Town among 10 municipalities that added most population since 2010
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — The towns of Wake Forest and Apex have rounded out a list of the 10 “cities” that account for half of all the state’s population growth.
In 2015, Charlotte and Raleigh topped that list, with 827,000 and 451,000 residents, respectively, adding a combined 140,000 new residents since 2010. That’s 27.3 percent of the state’s population growth, according to a recent report published by the UNC Carolina Population Center. The state added just over a half-million residents between 2010-15.
The center uses census data and population projections to tally the report, which also shows that North Carolina grew at 5.3 percent during those five years, the seventh highest rate in the country and faster than the U.S. average of 4.1 percent.
Washington D.C., Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Delaware grew faster than North Carolina.
Wake Forest is ranked ninth on the list of fastest population growth in North Carolina, Apex is 10th. Wake Forest’s population rose from 30,105 in April 2010 to 38,199 in July, 2015, a 26.9 percent change. Apex grew from 37,540 to 45,585 in that same period, a 21.4 percent change. Both towns had approximately 1.6 percent of the state’s total growth in that period.
Population growth comes with certain headaches. To keep up with and, in some cases, ahead of, infrastructure needs, municipalities float bond issues to allow roads, school, parks, bridges, etc. to be built before enough taxes have been collected to build them outright. Bonds are then paid off in the long term, using taxes and fees collected from that growth.
Communities try to pick bond projects by looking at all the data and evaluating choices, as well as by asking for comment from residents.
Last fall, for instance, Wake Forest voters approved a $25 million bond issue 3 to 1, which includes funds for greenway improvements, parks facilities, road widening projects, roundabouts, walking trails, and so on.
But complaints about roadway congestion persist, and infrastructure repair projects such as the Rogers Road bridge replacement currently underway have led to fear over potential wrecks from rerouted vehicles, as well as potential loss of business at the bridge ends of that road.
And there are flash-points as well. Several residents who live near and drive through the intersection at Burlington Mills Road and Ligon Mill Road were stunned this year to learn that the developer of the 263-home Kitchin Farms development planned near that crossing can’t be made to put in a southbound right turn lane from Ligon Mill to Burlington Mills because the developer doesn’t own the land at the corner.
Some of those same people were frustrated when town commissioners cited their own words of complaint about traffic issues at the intersection in approving a zoning change to allow a gas station there.
If the traffic is already an issue, the board reasoned, the gas station’s builder will have to make roadway improvements, and the crossing becomes a little bit safer as a result. Both roads are controlled by the N.C. Department of Transportation, which can’t be made to make improvements, they noted.
“With the development there, I think we’ll get some improvement. It’s sorely needed,” Commissioner Jim Thompson said at the time.
Up beats down
Growth is often touted as a positive, however, appearing on economic development reports to draw in businesses looking for employee pools and new customers.
The town of Wake Forest’s economic development page points out such growth near the top of its “quick facts” listing.
The page shows that the town added just under 17,000 people between 2000 and 2010, going from 12,588 to 29,218 in that time period, a 132-percent increase.
That data is crossmatched against other area communities. Only Rolesville, Morrisville and Holly Springs grew more rapidly at that time, at rates of 317 percent for Rolesville, 256 percent for Morrisville and 168 percent for Holly Springs.
Raleigh grew 46 percent, jumping from approximately 276,000 to 403,000 people during that period.
Wake Forest’s economic development page also touts low costs of living, a smarter workforce, accessible transportation, good schools, universities and hospitals, a pleasant climate, as well as “a plethora of local recreational and cultural amenities and events.”
What is the takeaway? Population growth is good, so long as the town can keep up with people’s needs.
To see the economic development report, go to wakeforesteconomicdevelopment.com. For more about population growth in North Carolina, see demography.cpc.unc.edu.