Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Twofer Tuesday

I get asked two questions often.

The first is, "What motivated you to run for town council?"

And the second is, "What brought you to Cary?"

So we made a couple of campaign videos that speak to both questions as well as my desire to seek reelection to continue working to keep Cary great. Thanks for watching!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Don Frantz Cary Town Council Reelection Announcement

     I am excited to announce that I am running for reelection to the Cary Town Council, District B!

     We are truly blessed to live in one of the greatest communities in America. I am running for re-election to continue to work to make Cary an even better place to live, work and play, and to give back to the community that has provided so much for me and my family.

     My record on the Council is one of collaboration to address key issues in our community. I have earned a reputation as a no-nonsense pragmatic leader. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I strive to keep citizens informed both through my blog and social media. Council members must be held accountable and that begins with an informed citizenry. You will always know where I stand.

     Over the last four years I have worked hard to provide the high levels of service that our citizens demand at the lowest possible cost to you, the taxpayer, and to create an environment that encourages business growth and creates jobs. I championed our successful downtown revitalization efforts and I support sustainable smart growth policies that help us grow better, not just bigger. I have a proven record of supporting initiatives that further protect our environment and improves water quality, and I worked to bring additional senior housing and assisted living facilities to Cary so that as our parents and grandparents age, they have more opportunities to stay in town and remain close to family.

     Cary is one of the safest cities to live in America, our parks and recreation amenities are second to none and we are consistently ranked one of the best cities to raise a family.

     We have accomplished a lot, but we still have work to do. Today’s ever-changing world presents new challenges. Keeping Cary great means staying ahead of the curve on issues ranging from infrastructure and infill development to housing affordability and technology. Working together we can continue to address complex problems with common sense, data-driven solutions. I am excited about what the future holds for Cary.

     Thank you for your faith and trust in me to serve as your voice in town government. I hope that through my efforts I have earned your support for another term. I humbly ask for your vote for reelection on October 8th.

     In your service,

     Don Frantz

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hillcrest Cemetery Monument Restorations

I am pleased to announce that Cary has contracted with Verville Interiors and Preservation, LLC to repair, restore, and preserve cemetery monuments in our local historic landmark, Hillcrest Cemetery. Work by expert craftsman, Michael Verville, also includes leveling leaning stones and stabilizing loose stones. Rest assured that the work will be completed in accordance with the US Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation and Conservation and Cary's Historic Preservation Commission will be involved as well.

What? You’ve never heard of Hillcrest Cemetery? Well, with burials dating back to the 1700s, Hillcrest Cemetery is a special place of great historic significance to our community. It is the final resting place of a number of men and women who made considerable contributions to the Town of Cary’s social, economic, political and religious growth, and development. Interred at the cemetery are fifteen former mayors, educators, and business leaders to include members of the Jones, Page, Templeton and Guess families, and Cary High principal Marcus Baxter Dry, Esther Ivey, Russell O. Heater, Alfred “Buck” Jones, and R. S. “Dad” Dunham. Hillcrest Cemetery was designated a historic landmark in 2014 and is Cary’s only municipal cemetery.

Hillcrest Cemetery, Cary NC

Restoring these monuments to their original glory is the least we can do for those who gave so much of themselves for Cary.

So where is Hillcrest Cemetery? I’m glad you asked! The cemetery is located at 608 Page Street just south of downtown. The Town of Cary acquired most of the cemetery in the 1960s and 1970s, making it the Town’s only active municipal cemetery.

Cary’s American Legion Post 67 hosts an annual Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony at Hillcrest Cemetery and The Friends of the Page Walker also promotes walking tours through the cemetery to better educate visitors about Cary’s history. You can learn more about Hillcrest Cemetery from the Friends by clicking here.

In partnership with the Town’s Spruce Program, the Town will also hold one clean-up day in the Cemetery on September 7 from 9 – 11 a.m.  Volunteers can perform light cleaning of headstones/markers and/or just help with a little landscaping maintenance. Sign-up will be available through the Town’s website here.

Spruce volunteers donate their time and energy to help keep Cary clean and green by working in our parks, streets, streams, and other public spaces. From trail maintenance to litter cleanups and many other projects in between, the Spruce Program supports our citizen’s efforts to have a direct positive impact on both the beauty and the environmental health of our community.

I look forward to seeing everyone at Hillcrest Cemetery on September 7th and thanks in advance for coming out to help. If you have any questions about the monument repair and/or the scheduled clean-up day, please shoot me an email at don.frantz@townofcary.org or contact the Town Clerk’s office at virginia.johnson@townofcary.org .

Saturday, May 11, 2019

2019 Cary Bond Referendum

This past Thursday the council and members of our town staff held our third quarter meeting at the SAS Global Education Center. These quarterly meetings are invaluable in that they foster a collaborative environment where the council and staff work collectively to better implement our community’s vision and keep Cary great.

