Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cary citizens make Cary great!

Every time I see the news I am reminded how blessed we are to live in one of the greatest communities in America.  But I am also reminded that we must not take this for granted. It is so important that we as a community continue to support each other and give back, and there isn’t much that better demonstrates Cary citizens doing exactly that than some of the recent events in town.

Cary hosted two Veterans Day events to pay tribute to and thank our veterans and their families for their sacrifice and service to our great nation - the 2017 Veterans Luncheon at the Herb Young Community Center and Veterans Day Observance Ceremonies at Veterans Freedom Park. Both events are always well attended.

At the luncheon our veterans and their families are treated to a patriotic program, lunch and musical entertainment. One of the more popular parts of the program is when the band plays the service songs of all the military branches and veterans from each branch stand and wave flags when their song is played. Their might even be a little competition between the service members of the different branches πŸ˜‰ Thanks so much to the dozens of volunteers and Town of Cary employees who, without for them the event would not be possible; and special thanks to The Cary Town Band and the Cary Christian School Chamber Choir who did an amazing job – seriously, if you haven’t heard the these two perform together you’re missing out. Well done!

2017 Veterans Day Luncheon

The Cary Town Band and the Cary Christian School Concert Choir

Council Member and US Army Veteran Jack Smith

The Veterans Day Observance Ceremony at Veterans Freedom Park featured speakers from both the town and local armed forces community support groups. The Old North State Band provided musical entertainment and Carolina Veterans Support Group provided a field of flags that folks could sponsor. Little toy soldiers were provided for citizens to write a soldier's name on and place in the memorial as a way to honor those who have served in the armed forces. These soldiers will be saved and placed in the monument every Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

And on a related note, back in September The Herb Young Community Center hosted the Veteran's Benefits Action Center. The Cary program in partnership with Veteran’s Affairs, allows eligible veterans and dependents a unique opportunity to be assisted by a team that includes Veteran’s Organization Service Officers, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, benefits officials and healthcare representatives.

Veterans Freedom Park

Cary Unity Walk

The Cary Unity Walk is an event to celebrate citizens working together to support local first responders and create a safe, unified, and nurturing community for our youth and our future. Produced by Fit and AbleProductions, nearly 300 people walked with Cary Police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel from Downtown Cary to WakeMed Soccer Park. Following the walk was a 5K/10K race which also featured kids games by Special Olympics North Carolina, performances by LA Dance, a fly-over by the Bandit Flight Team, the national anthem by the USO, and representatives from every branch of the military.

Finding ways in which our citizens can connect with our first responders is so important, and I am so very proud of the fine folks at Fit and Able and our citizens for making this a priority.

Cary Unity Walk Opening Ceremonies

Hometown Spirit Award

Cary’s Hometown Spirit Award is bestowed annually on a Cary resident who enhances the quality of life in Cary by preserving, promoting and carrying out positive and quantifiable traditional small-town community values and traits.
Nine outstanding Cary residents were nominated this year by their peers. Nominees were recognized and honored at a reception at the Page Walker Hotel prior to our council meeting where last year’s Hometown Spirit Award Winner, Sheila Ogle along with Mayor Harold Weinbrecht opened the super top-secret envelope to reveal that this year’s award winner is, drumroll please…, Ralph and Daphne Ashworth!

For 60 years Ralph and Daphne Ashworth have been very involved in both Cary’s business and philanthropic community giving time and treasure to make Cary a better place. Their list of contributions is long – real long – like there isn’t enough room on this blog to list it all long; and chances are that if you’ve lived in Cary for any length of time you are familiar with the many wonderful contributions the Ashworths have made to our community – they are legends. If not, I’d encourage you to learn more about them here, here and here.

We are forever grateful for their lifetime of service. Cary is literally a better place because of Ralph and Daphne Ashworth and their family.

Ralph Ashworth accepting the 2017 Cary Hometown Spirit Award

Meeting Place Park

At our most recent council meeting we changed the name of Meeting Place Park in Downtown Cary to Kay Struffolino Park to honor Kay for her over 40 years of service and volunteerism to Cary.

Cary’s 2010 Hometown Spirit Award Winner, Kay has dedicated her life to making Cary a better place. She has adopted two parks to maintain, has donated thousands of hours and dollars to beautify Cary’s parks and greenways, and has served on numerous boards, committees, and task forces. Kay’s fingerprints are all over Cary.

Kay is one of Cary’s greatest citizens and an inspiration to everyone. It is because of her selfless commitment to all things Cary that we renamed this park in her honor.

Renaming Meeting Place Park to Kay Struffolino Park. 

