Cary News

Cary’s new growth plan to go before public this summer

Residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the future of their town, particularly in terms of future infill and redevelopment projects, when the Town of Cary presents its new draft community plan to the public this summer.

The Cary Town Council met Tuesday, April 26, and Saturday, April 30 to finish reviewing chapters drafted as part of Imagine Cary, which will guide growth through 2040.

Jeff Ulma, the town’s planning director, expects open houses, where residents could learn about and comment on the plan, to be in July or August. Comments also will be accepted online during that time.

At the open houses, staff will identify changes from the town’s current plan and explain their impact.

“We can identify what is the thrust of this plan and what are the major changes to where the town may be heading with this as opposed to what we already have,” Ulma said. “We can look for ways to tell the story about why it’s important or what may be changing or what’s going to be addressed more heavily in the future.”

Once the town receives feedback from residents, council members will meet in September to consider revisions to the plan. The adoption process is expected to begin in October, which will include public hearings, and the plan is expected to be adopted in January 2017.

Effects of growth

The Imagine Cary process began several years ago and has been time-consuming but increasingly important as Cary’s vacant land dwindles.

The town’s current land use plan was adopted in 1996 and is primarily designed to govern greenfield development, which occurs on undeveloped land.

But 20 years later, the town only has about 9,000 acres of vacant land remaining to develop, less than 17 percent of its total land area.

As a result, officials have seen an increase in infill and redevelopment project requests in recent years.

“(Redevelopment and infill) pops up kind of like whack-a-mole,” Ulma said. “It has come up in everything that we’ve done.”

But infill and redevelopment can present their own set of challenges that the current plan does not address.

For example, redeveloping can be much more costly than building on vacant land because of site constraints such as existing roadways and utilities.

The council hopes the new community plan and some associated town ordinance changes will encourage infill and redevelopment while not sacrificing design standards.

“If you had to give the “what’s new” and “where the town’s headed today” as opposed to the past, a strong focus and energy is going to be placed in the future on (infill and redevelopment) with new rules, regulations and guidelines,” Ulma said.

Plan discussions

At recent meetings, the new community plan didn’t generate much discussion among council members, who have reviewed many of its chapters at least once before.

One chapter the council reviewed included four focus corridors for future redevelopment: Chapel Hill Road, Kildaire Farm Road, Walnut Street and U.S. 64. Although these areas were highlighted, redevelopment could occur in other places throughout town in the future when appropriate.

The council also emphasized maintaining the town’s small-town feel, even as it becomes more dense over time.

In particular, some council members, including Jennifer Robinson, were concerned about a recommendation to change the two-lane Holly Springs Road into a six-lane road from the Cary town line to Tryon Road, instead of a four-lane road.

“We don’t want to create these communities where you have these super-wide roads,” Robinson said. “My overarching concern is we are going to build these six lanes, and those six lanes are going to be just as clogged as four lanes would be.”

But other council members didn’t think they had a choice but to make Holly Springs Road six lanes because of the increasing traffic that comes with area growth.

“I can’t go out on Holly Springs (Road) ever,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. “It’s gridlocked ... You’ve got to have relief there.”

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon