SPIRIT OF STANLY: Boom towns in a boom county
Published 4:26 pm Monday, April 3, 2023
With the presence of record inflation, seemingly endless accounts of understaffed workplaces and the aftereffects of a worldwide pandemic, it would be logical to conclude that the local market for housing and real estate would be suffering.
But a short drive around Stanly County, particularly through the areas in and west of Albemarle, illustrates that such logical conclusions don’t always reflect reality.
Construction, especially that of single-family homes, continues at a rapid pace throughout the county, despite economic conditions that would seem to discourage such projects.
“About 45% of the housing units in Albemarle built since 2000 have been built in the last four years,” said Kevin Robinson, director of development dervices for the City of Albemarle.
Information provided by Scott Efird, planning and zoning director for the City of Locust, indicated a similar trend, with house permits there having significantly increased from 2019-2022 over those for the period from 2015-2018.
“Much of this development is for new residents coming in from Mecklenburg County and other states,” Stanly County Chief Zoning Officer and Planning Director Bob Remsburg.
“The growth was originally in the Oakboro and Locust areas, but has spread to other areas,” Remsburg added.
While new home construction can be seen throughout Stanly, the areas in which most development is underway are Albemarle, Locust and the unincorporated areas in and around them.
Having joined the City of Albemarle staff in the mid-2010s, Robinson has been present for the city’s largest increase in development in the last half-century.
With nearly half of the housing builds since 2000 having occurred since the beginning of 2019, that would translate to approximately 386 new homes having gone up in the county seat during that four-year period — not including multi-family units, duplexes and other units.
“We are also seeing an increase in the density and types of housing being built,” said Robinson, noting that the second phase of the Grandview Meadows development (off Anderson Road) is complete.
In addition, the Parkwest development (off Poplin Grove Church Road) is on schedule to be completed in 2023, as is the first phase of Morgan Hills (off Morgan Road).
“There are 130-plus homes that have been permitted, but are not yet complete,” Robinson added. “Most of these are in Parkwest and Morgan Hills.”
A number of lots in those subdivisions are pending approval as well, he said.
“Another 80-90 lots are yet to be permitted in those neighborhoods (Parkwest and Morgan Hills), and they are likely to be built this year as well.”
Although the amount of housing currently being developed is significant, the immediate future shows no signs of a slowdown.
“We have a little over 1,300 housing units across the several subdivisions approved in the last 3-4 years,” Robinson added, “and apart from a small number of townhomes and duplexes, the earliest we will see most of these housing units completed in these developments will most likely be Fall 2024.”
Even more units are on the drawing board.
“We have another 1,100 proposed units that are still going through the approval process, plus another 950 that have been proposed, but have not yet submitted any formal plans, so it’s hard to say how long it will be before we see any of these constructed,” he said.
Information provided by Efird shows similar developmental growth to that in Albemarle.
A total of 570 permits over the period 2019-2022 for new home construction account for a 53% increase over the total issued during the preceding four years (303), according to statistics provided by Efird.
With the increased permitting, buildup of available lots is ongoing, said Efird, listing a number of housing developments with sites still under development.
“Whispering Hills, on Mission Church Road, has 388 lots remaining, and Crossroads, which is going up on Elm Street, still has 111,” said Efird. (Note: these figures are from January 2023.)
Efird noted several other developments with remaining spaces, including Meadowcreek Village (on N.C. Highway 200), with 92, Redah Phase 3 (on Church Street), with 36, and 20 family-home lots in the Red Bridge development (off N.C. Highway 24-27), as well as 21 townhome lots there.
One subdivision, Morgan Meadows on Meadowcreek Church Road, which contains 38 lots, was also completed in 2022, said Efird, who added that development in and around the city’s business and governmental hub, Locust Town Center, is continuing as well.
“Plans are for 80 townhomes, as well as mixed use development in the Town Center,” Efird noted.
An interesting trend is that while residential development increases, so does demand, and in turn, prices.
“The average price of houses in the area is about $375,000,” said Efird, “and the average house is only on the market for about 10 days.”
The robust development seen in Albemarle and Locust is not limited to incorporated areas, as statistics provided by Remsburg, who heads the county’s zoning and planning department, attest.
“Outside of the municipalities, we’ve primarily seen growth in the area south of Stanfield, and in the N.C. Highway 73 corridor,” said Remsburg.
“The Highway 73 growth is partly due to the popularity of Mt. Pleasant and the limited water and sewer availability in Cabarrus County,” he said, before noting that the largest area of development is found in Stanly’s southwestern corner.
“The area around River Road and Renee Ford Road south of Stanfield has had the most growth outside of municipal borders,” said Remsburg, who also noted that future growth is likely to occur between Locust and Ridgecrest once sewer availability increases.
According to Remsburg and Director of Central Permitting Carol Almond, single-family home permits have more than doubled in the county in only three years, jumping from 297 in 2020 to 691 in 2022.
“These numbers would not reflect any homes in Locust that are actually in Cabarrus County, primarily Red Bridge and Meadowcreek Village,” added Remsburg.
[Note: These numbers do include Locust permits within Stanly County, as well as all permits in Albemarle.]
Remsburg listed six developments in which home construction is underway or complete. These include:
● Helms Builders, on River Road near Stanfield – 17 homes;
● Stanfield Farms, also on River Road – 32 homes;
● Garmon Mill Estates, also on River Road – 42 homes;
● Copper Ridge, on Nelson Mountain Road in Millingport – 20 homes;
● Hawthorne Commons, on Hatley Farm Road in Millingport – 40 homes; and
● Tarleton, on N.C. Highway 73 near Albemarle – 10 homes.
Eight developments, consisting of 427 total lots, have been approved throughout the county, with construction yet to begin.
In addition, street grading for two developments with 50 total lots in the Stanfield area is underway.
Although development and construction is strong throughout the county, Remsburg notes that controls are in place to preserve the county’s open space and rural character.
“The newly adopted Stanly County Land Use Plan should help to preserve the critical farming areas between Ridgecrest and New London, including the Millingport and Plyler areas,” he said. “This plan should also slow the major subdivision of large parcels in the Aquadale area and south of Stanfield and Oakboro.
Remsburg also noted a number of positive trends taking place in municipalities, including infill development (vacant lots and spacers between homes being filled in), and development of residences near downtown Albemarle and Locust.
“Infill development is cost effective for utilities, and provides additional tax revenue,” said Remsburg, who added that the addition of downtown residences will benefit the areas by making the downtown areas more viable for commercial businesses.