Mayor Weinbrecht’s 13th Annual State of Cary Address

Cary, NC — On Wednesday, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht delivered his 2020 State of the Town Address to members of the Cary Chamber of Commerce in a packed ballroom at Prestonwood Country Club. He highlighted the accomplishments of 2019 and talked about what is planned for 2020 and the years ahead.

“I can tell you that a lot of things are changing,” Mayor Weinbrecht said, starting off his 13th State of the Town Address.  “With the passage of the parks and transportation bonds along with key developments in our downtown and in the eastern gateway, things are changing.” He continued, “We’re keeping Cary the way it is, the Cary we know and love. But at the same time, Cary is transforming and we are entering into a big transformation period.”

Facts & Figures

The Mayor began his address with some facts and figures about Cary:

  • Cary is the second largest town in the nation
  • Cary is the seventh-largest municipality in North Carolina
  • It spans a total of 60 square miles
  • Cary is 85% developed
  • Property tax rate of .35/$100
  • Population: 171,851
  • Median Age: 39
  • College degree: 72%
  • Graduate Degree: 28%
  • 60+ nationalities represented in Cary
  • Over 20% of Cary’s population is people born in other countries
  • Median Household Income: $101,079
  • More than 68% of residents own their own homes
  • The unemployment rate is 3.3% in Cary
  • The average commute time in Cary is 22 minutes

On the note of Cary’s property tax, Weinbrecht said, “We have a low property tax rate and that’s going to change with reevaluation one way or another. But a low property rate is our goal.”

Cary has been named, along with many other titles, the #1 Safest City in the United States, #4 Best City to Buy a Home and #1 Most Connected City in NC.

“Cary’s a safe community and always has been. We’re one of the safest communities in the nation. We’re one of the greatest places to live in the nation, we’re one of the greatest places to raise a family in the nation and we’re a great place to find a job. A lot of people and businesses want to be in Cary and that’s what the accolades show,” said Weinbrecht.

Financial Status

Weinbrecht says Cary is “financially sound as always,” with all triple-A bond rate and debt at 11%, under the 15% ceiling.

“Our revenues always exceed expenditures by a great deal. Last year it was a $17 million difference and that gives us great flexibility because we have a general fund balance now about $33 million over where we’re required to be by our standards, not the state’s standards.”

Where Cary is Going, Expected Growth

Town of Cary

2020 is a year of rebranding for the Town of Cary and, as Weinbrecht described, it’s not just about creating a new logo.

“We’re doing it because we want to compete globally and that’s the way to do it. We need to have a solid message that talks about why we’re the place to be. You have to have a message that you’re ready to present to bring even more jobs here.”

The new logo and tagline are expected by the end of 2020.

Also new to Cary are measures to keep citizens connected and informed. This takes form in the 311 system that launched in early January and is the first of its kind in the Triangle. In the same vein is the MyCary app that is expected to see new enhancements this year.

Environment

“We’re very prioritized on our environment. We’re looking for ways to be a greener community and we have been for many years,” said Weinbrecht.

A few ways the town of Cary has started on this initiative are:

  • A downpayment of $150,000 to plant more trees in Cary and reach the goal of a larger canopy in the town.
  • Implementing a curbside textile recycling program to reduce waste of materials that are recyclable in landfills.

“About five years ago we were getting paid per ton for recycling and then it turned around to where we were paying per ton to recycle. Then it became hard to find someone to pay to do recycling. So we’re lucky to sign a two-year contract that gives us time to work on resolving this issue. One of the things we found out is the good news was we have 80% participation. The bad news was a lot of our waste can be recycled, so about half of that is food and half are recyclable materials and a good portion is also textiles.”

Historic Preservation

A total of $2 million in bonds has been set aside for the purposes of historical preservation in Cary and the town hired its first Historic Preservationist in 2019.

“One of the things we’re very focused on is preserving history. One of the great goals that we had and accomplished this last year was purchasing the Nancy Jones House, the oldest house in Cary built in 1803,” said Weinbrecht. The town’s plan moving forward is to preserve it and restore it.

Another project underway is the restoration and preservation of Hillcrest Cemetery.

Sesquicentennial

The town is preparing for a year of celebrating in 2021 as that will be the town of Cary’s 150th year as an incorporated town. The Sesquicentennial events will take citizens back in time to pay homage to Frank Page, who was its first developer, mayor, postmaster and railroad agent. They will also provide a time to celebrate all that’s been accomplished in the last 150 years.

The kickoff event will be on New Year’s Eve and the larger celebration will be April 10, 2021 at Downtown Park.

Transformation Period Developments to Come

Member of the Cary Town Council, Cary Chamber, Morrisville Chambers and NC Representatives from the General Assembly gathered to hear the updates from Mayor Harold Weinbrecht.

Before introducing the big developmental changes, Weinbrecht gave an overview of the plan that governs the town’s decisions on developing.

“Over 1,000 citizens spent years establishing a vision called the Cary Community Plan. We did a big ask last fall and we said to help us out, we need $225 million to help implement this plan and the Cary citizens overwhelmingly said yes, move forward, that’s what we need you to do. So now, with that vision, we do have things moving forward.”

The Fenton

The Eastern Gateway will be home to Cary’s largest project in history. The Fenton is a 90-acre site that will feature retail, office and residential spaces. They started breaking ground in August 2019 and are going to start building vertically this July. Phase one of the development will yield approximately 1 million sq. feet. Of that, 365,000 sq. feet will be for retail, 150,000 sq. feet will be for office and the remaining space will be for 354 multifamily residential units. The retail spaces are over 52% leased already to companies such as Wegman’s, Cru Wine Bar, M Sushi and Cinebistro. The first phase of their opening is expected to be near the end of 2021.

Downtown Park

The park nestled just next to the downtown fountain and the library is entering into phase II, the designing phase.

Planned amenities for the park will include a canopy walk, gathering garden, Academy St. Plaza, lawn and pavilion, bark bar, children’s play area and farmers market. Also in this phase, there will be a storm water system that can handle a 500-year storm. Roughly 400 new trees will be planted in the park, increasing the canopy by 220%.

Construction is scheduled for Summer 2021 and the dedication would be two years later in Summer 2023.

Walnut at Walker Proposal

The Mayor discussed a proposal to build a structure that wraps around the library and parking deck in the downtown area. The way Weinbrecht describes it, the structure will feature a breezeway that people traveling down Kildaire Farm Road can look through to see the Downtown Park. The front of the structure on Walnut Street would be an office building. The lowest level would feature retail shops and restaurants while the upper levels would be residential.

“That’s exciting — bringing retail and residential right there, in the heart of Cary,” said Weinbrecht.

Harrison and Chatham Proposal

The effort to purchase this particular piece of land has been in the works for the town since the early 2000s and in 2019 the proposal was approved.

The interest in the property is primarily in the historic structure that rests on it, the Ivey-Ellington house. The approval took some time as three partners were involved: the Town of Cary, the First Baptist Church and the developer. The mayor says the property is in a 120-day inspection period and the closing date is not for 23 months.

“We’re committed to preserving and restoring that house,” said Weinbrecht.

The Sams Jones House

The house has been under renovation since July 2019. Updates will include the addition of 300 sq. feet, a walk-in cooler, updated restrooms and more. According to the restaurant owner, it will open in the next few months.

Old Library Site

This building is planned to be demolished and redeveloped. The first step is removing the asbestos in early 2020 and demolition would begin in Spring 2020. The area will be used for parking until the time it is redeveloped.

“Keep in mind that Academy Street is our signature street and whatever is developed there is going to match and blend with what is already there. We’re not going to allow anything there or near there detract from what our Academy Street is today,” said Weinbrecht.

Rogers Alley

They’ve been working on properties downtown that have become rundown over the years and one of the opportunities they’ve identified is behind the old Rogers Hotel. An alley could be placed there to make way for shops, restaurants and entertainment.

Mall Redevelopment

Following the Cary Town Council’s December vote to rezone the Cary Towne Center Mall property to be mixed-use, planning has begun for what’s next at that location. The 87-acre property will be transformed to host 1.2 million sq. feet of office space, 360,000 sq. feet of retail, 450 hotel rooms, 1800 multifamily units and an indoor multi-use rec center. This is expected to be a regional draw to Cary along with the Fenton, but no specific timeline for its development was announced.

Other areas of interest the mayor mentioned were looking at the issue of affordable housing, storm water problems, safety measures and celebrating new leaders.

Finishing his address, Weinbrecht said, “2019 was a great year by many, many measures in Cary. It was a team effort and I’m honored and privileged to be a part of that team.”

“I think we’re in a unique position where we have a lot of key pieces in place. We have a non-partisan council that treats each other like family. We have a staff that’s led by an amazing person, Sean Stegall. We have a citizenry that believes in their government. We have business leaders that believe in the vision and what we’re doing enough so that they’re spending millions and millions of dollars and invested that into Cary. Those ingredients together will not only take us to be a remarkable community, they will take us to be beyond remarkable.”


Story by Ashley Kairis. Photos by Hal Goodtree.

15 replies
  1. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    @Mark – @Brent tells me (after sighing) that I should “check the facts,” but neglects to say what “facts” I should check.

    YOU tell me that the numbers that you give in response to a question are “made up.”

    Then you disagree with the proposition that, when less water is absorbed upstream, more water will flow downstream.

    And then you insult me for not understanding that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    How are we to have a rational discussion under these circumstances?

