Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 Town of Cary Council/Staff Retreat

This past weekend the council traveled to Wrightsville Beach for our annual council/staff retreat.

We began the retreat with a tradition we started a number of years ago where the council heads up the night before and has dinner together in an effort to get to know each other better. We ate at the Blockade Runner Hotel restaurant. The food was terrible. Seriously, $16 for a burger that tasted like it was frozen a half hour before I ate it. Hamburgers are my favorite food in the world. I eat probably 10 hamburgers a week - I know a tasty burger when I eat one. They need a Crosstown Pub, Tribeca or an Abbey Road in Wrightsville Beach bad. Anyways, we enjoyed each other’s company and learned a little more about one another.

Over the years Cary has grown from a suburban boomtown to an established city that now competes with the likes of Raleigh, RTP, Charlotte and other cities across the country in regards to economic development and jobs. More people actually work inside town limits now than those who commute outside of Cary for employment.

Our Parks system is second to none. We offer an amazing array of cultural and arts programs. We host numerous festivals such as Lazy Daze (which has now grown into a two day event), the Chinese Lantern Festival, Diwali and Spring Daze just to name a few.

2016-2017 Chinese Lantern Festival

Cary’s strict development standards and good planning have helped to ensure that development met or exceeded our community’s expectations and reflected our values. Were there some mistakes along the way? Sure there were. But I think as a whole folks would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful or well planned community.

Cary is also less homogeneous than ever. 30% of Cary’s population is now “not white” with our fastest growing demographic being Asian/Indian.

I could go on, but the bottom line is that Cary is one of the greatest communities in America to live, work and play.

So how do we stay that way?

THAT was the primary focus of this year’s retreat.

Town staff shared a Buddhist saying (at least that’s what they told us – it could have been an internet meme for all I know 😉 ) that spoke to Cary’s challenges well; “If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions”.

Cary didn’t grow into a city of 159,000 residents overnight and like it or not, Cary will continue to grow. We are too darn awesome a place not to. That presents challenges; the most significant being our infrastructure.

Our present conditions are that a large portion of Cary’s infrastructure is 30-40+ years old and in need of repairs/replacement now and/or in the foreseeable future (more on this in just a bit). Our present actions include maintaining that infrastructure while at the same time planning for infrastructure that hasn’t even been built yet to accommodate future growth and development.

This isn’t news to anyone at town hall or the council. We have been doing this for years. Take water mains for example: In 2008 the town implemented a program to better identify those water mains in need of replacement and take care of them BEFORE they fail. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of water main breaks. In 2007 there were 15 separate water main failures. Since the initiative that number has dropped to an average of 3.75 failures per year. Believe it or not, 15 water main failures per year is less than average for a community of our size – but we don’t settle for average here in Cary.

While Cary is no spring chicken (you can’t have a Cary blog without using the word chicken once and a while), our boom years were predominantly in the 90’s and early 2000’s. A LOT of Cary’s existing infrastructure was built during that period. Cary currently has 1035 miles of water mains – 24% of which are 40+ years old and reaching the end of its service life. So while the good news is that 76% are less than 40 years old – the bad news is it won’t be too long before everything built in the 90’s hits the big Four O. With each passing year the number of mains that will need repairs or replacement will continue to increase and is something that we must better prepare for. The same holds true for all of our infrastructure such as roads, stormwater management devices, parks, greenways, town facilities, sewers etc…

As the need to maintain this infrastructure to Cary standards grows, so will the pressures on the town’s budget. What that exactly means yet we do not know. What we do know is that we remain committed to providing Cary quality infrastructure, services and amenities for our citizens at the lowest possible cost to you the taxpayer.

Working away at the retreat

Infrastructure isn’t the only thing aging in Cary. Nearly 50% of all buildings and homes in Cary were built from 1980 – 1999. 14% were built prior to 1980. Now just because something is old doesn’t mean that its broken, right Jack? 😉 Heck, Cary’s older neighborhoods are one of the things that makes Cary great – I wouldn’t live anywhere else. They typically have larger lot sizes, mature trees, and they don’t look like they were built by the same builder on the same day. But just like anything else that ages, our older neighborhoods will need more attention if Cary is to remain the premier community that we are.

12% of homes in Cary are rental. 22% of homes inside the Maynard Loop are rental. Now not all renters or landlords are bad at maintaining their property just like not all homeowners are good at it. We do have some really crappy looking owner-occupied homes in Cary. But the fact remains that rental properties do present different challenges. Renters are far less likely than homeowners to invest in their home as that is the landlord’s responsibility. Landlords typically aren’t going to invest in their rental property as long as the rent check keeps showing up. The landlord might not be local to our area and may not even realize that their property needs work. We can better educate them about that.

We discussed and will continue to work on ways to improve the condition and appearance of older neighborhoods either through greater code enforcement, infrastructure improvements, expanding Cary’s Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program and our Housing Rehabilitation Program or possibly even expanding Cary’s Project Phoenix to single family communities to address minimum housing issues. Targeted redevelopment initiatives and strategic capital improvements may also help.