In closing, I mentioned earlier how blessed we are to live in Cary – but just to be clear “blessed” doesn’t mean “lucky”. Cary clearly didn’t become one of the greatest places to live in America by accident. We have YOU, our amazing citizens to thank for that. So keep doing what you’re doing and if there is ever anything that we at the town can do to help you help us, please let us know!

I am so thankful for each and every one of you! Happy Thanksgiving!  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Glenaire, MetLife, IKEA, Wegmans, Waltonwood

Glenaire Ribbon Cutting

I was honored to attend Glenaire’s ribbon cutting ceremony for their new health care center and take a tour of the new facility with council members Bush and Yerha.

Glenaire is one of the first retirement communities in North Carolina to transform its health center away from the traditional healthcare layout, into a home model. Now, residents needing skilled nursing care will have the privacy and normalcy of a real home. The expansion allowed for 4 “households” to be created in the assisted living and skilled nursing wings of the main building. Each household houses approximately 20 residents. This model allows for more individualized care between nurse and resident.

We can’t thank all the fine folks at Glenaire enough for all that they do to provide high quality senior services in our community.

MetLife Groundbreaking

Mayor Weinbrecht, Council member Yerha and I joined a number of elected officials and business and community leaders to break ground on MetLife's 3rd building in Cary. The new building will be approximately 240,000 sq ft and bring an estimated 700 jobs to Cary.

Governor Roy Cooper, Senators Tillis and Burr, Congressmen Price and Holding and representatives from MetLife and Highwoods Properties all addressed the large crowd. My favorite remarks however came from Ed Fritsch of Highwoods Properties who stated that in projects of this magnitude, “…every community claims partnership; the Town of Cary delivers.” Yes we do. Cary rocks! :-)

You know it's a big deal when the Mayor and I are in the fourth row ;-)
The Cary delegation breaking ground
So, yeah, in case you haven't heard, at our most recent council meeting we unanimously approved the IKEA rezoning and associated preliminary development plan ;-) Construction will begin once building permits are approved and is expected to be completed in 2020.

Redevelopment plans are also in the works for the remainder of the Cary Town Center Mall site and are currently going through the development review process and should come to council for public hearing soon so stay tuned.

The Fenton mixed use rezoning on the state property across the street from Cary Town Center that includes the Wegmans project is on our council agenda for public hearing this Thursday. You can view the staff report for that project here.

Waltonwood Rezoning

Also at our council meeting we considered and ultimately approved a request to change permitted uses in the Silverton Planned Development District on the properties below from commercial and office to allow for a senior life care facility and residential.

This was a unique request in that both quadrants were combined into one rezoning and not considered separately. The reason for this was the applicant’s intent to create an upscale “intergenerational community” that would allow seniors and their families to be in close proximity to each other as well as provide easier, hassle free living for empty nesters looking to downsize and young professionals.

The senior living facility and age-targeted townhomes would be located on the southern property with townhomes and multi-family on the northern property. 

I really liked the senior living component for a number of reasons. First of all, it meets a desperate need in our community for additional senior housing and services. Believe it or not, Cary is the second oldest city in North Carolina and we aren’t getting any younger. The median age for Cary residents has climbed to 40 years old and 10+% of our population is already age 65 or older. Cary is such an awesome place to live that nobody wants to leave πŸ˜‰ and they shouldn’t have to because they can’t find a place that meets their needs. Waiting lists for many Cary assisted living facilities range anywhere from 3-10 years.

Secondly, the majority of area residents that I heard from to include folks who had opposed previous proposals – especially those living along or near Winfair Drive – expressed their support for the project as it would be less impactful to their neighborhood than a commercial development would. Assisted living facilities are very low traffic generators, quiet and safe.

Rendering of the Waltonwood Senior Living Community

The multi-family component on the northern quadrant however is what made this case somewhat challenging as we had planned for office development on that site.

The reality however is that the site has been on the market as office for decades with no one expressing any interest. It is not a desirable location for class A office development nor do our economic development folks consider this a priority office site. While it could possibly develop as neighborhood/medical/dental office sometime in the future, the existing office quadrant on the other side of Evans Road (where the Dental Society and Primrose are located) that still has land available for office has not experienced any additional demand for space.

The proposed multi-family development is a product fairly unique to our region. It is comprised of stacked ranch and townhome residences with direct entry garages and architectural design elements that exceed Cary’s strict standards. The applicant voluntarily added a number of conditions to the rezoning to ensure that the high-quality project they promise is what actually gets built. Notable conditions include direct entry garages, architectural elements, first floor master bedrooms on many of the units, 50% masonry construction and a gathering space/clubhouse and pool. They will also construct a greenway on the northern and eastern part of the site.

