From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through February 26, 2012.
Cary, NC – This week was a busy week with a lot of late nights.
Mayors, Hurricanes and Bees
Monday I joined the mayors of Wake County at a Carolina Hurricanes game. Ten out of the twelve Wake County mayors were present. While it was mostly a social event I did talk with mayors about various issues. For example, I found out that Mayor Matheny of Zebulon was a beekeeper and we talked about the issues related to beekeeping. It was a good event and the Canes slaughtered the Capitals 5-0.
Tuesday started with phone calls to council members about the agenda for the upcoming regular council meeting. I was able to contact all council members except Robison to hear their concerns and questions. Most of the questions and concerns were related to the staff proposed beekeeping ordinance. One council member told me that the beekeepers association had said they would show up in force.
Move into Conference With Durham Schools?
Another issue brought up by a council member was the concern that the North Carolina High School Athletic Association was going to move two Cary high schools (GHHS & PCHS) into a conference with Durham Schools. The council member wanted to “pink slip” a proposal to staff to draft a resolution opposing this Athletic conference restructuring. The “pink slip” is a term used by council to add an item to the agenda. It takes a council member and a sponsor to put an item on the agenda. Of course, items can always be added during the meeting if the council votes to add it to the agenda.
Later Tuesday I met with management, directors, legal, and administrators to go over the agenda. I was joined by Mayor Pro-Tem Adcock. We reviewed each item and discussed the beekeeping concerns and questions. My prediction was that the council meeting would go until 9 PM based on the projected number of speakers and items on the agenda.
Remarks at Cultural Resources Volunteer Banquet
After the agenda meeting I headed over to the Herb Young Center for the Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources volunteer banquet. There were at least a couple hundred folks in attendance. After dinner I gave a few remarks before the guest speaker, an ambassador from the North Carolina Symphony. In my remarks I made the following points:
– Cary is great because of its people
– Volunteers are a precious resource
– Over 400 people help annually at major town events
– Thanked all volunteers for making Cary one of the greatest places to live in America
After remarks I was joined by Council members Smith and Frantz as we handed out eight awards and then stayed for a few photos. It was another great volunteer event and I was proud to have even a small part.
County and Town Business
Wednesday started with a meeting of the Western Wake Partners Policy Advisory Committee. This committee is made up of mayors and town managers from Apex, Cary, and Morrisville. Our work is focused on the building, financing and operations of the Western Wake Wastewater Management Facility. In this meeting we heard reports from staff and voted on contracts related to construction. Our next meeting is scheduled for March 28th.
I next met with town manager Shivar in our weekly meeting to go over current events in the town. We talked about a variety of issues none of which were of the emergency nature.
Later Wednesday I had dinner with a business owner to talk about a variety of issues related to living, running a business and politics in Cary. It was very important to hear about the economic situation from a business owner’s point of view. One interesting note was that there are a lot of businesses that would like to expand but just can’t get a loan.
Davis and High House Multi-Family Project
Thursday I met with the Planning Director, planning staff, council member Bush, and Mayor Pro-Tem Adcock to get an update on the Bradford project at Davis Drive and High House. This is the controversial mixed use project that was approved in 2007 that propelled me and others into office. Here is some of the information I gathered from the meeting:
- The first phase is moving forward and will include 390 multi-family units and roughly 65,000 square feet of commercial.
- Council will have no decision in this process.
- This phase will like not trigger the additional traffic signals needed on High House or on Davis Drive. This fact concerns me especially since traffic already backs up well past where these lights will be installed.
- The remaining phase of Office/Commercial can be delayed indefinitely. This basically means what is being built is essentially a multi-family project.
- The remaining phase could be sold and built with any type of commercial such as a drug store, fast food, or other undesirables.
- This project will be built at the same time Searstone is being built across the street.
One interesting tidbit. Either Searstone or Bradford will be responsible for road improvements at Cary Parkway and High House. This will include adding turn lanes. Anyone that is familiar with that intersection knows there is limited space due to the clock tower and decorative walls.
I am very concerned about the projects that will soon be under construction at Davis Drive and High House. This is a very busy intersection now and I am concerned that it will be overwhelmed with this new construction. In addition, the potential negative traffic impacts for the entire area are very concerning.
