Editor’s note: This is the first of a two part piece by Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner. The second part of the column will run in next week’s paper.
Since my election in 2007, I have had the honor of serving our community as your mayor. The time has flown by and it certainly has been busy. Together we have faced the challenges of a struggling national economy, a decimated housing market, high unemployment and a train wreck. We have seen the county struggle with limited water and sewer availability, a rising debt burden and maintaining a top-notch school system despite national, state and local budget cuts.
In Waxhaw, we have been fortunate. While many communities around the country and in the Charlotte region have seen home construction stop completely, or even had neighborhoods abandoned, Waxhaw never stopped building out the communities already underway. The pressure to approve new projects has been largely absent allowing us time to catch up on what was already in progress. However, during this break in the action, we have not been idle.
In the last four years, Waxhaw has undertaken a number of planning efforts, including the completion and adoption of our first comprehensive plan, participation in the Small Town Main Street Program, involvement in the Carolina Thread Trail effort out of which came the pedestrian plan that will be completed shortly. We also participated in the Local Area Regional Transportation Plan, an unprecedented regional transportation planning effort with three of our neighboring municipalities. We researched establishing a local historic overlay district and, while the Board of Commissioners chose not to put the historic district in place, the process was extremely valuable to the community by teaching us more about the historic structures that make up the visual aesthetic and functionality that encapsulates the spirit and character of our wonderful town.
With the progress that has been made and is continuing on the planning front, it is time to turn our attention to pursuing some of the efforts that those plans have identified as priorities for our community. We have mastered the art of saying no to the things that we don’t want; it is now time for us to pro-actively pursue those things that we do want. Our 2030 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2009, identified goals under several headings including context-sensitive economic development. While some preparatory work has been done in this area, Waxhaw does not yet have an economic development plan nor have we defined who is responsible for doing that work. I have a binder containing every known economic development study done in Union County. The consistent theme is that we still have more growing to do but we don’t have what is necessary to support the needed level of economic activity that buildout will require if we are to maintain our current small town quality of life.
My current term has provided me with the opportunity to learn a lot about economic development and to begin developing and fostering a network of economic development experts and professionals at every level from Union County to leaders of national and international organizations. Launching an economic development effort is one of the things I hope to accomplish in my next term.
Another effort that I have engaged in during my first term is working to improve the infrastructure in downtown. This has involved engaging various entities such as Duke Power and Union County Public Works in conversation about this issue and encouraging the development of plans detailing the infrastructure that is currently in place, its condition and ability to serve the downtown area needs as they exist at present so that we can then work with them to develop plans for addressing those portions of the infrastructure that are aging and/or failing or are simply inadequate or poorly positioned. The Downtown Small Area Plan that is soon to commence will bring some of that information together in a cohesive way with an eye towards our future needs as well. The next stage of this effort will then fall on the shoulders of the town leadership to pursue the solutions that the Downtown Plan identifies. I am committed to ensuring that those remedies are pursued with vigor.