Story and photo by Hal Goodtree.
Cary, NC – Cary Town Council voted in a recent work session in favor of temporarily eliminating impact fees for development downtown. This is a change that could substantially increase the incentive for developing a business in the center of our community.
Impact fees are paid by developers to help defray costs to the community associated with a particular project.
The fees are set by a formula which takes into account different uses (business vs. residential) and size of the development. Fees are levied for water, sewage and transportation.
Cary has high standards for development and correspondingly high impact fees relative to nearby towns.
By waiving impact fees for development in downtown Cary, Town Council is providing a clear incentive for private businesses to get busy.
I phoned Gale Adcock, my District D representative on the Cary Town Council, for more information on Work Sessions. Was this a done deal or just a trial balloon?
Gale explained that a resolution in Work Session begins the process that creates new policy. In this case, the proposed change will go from the Council to a Public Hearing, then review by Planning & Zoning and finally back to the Cary Town Council for a vote on the final ordinance.
4 Blocks, 3 Years
Gale pointed out the targeted nature of the proposal. The impact fees would be eliminated for a downtown core area focused on the four blocks on Chatham Street that are east and west of Academy. The changes would be in effect for three years.
Development adjacent to the designated zone could petition the Town Council for inclusion in the program.
When I moved to Cary in 1998, folks talked about reviving downtown Cary, while malls, shopping centers and suburbs mushroomed out toward the perimeters.
But, strangely enough, it took the Great Recession to change the talk into action. Development slowed around the perimeter; opportunities cropped up downtown. I remember going to the groundbreaking for the Cary Arts Center on a warm January day in 2010. The sunny optimism of that day was not misplaced.
Now the old school is open again as a new arts center. The Town hired Ed Gawf, an energetic and experienced man, as it’s first Downtown Manager. The Heart of Cary Association has been reborn under the leadership of Doc Thorne. A new Downtown Cary Children’s Museum is in the works and the Town has purchased the old Movie Theatre, for many years a dusty auto parts store.
The plan to waive impact fees for the commercial slice of downtown along Chatham Street is another major step forward, another piece of the puzzle, another cog in the wheel of change. A streamlined permitting and inspection process, the subject of a forthcoming story in CaryCitizen, is in the works and making progress as well.
Taken all together, these changes mean the renaissance of downtown Cary is now more than just talk. The wheel of change is gathering momentum.