Cary Town Council

Cary Town Council: Green Level West Office, Stormwater Changes and More

Cary, NC – The latest Cary Town Council meeting saw extensive discussion and public comment on a variety of topics, including for one proposed hotel rezoning that was taken off the agenda, and all culminating with a vote on an office rezoning that passed by a 4-3 margin.

Weston Hotel Continuance

At the start of the Thursday, September 26, 2019 Cary Town Council meeting, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht proposed a “continuance” on the vote on an amendment that would allow a hotel use on 4.94 acres along Weston Parkway, with conditions included that would allow an increased height, a reduced streetscape requirement and smaller parking than is the current standard. Weinbrecht said there has been “misinformation” about this project spread around and he wanted the continuance so citizens could talk with the developers and town staff and learn more about what was proposed.

Cary Town Council

The location of the rezoning

There were still three nearby residents who voiced opposition to the proposed rezoning, listing traffic, the increased height, water runoff and decreased buffer as reasons. One resident also said the applicant here has not been cooperative in their conversations.

Council Member Jack Smith questioned whether this continuance would bring clarity and if this was setting a bad precedence for the future. Weinbecht compared this to a past rezoning case on Kildaire Farm Road, in Smith’s district, over a gas station and said a continuance then helped residents learn more. Smith said that example “put his mind at ease,” so the continuance was passed unanimously.

The next Cary Town Council meeting is Thursday, October 10, 2019.

Green Level West Office

The item that took up the most discussion by far at the September 26 meeting was a rezoning proposal along Green Level West Road, to turn 1.98 acres zoned as residential R-12 to Office and Institutional Use, with conditions that limit floor space to 15,000 square feet, height to 35 feet and limit the uses to office business with no medical practice. The site sits on the edge of the Green Level Destination Center and is near the Commercial Center, both laid out by the Cary Community Plan.

The proposal saw considerable public comment in opposition at its first Public Hearing earlier this year, and since then, several new conditions have been added, including a minimum 70-foot setback on its northern and eastern borders, conditions against certain kinds of concrete building materials, a limit on transparent materials on the bottom floor, conditions on the roof types, no loading docks or exterior dumpsters and a wooden privacy fence (town staff said the fence was requested by residents, though Smith warned that a wooden fence degrades quickly and will “look like crap”).

Town staff originally rejected this proposal but since new conditions have been added, they have recommended approval. The Planning and Zoning Board voted for the proposal 4-2. Mark Evangelista, in his last appearance as board chair, said the yes votes saw this as appropriate transition from the density that will come in the Destination Center, while the two no votes did not see the transition and thought there were more appropriate uses for this site. Evangelista also spoke during Public Speaks Out to talk about the high quality of the staff report on this rezoning case.

Cary Town Council

The location of the rezoning, with the surrounding neighborhoods

During Public Speaks Out, there were five speakers, three opposed and two in favor, with both of those in favor associated with the applicant. Those speaking against the proposal called it “spot zoning” and did not think it was justified and wanted the R-12 zoning honored. The key point for those in opposition is they did not want an office building in the midst of a neighborhood. Of those speaking in favor, one was the applicant who talked about his history in Cary and how this is a local business. Also speaking in favor was the attorney for the applicant, who pointed to examples of offices adjacent to residential areas with no problems.

The rezoning passed by one vote, as Council was split 4-3. Those opposed were Council Members Jennifer Robinson, Ed Yerha and Ken George. Robinson said the conditions were promising but in the end, the Cary Community Plan described this as a historic neighborhood, just adjacent to the denser Destination Center.

“If I lived here a long time, I trusted how the Cary Community Plan was created and I trusted it would protect my neighborhood,” Robinson said.

Yerha was more explicit in his opposition, saying if there is commercial or office use in a traditional neighborhood, it should directly serve those neighbors, which this does not. Also, Yerha said as a relatively simple building project, the amount of conditions it has raises concerns.

“Something like this shouldn’t require 14 conditions,” Yerha said. “Something is wrong with this picture from the get-go.”

