Cary Town Council: 4/27/17

Cary, NC – While the Thursday, April 27, 2017 Town Council meeting only had four public hearings and no discussion items on its agenda, it was a long session with lots of discussion about potential new zoning in Cary.

White Oak Church Road Development

Mayor Pro Tem Ed Yerha ran this Town Council meeting because Mayor Harold Weinbrecht is out of town for his 30th wedding anniversary. In his trip, Weinbrecht will be the first Cary mayor to visit Cary’s French sister city, Le Touquet.

The first Public Hearing on the agenda, and the one that saw the most input from residents, was a rezoning for a PDD on White Oak Church Road. This was actually two pieces of property, surrounding White Oak Missionary Baptist Church and White Oak Elementary School.

Combined, these pieces of land would make up nearly 19 acres and would be primarily for housing, with the inclusion of a day care center. On the larger piece of land, this would have 30 townhomes and on the smaller property, there would be 60 age-restricted, multi-family homes.

The approximate location White Oak Church Road rezoning. While the church is included in the rezoning, it would not be removed in the plan

Six speakers came out in favor of the plan, including pastors and church members who wanted the development so there could be affordable housing in the area. Other speakers included a Wake County Public School System staff member who supported the plan and was impressed by the work done by the elementary school and an employee from a separate development company who supported what was being put forward.

Following these comments, four nearby residents spoke against the proposal, primarily listing their concerns as related to high density housing in a low density area. Other criticisms of the plan included flooding and water runoff, traffic and noise and a lack of nearby public resources for new residents. Also, multiple speakers brought up what they described as a lack of care for White Oak Church’s community garden and worried the same poor care would be seen with these properties.

With the comments about affordable housing and the church’s goals, Councilmember Don Frantz reminded everyone gathered that they can only look at the zoning and land use and cannot consider these other factors or who the developer would be. The proposal was then sent to the Planning and Zoning board.

Carpenter Upchurch Development

The final Public Hearing of the night also saw a lot of discussion, primarily from Town Council. This is a proposal to rezone close to 5.5 acres along Carpenter Upchurch Road, a historic district, to put in up to 43 townhomes.

The report by town staff included information about the historic nature of the district and while the applicant and developer, who spoke at the Public Hearing, said they would work to include architectural guidelines to match the surrounding area and trails,, there were not assurances or conditions put into the proposal. Although, as pointed out by town staff and Councilmember Ken George, the town of Cary does not have ordinances in place for these design standards either.

One resident spoke out against the proposal, with others in the neighborhood standing up to show their numbers. Her concerns included the historic nature of the area, a lack of streetscape (the proposal faces Carpenter Upchurch Road which is considered a “local road” and thus does not need a streetscape) and she said no changes to the proposal were made following a meeting between the developers and the neighborhood.

The approximate location of the Carpenter Upchurch rezoning

Town Council were no kinder. Councilmember Jennifer Robinson, who represents the district where this zoning would be, talked about how whatever goes into this area needs to benefit the surrounding area.

“Whatever is built here needs to enhance the area,” Robinson said. “I’m not sure townhomes are appropriate.”

The rest of the council shared similar apprehension, mostly citing the lack of conditions put in by the developer. Councilmember Jack Smith went as far as to suggest the council’s time was being wasted and said passing it along would waste the Planning and Zoning Board’s time.

In the end, the developer asked to table the item so they could work on it and include conditions. After some discussion about how best to go about this, the item was tabled indefinitely to give the developer time to work. When it comes back, there will be another neighborhood meeting and public hearing before it goes to the Planning and Zoning Board.

Other Public Hearings

The other two public hearings on the agenda saw much less discussion. One of these was to rezone a one acre space along Wake Road, with the intention of adding three lots for detached homes.

The applicant talked about his process and how these homes would fit the area, but included that there would not be a right-of-way. This was the one area councilmembers seemed to have a disagreement, with Smith describing right-of-ways as “critical” for the future of the area. The proposal was sent to the Planning and Zoning Board.

There was also a proposal for an annexation of land in Cary’s extra territorial jurisdiction. This land sits near Carpenter Fire Station Road and Green Level Church Road, with the intention of making it commercial retail.

There were no speakers on this item and Town Council voted unanimously to approve it.

Public Comments and Town Recognitions

There was only one speaker for Public Speaks Out and it was Revi Suraneni, father of Riyansh Suraneni. Following Riyansh’s death at the age of four, Cary police deputized him and attended his funeral, giving him a procession from the funeral home to the burial site and laying a badge and a patch in his grave.

Suraneni thanked the town and the police department and talked about his son and how, in his words, he always wanted to be a police officer. Suraneni was allowed to speak past the usual three-minute time limit for the Public Speaks Out segment and Yerha thanked him and said Riyansh would not be forgotten in Cary.

At the start of the Town Council meeting, town staff and Council also held a ceremony for the retirement of Gail Taylor, an administrative specialist with the town’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources department for 30 years. Also, Council recognized the town sport staff for their recent Excellence in Youth Sports Award from the National Association of Youth Sports.

Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Hal Goodtree and GoogleMaps.