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!

Monday, September 3, 2012

8/23/12 Council Meeting and Lazy Daze

Our last council meeting was a long one – six public hearings, a special recognition, Ed’s swearing in, and chickens - and we had to take a new group photo. Yay....
The town council had the pleasure of honoring Cary’s own Sue Rowland, who was recently named the 2012 North Carolina Association of Municipal Clerks Clerk of the Year! This of course comes as no surprise to any of us who have worked with Sue as we are all well aware of her talents and commitment to excellence. I swear I don’t know how we could do our job without her. Congratulations Sue!
Its official - Ed Yerha is a Cary Town Councilman. Ed, with his wife, Carolyn by his side was sworn into office at the beginning of our meeting by our town clerk, Sue Rowland. And what a first meeting right? Chickens and protest petitions, woo hoo! All kidding aside, Congratulations Ed!
Notable public hearings included:
Cary’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Master Plan. You can view the staff report here and the complete plan as proposed here. A number of citizens spoke in favor of the plan. The plan now goes to our Planning and Zoning Board for review and input before final council approval in a couple of months.
Rezoning for Village at the Park: The proposed rezoning would modify a previously approved phasing plan for Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the project. Phase four includes 95,000 sq. ft. of commercial use, 88,000 sq. ft. of office, and 45 multi-family units. Prior to development of phase four, the developer must also widen Kitt Creek Road, Green Level Church Road and Hwy 55 along the property’s frontage. The developer however is only looking to construct 17,000 sq. ft. of the 95,000 sq. ft. allowed. They requested breaking phase four up into two phases – 4a. which includes the 17,000 sq. ft. of commercial and requires the developer widen Kitt Creek Road and Hwy 55, and 4b. which includes the remaining commercial, office and residential uses and requires the developer widen Green Level Church Road. The council unanimously approved the request.
Rezoning for Weston PDD: This request would amend the previously approved PPD to allow for a wellness center as a permitted use in the office district. A few folks, including an adjoining business owner spoke in opposition to the request. This kind of surprised me as I consider a wellness/fitness center to be a good use in an office park for obvious reasons – but I appreciate and understand some of the concerns presented.
Special Use Permit, Preston Golf Course: This request was to approve grading revisions in the FEMA designated flood plain on the Prestonwood Highlands Course. During the maintenance and renovations of two golf course greens, Prestonwood inadvertently altered the grades a whopping .3 feet from what previously existed. Now, not only must Prestonwood obtain FEMA, state and federal approval, but town council approval as well. This was a total waste of time, and yet another example of government regulation run amuck. Lord knows how much all of this cost…
Chickens: Cary residents who live on single family home lots can now keep a limited number of backyard hens PROVIDED THAT YOU DO NOT LIVE IN A COMMUNITY WITH HOA COVENANTS THAT PROHIBIT IT. HOA COVENANTS TRUMP TOWN CODE. I highly recommend you visit Cary’s Chicken FAQ page here and inquire with your HOA (if you have one) about any restrictions prior to getting chickens. DO NOT contact the town to complain that your HOA will not allow you to keep chickens – it is out of our control. YOU agreed to your HOA covenants when you bought your house and this is a private agreement between you and your HOA.
I believe the approved ordinance to be a good compromise that allows folks to keep a limited number of backyard hens and also protects adjoining property owners from any negative impacts associated with their neighbor’s hobby. Notable rules include:

·         Limit of 5 hens – NO ROOSTERS ALLOWED

·         Coop must be set back 15 feet from all property lines

·         Coop must be located closer to the owner’s home than any neighbor’s home

·         No on site slaughter

·         Chickens only allowed in coop or run – no free range

·         One time $50.00 permit fee

Please visit Cary’s chicken FAQ page here for more info on Cary’s chicken ordinance.
I hope everyone had a great time at Cary’s 36th annual Lazy Daze Festival in Downtown Cary! Thank goodness the weather cooperated this year. With an average attendance of 50,000, the Town of Cary's Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival is the highest ranked one day festival in the Nation for Classic & Contemporary Craft Shows by Sunshine Artist Magazine. You can see some great pictures from this year's festival here and here.

Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard to make this year’s festival a huge success. A very special thanks to Joy Ennis and Lyman Collins and their staff, Cary’s Festival Committee members, Public Works Dept. and especially all the volunteers – you all are awesome!

On a sad note, we have learned that former Cary Town Councilman, Jess Ward has past. Jess served as the District A Representative on the Cary Town Council from 1997-2001. Jess’ funeral is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8, 11 a.m. at Mt. Zion Church in Cary.

That’s all for now, and as always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Appointing Ed

I am pleased with the council’s selection of Ed Yerha to fill the remainder of Julie Robison’s expired term. I am not however pleased with the manner in which it occurred.

I have known Ed Yerha for about ten years now. Ed is a good and honest man. He is professional and kind and treats everyone with respect. And for as long as I’ve known him, he has always volunteered his time and energy towards making Cary a better place to live. I worked on his campaign for the Cary Town Council in 2005. Here’s proof for you non-believers. ;-) I'm the one who didn't hide their beer. ;-)

I am confident that Ed will serve Cary well as a member of the Cary Town Council.

I hate I couldn’t vote for him.
This council always prides itself in being able to work together as a team, and I think most folks would agree that we’ve done a pretty good job of it. We have always avoided partisan conflict unlike many other area boards. We respect one another’s thoughts and opinions, and we have always tried to find common ground or consensus whenever possible. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t, and that’s ok – at least we tried.
Except this time.
When the Mayor began our meeting, he immediately recognized Mayor Pro Tem Adcock who immediately made a motion to appoint Ed to the council. Councilman Jack Smith seconded the motion. It was clear this decision was made in advance of our meeting, and without consideration of other council member’s thoughts or opinions.
The council had narrowed the list of 59 applicants to 6 – one later withdrew from consideration leaving us with five. After council/candidate interviews, we all submitted our list of top 2-3 candidates to Cary Town Clerk, Sue Rowland who tallied the results for us prior to our meeting. Julia Rudy received 5 votes, Ed Yerha received 4 votes, and the remaining three candidates each received 2 votes respectively.
As much as I like Ed, he wasn’t my first choice. Like I said in an earlier post, there were a lot of extraordinary people who applied for the position. My first choice of the remaining five candidates was Kelly Commiskey. Kelly served on Cary’s Planning and Zoning Board for six years – three as the board chair. Prior to that she served on Cary’s Information Services Advisory Board. I actually served with Kelly on Cary’s Planning and Zoning Board prior to my election where I witnessed first hand her passion and commitment to our community. She always voted her conscience and what she believed best for all of Cary – not just a vocal minority. She has stood strong in the face of some pretty fierce winds – and I believe we could use some more of that on the council.
But unfortunately for a couple of us, Kelly didn’t receive as many votes as Julia or Ed. Since more of us recommended Julia Rudy (Jack Smith was the only one who didn’t recommend her, and that was because she voted for an apartment complex in his neighborhood…the only one Jack hasn’t voted for in years btw, but I digress…) than Ed, I felt like Julia could be our consensus candidate. But it’s pretty difficult to have that discussion when there’s already a motion on the table.
What disappointed me the most was that just that morning, I spoke with a council member who said to me, and I quote, “I just hope we have a good discussion before somebody tries to make a motion”. …and then he seconds the motion prior to any discussion. Nice.
My only real concern regarding Ed’s appointment is the perception of cronyism. Ed has supported a number of sitting council member’s political campaigns and vice-versa. I can assure you that this is not the case, but the perception issue is real nonetheless. An honest and transparent discussion could have gone a long ways towards addressing this concern.
Cary citizens - especially the 58 other candidates who applied for the position – deserved better.
To support Ed’s appointment under these circumstances would have been an endorsement of my colleague's actions, and I just couldn’t do that. I hope Ed understands.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My neck, The James Jones House, The Council Vacancy and Politics

The last few weeks have been rough. Back in April I had surgery to fuse three vertebras in my neck; I had two herniated discs that were wreaking havoc on a nerve and causing tremendous pain. Well, everything was doing fine until I started to experience the same pain again, only this time on my left side. The doc gave me some anti-inflammatory meds and in about a week, the pain was gone. Yay! Or so I thought. A few days later the pain came back with a vengeance on my right side and my hand was numb. Nice. We tried meds again with no luck before sending me for another MRI. I was on the operating table the next day. Turned out I had another damaged disc that was pushed into my spine causing all kinds of problems. Here is the MRI image where you can see the disc pushed into my spine. Hurt like hell….

