Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is an "area plan"?
The landmark, town-wide Land Use Plan that was adopted by the Cary Town Council in November 1996 identified several areas of Cary that required detailed, highly-specific master plans, termed "area plans." These areas included the Crossroads Plaza/Walnut Street area, downtown Cary, and northwest Cary, around the future intersection of NC55 and the Outer Wake Expressway (I-540). At Council direction, Town planning staff first developed a special area plan for the Crossroads area, termed the Southeast Gateway Area Plan, which was completed and adopted in 1998. Work on downtown's Town Center Area Plan commenced after that.
2. What are the basic goals of the Town Center Area Plan (TCAP)?
As the long-range master plan for downtown Cary and its neighborhoods, the Town Center Area Plan is being developed to ensure that this very important part of Cary remains vital, attractive, and inviting for years to come. The Plan includes recommendations for future land uses, development and redevelopment, housing, and parks and greenways. The Plan has been developed around a set of "Guiding Principles" that were developed based on broad-based community input garnered at an open house for the downtown area in December 1998, at which about 200 downtown residents and business people shared their long-term vision for the downtown area. These Guiding Principles include:
- Encourage a diverse mix of business, office, institutional, recreational, open space and residential uses in a pedestrian-friendly environment within walking distance of the regional transit station, and at sufficient densities to support the station and downtown businesses.
- Develop a multi-modal transportation system (i.e., automobile, pedestrian, bicycle, transit) which promotes the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. Avoid having roads wider than 2 or 3 lanes in the downtown core, south of the Norfolk-Southern and CSX railroad tracks.
- Provide convenient and adequate parking, with minimal visual impacts.
- Preserve downtown's small-town charm as a key design element for future development, especially south of the CSX railroad tracks.
- Ensure adequate utilities and services.
- Establish the downtown as a unique, attractive, and memorable "magnet" destination for Cary residents, and as the cultural center for Cary.
- Provide sufficient parks and open space, and pedestrian and greenway links that connect the Town Center to other areas of Cary.
3. Why has the Town chosen to focus attention on this section of Cary?
A master plan for downtown Cary is needed at this point in order to address pressing traffic concerns, and to plan now for future development and redevelopment that may be spurred by the planned downtown Cary station of the Triangle Transit Authority's Regional Commuter Rail System, linking Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Research Triangle Park, and Durham. Commuter rail service is expected to begin in 2007.
4. When did the TCAP process begin and when should it end?
The process began in December 1998 with a community kick-off meeting for which invitations were sent to over 2,000 downtown residents and business and property owners. Over 200 people attended the kick-off meeting to share their goals and vision for the future development of the downtown area. Following community open houses on the draft Plan in late October and early November 2000, Town staff finalized the Plan and submitted it to Town Council for a public hearing on June 28. The Town Council adopted the Plan on Aug. 9, 2001.
5. What will happen once the Plan is complete? Will the Town Council take some sort of action?
Now that it has been adopted, the Plan has become the official vision for future downtown development. The plan includes steps to implement the vision, and these implementation steps may take a number of years. These steps include the development of new zoning districts for the downtown, the development of detailed urban design and signage guidelines, and the development of a detailed implementation plan for downtown public infrastructure investments. It is important to note, however, that while the Town Center Area Plan reflects official Town policy, it is not the same thing as zoning or an ordinance, and it does not carry the force of law. Rather, the Plan will be used to guide the Town's evaluations of requests for future development, to guide public investments in infrastructure, and to help guide private investment into the downtown.
6. I own residential property downtown in the TCAP area. How will TCAP affect my ability to sell my property?
TCAP will have no effect on your ability to sell your property.
7. I own commercial property downtown in the TCAP area. How will TCAP affect my ability to sell my property?
TCAP will have no effect on your ability to sell your property.
8. How will TCAP affect my ability to develop my property?
It will have no direct effect. While the Town Center Area Plan will be an official Town policy document, it is neither zoning nor an ordinance. It does not stop anyone from developing property under the current zoning and development ordinances. However, future site plans, subdivision plans, and rezoning will be evaluated by Town staff, the Planning and Zoning Board, and Town Council in terms of how well the proposals conform with the recommendations of the Plan.
9. Downtown areas all over the country have died. What will TCAP do to ensure that Cary keeps a vital downtown?
Fortunately, Cary continues to have a vital downtown -- all businesses and buildings are fully occupied and the private market is already spurring new downtown development. Nevertheless, the Town Center Area Plan has focused on providing market-sensible recommendations - recommendations that are feasible and reasonable in the current and future development market. Cary has retained the services of the Chesapeake Group, an economic development and planning consulting group from Baltimore, Maryland, to produce a market study for the downtown to ensure that the land use recommendations in the Town Center Area Plan are based on sound market research.
10. What kind of input have "regular citizens" had in the TCAP process?
Town Planning staff began the process with a community kick-off meeting in December 1998 after inviting more than 2,000 downtown residents and business and property owners. More than 200 people attended to share their goals and vision for the future of the downtown area. At that meeting, planners let citizens know that the Town would form a Citizen Advisory Committee to assist. From the pool of applicants, the Town Council appointed a 12-member Citizen Advisory Committee in spring 1999 to represent both downtown neighborhood and business interests and to work collaboratively with Town staff to develop the Town Center Area Plan.
The committee and staff began collaborating in April 1999, meeting monthly for eight months to develop the draft plan. All the committee meetings were informal and open to the public, advertised in The Cary News and on the Town's official Web site. In March 2000, the Town hosted three neighborhood meetings for three areas of the downtown that deserved close citizen scrutiny: the Johnson Street neighborhood, the West Chapel Hill Road neighborhood, and the West/Wood/Holloway/Dixon Street neighborhood. In fall 2000, the Town held two community open houses on the plan, having sent invitations to more than 2,700 homes and businesses downtown. Throughout the process, staff has met one-on-one with interested citizens and property owners who have requested information or had concerns. Information on the planning effort has also been on continuous display on the Town Web site and in the lobby of the Planning Division.
11. Will TCAP raise our taxes?
12. Will TCAP improve traffic congestion downtown?
Yes. TCAP contains transportation recommendations aimed at improving the flow of traffic in downtown. However, it is not the intent to totally eliminate traffic congestion south of the railroad tracks in the core of the downtown. Some degree of congestion will be unavoidable if future redevelopment is to be attracted to the downtown, even with roadway improvements.
13. How long will it take to complete the development envisioned in TCAP?
TCAP is a long- range land use and transportation plan. Completion could take 20 to 30 years. Changes should start to be seen in the next two to five years.