    The original question in this thread was directed to new CaryCitizen.com correspondent Ashley Kairia, who editorialized that: “ . . . there will be a storm water system that can handle a 500-year storm.”

    We asked:

    “Can you be please be more specific, and say with accuracy for those in elevations lower than the Park whose homes now frequently flood, how many fewer gallons of water will run off this land when the park is built than flow off it now during 500-year storms?”

    Ms. Kiaria to this point chose not to respond. Perhaps she will change her mind, and join the conversation, on what is just about the only forum where issues are discussed in Cary. Flooding in Cary is a serious problem, and Down East it is a matter of life and death. Writing that park development will handle a 500-year storm is a sweeping statement that gives assurance to readers, and asking the author for a clarification of exactly what she means by “handle” is a reasonable request.

    Reply
  2. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    @Mark – I confess to an inability to understand your response, and apologize. Perhaps if we go slower, I’ll be able to keep up.

    My thesis is that if LESS water is absorbed upstream – because of tree destruction and paving through development – there will be MORE water that flows downstream, in any rain storm.

    Do you agree or disagree with this axiom?

    Reply
    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      Disagree.

      The amount of water not-absorbed upstream only matters downstream, if that not-absorbed volume of water leaves that upstream region faster than it currently does.

      If a property currently absorbs and mitigates 100 gallons an hour, and I pave it over resulting in zero mitigation, then I now have a POTENTIAL runoff of 100 gallons an hour.

      Now let’s say, I install a 10,000 gallon cistern under my parking lot. That cistern has a leach field that releases at 50 gallons an hour downfield. I now have an ACTUAL runoff of 50 gallons/hour.

      It is true that I have reduced the runoff limiting of the property itself to zero, but I have installed a local mitigation system that handles 10,000 gallons on-site, and releases outflows from that system at half the previous rate. (the land itself outflowed at 100 g/h before any changes, remember). At the end of the property, the downstream discharge rate is now effectively 50 gal/h, even though we paved it and it doesn’t itself stop runoff any more.

      As long as the total accumulation doesn’t exceed 10,000 gallons at any point in time, then the outflow from the property is now 50 gallons/hr. It doesn’t matter if the property itself isn’t absorbing the water, because it is not actually flowing off of the property, it’s being diverted into a local mitigation system.

      Reply
      • Mark Neill
        Mark Neill says:

        “… I now have an ACTUAL runoff of 50 gallons/hour….”

        …assuming the cistern can capture the runoff as fast as it comes.

        If we built the system properly, we can assume that the local mitigation system handles 100% of the local accumulation at any given point in time, as long as it’s under capacity – that there is zero downstream runoff from the property itself, as it’s all captured in the mitigation system.

        Reply
        • George McDowell
          George McDowell says:

          YOUR assumption: “As long as the total accumulation doesn’t exceed 10,000 gallons at any point in time . . . .”

          If your parking lot is (say) half the size of a football field and you have a one-year storm that gently drops one inch of rain in 24 hours, your 10,000-gallon cistern will be filled entirely in 18 hours.

          The remaining rainfall, totaling ~3400 gallons, will then be pumped onto your neighbors’ land downstream at a rate of more than 500 gallons per hour for the remaining six hours of the storm, far in excess of the 50 gallons per hour YOUR hypothesis permits you.

          You will be in gross violation of the LDO for merely a one-year storm. How infinitely worse will your parking lot be for its downstream neighbors during five-year, 10-year, 25-year storms, and God forbid, the big ones?

          Reply
          • Mark Neill
            Mark Neill says:

            The numbers are made up. I have no idea if these specific numbers accurately represent any given piece of land anywhere.

            The point isn’t these specific numbers, the point is to show the difference between volumetric accumulation, and the rate of flow of discharge.

            You’ve missed the forest for the trees.

  3. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    Welcome, Ms. Ashley Kairis to one of the very few of the public forums of the Town of Cary.

    You report about Phase Two of Downtown Park, “Also in this phase, there will be a storm water system that can handle a 500-year storm.”

    Can you be please be more specific, and say with accuracy for those in elevations lower than the Park whose homes now frequently flood, how many fewer gallons of water will run off this land when the park is built than flow off it now during 500-year storms?

    We’ve had [at least] three 500-year storms in the last five years, and they seem to be becoming more prevalent than they were before.

    My sense is that after development, the VOLUME of water that flows off the developed Park will be greater [MUCH greater] for EVERY rain event – one-year; five-year; 10-year, 25-year; &c – and that failure to differentiate between peak-rate-of-flow runoff and volume-of-flow runoff will wrongly inform some readers. – If this position is deemed wrong, could you please provide the name and contact information for the one who gives you contrary information?

