Published: Feb 02, 2013 05:10 PM
Modified: Feb 02, 2013 05:06 PM
CARY - Meet the panel of 35 people who will be the authentic voice of Cary as the town government maps decades of coming growth.
There were programmers, planners and students at a Wednesday night kick-off. Some were movers and shakers, all set around a half-ring of folding tables for the first of two dozen monthly meetings of Carys Committee for the Future.
The youngest was Pooja Jooshi, a sophomore at Raleigh Charter High School.
Ive lived in Cary pretty much my whole life twelve years now, Jooshi said. I hope to learn a lot from all of you.
Other faces were more familiar. Howard Manning, director of Dorcas Ministries, was among those making introductions at the downtown Cary Arts Center. So was Jo Ann Hines Duncan, a 42-year Cary resident and an English teacher at Cary High School.
In between were folks like Andrew Jarvis, who will soon move with his fiancée into his first house here. Some of the board members are graduates of local high schools, some live in the towns western frontier, and some live outside the towns borders.
After staff taught them the towns administrative ropes, the board began with an exercise in optimism.
I want you to think not about what needs to be fixed, not the problems, but the opportunities , said Jamie Greene, one of several consultants for the town, as he led the groups first conversational session. What are the opportunities that are before us in Cary in 2013?
The panels answer covered most topics now in popular discussion here. Amid a lot of Cary love, they suggested that the town plan for its elderly, find economic drivers and tourism attractions, distinguish its identity, manage infill development and keep housing affordable.
We all think that Cary is great, but we all have this idea that it can get better, Jarvis said.
There wasnt much talk of speeding up or slowing down growth, as there might have been a decade ago, but there was talk of balanced growth and sustainable development.
The steering committees members will have hours of meetings to guide staff and consultants creation of the how-to growth plan. Theyll give big-picture guidance rather than wordsmithing bullets, according to staff.
But the committees first debate was about the small stuff: As its meeting concluded, the group tried to pick among logos and slogans for the planning effort. After a bit of back and forth, they settled on Imagine Cary, though Forward Cary had a strong showing.Lots of interest
So far, interest in the planning process has far outstripped expectations. More than 400 people applied for a seat on the resident board a fact that Greene attributed to Carys above-average economic success.
By comparison, in Rust Belt communities that have seen a turn for the worse, its hard for those people to think about having a prosperous future, Greene said. But you recognize it, and you have a sense of optimism.
The committee seemed optimistic indeed. None of its members said they had come on board to drastically change Cary, or because they thought something was essentially wrong with the town government or its model of suburban development.
But even the earlier discussion yielded a few harder questions how would a successful Cary keep increasing land values from producing an insular society, asked Judson Drennan.
Ultimately, it wont just be the lucky few that have some input. Town staff say theyll repeatedly show their drafts to the public and ask for responses.
Moreover, the town will try to drum up a continuing conversation, beginning with a Cary-wide summit meeting this May that could draw 1,000 people or more.