of the Russell Hills neighborhood from TCLDR to TCLDR-12. Russell Hills residents have submitted a petition requesting the zoning change as they are concerned that the current zoning (put in place when TCAP was adopted) is in conflict with pre-existing neighborhood covenants and would allow for new construction to be built up to the street and property lines altering the character and charm of the existing Russell Hills community.

On Tuesday I met with a developer and property owner regarding a potential development project at Harrison Ave and Maynard. I encouraged him to include area residents in the design process sooner than later to ensure that what is proposed better meets the expectations and satisfaction of the surrounding community.

Afterwards council held a worksession to discuss next year’s budget. Given the current economy and associated loss of revenue next year’s budget will be even leaner than our last. While maybe good news to some folks, growth in Cary has come to a screeching halt. No new growth means no new revenue to the town, yet the costs associated with maintaining existing levels of services will continue to increase. Just as your cost of living increases each year due to inflation or other factors so does the towns. If your family suddenly experienced a 20% reduction in income could you maintain your current standard of living? Of course not, and neither can the town.

Like it or not, the town needs to maintain a healthy growth rate to continue to provide the high levels of service and amenities that our citizens demand. I believe our Budget Director Scott Fogleman said it best, “If we were still seeing a 4-5% growth rate this worksession would be over”.

On Wednesday Town Manager Ben Shivar, Assistant Manager Mike Bajorek, Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson and I met with a family in the Russell Hills neighborhood to discuss ongoing stormwater problems and future plans to help alleviate these concerns.

Afterwards I attended the Town Center Review Commission’s (TCRC) meeting at town hall. Discussion items included a presentation on the town’s ongoing Historic Preservation Master Plan Project and the appointment of a vice-chair. Congratulations Susan!

Our Planning and Development Committee Meeting was Thursday evening. Our one discussion item was consideration of the next steps towards determining a future intersection design for the Cary Parkway and High House intersection. The town has been working to develop a new intersection plan for this intersection for some time, and after gathering community input and consideration of a number of alternatives our engineers are recommending a single quadrant design; similar to that of “jug handle” intersections like those seen in northern states. While this plan – on paper – makes sense and increases pedestrian safety by not adding asphalt and widening the intersection, I have concerns over how confusing this will be to motorists – especially those traveling this intersection for the first time. We recommended this item go to the full council for discussion and decision.

On Friday I met with representatives of the Amberly – Pittard Sears Road development seeking a comprehensive plan amendment from LDR to MDR. This project is in our town’s Northwest Area Plan. We discussed the existing resident’s concerns and their progress thus far in addressing those concerns. This item comes before council for decision this Thursday.

Well that’s it for this week in review. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week in Review 10/5/09 - 10/10/09

The majority of my time this past week was spent helping candidates running for both school board and municipal elections and preparing for Thursday evening’s council meeting.

Tuesday was Election Day – and what a great day it was! All four conservative, family friendly, pro-neighborhood schools, anti-mandatory year round school board candidates won their elections handily. Debra Goldman, Debra Prickett, and Chris Malone each won landslide victories garnering 60% of the vote. John Tedesco, candidate for district 2 school board running in a five person race also won big, but just missed the 50% + 1 of the vote required to avoid the need for a runoff. He finished with 49%. Tedesco now faces a runoff on November 3 with distant runner up Cathy Truitt who received only 24% of the vote. Why she is even calling for a runoff I am not sure but regardless I am confident that Tedesco will seal the deal in November. However we cannot rest on our laurels. This election is too important folks. I encourage everyone reading this to call or email John and offer your support. We know where John stands on the issues – Truitt’s positions change almost hourly depending on which way the wind is blowing, or to whom she is speaking with.

Voters sent a clear message to WCPSS. Parents and taxpayers are sick and tired of having our children used as pawns in some liberal social engineering experiment without any data whatsoever that proves the experiment even benefits the children it is designed to help. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe diversity in our schools to be a good thing – as long as a child doesn’t have to give up their seat at their neighborhood school so another who lives 15 miles away can sit in it.

