BY BLAKE PALMER

Iredell County experienced explosive growth between 2010 and 2020, gaining over 27,000 residents. This trend is projected to accelerate over the next few decades with Iredell County expected to grow from its current population of about 185,000 to 195,000 by 2025 and 275,000 by 2050.

This growth is most pronounced in the southern portion of the county. Between 2010 and 2020, Mooresville’s population surged by 53 percent from 32,000 to 50,000, while Troutman’s population swelled by 55 percent from 2,400 to 3,700. According to the town’s data, Mooresville has over 18,000 residential units either under construction, pending board action, or do not require board approval but are not yet under construction. Troutman has almost 6,000 residential units either under construction or approved for construction, including the massive Wakefield at Barium development, with another 1,500 residential units being proposed. It has been reported that the Planning Department in Troutman issued 25 residential permits during a mere three-day period in March of this year and is on track to issue over 450 permits for the year. Troutman’s population will likely double, twice, at least, over the next decade.

This type of growth is simply not sustainable, and it’s obvious. Look no further than the infrastructure crisis created in both towns. Traffic is routinely at a standstill on N.C. Highway 150 in Mooresville, and the situation appears to worsen continually. Similar congestion plagues various areas in Troutman. The N.C. General Assembly contemplated challenges posed by irresponsible development, and it created a law to help deal with those challenges. In 2005, the legislature amended its Zoning Enabling Statute (G.S. 160D-107) to expressly provide cities and counties the authority to institute a moratorium. Since its passage, according to a survey conducted by UNC’s School of Government in 2009, 17 percent of cities/counties had reported enacting a moratorium. Those results would be higher today, as a handful of cities/counties enacted a moratorium in 2021 alone. One of those was the Town of Cornelius, which voted unanimously to impose a moratorium on residential development for a period of nine to 12 months to address rapid growth and inadequate infrastructure. The vote came immediately after four pro-growth town commissioners were voted out of office in November 2021.

A moratorium is critically needed to pause large-scale population growth so that we can address overcrowding, the traffic crisis in Mooresville, assess traffic effects from two new distribution centers in Troutman, and to assess the sufficiency of schools and infrastructure in those areas. More specifically, we need a moratorium on all residential development above 10 units for a period of 12 months in the unincorporated areas surrounding Mooresville and Troutman, and the same or similar moratorium within the municipal limits of both Mooresville and Troutman. In conjunction with the moratoriums, the Town of Mooresville should develop a task force to conduct an expedited review of the traffic problems plaguing N.C. 150 in Mooresville. The N.C. 150 road-widening project has been delayed until 2025, at the earliest, leaving Mooresville residents to suffer worsening traffic conditions until the latter part of this decade.

This is entirely unacceptable. Your locally elected leaders, including State Senator Vickie Sawyer, who ironically is co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, have failed us on this issue. This task force should not be composed of locally elected leaders who’ve proven incapable of developing a solution, but with planning board members as well as private citizens qualified to contribute to a solution.

For our neighbors to the north, this type of growth will not stop with Troutman. Statesville will be next. The moratoriums I’ve described will hopefully have the effect of causing some developers to look north, which could provide the revitalization that many in Statesville have sought, while at the same time showing those developers that the unmitigated growth that was allowed to occur to the south will no longer be tolerated.

Make no mistake, getting this passed won’t be easy. There is a well-entrenched old guard clinging to power at both the county and municipal level. They take to local radio stations or board meetings to air their grievances with anyone that has the audacity to suggest that business as usual isn’t working. They offer a multitude of excuses as to why the status quo is our only option. In short, we need new leadership at all levels of local government. Ending business as usual will require voting most, if not all, of our local incumbents out over the next several election cycles. With early voting set to begin soon, ask your local candidates, from state senator to county commissioner to school board, what their position is with respect to the over-development of our community. When a candidate tells you they support “smart growth,” or “balanced growth,” or “responsible growth,” but can’t tell you what that means, you will know who not to vote for. Over the next two years, there will be elections for Mooresville town commissioners, Troutman Town Council members, county commissioners, and School Board members. It’s time to replace the career politicians with those willing to tackle the problems we face. It’s time for a moratorium.

Blake Palmer is a former candidate for Iredell County commissioner. He lives in Mooresville.

10 thoughts on “Viewpoint: Moratorium needed to pause large-scale developments in southern Iredell County

  1. Sarah Calloway Pogue says:

    Couldn’t agree more…you start to wonder if politicians irresponsibly voting are working for the people they represent or for the developers.

  2. Great article and so true! It is just WRONG that Town of Mooresville can approve permits for areas of Highway 150, yet as a “county” residents of these same areas we can’t vote for those ‘town’ representatives so we have no say!

  3. 100% spot on. Government is a hungry beast that never gets enough to eat. Look no further than Troutman….
    BTW John, what does it matter where Blake moved from?

    • John Kindley says:

      People moving here from elsewhere is the reason we need more housing Dan. And more housing means more of everything else. At what number do you suggest capping our population?

  4. Bravo. We need to slow down. Troutman traffic has already increased. The Barium project sounds great but how many more cars can these roads handle? And we need jobs. Bring industry back and more retail.

  5. I agree! Over crowded schools and major traffic jams are now plaguing Troutman. I have been a resident of Troutman for 26 years. This rate of growth with no thought to schools or roads is just blatant disregard for quality of life for the citizens of Troutman.

  6. Deborah Winsor says:

    We need the infrastructure updated before building. What is wrong with these people?

    • I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that the politicians/officials responsible for this mess must be financially benefiting from it. There’s really no other explanation as to why they’d just continue on destroying this area, while completely disregarding the wishes of all of the residents (except the developers, of course 🙄) of the area they’re destroying. The most blatant example of this is the 77 toll lane project. Pretty much everyone who lived here was against the project once they learned the details, but Pat McCrory and Tom Tillis forced it through anyway. Unsurprisingly, the traffic problem on 77 hasn’t improved whatsoever … exactly like we all predicted. But if you get sick of sitting in the constant traffic, you can pay insane fees to some company in Spain to take the toll lanes and drive around it 😤. It’s pretty sad we’ve allowed things to get as bad as they have.

  7. The Troutman Council seems to have ignored most of the valid points he makes in his opinion piece. The council focused their criticism of his opinions regarding a technical misunderstanding of the state law that would allow the town to suspend development temporarily. What about the many other great criticisms he presented? There are literally two roads that lead in and out of Troutman. How can they not be overwhelmed by this growth? Poor planning, poor leadership.

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