We need YOU!

It’s that time of the year in Cary again.  Time for us at the Town to ask YOU for your knowledge, experience, guidance and passion to continue to keep Cary as an amazing place to live, work and play. Yes, it’s that time when we accept applications for you to participate on one of our seven volunteer boards, committees and commissions.

Why Volunteer?

P&ZThese boards are an incredibly valuable resource for the Town. And, as a council member, I have personally found great value in the recommendations provided by our citizen volunteers.  From feedback received from the Planning and Zoning Board, to the incredible report put out by the Environmental Advisory Board’s Shale Gas Task Force, and also input from folks on the Public Arts Board and Parks and Rec. They are all key to what makes Cary such a great place to live.

But, it’s not just about your feedback – it’s about getting involved and truly making a difference. If you have a passion around any of these areas, please apply. Not only will you get an opportunity to help the town by providing your insights and thoughts, but also you will meet like-minded folks, interested in these topics and maybe even have FUN!

And, volunteering is good for you.  More and more research shows that volunteering improves your health, happiness and well-being among those folks who do it.

volunteerawardspic

Details, I Need details

Each of the board and commissions are unique in size, meeting schedule, and their specific functions. Some of the boards also have subcommittees, such as the “Greenway Committee” as part of the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Advisory Board, that you may also want to investigate.

Environmental Advisory Board

Information Services Advisory Board

Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Advisory Board

Public Art Advisory Board

Planning and Zoning Board

Zoning Board of Adjustment

Economic Development Committee

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time does it take?
It depends on the board and commission. Some of them have monthly meetings of just an hour or two, with some pre-work required (reading or research), others can require more time and effort, perhaps a visit to a potential development location, etc.

Do I need any special skills?
Nope. What we need is your passion, experience, knowledge and love of Cary.

What opportunities are available for teens?
Teen-CouncilAhhh, that’s a great question. We have an organization that is specifically geared for teens – the Cary Teen Council. It is a volunteer organization made up of teens from a variety of schools in Cary and surrounding areas! The mission of the Cary Teen Council is to empower teens with the core values of leadership, accountability, and a heart for service. They provide volunteer and leadership opportunities, establish high standards for behavior, and promote teens to effectively communicate while managing their time and volunteer profiles.  We even have some teens from the Teen Council serving on our regular boards and commissions!

Teens participating in this organization have the opportunity to get involved in programs and events that focus on social/recreational, community awareness/service, educational, leadership/teamwork and 
fundraising/recruitment.  This last year we had more than 730+ teens participating!

Teen Council Presidential Award Winners

Teen Council Presidential Award Winners

Membership applications for rising 6th-11th graders are being accepted NOW through the end of June. For more information call Korey Sullivan at (919) 460-4965 or e-mail him at korey.sullivan@townofcary.org

How to Apply

Just go online and apply. Applications will be accepted through close of business on June 30, 2014. You can apply from your desktop/laptop or your Mobile device.

volunteer application

I look forward to seeing your application, and thanks for helping to keep Cary great!

 

What’s going in over there?

dev-mapp-1Have you ever driven by one of these signs and thought – “Hey, I wonder what’s planned for that property?”

Well, you guessed it, THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT! And it uses Open Data.

code-for-caryThanks to the great work done by the new Cary Code for America Brigade (read more about them at the CaryCitizen), you can now get quick access to development information around Cary by using your smart phone or your computer. This impressive project does a great job at illustrating the value that Open Data can provide to citizens, by giving you the power to see what development is occurring close to home, or work, or in your community.

 

devmapp-logo

 

 

DevMapp is a very cool application that maps development in Cary – by mashing a Google Map along with permit and rezoning data provided by the Town.

What does that really mean to you? Well, with this application you can look at its map (the app will locate where you are if you give it permission to do so) and then you can visually see where development is being planned across the town. Just “click” on those properties that are highlighted and then you can dive down and review the plans associated with that property, see the rezoning applications, etc.

