Volume 15, Number 42
This week the Wake Forest Gazette will begin a series of articles about this fall’s election of a mayor and two commissioners. The articles will be written by the candidates as they answer questions posed by the Gazette.
For this first week, we asked incumbent Mayor Vivian Jones and first-term Commissioner Jim Thompson “What are the challenges that you can see Wake Forest will face in the next four years?
Jim Thompson: One of the key challenges I see for Wake Forest is the fact that we are running out of potential land to develop. And while we supposedly have had a focus on economic development over the last 16 years, we have failed to see that materialize. Wake Forest currently collects about 70% of its revenue from residential property tax and around 30% from commercial. If this ratio continues, we will be faced with the challenge of either reducing town services or increasing our property taxes or other fees.
During the last 16 years, the town provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Wake Forest Chamber to be our economic development arm and other than a few hundred jobs here or there, it’s never materialized.
When I ran for the Board of Commissioners, one of my big focuses was economic development. Once elected, I made that priority a reality. During my time on the Board, we hired a new town manager, who has a strong history of success with economic development. And, we took the nearly $100K a year we were paying the Wake Forest Chamber and brought economic development in house.
We have since re-launched the Wake Forest Business Industry Partnership and have actually budgeted money towards economic development.
The other challenge that we face related to economic development and available land is the fact the town of Wake Forest doesn’t have a comprehensive land use plan. This is an absolute failure in leadership in our town and explains to citizens why it appears sometimes we have no plan in how our community has grown.
The town of Wake Forest missed a tremendous opportunity to develop a land use plan while it was creating its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), but failed to do so. The town of Wake Forest missed the opportunity to create an overlay district along S. Main Street and instead we get what we have today. Its things like that that have put our town at a disadvantage and we need to act quickly.
Think about this – when the town of Wake Forest knew that Capital Blvd./US1 would eventually be connected to 540, we should have been right there with a comprehensive land use plan and a UDO ready to meet the challenge of growth head-on. Instead, we sat back and reactively dealt with the growth.
This proves to me that Wake Forest needs new leadership and a Mayor who can Bring the Future to Wake Forest TODAY. Please vote Jim Thompson – Wake Forest Mayor – on Tues. Nov. 7. For more information, visit www.ElectJimThompson.com.
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Vivian Jones: I believe the biggest challenge in the next four years will continue to be growth. We must continually assess projects that come before us in terms of impact on infrastructure.
I do not believe growth is a bad thing. We must try to bring more jobs which will help by allowing people to work here instead of having to leave the town every day and add to the traffic on the roads. The Wake Transit Plan will be implemented over the next ten years and we will see benefits shortly. By increasing our bus service to downtown Raleigh and increasing our local service with more coverage and more frequency, we will provide a way for people to get around without driving. I hope we can add Saturday service and I would love to have some later service during the week–at least a couple of nights a week. Commuter rail is also in the plan but not for the first ten years. However, there is a real possibility that we could get this started earlier.
There are several road projects that will happen over the next ten years or so that will make an impact on our community. Turning Capital Blvd. into a freeway from 540 to NC98; Stadium Road upgrade to include 3 lanes, sidewalks & bike paths; expansion of Ligon Mill in the vicinity of WalMart; greenway connections that will allow kids to walk to schools; sidewalk projects that will allow more pedestrian access; all these things will help with traffic issues.
Within the next ten years, we will probably see Franklin Street extended from Rogers Road to Calvin Jones Highway and Ligon Mill extended all the way through to Calvin Jones. Making these connections will help with the flow of traffic. As we update our Transportation Plan in the next year, the residents will have an opportunity to let us know what their ideas are for updates and changes.
I believe we need to start discussing what we could do to promote more affordable housing, we need to continue an emphasis on using smart technology and keeping our conservative fiscal approach in using our revenues.