Council Meeting Thursday
Thursday night was the regularly scheduled council meeting. The majority of the time was spent in the Public Hearing on amendments to the Land Development Ordinance. One particular item was related to beekeeping. Several people spoke about this issue and council had a lengthy discussion. Council decided to send the proposed amendments to the Planning and Zoning Board for their review except for the beekeeping. They asked staff to review this item separately and bring it back to council with recommendations after working with groups related to beekeeping. My guess is that council will decide to make this a permitted use.
The council also asked staff to create a resolution opposing the realignment of Panther Creek, Green Hope, and other high schools into a different athletic conference. We will vote on this at our next meeting. We ended the council meeting at 8:58 which was within two minutes of my prediction. Not bad ;)
Heart of Cary Ashworth Awards
Friday night my wife and I attended the first Heart of Cary Ashworth Awards dinner. This is the first, of what I hope, will be an annual award for citizens involved in our downtown. The Emcee for the evening was Steve Zaytoun who set the tone for a night of fun and laughter. Speakers included the Chamber President, the Cary downtown manager, the Dorcas ministry Executive Director, council member Robinson, and me.
Theme songs were played as we approached the podium. Mine was the Twilight Zone theme.
The meal was fantastic but I had to skip one course and certain beverages because of Lent. Can you guess what I gave up for Lent? The event itself was a blast and a fun time was had by all including the award winners Ralph and Daphne Ashworth. Ralph and Daphne are icons in Cary and have spent their lives making Cary a better place. God bless them for all they have done for Cary.
Notifications, Cary a Tree City, Fatal Crash
There were several notifications sent out this week including one from the Chief Executive of the Arbor Day Foundation congratulating Cary on being named a Tree City USA community. I am proud that I live in a community where planting and nurturing trees is a priority.
Other notifications included emails from staff. The intersection of Pinnacle Drive in southern Cary at Holly Springs Road will close on February 27 and will remain closed through March 30. This is necessary to complete sewer line improvements along Holly Springs Road.
Staff also gave a follow up to the tragic fatal crash at Chatham Street and Cary Parkway. The driver of the Dodge sedan will face speeding charges as a result of the Cary Police Department’s investigation into the tragic event that claimed two lives.
Media and My Trip to D.C.
Other emails this week included a response to an inquiry by the local newspaper.
The reporter asked staff about our trip to Washington DC last week: “Could you please send over a bit of info on the federal trip? I’m interested in the final cost as well as your schedule.” Could it be that they are looking for another negative angle to a positive story once again?
For your information, the response from staff about the cost was: “The mayor, manager and I attended all of the meetings. The cost of the trip, including airfare, hotel and all other expenses was $2,449.91.”
It is important to understand that Cary has received millions in grants over the years. We believe our annual trips to Washington have been a significant factor in that. Please read last week’s blog for details about this year’s trip.
Bees and Qs
The beekeeping issue generated a lot of questions this week, some related to planning and some related to legal. Here is the planning staff’s response to questions:
The existing Land Development Ordinance (LDO) provisions come from Chapter 12 and Chapter 5 and include (1) the definition of agricultural products (which includes bees) and (2) the table of uses, where agricultural activities are only allowed in the R-80, R-40, and R-20 districts as a commercial activity. Thus, there is no guidance on beekeeping as an accessory use as part of residential living. This, much more than the number of complaints, was the impetus for staff to bring something forward to clearly deal with the topic once and for all (hopefully), since we receive both complaints and inquiries about this use.
The LDO requires that “… the Planning Director shall initiate an amendment to this Ordinance if the particular use or category of use(s) is likely to be common or to recur frequently, or that omission of specific inclusion and reference to this Ordinance is likely to lead to public uncertainty and confusion.”
We also agree that the e-mail writer’s conclusion that vegetable gardens are illegal is not correct. The LDO explicitly allows vegetable gardens as a normal, accessory use of residential property in Cary.
As far as the general issue of making land use determinations is concerned, zoning code administration typically relies upon a conservative approach whereby land uses which are not specifically mentioned in the code are deemed impermissible. Richard Ducker from the UNC School of Government summarized it this way a few years ago:
Virtually all zoning ordinances are based on the premise that the ordinance shall list certain land uses that are permitted in each zoning district and that those uses not expressly permitted are prohibited. Indeed, the “permitted-use table” is a staple in most ordinances. If a new activity arises on the zoning scene that does not qualify as a listed permitted use, then it is presumed that the use is not allowed unless the ordinance is amended specifically to allow it.
Otherwise, the only option would be the alternative, and we would have to automatically consider such uses allowable. Staff would guess that such an answer might not be the desired response when any new, previously-unregulated land use or activity emerges (you can insert your own example).
Here is another email from legal staff related to beekeeping and the legal implications:
It is apparent that this is a confusing, even sticky, concept – in part because beekeeping can be both an ‘industry’ and a hobby and is ‘agriculture’. I do not know the specific LDO sections that Planning relied on in determining that apiaries are not a permitted use in residential districts, but can say generally that it is recognized that apiaries and related uses are subject to zoning regulations, frequently being defined as ‘agricultural’ uses that are prohibited in residential areas. Bee keeping is also regulated under animal control authority.
In the North Carolina Bee and Honey Act of 1977, the state regulates the bee and honey industry, recognizing even small bee keepers as a part of that ‘industry’. State law also defines ‘agriculture’ as ‘… the raising, management, care, and training of livestock, including horses, bees, poultry, and other animals for individual and public use, consumption, and marketing.’
Planning has said it is attempting to be proactive in proposing an LDO amendment after receiving several recent complaints about backyard apiaries and discovering that LDO provisions do not clearly define or address backyard bees in residential districts.
As to a vegetable garden established for personal use and enjoyment, the LDO permits gardens as ‘accessory uses’ to household living. Planning explains that the LDO prohibits only the sale of produce from such gardens.
It will be interesting to see what recommendations come forward after all the study and investigation.
I received dozens of emails from citizens this week. Most of which were about bees. Other emails included complaints about chickens, abandoned bank owned homes, the realignment of Cary High schools into a different conference, and the Cary/Chatham County Joint Land Use Plan proposal.
Davis and High House PAC Letter on Jordan Lake
On the topic of the Joint Land Use Plan an individual from the Davis Drive and High House group sent out an email that included:
“Locating a development on Jordan Lake has severe future financial repercussions for Cary tax payers that have not been properly assessed.”
“The new development will worsen the problem by adding 1,000 to 5,000 TONS of sediment; 30 – 90 TONS of nitrogen; and 3-4 TONS of phosphorus per year!”
“The proposed Jordan Lake development will exacerbate and perpetuate Cary’s budget problems into the distant future.”
Unfortunately, these statements are misleading and not true. Cary is NOT working on a development project in Chatham County near Jordan Lake. Instead we are working on a joint land use plan with Chatham County. It is a plan how property owners can develop their property in the future. It is not a development proposal. This plan may or may not be approved and if it is approved may or may not be developed out in my lifetime which is fine with me. It is only a proposal for a plan. Another statement made was:
“Across the last 14 years, costs of growth in Cary have increased faster than revenue from growth, which explains the recent discussions of increasing town debt through bonds, raising property taxes, and large increases in water and sewage rates.”
While this statement is technically true, it implies that Cary will increase taxes because we haven’t accounted for growth. And that is absolutely false. This is again misleading. Cary’s revenue from growth comes through development fees. These fees have never been at 100% of cost of the impact of development to allow Cary to remain competitive with neighboring municipalities. This has ALWAYS been the case. We raised development fees the night I was sworn in December 2007 to the highest rates we could and still remain competitive. We have balanced our growth with infrastructure. Some of the pressure of capital costs is resulting from the fact that capital costs didn’t include operating costs. Regarding water and sewer rates, these increases are mostly to pay for a new sewer plant and a water plant expansion to serve the current and future businesses and citizens of Cary. It is extremely important that we not fall behind in infrastructure. It is my belief that any future increase in taxes will be to pay for new capital. That has not been decided. It will be put to the residents in form of a bond referendum.
Next week will include a few meetings and a couple of visits to elementary schools.
Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 4th. Please feel free to email me with a comment. Email all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org. Email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture by FotoHal, taken in the parking lot of Green Hope High School on Wednesday 2/22/12, waiting for the teams to get home from Roxboro.