A Walkthrough

Ok, let’s pick an example to walk through.  I’ve picked  one close to where I live. (Why not?) Going to the DevMapp application on my computer, and allowing it to see my location – the application shows me this map, below – after I zoom in a bit. Notice that so much of the new development is occurring on the western side of Cary. No surprise, right?  (I’ve addd the red circle to illustrate that point.)

Map of development around Cary

Map of development around Cary

Also notice that the colors of the properties on the map indicate the status of that property. That is, where there is active construction is occurring – is displayed in RED, and upcoming rezonings, in BLUE. (Note – it’s the BLUE projects that are  on the map, not the bodies of water.)

DevMapp

DevMapp

So, I click on the property at the corner of Davis & High House – close to my house. And, lo and behold, I see it’s the Bradford development. On that popup is a direct ink to the Town of Cary site and subdivision plans associated with this project. Woo hoo! Instant and easy access to what’s planned for that corner.

bradford-devmapp1

Now, let’s look at a Rezoning: This time, I’ll click on a “blue property” – this one is on High House Road. In this example, the rezoning pop-up is displayed, and also a hotlink to the Town of Cary Rezoning page. In this case, I see that the rezoning is in 2014, so I click on the 2014 rezoning page link. There, I see the information regarding this rezoning – such as the fact that it has a scheduled Public Hearing on June 26. And, finally, clicking on that link takes me directly to the Staff report for that property. Voilà!

rezoning-devmapp

How does it work?

The application takes the rezoning and permitting information about a particular property that is going through the review process or in construction, and uses that data provided by the Town and then marrying it with the Google Map geolocation information. Finally there is a bit of magic – or what we call programming,  by the team at the Code for Cary Brigade, to bring you this great application.

All of the information provided by the Town of Cary is Public Record and Open Data – and a great way to provide visibility of development in and around Cary in an easy-to-use app.  

Try it out

iphone-codeforcary-mapSo, now it’s your turn.  From your computer, if you are reading this from a PC or MAC, you can click HERE – or type in: http://www.codeforcary.org/dev.html

Or, from your smartphone – type in www.codeforcary.org in your browser, and you can check it out there.

By the way, be sure to do a shoutout to the team that did such a great job on this – either on Twitter – @CodeforCary.

Want to help out?

Get involved with the Code for Cary team. You can learn more and meet them at one of their Hack Nights.  You don’t have to be a programmer to help – lots of folks have great ideas and thoughts to improve the current application, or you may have ideas for new work to tackle.  All are welcome.

As always, thanks for listening and please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns.

________________________________

Featured photo created by me using the DevMapp application, and turning on Satellite Mode. :-)

 Updated 6/5/14 – Please note a few changes to this post:

1) Added the new DevMapp logo and Code for Cary logo

2) Note that the DevMapp application has since changed the color used for rezonings from BLUE to GREEN.  (Besides that, the function remains the same.)

3) Updated a few pictures because the CaryCitizen is too good at it and I stole their ideas. :-)

Build Your Own Street

I have been meaning to write about this really cool tool since I saw it at Code for America last year. It’s call StreetMix, and it unleashes the “inner urban planner” that is inside of you, just waiting to get out.

What is it?

StreetMix is an online interactive tool that allows anyone to build a street, section by section. It is designed to help folks create mock-ups of streets allowing them to see and engage with the design. Many citizens and governments have used this tool as a way to connect with their community about future road changes, and to gather feedback and comments.

streetmix-example

Why I like it

As a visual person, the thing that struck me about this was the way all of the technical details of a street can be translated into a picture, truly demonstrating to a citizen the way a street will “feel” based on proposed changes.

Also, because it’s so easy to use, anyone can play around with it, adding width to a sidewalk, moving bike lanes, or if you are so inclined, creating your own little “dream street.”

