Nels Roseland | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Nels Roseland 

Candidate for Cary Council District B

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Nels Roseland
Full legal name, if different: NA
Date of birth: 1/9/66
Home address: 310 Evans Estates Drive, Cary NC 27513
Mailing address, if different from home: NA
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Deputy Chief of Staff, NC Attorney General’s Office
Home phone: 919.469.3247
Work phone:
Cell phone:

1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Cary? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

  1. Growth Management – First and foremost we need to make sure adequate roads, schools and water are in place when we approve new development. Since 2000, Cary has executed the most aggressive municipal road expansion and congestion relief plan of any city in North Carolina. We can not rest on our laurels and must keep ahead of the growth curve. Over the last eight years, Cary has invested over $240 million in road, parks, water and sewer and related infrastructure to stay ahead of the growth curve.

  2. Environmental Preservation – As chief architect of Cary’s open space land acquisition efforts, we have achieved a lot, yet we must do more.

  3. Public Safety – I was proud to take the lead to establish a Computer Crimes unit in our police department to catch identity thieves, white collar crooks and online child predators. Our police department must be provided the patrol, investigative and forensic resources they need to ensure Cary remains the safest city in North Carolina to raise a family and operate a business.

  4. Taxpayer Protection – Having worked in the public finance arena for over 15 years, I know how to address critical public needs while reducing waste and keeping taxes low. Cary has not raised property taxes in Cary over the past seven years.

2) What is your philosophy regarding the pace of growth in Cary? Has it been too fast, about the right pace, or has growth been encumbered?

The current rate of growth in Cary is about right, yet will likely cool off because of national economic trends. Being sandwiched between two major employment centers, Cary will experience continued growth pressures. It is important that we proactively plan for growth and not simply react to growth. Cary has done a solid job in planning for growth yet there is always room for improvement. There are some trends in land use changes that the council needs to address that involve a significant increase in high density apartment proposals on land long held for office or clean industrial purposes.

3) Please reflect on the recent developments approved by council at the intersection of Davis Drive and High House Road and explain whether you believe those development plans, and the process by which they were negotiated and approved, represent healthy growth for Cary.

I proudly voted for both of these rezoning proposals. Three to four story true vertical mixed use buildings in the geographic center of Cary is a reasonable land use. While different from the nearby large lot single family Preston area neighborhoods, a little diversity in Cary is not a bad thing. Extensive transition buffers, $4.6 million of developer financed on site and OFF SITE road improvements to address traffic impacts, stormwater standards that exceed Cary minimum standards by 5,000 percent are just a few conditions that were agreed that will ensure that this will be a high quality development. The process was difficult, yet the final proposals were scaled down significantly from the original proposals. The final recommendations of nearby neighbors to maintain the base zoning of R40 (1 acre lots per single family house) was not a realistic recommendation.

4) How can the Town of Cary best ensure that infrastructure needs keep pace with growth? Please cite specific examples of policies or actions that the Town Council might undertake, or has undertaken, that you believe are effective or ineffective.

Cary has done a solid job in growth planning yet there is always room for improvement. Over the last eight years, Cary has invested over $240 million in road, parks, water and sewer and related infrastructure to stay ahead of the growth curve. Cary as an organization must continue to operate the third biggest road building program in NC trailing only the State DOT and the City of Charlotte. We also need to continue our overhaul of our transportation plan to include fixed commuter bus lanes that connect to RTP and finish deploying a fully connected 60 mile greenway system. As chief architect and advocate of Cary’s open space land acquisition efforts, we have achieved a lot, yet we must do more.

Cary should also maintain an impact fee structure that is the highest of any city in North Carolina. This will further the goal of having growth pay for itself. We do need to periodically evaluate exactly how much a Cary “premium” should exceed neighboring jurisdictions and whether negative consequences are taking place because of these price disparities. Do Cary residents have to drive longer distances to access essential services because of impact fee price point differences (ex. $100,000 Cary Medical office fee, vs. $41,000 Raleigh medical office fee)? Is Cary encouraging sprawl, because affordable housing developers find it is cheaper to build in Holly Springs, rather than Cary?

5) Would you support Wake County’s Commissioners if they chose to put a land transfer-tax referendum on the ballot? Why or why not?

I personally do not like new taxes. However, the alternative of doubling our property tax bills to address future school needs is a much more toxic pill to swallow. Wake County voters deserve a vote on this measure and I would support the County Commission if they recommended a land transfer tax referendum.

6) What sort of relationship do you think the Town of Cary should have with the Wake County school system? Do you believe that, in the future, western Wake County municipalities should form their own school system, either by a formal breakaway or through the creation of a sub-district? In general, what can town leadership do to improve or strengthen the education system for Cary’s public school students?

From an infrastructure management perspective, Cary’s biggest challenge is ensuring adequate public school seats are available to support new development. Common sense proactive planning and coordination with the public school system can help address the school crisis. I did vote against the 2004 elimination of Cary’s innovative adequate school capacity ordinance. This common sense law required that developers ensure enough school seats are in place before new developments are approved. While not perfect, we need to fix and reinstate school planning ordinances and related school system partnerships to address the school crisis. The Town Council has also aggressively initiated an effort to purchase and acquire land for future school sites, hold them in reserve until the school system is ready to build needed schools. By land banking Cary can support schools coming online quicker while saving tax dollars (land is not getting any cheaper if we wait for the School System to acquire it). Unlike other wake County municipal leaders, I oppose School Board lawsuits that only benefit lawyers at the expense of our children. I am also opposed to forming separate Cary only school systems. This would only create new bureaucracies, cost taxpayers more, delay construction of new schools and create unneeded racial divides in Wake County .

7) Do you believe the Town of Cary has done a good job in recent years of involving citizens in the public process with regards to growth, education and other issues of interest? What, if anything, would you change about the way public input is incorporated into the town government’s decision making?

Yes, Cary’s public participation process far exceeds the minimum standards required by state law. Cary has also initiated an online public feedback forum to gather citizen perspectives on new rezoning and related land use change proposals. We need to modify the bi-weekly agenda to schedule public speaks out agenda portion to the beginning of the agenda. That way if interested citizens wanted to voice their thoughts on something important to them, they do not have to wait late into the night for other agenda items.

8) Are you concerned about the long-term water quality of Jordan Lake, Cary’s primary source of drinking water? If so, what measures would you take to preserve or improve it?

I fully support the state Division of Water Quality draft rules to limit nitrogen loading and related measures to protect Jordan Lake. I would also keep pressing Chatham County to work with Cary on a Joint Land Use Plan that has a primary objective of improving water quality. The joint plan should have explicit prohibitions on small package sewer plants, spray fields and related technologies that can threaten water quality. Cary can also expand its professional staff in our engineering department to inspect BMPs stormwater retention ponds and related facilities to ensure they are properly maintained and land owners are not over fertilizing their land. Cary already promotes low impact design (LID) practices in southwestern part of Cary nearest Jordan Lake which can be further strengthened to minimize impervious surface construction and negative water quality impacts.

9) What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.

Over the last eight years, I have been a strong advocate for land preservation, neighborhood improvement and public safety. Notable accomplishments include:

  • Cary Open Space - In 2000, kick starting Cary’s open space land acquisition program was a personal initiative that has yielded significant land preservation results.

  • Computer Crimes Unit - Earlier this year, I noticed a disturbing trend in computer crimes, identity theft and related reports. I took the lead in developing Cary’s first computer crimes unit focused on catching internet child predators, sex offenders, identity thieves and white collar criminals. Cary now has a well equipped computer crimes team dedicated to catching these online crooks and child predators.

  • New Healthy Neighborhoods Program - In 2003, I took the lead to start up Cary’s healthy neighborhoods program. This provides over $2 million in funding to restore older downtown properties and matching grants which have improved over 16 established Cary neighborhoods. To date, over 75 older downtown properties, owned by seniors and first time homeowners, have been restored and fixed up. This effort also includes tougher rules and new financial penalties to crack down on absentee landlords and fix blighted properties.

10) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am a centrist Democrat and a pro business environmentalist. I was the catalyst behind new environmental and neighborhood improvement efforts. At the same time, I have also gained a healthy respect and admiration for property rights and the entrepreneurial spirit that is engrained in Cary and the Triangle.

11) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

Last week, at the Cary Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, I was the only District B candidate willing to oppose a new $97.6 million downtown Cary Performing Arts Center. While this proposal enjoys strong support from the business community and cultural elite, it would require a $225 annual increase in property taxes for the average Cary homeowner. Cary residents can easily access similar dance, theatre and art venues in Raleigh and nearby triangle cities.

12) The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

The more open minded centrist democrats elected to the Cary Town Council, the more likely support you will find for your cause and mission.

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