Fort Mill Times

Help coming to keep up with Fort Mill's growth

The town of Fort Mill expects to add one new administrative position early next year to help cope with a growing community, pending final approval of the town’s 2013-14 budget.

Last week, the Fort Mill Town Council gave first approval to a spending plan for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. One more vote is needed to finalize it; the council’s next meeting is Sept. 9. In the recommended budget is a new assistant planner and zoning administrator.

Kimberly Starnes, spokesperson for the town, said the plan is to have the new hire in place in January. There’s an increase of more than $52,000 for administrative salaries in the proposed budget.

Six full-time firefighters also would be added with the new budget, with fire department salaries increasing by more than $113,000.

The new planning and zoning staff member would help tackle increased in permits, applications and other work associated with town growth, particularly in the residential area.

New homes are now coming in faster than they did just before the recession and building permit fees in the coming year are projected at $550,000. That figure is up almost 47 percent from the current budget year.

“We’ve pushed off this hire as long as we could,” said Joe Cronin, assistant town manager and planning director.

Increased staff in other growth-related fields, like stormwater and building inspections, have come already. The good news, Cronin said, is that the growth isn’t just a cost due to the new hire, but brings added revenue, too.

The town also anticipates $150,000 more, or 7.5 percent, in business license revenue due largely to the construction business. License fees won’t change, meaning the entire amount comes from increased activity. The town also expects $97,000 more in water tap fees and $120,000 in sewer tap fees, both increases of almost 67 percent.

It isn’t just a numbers shift in new development, but also a geographic one. New construction in recent years came largely from the Springfield subdivision north of downtown.

Now activity is surging in the south, at Massey, Kimbrell Crossing and the Forest at Fort Mill. Waterside on the Catawba and Riverchase will bring even more homes along areas near the Fort Mill Southern Bypass.

Cronin said he’s confident there’ll be plenty of work for the new hire. New home permits peaked in the year from July 2007 to June 2008 at 171. That same 12-month span ending this past June brought 231 permits. That’s without including approved developments totaling 1,500 or more homes and other developers that could bring projects forward soon.

“We know that the workload is there, and workload is going to stay there,” Cronin said.