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Locust City Council, citizens discuss proposed Elm Street Project

In front of a packed room Thursday night, the Locust City Council heard from the public about their opinions regarding a proposed new development in the city.

As people still were filing into the meeting and standing in the back, an official from Hopper Communities, which is developing the project, explained the Elm Street Project, a potential neighborhood that would be developed on either side of Elm Street.

Hopper Communities has been developing commercial, retail and residential real estate for about 30 years. Hopper has developed many Charlotte-area neighborhoods in sizes from 10-20 homes up to 700 homes.

Developers said Locust has needed new homes because from 2010 to 2015, the population has grown 9.35 percent and has been growing around 3 to 4 percent annually since 2015. Also since 2010, Locust has issued permits for 416 new homes, 216 apartment units and 75 commercial sites.

The entire site is a total of 121.98 acres of which 40 acres (33 percent of the total 121.98) will be designated as open space. There would be a maximum of 285 lots but according to the developers, they may only be able to build 270 due to the topography of the site. According to the developer, the max density would be 2.3 units/acre for a total of 280 lots.

The homes would be one- or two-story with slab or crawl space foundations and with enclosed garages that project no more than five feet from the front of the home.

There will be several amenities in the neighborhood including a few playgrounds, walking trails, dog park, a sports court and possibly a swimming pool.

Ultimately, if 285 homes were to be built in Locust with the price ranging from $200,000 to $250,000, it would generate tax revenue of between $382,000 and $477,000 for Stanly County and revenue of between $205,000 to $256,000 annually for Locust.

The biggest worry for Councilman Larry Baucom was that the Homeowners Association would not want to have to maintain the several ponds that would be on the property.

During the public hearing, 15 people spoke to the council and all of them opposed the project.

Joel Whitley said the project isn’t practical. He mentioned there are extreme wetlands and underground springs on the land and any remediation of that would have to be done by the EPA.

Brad Harvell said he moved from Stallings to Locust to avoid the traffic and increased development. He and his family moved to Mockingbird Lane because it was quiet and his children could play in peace without busy traffic. The new neighborhood would bring too much traffic to the area, he said.

Vincent Owens was worried that with more houses coming to Locust, crimes would increase. He also didn’t want the development to “destroy nature because it’s a beautiful place back there.”

As a parent, Kelli Coley was most concerned Locust Elementary School would not be able to handle the influx of children that would come with the development.

Mike Little worried that Locust would be growing too much too fast.

“I don’t want us to become another Charlotte suburb,” he said. He does want growth, “but not uncontrolled, out-of-control growth.”

With many people uneasy about the proposed development, Councilman Rusty Efird addressed the elephant in the room.

Though he would love to go back to the old Locust of 35 years ago, “growth is coming,” Efird said, “and we’re going to have to accept it.”

The council unanimously approved a motion for city staff to continue working with the developers to try and reach an agreement.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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