We know that Orange County’s population is growing, and that’s a fact that has some local folks concerned: concerned that we’re getting too dense, that we’re losing our small-town character, or that we’re getting too big for our infrastructure to manage.
But how fast is Orange County really growing? How does our growth compare to our peer communities? And where is that growth actually coming from?
“The story I’ve been telling myself is that people are moving here, that they’re coming to us from Florida and Ohio and the Northeast – but that’s not what’s happening,” says Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson. “Our domestic migration is actually negative.”
What does that mean? “More people move out of Orange County into the (rest of the) US than move into Orange County from the US,” Nelson says.
He’s citing numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. In the year 2014, Orange County’s population grew by an estimated 1,055 people – but that growth did not come from people moving to Chapel Hill from other parts of the country.
Where did it come from? Immigration, as it turns out. About 800 new immigrants settled in Orange County in 2014, most of them either from Asia or elsewhere in North America. Nelson says that accounts for a little more than half of our population growth.
The rest of our growth is natural: 1,269 people were born in Orange County that year, while 738 people died. That’s a net population gain of more than 500, without anyone moving in or out.
“So we have to be aware that some of (our population growth) is somewhat beyond our control,” Nelson says.
In fact the census numbers suggest that most of Orange County’s population growth is not driven by our local policy choices. It’s partly a product of birth rates, partly a product of international trends. (And a lot of the rest is regional: “The Triangle has been growing wildly,” Nelson observes.)
But how fast is Orange County growing, anyway?
In the 2000s, our population grew from 118,245 to 133,801 – that’s an increase of more than 15,000 people in one decade alone.
Which sounds like a lot – until you look back at the 1990s, when Orange County added nearly 25,000 new people.
“In fact,” Nelson says, “the 2000s are the slowest decade of growth in Orange County since the 1960s.”
Nelson says Orange County’s growth has actually slowed down in the last 15 years – not just in real numbers, but also (and especially) in terms of percentage.
“This is the lowest-percentage population growth that we’ve had since the 1930s,” he says.
According to the Census Bureau, Orange County’s population grew by only 9 percent in the 1930s, but it grew by at least 20 percent every decade since – until the 2000s, when we saw only 13 percent growth. (So far this decade, we’re on track to grow about 12.5 percent.)
Compare that to Chatham County, which saw its population grow by about 28 percent in each of the last two decades.
Still, Nelson says, those numbers do add up. Chapel Hill’s population today sits at about 60,000, twice what it was in 1980; by 2050 it’s projected to double again, to nearly 114,000.
And that’s not all. By 2050, Carrboro’s population will jump from less than 20,000 to more than 50,000; Hillsborough will double from 6,000 to 12,000. Mebane will skyrocket from less than 2,000 people today to more than 42,000 by midcentury – and that’s just the corner of Mebane that’s in Orange County.
Those numbers are daunting. But how will it feel? Nelson says to get a sense of what that population will be like, we need to look at population density.
And there, he says, we actually do have some room to grow before we start feeling crowded. Durham and Wake Counties, for instance, are currently about three times as dense as Orange, because Orange County is more rural.
But even when it comes to the cities, Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Nelson says there’s still plenty of room to grow. At about 3,000 people per square mile, Carrboro is the densest town in North Carolina, and Chapel Hill’s not far behind at about 2,700 per square mile – but many of our peer communities outside the state are considerably more dense than we are. Charlottesville, Virginia, Burlington, Vermont, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, for instance, are all above 4,000 people per square mile.
“And I think we admire many of those as places we think are beautiful and wonderful,” Nelson says.
Chapel Hill’s population density isn’t projected to hit 4,000 until at least 2030 – and even then, we’ll be no denser than Charlottesville is today.
(Which isn’t to say that we won’t have difficulty accommodating all those new people – but there are model cities around the country that show us it won’t be impossible.)http://chapelboro.com/featured/how-fast-is-orange-county-really-growing
Growth is a hot topic in this year’s local elections and a major component of just about every key discussion in local politics.
But just how fast is Orange County actually growing?
“We doubled our population in the last 30 years, (and) we’re expected to double it again over the next 40,” said Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson during his annual State of the Community report last week.
According to the 2010 census, Orange County’s population was a little less than 134,000. Today that’s roughly 140,000 – and by 2020, we’re projected to add another 20,000 residents, for a total of 160,000.
And the number keeps growing from there: nearly 200,000 by 2030, more than 230,000 by 2040, and more than 277,000 by 2050 – or about twice what our population is today.
Nelson says nearly all of that growth will be in the cities. By 2050, Chapel Hill will have a population of 114,000, about twice what it is today; Hillsborough will double from 6,000 to 12,000 residents; and Carrboro’s population will more than double, from about 20,000 today to more than 50,000.
But there’s a fourth municipality as well.
“The big surprise is Mebane,” Nelson says. Mebane today has about 1,800 residents – but given current projections and development plans, Nelson says that’s expected to balloon to more than 42,000 by 2050, more than twice the size of Carrboro today.