Streetmix Uses

There were a number of case studies presented at Code for America about the use of StreetMix with citizens and local governments. (You can also read more at their Blog.)   Read More…

Budgets and Verts

It happens every year about this time, our annual budgeting exercise. Time to discuss our next Fiscal Year (FY2015) budget that begins on July 1, 2014 and ends June 30, 2015.

Unlike the federal government, municipalities must balance our budget and go through a process by which we get public input and balance that with our current and upcoming needs, improvements, operating costs and capital expenditures. You can see what you all told us by reading the public input report.

 

I wrote a bit about the process last year, if you would like to read more

Priorities

This year, Town staff has utilized a new process called “Priority Based Budgeting.” This is a system that we used to ensure that our resources align with the priorities that Council sets for the Town. The process starts by defining the goals, then drills down into those goals, identifies the programs and services associated with accomplishing those goals, evaluating the programs, a peer review and finally allocating costs based on those priorities. Council and staff reviewed and finalized the goals at our Council Retreat in January.

Our Council priorities are:

  • Attractive Well Planned and Livable Community
  • Economic Vitality and Development
  • Effective Transportation and Mobility
  • Quality Cultural Recreational and Leisure Opportunities
  • Reliable, Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Safe Community
Overview of the Budget

Here is a quick overview of the items in the budget.

  • - No tax increase, and NO additional debt
  • - Limited revenue growth is projected in FY2015 due to the gains in taxable real estate (our main revenue source) being offset by losses in taxable public service property, personal property and vehicle. (More revenue growth is projected after FY2015)
  • - Remember, we paid a one –time $6M debt reduction payment in 2014, so there IS room for service expansion for FY2015.  (Meaning, if we NEED to borrow money, we COULD do so.)
  • - The General Fund Operating Budget is $137.3M – with is a 3.1% increase over FY2014
  • - The Utility Fund operating budget is $65M, a 4.8% increase over last year.
  • - The Capital Improvement budget at  $51.2M  (a 51% drop from last year)
  • - Utility rates will increase by 3.7% – a result of rate smoothing to pay for the Western Wake Water Treatment plan – $2.21 more per month for residents using 4,500 gallons of water.
  • - Construct over 5 miles of new water and sewer lines ($5.3 million)
  • - Additional 25.5 staff position – still keeping Cary at one of the LOWEST ratios of staff per 1,000 residents (8.2) among largest cities and towns in NC
  • - Improved public access to Town information is planned, through a website overhaul, public access to Geographical based data, and new workflow software that will allow council meeting videos to be indexed
  • Read More…

Win Some – Lose Some

I’ve often been asked, “What is the best part of being a Cary Town Councilmember?” Or, “What is it that you like about being on Council.”

It’s a hard question to answer. Not because there is little to “like” but rather, the contrary. There is so much I enjoy.

Overall though, I enjoy taking ideas I have to improve the town and bringing those ideas to fruition. Sometimes that means taking problems or issues, often brought up by citizens, and then finding various workable solutions. Or, taking suggestions from community leaders, advocates, or Town Staff, and finding new and innovative ways to implement them, all with the goal of improving our collective quality of life, and making the Town an EVEN better place to live.

There have been successes, for sure. (I’d like to think that the Technology Task Force is one of those, and I’ll write another blog post about that, this week.) But there have also been times where things haven’t gone as I had hoped. And, it wouldn’t be a “real life blog” if I overlooked those. So, here goes.

A Bike and Walkable Champion

About two years ago, I brought up the idea to council that we should be looking at ways to make our town more bike and pedestrian friendly.

1000milesAs an avid walker and cyclist, I see opportunities for improving our activities, ordinances, and vision when it comes to supporting folks that use our roads, sidewalks and greenways - not just for recreation, but for commuting as well. (I just hit my 1000 mile mark with my FitBit! Woo hoo!)

Council agreed that it was worth looking into and discussing, along with several other potential areas – such as Historic Preservation, our Senior Community, Persons with Disabilities, and a number of others.  We put them all to the side, to have a larger brainstorming session – with the goal of determining which areas we’d like to have more “citizen input.”

