Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week(s) in Review - 11/14/2011 - 11/25/2011

Sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks – the Thanksgiving Holiday, family obligations, work and the hot-rod (not necessarily in that order ;-) have taken priority over blogging. I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Highlights from the last couple of weeks include:

A number of area elected officials and I attended a town hall session in Morrisville hosted by NC Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis. We discussed a number of issues including transportation funding options, healthcare costs and increasing competition in the marketplace, reducing unreasonable regulations on business and other accomplishments from this year’s legislative session.

Afterwards I high-tailed it over to Cary Town Hall to tape the December edition of CaryMatters with Mayor Weinbrecht. This went well considering that both the Mayor and I had been recuperating from bad colds and our voices weren’t 100%. Topics included cell phone towers, golf carts on public roads and leaf collection. Check it out on Cary TV channel 11 starting December 1st.

Following the taping session the Mayor and I met with a number of folks interested in implementing a trap, neuter and release (TNR) ordinance for feral cats in Cary. The gist of what they are seeking is to require that Cary Animal Control Officers – when responding to a cat complaint – offer the citizen 2 options. 1) the officer can trap the cat and take it to the shelter where it will most likely not be adopted and killed (BAD), or 2) they can call a number of area providers that will trap the cat, have it neutered and give it all of its shots and return it to where it was captured – at no cost to the citizen (GOOD). Needless to say their request makes a lot of sense and the Mayor and I have included this item for discussion on our December meeting agenda.

Prior to our November 17 council meeting we hosted a reception for this year’s Hometown Spirit Award nominees. This was a lot of fun and I was blown away listening to each nominee’s accomplishments and records of community activism. All four finalists were truly deserving of being named this year’s award winner – but in the end their can only be one. Congratulations to Cary’s 2011 Hometown Spirit Award Winner, Keith Bliss.

Council meeting highlights included recognition of Ms. Jessica Elliott of Gladys, Virginia for her heroic efforts to provide emergency medical assistance to Cary Officer Chad Penland after his motorcycle accident on July 15, 2011 (not a dry eye in the room); 2 quasi-judicial public hearings for a storage unit and auto care facility; and a public hearing on proposed land development ordinance (LDO) amendments.

Notable LDO amendments proposed include the reduction or elimination of parking requirements, streetscape and road improvements and sign regulations in downtown. Reducing these over-burdensome regulations will further help incent new businesses looking to locate downtown, and allow existing businesses the ability to further grow their business without penalty. The amendments now go to the Planning and Zoning Board for review before coming back to council for decision.

Council also held a worksession on November 15 to discuss Cary’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and Transportation Development Fee (TDF) requirements and to receive an update on downtown initiatives.

The APF/TDF part of the worksession was painful to say the least. The council had expressed concerns that our ordinance was inequitable (it sometimes punished the last guy in because previous developers used up all the allowable vehicle trips), created gaps in our road network (wide road/skinny road) and that it is over-complicated (it is). About a year ago we directed staff to investigate and report back to council with options on how we can modify our APF and TDF ordinances to make them more equitable and easy to understand (at least that’s how I remember it). That’s not what we got.

What we got was a liberal mass-transit loving consultant from Maryland whose top suggestions included raising fees on developers and existing citizens, and even mobility fees/taxes. He offered very little – if anything – about how to address our concerns of complexity and inequity, and seemed more interested on increasing revenues – especially to pay for mass transit, which the council NEVER even mentioned as a reason to review our ordinance in the first place. We also learned that the citizen input part of this process only included input from 3 citizens. This is unacceptable (note – the next morning I sent a list of over 30 citizens for staff to contact for another citizen input meeting. Other councilors did the same)

I want a simple and fair system that folks can understand and addresses our concerns; one that says, “If you build X, you must also build or fund Y to offset your impact on Cary’s road network”. That’s it.

Thankfully the downtown portion of the worksession was more positive. The council discussed a number of options for the development of the new Downtown Cary Theater before unanimously deciding to construct a three story addition to the theater to provide additional classroom, storage and meeting space as well as leasable business/office space. The town will also be making water/sewer and stormwater infrastructure improvements in the area along with streetscape enhancements. Oh – and those downtown LDO amendments I spoke about earlier? Once approved, the theater can utilize neon lighting both in the architecture and marquis sign! Neon in Cary?!?! Woo Hoo!

We received even more good news this past week with the announcement that the town has closed on a few more properties in downtown – including the building adjacent to the downtown theater (used to be the old Mitchell’s Pharmacy and most recently the India Bazaar) and a large L shaped property that fronts both Academy and Chatham St (formerly owned by the Suggs family). The old pharmacy will be updated and leased/sold to a private retailer, and we are pursuing a public/private redevelopment opportunity with the other. Great things are happening in downtown Cary!

And last but certainly not least, the hot-rod should be back from the body shop soon. ;-)
Well that’s it for now – as always, thanks for reading!