Residents will get the chance to vote on a bond referendum this November that would allow the town to spend $15 million on road construction and repairs.
The bond will include about $10 million to finish the last sections of the Apex Peakway, which would encircle the town and alleviate traffic on other busy roads. Another $5 million would go to repaving and improving existing roads.
Unlike most bonds, this one is small enough that it wouldn’t require taxes to be raised, at least for now.
However, if the town were to issue another bond in 2016 – as some plan to request – the property tax rate would have to rise.
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Under normal circumstances, a plan to spend $15 million on roads without raising taxes would be an easy decision.
But because of concerns about future bonds, and about spending all the money on roads alone, Tuesday’s debate at the Apex Town Council was anything but routine.
Deals were cut. Amendments were shot down via parliamentary procedures. Town staff made the unfamiliar move of rejecting an offer of millions of dollars.
The motion to put the bond before voters passed 3-2.
Nicole Dozier was the swing vote, ultimately voting in favor of the bond with Scott Lassiter and Denise Wilkie.
Before she voted, Dozier asked Lassiter and Wilkie to support a separate motion – which later passed – to spend $400,000 researching and designing plans for a senior center.
The two dissenters were Gene Schulze and Bill Jensen, who rarely agree on the same issue. But both said the final $5 million shouldn’t be spent on repaving.
Schulze voted against the plan because he wants to give $5 million to the Parks and Recreation Department. Jensen voted no because he wanted to spend it on extending the town’s water and sewer lines to try to attract more nonresidential development.
Other bond uses
Lassiter used parliamentary procedure to prevent Jensen’s suggestion from coming up for a vote.
Schulze’s attempt to give the money to the parks department died after the chairman of the town’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee told the town not to give them the money.
The money would have gone to designing and building Pleasant Park. The town bought 90 acres in south Apex in November with the intent of turning it into the town’s main public attraction.
But Greg Coley, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, said the committee and the town’s staff haven’t decided how they want to develop the park and how much it could cost to transform the property.
“That’s our main concern,” he told the council in turning down the $5 million offer. “We felt like if we were going to go to the citizens and ask for money, we should be prepared to tell them where that’s going to go.”
He told the council the parks department likely would be back in a year to ask for more money, enough to require a tax-raising bond.
Wilkie questioned the wisdom of that move, since the town’s residents passed a $6 million bond in 2012 that raised property taxes by 1 cent to build Nature Park and finish work on other projects.
“We just completed the Nature Park,” she said. “And I’m concerned people will say, ‘Well, what’s this all about?’”
Coley said his committee considered that concern but still unanimously supported asking for another bond in 2016 for Pleasant Park.
“High risk, high reward,” he said.
Jensen said he had his eye on other risks and rewards with the more immediate bond. Repaving could wait several years, he said. He advocated spending $5 million on water and sewer lines instead.
Extending water and sewer could have big payoffs by making people’s properties more attractive to large commercial developers.
Jensen is the town council’s most outspoken voice against residential development and said his plan would encourage non-residential growth.
“If we don’t do something soon, in terms of being willing to put up money for infrastructure, we’re going to be lagging,” Jensen said.
Holly Springs engaged in similar work years ago, Jensen said, that led pharmaceutical giant Novartis to build a $1 billion plant in town. The state and federal governments also pitched in another $40 million in incentives for that project, built in 2009.
But Lassiter shot the idea down, saying that roads are the official main priority of the town as well as the priority of most of the residents they represent. He wanted the bond to be only for roads.
“The need is there, and this is the cheapest way to pay for it,” he said.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran