Don’s Blog: Not How I Imagine Cary


From the blog of Don Frantz, member of Cary Town Council representing District B. Photo by Hal Goodtree.

Imagine Cary – or imagine what Cary could become if we let the new-urbanists ruin it. That was my take from the Summit on the Future event held at Embassy Suites.

The Summit was our first crack at gathering community input as we work towards the new Cary Community Plan.

Not How I Imagine Cary

Somebody thought it would be a good idea to invite Mr. Chris Leinberger to serve as the keynote speaker of the event. Mr. Leinberger, a Brookings Fellow, is a developer who specializes in progressive, high density, transit oriented new-urbanism development. Mr. Leinberger also serves as the President of LOCUS. LOCUS is a national coalition of real estate developers and investors whose job it is to lobby federal and state governments for policies that support sustainable, walkable, transit oriented urban development. In a nutshell, Mr. Leinberger makes his living off of the development of high density new-urban communities. Sounds just like Cary right?

On three separate occasions, Mr. Leinberger presented his vision to approximately 750 members of our community. Needless to say it was an incredibly biased and one sided vision. Following each presentation participants were then push-polled regarding a number of topics to include growth, taxes, transit, affordable housing and density. I have a hard time putting much faith in the data collected given the manner in which we collected that information.

During one of Mr. Leinberger’s presentations he actually compared suburbia (74% of Cary housing BTW) to an X-rated movie theater. Seriously.


What angers me the most about Mr. Leinberger’s presentation is that from the beginning of this process I have made it crystal clear to town staff and the consultant team that I expect balance in any information we disseminate to the public. I stated on numerous occasions that if we have someone speak to the benefits of, say, transit for example, we also discuss the negatives such as cost implications or change in character of the community. We got none of that. All we got was, “all the cool kids are doing rail so you have to do rail also.”

They didn’t listen. So now the council has asked for a worksession with staff and the consultant team to discuss and iron out our concerns prior to continuing with the process.

It’s a shame. But other than the Leinberger disaster the event was very well done. Ms. Leigh Ann King’s presentation regarding the demographics and trends in Cary was very informative. I even learned a few things I didn’t already know; such as more Cary residents travel to Raleigh for work than RTP or that more people come to Cary for their job than leave Cary. Interesting stuff. We needed more of that and a lot less Leinberger.

Fire Sculpture – A Smoldering Problem

Another fun topic of discussion this week was the fire sculpture at the corner of Academy and Dry/Kildaire across from the Cary Arts Center.

It’s the thing that looks like an old burnt up out-building with a gaping crack down its side.

While the weeklong process to construct and ultimately fire the sculpture was a wonderful community event, that event ended months ago and we are now left with a “sculpture” that is entirely out of place at its current location.

The piece also sits on what will be Cary’s future town square once the downtown park is constructed – which leads one to question why a permanent installation of this magnitude was recommended at this location to begin with.

The council voted 6-1 to direct staff to relocate the piece to a more suitable location.

Downtown Park

And speaking of the downtown park, the council has also asked for another worksession on the topic to further discuss our intentions and vision for the park prior to awarding any contract for design and construction services.

I continue to support the public library and seven acre park concept as originally approved by council in 2009. This concept honors the intent of a large central park in Cary’s downtown while also providing for public uses that will compliment and add value to the surrounding community. It indicated a town square, water features and an outdoor amphitheater area along with areas for public art… temporary of course.

National Night Out and National Train Day in downtown were both a huge success and thank goodness the weather cooperated. Hopefully it does the same for next weekend’s Wheels on Academy Car Show.

Now thats my kind of art. See you there!

33 replies
  1. CT
    CT says:

    Regarding downtown park:
    Town of Cary, would you please stop meeting and start building?
    The project already decade long, how many more meetings do you need?

    • Brent
      Brent says:

      I’m guessing you won’t like this, but information from the Town’s web site says:

      Funding for this project was approved by Cary voters in 2012 as part of the Community Investment Bonds referendum. Total project budget is $2,000,000, which includes design and construction costs.

      Master Plan (2013)
      Design/Bidding (2014)
      Construction (2015)

  2. Peaches Wilson
    Peaches Wilson says:


    No, I do not work for Cary or their consultants. I am just an ordinary citizen, busy daughter, wife, mother, and employed full time. But I care about Cary’s future and want to try to get more public participation in the Imagine Cary process.

    I (like Don and many others on the Council) was disturbed by the Summit. It is not that I disagree with the speaker (I do, but that is another story) but it was obvious that someone (consultants or planning staff) was trying to influence public opinion before obtaining any public input. The process should have started like the Area Conversations. A basic rule in the gathering of public opinion is that no one knows the opinion of the facilitator. In the case of the Summit, it was all too obvious.

    Thanks for the Cary Citizen. I always enjoy reading it.


  3. Hal Goodtree
    Hal Goodtree says:

    Peaches – Thanks for the info. Could you tell us something about yourself? Do you work for ToC or their consultants? Do you live in Cary? More info would help establish trust.

  4. Peaches Wilson
    Peaches Wilson says:

    One way to comment and engage in a discussion is through a forum I moderate:

    It is unofficial, but I ask Council, the town planning department, the steering committee, and others to read it. I can see from the numbers that is being read.

    I will be adding sections on the forum such as “what do you like about Cary?”, “What do you not like about Cary?” and more.

    I request that you register with your e-mail address and use your real name, or at least your real first name. However, comments from unregistered people are still posted. I do require that if you make any statements of fact that either
    *I can verify the fact,
    *you provide a citation,
    *you provide, through registration or email to me your real name and email.

    Peaches Wilson

  5. Gary in Cary, NC
    Gary in Cary, NC says:

    Where is “official” blog/forum/message board for commenting (conversations) on Imagine Cary? <<=== TIA!

      • Gary in Cary, NC
        Gary in Cary, NC says:

        Yikes, I don’t do FaceBook and same *may* be true for quite a bit of the over-40 demographic observed at tonight’s Conversation at the Senior Center.

        The under-40 crowd wasn’t too well represented, in my opinion.

        So, maybe an intent of the Conversations meetings is to reach those that don’t do social media, etc.

          • Gary in Cary, NC
            Gary in Cary, NC says:

            Whoa! Totally missed it… thanks to the form’s invisible boxes, observed in IE and FireFox!


        • Ian Henshaw
          Ian Henshaw says:

          Tuesday nights in the summer are “swim meet night” in Cary so many young families were probably busy last night. Next Tuesday will be the same issue… The other choices for the Area Meetings are Wednesday nights which is “Church night” in Cary… A 5th meeting was scheduled, but I did not write it down and it is not on the Imagine Cary site yet.

        • Hal Goodtree
          Hal Goodtree says:

          Brent – For me, the major flaw is a lack of a common comment area. Comments are spread out all over the website. There’s no clear UI on the home page for comments. It’s not bad intent, but it might be bad design.

          • Brent
            Brent says:

            No argument here. I was just pointing out that the comment facility existed, not that it was good. :-)

   ? :-)

  6. Allen Turkow
    Allen Turkow says:

    I agree with your comments Karl. The Q&A session was a classic “delphi” technique. The majority of the people I talked to saw right through it. We are not stupid citizens. Don’t try it again. We need to talk neighbor.

  7. Karl Thor
    Karl Thor says:

    Don…please name the “somebody(s)” you refer to in the first line of your blog on Imagine Cary. Residents need to evaluate who keeps forcing growth down the throats of residents who don’t want it (according to 12 years of town surveys).

    Don…can you also tell us how much “Imagine Cary” is costing the town? I heard $800,000, but presumably SAS and Duke Progress Energy or other private firms have contributed and reduced Cary’s commitment.

    I strongly agree with your comments, especially about the need for “balance” in presentations. Ms. King presented data indicating that Cary would need more revenue to pay for 40 year infrastructure maintenance. And then she indicates that growth increases revenue…but as Cary Planning staff are wont to do…she neglected to inform the audience that GROWTH INCREASES CARY”S COSTS FASTER THAN IT INCREASES REVENUE. This growth:cost relationship is confirmed by Cary’s historical data as well as various other well-vetted examples from acrss the nation. Taxes are higher in big cities than small towns!

    What turned me off of the whole Imagine Cary process is that immediately after telling the audience that revenues need to be increased…and falsely implying that growth would lead to more available revenue for maintenance…staff then asked a question whether the audience wanted “no growth”. This is a dishonest use of the podium to use the process of “positive suggestion” to influence the audience to an answer that Planning Staff want to obtain, i.e. that Cary residents want growth…when 12 years of Town surveys have indicated that growth has a perfect record of being the #1 problem for Cary! This cheap psychological manipulation of the audience did not work so well since 10% of the audience still indicated that they want “NO GROWTH” at all.

