Cary council candidates spar over western expansion

aspecht@newsobserver.comSeptember 20, 2013 

  • Meet the District A candidates

    Jennifer Robinson

    Age: 43

    Occupation: Residential real-estate broker

    Education: Bachelor’s degree in English and studio arts from the University of Virginia

    Family: Husband, Paul, and four children


    Karl Thor

    Age: 59

    Occupation: Scientist, musician, entrepreneur

    Education: Doctoral degree in pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

    Family: Wife, Karen, and two children


— The two candidates vying to represent western Cary on the Town Council disagree about whether westward expansion will lead to greener pastures.

Karl Thor, who is hoping to unseat incumbent Jennifer Robinson in the District A council race, said the council’s recent decision to expand Cary’s western border a half-mile into Chatham County contradicts Robinson’s promise to promote smart growth, fiscal conservancy and environmental protection.

Robinson said Cary’s westward growth was inevitable.

Candidates for Town Council and for two seats on the Wake County school board gathered at Cary Town Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 18, for a forum sponsored by the town.

Voters will head to the polls Oct. 8. In addition to the western Cary District A council race, Deborah Pugh is running against incumbent Jack Smith in District C, and Ed Yerha is running unopposed to keep his at-large seat.

Thor said he contributed money to Robinson’s campaign in past years, but he chose to run against her partly because he believes Cary would lose money by expanding town services further west.

He also accused Robinson of promoting growth near Jordan Lake and cast her as part of a Town Council that is creating “the classic urban sprawl – where you grow so far out you don’t have a community anymore.”

“The best leaders are those whose words match their deeds,” Thor said, noting his job as a business owner. “I have a strong financial background and will protect the environment.”

Robinson, who has served on the council for 12 years, said the town’s plans for development don’t come any closer than one mile to Jordan Lake.

Robinson said she and other town officials had worked on a land-use plan with Chatham commissioners for seven years.

If Thor doesn’t want to see more development in western Cary, Robinson said, “he’d better pull out his pocket book and buy the land from everybody and preserve it himself because that’s the only way he can legally preserve that land.”

The Town Council appointed Robinson to fill an open seat on the board in 1999. During the forum, she touted her efforts to push for a cleanup of Jordan Lake and also Cary’s financial standing.

“We are the most fiscally healthy community in North Carolina – bar none,” she said.

Thor, meanwhile, said he had concerns about last year’s voter-approved $80 million bond package that will pay for roads and parks projects and included a 12-percent property tax hike.

He proposed conducting a financial impact analysis for proposed developments to evaluate whether they would benefit Cary over a 10-year period.

“(Robinson) doesn’t ask questions like … ‘What is our return on investment for the town?’” Thor said.

Robinson said asking staff to complete such financial statements would cost the town “exorbitant” amounts.

“This is not an easy job,” she said. “You cannot understand the complexities until you’ve done this job.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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