Local News

SAS Chief Threatens Development if Bonds Pass

Posted February 1, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— Cary residents approved on Tuesday a $62.6 million bond issue for sidewalk and street improvements as the president of the town's largest employer - and the mayor's boss - tried to derail their approval.

Jim Goodnight, president of SAS Institute, said Monday he would bombard a section of town with new development if the town uses money from the bond issue to extend Cary Parkway through land he owns.

Goodnight also said he would likely move from his home on the land.

Criticism by Goodnight, whose company manufactures computer software, overshadowed an otherwise routine referendum. More and more residents have expressed concerns about crowded roads, a shortage of parks and looming water problems.

Nearly 13,000 voters cast ballots on three other bond issues including $66.5 million to upgrade and expand the town's water treatment plant, $10 million for new parks and $10 million for an aquatic center.

Each bond issue, except the one for a new aquatic center, was approved.

The road bond was approved 7,566 to 5,196. The water bond was overwhelming approved 9,679 to 3,116, and the park bond was approved 8,785 to 3,977. The aquatic center bond failed 6,760 to 5,967.

Some people have expressed skepticism about the price of the aquatic center and how the Cary Parkway extension could hurt their neighborhoods.

If all items had passed, Cary residents could see a 5 cent increase in the property tax rate by the year 2007, although town leaders hope to avoid that. As for utility rates, they could go up an estimated 14 percent for the typical customer by 2004.

While Goodnight and others have campaigned against the bonds, town leaders worked hard to promote them. Town Council member Glen Lang posted a message on a World Wide Web site and members of the Chamber of Commerce pumped up volunteers to make calls and send e-mail.

``We need to cool down and watch the rhetoric,'' councilman Jess Ward said. ``Cooler heads will prevail.''

The Town of Cary spent an estimated $30,000 on an ``education'' campaign for the bonds. Last year, Raleigh spent only $2,000 for a similar campaign on a $50 million bond issue.

Goodnight's comments came in a one-page e-mail sent to SAS employees and The News & Observer of Raleigh.

He said extending the parkway from North Harrison Avenue to Trinity Road would cut through the entrance of Cary Academy, the private school Goodnight founded, and would likely not benefit Cary commuters because he thought they would rarely use the road.

If it is built, Goodnight wrote, he would plan to make use of the road by developing the 300 to 400 acres he owns that lie around it.

As for his moving, Goodnight wrote: ``Once the parkway is in, I will be developing most of the land I own and probably moving. I am not that attached to the place, I've lived there about long enough.''

Asked how he would feel if the road bond passes, Goodnight retorted: ``It doesn't matter. Either way, I'll win.''

Cary Mayor Koka Booth, who works for SAS, has repeatedly declined to comment on Goodnight's position.