TCC Coffee Chat with the Town of Morrisville Summary

The Triangle Community Coalition  had another successful Coffee Chat with Town of Morrisville on Wednesday, April 5, 2017!

Joining our members in an informal chat were Mayor Mark Stohlman, Councilor Liz Johnson, Councilor T.J. Cawley, Councilor Steve Rao, Town Manager Martha Paige, Town Clerk Erin Hudson, Planning Director Courtney Tanner, Town Engineer Rich Cappola, Long Range Planning Manager Ben Howell and Community Relations Liaison Sarah Baker.

We provided the Town of Morrisville 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 of Morrisville 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 Stohlman: 

  • Town Center Plan will include a round-a-bout on Town Hall Drive, a new Wake County Library and future farmers market (to open in 2017).
  • Wake Tech Campus is going up near Perimeter Park near Bryan Industrial, and is the first of 5 phases.  After completion, will accommodate 10,000 students.
  • Biggest concerns by Morrisville residents are traffic and amenities:
  • Traffic - Morrisville Carpenter Road widening. Federal funding partnership through LAP program - 70% federal and 30% local. Will include both divided lanes and sidewalks.   Council put $ years ago for design and R/W dedication, and this enabled the LAP funding.
  • The McCrimmon Bypass - 1.5 mile loop that will ultimately connect Evans Road and Aviation Parkway.  This will open up 100's of acreage in mostly industrial and commercial land.  Airport Blvd to Aviation Parkway portion will be starting in fall 2017 and should alleviate traffic off HWY 54.  NCDOT has committed over $100MM over the next 10-15 years in Morrisville.
  • Two new parks in Morrisville – Church Street Park and North West Park.  Crabtree Creek Greenway will eventually connect Davis Drive and Evans Road and will connect to Cary Parkway on the other side of Evans.  The greenway will ultimately connect Morrisville to American Tobacco Trail.
  • Stadelmaier Property on Morrisville-Carpenter Road - 70 single-family units ready to go

Councilor Steve Rao:

  • A bill has been filed in the state legislature which would eliminate local municipalities’ ability to charge impact fees, potentially including Morrisville’s parks fee. 

Councilor Liz Johnson:

  •  Town has great confidence in the large projects.
  •  One thing that needs to be emphasized is the TOD project at McCrimmon Parkway and HWY 54.  McCrimmon will be grade-separated where it crosses over the railroad tracks.  This area offers a great opportunity for dense development due to the proposed commuter rail stop.
  • Town of Morrisville would like to see density (retail/residential) between McCrimmon Parkway and Church Street areas. Small area plan for this region in general terms is still valid.              

    Councilor Michael Schlink:
     
  • Over the last 4 to 5 years the Town has reached out to the Business Community and the Chamber. The Town will look to continue these relationships.
  •  New schools – Parkside Elementary School off Little Drive.  County is looking to find areas to build high and middle schools. Town Code doesn't allow K-12 in the airport overlay (perhaps Town should reconsider this?). Morrisville is the only town in Wake County without a middle or high school.
  • Besides the TOD, the Morrisville Outlet mall near Aviation Parkway is ripe for redevelopment.

Ben Howell, Long Range Planning Manager:

  •  Louis Stevens Dive will be connected from Morrisville to RTP in the next 2 years.
  •  Aviation Parkway will be widened from the railroad crossing at HWY 54 to I-40.  However, it will not be widened where it crosses the railroad tracks due to railroad restrictions.  There is a plan to potentially move the Aviation Parkway/HWY 54 intersection to the east out of the railroad right of way so that it could be widened.
  • Wake Transit Plan: sales tax started last Saturday.  Over the next 3~5 years there will be increased transit service.
  • Transit Oriented Development will allow the highest density.
  • Sidewalk projects will include Church Street, Cary Parkway and Airport Blvd. Airport Blvd funded by NCDOT.  Church Street (DOT) funded in 2 years to fill in gaps.
  • Transportation Plan (2009) version was updated and a new draft in the works to update the cross sections to match up to NCDOT sections which will be built.  Look for draft to be sent out for public input in the next 3 months.

Courtney Tanner, Planning Director:

  •  27,000 population current and grows 10,000 during business hours.
  •   Looking at comp plans that feed into the development regulation.
  •   8 of 10 residents drive to work alone.
  •   Only 8% of Morrisville residents stay in Morrisville to work.
  •   UDO Flexibility - need to add flexibility due to tough/challenging development sites.
  1. Working with consultant to allow flexibility, reuse and redevelopment becomes challenging to adhere to current UDO so this allows flexibility
  2. Going to council later this year
  3. Gives more predictable process
  4. Challenging land takes more staff and $$ resources to develop, so it adds to challenge.  Morrisville has seen this trend over the past few years.
  5.  Morrisville is a target for redevelopment - 1970's projects are ripe for redevelopment given the location
  • What is left for development in Morrisville?  
  1. McCrimmon Bypass opens 100's of acres (industrial/commercial).  There’s already interest in this project
  2. Wake Competition Center (showcase to generate interest)
  3. Single Family is tough; there aren’t any 50-acre tracts left.
     

Morrisville is a solid investment (Mayor Stohlman) – most are winning propositions.

Martha Paige, Town Manager:

  • We want to get some of the visions on the grounds that have been discussed for years.
  • Great focus on customer service.
  • Looking at development community as partners.
  • As the UDO has percolated, and settled in, the Town understands that it needs to be updated to allow more flexibility.

Rich Cappola, Town Engineer:

  • 1,000 total permits (not just new homes) in 2016; similar to 2015 numbers.  Start of 2017 is feeling the same as last year.
  • Permit process changes:
  1. Comments/submittal turned around in 10 business days.
  2. Permit applications where no plans are required, 48 hour turn around
  3. Hired two new building inspectors - multi-trade inspectors
  4. Permit cards are being customized to the project and will only include those inspections which need to be done, instead of a standard permit card listing all possible inspection.

Sara Baker, Community Relations:

  •  Invited TCC members to follow town on Twitter and Facebook.

Sara Gaskill, Morrisville Chamber of Commerce:

  • 2016 – 550 additional jobs in Morrisville.

Jacob Rogers:  Review of TCC Development Services Survey for Town of Morrisville

  • Results – Morrisville scored higher in just about every aspect.  Over the past 3 years, the improvement has been amazing.  Clearly the Town is focused on improving its development services customer experience.

Discussion:

  • Multifamily development concerns by council:
  1. There exist areas in the Town that are currently zoned for multifamily which could provide for 1,000s of units in the future.  
  2. Rezoning properties for that use in light of the existing inventory of property already zoned for multifamily is a tough sell. There was a specific reference to a recent request to rezone commercial/industrial property to multifamily which the Town denied.  
  3. Councilor Schlink would prefer owners over renters.  
  4. Jacob Rogers stated that Morrisville’s central location makes multifamily ideal, especially in light of the lack of developable raw land. 
  5. Town currently is about 50/50 rent/own ratio.  
  6. 27k people in Morrisville, 50k in Apex, 140k in Cary.  
  7. Councilor Rao - by the end of 2019, there will much better infrastructure.  As this improves, the traffic circumstances will abate themselves.  
  8. Councilor Rao suggested that the multifamily impact is more beneficial to the Town.  
  9. Town may have to bring in a consultant to educate on the impacts of multifamily.  
  10. Tom Anhut stated that, traditionally home ownership has been viewed as more beneficial to municipalities, as owners typically care for their properties to a higher level than renters.  However, land scarcity in Morrisville is pushing both home sales prices and rents up, resulting in higher end projects that are maintained at a high level.
  11. Jacob Rogers referenced a study that indicated that the Raleigh market is the #1 market with the greatest shortage of rental units.