Mayor: Fayetteville may raise taxes to pay for new city hall, growth

Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson
Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson

City plans to be ‘assertive’ in attracting new development; plan calls for parks, ‘walkability’ and more housing choices for range of income levels

Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson (photo above) laid out a rosy picture for the city Feb. 1, but added there will be challenges as continued growth comes to the city. Johnson provided a snapshot of the strategic plan that will come up for adoption later this year in his state of the city address to the Fayetteville City Council at its first meeting in February.

“We’ve received invaluable input from many members of our community and from our leadership team to create this plan. In 2017 nearly 300 citizens participated in our comprehensive plan interactive sessions to breathe life into the ideas around how the city should be organized and developed. Their input and vision for the future is the foundation on which we build for a better, Fayetteville community,” Johnson said.

As part of the plan, the city adopted a new vision: ”Fayetteville shall be a city of innovation and opportunity that fosters a vibrant and welcoming community for all.”

One of the main focuses of the plan is a sense of place.

“Through town hall meetings and other means of getting citizen inputs, we have heard what the citizens’ desires are; they want a vibrant, safe, downtown with parks and walkability. They want a sense of place,” Johnson said.

The mayor said the city will focus on four major areas: transportation improvements, infrastructure improvements, improving neighborhoods and increasing housing inventory and developing a more assertive economic development program.

Included in the vision is developing a plan to repurpose and reinvigorate the use of the Fayette Pavilion, which has been shedding anchor stores.

The city also plans to improve the downtown area. With last week’s announcement that a new city hall would be built, Johnson left the door open for a possible tax increase to help fund the building.

“Given that our millage rate is comparatively low, we may choose to increase it for a period of time to help fund strategic items like public safety staffing and initiatives along with Town Center City Hall and green space area,” he said.

Johnson said the city will also focus on changing the mindset about the city’s crime rate, since he said it is factually not as high as the public’s perception. One survey lists the city as the 21st safest city in the state.

The mayor closed the speech with a clarion call for action.

“We cannot afford to maintain a status quo and watch surrounding communities surpass our economic development and managed-growth efforts. We must press forward in our efforts to deter crime. We must continue to set the pace for high educational standards. We must aggressively pursue and attract quality businesses through a robust economic development plan. Tonight, I once again encourage all citizens of Fayetteville to get involved in your community. Get involved through volunteerism, through public service and through constructive communication and dialogue. Become active guardians of our democracy, and take pride in our unique city.”