It has been an amazing year in the Island City, and as we start a new fiscal year, I am taking a moment to look back as well as forward.
At the end of 2015, the city commission approved and updated the Wilton Manor’s Strategic Plan, which we use as a roadmap for our vision of what our city will look like five years ahead. We have made important progress in achieving the 2020 goals and objectives and I will share some of the specific achievements in the coming months.
For now, let me summarize life in Wilton Manors over the last year.
Crime is down. 2017 crime rates overall in the city were the lowest in over 20 years. While our dedicated police department will continue to bring it down further, it bears sharing that our community is pretty safe, especially in relation to those around us.
Property values are up for the ninth year in a row, and we are in the top ten percentile of cities in Broward County in terms of increases. While we don’t expect drastic increases to continue, we do hope to continue with modest growth.
Tax rates are down. This was the tenth consecutive year that your City Commission lowered the millage rate.
Our infrastructure is sound. City staff works long and hard to keep our infrastructure maintained and replaced at regular intervals. While we will be making upgrades in the next few years to our drainage and sewer systems to accommodate rising temperatures and seas, overall our infrastructure is very sound. One of the key goals of the Strategic Plan is to ensure that the city’s properties and infrastructure meet present and future needs, and we are well on our way.
We have a robust leisure services platform, with programs for the young, young at heart, and in between. Last year we hosted more than 500,000 park visitors. If you haven’t done our Wilton Manors Self-Guided Ecotour I highly recommend it. I bet you’ll see something at every stop to make you say, “Hmmm.” Our parks are emerald gems placed in and around our urban village.
Looking forward, change is coming to Wilton Manors. Our city will have a new mayor and at least one new city commissioner beginning this month. The Island City’s main street of Wilton Drive is going to soon be transformed into a narrower, much more pedestrian and bicyclist friendly corridor. This has taken almost a decade of engagement with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and other agencies, and almost $4 million in funds from the Broward MPO.
Those of you who are on the Drive every day know it can be a speedway, mainly from traffic coming from and going to other places. There have been too many “car vs. pedestrian" accidents, including fatalities, and with all that traffic, few stop to spend time dining and shopping on the Drive, rather than just speeding on it through our city. While it won’t be easy going through the Drive’s transformation, on the other side of the construction will be a slower paced Main Street with more shade, pedestrians and bicyclists, galleries and restaurants, and an atmosphere that will better encourage business.
Maintaining the small-town feel will be our number one priority, with careful economic development a close second. We will be working hard to encourage the development and building of a hotel in close proximity to our downtown and looking at strategies to grow our “class A” office space and diversify our businesses. We will be incentivizing the use of alternative transportation, like ride sharing and other “last mile” options that encourage residents and visitors to leave their cars at home. We will be strategic about how we revise and update our city code of ordinances, to take a more common-sense approach and encourage and incentivize conservation.
We will be finishing up our Joint Climate Change Action Plan with Oakland Park, completing our community wide greenhouse gas inventory, and implementing ideas to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
It’s been a year for the books with more growth on the way, and because of where we’ve been and the direction we are heading, I firmly believe “life’s just better here” in Wilton Manors...and hope you do too.