At the outset of 2008, the newly elected Fayetteville City Council signed the Fayetteville Forward Pledge. The idea behind the pledge was multifaceted. It was designed to establish a way for the city council to do business, but also to show city residents they were serious about tackling tough issues.
    During the first 100 days, the council tackled a number of issues and in doing so, changed the way many in the community looked at local government. Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne sees that change as one of many important changes that happened in the city over the course of 2008. Chavonne said that much of what was accomplished by the city during the year wasn’t high profile, but was important nonetheless.
    Chavonne explained that 2008 could be looked at as the “product development stage” for the city. “We know we have a lot of opportunities facing us, and in 2008, we did the things we had to do to get us ready for those opportunities,” he said.
    {mosimage}For Chavonne, many of the projects tackled by the city during this “product development stage” came from an article he read on a blog. “I carry this article in my wallet. It was written by a military spouse who had lived in Fayetteville, and was facing the opportunity of coming back. She wrote that she would never come back here until the city was a more attractive, more peaceful city. That really struck me. All the things we’ve done over this past year — implementing a recycling program, improving our transit system, tearing down 100 dilapidated buildings, raising development standards — have all been a part of the effort to improve the product ... What we are as a community.”
    Chavonne said it is important not to lose sight of the fact that these projects are not just window dressing designed to attract people to the community, but rather they are designed to make the city more attractive, cleaner and more peaceful for everyone who lives in the community.
    Some of the not so sexy but important projects tackled by the city in 2008 include the finalization of funding for the $215 sewer extension without a tax increase or PWC rate increase; the establishment of a municipal influence area to control growth and establish standards for it, which will keep the city from having to retrofit in the future.
    “We can’t just accept growth, we have to grow smarter,” he said. “By having these plans in place, we can grow smarter.”
    He noted that for more than 20 years Fayetteville could not annex, and development occurred in a haphazard manner, with subdivisions served by septic tanks and wells, no sidewalks or other urban standards. It is those areas of uncontrolled growth that are now causing problems for the city.
    He noted that the city has had its share of challenges over the year and expects many of them to flow into 2009. He said the biggest challenge is, and will continue to be, lack of resources to do what needs to be done, particularly as it relates to BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure.)
    “We are going to find it difficult to find money to build the schools and roads that we are going to need,” he said, pointing to the current fight for funding for the planned I-295 loop. “We can’t lose that funding, and we need millions in school construction.”
    He noted that key to the city’s success this past year, and in the future, is improved citizen participation in government. He noted that the task forces organized by the city to tackle issues like recycling, transit and now the museum, have been important in resolving the issues.
    He said that the continued growth of downtown is also a bright spot in the city’s future. In the past 10 years, more than $67 million has been invested in downtown. In the next five years if you count the Hope VI grant and the N.C. State Veterans Park, close to $200 million will be spent in the area. “What’s going to happen in the next five years is going to be huge,” said Chavonne. “We are going to have some challenges — like parking — but we will make it happen.”
    He said the success of downtown’s revitalization has not gone unnoticed. “We are getting frequent calls from people who have heard about downtown who want to be a part of it. We are getting people coming with ideas that we didn’t get three years ago,” he said. “This is an exciting time for our community and we are going to do our best to make it a reality.”

Contact Janice Burton at editor@upandcomingweekly.com

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