Cary, NC — This was a typical week that included meetings, presentations, and a council meeting.
As I always do in weeks with regularly scheduled council meetings, I called all council members to listen to their concerns and questions about the upcoming council meeting. Then, later in the day, I met with management, legal, public information, and others to go over the agenda. Based on the comments and emails, I believed plan amendments and rezoning proposals would be the focus of much of the discussion during the council meeting.
After the agenda meeting I met with the town manager, deputy town manager, assistant town managers, and Mayor Pro-Tem Smith to talk about upcoming items of concern. One item we talked about was the Google installation. It appears Google will start installation in Cary and Morrisville first. This will have an impact on Cary finances, since we will have to have staff to address issues and to inspect over one hundred contractors all working at once.
It is estimated that our cost might approach one million over three years.
Tuesday started with a presentation to me by The A.D. King Foundation from Naomi King, sister-in-law to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Afterwards, I talked with the board member making the presentation about how we can grow and create similar events such as Dreamfest, the MLK event held in Cary each year.
Tuesday night I had the honor and privilege to hand out Lazy Daze grant checks to organizations involved in Cary cultural arts. Lazy Daze raised $35,000 this year for this cause and has raised over $565,000 since its inception. Thanks to all the organizations that work so hard to make Cary a better place.
Wednesday I visited Buhler Aeroglide in Cary to welcome the US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, NC Secretary of Commerce John Skvarla, and Buhler Aeroglide President Hans-Joerg ILL. The purpose of the visit was to talk about the apprenticeship programs at Aeroglide, in the State, and around the Country.
Buhler Aeroglide Apprenticeship Program
Currently, there are about 500 companies in the State of North Carolina participating in apprenticeships. The Buhler Aeroglide apprenticeship program takes high school students and puts them through a four year program in addition to school. At the end of the apprenticeship program, individuals will have graduated high school, obtained an associate’s degree from Wake Tech, learned several skills such as welding, and will be offered a job. According to the Buhler Aeroglide officials their investment per apprentice is about $150,000.
Meeting Secretary Perez
This was my first meeting with a member of the President’s cabinet, and it was an honor to meet and talk with the US Secretary of Labor. Secretary Perez arrived about 30 minutes late in a two car entourage with what appeared to be three secret service men (but they could have been staff for all I know).
At our initial greeting, the Secretary knew who I was, and that I worked in the IT field. So it appeared he was briefed on everyone he was to meet.
I would have loved to see the briefing on me.
Tour of Facility
Next we toured the facility. Most of his conversation during the tour was with the President of the Company and the NC Secretary of Commerce, as it should be. However, Secretary Perez was very good in stopping along the way to talk with workers who were not expecting it. Those were great conversations and he was very skilled in getting them to talk.
He also made time to talk with me about getting apprenticeships in the IT field. My impression was that he was a very kind and very sincere individual who is excellent at what he does. I also had an opportunity to meet briefly with the new NC Secretary of Commerce who started his position in January. He congratulated me on MetLife and said he is looking forward to some other things that are in the pipeline. Me too!
Triangle Land Conservancy Meeting
Wednesday evening I met with the executive director of the Triangle Land Conservancy, or TLC. Over the last 30 years, TLC has conserved over 16,000 acres and owned and managed six nature preserves. Their mission is to safeguard clean water, protect natural habitats, support farms and food, and connect people with nature.
In our discussion, we talked about all that Cary is doing and how we could work together along with developers to create something special in Cary. We acknowledged that opportunities to preserve land are becoming more and more limited and that our future successes might depend on working with specific developers interested in creating open space with their projects. I am sure we will talk again in the future. Our meeting lasted about 45 minutes.
Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting lasted approximately three hours. The council made decisions on several discussion items.
Revenue Bonds & Land Amendment
Council unanimously supported the sale of revenue bonds that could save the town $1.8 million with refinancing existing revenue bonds, and council unanimously agreed to approve a comprehensive land amendment on High House next to the Bradford development to allow low density single family housing instead of higher density.
