Southwest Wake News

Fuquay-Varina retreat focuses on growth, traffic, schools

Armed with detailed maps, new iPads and a stockpile of coffee and snacks, Fuquay-Varina officials spent the last weekend in January in a Pinehurst Resort conference room talking about the future.

The three-day retreat was led by the town’s management staff, who presented reports on issues such as roads, utilities, schools, growth and budgeting and then let the board of commissioners discuss or ask questions.

The retreat cost Fuquay-Varina $6,500, which was $500 less than what the town had budgeted. Officials have gone to the Pinehurst Resort the last three years for their retreats.

Commissioner Jason Wunsch said at a meeting following the retreat that he liked being sequestered away from home and work.

“That’s why we’re there,” he said. “We’re there to work, to focus and not be distracted.”

Mayor John Byrne agreed, saying that since he joined the board in 2001, it was “the best town retreat I’ve ever been on. And I’ve been to quite a few of them.”

Commissioners discussed the following issues:

▪ A series of long-term, big-picture projects that could cost the town nearly $100 million to build.

▪ The potential to lessen the expected property tax increase from the bond referendum passed in November.

▪ Ideas for increasing public transit options in town, including expanded bus service and possibly a passenger train line, to take vehicles off the roads.

▪ Pressuring the Wake County government and Wake County Public Schools System to pay more attention to local schools, especially on issues like crowded campuses and aging facilities.

▪ Areas of town expected to grow, especially after the extension of roads like Judd Parkway, Broad Street and N.C. 540.

“Growth, pressures from growth, infrastructure, staffing, schools, it’s all related,” said Town Manager Adam Mitchell.

A highlight of the retreat was a map Mitchell put together that shows the tracts of land that have been identified with potential for future development.

The color-coded map had several colors indicating properties with short-term and long-term probability for residential development.

“If you don’t see how transportation or schools or infrastructure is vital to the future of this community, you’re probably color-blind,” Mitchell said.

He and the town’s elected leaders took a generally optimistic view of the potential for growth, despite the warning to prepare for the increased level of services Fuquay-Varina likely will need to provide.

“There’s a lot of towns in Wake County that are already built out,” Byrne said. “We’re fortunate that we’re not.”

“We’ve had some tough issues,” Byrne said at a meeting following the retreat. “And we’re going to have more tough issues. But we’re headed upward, I know that.”

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran

Coming soon

Look for upcoming stories that explore the big-picture issues the town commissioners are discussing, including roads, schools, public transit and the economics of growth.