Monday, January 29, 2018

Fenton


At our last council meeting the council unanimously approved Fenton, a signature mixed-use project which will be located along Cary Town Blvd. across the street from the future IKEA and Cary Town Center Mall.

Fenton site location

The “state property” (it is owned by North Carolina) has been on Cary’s radar for years. We have always had concerns that one day the state might choose to develop the site as an underwhelming government building or worse, an NCDOT fleet vehicle storage/service facility. So you can imagine our excitement when we learned that the state was putting the land up for sale.

The first developer to put the property under contract proposed a residential project similar to the Inside Wade project in Raleigh. While a quality proposal, the majority of council did not believe that met Cary’s vision for the site – an employment based mixed use center – and the project was ultimately denied.

Not too long after that, in 2015 Columbia Development put the property under contract and proposed a Wegmans grocery store and a sea of surface parking - another good project, but one that again fell short of our vision for this property and Cary’s Eastern Gateway. The state property is one of Cary’s last prime undeveloped properties suitable for large class A office development – centrally located between Raleigh and Durham and in close proximity to the airport. To allow anything less than remarkable on this site would be doing our community a disservice.


To Columbia Development’s credit they bought into our vision for Cary’s eastern Gateway, rolled up their sleeves and spent the next two years working with Cary Town Staff and the council to do just that.

The result is Fenton.

Fenton includes up to 2.5 million square feet of office, commercial and residential development with office being the primary user. Retail and residential however will be developed first in an effort to create a sense of place and an attractive destination where office tenants will want to locate. That said, there is nothing that prohibits an office user from coming in sooner than later.

Conceptual office development at Fenton
The majority of the proposed buildings that include retail uses – except for the Wegmans Grocery - will be vertically integrated with a mix of uses - that being restaurant or retail on the ground floor with either office or residential on the floors above. This will create an experiential “main street” to include “jewel box” retail and restaurants in the medians between the buildings – very similar to what we saw at Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Proposed Fenton Site Plan. Purple indicates vertical mix of uses required.
Example of "Jewel Box" Retail/Restaurant in between buildings

Six community gathering areas integrated into the development to provide both passive and active opportunities for residents and visitors. Eight parking decks are proposed with buildings designed to screen or wrap the decks. The Wegmans even gets a table-top parking structure. 

The main entrance into the site will be on Cary Town Blvd. where the "road to nowhere" that is always blocked off is located. In case you are wondering how that road ever got there, the town built it years ago when NCDOT granted the access point on Cary Town Blvd. to ensure access to future development and the Soccer Park just in case NCDOT changed their rules/criteria later on.

Other access points will include extending Quinard Drive from Maynard into the site, East Chatham Street from the north and a new access road along the eastern boundary of the site from Quinard Drive.

Proposed transportation network - purple lines are streets.
Future Quinard Road Extension

The project will provide for bike, pedestrian and transit facilities and the future IronGate Greenway from downtown will also provide access to the site.

Future Irongate Greenway

The applicant, Columbia Development, voluntarily offered over 100 different zoning conditions with this rezoning to ensure that what is promised is what get’s built. This is unprecedented for a development in Cary. Conditions offered include transportation improvements at 13 intersections, phasing and vertical mix of uses, building and use location, parking structures, public art, streetscapes and buffers, accommodation for a pedestrian bridge from this site to the Cary Town Center Mall site, bike/ped/transit facilities, etc..

Two unique conditions offered include a design guidebook and developer agreement with the town.

Design Guidebook

The Design Guidebook is offered as a commitment that the development of all buildings, structures, hardscape, site furnishings, lighting, screening, landscaping, signage, and public art (the “site elements”) shall be “substantially similar” to characteristics and features promised by the applicant and “sold” to the town via their marketing materials and our trip to Avalon. Many elements of the design guidebook far exceed town standards.



Example page from Fenton Design Guidebook

Example page from Fenton Design Guidebook

If you want to see the entire Design Guidebook, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Design Guidebook link - it's a 12 MB PDF.

Development Agreement

A development agreement is a legal agreement between the town and the developer.  The agreement provides a level of certainty to the developer regarding what can be built when and what mitigation measures will be required.  It also provides the Town with the opportunity to look at the long-term horizon and ensure that the development will fit with the Town’s comprehensive planning efforts and local policies in more detail than a rezoning allows.  In addition, development agreements give the Town greater flexibility in determining conditions and requirements for the project, and allow greater latitude and more creative solutions to address impacts, including potential Town contributions.

Since the development agreement is a condition of the rezoning, no development may occur unless it complies with the development agreement.  The development agreement provides the opportunity to address a variety of topics related to this project in greater detail, including but not limited to provisions related to timing, phasing, intensity of development, and funding of infrastructure construction. We hope to have the developer agreement completed by late February or March.

All this seems pretty complicated, right?

It is – which it is why it too so long to get here. To those of you anxious for the Wegmans, Thank You for your patience. It's coming ;-) 

In a previous blog post I compared the process to making Grandma’s famous chili – that if you rushed it or cut corners it wouldn’t be as good as it could have been. Same thing here. We spent a great deal of time making sure we got all the ingredients right to ensure a truly remarkable project.

That said, as with any project of this magnitude I'm sure we'll run into a few unforeseen issues here and there. I am confident that by continuing to work together as we have been there is nothing we can't overcome.

I really appreciate the applicant’s willingness to listen and work with us to help us achieve our vision. It wasn’t easy for them or us. But in the end I believe we have something that we can all be proud of.

