The city of Charlotte, as most of us have experienced, has seen major growth within the past decade. As a student at UNC Charlotte having to traverse Charlotte on a regular occasion, I find myself constantly in traffic jams and having to bypass numerous wrecks. While this is to be expected in any major city, Charlotte has had record growth which has led to the increase in traffic. However, this does not only affect Charlotte, it also affects surrounding municipalities, such as Belmont or Lake Wylie. In this article, I will argue that rapid growth can have a multitude of negative effects that affect workers and residents in and around Charlotte.
As of 2019, according to the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte is the 16th largest city in the United States. The Charlotte Observer also reports that the population of the city of Charlotte, between 2017 and 2018, has grown by about 13,000. This brings the total population to about 870,000. But Charlotte is not the only growing city in the area nor is it the fastest growing city. Between 2017 and 2018, suburbs of Charlotte such as Waxhaw has grown by 6.44 percent and Fort Mill by 13.20 percent. This compares to the 1.53 percent growth that Charlotte experienced during the same time frame. The Charlotte Observer also points out that many millennials are moving to the suburbs in order to find cheaper housing, hence the exponential growth in Waxhaw and Fort Mill.
An article in The Wall Street Journal details the difficulties faced by Lake Wylie, another Charlotte suburb, due to this growth. Lake Wylie has faced several problems resulting from high growth. Rapid development has resulted in an increase in traffic, so much so that in an interview conducted by The Wall Street Journal, a resident stated that it took her forty minutes to drive three miles from her daughter’s gymnastics class to their home. But this wasn’t the only issue related to rapid growth as the city of Lake Wylie has had issues relating to the water provided to residents. Due to the demand for water, there has been numerous boil-water advisories (meaning water must be boiled because the filter system is not working properly). Lake Wylie, as a result of the rapid growth, has committed to a sixteen-month moratorium in which Lake Wylie will not accept any residential or commercial rezoning requests.
In my own experience as someone who is from a suburb of Charlotte, I have found it quite frustrating as buildings seem to pop up out of nowhere and increased traffic has forced me to find new routes. According to The Charlotte Department of Transportation, in the last ten years there has been an increase of about 200,000 drivers, cyclists and pedestrians on roads within Charlotte. While this statistic only pertains to Charlotte, much of that traffic most likely comes from commuters from surrounding areas, such as Waxhaw and Fort Mill. I myself know a number of people who live in the suburbs and commute to work in Charlotte and they feel the same way.
When you’re used to living in a somewhat low-density town and over a relatively short period of time it becomes a much higher-density town, it can be a shock. Of course this is not to say that growth is inherently bad as a town needs some growth to help sustain itself and the community within it; however, there comes a time when there is too much growth in a relatively short period of time, such as in the case of Lake Wylie. That’s why I support what Lake Wylie has done in terms of temporarily freezing new residential and commercial construction. In my opinion, if more towns around Charlotte implemented a similar plan to Lake Wylie, they would be better equipped to handle rapid growth. Charlotte and the surrounding areas will only continue to grow for the foreseeable future, but allowing towns to plan ahead would alleviate growing pains such as heavy traffic and overworked water systems.