Michelle Muir: New Urbanism not the only answer

June 29, 2013 

New Urbanism not the only answer

Residents who wonder if the town may be promoting New Urbanism with the Imagine Cary initiative need look no further than the recent Town Council decision to reject Cary’s existing land plan in favor of the development of a “vibrant center.”

The Cary land plan called for development of a residential neighborhood on a large tract between Cary Town Center and WakeMed Soccer Park. A project came forward that was favored by neighbors, the planning board and council members closest to the parcel. It represented the addition of well-designed housing in an area that has seen no new high-quality neighborhoods in over 20 years. Along with tree-lined streets and amenities, the project would have added significantly to Cary’s tax base, revitalized the existing mall and upgraded housing where there are now over 50 percent rentals.

Rejecting the project, council will instead hold the land hostage for an ill-placed New Urban “vibrant center,” mandating ultra-high density, significant amounts of commercial, hotel and apartments.

Yet, when the land was recently advertised for sale by the state, no offers were made to build such a center, with good economic reason. In the surrounding area, income levels are at 60 percent of Cary’s average, and existing commercial space remains underutilized, even with thousands of nearby housing units.

Worse, millions in taxpayer-funded investment into a downtown “vibrant center” will be jeopardized by government interference in the free market, as it mandates a competing center within just two miles.

New Urbanism isn’t the answer to every development question.

Michelle Muir

Cary

Muir is a member of the Wake County Planning Board.

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