Fast Forward a Year

About a year later, October 2012, we had that brainstorming session, and sure enough, Pedestrian and Mobility issues bubbled up near the top.  I was glad to see that my fellow council members were looking for more citizen input, guidance and feedback.   I was hopeful.

Time to Share my Thoughts

Finally last week (more than two years after the original discussion), we had a work session on the potential of adding four new boards and commissions – a Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Council (BPAC), one for Historic Preservation, a Senior related board, and a committee for persons with disabilities.

I couldn’t wait any longer – so I made my pitch.

I had talked with cycling advocates, walkers and citizens about this idea.  I had reached out to the former head of the Durham BPAC and members of the Raleigh BPAC.  I consulted with folks that have worked with Cary staff on improving bicycle and pedestrian safety.  And I brought all that to the table.  Here’s what I said…

Why Does Cary Need a BPAC?

It’s a movement – and more and more of us are walking and riding.

There is a growing movement and population that like to to walk and bike – we should continue to find ways to make it safe to do so

  • Greenways are one of our “highest rated” and used resources in Cary
  • We need to do more to find ways to connect the Greenways, and get people to feel safe and comfortable walking and riding.
  • We need the expertise in the community to weigh in, additional advise from real users
  • Issues and concerns have been raised in the community about sidewalks that are missing on various sides of key roads
  • We need a holistic and COMPREHENSIVE review of Bicycle and Pedestrian access across all of Cary, not just NEW developments, or sidewalks.  That is, full integration of biking and walking into community transportation policies and practices
  • BPACs can review development plans and site plans which may have a significant impact on bike mobility and  transportation
  • BPACs can facilitate citizen participation with biking community

Cary is now a “bicycle friendly” area - but we can do so much more to engage citizens.

  • we could create safety programs for kids/seniors (as done in other BPACs)
  • Programs can directly attack the obesity issue: finding better ways to get kids to walk and bike to schools, safely
  • Studies show that children living near an extra-wide walking and biking trail were 3 times more likely to get vigorous exercise than kids in a similar low-income neighborhood with regular sidewalks. In other words: if you build it, they will walk, run, bike and skate-board
  • Education to the greater community – promoting bike and pedestrian education and safety initiatives – partnering with certified bike instructors, and law enforcement, and other interested groups in the community, and promote bike safety education on the “rules of the road” and “sharing the road” for motorist and bicyclists of all ages.

Outcomes from these Goals

The economic, environmental and community benefits of cycling and walking deserve our attention, and should be a vital part of our processes. Let’s face it,there are great reasons to do it – the reduction of air and noise pollution (enhancing our sustainability goals) , reducing our traffic congestion, helping to alleviate our vehicular parking demands – all while saving energy, using land and road space more efficiently, and in turn, saving our citizens money.    Read More…

Cary is named after, who?

The following comments were made by my esteemed At-Large Council colleague, Ed Yerha.  Ed has a phenomenal way of providing informative and entertaining bits of history – and at our last council meeting, he spoke of the man for who Cary is named – Samuel Fenton Cary.  He’s provided these comments to me to share, and I thought you all might enjoy the “history lesson.” I did.  (Thanks so much to Ed!)

A Brief History Lesson

This year – 2014 – marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of a man without whom Cary would not be Cary.  The 200th birthday of — no, not Jack Smith – but of Samuel Fenton Cary, the man for whom our town was named. 

Brick Homestead in Ohio

Brick Homestead in Ohio

Sam was born on Feb 18,1814  to a pioneer family on the outskirts of  Cincinnati, OH in a log cabin.  (Although it seems like everyone was born in a log cabin in those days,  it still makes for a good story.)  We’re told shortly after his birth his father built and moved the family to the finest brick home in the county.  Perhaps that’s where we get our preference for brick around here – we may have inherited it from the Carys.

