Transparency was the theme of Tuesday night’s Apex Town Council meeting.
Officials discussed potentially televising their meetings, in addition to the minutes and audio records they already release. They also agreed to hold a town hall-style meeting in early 2016 to let residents engage with their leaders.
But the debate about holding the town hall meeting quickly became political because it was initially proposed to be held before the November election.
The forum was ultimately approved unanimously, but only after an agreement that it wouldn’t be held until at least January, when the new board is sworn in.
Council member Bill Jensen, who is running for re-election, suggested the forum at the town’s previous meeting and brought it up again on Tuesday.
Council member Scott Lassiter, who is seeking re-election, and Denise Wilkie, who is running for mayor, voiced strong opposition to the idea at both meetings.
Jensen is the only council member still on the board from the last time Apex held a similar forum. Mayor Bill Sutton was the town manager then. He said he’ll “never forget” that meeting because it was a waste of time.
“I wasn’t too impressed with it,” Sutton said. “Most of it was just people who weren’t happy with something like kids playing basketball in their cul-de-sac, or their neighbors being loud.”
Both Wilkie and Lassiter said any future forum also could be a waste of time.
Wilkie looked out at Tuesday’s crowd of about 30 people and started naming individuals and the reasons they were there.
“People can already come here and speak to us every two weeks,” she said.
The Town Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Anyone is allowed to address the board, although officials aren’t required to reply. Twelve people spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
Wilkie and Lassiter said they imagined a public question-and-answer forum would devolve into complaining.
Jensen said that’s not a bad thing.
“A lot of times you learn more from your failures than your successes,” Jensen said. “You may learn more from someone who’s upset.”
Lassiter said he doesn’t expect they would receive constructive criticism, but instead would hear from those who aren’t properly informed about what the town is allowed to do, particularly regarding development.
Mayor Pro Tem Gene Schulze said that is why such a forum should be held.
“Apex is about to grow, and grow fast,” Schulze said. “And it’s going to be the biggest issue in the election. ... This is the perfect opportunity for us to educate people who might not be in the know.”
But Sutton, who doesn’t have a vote as mayor, said the forum should be put off until after November to avoid “the appearance of being an election gimmick.”
Jensen conceded. With the agreement to delay the forum until at least January, Wilkie and Lassiter also voted yes, giving it unanimous support.
▪ Apex residents will have the opportunity to hear candidates talk about growth and other issues before the election. The Apex Chamber of Commerce is holding a debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 13, at Town Hall. “It will be a moderated event,” said Lou Fortunato, who is organizing the debate. “It will be timed. It won’t be an open debate back and forth between the candidates.”
▪ The council unanimously denied adding a lot to the 110-lot Parkside at Bella Casa neighborhood, which already has been approved. The ground was originally thought to be too soft and steep to build on, but an engineer said it can be developed. Schulze and Lassiter originally supported the plan, thinking buyers would be warned.
“If somebody wants to buy a lot that they know is going to sink into the ground, more power to them,” Lassiter said. But after learning notification wouldn’t be required, the board reversed course and denied the request.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran