Published: Sep 19, 2012 09:21 AM
Modified: Sep 19, 2012 09:22 AM
CARY - A proposal to reshape a downtown neighborhood is in the town of Cary’s hands.
Marlon Williams, a Durham resident, has asked the town government to clear the way for the potential redevelopment of the historic black area where his family has deep roots.
Williams and his family say dozens of homeowners near Boyd Street, just north of downtown, could profit and avoid gentrification by selling en masse to a private developer.
The Cary Town Council recently made its first official consideration of the plan. The town would not buy or develop the land, but Williams wants the elected officials to say the area is appropriate for high-density retail, office and residential construction.
“If a developer knows that they can build this type of development in downtown Cary, they can justify spending the ... money to buy the land,” Williams told the council.
The land-use plan change is just one step in the transformation that some near Boyd Street seek. Williams and his colleagues already have rallied commitments from 55 homeowners who say they’ll at least consider selling, Williams said; a half dozen more say they want to stay.
No developer has made a recent offer on the land, though some have inquired. Ultimately, Williams hopes the neighborhood will sell 30 to 40 acres; he has declined to name an asking price. The profits would be distributed to homeowners based on their share of the area’s acreage and tax value.Government reaction
For their part, town staff and elected officials have been receptive to the idea of redevelopment. Town staff helped Williams draft much of the application to change the land-use plan – a step that applicants themselves most often handle.
“Usually it’s a developer that’s initiating a request. In this case, it was the neighborhood wanting to do it,” said Downtown Development Manager Ed Gawf. “It’s also (a case) where there are a lot of Is to dot and Ts to cross.”
The Cary Town Council did not vote on the proposal at a recent meeting, instead forwarding the issue to the planning and zoning board. Councilman Don Frantz offered a positive assessment of the push, with one caveat.
“For you to have this many property owners already at least seriously interested, I commend you,” Frantz said. “But it’s clear from some of the comments” from residents, he added, “that you still have some more work to do.”Neighborhood concerns
The town has heard several concerns from people living in or near the neighborhood. At a community meeting early this summer, residents told town staff they worried about development’s impact on wildlife, parking and traffic, affordable housing availability, and water drainage, among other items.
Some property owners have said they won’t sell at all, Williams said. No one said so at a recent council meeting, but some residents in interviews have said they don’t want to move from their longtime homes and that they worry new development would drown them in rising property taxes.
Development could likely work around homeowners who refuse to sell, Williams said. But even those committed to a hypothetical sale share a potent concern: Where will they go?
“We can’t take that little bit of money and go somewhere else – we’ll be back in the projects where I came from,” said Patricia Mills, the only speaker to question the proposal at the most recent meeting. But “if (a developer) buying my property will make me move up in society,” she said, “then I’m more open to it.”
The proposal to change the land-use plan may return to council for final approval in November. By then, Marlon Williams hopes, a developer will be waiting to buy the rows of ranches and cottages.