Young Sam Cary

Young Sam Cary

Sam grew up in Cincinnati, went to college and law school and became known for his legal and oratorical skills and was appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court at the age of 26, an appointment he turned down.

He used his skills instead to work for the common man advocating strongly for the 8 hour work day and other labor laws.  During the Mexican War, he was bestowed the rank of general and served in various military and quasi–military roles.

He became Chief of Staff to 3 Ohio Governors and later served in Congress as an “Independent Republican” and was the only Republican in Congress to vote against the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, Raleigh’s native son.   Sam had an independent streak.

Read More…

Women’s History Month

Below are the comments I made in honor of International Women’s History month at our council meeting. (Starting at about 1:50.)

I strayed a bit from my prepared remarks, which are below.

March is International Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month – and it’s a great opportunity for us to recognize the incredible contributions that women of every race, class and ethnic background have made and continue to make, to our country and our town.

March 3rd marked 100 years since suffragists marched on Washington. It was 1946 was when Eliza Jane Pratt was the first female to represent North Carolina in the US Congress and in 2009 – Bev Perdue became the NC’s first female governor. We’ve made progress.

19th Amendment (National Archives)

19th Amendment (National Archives)

But, when the 19th Amendment came before the North Carolina legislature in August 1920, it wasn’t the first time we had considered allowing women to vote. In February 1897, J.L. Hyatt, a NC State Senator, introduced a bill for women’s suffrage. The bill died after it was referred to the committee on insane asylums.

Unfortunately, North Carolina didn’t have an active hand in the passage of this amendment. It seems like the folks in charge didn’t support women having the right to vote. In fact, NC didn’t ratify the 19th amendment until 1971, more than fifty years after it became law. (We tabled the bill in the state senate back in 1920) The only state to wait longer was Mississippi, which ratified it in 1984.

Here in the Town, we have women in all types of roles – our Town Clerk, and Town Attorney, our Police Chief, and of course, here at the council table, just to name a few. And, in fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the Town of Cary made history in NC – when we had a FEMALE MAJORITY on the Town Council, something not seen in any other Town in NC.

In Cary – about 21% of our town employees are women, and that compares to many of our respective cities, like Apex (20%), Charlotte, (24%), Winston-Salem (24%) …with a larger number of ours being in Leadership roles at the town… (about 24%) , compared to Apex (14%), Charlotte (19%), – and then there is Winston Salem (at a whopping 28%)  Read More…

Morrisville Parkway Update

Those of us that travel on the western side of Cary are seeing a lot of road work at intersections along Morrisville Parkway. And more are coming.

Morrisville Parkway Extension
From Town of Cary

From Town of Cary

Town of Cary staff and consultants have been working to get the planning and design in place for the completion of the final segment of Morrisville Parkway between NC55 and Green Level Church Road. The developments on both ends of that segment of road are helping to expedite the construction – and will have nearly half of the length completed by summer of 2014.

The developers along Morrisville Parkway at Fryar Gate will build another 1,000 feet of this area over the next 18 months, leaving only the connections to the existing NC 540 bridge. The last ½ mile segment at the interchange has cleared a number of major environmental hurdles before going to the Federal Highway Administration for final review and approval. Construction is targeted for mid to late 2015.

Morrisville Parkway Railroad Grade Separation Project
From Town of Morrisville

From Town of Morrisville

Starting in April, the Morrisville Parkway/NC Railroad Grade Separation Project near Park West is planned to begin, with a scheduled completion date for May 2017.

What’s Happening?

The grade separation project will eliminate the at-grade crossing that is currently on Morrisville Parkway, just past Crabtree Crossing Drive in the Morrisville/Cary area. This will be done by building a bridge over the Morrisville Parkway, separating the vehicular road traffic from the rail traffic, sending cars underneath the railroad tracks. The project is part of a larger project to “double track” portions of the NC Rail Road corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte.