Another plan amendment, next to Crossroads, that would have eliminated office for multi-family was tabled to hear the recommendations from the Imagine Cary process. Those recommendations will be presented within a few weeks at a council work session. Before the tabling Crossroads plan amendment it appeared from our discussion that it would have failed.
CASL Agreement & Carpenter Neighborhood Park
In another decision, the council passed an agreement with CASL for soccer fields which will include two artificial turf fields. This agreement will provide more field time for non CASL players in addition to CASL players. The discussion item on the Carpenter Neighborhood Park and associated items was unanimously approved by council.
Downtown Economic Development
The council also approved a license agreement for downtown economic development with David Gardner, Alex Osadzinski and Whitney Rowe to provide professional advice and consultative services to promote business investments in its Downtown Business Improvement District (BID).
This agreement will include the creation of a business incubator for start-up and early-stage businesses and help the Town identify and coordinate potential public and private actions in the downtown area in exchange for the shared use of Suite 301 in 122 East Chatham Street.
The council’s last discussion item was a rezoning proposal to allow multi-family on Stephens Road just off Piney Plains Road which was denied.
Friday I participated in the weekly Metro Mayors conference call to hear a legislative update.
Notable items included:
- The latest state revenue forecast anticipates collections for the current fiscal year to come in about $271 million below the $21 billion the General Assembly budgeted for the year. Revenues in the current fiscal year have grown by only 2.9 percent, rather than the 4 percent growth predicted in May 2014.
- The Senate gave final approval Thursday to legislation, Senate Bill 20, that would cut the state gas tax this year before placing a floor of 35 cents that will likely push the rate higher than it would have been – enough to raise a projected $1.2 billion for transportation needs by 2019.
- Savings from the Gas Tax bill will be achieved partly by cutting 500 occupied jobs and 50 vacancies in the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It puts layoff priority on DOT administration staffers, maintenance jobs that could be outsourced, and positions that allow the agency to reduce management layers.
- The House passed a bill which would prevent government from seizing property for private development. The goal is to ban eminent domain in cases where government seizes property only to sell it to a private developer.
- Governor Pat McCrory has been touring the state and speaking about the value of restoring the state’s historic tax credits, which expired at the end of 2014. Bills have been filed to eliminate municipal Extra Territorial Jurisdictions.
The conference all lasted about 30 minutes and had roughly two dozen mayors participating.
Emails from Staff
Emails from staff this week included the construction activity report. Interesting data included:
- In January the average single family dwelling was 3,936 square feet and valued at $249,585 compared to January 2011 when the average single family dwelling was 4,069 square feet and valued at $191,328.
- In December 2014 Cary had 15.9% of single family permits issued in Wake County. Only Raleigh had more with 21.3%.
- In December 2014 single family permits were up 4.55% nationally, up 14.8% statewide, and up 20.9% in Cary from the previous month.
- Five development projects were staff approved in January including: 53 townhomes on 14 acres and a 39,420 square foot office building in Cary Park.
We continue to see strong growth in Cary.
Acreage for Development
Emails from staff this week also included information on available acreage for development within our planning jurisdiction. The total acreage for Cary in both Chatham and Wake Counties is 8,464 acres which is a little over 13 square miles. The develop-able acreage in Cary’s portion of Wake County is 6,010 acres or 9.39 square miles.
Develop-able acreage includes properties that are vacant or that have extremely low value of improvements relative to parcel size and do not have approved or submitted site or subdivision plans. These figures do not include developed or under-developed sites that have the potential for redevelopment.
Emails from Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included a concern about Lake Crabtree Park, a concern about potholes on Cary Parkway, a request to know the opening of a hot yoga business, and several requests to approve and deny rezoning proposals.
Get in Touch
Next week’s activities are all meetings and events. They include the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Volunteer Banquet, my first meeting as vice-chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board, and a Mayors Association outing.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 22nd. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photo by Jessica Patrick.