Special thanks also to our amazing town staff who spent countless hours on this project as well as the Eastern Gateway component of the Cary Community Plan. As a member of the council I have had the pleasure - or not - of working with staff members from other municipalities or agencies. None of them can hold a candle to the dedicated and talented group of folks at Cary Town Hall. Cary's staff are the best!

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















Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Urban Drive Townhomes

At our council meeting this past Thursday we unanimously approved the Urban Drive Townhome Rezoning. This request rezones one lot along Urban Drive from Medium Density Residential (MDR) to Mixed-use allowing for the construction of five townhomes that will be integrated into the Chatham Walk Condominium project at the corner of Chatham and Urban.

The Chatham Walk condominium project did not require council consideration as the use is already allowed under the existing zoning which was put in place in 2001 with the adoption of the Town Center Area Plan (TCAP). The Chatham Walk Condominiums would still be built whether or not we approved the townhomes.


So while we technically weren’t considering the condominium project, we were considering a component of it – separating the two was difficult as the proposed townhome layout relies on the condominium site for access, parking and stormwater management.

Computer rendering of Chatham Walk Condos and Townhomes

The image above was generated to demonstrate scale and transition. That is NOT what the townhomes will look like ๐Ÿ˜‰

Downtown residents expressed both support and opposition to the proposal with the majority of residents along Urban Drive in opposition. Concerns included building height, neighborhood character, transition, building set-backs and stromwater/flooding.

Zoning conditions offered by the applicant in an effort to address neighbor and council concerns included:

1) Stormwater runoff from the roof and driveways of any townhome building constructed upon the property shall be diverted to the existing stormwater system within Chatham Street.

While this clearly won’t in any way solve the stormwater problem downtown, it won’t make it worse either and may actually help a bit as runoff post-development will be mitigated vs no stormwater mitigation pre-development. Cary’s stormwater requirements now are MUCH stricter than in years past.

2) The applicant has also offered conditions related to building design and architecture.  These include locating the principal entrance on Urban Drive for any townhomes with frontage on Urban Drive, providing a minimum percentage of masonry material on building facades, and limiting the use of vinyl siding to soffits and architectural accents.  The intent of these conditions is to provide an architectural transition between the existing single-family homes and condos and respect the residential front door feel of the neighborhood.

3) Conditions were also offered to provide a six-foot tall fence or wall within ten feet of the boundary line and a ten-foot building setback from the southern property line (the same set-back requirement that exists with MDR).

The townhomes will be three stories tall with a maximum height of 45 feet - the same height that could have been built by-right under the existing MDR zoning. That deserves repeating - a 45 feet tall residential building could have been built on this site today without any council consideration or citizen input. The primary difference between the existing zoning and that requested is the number of units and access/parking.

And while I appreciate the resident’s concerns regarding transition, we will have to agree to disagree. I believe that three-story townhomes do provide a good transition from a four-story condominium building into a single-family neighborhood downtown. The Cary Community Plan – our community’s vision document speaks to this – “Heights should step down to adjacent lower story buildings where necessary, or otherwise provide acceptable transitions.”

The townhomes will also better shield the condominium’s parking lot from view along Urban Drive.

Another concern raised by area residents was “development creep” – that by approving this proposal we are opening the door for the rest of the neighborhood to be redeveloped with townhomes or other high density uses.

That is not the case.

While some parts of our downtown neighborhoods may see change over the coming years – especially those areas close to Chatham Street, Academy Street and Harrison Ave – the majority of downtown neighborhoods are planned to stay the same – except of course for remodels, additions or other improvements performed by homeowners – which is happening a lot these days!

The vision for the Central Chatham Sub-area as described in the Cary Community Plan is, “A vibrant mixed-use corridor with shops, restaurants, breweries, studios, and sidewalk vendors. The street will be a corridor, where people move between adjacent subareas. It will be Cary’s primary destination for dining, entertainment, and shopping. And it will be a neighborhood, a downtown community with a variety of living options where residents can obtain their daily needs within a short walk.”

Here is an image of all the downtown sub-areas as well as the Central Chatham Sub-area where the site is located.




From the Cary Community Plan – “The shaded areas on this map highlight some of the general locations that might offer particular opportunities for future infill development, redevelopment, or re-use that could help to achieve the vision for Central Chatham. Change is anticipated to occur slowly over time, as individual property owners elect at their own discretion to undertake changes to their properties to better align with this vision. Additional sites not highlighted in this subarea are expected to be maintained as is, or not change significantly, over the planning horizon.”

So the bottom line is that if your neighborhood isn’t highlighted, it isn’t expected to change much nor do we plan for it to. If it is highlighted, change might occur if property owners choose to do so.

I appreciate that change can be difficult for folks, I really do. But change is coming to downtown and for the most part this is a great thing. The condominium and townhomes above might look out of place today. They won’t look out of place in 5-10 years. A similar project is already in the works on the eastern corner of Urban and Chatham and the land on the northern side of Chatham St. has been assembled for redevelopment. A number of other projects are also in the works downtown such as the townhomes along Park St across from the downtown park, the mixed-use development at the corner of Harrison and Chatham and private development at the downtown library parking deck.

As new development occurs, we will continue to work to ensure that it is done in a manner that is consistent with our community’s vision for downtown and respects the character and charm of surrounding neighborhoods.

I can’t say that I ever thought I’d dedicate an entire blog post to five townhomes, but the reality is that this case was much bigger than that. It was about striking a balance between existing residents and new development and sticking to the vision laid out in the Cary Community Plan. As downtown continues to evolve we will surely face similar challenges. I look forward to it.

Thanks for reading!


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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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
IKEA
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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 faรงade 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.

IKEA

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.

Wegmans

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!