While each quarterly meeting is important, I always consider the third quarter the most critical as it is at this meeting where we begin our annual budget deliberations – which we did. This year however was a bit different as we also spent a great deal of time discussing the upcoming 2019 Bond Referendum.

Yes, Cary voters will have the chance to decide on roughly a $225 million bond referendum this fall for numerous transportation and parks projects throughout town.

Notable bond referendum projects include:


Nearly $14 million in additional funding for street improvements beyond the FY2020 budget amount of $5.4 million. This will provide for asphalt patching, overlays and resurfacing of town maintained streets.

$5 million for new sidewalks. This is in addition to our annual appropriation of $1.75 million for sidewalk construction. These funds will help us to fulfill citizen requests for neighborhood sidewalks, complete gaps along major streets and provide for ADA upgrades and handicap ramps – not to mention it will further help us move closer to our goal of creating a more walkable and pedestrian friendly community and promote healthier living.

$4.8 million for the Cary Parkway sidewalk and bridge at the Black Creek Greenway. This project will complete the sidewalk gap from Evans Road to N. Harrison Ave. AND construct a pedestrian bridge over Black Creek Greenway next to the existing Cary Parkway bridge.

Pedestrian bridge will be constructed next to the existing bridge AND provide access to the greenway below

$28.7 million to widen Green Level Church Rd. from McCrimmon Parkway to Kit Creek Rd; Widen O’Kelly Chapel Rd. from Green Level Church Rd. to NC55; and widen Carpenter Fire Station Rd. from NC55 to the Cameron Pond neighborhood.

$5 million for intersection improvements at congested intersections – similar to the recent improvements made to the Cary Parkway and High House intersection.

$23 million for NCDOT Betterments. These include enhancements to and in concert with numerous NCDOT projects above and beyond what NCDOT would typically construct. Examples include two greenway tunnels under NC540; Pedestrian and bicycle facilities on bridges; median and sidewalk upgrades to Cary standards and improved landscaping/aesthetics.

$21 million for transportation improvements associated with the Fenton project at Cary Town Blvd, Trinity Rd. South, Quinard Drive and the I40 interchanges.

Parks and Recreation

$50 million for the complete design and construction of phase II of the Downtown Cary Park.

$4 million for playground upgrades at 10 parks to include Rose Street Park, Dunham Park and Godbold Park.

$2.2 million for historic preservation/renovation of town owned historic properties with an additional $1 million should philanthropic goals be met (what exactly that looks like yet we don’t know but is something we are working on)

$8.9 Million for the construction of Carpenter Fire Station Park

$6.1 million for McCrimmon Neighborhood Park

$2.2 million for complete tennis court replacements at Dunham Park and Annie Jones Park

$2 million in improvements to Sk8 Cary Park – this includes a roof structure so that the facility can be used year-round and ungraded lighting and ramps.

$10 million for construction and design of Tryon Road Park

$2 million for improvements to Veterans Freedom Park to include restroom facilities, additional parking and a memorial loop trail.

Veterans Freedom Park

$20 million for open space acquisition and land banking for future park sites.

So yeah, I know what y’all are thinking right about now – how much is this going to cost me? Well the good news is that as a AAA rated municipality, Cary has a long history of conservatively and successfully managing its finances and debt. As a result, the proposed 2019 bond program does NOT have any tax increase associated with it at this time. The town is currently able to absorb these additional costs due to the retirement of previously issued debt, a healthy fund balance and our ongoing efforts to manage operating costs.

With the lowest tax rate of any municipality in Wake County and beyond at 35 cents per $100 valuation, Cary continues to do more with less.

I wholeheartedly support the proposed bond referendum and I hope you do too.

I will follow up with a separate post about the FY2020 Budget soon as there is still work to be done there. Stay tuned!

Thanks so much to our amazing town staff and my council colleagues for all of their work on this. It is truly a privilege to work with such an amazing group of dedicated public servants. Thank you also to Cary citizens for your faith and trust in me to serve as your voice in town government. It is my honor to serve you. And special thanks also to SAS for hosting our meeting this past Thursday – we are so blessed to have you in our community!

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

Downtown LDO Amendment Worksession

Approved in 2001, the Town Center Area Plan (TCAP) was Cary’s vision and planning document for downtown redevelopment. Also approved at that time was the current zoning downtown.

TCAP Zoning Map

This vision was reaffirmed and further defined with the adoption of the Cary Community Plan – specifically the downtown special planning area chapter. The Cary Community Plan took nearly four years to create given the unprecedented amount of community input and scrutiny. It is our community’s long-range planning document created by Cary citizens for Cary citizens.

The vision for downtown Cary as defined in the Cary Community Plan is: Downtown Cary will be a vibrant, sustainable, historic, pedestrian oriented urban downtown, rich in charm and character. As the “heart and soul of Cary,” people will work, live, visit, recreate and shop in downtown. There will be an emphasis on office, residential, retail, entertainment, and civic development. Downtown will be supported by a multi‐modal transportation hub serving pedestrians, bicyclists, bus transit, train and motorists. Downtown Cary will be a community gathering place for surrounding neighborhoods, all of Cary, and the Triangle Region.