I’m back at home now doing the best I can to rest and heal. The majority of nerve pain is gone and I am starting to feel most of my hand and fingers. My neck and throat are sore from the surgery, but that’s to be expected and it gets better each day. It will be a while before all the feeling returns to my hand and I regain arm strength, but I can deal with that. The pain, not so much.

Thanks so much to everyone who has called, emailed or stopped by to express your concerns. Your thoughts and prayers mean the world to me.

The next day I had a Planning and Development Committee meeting and then interviews with the five candidates for the vacant council seat.

The Planning and Development Committee meeting was light with the only discussion item being consideration of a resolution authorizingthe lease of the James Jones House at the corner of Academy and Dry to Lawrence Coffee and Bar LLC. The resolution passed unanimously.

In a nutshell the town will commit $150,000 to restore and make improvements to the historic James Jones House, and Lawrence Coffee and Bar LLC agrees to lease the property at a tiered rate for five years. The lease agreement totals $139,794, nearly the entire cost of renovations…which the town would have made to this historic property regardless.

Lawrence Coffee and Bar LLC will operate Larry’s Beans out of the house. Larry’s Beans serves wines, local beers, local kombucha (a fermented tea), cocoas and craft sodas, as well as sandwiches and salads.  The business will operate from 7:00 AM through 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday and 8:00 AM through 7:00 PM on weekends.  This schedule may be adjusted in conjunction with special events at the Cary Arts Center.  They will also employ 15 persons.

This is a wonderful use for the historic James Jones House and I wish them all the best in their efforts, and truth be told I also look forward to a great coffee shop on my route to work each morning! ;-)

Afterwards the council met for candidate interviews for the vacant council seat. We split into two groups of three and spent 20 minutes interviewing each of the five candidates. It was kind of like speed dating.

I have to say that all five of the candidates are extraordinary people; each with different skills, talents and backgrounds to offer; and all of which would be valuable to have on the council and to the town. Each of them have also served on our Cary’s Planning and Zoning Board, as well as other boards and commissions and are very familiar with town operations and departments. This is important to me as I am looking for a candidate that hit the ground running and need little time to adjust to their new role.

Council members are to now pick our top 2-3 candidates and we’ll see who gets the most votes and go from there. I know who my first and second choices are, but I’m still torn on who to pick for my third choice. Like I said, they are all extraordinary people – this is not an easy decision. We have a worksession scheduled for the 31st and we hope to make our selection then.

I want to thank each and every one of the 59 Cary citizens who applied to serve. Cary is one of the greatest communities to live in largely because of citizens like you; people who care enough to give back and volunteer their talents to make our community an even better place to live, work and raise a family. We are so blessed.

I also spent a great deal of time this past week reviewing citizen applications for all of our boards and commissions before submitting my recommendations to Deputy Town Clerk, Karen Gray. The council will further discuss the applicants at an upcoming worksession.

I want to take a minute to talk politics, and about my involvement with the Romney for President Campaign.
About a month ago we hosted a press conference on behalf of the Romney campaign at our business along with NC Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis and Dr. Jim Fulghum to discuss the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and more specifically, the small business community’s concerns with the fiscal and regulatory impacts of the act. I have also met with Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and North Carolina’s own Richard Burr for a business roundtable discussion about small business issues and concerns and the need for regulatory and tax reform at the federal level.

I am helping the Romney campaign because I am angry with what I see as nothing short of an assault on private business and free enterprise from our federal government and our President. I am done with being demonized by a President hell bent on turning public opinion against us – the job creators. And I am sick of hearing that all us “rich” small business owners aren’t “paying our fair share”, or that we somehow owe our success to the government. If anything we’ve managed to succeed despite government.
What the hell happened anyways? There used to be a time when we looked up to successful people – we aspired to be them. Now we are told they are evil.  I don’t get it.
Along with Governor Romney, I will be supporting those candidates who value the contributions of small business to our economy and our communities. I will be helping candidates who understand and appreciate entrepreneurs who take a huge financial risk and work endless hours starting and running their businesses. I will be speaking out about issues of concern in the business community, and I will be contributing both time and money to those candidates who believe in free enterprise and individual responsibility.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone as it was an attack on business – to include our business - that got me involved in politics in the first place. And ever since then, whether as a small business owner, a Cary Town Councilman, a member of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) NC Leadership Council or the Cary Chamber of Commerce, I have continued to work to help the business community.
After all, the number one indicator of one’s quality of life is a paycheck.
If you don’t have a good job, there’s a pretty good chance your quality of life stinks. I don’t want your life to stink. :-)
You may disagree with me and that is fine. We can agree to disagree. I encourage everyone to get involved and support those candidates who best represent your values.
That's all for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June 28, 2012 Council Meeting

