TCC Coffee Chat with Town of Apex Summary

The Triangle Community Coalition had another successful Coffee Chat with the Town of Apex Elected Officials and Staff on February 17, 2016. 

Joining our members in an informal chat were elected officials:  Mayor Lance Olive, Councilor Denise Wilke and Councilor Bill Jensen, and from Town staff we had: Drew Havens, Interim Town Manager, Tim Donnelly, Interim Assistant Town Manager, Dianne Khin, Planning Director, Kent Jackson, Director of Engineering, Joanna Helms, Economic Development, Erica Sacco, Information Technology, John Brown, Parks & Rec., Randall Heath, EMS, Keith McGee, Fire Chief and John Letteney, Police Chief.

Jacob Rogers and David Lazzo’s Opening: Provide the Town of Apex with a better perspective of the Triangle Community Coalition's goal to be a proactive partner in growth and land use issues and to work with senior staff and elected officials to develop policies, regulations, and procedures to encourage economic development, produce predictable (yet flexible) outcomes for all stakeholders, and protect the community's interests.

The Town appreciated the TCC’s ability to offer objective facts and information in efforts to improve public policy debates and create effective working relationships between the business community and local government.  We had some great interaction with the TCC membership in attendance and had opportunity to talk about the following:

Mayor Lance Olive

·         Noted that Apex was named the #1 Place to Live

·         Is hoping to work with people and with the anticipated growth in the town.  Acknowledged that
only 10% of voters he’s spoken to are “no growth”, and that Apex isn’t about Stopping growth.  He wants to plan smart

·         Noted his technical background and ability to understand the dynamics of complicated issues surrounding growth and solutions that are beneficial to all parties

·         Noted where they were in the process to hire a new town manager.  The Council has identified a preferred search firm, however, at this time they have tabled the search until the budget process was completed.  Drew Havens will continue as the interim Town Manager for several more months

·         Would like to have a better understanding of Public Private Partnerships in the future by looking at both successful and failed projects

·         Explained to the TCC members that the development process is still sent to council and would consider small size subdivisions to be approved by staff (administrative approval) but still prefers to see master plans to assure consistency with the quality the council expects and to assure there aren’t any small details that the developer might be able to accommodate that otherwise might not be seen

·         Would like to see mixed use and greater density with residential over retail and a variety of structure type to attract diversity.  Suggested areas were intersections of main roads, Old US 1 and the future Veridea area off 540 Ext.  Cited the desire for density closer to the core of downtown

·         A re-design of Apex by using smart growth >less use of cars e.g. Grace Park, noting that horizontal mixed use is better than vertical

·         Commented on the differences between “affordable housing” and “affordable houses” noting the proposed townhomes and apartments off 540 (Beaver Creek) and North Hunter St/Rt 64 might offer more affordable or transition housing, citing smaller units

Councilor Jensen

·         Noted that they need to build up the business growth

·         Current Breakdown is 20/80 at this time

·         Noted the high tech business make enough money to live in Apex

·         Would like to attract business, through pre-planning or preparing through proving the planning, easement acquisitions and supporting infrastructure ahead of time

·         Noted that retail employees and lower income residents to not live in Apex, and that he would like to see more affordable units nearer schools, perhaps restrict to families near the schools, perhaps seek federal grants

·         Remarked that in the 2030 Land Use Plan, Apex plans to set aside parcels for schools

·         They would like infill and density as close to downtown within a 1 mile radius.

Councilor Denise Wilkie

·         Noted they are building up their parks

·         Apex schools have are cutting edge programs, citing The Academy of Information Technology and The Academy of Engineering.  Noted that schools bring revenue to a Town and she is supportive of that, and that the Town of Apex is providing a pipeline of great students

·         Expressed the need for affordable housing and for the need for first time homeowners

Drew Havens, Interim Town Manager

·         Noted that Town staff cannot readily afford to live in new Apex

·         Remarked about the DOT roads between developments and the traffic concerns which can hold up economic development

·         Town of Apex has put 100 million into public sewer and water

Tim Donnelly, Assistant Interim Town Manager

·         Traffic is a real concern, particularly how the Town is going to afford to upgrade and fix NCDOT

·         secondary roads

·         Traffic at intersections is a problem, goal is to figure out how to get work done and also not have traffic be a problem

·         New Hill water and sewer upgrades ($100MM) provides enough capacity for 80k in population increase, but the surrounding road network cannot handle that growth

Joanna Helms, Eco Devo

·         Regarding the correlation to being the #1 place to live, and the business demand – she commented that there were lots of projects in the pipeline that were vetted by the State (64) with as many as 84 inquiries

·         Apex also works with Wake County to help them target business

·         Working with companies like HQ to create an environment that would house flexible, affordable office space

·         Noted the difficulty that there is no industrial land in Apex shovel ready, and a lack of purchasable land

·         Companies looking to come to Apex are noted as having salary ranges comparable to apex’s average, $75k~$150k yr

John Brown, Parks and Rec

·         Apex was in the process of designing a new park on 92 acre track off Rt. 1

·         Still looking for raw land in the NW territory.

Diane Kihn, Planning

·         Re: School capacity: Apex will need to look outside the box for future projects.  They are looking for a high school site in the southern portion of Apex at this time

·         Says currently all site plans 4 lots and under can be administrative as currently proposed, but she would be open to having more projects be administrative.

·         Reminded our members about the upcoming workshop on February 23

Fire Chief McGee

·         Spoke about growth and the fire department input asking that the development community reach out to the planning department if a structure on a property is going to be demolished

·         Noted that parking on both sides of the street is an issue with FD access, but has been mostly able to be accommodated with recent developments

·         Stressed that 90-95% of their staff does not live in Apex due to housing costs

·         Noted the NW Territory has a need for fire station, fire calls to the White Oak basin will come from downtown

Police Chief Lettney

·         Remarked as Apex grows they will need to hire more staff

·         Of the 39,000 calls received last year, only 2,000 were crime related.  Town receives too many false alarms from faulty home alarms, and would strongly urge programs to train home builders and owners to use their alarms properly

·         Rate of complicated accidents is rising, and the trend is concerning to the police dept.  Apex is putting a strong effort together to patrol traffic more aggressively and work with traffic engineering and traffic calming to address the issues. 

·         Would like to see more traffic calming built into the new subdivision and developments for increased quality of life

·         Life the Fire Dept, the NW Territory is a long ways for calls, and there may be a need for joint station (like off Kelly/Apex BBQ road)

·         Stressed that 90-95% of their staff does not live in Apex due to housing costs

Randall Heath, EMS

·         90th percentile in the adequate response time for distress calls

·         Stressed that 90-95% of their staff does not live in Apex due to housing costs

The Town & TCC Questions/Comments

·         David Lazzo, TCC Chairman asked how the economic development drive to increase the business side of Apex will affect the housing market and will the employees afford to live in Apex?

·         Tom Beebe commented that Apex’s success will drive up the $$ on the housing market and will need a true Private Public Partnership (PPP) effort

·         Randy King observed that the parks and the schools need to keep up with the growth, and inquired about the possibility of combining the Master Plan and Construction Drawings process for consolidated review? 
Also, Randy inquired if Staff could see more development administratively without having Council see every master subdivision plan?

·         David Lazzo also remarked on the use of PPP and asked if the town would consider waiving fees to help make projects work

·         Ginger Ackiss asked the town where they would like to see development? Also, discussed the reality that vertical mixed use is not financeable with lenders, and is very difficult to make work.  Horizontal is far easier.

If you are interested in participating in future meetings with Town of Apex or future Coffee Chats, watch for notices or contact the TCC offices at 919 812-7785 or Charlene Logan at charlenel@tricc.org to reserve your spot!  These programs are a great way for you, as an exclusive benefit as a TCC member, to become active and help the TCC strengthen our relationships with local jurisdictions throughout the Triangle.