Fort Mill Times

Planners expect Fort Mill population to double over the next decade

When every active, pending and approved residential project in Fort Mill is complete, the town’s population will double – which may be only the beginning.

“Clearly there’s a lot of growth coming, but it’s important to keep it in the proper perspective,” said James Traynor, chairman of the town Planning Commission. “This growth is not coming in next year. We’re talking about 10 or 15 years.”

The town grew 42 percent from 2000 to 2010, and the most current population estimate shows a 31 percent increase in the four years since.

Fort Mill has 738 new homes and 312 multifamily units since the last census, plus another 151 annexed homes.

Seven active residential projects, led by 711 more homes in Massey, will bring another 1,148 homes with an estimated 3,559 new residents. As much as 1.84 million square feet of commercial space is in play with two large new projects – Kingsley and Springfield Town Center – under construction. Not all that space is expected to be used in the initial phases of those projects, but officials said it will be used eventually.

“Fort Mill is attracting a lot of new people,” Traynor said. “Fortunately, it’s also attracting some commercial growth.”

In addition, there are approved and pending projects that haven’t begun construction. Almost as many new houses, townhouses and multifamily units await in that category (4,460) as Fort Mill had total units at the last census (4,479).

Included are 1,048 houses and townhouses at Waterside on the Catawba, 931 houses or apartments on the Willis property, 632 houses at Carolina Orchards and a pending 715 houses or apartments on the Kanawha property. Approved and pending projects include up to 825,000 square feet of commercial space.

The result is that leaders expect the current projected population of 14,128 to become 28,448 by 2030. Residential units in that time will grow from 5,680 to 11,288.

Those figures don’t include 2008 development agreements with Clear Spring and Leroy Springs that could allow for 3,237 more residential units and another 1.47 million square feet of commercial space, or any of the anticipated developments along the southern bypass still under construction.

Last week, the town Planning Commission and Town Council met jointly to talk growth, particularly its effect on roads. They heard from the state Department of Transportation, the county’s Pennies for Progress program and the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study.

“It’s a start,” Traynor said of the joint meeting. “It’s going to take a lot more meetings and discussion to find a combination of things that work for Fort Mill, Tega Cay and York County area.”

RFATS is a federally funded organization serving its namesake members as well as Indian Land in the portion of Fort Mill Township that’s in the “Panhandle” area of Lancaster County. David Hooper, coordinator with RFATS, said the entire area is taking in people, but there are “strong growth pressures” in Fort Mill and the Panhandle.

“It’s certainly challenging, especially in an area like ours where you’re seeing so much growth,” Hooper said. “It’s not just incremental, but it’s strong growth.”

When areas boom, federal funding can have a hard time keeping pace, Hooper said. Annually, his group looks at population, socio-economic trends, development announcements, even speed-limit changes and new stop signs, to create a regional travel-demand model showing what local drivers are seeing.

Road funding doesn’t come so quickly. Each year, RFATS gets a little more than $6 million. A long-range plan must cover at least 20 years. The current plan, through 2035, was updated in June 2013; it won’t come up for the required four-year update for several more years.

“At RFATS, it very much is a long-range focus,” Hooper said.

Congestion areas caused by growth are not uncommon. The organization meets regularly and can add roads as a concern even if they don’t shoot to the top of the priority list.

“You’re going to have newly emerged priorities come up,” Hooper said. “We want them to be put on the radar screen. You want them ranked.”

Fort Mill could add another transportation-funding source if the Town Council approves an impact fee, something planners are discussing but haven’t announced through specific plans. The common thread among several solutions and funding sources is that they aren’t an immediate fix.

“Everything I know about it tells me, yes, it does take time,” Traynor said.