By: Liz Cooper
September 9, 2019
Union County Commissioners recently held a two-day planning session to kick off the development of the Union County 2050 Comprehensive Plan. Commissioners listened to the visions and challenges facing local municipalities as the first step in preparing to update the County’s comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan helps guide development decisions and manage growth in the unincorporated areas of Union County.
Union County’s population has grown by nearly 30,000 people since the 2010 Census, to an approximate population of 231,366. Since 2010, there have been 11,621 new homes added to the tax rolls countywide. Regional growth trends show Union County is the second-fastest growing county in the Charlotte metropolitan area; with Mecklenburg County leading growth in the area.
“Traditionally, the way comprehensive planning goes is about every three to five years you look at revising or updating your comprehensive plan and we’re at that five year mark,” said Assistant County Manager Brian Matthews. “We’ve also experienced some steady growth in the community and I think that’s a good time for us to look at our growth patterns and our strategies for growth.”
Trends show growth will continue in Union County. Factors driving families to relocate to Union County include proximity to Charlotte, a great school system, low taxes and affordability.
“Based on 2018 data, our population estimate is 16,181,” said Jeff Wells, Planning Director for the Town of Waxhaw. “We feel like by the time we get through the 2020 Census, we’ll be over 20,000 people. That’s a 63% population change from 2010. This is a really good opportunity to get an invite from the county to work on this because it really expedited our process in looking at where we currently are and where we want to go.”
Representatives from 11 municipalities within Union County presented to the Board of County Commissioners the vision and plans for their village, town or city during a two-day retreat at the Union County Agricultural Center on August 28 and 29.
“Issues such as population growth and environmental preservation, growth pattern and adequacy of public facilities and services often transcend town boundaries,” said Lisa Thompson, Town Planner for Weddington. “That is why our plan looks beyond our corporate limits. These are the areas we need to support each other and partner with adjacent municipalities and the county for more coordinated growth.”
Weddington Town Planner Lisa Thompson speaks to the Board of County Commissioners
Major themes to come from the municipal presentations include economic development, density in downtown areas, protecting agriculture and land use of adjacent towns.
“We need to manage our growth by addressing what high density is and how we determine how dense a project can be,” said Commission Chairman Richard Helms.
The leading concerns among municipalities in regards to growth are increased traffic, economic development and infrastructure. The common vision shared supports preservation of rural areas and vibrant downtowns.
Commissioner Jerry Simpson expressed appreciation for hearing from all of the municipal representatives. He said, “I think we need to look long and hard at an interlocal agreement with these municipalities regarding a number of things. We talked about the [extraterritorial jurisdiction] and zoning. We talked about providing infrastructure from the standpoint of sewer and water, so I think the rules need to be the same for all the municipalities so they know where they are and where they’re coming from.”
Based on the presentations from municipalities, Commissioners gave County planning staff direction for long-term planning. Planning staff estimate it will take approximately 12 months to develop the Union County 2050 Comprehensive Plan. Commissioners will continue to discuss and eventually vote on the updated plan at future meetings.