The first order of business was to recognize retiring councilwoman Julie Robison. Julie and her family are moving to West Virginia as Julie’s husband, Dan has been named the Dean of the college of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design at West Virginia University. We all took turns saying our “goodbyes” and talked about what we would remember most about Julie. I talked about how I first met Julie about 10 years ago during the whole downtown auto issue, and that I and business owners throughout downtown are forever grateful for her efforts to help us fight city hall and save our businesses. We also surprised her by naming the volleyball courts at North Cary Park after her.

The council approved the creation of Cary’s first ever Business Improvement District (BID) in downtown. While BIDs are usually created to generate revenue (special tax district), our purpose for creating the BID is to provide the legal mechanism necessary to allow the town to mitigate impact fees associated with private development. Unlike most cities, Cary’s BID actually reduces fees on businesses, and hopefully will incent additional private investment in our downtown. The BID will exist for three years unless the council chooses to extend it.

The council also unanimously approved the FY2013 budget. The budget totals $232 Million and includes:

·         Tax Rate of 33 cents unchanged – lowest in Wake County

·         Garbage fees unchanged at $14.00 month

·         6% Utility fee increase to pay for the state mandated Western Wake Water Reclamation Facility

·         No New Debt for general capital projects

·         Seven new town employees – 4 related to WWWRF, 1 Detective, 1 Downtown Theater

This was a tough year. The economic recession continues to impact growth and revenues and ultimately, our budget. Their simply wasn’t any extra money to do some of the things we wanted to do.

The adopted budget is responsible as it continues to provide the high levels of services that Cary citizens expect at the lowest possible cost to you, the taxpayer.

During the November Election, Cary citizens will have the opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not we move forward with a number of transportation, parks, and public safety projects that we could not include in this year’s budget.

And last but certainly not least, the Town of Cary and Chatham County have approved a joint land use plan and interlocal agreement! Any new development within the Cary/Chatham plan boundaries must conform to this plan, and any changes to the plan must be approved by both the Chatham County Commissioners and the Cary Town Council. The plan strikes a good balance between folk’s rights to develop their properties, the rights of others to not be negatively impacted by that development and protecting our environment. The plan limits densities and utility services as you move closer to Jordan Lake to better protect water quality while also preserving the rural character and charm of Chatham County.

I have to say I never thought I’d see the day when both Cary and Chatham County would agree on a plan. I remember former (thank goodness) Chatham County Commissioners coming to Cary Council meetings to tell Cary to “stay the hell out of Chatham County”. Many thanks to the staffs of both Chatham and Cary for all their hard work, and to the Cary/Chatham Committee members for all their efforts. This was truly a team effort and a great example of cooperation between communities

Help Wanted:

I spent a great deal of time this weekend going over statements of interest and qualifications for the vacant at-large council seat; all 59 of them. This is not going to be an easy decision as there are a lot of extraordinary and highly qualified individuals to choose from.

We have our first council worksession on the vacancy this coming Tuesday where we hope to whittle the list down to a manageable number for interviews. Following the interview process we will meet again to hopefully pick our newest council member.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Be careful what you wish for! ;-)

Help Wanted: Cary Town
Council Calls for Candidates to Fill Vacancy

CARY, NC – Interested Cary citizens have from noon on Friday, June 1 until noon on Friday, June 29 to place their names into consideration for the unexpired At-Large Cary Town Council seat that will be vacated by Julie Robison effective June 30. To be considered, candidates must be at least 21 years old, live within the Cary corporate limits, be registered to vote and not have any disqualifying factors, such as sex offenses and felonies. Current Town of Cary employees are not eligible for appointment.

Cary citizens interested in the job should prepare a Statement of Interest and Qualifications (SOIAQ) that addresses all -- but need not be limited to -- the following:
• Name, street address, mailing address (if different from street address), zip code, telephone number, and email address;
• Describe why you want to serve as a Cary Town Council member;
• Describe your perspective on Cary’s growth management and what you would do, if anything, to change it;
• Describe your perspective on Cary’s financial management and what you would do, if anything, to change it;
• Willingness and ability to serve until citizens elect a successor in the fall 2013 Cary municipal election;
• Community involvement, community connectedness;
• Previous government experience;
• Other relevant experience;
• Education;
• Occupation and place of employment (if applicable); and
• Other personal qualities.

