Cary, NC – The latest Cary Town Council meeting saw a vote to approve the master plan for the final phase of Cary’s downtown park, a project more than a decade in the making, as well as Public Hearings on annexations and rezonings around town.
Downtown Cary Master Plan
The biggest agenda item at the Thursday, March 14, 2019 Cary Town Council meeting was the vote on the Downtown Park Master Plan, which would complete the park adjacent from the Cary Arts Center. The fountain, stage and other park amenities currently there are one acre of the seven acre planned park.
Staff’s presentation consisted of a description of the park, from the pavilion for live entertainment, the central Great Lawn, the large stormwater retention pond and the bridges that would cover it, the area for restaurants and businesses along Academy Street and more. The presentation included concept photos from the Office of James Burnett Landscape Architecture, the consultants for the Downtown Cary Park.
There were three speakers at Public Speaks Out and all three of them addressed the park. Two speakers were critical of the park’s design: one speaker said the park clashes with the architectural standards of Downtown Cary and doesn’t have a “Cary feel,” while also requesting a design guidebook for the park and all of Downtown Cary.
The other critical speaker said the park does not reflect the “small town feel” that Cary should have and said it was not clear if this is a park for children, the elderly, single young people or any group in particular. This speaker also criticized the proposed fire pits and said she was concerned the large stormwater feature would flood and overflow.
One other speaker was Brent Miller, representing the Historic Preservation Commission. He said the board voted unanimously in favor of the master plan but wants to work with the town to make sure the five surrounding historic properties are integrated well.
In their comments, Town Council was very supportive of the master plan and responded to some of the speakers’ points indirectly. Councilmembers said repeatedly that this will be a park for everyone, not just in Downtown Cary but around the entire town and also talked glowingly about the level of community input this park had, with around 1,700 responses.
“That’s also good because a lot of citizen involvement will be needed for the bond referendum,” said Councilmember At-Large Ed Yerha, referring to the Tuesday, October 8, 2019 bond referendum vote.
Councilmember Jack Smith also spoke to the question of whether or not this is a park for a “small town” by saying Cary is close to a population of a quarter of a million people, though it can still keep “some of the things that make Cary special.”
Town Council also credited Councilmember Don Frantz directly several times, as this is his district and he has been pushing for a park of this magnitude for the past 12 years. Councilmember Ken George described his focus on the park as “contagious enthusiasm” and Frantz credited the rest of the council as well as town staff and the Office of James Burnett.
“When I first looked at this plan, I cried,” Frantz said.
Town Council passed the Downtown Park Master Plan unanimously.
There were two Public Hearings on the agenda and neither had a speaker. The first was for an annexation of a small piece of land in Northwest Cary along NC-55 and Alston Avenue. This is located in the Alston Regional Activity Center. With no speakers and no discussion, Town Council approved the annexation unanimously.
The other Public Hearing was to rezone a mix of commercial and residential land along Carpenter Upchurch Road to Residential Multi-Famiy Conditional Use, with zoning conditions to limit it to townhomes with a maximum of eight units per acre. Also, there would be a community gathering space with a minimum size of 5,000 square feet.
The representative for the applicant addressed Town Council before the Public Hearing started and talked about this project had been delayed because the intersection had changed. But it is now being converted to a regular four way intersection and a new traffic signal is being installed, with a target completion date of Spring 2019.
With no speakers, this rezoning was then sent to the Planning and Zoning Board for their recommendation.
The only other major news or update from the Thursday, March 14, 2019 meeting was an update from Cary Town Attorney Christine Simpson that the legal case with Time Warner Cable has been settled. During maintenance work, Time Warner CAble damaged a Cary waterline in 2014 but they have now settled that, paying $210,000 to the Town of Cary.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of the Town of Cary and Hal Goodtree.