A new day may be dawning for Shaw Heights.
    A dawn that, for the residents of that community, follows a decades-long night of urban decay and neglect.
    At last week’s meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, the board unanimously agreed to follow the recommendations of the county’s planning staff and bring renewal and restoration to Shaw Heights in the form of a park, recreation facilities, sewer and water lines and other improvements to the oft-flooded area that depends on the vagaries of ancient septic tanks — plus a plan to relocate Shaw Road to help pump life back into the stagnant neighborhood.{mosimage}
    Several residents, including Joseph Tolley, who has lived inside the community for 48 years, said it’s about time someone did something before the old neighborhood becomes just another faceless subdivision inside the city limits of Fayetteville.
    “We need this sewer,” said Tolley. “I have been told we have been neglected because we have no tax base. You have got to help us get some sewer out there before the city takes it.”
    Tolley also said that requests for upgrades to the community, which is home to about 1,300 people, fell on deaf ears when past commissioners were asked to do something.
    “Twenty years ago none of us were sitting here,” objected Cumberland County Commissioners Chairman Breeden Blackwell. “But we understand your frustration.”
    The area addressed by the Shaw Heights Land Use Plan is on the edge of the Fayetteville city limits and is bordered by Fort Bragg on three sides. Shaw Heights contains about 340 acres and is a quilt of 100 individual properties — each parcel with an individual owner. Seventy-two percent of the parcels are residential, while 8 percent are commercial and 21 percent are unoccupied; 89 percent of the structures in Shaw Heights were built before 1969. According to statistics compiled by the county, the community is a predominantly lower-income neighborhood with an older population that is shrinking — from 1990 through 2000, Shaw Heights’ population decreased 42 percent and the total number of houses decreased 17 percent. More than half of the properties are rentals and 65 percent of the community’s residents are ages 20-64.
    In a survey conducted by the county, residents of Shaw Heights said these are some of the areas  they would like addressed:
•No more manufactured homes
•Attractive permanent housing
•County funded garbage collection
•A recreational park for children
•No old trailer parks or houses
•Improved lighting
•Litter free streets
•A community watch
    In one positive aside, it was pointed out that the crime rate has declined 87 percent in the community. However, Tolley gave a not quite so rosy rebuttal to that statistic.
    “The crime has gone down because there are 200 fewer families living there,” said Tolley.
    There is no time line set for implementing the changes, especially when it comes to needed sewer lines; in a catch-22 of sorts, the plan calls for the construction of sewer lines to upgrade the community — but sewer lines can’t be built until upgrades are made, because it’s not known how the upgrades will affect the layout of the properties. Caught in this same umbrella of uncertainty is the future of Shaw Road. The land use plan calls for straightening the road in order to compensate for an especially dangerous curve running through Shaw Heights. However, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has not funded the project, and it will not be considered for funding until after 2015.
    Sherry Osteen, who has lived on that dangerous curve for years, says she’s seen too many die there.
“Recently, I had one young fellow drive through that curve and tear down my retaining wall,” said Osteen. “If it hadn’t been for a tree, he would’ve come right into my bedroom with his car.”
    Osteen said she has asked for a signal light to be put there for years, but to no avail.
    “I know it was his fault, but nobody deserves to die,” said Osteen. “I’ve seen too many die there.”
    Blackwell said the county would look into immediately placing reflectors on the dangerous curve to warn drivers.

    In other action, the county also unanimously approved the demolition of the Town & Country Motel, which burned about a year ago. According to Cumberland County Inspector George Hatcher, the motel — located at 935 Hollywood Blvd. — would have required about $300,000 in repairs to make it suitable for human habitation.
    The motel’s owner, Manoj Patel, voluntarily agreed to the demolition, as she doesn’t have the money to restore the building.
    The first motion by the commissioners was to have the motel demolished in 60 days, but County Commissioner Vice Chair Jennette Council asked if it could be done sooner, since the property, located off Hwy. 301, is a “gateway” to Fayetteville.
    After Hatcher told the board he had a demolition crew ready to start “tomorrow,” the commissioners unanimously agreed to the demolition beginning within 15 days.

Tim Wilkins can be reached at tim@upandcomingweekly.com

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