Site plan concept for street corners and public art

The applicant has also committed to pay for a traffic signal at Winfair and Cary Parkway if warranted. A traffic study will be done one year after the last certificate of occupancy is issued and if it is determined that a signal is warranted, it will be installed. The developer is also making a number of area traffic improvements and the town will be installing dual turning lanes at Cary Parkway and Evans and a right turn lane on southbound Evans Road soon.

Our town staff and planning board ultimately recommended denial primarily due to concerns regarding the loss of a potential office site, although staff did identify a number of positives with the project and stated that “they could go either way”. While we always value the advice of our staff and advisory boards, sometimes we simply disagree with their recommendation(s). This isn’t the first time we voted differently than what was recommended and it surely won’t be the last.

The council takes seriously the request to rezone a potential office site to residential. Any proposal to do so must make a compelling case why. Taken as a whole and considering the majority support of area residents, the reality of market forces, conditions offered by the applicant that ensures a high quality product and development trends, the majority of council believed this proposal made a compelling case and was approved by a vote of 5-2.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Reedy Creek Trailhead, HQ2, FRG and Halloween!

Reedy Creek Road Trailhead

This Thursday we celebrated the official opening of the new Reedy Creek Trailhead located at 2139 Old Reedy Creek Road.

The trailhead is the starting point for Cary’s seven-mile Black Creek Greenway and an access point for the East Coast Greenway which runs west on Black Creek Greenway and east through Umstead State Park on Reedy Creek Greenway. These trails connect westward to White Oak Creek Greenway, and the American Tobacco Trail and eastward through Raleigh then southward along the Neuse River. The trailhead also provides access to scenic Lake Crabtree overlooks, Wake County’s multi-use trails linking to Lake Crabtree County Park, and hiking and biking trails in Umstead State Park.

The new trailhead also features 82 parking spaces, restrooms, a small shelter with tables and a grill, Cary’s first bike fix-it station and a drinking fountain with a bottle filler and pet dish.

Representatives from Cary’s Greenway Committee, the East Coast Greenway, Wake County Parks and Rec and Cary Town Staff members were on hand to greet folks and answer questions about the new trailhead, greenways and parks throughout our community. You can learn more about the trailhead by clicking here

Citizens learning more about the trailhead and greenways

FRG Begins Construction

Construction has begun on Financial Risk Group’s new 11,000 sq ft office building on West Chatham Street in Downtown Cary (the old Carolina Lighting building) and will serve as the company’s new global headquarters. The move will centralize FRG’s US-based employees in a single location while allowing for future expansion.

This major renovation project will transform the building into a modern office. The building’s exterior will be revised with a modern, steel and green glass faΓ§ade as illustrated in the image below. Plans also include approximately 1,200 square feet of retail space available for lease. Construction is expected to be complete early 2018.

Groundbreaking Ceremonies for FRG's New Building

FRG's New Building Facade
Awards and HQ2

Cary was recently named the 2nd Most Livable Mid-Sized City in the country by SmartAsset with no other North Carolina cities making the top 25.

Cary was also recognized as the 6th Best City for Quality of Life by NerdWallet. (Raleigh came in at #22 and Charlotte #92) We also smoked McKinney, Texas who placed 59th. That makes me soooo happy ;-)

….which are just two more reasons why Amazon should pick Cary for their new headquarters right???

Cary’s Economic Development team and town staff have been working hard with our Research Triangle partners to respond to Amazon’s HQ2 RFP – and on October 19th that proposal was delivered to Amazon (shipping was FREE because we’re PRIME members) ;-)

The proposal focuses on the strengths of our region and delivers a strong case for consideration. It highlights among other things our highly educated and talented workforce, globally recognized universities, a robust economy and start-up scene, low cost of living vs high quality of life, a quality airport and growing transit options.

The proposal also identifies potential sites that meet Amazon’s criteria to include Cary – and before you ask, no, I am not allowed to disclose where those sites are. Sorry.

The collaboration between so many different agencies and entities on this project in such a short period of time has been nothing short of amazing and everyone involved should be commended for their efforts.

I believe our region will be a serious contender to make Amazon’s short list – so do some in the media. So stay tuned for updates and if you are on twitter you can be a part of the conversation using #TriangleDelivers.

Halloween Fun!

Learn more about all of the hair-raising Halloween events coming up in Cary by watching the video below, or visit the town’s website here. With pumpkin carvings, a haunted house, Zombiepalooza and trick-or-treating there is something for everyone!