SOIAQs should be submitted to Town Clerk Sue Rowland by noon on June 29, 2012 via email at All persons who submit an SOIAQ will receive an email confirmation.

Following the deadline, all SOIAQs will be placed on the Town's website. SOIAQs are public records under North Carolina law and will be shared with others upon request and without notice; therefore, please do not include private identifying information on the SOIAQ, such as Social Security numbers. For more information, search “Council Vacancy” at or call (919) 469-4011.


Sue Rowland, Town Clerk, (919) 469-4011
Carrie Roman, Public Information Specialist, (919) 481-5091
Susan Moran, Public Information Director, (919) 460-4951


***Please note that email sent to and from this address is subject to the North Carolina Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 24, 2012 Council Meeting

Thursday evening’s council meeting included a number of discussion items to include land development ordinance amendments, a rezoning near Wake Med on Kildaire Farm Road, the Panther Creek ninth grade center request from WCPSS, a report from staff on the proposed Technology Task Force, and chickens – not necessarily in that order.

Keisler Rezoning: The council unanimously approved the applicant’s request to rezone 3.5 acres along Kildaire Farm Road from residential to office. The applicant has proposed a 50,000 sq. ft. office building on the site. Conditions include a 40 foot opaque buffer with no averaging, a 100 foot building set back from the rear property line, shielded lighting and storm water BMP’s that will be designed to accommodate a 50 year storm event. This site has been identified on Cary’s Land Use Plan as O+I since 1996. The site is not viable as a residential use (except for high density).

Technology task force: Councilmember Lori Bush and I initiated a request for Cary to consider creating a Technology Task Force to help Cary better understand and utilize technology and social media in communicating with citizens. Council unanimously approved the request. The clerk’s office will handle the application process so if you are interested in serving on the task force, please contact Town Clerk, Sue Rowland at .

Chickens: Discussed numerous times ad-nauseum. We conducted a public hearing and heard from many in support of allowing folks to keep a limited number of backyard hens. Two people spoke in opposition. The council forwarded this item to Cary’s Planning and Zoning Board for review before coming back to council for final decision in July or August. Yes, government moves slow – and that’s usually a good thing.

Yes, I still have a few concerns with the proposed ordinance; the $50.00 fee is too high, the recommended number of chickens allowed (6) is a couple too low, and the set-back requirements for coup placement are a bit difficult for the average citizen to understand, but I’m not going to win these arguments right now. The council consensus is to take it slow and see how this goes. Not a bad idea at all. If we find we need to make some adjustments in the future we can do so. I believe what is proposed to be a good balance of allowing folks to keep some chickens for personal use while protecting those who do not want to be impacted by their neighbor’s chickens.

One last point on chickens – if you live in a community whose HOA covenants prohibit the keeping of chickens, you still cannot get chickens. HOA covenants trump town code and you agreed to those rules when you bought your house.

Panther Creek 9th Grade Center: The council unanimously denied WCPSS’ request to amend the Town of Cary’s Land Development Ordinance (LDO) to allow for the construction of a “temporary” 9th grade center at the future site of the Alston Ridge Middle School (M16).

The overriding concern was with having to amend Cary’s LDO to allow for temporary classroom space in the absence of a principle structure (existing school). This amendment would not only apply to this specific request, but would also apply to any educational/institutional use town-wide. Any public or private school, trade school or other educational uses would be allowed to construct “temporary” facilities in the absence of a principle structure. We are all unfortunately familiar with WCPSS’ practice of adding trailers/modulars to alleviate overcrowding at area schools. This is the first time I can ever recall where they want to install the temporary classrooms first.

If council were to consider supporting the amendment, town staff recommended defining “temporary” as 2 years with a possible 2 year extension for a total of 4 years. WCPSS is on record stating they would need the 9th grade center for 6+ years.

Should WCPSS construct middle school M16 within four years of constructing the 9th grade center, that would then provide the principle structure required for the modulars to remain indefinitely – whether as a 9th grade center or to alleviate overcrowding at the middle school.

