Towns in the Charlotte region are growing across the board, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau — but Fort Mill is outpacing them all.
Fort Mill, a former textile town, was the nation’s fastest growing city with at least 15,000 people, and the second-fastest in the Carolinas overall. It only ranked behind Lincolnville, S.C., a town of 2,500 outside of Charleston.
According to Mayor Pro Tem Larry Huntley, Fort Mill has two obvious draws for families and professionals: low property taxes and a high-performing school system. There’s also a growing effort within the town to increase commercial development to keep pace with residential growth.
This commercial push is obvious in places like Kingsley, a growing business district in the northwest corner of the town. There, small, brand-new stores like Starbucks, Orangetheory Fitness and Clean Juice share a block with neon-green construction sites and Clear Springs Development Co., one of the major financiers of the site.
And major corporations are warming up to Fort Mill as well. On Tuesday, RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corp. announced it would move its headquarters from Parkway Plaza Business Park to Fort Mill’s Southbridge Business Park in exchange for a state incentives package. They’re joining the ranks of Fort Mill headquarters that include LPL Financial and Lash Group.
Huntley has lived in Fort Mill for 35 years. He says that overall, the character of the town hasn’t changed through growth, but that some of the most vocal opponents of it are new town residents. York County Council Vice-Chairman Michael Johnson said he has noticed a similar trend.
“I tell people all the time, there's no magic door that we can just close now,” Johnson said. “I spoke to a homeowners group (Tuesday) night, and I asked the group, 'How many of you have lived here for less than five years?' And probably 60 percent of the room raised their hand.”
According to Kristy Spears, the chairwoman of the Fort Mill School District Board of Trustees, development in the town is about 65 percent residential and 35 percent commercial. The school system is adding approximately 1,000 students and 50 teachers per year, Spears said.
She said that she wants to find more balance between residential and commercial development, to help the school system keep pace with the town’s growth. Spears has advocated for an increase in the local impact fee for new homes and apartments built in the area in accordance with a recent county study, which found that building a new home in Fort Mill warranted a fee of almost $19,000.
Johnson has advocated for more controlled growth in the town, and a better balance of commercial development through ordinances that increase the minimum size for house lots and the number of houses allowed per lot.
"We need to do a better job of making sure that we have a mix of commercial-industrial along with the residential growth," Johnson said. "It can't all be rooftops."
Growth in the Charlotte metropolitan area
The area added about 33,000 people between 2016 and 2017. Charlotte welcomed the most new residents — about 15,550 of them — increasing the city’s population to more than 859,000 people. Only six other cities nationally added more residents than Charlotte. According to data released in March, Mecklenburg County added approximately 54 people per day between July 2016 and July 2017.
The 15,550-person growth represented a 1.8 percent increase in the population of Charlotte, but Fort Mill grew by 16 percent in the same period of time, adding 2,400 people to grow to a population of 17,500. Since 2010, the city has grown 50 percent.
Increase in 2016-17
Increase in 2010-17