That's all for now - as always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Eastern Cary Gateway Update - IKEA and Wegmans

Eastern Cary Gateway Update

Both the proposed IKEA and Wegmans’ projects continue to work their way through the approval process and barring any unforeseen issues should receive council approval/rezoning in the near future – the IKEA project sooner than later.


At our most recent council meeting we conducted the public hearing for the proposed IKEA rezoning and associated preliminary development plan. This was the public’s opportunity to offer comment on the proposal and associated conditions.

Here is an image of the subject property and future IKEA site. Note that only the proposed IKEA site and associated parking was under consideration and not the entire Cary Towne Center Mall site. Mixed-use redevelopment plans are in the works for the rest of the mall site and we expect to consider a rezoning for the remaining property soon.

IKEA site at Cary Towne Center Mall
Zoning conditions offered by IKEA include:

Limiting building height to 60 feet

Limiting building to 380,000 square feet of retail use

Providing a 150 foot building setback from the eastern property line adjacent to the Ivy Meadows subdivision

Preservation of the landscape buffer area between the proposed building and the eastern property line

Architectural design will look like this:

Notice the building signage says “sign” and not “IKEA”. That is because we cannot by law consider who the applicant of any rezoning is – we can only consider the use and associated conditions. Although given the request and conditions offered it is obvious who the end user will be.

All of the citizens who spoke at the public hearing were supportive of the proposal although a few did express some concerns regarding increased traffic, light pollution and the condition of the existing buffer. IKEA has agreed to make many traffic improvements as identified in the traffic analysis report and also agreed to reduce the height of site lighting to address lighting concerns. The remaining issues are minor and can easily be addressed.

Cary’s Planning and Zoning Board will now review the case and make their recommendation before the case comes back to us for final decision in a couple of months. I look forward to supporting it. This is a big deal for Cary and especially for the revitalization of the Cary Towne Center Mall and surrounding area.


The council recently visited Alpharetta, Georgia to visit Avalon, a successful mixed-use development project similar to that which is being proposed on the state-owned property along Cary Towne Blvd. across the street from the future IKEA and Triangle Aquatics Center.

There we toured the project and heard from a number of stakeholders both private and public about the project. What were some of the lessons learned? What did they get right? What would they do differently? How can we be sure that what they delivered in Alpharetta can be delivered here? Stuff like that. This was clearly the most valuable part of the visit and I believe helped to alleviate some of the doubts folks might have had.

Avalon nightlife

Apple Store at Avalon negates the need for street lights ;-)
Christmas at Avalon - photo courtesy of Avalon

As you can see, Avalon is more than a mixed-use development. It is an experience. It’s a destination – which is exactly what we are looking for on the state property. But keep in mind that we aren’t trying to copy Avalon. Cary isn't Alpharetta. The state property is one of Cary’s last primo pieces of undeveloped land adjacent to I40 suitable for class A office development. Therefore, while a high quality project like Avalon and a Wegmans can surely work on this site, the plan MUST include a healthy amount of office development.

The good news is that is exactly the direction this proposal is headed. The bad news is that it is going to take a little more time to iron out all of the details.... because if grandma’s world-famous chili recipe says to let it simmer for 10 hours, you let it simmer for 10 hours. You don’t rush it because the end result won’t be as good as it could have been. Same thing here. We’re going to make sure this project is fully cooked before we say it’s ready. But once it’s done, man it’s gonna be good!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

FY18 Budget, Downtown Park Phase 1 Dedication and Reedy Creek Road Widening

At our meeting this past Thursday the council approved the fiscal year 2018 Budget. The budget totals roughly $311 million with $242 million for operations and $68 million for capital projects. The FY18 budget is 2.9% LESS than the FY17 budget.

Budget highlights include:

·         Cary’s tax rate remains unchanged at 35 cents
·         Solid waste fee remains unchanged at $16 per month
·         Funds a new Police Detective Position to help address the growing opioid crisis.
·         $3 million for a grade separated crossing at Carpenter Firestation Road and the CSX Railroad
·         $1 million for historic preservation initiatives
·         Funds the design of the new Cameron Pond Park
·         Reedy Creek Road Widening Project (more on this later!)

This will be our first budget year shifting away from an annual budget event to one that more closely resembles the corporate model where our town staff will present quarterly updates to council using rolling forecasts of both revenues and expenditures. Should we discover during the quarterly update process that our revenue forecast is beating budget, we might be able to fund another project before the next budget cycle. Should we discover that our revenue forecast is lower than budgeted, we could decide to put a project on hold. This will provide for greater flexibility and responsiveness to our community’s needs.

The completion of the Higgins Greenway project for example is one that could be considered at the next update as we are waiting for more information regarding Parks and Rec payment-in-lieu funds. The Higgins Greenway project would provide a greenway connection to downtown for a number of area neighborhoods and is something that both Mayor Pro Tem Yerha and I have been trying to get completed for years.

I can’t thank our town staff - especially the fine folks in budget and finance - enough for their amazing work in helping us craft a fiscally responsible budget that meets our community’s goals, advances the policies and vision set forth in the new Cary Community Plan and keeps taxes low – the lowest of any municipality in Wake County btw ;-)

Downtown Park Dedication

This past Saturday we FINALLY dedicated the new downtown square and fountain. About time right? This was a wonderful event despite the fact that somebody forgot to tell Mother Nature it wouldn’t be a good time for a severe thunderstorm. I was completely blown away at how many folks chose to weather the storm in nearby businesses and CAME BACK once the rain stopped. The place was packed before and after the storm!

Both Mayor Weinbrecht and myself spoke prior to the ceremonial coin flip and fountain light show.

My remarks were brief (I know, surprise right?) and can be summarized as follows: 1) Heck yeah this is awesome and 2) You aint seen nothing yet!

The downtown square and fountain (phase 1 of the downtown park) is but one acre of what will be a seven acre park in downtown Cary. We still have six acres to go. So if this is what one acre of the downtown park looks like, I can’t wait to see how the remaining six acres turns out! You can read more about the plans for phase 2 of the downtown park here.

We were also thrilled that NC House Representative and former Town Council Member, Gale Adcock could join us for the festivities. Gale was on the council when we approved the park and was also a big part of making this happen. While we greatly appreciate everything she is doing for us in Raleigh, we still miss having her on the council - oh boy do we ever. 

Great things are happening in and around our downtown and with your continued support we intend to keep it that way!

Downtown Park Dedication Ceremonies

On a related note – Cary’s Downtown Manager, Ted Boyd will be giving his third “Ted Talk” at The Cary Theater on July 19th. He will be updated folks on current and future projects downtown to be followed by a question and answer session at the end. You can learn more about the event here.

Reedy Creek Road Widening

At our meeting this past Thursday the council approved the Execution of the Locally Administered Project Agreement for the Reedy Creek Road Widening Project with NCDOT.

The Reedy Creek Road Widening Project will:

·         Widen Reedy Creek Road between Harrison Ave. and Maynard Road to a consistent three lane cross-section
·         Provide sidewalks for pedestrians
·         Provide bike lanes for cyclists
·         Provide a 12’ landscaped median where turning lanes are not required
·         Include roundabouts at both the entrance to the Middle and Elementary Schools as well as the intersection of Reedy Creek Road and Dynasty/Electra Drive to reduce vehicle speeds and better protect pedestrians – especially school children.

Improving Reedy Creek Road has been a priority of mine and the surrounding community for a long time. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to finally see this project move towards construction. Thanks so much to the fine folks in Cary’s Transportation and Engineering Departments for all of their hard work, the surrounding community for all your input and NCDOT. This has truly been a team effort.

Conceptual image of the Reedy Creek Road Improvements
The proposed roundabout at the entrance to Reedy Creek Middle and Elementary Schools
Well that's all for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Downtown Park Design Firm Selection Process

At our workesession last night the council agreed to move forward with a new process for selecting a design consultant to work with the community, town staff and the council to design phase 2 of the new downtown park.

In a nutshell, four nationally recognized design firms will be competing for the job.

Why do we want to engage a nationally renowned award winning design firm with this project you ask? Well, if you want to build the best park in the country, you look for the best park planners. While Cary absolutely has some amazing and beautiful parks throughout town, we are cranking this one up to 11 πŸ˜€

An interdepartmental team of town staff members researched a number of design firms who have created award winning parks and public spaces across the country and whittled that list down to four that they recommended the council consider. They presented this list along with examples of their work for council to consider.

The four design firms recommended are being considered because of their proven record of repeated success and commitment to shared design goals which include:

  • ·         The importance of engaging the community and incorporating unique features from the community into the park design.

  • ·         Emphasis on the development of large and small spaces creating the right balance for each unique park setting.

  • ·         Experience working with a variety of funding models to include public/private partnerships and/or community foundations to support design and construction of the parks.

  • ·         An understanding of the relationship of the park’s immediate proximity to its surroundings be it a museum, a performing arts center, restaurants, shops, commercial and residential development so  the entire area thrives along with the park.

Each firm will visit Cary to learn about our community, visit the park site and review current plans and meet with staff and council. They will return at a later date to present their ideas and proposed approach to working with our community to create the master plan for phase 2 of the downtown park. Upon the completion of this process, the council will select one of the four that best demonstrates our community’s vision and values.