George said this use is preferable to many options but admitted he was wrestling with it, before ultimately voting against it.

Council Member Don Frantz was the most direct in his support and described his own home as being around many non-residential uses but it does not “negatively impact” his life. Frantz also said many Cary residents would want more office space to reduce burdens on schools but it is just a question of whether it is near their home or not. Frantz also said this would help a local business, although zonings go with the land, not the applicant.

Both Weinbrecht and Mayor Pro Tem Lori Bush said this use is less intense and burdensome on a neighborhood than other potential commercial uses or even some residential uses, with Bush specifically pointing to grocery store uses that are near many residential areas.

Smith said this use “stretches the rubber band” on what the Cary Community Plan wanted for this area, but it did not “snap,” so he voted in favor.

Stormwater Ordinance Change

Of the three Public Hearings on the agenda, only one saw any public comment. This was for changes to Cary’s Land Development Ordinance, which now requires new developments to mitigate or model discharge for 100-year storms. Town staff said this is in response to not only stormwater flooding but also the number of Cary homes and businesses built in floodplains before Cary had stormwater regulations in place.

Town staff also pointed to Stone Creek Village as an example of how a new development can effectively mitigate stormwater flooding.

There were two speakers at this Public Hearing, both residents who are in support, though one asked for the policy to not just consider how stormwater affects Cary residents but also the impact on the overall watershed.

Bush credited town staff for bringing their “harshest critics” to the table to devise this policy. The amendment was then sent to the Planning and Zoning Board for their recommendation.

The other two Public Hearings were annexations for several lots west of Evans Road and several lots along Emery Gayle Lane and Broderick Place. With no discussion, Town Council approved both of these annexations.

Twyla Road Rezoning

The proposal to rezone 36.84 acres along Twyla Road was on the Consent Agenda, which typically means they are unanimously recommended for approval by all parties involved. This rezoning has come up in Public Hearings and Public Speaks Out in the past, but new conditions have ben put in place that includes more commercial space and now puts in curb and gutter.

During Public Speaks Out, there were two residents who still had concerns about how this rezoning would increase traffic, as well as one concern about nearby schools already being capped for capacity. There were three speakers with the developer who talked about the changes to this rezoning since talking with residents and one representative for nearby neighbors also spoke in favor of the proposal, who said it would help the overall neighborhood.

In response to questions about traffic and schools, Weinbrecht said they are lobbying the NC Department of Transportation to get a stoplight there but it is against the law for them to take school capacity on as a consideration for a rezoning.

Public Speaks Out

With Twyla Road, the Green Level offices and the Weston Parkway speakers out of the way, there were still several speakers at this meeting, all talking about the environment.

There were three speakers, including representatives from Triangle Off-Road Cyclists and the Umstead Coalition, asking for Cary’s help with opposition to the quarry in the Odd-Fellows tract by Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Also, one of the speakers opposed to the Weston Parkway hotel also said she was opposed to the quarry.

Also at the meeting was Leigh Williams, co-founder of TowardZeroWaste, who said she has recently come to accept the science behind climate change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report. She pushed for local action on climate change, specifically calling for business-driven solutions.

George McDowell also spoke to invite the Cary Town Council, and anyone else who is interested, to come to the Cary Tree Archive’s first planting on Saturday, September 28 at noon.


Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Hal Goodtree, the Town of Cary and Google Maps.

34 replies
  1. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    Lost among the tangents is the original point: That Cary’s LDO requires ONLY that stormwater runoff from a developed property flow off it at a maximum rate less than the maximum rate it flowed off before development, and that the LDO places NO restriction on the volume of water that flows off a property after development.

    Reply
    • Brent Miller
      Brent Miller says:

      And yet — once again — that rate is volume per time, so the only way to reduce that rate is to reduce the volume or increase the time. Volume of water is in fact accounted for in the equation.

      Volume of water alone does not cause flooding. Volume per time — flow rate — does.

      Reply
      • George McDowell
        George McDowell says:

        Take a virgin four-acre forested field. Clear cut its 400 trees. Strip off all topsoil. Build 20 houses, each with a driveway. Build a road and sidewalks and common areas.

        Before development, it rains two inches, which is 217,232 gallons on four acres. The field and trees absorb 95% of the rainwater, leaving 10,861 gallons as stormwater runoff.

        After development, in the same storm, the four acres absorbs 50% of the rainwater, leaving 108,616 gallons as stormwater runoff.

        The developer calculates that the virgin field shed runoff at the maximum rate of 20 gallons per second, and creates a system with a retention pit that causes runoff from the land after development at a rate no greater than 19.9 gallons per second.

        This meets ALL LDO requirements. Those at lower altitudes must deal with the additional 97,755 gallons of runoff caused by the development.

        Reply
        • Brent
          Brent says:

          Sigh.

          But they deal with that additional runoff over a time duration that is about 10 times longer than in the original scenario, at a rate lower than in the original scenario.

          Volume alone does not cause flooding. Volume per time does. Without mitigation, development will undoubtedly increase the peak discharge rate. Hence, the LDO requires developers to decrease the peak discharge rate so as to mitigate flooding.

          (it isn’t, of course, entirely this simple, and urban development can indeed have negative effects on a water system, but if we can’t agree that peak discharge rate is what causes flooding, there’s no sense in continuing any conversation).

          Reply
          • George McDowell
            George McDowell says:

            You sigh. Those downstream gasp as the additional 97,755 gallons of runoff floods their homes, and are not mollified that the deluge comes at them at 19.9 gallons per second instead of 20.

          • Brent
            Brent says:

            @George Thanks for pointing out that the development did not worsen flooding for those downstream.

            If their homes are being flooded at 19.9 gps, they already were being flooded at 20 gps. If they were not flooded at 20 gps, they won’t be flooded at 19.9 gps. The additional water volume does not worsen flooding because it isn’t arriving any faster than before the development. The development didn’t make flooding worse.

            Peak discharge rate is what determines flooding; that’s why reducing peak discharge rate is an appropriate metric for new development.

            Urban development definitely can have adverse effects on the water system, and I’d be happy to discuss those with anyone who can accept the math and science of stormwater management.

      • George McDowell
        George McDowell says:

        @Brent– I get it now. You’re just jerking my chain! Good for you.

        When you chat with someone “who can accept the math and science of stormwater management,” ask him or her which is better to be downhill from,

        (1) 108,616 gallons coming at you at 19.9 gallons per second, or

        (2) 10,861 gallons coming at you at 20 gallons per second.

        Reply
        • Brent
          Brent says:

          No George you don’t get it at all.

          I’m stating facts, not jerking your chain.

          You don’t understand why it’s the RATE of flow. Your 2 scenarios are basically equivalent .

          You’re wedded to your false idea that volume matters.

          You don’t understand math.

          Surely you realize that the downstream properties can drain at a particular rate? Don’t you?

          Volume is not relevant if it occurs at a constant rate.

          Do some research and get back to me .its about rate, not volume.

          Sorry. It’s math and science.

          Hint: your false idea that more volume = more water is wrong when rate remains constant .

          Huge sigh

          Please, do the math. It’s not hard.

          Reply
          • George McDowell
            George McDowell says:

            @Brent — When you assert that the proposition “more volume = more water” is false, it becomes apparent there will be no meeting of our minds.

          • Brent
            Brent says:

            Nice cherry picking George. I’m sorry I wasn’t precise enough for you.

            More water volume upstream does not result in more water at a particular spot at a particular time downstream when the arrival rate is constant.

            I’m done playing your games. This is math and science.

            Have a nice day.

        • Brent
          Brent says:

          If 567 trillion bazillion gallons are coming at you at 20 gps, they’re STILL COMING AT 20 GPS.

          The volume doesn’t matter. The rate matters.

          Math

          Reply
        • Brent
          Brent says:

          Your faulty logic has nothing to do with whether the river floods. It only dictates how long the river flows fast before slowing down.

          Math.

          Reply
  2. Brent
    Brent says:

    Flow rate is volume per time, so the volume of water is indeed accounted for in the requirement to reduce peak flow rate.

    In your extreme example, the reduction in peak flow isn’t meaningless at all. What it means is that it would take 10 times as long for ten times the amount of water to flow off of the lot at effectively the same peak flow rate.

    In your extreme example, is it better to have 100K gallons of water flow off of the property in 14 minutes or 1M gallons of water flow off of the property in 2.4 hours? The volume per time remains about the same, even in your unrealistic scenario with 10X the volume of water. Either, or neither, might cause flooding.

    Peak flow rate absolutely is a component of flooding. In your extreme example, how do you suppose a developer would meet the requirement to reduce the peak flow rate give 10X the amount of water? With various forms of mitigation (as Mark points out), that’s how.

    Flow rate is volume per time, so that increased volume of water needs to be held on the land for a longer amount of time to decrease the flow rate. That probably implies a pond. Even in a realistic example.

    Reply
    • George McDowell
      George McDowell says:

      @Brent — Thanks for your reply [and thanks also to Lindsey and Hal for hosting this important forum for public discussion].

      The example is not extreme, it is typical. The one-tenth gallon difference in peak rate of flow is typical for projects for 10-year storms. The practical effect of this is, that development before the LDO amendment will not have a lesser peak rates of flow in 25-, 50-, and 100-year storms.

      Here is a video of a recently-completed project that fully meets all LDO requirements for both water runoff and erosion control. Those pronouncements were made by high Town officials after seeing the videos below.

      https://beautifycary.org/video/dirtywater.mp4

      Here is a more comprehensive exposition of the problems that the flaws in our existing LDO has, even after the amendments.

      https://beautifycary.org/video/aug4runoff.mp4

      I have a score or more of videos that show the huge amount of runoff and erosion from the same development. This will continue in future development if you continue to defend the status quo.

      ~George

      Reply
      • Brent
        Brent says:

        I’m not taking a particular stance on the LDO amendment. I’m pointing out that your statement that flooding is entirely dependent on volume of water is incorrect, along with your contention that reducing flow rate is meaningless, because flow rate reduction can be achieved only with reduction in volume or increase in time, either of which are likely to require mitigation measures.

        Reply
        • George McDowell
          George McDowell says:

          Think it through Brent. Which is more likely to cause flooding (1) 100,000 gallons released in 24 minutes or (2) 1,000,000 gallons in 2.4 hours?

          Reply
          • Brent
            Brent says:

            You think it through, George. It depends entirely on conditions. Either, both or neither might cause flooding.

            Your contention that it’s volume of water only is incorrect.

      • Brent
        Brent says:

        In the absence of “”before” and “after” videos, your videos aren’t very helpful. Although they anecdotally show potential concerns in one small area of a much larger system, there’s no evidence of whether this is better or worse or the same than 5 years ago, nor what might have caused it to be better or worse; nor is there evidence of how the larger system is performing. Are things better or worse or the same upstream? Downstream?

        Reply
  3. Gabe Talton
    Gabe Talton says:

    Regarding the storm water issue- So under the proposed LDO amendment if a homeowner wants to build a deck they will have the hire an engineer to model how the deck would perform in a category 3 hurricane? Because in any given year we have approximately a 1 in a 100 chance of a Cat 3 passing over Wake County. That engineering cost is going to come straight off the top of the value of our lots if we anticipate infil as best use. Am I wrong?

    Reply
    • Don Frantz
      Don Frantz says:

      Hi, Gabe.
      This would only be applicable to site or subdivision development plans and would not apply to building permits or additions associated with existing subdivided residential lots. Hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Gabe Talton
        Gabe Talton says:

        Thanks for that response. I appreciate your work with the stormwater issue downtown. But I am concerned that new residential construction will require a $20,000 retention pond on the site if the 100 year storm would require that. I assume that is what mitigation efforts refers to, a small pond. I’m concerned about the cost and I’m concerned that the pond will take up too much space on our smaller lots reducing available uses. I agree 100% that we need to address stormwater issues. But this seems extreme. Thanks for hearing my feedback.