I blogged about this request last week in an effort to solicit citizen feedback, and boy did we get it. The emails and phone calls were overwhelmingly in opposition to this request with only 2 supporting it.

Make no mistake – this was not an easy decision. We all are well aware of the overcrowding issues at Panther Creek High School and we know we need additional school seats. Sacrificing our development standards however is not the answer. Council members also expressed concerns about the urgency of this request. I think councilmember Bush said it best, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.”

I don’t have an answer to this problem – none of us do. I wish we did and we will continue to try. But this isn’t our responsibility; it’s the school system’s. Cary works very hard to communicate development data and trends to WCPSS staff. What they do with that information I do not know.

UPDATE: WCPSS has filed an appeal with Cary’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. I will post an update as I learn more.

Land Development Ordinance (LDO) Amendments: There were a number of amendments discussed and approved – too many to write about and not as interesting as chickens ;-). You can view the staff reports here and here.
Well, that's our council meeting in a nutshell. As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Panther Creek 9th Grade Center?

I need your input.

WCPSS has asked the Town of Cary for approval to construct a “temporary” modular school site as a 9th grade center to alleviate overcrowding at Panther Creek High School. The proposed site is a 45 acre parcel south of the Alston Ridge Elementary School which will house the future M16 middle school campus. The 9th grade center campus would include 7 modular buildings and one steel building.
Cary Town staff reviewed Cary’s Land Development Ordinance (LDO) and confirmed that it presently does not allow temporary modular classrooms for expansion space unless they are being proposed in conjunction with an already-existing permanent principal structure on the site.
An ordinance amendment would be required to legally allow WCPSS to construct the modular (temporary) 9th grade center.
WCPSS has asked Cary for such an amendment. However an amendment such as this would also be available to any school, whether public or private; and, there is no guarantee a real permanent school would be constructed on such a site in the future.
We can all agree that we need additional school capacity, and I am well aware of many of the issues Panther Creek students and teachers are dealing with. However, some of my concerns are:
·         How “temporary” is temporary? 5 years? 10? 15? We have all experienced temporary classrooms (trailers/modulars) at area schools that, once installed, become permanent fixtures.

·         What assurances do we have that the proposed H7 high school in Apex will alleviate Panther Creek’s overcrowding issues once constructed; negating the need for the 9th grade center?

·         The H7 high school is dependent upon the passing of next year’s school bond referendum. How sure are we that that bond will indeed pass?

·         If the 9th grade center remains indefinitely, how does that impact the construction of middle school M16? (I love that designation btw ;-)

·         Area residents will be subject to construction noise and traffic twice – once for the 9th grade center, and then for its removal and construction of M16.
So help me, and probably all of council out here. What say you, Panther Creek and West Cary families? Do you support an ordinance amendment allowing for “temporary” classroom construction or not? Do you have a better solution?
PLEASE contact me with your thoughts at or email the entire council at We need to hear from you. Thank you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weeks in Review - April

The last month been rough. I woke up one morning with excruciating pain in my neck. I couldn’t move, well I could, but that made the pain even worse. I went to the doctor to find out what was going on. He sent me for X-Rays – nothing. He then scheduled an MRI. Soon after that I’m meeting with a neurosurgeon who’s asking me how soon he can get me on the operating table.

It turns out I had two herniated discs in my neck – one was completely disintegrated and the “debris” was wreaking havoc on a nerve that was causing shooting pain and weakness in my right arm and shoulder. I couldn’t even pick my arm up over my head. No amount of physical therapy was going to help the doc said.

I had surgery the following Monday to remove the debris, and fuse 3 vertebrae together. The few days following surgery things were going pretty well – the pain was much less than before and I was able to sleep through most of the night.

Then I got the flu – bad.

Two days of uncontrollable vomiting with a bum neck – Nice.

Things seem to be going pretty well now. Some days are better than others but all in all I can’t complain. It beats the heck out of where I was a few weeks ago.

Everyone keeps asking me, “how did this happen?” I have no idea. I can’t think of any single one thing I did lately where I may have caused this. I was involved in a motorcycle accident 10 years ago that put me in the hospital for a few days with a busted shoulder, collapsed lung and broken ribs, but I never had any neck injuries. Lucky me I guess.

Thanks so much to the surgical team and doctors at Rex for fixing me up, and especially my wife Lisa “Florence Nightingale” for taking great care of me. I am so blessed.

Until this past week I was unable to attend a number of town events and meetings. But I’m back in the saddle again!

The council held a worksession this past week to discuss a number of topics.

Public Art Master Plan Update: Council heard from staff and consultants on a number of items pertaining to the town’s Public Art Master Plan. Key discussion points centered around funding in regards to both public and private development. Staff was recommending a percent for art program. This would require a percentage of the cost of the project be dedicated to public art. For example, if a private developer or the town were to build a $10 million project, $100,000 would have to be spent on public art.

The council did not support a percent for art program, and instead directed staff to look into ways we can incent the private sector to incorporate art into their projects, and for the town to consider, but not require public art with public projects on a case by case basis.

Downtown Update: We received an update from Downtown Development Manager, Ed Gawf regarding a number of initiatives, but the main focus of this session was the proposed downtown park – or “opportunity site” as Ed likes to call it. (this is the property across from the Cary Arts Center bordered by Park, Academy, Walker and Walnut Streets). I requested this session as there seemed to be some confusion regarding the town’s intent. For years we have been telling folks this property would become Cary’s Downtown Park. However, we are also considering locating the new downtown library and associated parking deck on this property, and there is also interest in some amount of retail and restaurant space. The last time the council discussed this site was at our 2010 council retreat.

Ed proposed giving him 6 months to work with other professionals land planners to develop a number of options to present to council. I struggled with this request for 2 reasons. 1) I kinda liked the plan we agreed upon in 2010, and 2) one of the reasons I ran for council was that I was sick of planning. We had planned, planned, and planned some more downtown, but weren’t actually doing anything. Obviously that has changed in the last few years. However, given that we have not acquired all of the property on this site as of yet, there is still time to revisit. Ed said 6 months. He has until October. ;-)

Downtown Business Improvement District (BID): Council agreed to create a BID downtown to facilitate the mitigation of impact fees. The town cannot legally waive fees in one area of town while requiring them in another. The BID would enable the town to pay the fees. Yes, we are paying ourselves – sounds dumb, I know, but the law is the law. There is NOT an associated tax increase with the creation of the BID.

Process for Filling the Upcoming Council Vacancy – Robison Seat: Council briefly discussed the timeline and process for filling departing Councilmember Julie Robison’s seat. If any of you are interested in serving out the remainder of her term, start getting that resume ready! Just be careful what you wish for. ;-)

There were three notable items on our council meeting agenda this past Thursday.

Request to Waive Road Improvements for St. Michael the Archangel School on High House Road: St. Michaels submitted plans to construct a new gymnasium, and were requesting a waiver of associated road improvements to include the widening of High House Road along their frontage, prohibit left hand turns out of their eastern most driveway, dedicate the required right-of-way and the installation of a traffic signal.

The council agreed to waive the all the improvements except for the dedication of right-of-way given that this project would not add additional students or vehicle trips. In fact, traffic may be less as students would no longer have to travel to other locations for practices and meets. This location also does not meet warrants for a traffic signal, and NCDOT would most likely deny the signal installation. St. Michaels will however be expected to make traffic improvements should they ever add classroom space or other development that increases vehicle trips.

Chickens: The issue that just won’t go away ;-) Heck, what am I saying, this time it’s my fault. The council agreed on the following:

• 6 chickens allowed

• No slaughter

• Kept in backyards only

• Adequate setback requirements, basically 10 ft on side yards and 25 ft. in rear

• A one time $50.00 fee to cover costs of administering the program and enforcement (possible annual fee also yet to be determined)

• No roosters

• For personal use only – no raising chickens for sale

We have discussed this issue ad nauseam so I will keep my comments brief. I was pleased with council’s decisions except for the number of chickens allowed and the fee. I had pushed for 8 chickens and a $10.00 fee to be more in line with what we charge for dogs and cats. I lost those votes. I also asked staff to make sure the recommended setbacks wouldn’t prohibit folks who live on odd shaped lots the opportunity to keep chickens. This issue now comes back to us for public hearing in May and then to our Planning and Zoning Board before final council decision June 28th. Yes, government moves slow – most of the time that’s a good thing.

Last but not least was council consideration of a request from Councilmember Lori Bush to direct town staff to investigate creating a “technology task force” to better communicate with citizens, improve our service delivery and increase citizen involvement. I was the cosponsor. The council granted unanimous approval.

Afterwards we held a closed session to discuss some ongoing legal issues.

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