The Cary Town Council voted 6-1 this evening to amend a portion of its official land-use map from residential to commercial, likely to allow for a Publix grocery store to be built directly adjacent to the Arlington Park subdivision in the northwestern part of the town.
Neighbors have opposed the comprehensive plan amendment
, but Council members assured them this evening that the applicant will be made to do a good job with shopping center, via gradual transition and a buffer, a shopping center that provides walk-ability and pedestrian amenities rather than "a big-box sea of asphalt shopping center," as one Council member put it.
City planners painted the area as being undeserved by commercial development and emphasized that the town's comprehensive plan is not a promise that needs to be held fast to, but rather a vision that could and will change at will.
"The "A" stands for amendment," said Mark Evangelista, the chair of Cary's Planning and Zoning Board. The board had voted in favor of the amendment 7-1 back in January. "Even the Constitution can be amended. That's what this process is for."
Council member Don Frantz said he believes that medium-density residential and/or commercial is a better option for the property in question than medium-density and/or high-density residential.
"I think this can be done in a way that respects and protects area residents, especially those adjacent to this site," he said. "I hope the applicant hears the concerns of the resident first and foremost, and those of the Council as well."
For its part, Publix, or rather the Florida property company that's pushing for it
, has already announced that it is definitely bringing a store to Amberly Village, paying no mind that rezoning the property still has to be approved by the Planning and Zoning Board and by the Town Council.
Council member Jack Smith said it was unfortunate that "outside interests got involved" with the proposal and "poisoned the well."
"It created an aura of distrust with the neighborhood that hadn't even reached out or worked with us yet and they're already hearing from outside agencies and entities and planting a lack of trust, like there's a secret plan," he said. "It's unfair those neighbors who had to listen to that BS, violating this and violating that like it's a treaty."
"I feel bad that we have a lot of good Cary citizens out there who have written to us and kind of think we are breaking a promise," Council member Ken George said. "The truth is the land-use plan has never been a promise. It is a vision, not a promise. It's not something that's static, not something that's set in stone. It's something that has to adapt to changes."
Jennifer Robinson, whose district covers the Amberly Village proposal area, was the lone dissenting vote.
"I empathize with the people who moved in here and looked at the land-use plan and made a decision to buy based on [that]," she says. "I know community feel is a huge deal to someone when they go and invest in a home believing that they are going to get one thing and then it gets changed. That's very hard for them to go with that change."
Though she couldn't be convinced that amending the town's comprehensive plan was a good idea, she could be, and was, outnumbered; the rest of the Council members had already done a good enough job of convincing themselves.