Thanks to targeted public investments, regulatory amendments, community support, Cary town staff AND a council who actually has the political will to act upon established plans and implement the vision, meaningful private investment is occurring downtown and there is a lot more on the way.

There are however, conflicts between that which the Cary Community Plan calls for and the zoning that was established with the TCAP that need to be addressed if we are to truly realize our community’s vision for downtown.
Building height is the primary issue. The community plan breaks downtown up into six sub-areas:

• East Chatham Gateway
• North Academy
• Central Chatham
• South Academy
• West Chatham Gateway
• Supporting Neighborhoods

In each of those sub-areas the recommended building height is defined by stories (number of floors). The zoning however - which is what can legally be constructed – does not speak to stories and instead defines height by feet.

The East Chatham Gateway sub-area for example recommends building heights at 5-6 stories but notes that buildings can go higher depending on context and suitability. A significant amount of property in this sub-area however is zoned MXD (Mixed Use) which caps building height at 45'. You simply can’t build a 5-6 story building and keep it under 45' tall.

At our recent council retreat we briefly discussed some potential Land Development Ordinance Amendments pertaining to building height - but we didn’t spend a lot of time on it as we were to have a more in depth worksession on the topic soon. I did however provide feedback that regardless of any changes proposed, I would not support increasing building height along South Academy St or the old library site when that redevelops to protect the character of the historic district and adjacent residences as best we can. Others who commented agreed.

That worksession was held this past Thursday.

The majority of the downtown core which includes the Central Chatham, North and South Academy sub-areas is zoned HMXD (High Density Mixed-Use). HMXD however has a range of building height limits depending on location. In the South Academy sub-area for example – which includes the downtown historic district - building height is capped at 65'. Areas of the North Academy and Central Chatham sub-areas however allow for 75-90 feet.

At the worksession it was proposed that we amend the HMXD zoning district to allow for 90 feet building heights throughout the district except within 100' of South Academy Street and Chatham Street between Harrison Ave and Walker Street.

Building setback requirements along South Academy were also proposed to be 30’-40’ in keeping with the existing street rhythm (this is great!) and a minimum building height of 35' was also recommended to eliminate one story new construction (current minimum is 20’)

Here are two images that illustrate allowable building heights today and what was proposed (sorry about the terrible image quality - I don't have the digital version of the images)

Existing height limits in the South Academy sub-area

Proposed height limits in the South Academy sub-area

While this proposal would limit building heights fronting Academy St to 65’, once that same building was 100’ away from the street the height could then increase (step up) to 90’. That could result in a 90' tall building directly adjacent to a single family/historic home. 

I was not pleased with the proposed zoning change to the South Academy sub-area. I found it insensitive to adjacent properties and the historic district and unnecessary. I believe 65’ is plenty tall enough – possibly even too tall along Academy St, Walker St and South Harrison Ave but there isn’t anything we can do about that. The zoning has been in place since 2001 and we can’t legally downzone someone’s property.

While we absolutely need to make some development ordinance amendments to align regulatory requirements with the vision laid out in community plan, that is not the case in the South Academy sub-area. HMXD with a height limit of 65’ meets if not exceeds the community plan recommendations.

From the South Academy Sub-Area Section of the Cary Community Plan: Along S. Harrison Ave., S. Academy St., Park St., and Dry St., building heights should complement and reinforce the historic built environment and small-town character, and will therefore be primarily 2 stories, except for landmark public and institutional buildings, such as the churches, Arts Center, and County Library. Buildings of 2-4 stories may be appropriate along Walnut and S. Walker Streets, in order to facilitate redevelopment, and since these areas are further away from the historic core of downtown. There will be cases where taller buildings can be accommodated, as long as designs are compatible with the predominant character of the street and adjacent and nearby properties, especially historic properties.

While I can appreciate the economic challenges the development community faces in regards to land acquisition and redevelopment costs, I haven't yet heard a compelling case made as to why we should allow 90’ tall buildings in the South Academy sub-area. If an applicant thinks that they can make a compelling case, then bring it to council for a request for modification and we’ll consider it. We consider modification requests all the time - but to allow it by right is concerning.

Our community invested nearly 4 years creating the Cary Community Plan. It’s a dang good plan. I think we should stick to it until a compelling case is made otherwise.

Based on worksession materials staff was to also propose amending the MXD zoning district to allow for 55’ for residential buildings and 65’ for mixed use buildings that would address the conflicts between the community plan and zoning like that in the Eastern Gateway example mentioned earlier - but we never got that far. We couldn’t get past South Academy. I have no problem owning that.

There will be a follow up worksession held soon. I look forward to it.