Council weighs in on Imagine Cary effort

snagem@newsobserver.comSeptember 5, 2013 

  • What’s next for Imagine Cary?

    The public can share their thoughts about Cary online at www.caryhaveyoursay.com. Through Oct. 18, anyone who lives or works in Cary can submit a 15- to 60-second video about ideas for Cary’s future. For details, and to watch videos, go to www.imaginecary.org.

    Based on public input, consultants may make changes to the early plan, and the 35-member Committee For The Future will reconvene in October.

    A final plan is expected to be adopted in the summer or fall of 2014.

— The Cary Town Council’s first glimpse of an early draft of a massive planning effort that could shape the town for decades sparked debate about the long-term role of affordable housing and downtown revitalization.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Councilman Don Frantz took issue with a part of the proposed Imagine Cary plan that said the town supports “additional residential choices” for a variety of income levels.

“I don’t know that the majority of Cary residents want us encouraging more subsidized housing in town,” Frantz said in a phone interview the day after the meeting. “Cary is an upper-middle-class community, and I think people like it that way.”

On Tuesday, the council saw a dozen “value statements” about land use, redevelopment, arts and culture and more. Mostly, council members suggested tweaks to verbs and adjectives in the statements, which were created in part by the Committee For The Future, a group of 35 residents who are helping guide the two-year Imagine Cary effort.

Hundreds of residents have shared their views on what they like and don’t like about Cary through public meetings and an online forum.

A “value statement” on housing and neighborhoods led to talks about government-subsidized housing. Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said the town shouldn’t force developers to set aside a certain amount of space for affordable living.

“We have gone through this in recent years, and I think it’s a headache, honestly,” she said. “Let the market drive it.”

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said the day after the meeting that Cary welcomes affordable housing. Town leaders have discussed for years the importance of housing options for “teachers, our policemen, our firemen,” he said.

“I think it’s essential for your community to have housing for all types,” Weinbrecht said.

But Frantz said he had concerns that more low-income housing could bring crime.

“There are lots of communities in the Triangle, Wake County area that might better support lower income levels,” he said.

Downtown of the future?

Some council members said they had reservations about putting a big emphasis on downtown.

Downtown is a major focus for Cary now, said Councilman Ed Yerha, but that won’t necessarily be the case 20 years from now.

Repeated mention of walkable, mixed-use developments of housing and commercial growth downtown in the Imagine Cary plan could be a case of “the present clouding the future,” Yerha said.

“Fifteen years from now, downtown might not be the best place to put mixed-use,” said Councilwoman Gale Adcock.

Even so, Cary doesn’t have all that much room to grow – less than 10 percent of town limits is available for new development, said Jamie Greene, a principal at ACP Visioning+Planning, an Ohio-based consulting firm that is helping Cary plan for the future.

That could mean a bigger focus beyond the town core.

“I always say to myself, ‘Why don’t we have this in western Cary?’” Yerha said.

Nagem: 919-460-2605; Twitter: @BySarahNagem

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