Cary, NC — The Cary Town Council made two actions of approval in last night’s meeting, one to appropriate an additional $15 million in funding to complete the Downtown Park and the other to “allocate” a police canine named Brackeen to Holly Springs as his handler in Cary is retiring.
What ended up taking up the most discussion time was a contentious rezoning amendment request in the Wellington Park area that has spurred over 300 signatures in a petition against it.
Starting off the meeting with a ceremonial opening was Councilmember Lori Bush who spoke about the observance of Juneteenth & pride month in Cary. Afterward, the Town Manager shared some reopening news in what he hopes to be his last pandemic-related update.
Manager Update: Reopening Town Facilities
Stegall informed the staff and public tuning in that nearly all parks, recreation and cultural resource facilities are set to reopen on Monday, June 14. The only two exceptions are The Hive and the Nature Center at Hemlock Bluffs, which shouldn’t be closed too much longer, he said.
Full-day summer camps are also set to reopen next week at Bond Park and Herb Youn Community Center. Town Hall will be reopened to citizens in July, including offering in-person council meetings again on July 22, 2021.
“With staff and offices coming back last week and town facilities opening up, it’s starting to feel like Cary again,” said Stegall.
$15 Million Downtown Park Funding Request Gets Approval
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Director Doug McRainey presented what he called one of the final steps to fully implementing the Downtown Park.
After more than 20 years of planning, site work is underway and to achieve the vision and get phase 2 completed, more funds need to be appropriated by the council—specifically, an additional $15 million.
According to McRainey, the additional funding request is due to material cost increases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, additional project scope, and further Council requests.
“$10 million of this overrun will come from the bonds and $5 million will come from our budget, which is designed to be flexible to handle issues exactly like this,” said Mayor Harold Weinbrect.
In addition to his own fervent support, he added that the park “is going to be the crown jewel in our downtown for many, many years and decades.”
Frantz also pointed out that, even with this $15 million being funded by the Town, taxes will not going up for citizens, and in fact, are actually lowering a bit.
Ed Yerha asked to ensure the $10 million in Bond Referendum funds would not compromise any other projects originally intended with the use of bond funds. Town Manager Sean Stegall verified and the council move unanimously to approve the request.
This appropriates $10 million of 2019 Shaping Cary’s Tomorrow bond referendum funds and $5 million of Cary’s general fund balance to the Downtown Park Phase II.
An official groundbreaking day for the Downtown Park is set for June 26, 2021. More project and upcoming programming information can be found on the Downtown Park Project webpage.
Amendment Seeks to Bring Dental Office to Wellington Park
In the evening’s second public hearing, the council discussed, but did not take action on, a request to amend a previously approved Planned Development District, in the 21-REZ-04 rezoning case. The land is a 1.08-acre piece of land that’s part of a larger, already-approved development at 301 Wellingborough Drive.
For reference, Marla Dorell and Kids Together Park is about 500 feet to the west of the site and is situated behind the Wellington Park Shopping Center at Tryon and SE Cary Parkway.
The applicant is wanting to make 2 notable changes to that plan — the allowed usage and to locate the building at the rear of the site with parking between the building and the road.
This particular parcel, known as Parcel C-2 had been approved as a daycare space, but the owners are requesting to change the uses to include:
- Businesses or professional office
- Radio or TV broadcasting studio
- Wellness center
With these uses in mind and the request to locate the building off the road, the developers propose to also add into their conditions a Type A 30-foot streetscape, a cap of 2 stories for their building height, a limit of 35 feet for light poles, and keeping to a building footprint of 10,000 square feet.
In a virtual neighborhood meeting, 72 adjacent property owners attended with concerns and questions related to traffic, environmental impacts, streetscapes, building height, parking, land use and more.
According to a call-in from one of the developer’s representatives, the request comes with the intent to bring a family dental practice to the site which would occupy 4,000-5,000 square feet of the space. The remaining space would then be leased for one or more of the other uses listed in the request.
Representing the dental practice on a call was Dr. Smith, who expressed an understanding of HOA members wanting to know more about the plans.
“I do want to point out a small business does have the best interests of the community at heart. Our hope is to partner with yall, not to be a problem,” said Dr. Smith. He further mentioned that respectful conversations on this matter are welcomed, but calling his business directly saying comments such as “stay where you are” and “we don’t want your office in our neighborhood” are not.
Public Expresses Concern, Petition Gets 300+ Signatures
Ten citizens wrote in to share their thoughts for the public hearing and 4 citizens called in to be heard live. The write-in comments noted concerns of traffic, pedestrian safety, noise impacts, crime associated with commercial use, drainage and lighting. A few noted a preference for residential or open space usage and others took issue with the proposed building height and aesthetics.
A Change.org petition was also submitted to the council with 373 signatures opposing the rezoning. Though, this petition included only individual names and did not show addresses.
Comments from 4 call-in speakers spanned just over 15 minutes and all opposed the amendment and live in close proximity to the site.
One citizen named Lynn who has lived in Wellington Park since 1987 was one of the speakers. She had much to say in opposition to changing the plan for the site and asked, “After more than 30 years, why are we looking at changing the use planned for this parcel?”
She continued to say residents in the area have always expected this to be developed and a daycare center would be a great fit.
“We have no illusions that nothing would ever show up on the corner. All we ask is that it be in keeping with the promise made to all of us for the last 30 years that it would be a good fit for our neighborhood,” said Lynn.
