Cary, NC — On Tuesday this week, the Cary Town Council met in front of about 100 residents and staff for their only meeting of November.
In the 2 and a half-hour meeting, the council hosted 3 public hearings, named the 2021 Hometown Spirit Award winner and approved the Cary Housing Plan unanimously.
Hometown Spirit Winner & A Cary Poem
At the start of the meeting, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and the 2020 winner, Brent Miller, revealed the winner of this year’s Hometown Spirit Award to be Sarah Martin, the Chair of the Cary150 Task Force. Martin, for those who don’t know her, has been an integral part in creating the many celebrations of Cary’s sesquicentennial year that is now coming to a close.
Councilmember Ed Yerha also shared a few words in his Cary150 history moment, this time reciting a poem written especially for and about Cary. To see the Hometown Spirit Award presentation and the full poem read by Yerha, see the recorded meeting.
Housing Plan Public Hearing Gets Overwhelming Support
Presentation of the Plan
The Town of Cary’s Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison, Morgan Mansa, opened up the presentation for the night’s most talked-about public hearing—The Cary Housing Plan.
“The Housing Plan takes the next step in providing the actions needed to implement the policies of Imagine Cary and meet the housing needs of Cary’s residents over the next decade,” said Mansa.
As she went through the plan’s goals and next steps, Mansa explained the entire purpose of the plan was to ensure every resident can enjoy the full benefits of living in Cary. The plan, as summarized by Mansa, makes a noticeable shift from previous housing documents with these priorities:
- Added environmental priorities
- Increased connection between transit & housing
- Special populations, i.e. seniors and persons with disabilities
- Homeownership opportunities
- Recognizing housing as a priority at all income levels
The plan was created using Town data and citizen input, integrating those priorities while also creating a path that can “elevate groups that need additional support” to thrive in this community.
“This document was not created to check a box. This is a comprehensive housing plan to authentically move the needle for all of Cary’s residents,” Mansa said before opening the floor to several write-in, call-in and in-person speakers, all of whom urged the council to approve the plan in their own way and with their own stories.
Public Hearing Speakers
Nonprofit organization leaders who work a great deal with aiding individuals in need of housing assistance spoke from The Carying Place, ONE Wake, Dorcas Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, and more. Also speaking at the podium were religious group leaders in Cary and individual residents. All came forward to share the difficulties they see every day with housing hurdles, the state of the housing market and how they wish to see the council mitigate these issues.
All of their statements and calls to action can be seen and heard in the recorded meeting.
Council Discussion & Unanimous Approval
When it came time for council discussion after the public came forward, each member at the desk shared their thoughts, both from personal experience and political belief. Each took a moment to share how as a unit, the Town can work to better Cary’s housing situation.
Mayor Pro-Tem Don Frantz put it well, saying, “We wouldn’t even be talking about the plan unless we had directed our staff to create the plan. This is something we want to fix, we recognize the problem and this issue in our community and we want to do something about it.”
Councilmember Jack Smith contributed in reminding the meeting’s audience that this is not an issue Cary got into overnight and it cannot be solved overnight. Councilmember Jennifer Robinson added that less than 14% of Cary’s landmass remains undeveloped, pointing to the issue of creating more supply.
“This problem is only going to get worse unless we allow additional housing in this town,” admitted Frantz. But, in closing, he assured those residents listening by making a promise — “We are going to put our money where our mouth is on this.”
In taking the first step to do just that, the council unanimously adopted the 10-year housing plan and was met with rousing applause in the council chambers.
Rezoning & Environmental Public Hearings
The night saw two other public hearings, one for public input on a request to add the uses of “club, lodge or hall” to Cary’s Sri Venkateswara Temple to allow for the addition of a proposed hall for wedding ceremonies and other gatherings. This request also includes the removal of a few structures on site and an increase to the allowable building area to 55,000 square feet.
Several members of the Temple, including young Cary students, came forward to voice their support of the rezoning and what it would bring to their community. This rezoning now moves on to the Planning & Zoning Board and will be back for a council vote in the future.
On an environmental note, the council also referred the ACT 20 Land Development Ordinance & associated amendments to be reviewed by the Planning & Zoning Board.
These amendments, as described by Katie Rose Levin, Cary’s Urban Forestry Manager, are part of a long-term strategy to bring environmental priorities to Town ordinances.
This will begin with solar and tree-related amendments to Cary’s LDO and Community Appearance Manual. These, if approved in a future meeting, will highlight benefits of trees and buffers, define allowable solar installations, prohibit invasive species of plants and encourage native ones, and more.
Cary Has a New Voting District Map
Ahead of the municipal election in Cary, which was postponed to March 8, 2022, the Town Council had to approve a new voting map. For more on this topic, read about when it was discussed further in previous coverage and meetings. This week Tuesday is when, after a summary presentation and short discussion, the council unanimously voted to go with map option number one, allowing the voting process to happen without any further delays.
Next, the map is sent to local Boards of Elections and the candidate filing period runs from December 6-17.