Imagine Cary effort plans for more public input

aspecht@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2014 

— Once a month, a group of about 30 people meet at Town Hall with one goal in mind: to map out Cary’s future.

How dense should new housing developments be?

How flexible should the town be when it comes to growth density?

Should certain neighborhoods remain more rural?

The Committee for the Future, the resident-led facet of the broader Imagine Cary planning effort, tackles these questions and more. Imagine Cary could shape how the town grows for years to come.

As part of its efforts, the Committee for the Future asks for public input. This summer, the group plans to host an event in which residents can take a look at the progress and provide more specific direction.

On Tuesday, the committee met to devise statements that will become possible answers on a multiple-choice questionnaire for the public.

The questions will address broad issues such as infill and redevelopment around town.

Each word matters, and the committee considered implied meanings.

“ ‘Density is a bad word to a lot of people,’ ” said committee member Toby Kennedy.

“We can take ‘density’ off and say more ‘intense development,’ ” responded planning consultant Leigh Anne King.

The group will also ask residents’ input on how the town should plan specific areas of town such as southwest Cary.

Green Level, as the area is known, encompasses the land east of the Chatham County line, west of N.C. 55, south of Morrisville Parkway and north of Roberts Road.

King came to the group with two drafted questions:

• Do residents want southwest Cary to maintain a “rural” feel, only allowing 1.5 to 2.5 homes per acre?

• Or do they want to see southwest Cary transition into a more “suburban” feel by allowing up to four homes per acre?

Committee member Chuck Smith suggested eliminating the less-dense option altogether.

King told him that option fits with the current character of the community.

“Yeah, maybe 10 years ago,” Smith said.

Kyle Greer suggested the group include an option for even higher density, considering the area’s proximity to N.C. 540.

“Maybe we should develop that area because it’s so close to an interchange of an interstate,” Greer said.

Some disagreed that dense growth should be an option.

“We’ve got to be careful going with too high of a density,” Julia Rudy said. “(Cary has) told people moving here that it’s going to be low density.”

The group had a similar discussion about an area in southeast Cary east of Kildaire Farm Road, west of West Lake Road, north of Pearce-Olive Road and south of Ten-Ten Road.

Members also talked about downtown Cary and employment centers, wrangling with the question of whether suburban office parks should be an option since many businesses want to locate in mixed-use areas.

King, the consultant, plans to bring back a new list of questions to a meeting next month and then to the Town Council on May 1.

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

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