Wil Brasington had six months between his June Republican primary win for the Greenville City Council District 4 seat and his Dec. 11 swearing-in ceremony.
He used the time as an extended orientation period, meeting with community leaders and residents and being part of conversations and planning efforts on initiatives already underway.
“A new council member-elect does not always have such a long runway of learning opportunities prior to the beginning of a term of service,” he said.
The Greenville Journal caught up with Brasington before he officially took office to talk about what’s ahead.
How specifically will your experience as Alta Vista Neighborhood Association president help you on council?
In my capacity as a neighborhood president, I learned or had reaffirmed many important lessons that I intend to carry forward to my service on City Council.
First, I know that frequent communication and a steady flow of information between neighbors or residents on issues of substance are invaluable.
Second, I’ve seen that creating opportunities to get to know those that you represent is very important. There is no substitute for personal interaction as a means to develop meaningful relationships. Just as I did during my tenure as neighborhood association president, I will emphasize accessibility, responsiveness, and being engaged within my district and throughout the city.
Third, most of the issues that impact our fellow citizens on a daily basis are felt and experienced at a “neighborhood association level.” These include traffic, safety, sidewalks, street surfaces, waste collection, and matters of zoning. As a member of council, I look forward to assisting with matters that are small and straightforward and others that are cumbersome and complicated.
Finally, I have witnessed firsthand the benefit of organizing around shared interests and the power of seeking collaboration to achieve a desired outcome. Such approaches have served Greenville very well in the past, and moving forward, I aim to address problems and pursue opportunities in a similar manner.
One of the big issues in neighborhoods bordering commercial corridors is how to stop commercial creep and preserving their character and livability. What strategies do you support to do that?
It’s true – one of the concerns most frequently expressed by residents throughout our city is “commercial creep” posing a threat to our established neighborhoods. I’ve seen this over the years through our neighborhood association efforts, and I have recently had a front-row seat to the delicate balance between commercial development and neighborhood preservation as a member of the city’s Planning Commission.
I believe our best strategy lies in maintaining a sound and carefully crafted land use and management plan, which includes our residential and commercial zoning designations. By design, such a tool provides clear guidance to all on what types of development are intended and allowable throughout the city, and defines where commercial development best fits and where neighborhood sanctity is and should remain.
A strategy within this strategy is to ensure that sufficient “buffers” exist, wherever possible, to smooth the transition from commercial areas to adjacent, established residential areas. This helps to minimize adverse impact from commercialization where residential and commercial zones abut one another.
Another strategy that the city will continue to work on is the development and refinement of master plans for our designated commercial corridors, especially those such as Augusta Road, Laurens Road, Pleasantburg Road, and Stone Avenue that are in close proximity to long-established residential neighborhoods. These plans call for various enhancements to existing corridors that will help complement, but avoid conflicting with, the residential space that surrounds them.
Finally, a heightened dialogue with neighborhoods and developers about how the land use plan is constructed and what it entails would help ensure better understanding. The city is just starting its next comprehensive planning process, so the coming months will be an opportune time to collect and receive feedback on future land usage.
If you were to accomplish one thing during your term on council, what would you want it to be?
We have got to ensure that the future growth of our city unfolds in a manageable, sustainable, and desirable way in the years to come. I know from my recent experience on the campaign trail that this is a top concern of our residents, and as such, must be a top priority of City Council.
When you think about it, most all of our top issues and opportunities — adequate infrastructure, affordable housing, efficient transportation systems, traffic congestion, available green space, quality of life features, etc. — are interconnected and will either be exacerbated or improved by the manner in which we manage and plan for the growth that is inevitable for Greenville. Smart growth moving forward will be the linchpin for our continued success.
If I am to look back four years from now on the various accomplishments that will have transpired during that period of time, I want the top of the list to reflect that I played a significant role in helping this council and our city chart a deliberate course that ensures smart growth — the type that is sustainable, preserves our quality of life, and strikes a healthy balance between bringing new energy and opportunity to Greenville and maintaining those precious and unique features that we know and cherish most about our home.
How will you work with other council members to get your top priorities accomplished?
I’m really looking forward to working with my fellow council members. I have great respect for each of them as committed and passionate community leaders. While there may be some disparity, I would expect that in most instances we would share common views on immediate priorities for the betterment of Greenville.
As one of the newest additions to the council, my intention in the near term is to build upon the relationships that already exist with my colleagues, gain a better understanding of efforts already underway, exchange viewpoints on existing needs within the city, and vigorously pursue those items requiring greatest attention in addition to any “low-hanging fruit.”
I do anticipate that council will revisit and perhaps reestablish priorities for the city early next year, and I am looking forward to helping to shape that list.