For the first time in 22 years, the Morrisville Town Council will hold its next meeting outside Town Hall in an effort to get more residents involved in local affairs -- and to hear their opinions about a controversial Main Street proposal.
And town leaders are expecting a large crowd to weigh in on wide-ranging issues, including transportation projects and ways the town can use technology to better connect with its residents.
“They ask us questions and put us on the spot, and we’ll have to answer,” Mayor Mark Stohlman said.
The meeting and an informal Q&A session will feature town officials and leaders of the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce and the RTP Foundation.
It’s scheduled Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hindu Society of North Carolina at 309 Aviation Parkway. A free dinner provided by local Indian chefs will follow.
Stohlman said he hopes a large crowd will attend to offer input to the council, particularly with the main street proposals.
The main street discussion has been controversial, with some board members strongly disagreeing on key points.
The town has bought about 10 acres behind Town Hall as a potential site where it could build a library, park and other amenities, such as a farmer’s market or recreation center.
But several developers and consultants have told town leaders that the area doesn’t have the kind of traffic flow that would support private retail and dining, which they say is the hallmark of traditional planned downtowns.
There is another area, along Morrisville Carpenter Road, that could draw retail and dining. But the town would have to spend even more time and money pursuing that route.
Some council members, including the mayor and Councilman Michael Schlink, have said developing the area wouldn’t guarantee that businesses would come.
Schlink said he worries that the town, attempting to play the role of a private developer, might be “trying to take that square peg and fit it into a round hole.”
At the board’s last meeting, Town Manager Martha Wheelock laid out a number of considerations and potential obstacles either proposal might face.
“There is no one right answer to this issue,” she said. “It’s the one that you agree on.”
Council TJ Cawley said he wants the plan to be ambitious to improve the quality of life. He said he also wants to fulfill the goal of creating a central gathering space and to avoid building a venue that might not draw as many visitors.
Stohlman has said he would like to make meaningful progress by the end of the year and cautioned that an overly ambitious plan might derail itself.
“We can have a great vision,” he said. “But if it’s not doable, it’s not a great vision.”