I recently heard someone describe a town in Union County this way: “family-friendly and close to whatever we need, but not in the middle of a rat race.”
That describes much of Union County. It also explains why so many people want to live here.
The proof is in the decades-long trend of newcomers. That has kept Union County among the state’s (and the nation’s) fastest-growing counties. And much of that population now is on the western side – near Mecklenburg County.
That’s one of the attractions. You can be close to the big city, but not be in the big city.
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Consider this: Indian Trail, which shares a border with Mecklenburg County, is now Union County’s most populated city. There are 35,494 people in Indian Trail, according to the 2013 U.S. Census. Monroe, the county seat and closer to the center of the county, has a population of 33,975. Stallings, which also shares a border with Mecklenburg, has 14,645 people.
None of the other 14 municipalities in the county has more than 11,000 people.
That’s why you can’t talk about Union County without mentioning that it’s next to a bustling metropolitan area. Then, a closer look shows you that Union County has it’s own charm and character.
There are rural hills in the northern, eastern and southern parts of Union County, where you will find poultry farms, hundreds of acres of crops, horses and cattle thriving. And there are lots of neighborhoods where on a cool evening you’ll find bikers pedaling, joggers pushing through an evening workout and families out for a walk.
Property tax rates vary in Union County, but it’s generally a combination of county taxes (a rate of .7765 per $100 valuation) plus the rate of the town where you live.
One of Union County’s calling cards long has been its schools. And generally the schools are among the state’s best, based on test scores and graduation rates. But Union County Public Schools leaders and county commissioners have made an annual event of their fight over funding. Meanwhile, some schools are overcrowded and outdated. And new schools are needed in some of the more highly populated areas.
But you can’t ignore that the county’s leaders work hard. They’ve recently attracted companies that are bringing in jobs with good salaries. And a toll road that will improve transportation across the county seems to be moving closer to reality. And there’s Wingate University, which continues to make new and strong strides in preparing students for the health care industry.
However, what will hook you is the people and the charm.
There’s Waxhaw, with it’s small-town character, highlighted by its Christmas and Fourth of July parades. There’s the Union County Arts Council, which succeeds in bringing artistic beauty everywhere.
The people who live here are never too busy to say “hello” when you run into them at the grocery store. They’re always willing to bring fresh-baked cookies to a newcomer. And you’ll always get a kind smile.
That’s how you get away from the rat race.
Cliff, the Observer’s editor of community news, has lived in Union County for 26 years.
Get some culture: Tucked on Wingate University’s campus, the Batte Center provides some of the highest-quality family entertainment around. This fall you can see a performance by Judy Collins and a celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Enjoy the great outdoors: Cane Creek Park in Waxhaw is still one of the great treasures in the county. There’s a 350-acre lake where you can go bass fishing, campsites, and a host of other outdoor facilities to enjoy.
Get yet more culture: The Union County Community Arts Council promotes the arts in all forms. That’s why you’ll see art displays in many institutions, musical performance, theatrical events and educational forums all over the county. The Arts Coucil makes it all happen. They also provide grants for ambitious artists. That’s a way to spur creativity in this county and cultivate some of its most talented people.