So, ya, you could say that I’m a little excited πŸ˜€ I can’t wait to see how this process plays out.

I do want to be clear that this specific process in not to design the park – only to select the best design firm possible. Design will occur after this process is completed and will include significant community input. This will be your park after all.

Thanks to everyone who has worked to get us to this point and special thanks to the members of the interdepartmental team who spent extra time outside of their usual responsibilities and maybe even stepped outside of their comfort zone a little to be a part of something remarkable. You all never cease to amaze me! It’s great to be Cary!

Oh, and since I know you are going to ask πŸ˜‰ the four design firms selected to participate and some examples of their work include:

James Corner
Previous park projects include The High Line in New York City, Public Square in Nashville and Navy Yards Central Green in Philadelphia

Office of James Burnett
Previous park projects include Klyde Warren Park in Dallas and LeBauer Park in Greensboro.

Nelson Byrd Woltz
Previous park projects include CityGarden in St. Louis and Centennial Park in Nashville.

Hargreaves Associates
Previous park projects include Belo Garden Park in Dallas and Discovery Green Park in Houston

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017 Bad Bills of the Year

I wanted to bring to folk’s attention a number of bills that are working their way through the state legislature that, if passed have the potential to negatively impact Cary.

This bill revokes Cary’s and other North Carolina municipality’s abilities to charge impact fees on new development.

Impact fees help to offset some of the financial “impact” that new development places on our infrastructure as well as the costs of providing public services to new development.

Proponents of impact fees claim they ensure that growth pays for itself. Opponents claim that they raise the cost of housing or doing business.

They are both correct.

I believe that a balance of fees and new tax revenue best works to ensure that growth pays for itself; and in Cary we have worked very hard to strike that balance so that we do not burden existing taxpayers while at the same time keep Cary an affordable place to live and do business as possible.

Let’s be honest, more often than not developers do not pay impact fees anyways – the end user does. And in Cary, if a developer makes a transportation improvement for example above a collector road standard and they enter into a developer agreement with the town, we credit the costs of that improvement towards the fees they would otherwise pay - but I agree that this gets very complicated and hard for folks to totally understand.

Apparently other cities or counties in North Carolina have not been as responsible with the manner in which they assess their fees and have drawn the ire of state legislators. It only takes one bad apple I guess. The “impact” to Cary’s budget - and you the taxpayer - should this bill become law would be in the neighborhood of $11.5 Million annually. That equates to roughly 5 cents on our property tax rate. However, since the majority of these fees are for water and sewer, the greatest impact would be on folk’s utility rates.

The bottom line is that existing Cary citizens should not have to pay for infrastructure or services that are directly attributable to new development. If this bill passes, that is exactly what will happen.

UPDATE – After writing this blog but before posting we learned that H436 was heard in Finance Committee on Thursday, April 20. NC Representative and Finance Committee Vice-Chair, Nelson Dollar along with NC Representative Robert Reives spoke out against the proposed bill as written. Mr. Dollar specifically mentioned the negative impact this bill would have on Cary. An amendment was offered to make this a study bill instead and that amendment passed. While this is good news for Cary we will continue to keep a close eye on this one. Thank you Representatives Dollar and Reives!

This bill would further restrict Cary’s local authority regarding wireless communications facilities.

It would eliminate local zoning authority related to small cell wireless installations. It would also force Cary and other cities to expedite all wireless application review processes, limits the amount we can charge them for such services and reduces our authority regarding installations in the public rights-of-way.

I sure hope they kiss us first. Man they have good lobbyists.

Now we all want better cell service, but we also want to protect the beauty and character of our community too. I think Cary has done a pretty good job at balancing both over the years, but what do we know…

A growing trend in telecommunications equipment is to mount them on traffic signals or power poles – something like the images below. If this bill passes there will be little to nothing we could do to regulate the appearance of such installations.

Makes that fake tree cell tower not look so bad huh?

S94 and H64

These bills would change all local offices currently elected on a non-partisan basis to partisan and moves local elections to the same year and date as national and state elections.

One of the things that this council takes great pride in is how not-partisan we operate. That’s because there really isn’t anything partisan about roads, water, sewer, public safety, parks etc… I’ve never seen a Republican pothole or a Democrat traffic signal have you? We simply don’t allow partisan state and national issues to impact our decisions or our relationships with one another and we only focus on those things that are within our control. It’s part of the reason we have been so successful. But apparently we could do so much better if we put partisan labels on everyone.

Now let’s be honest, political parties today are active in local non-partisan elections and they do work to get their candidates elected…. if you consider primarily handing out slate cards at the polls “working”. But the great thing about odd-year elections is that voters can actually focus on local candidates and issues and not get lost in all of the noise of a presidential, gubernatorial or congressional election.