Read More…

Geese in Cary

We receive a great number of complaints regarding the Geese that have come to call Cary their home.  In many locations, there are hundreds of them, often overwhelming and becoming a nuisance in certain parks and ponds, leaving their droppings, and in some cases, becoming aggressive when they are protecting their nests.

Their unique status

First off, the geese in our area are “Canada Geese.”  (Not “Canadian Geese” as we often hear.) Canada Geese are classified as migratory birds and are a protected species that are regulated through a complicated process involving the US Department of Agriculture, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Commission.

That is to say that Canada Geese are basically protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918 . This Act makes it illegal to harm or injure a goose and damage or move its eggs and nest, without a Federal permit. Not complying with the Federal Act can result in fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 and this also applies to an untrained dog’s actions.

What can be done to address this problem?

The Town has been dealing with geese at the Koka Booth Amphitheater and the WakeMed Soccer Park with varying levels of success.  We actually have an agreement with the US Department of Agriculture to help manage our goose population at those facilities.

As explained to me by our town staff, that under these regulations, management of the geese population requires a “depredation permit” which means there must be property damage before such a permit can be issued.  

Another consideration the Town must take into account is the fact that Cary is designated a bird sanctuary in our own ordinances which provide protection for wild birds. This does not mean that we would not take measures, where appropriate, to address any damage created by such birds but only that we must carefully weigh the pros and cons of such issues.

Until the federal government takes action and removes the protections that are established for these birds, the Town (and private property owners) is very limited on what we can do.

What can you do?
Photo by MyStuart

Photo by MyStuart

Don’t feed the Geese.  Feeding the geese just makes them want to stay, and they tend to congregate when food is easy to find.

Stay away from the nests – Geese tenaciously defend their nests and goslings. Pay attention to where you are, and if you are close to a nest –  you don’t want to provoke a defensive response by the female or male.

Harassment – scaring the geese can be used effectively, but there are some programs in place to ensure you do it safely, and humanely

As always, thanks for listening and please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns.

________________________________

Featured photo by e_monk

What I’ve learned about Google Fiber

There’s been a lot of excitement about Google Fiber coming to the Triangle – and I have to admit that I’m on that band wagon. I’ve received more than 100 separate emails from Cary citizens, excited about this possibility!

If you’d like to read more about our Cary position on this announcement, the Town has a FAQ on Google Fiber.  You can also check out the Open Letter to Cary Citizens from our Mayor.

Last week, I met with Google Fiber representatives about their plans for the Triangle, and to learn more.  They were in town to meet with the municipalities about the “check list” of items that will make it easier for them to decide if Google Fiber will go forward in this area.

Here is what I learned in that meeting.
  1. It’s not a contest.  From their perspective, all 34 cities on the list can potentially have Google Fiber, IF, and that is a big IF, they are able to make it through the process without hitting any big roadblocks.
  2. Google Fiber has the scalability and resources to do all 34 cities if all cities meet their criteria.
  3. That criteria is a lengthy list – but they have learned through this process elsewhere, that it makes a difference. They shared this list with all the municipalities.  There was great excitement and interest in the room by all.
  4. What’s on the list?  Things like – providing maps (of poles, conduit, utility lines), potentially streamlining a way to get permits for their junction boxes (2ft/3ft/3ft boxes needed for connectivity) – access to poles (through leasing arrangements, etc) to hang fiber, land ordinances that allow them to place these boxes in the right of way, etc.  Nothing out of the ordinary, it seems, right now.
  5. They have a process for folks to ‘sign up” for more information and status.  Click on “Check address” and sign up to be in the loop.
  6. It can take about 2 years once all of the intricacies are figured out. One year to lay fiber, another to get everyone connected.  (That’s their experience in Kansas City.)

Hopefully, all of this will go well, and we will have further (positive) updated status before this summer.  Keep your fingers crossed, and thanks to all the citizens that have written to Council with your questions and support!

________________________________
Featured photo by Bob Goyetche

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