Cary, NC — This week’s activities consisted mostly of the council-staff quarterly meeting.
Monday I met with the town manager to go over the quarterly meeting agenda.
Thursday – Council Talks Park Plans, COVID-19, Finances in Quarterly Meeting
Thursday the council joined staff members in the Herb Young Center for our quarterly meeting. Topics included a downtown park update, COVID-19 report and outlook, progress on the Obama’s Mayor Pledge, a financial update, a development report, a development project update, plans for the 150th celebration, special projects and future council-citizen task forces.
An update on the downtown park design was presented to council. Construction will begin in May of 2021 with a completion scheduled for 2023.
Council was pleased with the overall design but discussed changes to the Jewel Box Gathering Space. Some council members thought it needed more of a wow factor.
Note: See more renderings in the CaryCitizen Facebook post below.
COVID-19 Update & Outlook
Our Public Safety Director, Allan Cain, provided an update and outlook for COVID-19. Currently cases have been leveling off in North Carolina. Cary still ranks as one of the best in Wake County with per capita infection of 5.80 cases per 1000 residents (which is second only to Rolesville with 5.79).
Town staff has kept most of Cary’s services at very high levels during the pandemic. In addition, staff has continued to move forward with public health initiatives such as an ordinance to prevent trashy yards and abandoned vehicles in yards.
Obama’s Mayor Pledge
Staff reported that activity related to the Obama’s Mayor Pledge has moved forward since I signed it on June 3rd. A core team of seven, including a consultant, was created to do a thorough review of force policies.
They will then work with the diversity and inclusion committee and create public engagement sessions which is scheduled for the spring. That input will be compiled, and a report created during the fall of next year with policy revision recommendations by early 2022.
Town’s Financial Standing
In the financial update, it was reported that Cary received $750,000 from Wake County out of the $194 million they received from the CARES Act for COVID-19. Chatham County also provided Cary with $126,000.
Impacts from COVID-19 include $3.4 million in expenditures, $3.2 million in Parks revenue loss, and $2.5 million in sales tax revenue loss.
Throughout our budget process, our priorities have been safety, service, maintenance, investments in the future with a 20-year Capital Improvement Plan and financial stewardship.
The Finance Director made a recommendation to change our fund balance practice of five months of operating cost to four months. It was also recommended that we change our debt policy of 15% to 20% with a 10% minimum and a 25% maximum. The finance department also recommended changes to allow short term bridge loans as needed. It was pointed out that most municipalities do not have debt policies. The changes will be voted on at a future council meeting.
Development & Unemployment in Cary
In the development update, it was reported that rezonings were down 22% from the 5-year average, approved development plans were down 5.7% from the 5-year average, and building permits were down 24% from the 5-year average.
Cary’s unemployment rate has remained steady throughout the pandemic. It is currently at 5.6% compared to 3.6% pre-pandemic.
Several major project updates were provided.
The Fenton should go vertical later this year with openings in the winter of 2021. Phase one will have over 563,000 square feet of retail and office and 356 multi-family units.
One Walker One Walnut
One Walker One Walnut, that wraps the parking deck has their building permit under final review. Stormwater and residential construction have started. This project will have about 120,000 square feet of retail and office and 153 multi-family units.
Cary Towne Center
The Cary Towne Redevelopment has an approved plan for the Belk Improvements which had to come first in the development. It will include a new facade on one side and will require some demolition on other sides to allow buildings to wrap the current structure.
Medical Office Space at Green Level West
The Duke Health project, on the north side of Green Level West, will have over 102,000 square feet of medical office and a 346-space parking deck. They expect to start grading in September with the first patient being seen in the Spring of 2022.
Future of the Old Rogers Motel Site
The Rogers Development Agreement is moving forward on that project and is expected to be agreed on by this fall. This will include two three-story buildings on the site of the old Rogers motel on Chatham Street.
Ongoing Discussions on Additional Downtown Parking
The staff also talked about downtown parking and a parking study. Discussions are ongoing about a parking deck with the First United Methodist Church.
Cary Turns 150 Next Year
Cary celebrates its 150th anniversary of incorporation next year. Celebration plans have been underway for several months. Staff is reporting changes to those plans because of the pandemic.
Changes include moving the gala to fall 2021, the big celebration to summer 2021 and the history moments to 2021. Additions to the celebrations include mural paintings on the construction fence of the downtown park and projecting images on the Cary Arts Center.
Cary’s Historic Homes
The Historic Preservation report included updates on the Nancy Jones House, Hillcrest Cemetery/Higgins Greenway and the Ivey-Ellington House. The move of the Nancy Jones house is being planned. In the meantime, we are waiting to hear back from the National Registry if the new location would allow the structure to keep its national historic status.
The SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) work for the Ivey-Ellington House is on hold. Discussions will continue with the Friends of the Page-Walker and the Historic Preservation Commission as the process moves forward.
Bus Rapid Transit, GoCary and Multi-Modal Center
An update on transit included the potential approval of the Western BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) route which will be voted on in Raleigh on August 18th. That route will include Cary Town Boulevard and Maynard Road.
The future downtown Multi-modal Transit Center is moving forward with property owner discussions, public input and preliminary concepts. GoCary changes are coming with bus stop improvements, Apex Express Service, and service changes including the new route on Weston Parkway and the Cary Parkway tripper.
Affordable Housing – Site Work & Strategies
In the affordable housing update, staff reported community attraction and resident retention models, implementation strategies and ways to ensure alignment with the Imagine Cary Plan. Staff continues to work on a site with Wake County that would be located off Maynard, south of East Cary Middle School.
Cary’s Environmental Efforts
Staff reported that there has been a lot of activity with the town’s environmental initiatives that include tree preservation and plantings, open space preservation, Jordan Lake One Water & Watershed protection, stormwater management, floodplain management and environmental permitting.
They stressed the need for education and incentives. Council members also weighed in on the education part noting a barrage of emails from people unaware of what the town is currently doing.
Task Forces & Commissions Under Review
The quarterly meeting’s last topic was the task force/commissions under review including Transportation & Mobility, Diversity & Inclusion and Senior/Aging. We should have recommendations from staff in October.
The quarterly meeting concluded after about 3 ½ hours.
Other Items from the Quarterly Report
The quarterly report was released to council this week. Some items of note not included in the quarterly meeting were:
- Cary’s Emergency Operations Center is still in operation
- COVID-19 has had notable impacts on revenue and expenditures
- On June 30th Cary had 466 active capital projects with a budget of $522.9 million
- Cary’s overall debt is about $385 million with average interest rate of 1.3%
- Federal Reserve forecasts slow path to recovery
- Cary and Research Triangle are considered “recession resistant”
- Cary ranks best for women in education, income, and business ownership
- Single family permits are 47% less than the five-year average
- Cary’s population is estimated to be 170,287 which is a growth rate of 1.8%
- Cary is adding 45 traffic cams which will bring the total to 170
- Cary’s solid waste has moved to one person one vehicle without missing a beat
- View the entire report
Get in Touch
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A thank you for addressing noise and light at Dunham Park
- A question about mayoral elections
- A complaint about a confederate flag being flown at a residence on High House Road (This is allowed due to the first amendment)
- A request to change the color of double yellow lines on the streets to honor first responders
- Requests to enact environmental initiatives (working on it)
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting of the Wake County mayors, speaking at the Chamber’s Annual Planning Conference, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organizations Executive Committee and a regularly scheduled council meeting.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 23rd. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communicating with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to [email protected] and email personal comments to [email protected].
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