Another negative is how this change could discourage unaffiliated candidates from running for local office. Candidates not affiliated with either political party would now be required to collect the signatures of at least 4% of eligible voters in the district they are running for before they would even be allowed to file for election – but if you’re a member of a political party you don’t have to. That’s fair right?

Oh, and if more than one candidate of the same political party files for the same office, a primary election would now be required before the general election. And I still don't understand what would happen if a Democrat, Republican and two Unaffiliateds all ran for the same seat and nobody reached the 50% threshold. Would a runoff election still be required possibly resulting in three separate elections for a council seat?

This bill amends environmental laws by limiting a local government’s authority to require riparian buffers larger than what the state requires.

So those strict riparian buffer laws that Cary enacted years ago that have led to improved water quality and reduced stormwater runoff? Ya, screw those. Developers need that land to meet minimum lot size requirements. (rolls eyes)

These are just some of the bills making their way through the North Carolina General Assembly right now that would have a negative impact on Cary citizens and how we operate. There are others. I would encourage everyone to contact your state legislators and let them know your thoughts. We need all of the help we can get. Thank you.

You can reach state lawmakers who represent at least some portion of Cary at the email addresses below.

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Inter-City Visit to Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona

On Wednesday the town council along with members of our town staff, our economic development agency, business and community leaders and members of the Cary Chamber of Commerce traveled to Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona for an inter-city visit. Our mission was to learn from them about their experiences – both positive and negative - regarding economic development and redevelopment. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What would they change if they could do it all over again? Stuff like that.

Our first stop was to a public/private redevelopment project in South Scottsdale called SkySong.

I can’t describe SkySong any better than they can:

SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center is one of the premier economic engines in the Valley of the Sun. The project’s success is a direct result of a focus on innovation and technology that attracts companies ranging from some of the world’s best known brands to one- or two-person startups.
These companies come to SkySong because of its strong connection to Arizona State University – including the ASU SkySong incubator – as well as the exceptional facilities and ideal location in Scottsdale.

The goal of SkySong is to attract cutting-edge and innovative companies and their base of knowledge workers from around the world, integrating the resources of ASU with the opportunities of the private sector. SkySong is a true epicenter of economic activity in the state of Arizona. The 42-acre mixed-use development will include more than 1.2 million square feet upon buildout. SkySong 1, 2 and 3, all approximately 150,000 square foot of continuing education buildings, are near full occupancy.

Skysong and artistic shade structure. Photo courtesy of Skysong

Corporate tenants at SkySong include, Cannon, ASU, Ticketmaster, GroupOn, CenturyLink, Workiva, Yodle and Pearson.

Scottsdale Mayor, Jim Lane, city planners, SkySong personnel and Plaza Companies – the project developer - spoke about the public/private partnership forged between the city of Scottsdale, ASU and SkySong; and how that without the commitment from the city and University the project would not have been possible. They also talked a lot about branding; specifically their efforts to re-brand South Scottsdale.

Cary Delegation Learning About Skysong

It was fascinating to hear about South Scottsdale’s past and see firsthand how far they have come. It wasn’t too long ago that South Scottsdale really wasn’t a desirable place to be. Businesses had fled to other areas of the city and there were a lot of abandoned properties. Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Tent City” was nearby. But since the development of SkySong and a commitment by the city to improve South Scottsdale, they are experiencing significant growth in both new development and redevelopment. South Scottsdale, as they like to say, is "humming".
South Scottsdale is Humming!

Afterwards we boarded the bus and headed to Tempe for a working lunch with the Mayor of Tempe, Mark Mitchell and their Public Information Officer, Nikki Ripley. They too were undertaking a rebranding campaign and spoke to us about the initiative and their efforts to engage citizens in the process so that their “brand” truly reflects who they are. Good stuff.

We also had the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, and learn about his efforts to transform ASU into a “New American University” that combines the highest levels of academic excellence, inclusiveness to a broad demographic and maximum societal impact. ASU isn’t just working to make their university better – they are working to make the surrounding community and Arizona better. Dr. Crow has worked to transform ASU from a bureaucratic, faculty focused institution to one that is student and community focused.

ASU also partners with area high schools to improve student success and graduation rates which in turn provides for greater access to higher learning. Unlike most universities, ASU actually LOWERED admission requirements. ASU now accepts EVERY Arizona high school student who applies that has a B average or better while at the same time graduates a higher percentage of freshman students in four years than most every other university in the nation. They support and participate in economic development initiatives that create opportunities for students, citizens and businesses and improves the community’s quality of life.