    Please note that, for the FIRST time in Town history, the informed developers of the major project in the works for the Town [perhaps in conformity with the new definition of corporations that require that companies take an interest in the environmental health of the communities that they serve] have pledged to reduce not only the peak-rate-of-flow of storm-water runoff off their property, but also the gross VOLUME of water that runs off. These developers have understood that VOLUME is what causes flooding.

    Reply
    • Brent
      Brent says:

      Sigh. George STILL doesn’t understand that flooding is caused by rate of discharge, not volume.

      Keep plugging George! But you might want to check the facts.

      Reply
      • Mark Neill
        Mark Neill says:

        Maybe we can try this, Brent… :D

        If I park a 10,000 gallon tanker truck full of water in your driveway, and I crack the valve, so that it begins dripping, your house will not flood. your lot will get very wet for a long time, but that’s not flooding.

        If I completely open all 3 valves on the truck and dump 10,000 gallons on your lawn in 5 minutes, that’s a flood.

        Still 10,000 gallons in both cases. Same VOLUME of water. But the rate of discharge is what makes the flood.

        Please, PLEASE stop criticizing flood abatement designs that you’re fundamentally misunderstanding from the start.

        Reply
        • Mark Neill
          Mark Neill says:

          (I realize after hitting Post that this is worded badly…it’s not Brent that misunderstands how water works.)

          Reply
          • George McDowell
            George McDowell says:

            @Mark – Surely you will concede that there is a difference between 10,000 gallons flowing off an undeveloped property at [say] 10 cubic feet per second and 100,000 gallons flowing off that property after development, albeit at that same permitted rate.

            For one small property, the difference may be noticeable only to one actually looking for it. But when you consider that there are thousands of developed areas in this jurisdiction, then the cumulative total of un-absorbed water becomes problematic.

            This was catastrophically and tragically shown during and after Hurricane Matthew, when the rivers in eastern North and South Carolina continued to rise for 11 days after the last raindrop fell on either state, and the land remained inundated for weeks.

            Upland cities and towns got a high amount of rain, but nowhere near the amounts that fell on Harris County, Texas (60 inches) a few years ago or the totals in the Midwest that caused flooding along the Mississippi River (30 inches) last year.

            During Matthew, we and Raleigh got 6.98 inches; Charlotte got 6.13 inches; and the North Carolina/Virginia border north of Raleigh got 10.56 inches.

            We in Cary have converted a large percentage of our land from permeable to impermeable, and destroyed vast number of trees that used to absorb water. It follows, as the night the day, that the volume of water that flows from Cary is greater now – much greater – than it was before. So also have Raleigh and Charlotte and Chapel Hill and Hillsborough and Apex and Morrisville converted large percentages of their land to impermeable, with the same increase in volume of water flowing off them.

            These jurisdictions, as we have, have placed their belief in the voodoo science that claims volume doesn’t matter and that similar before-and-after-development peak rates of flow is all that is required. It is only a few folks in Cary that are affected when we get more than a few inches of rain. But I doubt, even if the State goes ahead with its proposed plans to spend $600 million to dig giant holes in the ground to hold the excess water that flows from up here to Down East after storms, that only those with short memories will buy land in Lumberton.

          • Mark Neill
            Mark Neill says:

            “…the voodoo science that claims volume doesn’t matter and that similar before-and-after-development peak rates of flow is all that is required…”

            And going along with, “…the rivers in eastern North and South Carolina continued to rise for 11 days after the last raindrop fell on either state, and the land remained inundated for weeks…”

            The issue for downstream flow effects is STILL not the volume of water per land parcel, it’s the rate at which that volume leaves the land. The rivers rose for 11 days because that is the rate that the river systems need to move water from the areas of rainfall to the collector basins of the river systems. If the peak outflow of the system is 4 inches or 40 inches, it would still take days for that rain to make it through.

            Lets assume that a given downstream outflow path is normal today. It does not flood at the current rate of runoff of all the collecting/feeding land along the path. We’re going to ignore places that flood today, because they already flood at the current rate of outflow of the local system, and have other issues going on.

            If a given outflow path doesn’t flood today, then as long as the individual outflows of all contributing properties along the path don’t increase, then the path still will not flood. Even if one of those properties is redeveloped, and the runoff accumulation increases drastically, it doesn’t change the outflow system as long as the local rate of outflow stays the same. I.e., installing a retention system to collect the increased accumulation locally.

            You’re conflating the larger effect of combined system outflow rates with the individual contributing property outflows. It has no flooding effect on my neighbor if I pave over my entire property with parking lot, if I also have a cistern buried under the lot to collect up to some volume of rain over the property. If they don’t flood today, then completely mitigated outflow increases on my property have no effect on downstream point in time flow volumes of the whole system.

            There will be flow for a longer duration, but that flow is handled by the existing system. It still does not flood, it just utilizes the outflow system for a longer time.

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