        Reply
        • Brent
          Brent says:

          Actually, it seems that you agree something less than 100% that we need to address stormwater issues. It seems that you only partly agree that we need to address stormwater issues — as long as the remedies don’t cost money.

          Reply
          • Gabe Talton
            Gabe Talton says:

            I agree the Town should address stormwater issues. This proposal does nothing to address current issues. I believe that the town should install new stormwater infrastructure where homeowners grant no-cost easements to do so. This is what most of my neighbors believe if you ask them, thought they may not phrase it that way. I believe it is unfair to shift the cost to Maynard Loop families to deal with stormwater going forward. Retention ponds, if that is the mitigation contemplated, were not priced into our lots when we purchased them. But the ponds will reduce the value when we sell if this becomes policy.

          • Brent
            Brent says:

            @Gabe It seems to me that you’re the one who brought up stormwater mitigation with respect to property values:

            “I appreciate your work with the stormwater issue downtown. But I am concerned that new residential construction will require a $20,000 retention pond on the site”.

            “Retention ponds, if that is the mitigation contemplated, were not priced into our lots when we purchased them. But the ponds will reduce the value when we sell if this becomes policy.”

          • Gabe Talton
            Gabe Talton says:

            I have not seen the 10p year storm flooding impact a licensed appraisal or home inspection report.

          • Brent
            Brent says:

            @Gabe so why are you even concerned with flooding if property values are your real Concern and flooding doesn’t affect property values (which is hard to believe)

          • Gabe Talton
            Gabe Talton says:

            @Brent Flood remediation policy versus property value is a false choice. I look forward to learning more about the LDO Amendment Proposal. Thanks for your comments, Brent. They sharpen my thinking.

  4. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    It seems to me that, if the goal is to reduce flooding resulting from stormwater runoff, developed land should be required to have less runoff after development than before. “Mitigating or modeling discharge for 100-year storms” does not accomplish this goal, and frankly, doesn’t even remotely address it.

    Flooding is caused by the VOLUME of water over a given area, not the rate at which that water arrives.

    Reply
    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      “Flooding is caused by the VOLUME of water over a given area, not the rate at which that water arrives.”

      The rate at which it arrives is one of the two actual inputs to calculating the volume of water that will be on a given area.

      If water arrives at a faster rate than it can leave, there will be flooding after X amount of time. If it arrives slower than the area can let water leave, there is no flooding. Either way, how fast water is arriving is one of two two values that can be addressed to lessen flooding.

      Lessen the rate at which water can reach a given area, and you lessen the impact and likelyhood of flooding.

      Reply
      • George McDowell
        George McDowell says:

        The LDO doesn’t regulate or even address the volume of water that flows off a developed property. It only addresses the rate at one specified instant in time during given storms, and requires the rate of flow off the developed property to be less than the rate before development.

        If a given property sheds one million gallons of water after development, whereas before development it would have shed only 100,000 gallons, that is allowable by the LDO if the peak rate of flow off the property before development was [say] 15.5 cubic feet per second and the rate after development is 15.4 cubic feet per second.

        The additional 900,000 gallons of runoff is what leads to floods; the miniscule reduction in peak rate of flow is practically meaningless.

        Reply
        • Mark Neill
          Mark Neill says:

          The additional 900,000 gallons of runoff only leads to flooding if it can’t be handled/managed by mitigation practices and installations.

          If 900,000 galls of rain run off into a 1 million gallon retention pond – no flood.

          Reply
          • George McDowell
            George McDowell says:

            @Mark Neill — If ‘ifs’ were horses, beggars would ride.

            True, if that 900,000 gallons from the property were to go into a retention pond, there would be no flooding.

            But it doesn’t, and there is.

            In my example, the developer has fully and completely met the LDO requirements when she reduced the peak rate of flow of the runoff off the property from 15.5 cf/s to 15.4 cf/s.

            Nothing further is legally required of her, and the 900,000 gallons off her property [and various other amounts off other properties] becomes the problem of those at lower elevations.

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