Hearing from Dr. Crow was one of the highlights of the trip. I could have listened to him talk for hours. It is absolutely amazing what they have accomplished at ASU and their continued efforts to make ASU a “New American University” and redefine the landscape of higher education – so much so that I texted my wife, Lisa that we should consider ASU for our daughter, Elizabeth. Seriously. Google him and watch some of his online videos. This guy is amazing. A few of us even commented afterwards that this guy should be Secretary of Education.

After hearing from Dr. Crow it was back on the bus to head to Tempe’s Transit Center to meet with their Community Planning Director and Transit Director for a discussion about transit and transit oriented development. While it was a very informative discussion, I really can’t say I learned much of anything new here as I have heard about how transit will influence development many times before – but I believe that it was valuable for some of the others on the trip and I did take away a few nuggets.

Tempe Transit Center. Photo Courtesy of Tempe, AZ

For dinner we got to have a little fun. We went to Scottsdale Stadium to watch the San Francisco Giants play the Seattle Mariners. Scottsdale is the spring training home for the San Francisco Giants and boy do they love their “home team”. The game was sold out… for a spring training game! The stadium hot dogs were excellent and really complimented the beer ;-)

Scottsdale Giants baseball game. From L-R Council members Jack Smith, Don Frantz, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, Lori Bush, Ed Yerha and Police Chief Tony Godwin

The following morning our first stop was Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. The museum is owned by the city of Scottsdale and operated by a non-profit. The museum has a number of exhibit spaces both indoor and outdoor as well as an auditorium and facilities for special events.

Then it was back on the bus to go meet with Scottsdale’s Assistant Manager, Brent Stockton and their Planning Director, Randy Grant along with the developer of Scottsdale Waterfront to learn about Scottsdale’s amazing waterfront redevelopment and mixed use projects. I know what you’re thinking – waterfront in Scottsdale Arizona??? It’s like that song right? I was surprised too. But I gotta say this place was really cool. High rise condos, office and retail adjacent to Scottsdale’s waterway – it was an amazing mixed use project that was 20+ years in the making. It also makes one wonder what can be done with flood prone areas of a community to turn water problems into amenities.

Scottsdale Waterfront Redevelopment Project(s)

A really interesting tidbit that we learned was how difficult it is to get any tall building approved in Scottsdale. Nobody wants their view of the mountains blocked – which after seeing the mountains I can understand. They are absolutely beautiful.

Beautiful View of the Mountains

They are however very flexible in regards to design guidelines. For example, you can paint your building any color you want to...as long as it is Navajo White. ;-)

They also love their public art in Scottsdale, and the really cool thing about most everything that I saw was that you can actually tell what it is without having to read a plaque. This particular project was fascinating in that once inside it becomes a kaleidoscope and you see like 20 of yourself….including the bald spot on the back of your head…. That your wife said wasn’t bad…. She lied. ;-)

Scottsdale Door Kaleidoscope Art

This however was my personal favorite. Killer right?

Statue of Indian outside of Scottsdale's Museum of the West

The afternoon was “free time” for everyone to explore Scottsdale or Tempe on your own. Council member Lori Bush and I chose to explore a new outdoor mall adjacent to our hotel. Ya ya…, I know what you’re thinking. NO, I didn’t go shopping. I don’t shop. The mall is a mixed use project with residential and office above retail or restaurants and we wanted to see the project firsthand as this type of development is exactly what we have been trying to encourage in certain areas of town such as downtown, the state property off of Cary Town Blvd. and the Cary Town Center Mall property. The project was very walkable with a number of small, green areas peppered about for folks to relax and enjoy that shake you just got. Shake Shack is awesome btw. ;-) The one pictured below was extra amazing in that it also offered an outdoor LED screen that showed movies for kids – the kids can watch movies while momma shops. Awesome.

Pocket Park with play space and movies for children
The majority of dinner was spent discussing everything that we saw and learned and how that relates to what we are trying to do – or not do – in Cary.
Cary and Scottsdale/Tempe are very different places – VERY different – but we also have a lot of things in common like:

Encourage the redevelopment of older or distressed properties
Promote walkable sustainable development
Public/private partnerships
Branding – Cary will soon undertake a branding effort - especially in regards to economic development
Transit and transit oriented development
A commitment to parks, greenways and open spaces

In all I found the trip to be very educational and worthwhile. It also recharged the batteries a bit. I really want to thank everyone at the Cary Chamber of Commerce and our town staff for all of their efforts in planning the trip, and special thanks to both the Scottsdale and Tempe town staff and elected officials for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. We really appreciate it and I hope that we can return the favor one day.

All that said, It’s great to be home!