Mayor Describes Process, Council Discusses
In response to the participation of the speakers, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said the process is a months-long one that will next go to the Planning and Zoning Board who will compare it to the Cary Community Plan and they make a recommendation to the council based on if they think it matches the plan created by Cary citizens.
The item will likely not return to a council meeting for 2-3 months, but Weinbrecht said every council meeting between now and then is open for speakers to make their voices heard in the public speaks out section held at all council meetings.
“We welcome that. We really want you to participate in this process and we really want you to be involved in helping us determine the outcome of this proposal,” said Weinbrecht.
In his own comments, Weinbrecht made notes of clarification to the issues speakers had with parking and with aesthetics. He compared the traffic from a daycare to a dental office and also pointed out that the new buffer condition would be an upgrade to the strongest variety of buffer.
Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz also spoke to two concerns he had heard that he found merit in, the first being a desire to better understand both logistic surrounding towers and other equipment being installed for the television or broadcast studio usage and also getting a better definition of what a wellness center usage would look like there if developed. His second concern related to architecture, specifically wondering if any efforts will be made to have the building blend into the neighborhood.
“I keep hearing ‘two stories’ and I think darn-near every house in the neighborhood is two stories, so I don’t get that,” said Frantz.
Councilmember Jennifer Robinson agreed with the comments from Weinbrecht and Frantz and said, “I’d just like to have an understanding if this is going to go in so close to homes, what is the architecture going to look like and s it going to compliment the community.”
Lori Bush added her thoughts on sidewalk safety and saw the completion of the sidewalk network in that area as a “win-win,” regardless of what’s to be developed there.
Councilmember Jack Smith voiced that he’d like to see more work be put into firming up conditions on the site so that the property, even if re-sold, would stick to an approved plan, look and various other details. Conditions, though, must be volunteered up by the developers.
“Honestly, I don’t know if anything is going to get community buy-in on this one, ” said Ed Yerha, who was surprised to see a petition with over 300 signatures opposing. His concerns fell mostly with the additional uses beyond the dental office and he looks forward to getting more information in the coming months.
Cary “Donates” Police K-9 to Holly Springs
With the retirement of a Cary Police canine handler, a dog named Brackeen is now technically defined as “surplus property” to Cary’s canine policing program. While being legally defined as property, Brackeen has become a valued member of the police department, and the Town had to decide on placement for him.
The best solution presented for the Council’s approval was to transfer Brackeen to the Town of Holly Springs Police Department and to place him with a handler there. This, according to Cary PD, with allow him to continue his remaining two-year service career.
Considering the arrangement’s cost-effective nature for Cary (in that it would eliminate the expense of training a new canine handler at Cary for Brackeen) and the benefit to our neighboring municipality, the Council happily approved the resolution to make things official.
Cary PD will still have 2 other canine units and, with the “reassignment” for Brackeen, another younger canine will be entering the mix in Cary’s police work.
Second Public Hearing for FY 2022 Budget
The Fiscal Year 2022 budget represents a framework of anticipated spending and revenue for the Town of Cary from July 1, 2021, to June 20, 2022. The proposed budget for this timeframe is at an estimated total of $400.1 million in operating and capital expenditures.
This total, as the highlights of the proposed budget above show, will bring about a small tax rate decrease to Cary Citizens of a half penny to now be set at $0.345. A couple of minor increases, however, can be seen in utilities and solid waste fees.
According to Stacey Teachey with the Town Finance Department, in broad terms, this budget maintains Cary’s services and infrastructure, continues to support local non-profit service-driven organizations and will move forward on some of Cary’s major projects and bond projects.
Four public comments were submitted to the council for this hearing, including 2 nonprofits expressing appreciation, one comment on the recently approved Juneteeth holiday and one voicing support for the Cary Police Department.
The budget was first presented to the council on May 13 with its first public hearing on May 27. Now, following this public hearing, the next step will be for the council to officially adopt the budget in their June 24, 2021 meeting.
3 Additional Public Hearings, All Action Deferred
The night included one more rezoning-related public hearing and two hearings on annexation proposals. Here’s an overview of those.
20-REZ-11 3890 NC 55 HWY Rezoning
An applicant is requesting an amendment to Cary’s Zoning Map for 1.89 acres, located at 3890 NC 55 HWY. This would change the use from Office/ Research Development – Conditional Use to General Commercial – Conditional Use (GC-CU) with zoning conditions that include:
- Limiting the use to a grocery store
- Imposing a max. size of 10,000 SF
- Limiting building height to two stories (35 feet)
- Providing enhanced 20-foot Type B buffer adjacent to the railroad
Following public comment, the council forwarded the request to the Planning and Zoning Board.
5.4 21-A-09 Abberly Alston, LLC Annexation
The owner of properties located at 2020, 2028, 2036, 2104, 2108, 2112, 2120, 2124 and 2132 Alston Avenue has petitioned for annexation in association with a development plan (20-DP-9495) currently under review.
Action on this annexation will be made at a future council meeting.
5.5 21-A-10 Southerland and Gooch Annexation
The owners of properties located at 9648, 9708 and 9716 Morrisville Parkway (approximately 600 feet southwest of Morrisville Parkway and Weldon Ridge Boulevard intersection) have petitioned for annexation in association with a development plan (21-DP- 0173) currently under review.
Action on this annexation will also be made at a future council meeting.
Following the regular portion of the meeting, the Council met for a 10-minute closed session and adjourned after 2 hours. To see the full meeting’s recording, visit the Town’s YouTube Channel.
Story by Ashley Kairis. Images screen captured during the live, virtual meeting.
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