Cary, NC — Last night’s 2-hour meeting of the Cary Town Council was chock-full of discussion with the approval of a previously disputed rezoning and a $1 million park refurbishment taking up much of the conversation.
Evans Road Rezoning Returns, Passes 4-3
The controversial rezoning, titled Silverton PDD amendment, was tabled two weeks ago by the council, returned with a few changes and was approved by a narrow margin of 4-3.
The project calls for 60 multi-family residential units on 2.24 acres of the Silverton planned development district at the intersection of NW Cary Parkway and Evans Road. That’s approximately 27 units per acre with a maximum height of 55 feet and 1.77 parking spaces per unit.
One write-in commenter during Public Speaks Out, Mary Collins, voiced an opposition to the rezoning.
Jamie Schwedler, an attorney representing the applicant, was a call-in speaker during the same portion of the meeting. Schwedler addressed what the developers have done about concerns raised on their energy commitment since the September 10 meeting.
The New Conditions
- Committing to hire a consultant to conduct a study on the feasibility of installing solar
- Committing to install if costs of design and installation of panels does not exceed $10,000
- Committing to all 4, not just 2 of the energy efficiency measures, including:
- 2 electric car charging stations
- On-site composting and recycling stations for glass, paper and plastic
- All LED lights
- Solar wiring and conduit to accommodate solar panels
“As a company rooted in Cary, Singh is excited that these new commitments will make strides toward exploring solar options, reducing waste and lowering emissions,” said Schwedler.
Council Comments, Votes
In the last meeting, the council members who voiced their approvals were Robinson, Liu and Frantz with Yerha, Bush, Weinbrecht and Smith against. In last night’s meeting, the swing vote for the approval came from Smith.
Smith was more comfortable voting yes with the added conditions while Bush and Weinbrecht remained against the use with a main concern of multi-family use being of 3 quadrants of the same intersection.
While both were appreciative and even excited about the environmental compromises, they were no votes along with Yerha. He stood by his comments from the previous meeting that the current, non-residential use designated to that land is more appropriate.
During his time, Frantz revisited his point that one of the three quadrants is going to have a senior assisted living facility on it.
“It’s not an apartment complex, it’s not a typical multi-family,” said Frantz, offering his strong approval for the project and the efforts made by the applicant.
“This is going to be a very special place,” said Frantz, “Nobody’s going to like it when it’s being built but, when all is said and done, we look for remarkable and I have all the faith in the world that this will be it.”
Councilwoman Ya Liu commended the environmental offerings of the development, offering her approval.
“This will be the first development that offers the conduit to accommodate future solar panel connections and this will set the standard and precedent for future developments in our town. I’m really excited about this.”
Town Manager Sean Stegall also added that the Town would work hand-in-hand with the developer in the study and future use of solar panels, viewing this as an opportunity to learn and grow in the area of solar energy.
Financial Update from Cary CFO
After entering into a new fiscal year on July 1, 2020, the Town Council requested to have a monthly update on Cary’s finances during the ups and downs of the COVID economy. This month, CFO Karen Mills was happy to report some good news in 2 major areas.
Following a tally of about $4.3 million in pandemic expenditures for the Town, Mills reminded the council that the Town would receive expenditure reimbursements from the federal CARES Act through Wake and Chatham counties — $750,000 from Wake and $126,000 from Chatham.
The newest update is that the Federal Transit Administration will be kicking in an additional $1.6 million, bringing Cary to nearly $2.5 million in reimbursements. On top of this, the Town is at work to secure an additional $500,000 in reimbursements from FEMA for PPE costs.
June Sales Tax Numbers Stunned the Town
Contrary to previous prediction, the June sales tax numbers showed quite a financial comeback.
June 2020 sales tax revenues were 7% higher than the revenue in June 2019.
“I’m glad that I don’t place bets, because I would’ve lost money on the June sales tax number,” said Mills. Whether this spike is a sign of economic comeback or was from pent up demand when stay at home orders were relaxed is unknown. Nevertheless, Mills reports that is bodes well for 2021.
According to Mills, these numbers will result in the Town being $1 million over budget in sales tax revenues at year end.
