Mayor Touts Town’s Strengths, Responsibilities
Comprehensive Sustainability Plan takes center stage for Weaver’s address
In her State of the Town address Monday, Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver highlighted the town’s comprehensive sustainability plan and how it will both spark and manage future growth — maintaining Hillsborough’s reputation as a place that weds convenience and contentment with creativity, inclusivity and responsibility.
“The state of the town is strong,” she announced near the end of her half-hour speech, “but the state of the future depends on all of us.”
The address — given Monday night at the Town Hall Annex — was Weaver’s first in-person State of the Town event of her two terms. She began by recognizing the efforts of the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners and members of the town staff. The mayor then marched through a list of the town’s achievements, including the Hillsborough Arts Council’s revamping of the Last Friday Art Walk and the opening of the Dorothy Johnson Community Center. She then noted future projects, like Eno River Brewing and the planned train station, that will likely bring more people to the heart of Hillsborough.
Weaver said that while the town is required to have a comprehensive plan, including the word “sustainability” was intentional because the town sees it as a responsibility to plan and develop in a way that benefits existing and future generations of Hillsborough. She added that the plan recognizes the different parts that make a town — including business, the arts and hospitality — are connected and must be considered in a holistic perspective.
The mayor spoke on the town’s vision to be prosperous, foster a strong sense of community and celebrate its unique character, and tied it to the draft plan. The Board of Commissioners is expected to consider approving the plan June 12.
“The Comprehensive Sustainability Plan sets forth goals, actions and strategies to guide the town to reach this vision in a sustainable way as applied to not just the physical development of the town, but the economic health, community connectivity, equity, public health, safety and energy,” she said.
Weaver listed eight areas for which the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan has recommendations, including town government, public service, land use and development, environment and natural systems, transportation and connectivity, social systems and public space.
“So that's a lot, and the plan is a lot. Comprehensive is no joke,” she said.
The mayor encouraged residents, if they haven’t already, to read the plan as it will likely provide guidance for nearly every aspect of the town’s future growth.
“You need to know that this is what the town is going to be using to guide our process,” Weaver said. We'll be working through implementation of that through the strategic plan for the next 20 or 30 years. It’s a serious thing that we are taking seriously, and we will tie it in through our budgeting process and the strategic plan.”
Weaver used her State of the Town address to challenge the community to do some things differently in order to more deeply tackle two issues that she said could greatly affect Hillsborough’s growth: housing affordability and transportation.
“Though the desire to keep things as they are may be natural and understandable, a more equitable, more environmentally sustainable Hillsborough is incompatible with the current status quo,” she said. “All around the country and, in fact, most or all communities in the Triangle, near job centers, near high-quality health care facilities, in bigger cities and in other small towns, there are communities wrestling with these same questions and issues: housing scarcity; housing that is too expensive for most people; congestion that is unending; and a transportation system that offers few reasonable alternatives.”
To meet those needs, the mayor said, Hillsborough must continue to pursue smart growth, which would include allowing market rate housing development where it would make sense to create a connected community within the bounds of the town’s water and sewer capacity. The town would also need to take advantage of opportunities to increase the number of units for income-restricted or subsidized housing.
On the transportation front, Weaver acknowledged having limited power as most of the roads in Hillsborough are controlled by the state, which devotes a large majority of its funding to the construction and upkeep of roads, while allotting considerably less funding for mass transit, bike and pedestrian options. The mayor spoke of the Transportation for the Future Act, a pair of bills in the North Carolina House and Senate that could provide towns with tools to make transportation planning easier.
Locally, Weaver said transportation issues would require the tough job of swaying the driving habits of most. Once again she touted the workings of the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, which includes recommendations for changes the town can make to more easily build compact, walkable neighborhoods.
“This will take some willpower,” she said, “but it will take us closer to a more equitable, affordable, sustainable Hillsborough.”
View the address
You can view the address on the town’s YouTube channel.