Jack Smith and Julie Robison, candidates for reelection to the Cary Town Council also won big. Jack Smith received 66% of the vote and Julie received nearly80%. Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson also won on Election Day, but like Tedesco, failed to receive the 50% +1 of the vote to negate the need for a runoff. Jennifer received 49.97% of the vote in a four person race – 2 VOTES shy of winning outright. Think your vote doesn’t matter? Think again. There are a handful of provisional ballots left to count so there is still hope that Jennifer may pull this one out without the need for a runoff.

Regardless, the Robinson campaign is not sitting around waiting for the final tally. That’s not her style. Its full steam ahead towards victory in November! On a positive note, a month long runoff election allows Jennifer the time to debunk all the misinformation coming from the Bush campaign. Cary's citizens deserve honest answers to their questions, not quotes taken out of context and half truths. Whether you agree with all of Jennifer’s decisions or not, it's poor character to make her out to be something less than the dedicated and honest public servant that she is. I look forward to a debate between the two of them.

I also want to say “Thank You” to Terry ‘Doc’ Thorne and Cindy Sinkez for running positive, issue oriented campaigns. It has been an honor and a pleasure to get to know the both of them better during this campaign season. I wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. The main topics of discussion were the proposed Cameron Pond revegetation plan and associated subdivision plan amendment.

The Cameron Pond buffer issue has been one of the most difficult subjects; if not the most difficult I have dealt with during my time on the council. For those of you who may be unaware of this issue, the 100 foot buffer behind Cameron Pond that would have protected the residents from the future I540 was annihilated by Progress Energy to make way for massive 100 foot tall high voltage transmission lines. This was done without any knowledge or notification to the town or the council by Progress Energy or the developer of Cameron Pond. Unfortunately, no matter how wrong this was, Progress Energy is a condemning authority and has the power to do so.

The town, Cameron Pond residents and developer have been working for months to develop a revegetation plan that provides for as much screening from the future I540 and the power lines as possible. The reality however is that no amount of revegetation can ever right the wrong that has been imposed upon this community. You simply cannot replace the 100 foot of mature hardwoods and pines that were removed – and Progress Energy will not allow any plantings within the easement. Council was tasked with determining whether or not the proposed plan was sufficient (in my opinion no), and met the letter of the law in regards to Cary’s opaque buffer standards (it does). After a lengthy discussion and a commitment from the developer to install even more plantings the council swallowed hard and unanimously approved the revegetation plan.

The next item of discussion was the associated subdivision plan amendment. The existing plan is nonconforming as it does not include the utility easement nor the revegetation. Council voted 5-2 to approve the plan. Both Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson and I voted against the subdivision plan as we felt there was more the developer could do within the development to help compensate for the diminished quality of life in Cameron Pond. On behalf of the Town I sincerely apologize for everything the Cameron Pond residents have had to endure, and I thank them for all their work in helping us get to this point.

Afterwards council members pledged to partner with NCDOT in the construction of I540 so that we may better work together to further reduce the impacts that I540 will have on this community.

Council also unanimously denied the Nelson Road Industrial site plan as they were requesting a reduction to the required buffers along the west side of their property and the 100 foot thoroughfare buffer along Aviation Parkway. Great timing huh? I don’t see this council granting any buffer reduction requests any time soon - if ever; and in fact we will be working to strengthen our buffer standards in the very near future.

On Saturday I had the honor and privilege of attending the 9th annual Diwali Festival at Koka Booth Amphitheater along with council members Smith, Robison and Portman. Congressman David Price was also in attendance. I had a great time and I can’t thank the folks at Hum Sub enough for all their hospitality. Being a history buff I always enjoy learning more about other cultures – and sampling their food while I’m at it! ;-) But no matter how different our cultures may be, we still have so much in common. We all want good government, safe communities, a clean environment, great educational opportunities and respect. Sounds simple enough to me.

I also want to take a minute to thank everyone who took the time to email or call with your concerns regarding our son Jordan’s injury in the ECU/UCF football game. It really means a lot to our family and we are forever grateful for all your support.

Well that’s about it for this week in review. As always thanks for reading!