Albemarle hears about current, future developments

Planning and Development Services Director Kevin Robinson reported on current and future residential and non-residential development projects and trends at the March 4 meeting of Albemarle City Council.

“2023 continued an eight-year trend of lower-than-average non-residential development in the city,” Robinson stated, noting most such development has included small-to-medium businesses and retail such as Family Dollar/Dollar Tree, Albemarle Sweet Shop and the Stanly Community Christian Ministry expansion, among others.

As for future non-residential development, Robinson noted that only 34 acres in the city limits had been rezoned for non-residential use in the past 2.5 years.

“There doesn’t appear to be a real high demand at this time for new commercially zoned land. That could mean we have enough, or that there’s just not the market for it right now,” he stated.

Even so, issued permits indicate some demand for development on currently commercial and/or industrial-zoned locations.

“We’ve seen 110 coordination forms for permits for renovations and upfits of various types,” Robinson said, “and so far in 2024 we have 18 coordination forms just through February. And 7,000 square feet of new construction is included in that.”

Residential development over the past five years has increased.

“Over the last five years our average is the highest we’ve seen since 1950,” Robinson said..

From 2000 to 2018, the city added 751 residential units, an average of around 41 new units annually.

In 2019, however, numbers skyrocketed, with the trend continuing to the present day.

“From 2019 to 2022, we added 803 units total, an average of 160 per year, compared to 751 over the previous 19 years,” said Robinson, adding that last year 215 new units were added, with 91% being single-family homes.

Anderson Ridge, Grandview, and ParkWest developments are 100% complete, Robinson said, and Morgan Hills is at 90%.

Robinson said lot sizes nationwide are trending toward smaller parcels, and that Albemarle reflects that pattern.

“From the early to mid 1900s, you had smaller lots. From the 1960s to 1990s, lot sizes got much larger, but now they are trending down again,” he said, adding that the city’s average lot size is 0.56 acres, and median lot size is even smaller, at 0.41 acres.

Annexations in the last four years have been entirely for residential projects, Robinson said.

“Since 2019, a total of 491 acres have been annexed into the city limits, all for residential uses,” he said.

The annexations consisted of 27 developments.

Robinson reported three future developments have been submitted to the Planning and Development office, which would add 537 new units to the city.

A number of additional subdivisions and apartments have been discussed or are in conceptual stages. These would consist of 17 developments and add 1,400 acres and 4,500 units.

None of these, however, are a “done deal.”

“These are future concepts only,” Robinson reminded council members. “Many are not practical at the present time, and no plans have yet been submitted…and some of them I don’t think we should develop for some time.”

In closing the presentation, Robinson summarized future development potential within the city, noting 2,400 acres of developable land exists within the current municipal limits, most of which are lots of two acres or less in size.

“There are large tracts around the Northeast Connector, Mountain Creek Road, Snuggs Park Road and Pennington Road,” he said, “but not all of these are easily developable…a lot of them have sat this long because there are issues there.”

Robinson said that he had shared the report with Stanly County Schools.

“Any time we do these updates, we want to keep them plugged in so they know what is going on,” he said.

“This has been very informative,” Councilman Chris Bramlett said to Robinson. “That was a lot of work to put this together, and I compliment you on it.”

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.