One on Ones
In order to establish good working relationships with our town staff leaders, I began a series of one-on-one meetings with department heads. I’ve met with five so far, and I have to say it’s going great. We have excellent staff and I look forward to working with them all. It’ll take me another three weeks to finish, allowing time for the holidays.
William (Bill) Daniel hosted another neighborhood meeting to discuss possible rezoning request on the northern corner of US 64 and Davis Drive, where it intersects North Salem Street. It is expected that he will submit a request to the town staff in the next few weeks, which will eventually result in a public hearing in front of the Planning Board.
Planning for Growth
I met with a few builders, developers and the Government Affairs V.P. from the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County prior to the last town council meeting of the calendar year (and my first full meeting as mayor). They expressed concern over the Planning Committee’s conversation to study the three mixed-use nodes down Old US 1 South, which have not yet been studied in detail for economic possibilities. If these intersections are good commercial sites, then they will need to be identified as such on the Land Use Map.
Despite the rumors and the newspaper article using the “m” word, there is no moratorium, real or “de facto”, on residential development in Apex. There is no prohibition of residential development being proposed. If a project is submitted, it will be considered against the 2030 Land Use Plan as usual. With the proposal, planning staff would advise the applicant, Planning Board and/or Town Council as to whether the project is inside the study area or not. From there, the council can decide whether they wish to proceed or wait for the imminent results of the economic study. Should any applicant wish to proceed through the process, the town of Apex will be happy to follow all steps normally.
The primary reason this study is being pursued is that a vast majority of 2015 voters in Apex expressed their desire for local elected officials to prevent runaway residential growth (many chose to say “tap the brakes” or “implement smart growth”) and to actively work to shift the balance of the residential-to-commercial ratio lower (it’s currently around 81:19). Several hundred citizens told me this as I was campaigning throughout the year, in a dozen different neighborhoods. It seems prudent to perform a targeted due diligence study to allow local economic growth experts to advise us on whether those specific nodes have commercial potential or not. There is a balance that we can strike and I’d like to help our council find common ground so we can find the right solution to keep Apex the #1 Best Place to Live in America.
This all came up during our marathon town council meeting, which lasted six hours and thirty-six minutes (it ended at 1:36AM). As the topic was brought up for discussion during New Business, there was some concern expressed that it felt rushed (one council member said it was being “ramrodded”), and that landowners who had their properties under contract might be adversely affected. In order to provide assurances that neither of these perceptions were intended, the council agreed to send this back to the planning committee to develop a few more details.
Retirement and Replacement
Bruce Radford is retiring today as the town manager, so last week the staff had a nice send-off dinner for him, catered by Swan’s Barbecue (at Bruce’s Request). Former staff and elected officials made sentimental statements, wishing Bruce well. I did likewise, and presented him with his retirement clock.
Similarly, Assistant Town Manager, Drew Havens, has been named by the council as the Interim Town Manager. Tim Donnelly, is moving from Public Works to take the Interim Assistant Town Manager job, while David Hughes will fill Donnelly’s shoes.
The Personnel Committee will begin the process of identifying a search assistance firm who specializes in filling Town Manager roles. The committee generally feels that we, as the #1 Best Place to Live in America, can cast a wide net across the country to find cream-of-the-crop candidates. The process of finding a permanent town manager is expected to take 3-6 months.
Economic Development (E.D.)
Economic Development Director, Joanna Helms, and I went to an Economic Forecast presentation by Mark Vintner, Managing Director and Senior Economist at Wells Fargo. Councilman Moyer attended as well. The 2016 forecast looks slightly steadily positive. Locally, we can expect residential housing starts to increase and economic growth between 2 and 3 percent.
To round out the week, I donated blood in Rex bloodmobile in the Lowe’s Foods parking lot. It’s always a pleasure to give blood… it’s so personal, even though I never meet the recipients. But they say it’s the gift of life and that’s always a good thing.
I also held a Finance Committee meeting to review Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) progress, a document which helps us plan our 1 to 5 year spending. We’re looking good for pre-planning for next year’s budget. We’re likely going to have a prioritization workshop before our annual retreat in order to make sure we know what this new council will identify as its priorities.
I met with key leaders of Veridea, the 1,100+ acre future development that has been in the making for almost ten years in Apex. The land is located in the triangle formed by US 1, NC 55 and NC-540 (i.e. behind the Arby’s). There is a lot of land tied up there, and the pressure to develop it is great. As a potential E.D. engine for Apex, any proposals will be carefully scrutinized to ensure the mix is good and solidifies the future of Apex.
As I reflect on the past two weeks and look forward to the next two, I feel compelled to ask those of you who have managed to read this far, to take the time to think on the love that this season brings. Whether you just celebrated Chanukah, or are about to celebrate Christmas, our families are important. As a Christian, I dwell on the love that God has shown me and my family throughout the year. And how I want to share that with my family and friends out of gratitude to Him. What will you do this season?
God bless each and every one of you!