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Focus on Cary

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Overview

At the Town of Cary, we believe that an involved citizenry is the hallmark of a strong community and of an effective government. To this end, our organization adheres to an open systems model where two-way communication can result not only in changes to our citizens and the environment but also to our organization's structure, culture, and practices. As an open system, it is critical that our citizens have and take advantage of opportunities to give input and feedback in the decision making process. Current citizen participation vehicles include public meeting/hearings/input sessions, focus groups/sharettes, telephone calls, emails, and mail/telephone/Web surveys.

To ensure that these citizen participation vehicles are adequate and effective, it is incumbent upon the Town to conduct ongoing evaluation of them. One step in this process was to include a question on the Town of Cary's 2002 Biennial Citizen Satisfaction Survey, which asked respondents to rate their level of satisfaction with the opportunities we give them to participate in the decision-making process. On a scale of 1-9 with 9 being very satisfied, the mean score was 5.92, indicating that citizens were only slightly satisfied. If this were converted to a letter grade, the grade would be "D".

Based on this score and continuing requests from citizens to be heard, especially on planning issues, the Town Council approved the development and implementation of a comprehensive research effort to explore the current state and ways to improve citizen participation in the planning process.

February 2003

Focus on Cary 2003 research activities concluded in January. Results are being presented by staff and consultants to the Town Council during their annual retreat in February, where the council is expected to provide Town staff with direction on any changes to the current program of citizen involvement in the planning and development process.

Issues Explored and Measured

  • Knowledge, awareness, and opinion of current citizen participation opportunities in the planning process
  • Knowledge, awareness, and opinion of current development process
  • Opinion of problems or weaknesses in the current program of citizen participation in the planning process
  • Opinion of possible solutions to/improvements in citizen participation in the planning process
  • Relationship and impact of geography, timing, frequency, and other possible barriers to citizens' willingness and ability to participate in input activities in the planning process
  • Level of interest in having/likelihood of participating in input opportunities for specific planning activities including but not limited to site plan review, zoning/rezoning, appearance, buffers, easements, long range planning

Research Activities

The Town's evaluation will include a variety of research activities to help evaluate the current public involvement processes as well as possible changes to those processes.

Formal Research

  • A telephone survey of a representative sample of property owners that were affected by the planning and development process in the last year. The sample will be drawn from a database of all property owners that were mailed a letter from the Planning Department about a proposed planning or development action affecting them.
  • A telephone survey of a representative sample of developers/property owners that initiated a planning or development action in the last year

Informal Research

  • One focus group drawn from each of the two telephone survey respondent groups to further probe and explore issues from the surveys
  • A Web poll available to all Internet users. All Cary citizens will be sent a direct mail postcard inviting them to participate in the Web poll. Those without email will be invited to contact the Town to have a hard copy version of the Web poll mailed to them.

Contact

Susan Moran, APR - Public Information Officer
(919) 460.4951(voice)
(919) 460.4929 (fax)
PO Box 8005
Cary, NC 27512-8005

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