Population in the Lake Norman area increased by 831 percent from 1990 to 2010, and the growth continues.
Whether it’s the 520 miles of Lake Norman shoreline, the top rated schools or any number of other reasons, town leaders say the area is booming -- in population and business growth.
For years, Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville have worked together to ensure regional cohesiveness. In the late 1990s they adopted zoning ordinances that called for new buildings to be constructed near streets to promote pedestrian traffic, sidewalks to be built on both side of new streets, and connectivity on streets that ran between the towns.
In 2004 they pooled their resources to finance Lake Norman Economic Development, a nonprofit organization charged with bringing business to the area. They also are working to link their greenways so residents can move easily between the towns.
The Society for Marketing Professional Services Charlotte recently hosted a luncheon for folks interested in learning more about what is happening in the Lake Norman area. The luncheon featured representatives from Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville discussing the futures of their towns.
Ryan McDaniels, Executive Director of Lake Norman Economic Development moderated a panel of town leaders that included: Wayne Herron, Planning Director of Cornelius; Jamie Justice, Town Manager of Davidson; and Jack Simoneau, Planning Director of Huntersville.
All agreed that while desirable, growth brings a number of challenges the towns will have to address if the area is to remain desirable for residents and businesses.
McDaniels said his office works to bring jobs and investments to the three-town region that will allow people who live in those towns to work closer to home and experience the whole live/work/play opportunity.
“We have some great opportunities in our area and we want the greater Charlotte community to recognize that while the lake is attractive for recreational and tourism opportunities, we are also a large business center in the Charlotte region,” McDaniels said.
Here’s a summary of what was said about the three towns:
The town has grown from 1,800 residents in the 1990s to 29,284 residents today.
Herron said downtown development is underway. The town has purchased property to create a new Art Center next to the Police Department with the idea of developing an arts district along that corridor.
The town also is in the midst of a transportation study for the Main Street/N.C. 115 area to make sure the transportation network develops in an orderly fashion.
Herron said many Cornelius residents have expressed the desire to drive less, and walk and bike more. So town leaders are preparing to adopt a bicycle plan and continue building the greenway master plan that will make it easier to navigate the town on foot or on two wheels.
For future growth, he says the town wants to focus on non-residential development to help offset the tax burden of residents.
Justice said the town is working to balance growth while keeping the downtown’s distinct character and village feel.
He said the town would like to attract more restaurants, boutique shops and residents downtown, but ruled out public/private partnerships on town-owned land following a two-year study.
The results of that study indicated that residents want the town to handle town facility space needs as well as figure out public parking solutions without private assistance.
Justice said the town is expanding their greenway for residents to use as an option for transportation. The town also is expanding recreation.
The town’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan estimates that the population of Davidson could double from 2010 to 2030. Justice said growth will feather out from west to east with the potential for public water and sewer service expanding to the east side of town. For projects in this area, developers will be required to provide 40-70 percent open space.
Simoneau said Huntersville has grown from 3,104 in 1990 to 55, 000 today with the population expected to reach 85,000 by 2030.
He said most of that growth has been in the suburbs, with the downtown area just now starting to develop. The town hopes to find a developer to rehab several historic downtown buildings, and development is in the works on the 30-acre Anchor Mill property at the edge of town.
Traffic congestion has been a major concern as the state road infrastructure has not kept up with the area’s growth. That’s about to change. Simoneau said there are more state road projects planned in Huntersville over the next 10 years than anytime in the town’s history.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.