    I have written to council on numerous occassions about the lack of honesty (i.e. a “balance”) in Planning staff presentations in the past. Hopefully by naming names, you can allow the anger of residents to be focused on the guilty party and not on council members.

    Finally, I am very proud to be part of the Cary community based on the commitment of its citizens to be involved as evidenced by the attendance at the May 2nd event.


  8. Robert Bush
    Robert Bush says:

    A point of clarification on Concerned Cary Resident’s comment on the rail. There are three types of rail being considered for Cary, all of which are located on the NCRR right-of-way by the current Cary train station. Additional Amtrak service is being planned; you may recall that a midday Piedmont trip was added some time back between Raleigh and Charlotte, giving us three daily round trips in each direction. A fourth and fifth round trip are being planned and will be implemented after a second track is added between Cary and Durham. This is being paid for by fares and the NCDOT.

    The two other rail types being considered are a “commuter rail” service and a “light rail” service. The commuter rail is similar equipment to Amtrak, but it makes more frequent stops, so Morrisville will be served by this type, whereas Amtrak does not stop there. Light rail service is what Charlotte implemented on the south side of town. These trains are powered by overhead electrical wires (generally), and stops are located every half mile or so.

    Concerned Cary Resident is incorrect about these services having been voted down some years ago. The Wake County Commissioners have not placed the issue on the ballot to allow us to vote. Such a vote is necessary to implement a half-cent sales tax to pay for their construction and operation. Orange and Durham Counties have recently voted in favor of such a tax and are moving ahead with rail and bus service expansions in their counties. Wake County residents have not had the chance to give their say on the matter of whether we want to increase our sales taxes for expanded bus service and new rail service.

    • Gary in Cary, NC
      Gary in Cary, NC says:

      Imagine a light-rail train station at Morrisville’s Park West or the old Morrisville FD building!

      Then, it would be so easy, and “green” to get to a ball game or concert at DPAC, while I-40 clogs.

      Maybe some of the many Park West restaurants would offer a light rail ticket deal to bring in Customers from Raleigh & Durham as well.

      Dittos for downtown Cary restaurants that could also bundle some deal to include a nearby concert, etc.

      Folks: note the jammed parking lots at the Park West restaurants at meal times.

      • Dean
        Dean says:

        The poor parking at Park West should have been noted when the plan was submitted. But, due to Agenda 21 meddling, you have roundabouts, narrow streets and poor parking. My guess is, that the parking lot changes happened after the initial plan was submitted.

        In other words, you have poor parking because people are trying to make use of the car a pain, so that you will be forced to use transportation when you are told to use transportation and where they want you to be transported to0.

        • Owen
          Owen says:

          I don’t know whether roundabouts are mentioned in Agenda 21 or whatever, but what I do know is that they handle traffic with less delay and more safety than four-way stops and even in most cases stoplights. No brainer.

          Parking at Park West: If you can’t find a parking space right in front of a restaurant, you have two options: Put on a tinfoil hat to protect yourself from the UN brainwaves and get out of there, or else park in the Target lot that is about 30 feet further from the restaurants. Your choice.

          Park West Village has some of the best parking and access of any shopping center around. You can get to it from three major roads. Morrisville Parkway, Cary Parkway, and NC 54. Hello? Genius!

        • Gary in Cary, NC
          Gary in Cary, NC says:

          My remark:
          “Folks: note the jammed parking lots at the Park West restaurants at meal times.”

          Was a comment about the successful businesses at a great location!

          I walk Cary Mall for exercise in bad weather and I walk the many, nice wide sidewalks at Park West in nice weather. Nice greenway behind Target, too!

          Roundabouts are great, and many cars pass through at meal times.

          You’ll have to ask Morrisville PD about auto accident history there.
          SpotCrime site just usually mentions thefts from unlocked cars at the place, but that happens everywhere!

  9. Concerned Cary dweller
    Concerned Cary dweller says:

    Fire laws did not prevent you from attending; late registration prevented you from attending (after weeks of urging people to sign up via every conceivable publicity method).

    Your questions presume that decisions have been made, and they have not. The community and the government still are deciding about the sort of development to occur in the future and rail has not even come close to being approved.

    Oh, and I am quite certain that CaryCitizen’s comment policy requires you to use your name — even just your first name.

    Curiously, you didn’t do that — why not? (and why did Hal allow the comment? And why did I do the same thing? Merely to prove a point).

    • Hal Goodtree
      Hal Goodtree says:

      We try to accomodate all commenters if at all possible.

