Throughout a lengthy planning process, Cary leaders have spent hours refining their vision for the town over the next 25 years.
So far, this has translated into ambitious plans for areas like the eastern gateway by Cary Towne Center, where the Cary Town Council wants to see taller buildings with a mix of office, residential and commercial.
But the council wants the area in and around the Carpenter Historic District in western Cary to remain largely the same by retaining its historic look and feel.
During a work session Tuesday, March 8, the Town Council reviewed plans for the Carpenter Special Planning Area that was crafted by Imagine Cary, a group of residents and planners. This is part of a larger planning document that will someday guide development in town through 2040.
Today, there are about 25 historic structures in the proposed special planning area, which contains a few hundred acres surrounding the intersection of Carpenter Upchurch and Morrisville Carpenter roads. Several of these structures are owned by the town, including the Ferrell Store, which is located at an area known as Carpenter Crossroads.
“Everywhere around here is nothing but five units to the acre,” councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said. “It’s just nothing but neighborhood after neighborhood after neighborhood. ... We’re lucky we even have this (area) still, and I would like to do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t become washed away with a bunch of developments.”
The plan centers around the intersection where the Ferrell Store and the Carpenter Farm Supply Store are located.
The priorities for this area are to preserve the existing historical structures and encourage the reuse of these buildings, as well as allow compatible surrounding developments with appropriate transitions and buffers. There would be some neighborhoods to the north and the south of the historic district and potentially some office or light industrial buildings to the west.
Robinson suggested putting parking in the area to the west, which is slated for office or light industrial, to help retain the walkable, historic and rural feel of the central area.
“It may be someplace where people want to drive to visit,” she said. “In which case, I would rather have people drive and park right on the edge of it ... than go into it and litter up the place with a bunch of cars and parking lots.”
The town also has to plan around the Morrisville Carpenter Road realignment, which will be required in the coming years in response to increasing traffic.
“I’d say that’s the big 800-pound gorilla in the district, and it’s the big thing we need to plan around and figure out how we create a plan that preserves character given that road improvement,” said Scott Ramage, a town principal planner.
The council agreed that Morrisville Carpenter and Good Hope Church roads should have a more natural appearance than elsewhere in Cary. They debated whether this should include curb and gutter or expressway gutter, but ultimately decided they preferred curb and gutter as long as it didn’t look “traditional.”
“I’d like it to look a little different than a normal street in Cary’s proper,” Mayor Pro Tem Ed Yerha said.
This also includes more rural and historic landscape treatments, including meandering pedestrian paths, certain types of fencing and other “less suburban, more rural, historic” options.
Roads within and near Carpenter Crossroads will remain the same with off-road pedestrian paths that use contextual paving materials instead of concrete or asphalt.
This area already offers access to four or five major greenways with a future town park planned for land near the town-owned Ferrell Store.
“I’d love for that to turn in to some kind of stop for people on the greenway system,” Robinson said of the Ferrell Store. “I could see that being a really nice attraction.”
But Yerha pointed out that the structure was falling apart and would need renovations to make that happen. Many of the structures that were built between 1890 and 1920 have seen some structural decline – even some of those owned by the town.
“There have not really been a lot of reinvestments,” Ramage said. “We don’t really have a lot of protections or preservation incentives working for us here in Cary.”
Town staff said achieving this overall vision, particularly preserving the historic homes, will require more deliberative approaches and a greater commitment of resources, including providing preservation programs and incentives. Some suggested providing local grants for preservation, low-interest or forgivable loan programs, reimbursement of development fees or leading by example.
“We own a bunch of structures there so leading by example would be the town doing something like fixing up its buildings, taking care of them ... setting an example,” Ramage said.
Expediting the process
If the Town Council continues to review Imagine Cary plans during regularly scheduled work sessions, town staff estimate the entire Imagine Cary plan wouldn’t be adopted before May 2017.
The council supported holding a half day retreat in May, potentially along with other special work sessions, to speed up the process. On this schedule, the new plan could be adopted in early 2017.
“I would like to see it, whatever it takes, be done by January 2017,” councilman Jack Smith said.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon