Cary tweaks downtown rules; approves church expansion

aspecht@newsobserver.comJanuary 13, 2014 

— Some property owners in downtown Cary may now apply to add residential buildings on their lots.

The Cary Town Council on Thursday voted 6-1 to allow property owners to seek special-use permits to build detached single-family dwellings parts of downtown’s historic district.

The district mostly includes properties along Academy Street from Dry Avenue to Cedar Street, and Chatham Street from West Street to Hunter Street.

Previously, new single-family structures weren’t allowed in the district.

Councilman Ed Yerha cast the dissenting vote, saying he didn’t want to encourage “non-contributing structures” downtown. Cary is investing millions of dollars across multiple projects to revitalize the area, and the town’s plan encourages shopping, dining and entertainment.

“I just believe that it’s a rather contrived attempt at satisfying well-intentioned requests by residents,” Yerha said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson pointed out that allowing property owners to apply for special-use permits doesn’t guarantee the council will grant their requests.

“This is not a sure thing in any way. This is us saying we’d cautiously consider (requests),” Robinson said.

Requests for new residences will have to conform with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and other town codes. Owners of property designated as a Cary or Wake County landmark will also have to acquire a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission.

Countering Yerha’s assertion that residential dwellings wouldn’t “contribute” to revitalizing downtown, Councilwoman Gale Adcock said residential structures could bring more foot traffic.

Rob Lodholz, who owns Stonehaven Jewelry on Academy Street, said that’s exactly what his family hopes to do.

Having his business in downtown Cary is a “dream come true,” he said. But he’d also like to be able to “eat, live (and) play” there.

“We are so proud of our location. The last part of our dream is to be able to actually live right there where I walk out the front door and in through the back door at work,” Lodholz said.

Council approves church expansion

The Town Council voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a rezoning request by Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. The move now allows the church to expand its building at 2220 High House Road.

Plans for the expansion were approved in 2003, but Cary later adopted its Land Development Ordinance that prohibits the church from expanding without obtaining a special-use permit or getting permission from the town to rezone the property.

Residents who live near the church submitted a protest petition to the town. They worry about their property values declining and the expansion exacerbating flooding issues that already exist.

But Town Council members said approving the church’s request was a matter of fairness.

“The important element here is that the church purchased its property with the understanding that it’d be able to develop this land,” Robinson said. “We’re not lowering our standards for protecting neighborhoods.”

“We changed, not them,” Councilwoman Lori Bush added.

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

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