      In the case of Concerned Cary resident, a valid email address was used (but not published), so we know who the commenter is – not as sophisticated a user as you are, Concerned Cary dweller, but someone with a point to make.

      The reason we have a comments policy is foster discussion and sharing of information, which I think we have here. However, in the future, I’d encourage all commenters to use a real name, even if it’s just your first name. More info: Comments Policy.

  10. Concerned Cary resident
    Concerned Cary resident says:

    Here’s one question I have: Is the Town of Cary making plans based on the electronic voting which was done at the Summit meeting? I wasn’t allowed to go as the fire laws only allowed a certain number of people into the room. But, I have some questions.

    1. Who is going to pay for the ideas that Mr. Leinberger presented and how will that affect Cary residents and business owners?

    I read the Cary News after the Summit and didn’t see anything mentioned about that.

    2. How much will this new Cary rail cost? And, who is paying for that? Please forgive my ignorance, but I didn’t know that this project was going through. (I thought it had been voted down years ago.)

    3. Will the present Cary residents be able to afford to continue to enjoy their current lifestyle after any or all these “improvements” are done? Did Mr. Leinberger address that?

    I hope the next meeting allows for everyone to hear everyone else’s comments and questions about their concerns. The Cary News article left me wondering if this was the case at the Summit meeting, or was everyone split up into groups where that wasn’t allowed to happen? (Again, I don’t know…fire laws prohibied me from attending)

  11. Owen
    Owen says:

    I wasn’t there. But it sounds like this Lineberger guy missed on one important point: You don’t have to vilify suburban development in order to allow density and growth to happen. You pretty much just have to get out of the way.

    Why can’t Cary have both suburban development – we have LOTS of great suburban development with no end in sight – AND great dense urban neighborhoods?

    Downtown Cary is pleasant as it is, but if we let it change and grow, it will – and the change could be significant.

    If some developer came along and wanted to build, for example, a 6 story building with 200 apartment units at the corner of Harrison and Chatham, should we get upset at them for trying to ruin Cary’s character, or welcome them with open arms as bringing more people and activity downtown? (Hint: I prefer the latter approach.)

    I believe that change and growth, though not virtues by themselves, can often be for the better. Planning and directing this growth is essential, but plans should be flexible and not too restrictive in order to capture the vitality that private development interests can bring to the table.

    I support growth even if there are some negative impacts – and there will be some, of course – as long as the positive outweighs the negative. For example: I would gladly accept more traffic congestion if it meant downtown could grow with more residents, more businesses, more attractions, and more life.

  12. Robert Campbell
    Robert Campbell says:

    I’m sorry Don, but your statements are not based on facts.

    I call out his statement:
    “During one of Mr. Leinberger’s presentations he actually compared suburbia (74% of Cary housing BTW) to an X-rated movie theater. Seriously.”

    If you look at the actual event, recorded and posted on Cary’s YouTube channel, anyone can clearly see that Mr. Leinberger was talking about he fictitious town of Hill Valley in the movie Back to the Future, not Cary — the illustration was that of what has typically happened over the decades in cities all across the USA.

    Check it out for yourself:
    “Now, the second clip shows downtown Hill Valley in 1985, a somewhat different place, X-rated movie theaters, homeless on the street and that beautiful plaza has been turned into a parking lot.”

    It would see to this observer that Don is trying to incite some negative reaction to all of this instead of focusing on key parts of the outcome — especially some of those answers on what more that 700 residents want.

    I agree with Don that we should question the agenda of Mr. Leinberger and all of this, but at the end of the day, at least there more more than 700 people in this town thinking about the future of Cary, something I’m not sure Don does with great vigor.

  13. levitra generico
    levitra generico says:

    Councilman Frantz’ opinions are closely aligned with mine regarding ‘Imagine Cary’ and the fire sculpture. I do, however, envision and support greater residential density, a thriving merchant community, and light and commuter rail being the future of our Downtown.

    As for the Downtown park, after a decade plus it’s time to stop meeting, seeking citizen input, work sessioning and ‘consulting’ with yet another design team. Please, someone demonstrate the intellectual foresight and vision to DRIVE A STAKE IN THE GROUND and begin. Sometimes the most interesting and exciting designs evolve as they are created/constructed.

  14. Norman
    Norman says:

    Townhomes and condos have their fans (I’m a fan) and so do single family homes on acreage. Both have their place in Cary. We do need to keep a close eye on traffic patterns so we don’t overbuild the capacity of our streets.

Comments are closed.