Huntersville’s growth no problem for lifelong residents
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – A ride home was very different for Larry Irvin when he was growing up.
There was no Birkdale Village or Presbyterian Hospital nearby. Rush-hour traffic was a myth.
Those days are long gone for Irvin, now the town’s fire chief, and other lifelong Huntersville residents. Not that the 52-year-old Irvin minds.
“If your community doesn’t grow, it’s not going to survive,” Irvin said. “We’re definitely growing.”
In 1990, the town’s population was 3,014.
“It was a cute little town where everybody knew everybody, you’d keep your doors unlocked at night and you had to drive to Charlotte to visit a doctor,” Irvin said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau in July 2011, Huntersville’s population at 48,048.
More growth is on the horizon. Town planner Zachary Gordon said it’s within reason to expect the population to reach 70,000 within the next decade.
Town commissioner Charles Jeter concurred.
“We’re going to keep growing,” Jeter said.
Gordon said Huntersville’s 2030 Community Plan projections “show a median population of 89,000 by 2030. It could be higher or lower than that.”
The reasons for growth are easy to explain. Huntersville’s close proximity to Charlotte helps, but the continued business growth – including adding a cable plant for ABB in August – and ongoing residential development will bring more jobs and residents to the area.
“Even though the national economy isn’t great,” Gordon said, “we continue to be an attractive place for growth.”
What sets the area apart for long-term residents like Irvin is the down-home feel the town maintains despite its rampant expansion. Fifteen years ago, Birkdale, off Sam Furr Road, was approved for construction. It opened in 2002 and quickly became a destination for people looking to live, shop, eat or watch a movie.
Because of Birkdale, 25,000 cars passed through the area on a daily basis in September, Gordon said.
And industrial businesses like ABB help area growth and popularity, Gordon said, because of the town’s ability to expand without negative effects.
“We’re in a good location, and success breeds success,” he said.
“Just like in business, when you get people moving to the area and saying how great it is, others are going to want to (follow suit). When you go from 3,000 to nearly 50,000 people, it’s hard to claim the small-town label, but it’s still a family-oriented town.”
Irvin agreed. His father, Allen, served as town fire chief when the current chief was a child. Even with expansion, Irvin said he never entertained thoughts of leaving the area. He grew up close to what is now Discovery Place Kids off Gilead Road.
“There was a gas station there, but that was about it,” Irvin said.
The downside to more people in what was a “small farming town” when Irvin graduated from North Mecklenburg High in 1978, Irvin said, is increased traffic.
“All the traffic every morning (is a downfall to the development),” Irvin said. “The road systems can’t handle it.”
Gordon said efforts to improve traffic flow are part of the ongoing town plan.
“We have the infrastructure in place,” he said. “We’ve almost doubled (in population) in 10 years and we continue to grow, but we’re doing it (at a sustained pace).”
Irvin doesn’t argue with it. He said his drives through town look different and they’ll look even more different in the future, but that’s the price lifelong locals pay to continue to be a part of a burgeoning community.
“It’s hard to believe what all has happened in the past 25 years,” he said. “But (Huntersville) is still home to my family. It’s always been home for us.”