Cary approves TIF district for Route 14, downtown

Village hopes district’s 23-year lifespan will bring economic growth to the downtown area

Traffic streams through the intersection of Route 14 and West Main Street in Cary on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. The village of Cary is considering a new tax increment financing district in its downtown corridor to help spur new development in the oldest part of its town.

Now that the Cary Village Board has approved a special tax district for its downtown, not much will happen until developers approach the village with proposals, the village administrator said Thursday.

Although the village cannot outright choose what will be developed, they will review every proposal that is presented in the tax increment financing district over its 23-year duration, Cary Village Administrator Erik Morimoto said.

Some TIF funds will go to a facade improvement and interior buildout program, which will give grants to downtown businesses to improve buildings with renovations and other upgrades, Morimoto said.

A TIF district is a financial tool that allows villages to earmark certain property taxes for development in a specific area, including through incentive packages for developers or for new infrastructure or public amenities within the area.

The purpose of the TIF district is to “enhance and expand downtown Cary as a vital economic asset, residential area and community destination,” according to village documents.

The TIF district largely consists of downtown Cary along Route 14 and was passed by the board with three 5-1 votes earlier this month.

One of the central concerns raised by residents at that meeting was that the village would seize land or residents would be forced to sell.

Village trustees stressed that there is no intention of pursuing eminent domain during the TIF period. Trustee Ellen McAlpine said she was disappointed to hear all of the misinformation surrounding the TIF proposal.

“I don’t know what else we can say other than that is not the intention of this board,” McAlpine said. “I don’t know what else we can do to convince them that this is not what the goal is of any of this.”

Trustee Rick Walrath said they do not want to seize any land, but cannot promise what future boards will do. He urged residents to read the TIF plan to clear up any misconceptions.

“Nowhere does it say we want high-rises, nowhere does it say we want people to leave, nowhere does it say we don’t want baseball and softball fields,” he said.

Cary School District 26 has expressed opposition to the plan in previous meetings. District 26 Superintendent Brandon White said the district could potentially lose an estimated $8 million in future tax revenue.

“Even if it’s half of that, that’s still impacting the education that we’re able to provide our students, and especially if enrollment increased,” White said at a hearing last month.

Since the TIF district passed, the village has been in talks with District 26, Morimoto said.

White could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Also opposing the TIF district was the Cary-Grove Youth Baseball and Softball. A proposed road extension project could take away baseball fields on the former Maplewood Elementary School property. The group also is fighting to keep baseball fields that would be removed with the construction of a new District 26 transportation center in the same area.

Trustee Rick Dudek said the village should help the organization find a new home so it can continue to provide its services to kids in Cary.

“If it takes the village to prompt that type of partnership, then so be it,” Dudek said. “If it takes the village to financially assist Cary Youth Baseball in the renting of fields at the park district, then we should look at that, too.”

The ultimate goal is to economically grow Cary to avoid increasing taxes to the residents as inflation continues in the future, Walrath said.

“Reduce the tax burden on our residents,” Walrath said. “That’s what economic growth does.”