Dealing with growth means making the tough decisions


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By Dave Yochum. Growth and how to manage it are two of the biggest issues in this fall’s elections in both Concord and Kannapolis, the largest cities in Cabarrus County.

In Concord, a new Walmart in a sensitive area is under consideration. In Kannapolis, city government has done nothing less than buy downtown from a billionaire.  Widening I-85 will affect residents and businesses alike.

Growth is better than the alternative.

“This is a problem we are lucky to have,” says Cabarrus County Commissioner Diane Honeycutt. “We have run into others parts of the country where they are talking about which school to close…or losing their hospital. Growth causes challenges.”

In Concord, eight people are running for a total of four seats on City Council. Two of them, John Sweat Jr. in District 7, and Jennifer Parsley, District 6, are running unopposed. There are three-way races in Districts 1 and 2.

Managing the growth comes through loud and clear in a city that ranks head and shoulders above much of the rest of the nation in terms of population growth.

Mayor Scott Padgett says it takes teamwork on City Council to bring out the best of Concord, “while simultaneously dealing with growth and pursuing good-paying jobs to sustain economy and quality of life.”

Likewise, incumbent Jennifer Parsley says “everything is about to happen,” with more pressure on infrastructure and schools. “We have to figure out how to direct the growth, not limit it,” she says.

First-time candidate Sam Leder, a former chairman of the Cabarrus Chamber, said he wants to use his “skill sets as a local business owner and CPA to help manage the growth that is occurring while keeping the small-town feel that gives Concord its own unique identity.”

Barbara Strang, another first-time candidate, wants the community to be heard, and she says she can do that.

Honeycutt says growth is happening county-wide, from Kannapolis to Midland.

“With what Kannapolis is doing, as it takes shape, we’ll see more growth. It will become more attractive to developers and potential residents,” says Honeycutt, a top Realtor in Cabarrus.

What Kannapolis is doing is proactively managing its destiny—long in the hands of billionaire David Murdock and before him the Cannons—by purchasing around eight downtown blocks for $5.5 million, as well as a couple of additional commercial properties.

The new City Hall, including furniture, will cost nearly $33 million.

And then there’s the carousel. The city is paying $228,000 for a used Italian merry-go-round for Village Park. Total cost of the project is $600,000.

But this, too, is all about growth and development. While there are plenty of ways to approach growth, do you accommodate it up front? Or work on improving substandard areas that growth has left behind? Can city fathers and city mothers afford to do both?

Army veteran Dennis Johnson was set on running for City Council, and even paid a $30 filing fee, but he says he’s not running any more because of government spending. Too much growth and debt, at least for him, mean it’s time to “head north” in the state of North Carolina. He’s not going to move within Cabarrus, he says, because of the growth.

“Personally I think it sucks,” says Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor two years ago. “The quaintness of these towns is gonna disappear.”

Facing growth head-on, of course, takes grit. First-time candidate Violet Mitchell, says she “downright just got mad,” and decided to run for city council.

“What frustrates me is the whole emphasis is on downtown,” she says, explaining that there are neighborhoods like Fisher Town off Mooresville Road that need water and sewer from the city, or Little Texas Road, which needs sidewalks.

Growth will likely be off the charts for years to come. Honeycutt says county-wide “summits” bring elected officials and government managers together. The cooperation—the teamwork Padgett talked about—is a good thing.

She asked this: “How do we plan for this and be as proactive as we can?”

Candidates everywhere aim to serve constituents. The best focus on the next generation.

“I also want to be involved as a City Council member with the key decisions that will be made over the next several years to make certain Concord will be a city that has the quality of life, good jobs, and affordable tax rate to attract today’s children to come raise their family in this community,” Leder says.


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