Cary, NC Open Space and Historic Resources Plan

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Cary, NC, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Adopted on 8/23/01

Source File:


Think "open space" and perhaps you'll envision forests, meadows, fields, wetlands, floodplains and other areas that remain relatively undisturbed by people. Farmland is managed open space that helps preserve our rural heritage while contributing to the region's economy and quality of life. Open space protects our water supply, lessens flood hazards, promotes diversity of plants and wildlife, and preserves an interconnected system of natural and cultural resources.

Preservation of our finite natural resources has been a top priority for the Town of Cary. The Land Use Plan adopted in 1996 called for development of a "natural resources plan" to guide preservation of significant natural areas and historic sites. The Growth Management Plan that the Town Council adopted in January 2000 restated the importance of creating such a plan.

Preservation of finite natural resources is a top priority for the Town of Cary. In particular, open space protects our water supply, lessens flood hazards, promotes diversity of plants and wildlife, and preserves an interconnected system of natural resources.

In fiscal year 2002, the Town Council approved spending $11.2 million for open space preservation within Cary's planning jurisdiction - an unprecedented proposal for a local government in North Carolina. Beginning in fiscal year 2003, the council approved setting aside $1 million annually from utility rate revenues to support open space acquisition.

The Open Space and Historic Resources Plan was adopted on August 23, 2001. The Plan sets forth a program to identify, acquire, preserve and manage natural resources, historic sites, and other areas that are important to the citizens of Cary environmentally or culturally. Protecting historic rural landscapes and connecting open spaces to greenway trail corridors are other important goals. Through the plan, the Town will prioritize resources, establish long-term goals, and develop a thorough implementation plan.

The Open Space and Historic Resources Plan received awards in May and June 2002 from the NC Chapter of the American Planning Association and from Capital Area Preservation.

Community Involvement
The Town of Cary wants citizen input on open space preservation. It welcomes suggestions from homeowners associations, neighborhood groups, environmental organizations, preservation groups, and other conservation-related non-profit organizations. This feedback will be incorporated into the plan and help the Town Council decide on acquisition priorities.

The Town has begun implementing the Open Space and Historic Resources Plan. Town staff is evaluating significant resource properties identified in the plan and developing recommendations for preservation or acquisition. Decisions will be based on:

  • citizen input
  • ecological and historic significance
  • proximity to an existing or planned park or greenway corridor
  • threat of loss from development
  • cost and manageability of the land

Open space will be acquired through different means (see Preservation Toolbox). Some examples of acquisition methods include:

  • outright purchase by the Town of Cary
  • negotiation of a conservation easement or other agreement between the Town and the property owner
  • land dedication requirements, such as the Town's stream buffer rules
  • donation or bargain sale by property owners for federal and state tax incentives
  • cooperative arrangements with other governmental agencies