Cary News

Imagine Cary meetings draw 130

Cary resident Kathleen Lynch turns in a survey about how Cary should develop its downtown and transportation services during an Imagine Cary meeting on Nov. 6 at Bond Park Community Center.
Cary resident Kathleen Lynch turns in a survey about how Cary should develop its downtown and transportation services during an Imagine Cary meeting on Nov. 6 at Bond Park Community Center.

Daniel Kuchta wouldn’t mind seeing seven-story buildings in downtown Cary.

Kathleen Lynch wants the town to expand its bus service.

Linda Sweeney, meanwhile, thinks the town’s top transportation priority should be improving its current road system – especially in crowded northwest Cary.

About 130 people weighed in on the future of downtown Cary and the town’s transportation services during meetings last week. The meetings were hosted by Imagine Cary, a group of town staff and residents who are crafting a community plan to govern growth through 2040.

The plan, scheduled to be approved next year, is expected to offer guidance through 2040 on everything from housing styles to commercial development locations.

Last week’s meetings wrapped up Imagine Cary’s outreach to residents for the year. Earlier this year, Imagine Cary invited people who live or work in Cary to offer direction on what types of residential and commercial developments the town should allow.

Cary is known for segregating its high-end single-family homes, office parks and shopping centers. Results from Imagine Cary meetings held in July revealed that a majority of Cary residents want more housing options near commercial centers and more office spaces near mixed-use centers.

Last week, as Imagine Cary planners did in July, participants were asked to place stickers on maps and posterboards.

Town staff has yet to analyze the comments from last week’s meetings. But several residents who attended emphasized the need for a more walkable community.

Kuchta, for example, moved from downtown Raleigh to downtown Cary six years ago after hearing about the town’s plans to revitalize the area.

In downtown, Cary leaders have invested millions in the Cary Arts Center, The Cary theater and renovations to the Jones House – now home to a popular cafè. Kuchta, a 36-year-old Czech Republic native, said he and his wife want the town to aggressively build or pursue more mixed-use centers within walking distance of his home on Shirley Drive.

“I don’t want to get too old before everything happens,” Kuchta said, standing over a giant map of downtown Cary.

Lynch, standing in front of a transportation poster on the other side of the room, was thinking about the rising number of Cary seniors.

Baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – are the fastest-growing segment of Cary’s population, according to a staff report released earlier this year. Residents over the age of 65 made up 12 percent of Cary’s population in 2000. By 2011, that number had grown to 22 percent.

A posterboard asked residents whether the town should encourage walking, driving, cycling or busing options in the coming years. Lynch, a member of Cary’s greenways committee, said the elderly would benefit most from expanded bus services.

“I’d like to see more routes and more frequency,” she said. “With the aging population, they’re not as likely to be jogging or cycling.”

But those buses won’t be going anywhere unless the town unclogs its roads, said Sweeney, a northwest Cary resident.

Another posterboard asked residents to pick their preferred traffic design for major roads: four lanes with a median, five lanes with a center turn lane, or five lanes with a median. Residents in a 2008 survey told Cary planners that they prefer four-lane roads that have medians.

The rapid growth calls for more five- and six-lane roads, Sweeney said.

“Travel time is most important,” she said.

Imagine Cary plans to analyze the comments before presenting a synopsis to the Town Council sometime this winter. The group will then work with the council to create policies for the Cary Community Plan, which the town hopes to adopt in spring 2016.