Our infrastructure is aging, our buildings and neighborhoods are aging and guess what? So are you, our citizens. In 2000 the median age in Cary was 33.7 years old. The median age in Cary today is now over 40 years old with 11% of our citizens aged 65 or older. Of the 14 largest cities in North Carolina, Cary now boasts the highest median age of any of them.

The good news is that more and more folks are choosing to stay in Cary well into their retirement. The bad news is that they have less money to do that with than in previous years. In 2011 the national medium retirement income was $32,800. In 2015 that number has dropped to $26,600.

Whether through increased affordable housing options, senior/assisted living facilities, housing rehabilitation initiatives, parks and cultural programming, public transportation or other initiatives we must continue to look for ways to make Cary more livable for our growing senior population so that not only can they afford to live here, but enjoy living here.

One other retreat item we discussed outside of the scope above was the naming of Cary’s agricultural park, Good Hope Farm. The site is located at the corner of Morrisville Carpenter Road and Louis Stevens Drive in west Cary directly north of the new Carpenter Park. I am pleased that we used the word “farm” in the name instead of “park” as the site will focus primarily on Cary’s agricultural history and farming practices and provide educational opportunities for students and our citizens.

For the record, I along with Councilman Yerha voted against the name but for different reasons. I preferred the name “Brightleaf Farm” as this recognized the significance that tobacco farming played in the region’s history – and I just thought the name sounded really cool. Some council members however opposed this as they didn’t want the name to have anything to do with tobacco or it reminded them of Brightleaf Square in Durham and they wanted nothing to do with that. Whatever… Mr. Yerha voted against the name as he preferred the park’s original name, A.M. Howard Farm.

Another reason I voted against the name Good Hope Farm was more process than anything else. The naming of the farm had already been tabled twice so that council members could consider other options - none of which was Good Hope Farm. This name came up at the last minute and I would have preferred more time to research what someone was telling me – especially when I perceive someone to have a personal agenda on this item. That said, now that I have had that time to do just that, I am satisfied with the name.

One last note on the retreat – I truly believe this retreat was one of, if not the best retreats we have ever had. This was due largely in part to the involvement of all town staff members who attended – not just a select few.

I have been to retreats where six or seven staff members gave presentations and/or participated in the discussion while the other 15 or so sat there and did nothing for two days because the discussion topic wasn’t under their department’s purview. Yet regardless of responsibility - Police and Fire, Planning, Water Resources, Public Information, Clerk’s Office, Manager’s Office, Engineering, Finance, Technology Services etc… they are all experts on many things Cary and should have a greater role in the process. This time they did and I know why.

If you'd like to learn even more about our retreat please feel free to visit Councilwoman Lori Bush's Blog here or Mayor Weinbrecht's Blog here. Lori's is good. 😃

No matter our challenges, it is great to be Cary. I love this place. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stuff, Stuff and Stuff! Jan 2017

Hello!?! Is this thing still on? So, ya, it’s been a long time since I blogged. I know. Sorry about that. I have tried to keep everyone informed on town stuff via Facebook. Life is busy and what little free time I did have I found myself working on the race car. Ya, ya, I hear ya, “If you would quit crashing the car you wouldn’t have to fix it so much”. #racecarproblems

Anyways, after we finished the season at Wake County Speedway we decided to run races at Carteret County Speedway and Southern National Motorsports Park so that took a lot of time and preparation. We had a blast and did ok for our first time at both tracks. Shortly after that the holidays rolled around and, well, here we are. Good things come to those who wait right? ;-)

So without further ado (is that how you spell that? Spell check says its right but I thought it was some weird French word or something?) here is an update on some of the things that have been happening over the last few months.

Imagine Cary

Well, it only took four years but we did it. At our last meeting the council unanimously adopted the Cary Community Plan. The Community Plan is the result of Imagine Cary – a comprehensive planning effort led by our citizens, town staff, consultants, business and community leaders, planning and transportation experts, our town boards, commissions and council members to develop a single integrated update to Cary’s long range plan and set the course for our community’s future. The plan focuses on growth, development, transportation, economics, the environment and other related topics. It is way more than just a land use plan, the plan articulates Cary’s values and vision and will serve as our guide as the community grows over the next 20 years or so.

While that sounds all sunshine, puppies and rainbows, this was no easy task I promise you. There were a lot of hiccups and distractions along the way; a major one being the Eastern Gateway Plan. This is the area near Cary Town Center Mall and Cary Town Blvd. Developers were/are interested in developing this area with shopping, residential and office (to include a Wegmans Grocery) and we needed to have a plan in place that reflected Cary’s vision for that area fast. Imagine Cary was put on hold for a while so that we could focus on developing the Eastern Gateway component and adopt that first so that what gets developed here is Cary quality and meets our expectations.

On a related note, I cannot comment on the rumors of IKEA coming here. All I can say right now without running the risk of getting myself in trouble is that we hope to announce that a major global retailer will be coming to the Cary Town Center Mall area in the near future. You figure it out ;-)

Now as with any plan, I am sure that over time we will find a few things we got wrong. That’s what plan amendments are for. But we also tried real hard to build flexibility within the plan so it is our hope that any amendments will be far and few between. I can honestly say I am pleased with 90-95% of the plan. I didn’t think I would be able to say that two years ago. I love it when a plan comes together ;-)

Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard on and participated in the Imagine Cary process – especially our citizens. This plan is a better product because of everyone’s involvement.


If you have been downtown lately – and I know you have because where else would you want to go? – you have surely noticed that the Academy Street Streetscape Project has been completed! About dang time right? It looks absolutely beautiful! If you haven’t yet walked the street and taken a look at some of the artwork please do – the benches are amazing! Phase one of the downtown park (the town square) is nearing completion and we hope to have that finished by March.

The Downtown library and parking deck have been approved and will begin construction soon. You can learn more about that here and here.

The construction at Midtown Square is nearing completion and we recently broke ground for the new Annelore’s German Bakery on Chatham Street. LaFarm Bakery is also currently under construction at the corner of Harrison and Chatham Street. A number of other businesses that have announced plans to come downtown or that have already opened include: Pizzeria Faulisi, Pro’s Epicurean Markey and Café, FRESH Ice Cream, Bottle Dog Bites and Brew and Hustle Fitness Studio. If I forgot anyone I apologize – it’s a lot to keep up with!

There are a number of other plans and projects in the works and we hope to be making more announcements soon! Exciting times in downtown Cary!

Cary Matters

Councilman Ed Yerha and I taped a winter weather preparedness edition of Cary Matters so if you’d like to learn more about what the town does when old man winter shows, click the video below (assuming it shows up correctly - I think I did it right?). We had fun with this one ;-)


Cary’s newest K9 officer, Lemm was sworn in on December 20th. Lemm is a 16 month old Belgain Malinois from Poland. Lemm is named after fallen serviceman Joseph Lemm who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2015 – the same year that Lemm was born. Lemm replaces Cary K9 Robby who unfortunately was forced to retire early due to an issue with his hips. Robby served for 5 years as a patrol and drug detection K9. The council approved a resolution that allows Robby to serve out the remainder of his life with his best friend and handler, Officer Humphries. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the North Carolina General Assembly – especially NC Representative Gale Adcock – who worked with cities and towns across North Carolina to pass a bill that allows service animals to remain with their owners/handlers once they are taken out of service.

Funding for Lemm was made possible thanks to the generous donation of $7500 from Richard and Judy Hendrickson of Cary. If you happen to see the Hendricksons please make a point to say, “Thank You!” We are forever grateful.

Cary got its first K9 in 2005. Since then Cary’s K9 program has expanded into a pack of three dogs, each with its own handler: K9 Chase and Officer Seth Everett; K9 Tayber and Officer Scott McInerny; and now K9 Lemm and Officer Phil Humphries. K9 Robby joins K9 Axel and K9 Max as members of the Town’s retired K9 Unit.

Retiring K9 Robby with Officer Humphries
Cary Wins Gold!

In October 2016, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) in partnership with the American Academy for Park and Recreation, awarded the Town of Cary the 2016 Gold Medal Award for Excellence in the field of Park and Recreation Management.  This is the highest award a community can receive within the field of parks and recreation.

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities throughout the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition. Entries are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of citizens, staff, and elected officials.

This is HUGE. Simply put, Cary has THE BEST Parks and Recreation Department in the nation among cities our size (population of 150,000 – 400,000). There is only one gold medal award winner - we don’t share this award with any other city. That is how big of a deal this is.

Cary takes tremendous pride in providing the best Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources amenities as possible and our parks system is one of the things that makes Cary the great place to live, work and especially play that it is. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a total team effort from our town employees, board and commission volunteers and most importantly, YOU, our citizens. Cary Rocks!

You can learn more about this major accomplishment here.

Simply The Best!

Alston Ridge Middle School

Cary is getting a new Middle School! At our December Quasi-Judicial meeting we approved the development plans for the new Alston Ridge Middle School in West Cary. The school will be located just south of Alston Ridge Elementary School. I know, creative name right? ;-) Anyways, it will be a 230,000 square foot three story building complete with athletic fields and an outdoor basketball court.

Cary has been in desperate need of another middle school for years and this will help (key word being help - not meant to imply solve) alleviate current overcrowding conditions in West Cary. 


This past weekend we held our council-staff retreat in Wrightsville Beach, NC. I will write about this in a future blog as there is so much to talk about and this topic really deserves it’s own post – and y’all are probably running out of interest on this one right about now ;-) I will say it was one of our best – if not the best - retreats ever!

That’s all for now. I’ll post again as soon as I get done working on the race car ;-) Thanks for reading!