$1 Million for Penny Road Elementary School Park
The 2019 voter-approved Shaping Cary’s Tomorrow Bond Referendum sets aside $1 million for the refurbishments of the Penny Road Elementary School Park. Before beginning the upgrades to the park, the Town must adopt a resolution to approve a joint use agreement with Wake County Schools, allowing the park’s operation to shift from Wake County to Cary.
The agreement would allow Cary to take over operations and programming at the park for the next 25 years and would also appropriate $50,000 in addition funding from Wake County Schools for ADA improvements throughout the park. Cary would have a time frame of 15 months to complete park upgrades with an anticipated start in fall 2020 and completion in summer 2021.
Renovations will include:
- Turf renovation of the multipurpose field and softball field
- Softball field lighting maintenance
- Installation of fencing and ball-stop netting at the multipurpose field
- Replacement of fencing and dugout construction at softball field
- Refurbishing the bathrooms and picnic shelter
- Pond dam maintenance
- Refurbishing the pond deck
- Improved landscaping
- Improved and added park walkways, signage
In discussion, council members Bush, Frantz, Robinson and Smith voiced a concern with the park not having a planned sidewalk connection to the park. The council unanimously approved the resolution, entering into the agreement with a verbal contingency that the park needs to have sidewalk connections.
Jones Franklin Rezoning “Dead on Arrival”
A request to rezone 9.19 acres at the corner of Jones Franklin and Macedonia Roads, with frontage on Walnut Street, went over like a lead balloon with the council.
The proposed zoning would shift the land’s use from residential and commercial to mixed use with a plan for multi-family housing. An added element of complication is that the site is home to an existing pond that would need to be drained by the developer.
Though it has been through 5 rounds of review, Town planners have a few remaining concerns on the evolving project.
Planned Elements & Requested Adjustments
The project, as proposed in the meeting, would have:
- Maximum 275 multi-family units, spread throughout 3 buildings
- 60′ maximum height of buildings
- Minimum 11,500 square feet of community space, divided into 3 locations
- 3 architectural building corners with minimum 75% masonry
The developers on the project have requested to make further adjustments to the plan, including:
- Removal of one champion tree
- 20′ reduction to streetscapes on Walnut Street and Jones Franklin Road, making it a 30′ average
- Parking reduction to a range of 1.4-1.6 spaces per unit
Thoughts from Cary Citizens
For the public comment period, staff reported 2 write-in comments of disapproval from Mary Collins and Nick Borisow. Both expressed concerns over the draining of the pond and streetscape reductions.
Thoughts from the Council
Starting the conversation very bluntly, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he did not want a reduction in streetscape and draining the pond was “just a bad idea.”
“The view from Walnut Street is a sea of parking — that’s ugly. I don’t want to see that,” said Weinbrecht.
The mayor, who says he always likes to keep an open mind on these things, said he would need a much more convincing reason to approve the rezoning than what was presented.
Mayor Pro-Tem Don Frantz added by rating the proposal as a “C-average apartment project” that’s pretty much dead on arrival.
“I don’t have a problem with the use,” said Frantz, “But they really came up short. I’m looking for something remarkable, something different, unique, and something we’d all be proud of driving by and I’m not seeing it here.”
The rest of the council members each spoke in opposition of the plan as proposed, with council member Ed Yerha adding that the site currently hosts two house on Cary’s historic inventory.
The rezoning now heads to Cary’s Planning & Zoning Board for review before returning at a future council meeting.
Ensuring Citizen Comments Are Heard
Before approving the consent agenda, Jennifer Robinson had something to say on bettering the process of looking into concerns from residents. After receiving several concerns and oppositions from residents on the the Cary Pointe PDD Amendment, she said,
“I think that it would be good for us to direct our staff to look at a way that we can somehow make sure that our citizens don’t feel like the concerns that they express are falling on deaf ears.”
Moving forward, Robinson wants to see staff come up with a solution for creating a method within the Town’s processes to make sure citizens can be truly heard. Following her comments, The Cary Pointe PDD Amendment of 19-REZ-27 and 9 other items were approved with one unanimous vote.
Watch the full meeting on the Town’s YouTube channel. The next meeting of the Cary Town Council is set for October 22, 2020 at 6:30 PM and an be viewed live on their YouTube Channel, Facebook page and on CaryTV.
Story by Ashley Kairis. Images screen-captured from the virtual meeting.
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