The Cary Town Council made some final tweaks Tuesday to the proposed plan for the town’s eastern gateway area to ensure its vision is clear for potential developers before the town begins the plan’s adoption process.
The Eastern Cary Gateway Special Planning Area covers about 800 acres bordered by Chapel Hill Road to the north, Interstate 40 to the east, Cary Towne Center to the south and Maynard Road to the west. The plan was drafted as part of Imagine Cary, an effort to prepare a new community plan to guide growth through 2040.
It likely will be voted on by the council Nov. 10 after a public hearing Sept. 20 and a recommendation from the town’s planning and zoning board Oct. 17.
For this area, council members have stressed high intensity and high density with a mix of retail, office and residential to create a walkable destination with opportunities to live, work and play.
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The plan is focused around a 90-acre state-owned property off Cary Towne Boulevard where the council imagines a destination center with “high density, intensive employment uses mixed with supportive commercial and residential uses,” integrated together with little surface parking that complements Cary Towne Center across the street.
At a recent meeting, the council changed the eastern gateway plan to describe development at that site as having a minimum of 50 percent of office space and a balance of commercial and residential uses, but the council reconsidered this change at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I have a concern that you are not going to get that much office without increasing your commercial and residential,” councilman Don Frantz said, adding that people want to work near places they can live and shop.
“I think the 50 percent is a great goal for how much office we’d like to see, but I don’t know if it is realistic,” he said. “I think we might drive some office development away.”
Creating the vision
Council members debated whether to change these percentages or remove them altogether and allow the description of their vision for the property to speak for itself.
“We’ve been so burned in the past,” councilman Jack Smith said. “I think there’s a predisposition to have some number, no matter what that may be. But we’ve got to be smart about the number and can’t make it so prescriptive that it might make office go elsewhere.”
The council supported changing the percentages for the 90-acre site to 40 to 60 percent office, 20 to 40 percent residential and 20 to 40 percent retail but having these numbers as guidelines rather than requirements. They also suggested similar percentages in the Imagine Cary plan should be considered guidelines.
“I think there’s some value in giving (developers) guidance,” councilwoman Lori Bush said.
They said they hoped this would help the descriptions of their vision speak louder than the numbers, but councilman Ed Yerha said he is concerned that having any numbers would deter “some great, compelling idea from coming to us” if it didn’t 100 percent fall into those ranges.
“I would just have the language be very strong that you expect it to be incredible,” Town Manager Sean Stegall said. “That visionary, complementary uses of office and residential and commercial that flows together in a way that creates a sense of place but doesn’t feel like you are stuck in some concrete, kind of all rammed in there.”
The council also reconsidered extending Trinity Road from WakeMed Soccer Park to Cary Towne Center. Council members instructed staff to study how that would affect crossing Cary Towne Boulevard.
“There’s significant value in tying the state property to the Cary Towne Center property,” Frantz said.
The proposed Eastern Cary Gateway SPA was presented to the public at open houses on July 28 and Aug. 2, which were attended by 350 people.
“Those were probably the most attended Imagine Cary meetings we’ve had since the initial kickoff meeting, and most of the comments we got were positive,” said Phil Smith, the town’s planning manager.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon