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Residential growth in Locust continues

By Shannon Beamon, for the SNAP

October marked Locust’s largest residential growth spurt of the year so far.

Eleven new housing permits came through the city’s planning and zoning department, surpassing the previous monthly record of 10.
That brings the total number of new housing permits for the year to 66, four more than the city had at this point last year.

“We really didn’t think we were going to have that many new housing permits this,” City Administrator Cesar Correa said.

Last year, the city had a number of larger housing projects underway that boosted numbers, he explained. This year, there were not as many houses ready to be built.

However, several developments have done better than anticipated.

“So we’re hopeful that the city will continue to have healthy, stable growth,” Correa said.

In addition, the city saw a number of new businesses open in the past month, particularly along East Main Street, said Mike Haigler, the city’s councilor over economic development.

Two of those new businesses — Excite Bikes and Locust Child Development — had representatives at the council’s last meeting. Others from MFGraphix had also spoken with Haigler in the past month.

“City Center has really taken off,” Haigler said. “You’ve seen the buildings … out on South Beverly, they’re continuing to add new businesses, bringing that into the east side of the city which is what we need.”

Between that and other factors, the city expects a surplus in its sewer fund at the end of this fiscal year, Correa added at the council’s last meeting.

“Earlier this month, I’m happy to report, we paid off our our loan on that in full,” Correa said.

In the past, the city has occasionally had to pull money from its sewer reserve fund to offset sewer expenses, he noted. This year, it may be able to do the opposite, transfer extra money into the reserve fund.

However, that growth hasn’t come without concerns.

At the council’s last meeting, Debbie Hartley, the owner of Locust Child Development, raised questions about the city’s commercial sewer rates. The city charges flat fee of $94 a month for the first 3,000 gallons used by a business, she said, whether they use that much water or not.

“I was shocked when I got the bill,” Hartley said. “By the time I get done paying water and sewer and everything else, I’m going to be paying about $400 a month (in utilities).”

Many other municipalities charge based on usage, she pointed out.

For instance, Albemarle charges a $9.81 for the first 2,244 gallons of wastewater, then $2.82 for each 748 gallons beyond that. The town of Stanfield charges $22.90 for the first 2,001 gallons of wastewater, then $11.10 for every 1,000 gallons over that.

“I just wanted to say it’s a concern,” Hartley said. “I’m a small business, so I need all the money I can get for my employees … is there any way that we could take another look at that and maybe lower it?”

Councilors agreed this is a fee they want to look at more closely, particularly now that they’ve paid off a sewer loan. They began looking at the city’s rates last year, Correa added, and have plans to do so again during the next budget season.

However, until then, it would be difficult to adjust those charges.

“We’ll definitely look into this and discuss this,” Councilor Larry Baucom said to Hartley. “It may have to be in March — we can’t change midstream — but it won’t be forgotten.”
Haigler agreed.

“We’ve got a lot of growth coming to the city,” he said. “We have to make sure it’s good growth, it’s smart growth.”

At the meeting on Nov. 8, the council also:

• Approved a proclamation supporting Thank You for Your Service Day, a special event organized by the Stanly County Register of Deeds office to encourage veterans to register their DD Form 214. Veterans who come in to register their form can also pick up a special veteran’s ID card that enables them to get discounts at participating local businesses. The event takes place 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center;

• Reminded citizens that the city will have curbside leaf collection on Nov. 17, Dec. 22 and Jan. 26;

• Announced that Parks and Recreation Director Emily Jones received her safety certification for playground equipment this month which will enable her to inspect and maintain such equipment at the park;

• Announced that registration for Locust Christmas Parade is going on. The parade will be at 3 p.m. Nov. 24. To register a float contact the Locust Parks and Recreation department at events@locustnc.com or 704-840-8057.

• Encouraged citizens to participate in the Gratitude Graffiti project. Through the project, residents can write down what they are grateful for on the windows of local businesses. Participating businesses are in the Locust Town Center and West Main Plaza.

Shannon Beamon is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.