“And this is the Mebane of Orange County,” Nelson says. “This is not all of Mebane – this is the Mebane piece in Orange County that’s expected to grow to 42,000 people.”
That’s in a space of just two square miles, a third the size of Carrboro.
But while all that growth may sound daunting, Nelson says it’s important to keep it in perspective. For one thing – for better or worse – Orange County is not expected to grow nearly as fast as the Triangle’s other counties.
“In Wake County, someone was telling me, 50 people a day are moving in – (that’s) an elementary school classroom a day,” Nelson says. “We are growing dramatically slower – we will only take 5-7 percent of the total population growth expected for the entire Triangle.”
And while all that extra population will make our towns a lot denser, Nelson says Chapel Hill and Carrboro are not nearly as dense as many of the other college towns with which we like to compare ourselves.
“Chapel Hill in 2030 (will still be) less dense than (present-day) Boulder, Ann Arbor, Burlington, and Charlottesville,” he says.
Still, Chapel Hill is going to become significantly denser than we’re used to. In 2030, Chapel Hill will have nearly 4,000 residents per square mile. To put that into perspective, Carrboro today contains a little more than 3,000 residents per square mile – and that’s the highest population density of any town in the state.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/population-growth-is-coming-especially-in-mebane
Hillsborough Planning Director Margaret Hauth led an Open House, on Thursday evening at the Town Barn, to discuss the “Vision 2030” project.
The early stages of the project involved collecting Hillsborough-centric data.
“If you don’t know what the current situation is,” she says, “you don’t know whether you’ve made any progress.”
There are several lofty goals as part of the development project: town-wide wireless internet by 2025, increasing residential density without losing small-town charm, all while maintaining affordable housing options.
But one item grabbed community member’s attention on Thursday night, the construction of a train station to re-establish Amtrak service and be open to commuter rail. Hauth says they are in line to receive funding from the state Department of Transportation for construction of that train station in 2019.
“We are building the platform, the building, and access to the site so that Amtrak trains can stop,” she says. “Any other trains that are running on that line – that choose to stop – we will welcome.”
The Town of Hillsborough already owns 20 acres off of South Churton Street where the train station will be built.
This is the second time Hillsborough officials have developed a long-term planning document, and they have seen major solutions come during the process.
“In 1990, when we wrote the first Vision 2010 plan, we did not have a reservoir,” Hauth says. “We were at a point where really we couldn’t tie on new water customers for any kind of large-scale development.”
Hauth says that they will have annual reports to update the board, and residents, with progress being made on the “Vision 2030” project.
The public hearing for the development plan is scheduled for next Thursday, January 15.http://chapelboro.com/news/development/hillsborough-vision-2030-open-house
Hillsborough will hold a public information session, scheduled for Thursday night, concerning the vision town leaders have for Hillsborough in the year 2030.
Mayor Tom Stevens says they held the first meeting focused on “Vision 2030” more than a year ago. Now, town officials are ready to unveil a draft of their plan for Hillsborough and receive feedback from the community.
“We’re creating a guiding document that, in very broad strokes, talks about where we want to go as a community,” he says.
According to Mayor Stevens, this is an important step in the process because it allows Hillsborough residents to be involved in planning how the town grows.
“It’s a time where citizens can come in, they can talk to some planning staff, they can hear more details about what’s in that document, and they can ask questions,” he describes.
Stevens adds the vision being brought to residents through this project will focus on five major aspects.
“What’s our character of our town? How’s our community? What are we doing about our heritage? What about prosperity for everybody? And, what’s our overall vitality?” he lists.
Mayor Stevens adds they have recently updated the town’s Unified Development Ordinance, and the public was very involved voicing their opinion in that process. He adds this input is vital.
Stevens says the “Vision 2030” draft does have room to be flexible after input is brought in from the public, but he adds it is a key building block for managing growth going forward.
The Open House is scheduled to take place in the Hillsborough Town Barn, Thursday night from 5 to 7. Time is built in for discussion and questions. A public hearing is scheduled for next Thursday, January 15, regarding the project.http://chapelboro.com/news/development/vision-2030-public-information-session-thursday-night-hillsborough
Flipping the calendar to a new year can cause reflection over what happened over the previous 12 months. It can provide a clean slate for starting new. And it can present new challenges.
Managing growth and fighting poverty are two ideas that would seem to counter each other. But, throughout our community, this juxtaposed theme continues to emerge. The message from many community leaders is that we must continue to strive for growth, while lending a helping hand to those in need.
In that vein, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says he is excited about the two zones in Orange County chosen by the Family Success Alliance, aimed at helping children from low-income families continue on to higher levels of education.
Kleinschmidt adds that Chapel Hill, specifically, has to focus on the “Design 2020” development project and work toward a public transit solution.
“We’re going to be exploring some new ways of financing bus purchases,” he says. “The earmarks that David Price, our congressman, used to bring to us to buy new buses are gone, and we have to find new ways to do that.”
Meanwhile, in neighboring Carrboro, Mayor Lydia Lavelle says they will be focusing on bringing more projects to the town.
“As the economy continues to do a little better, we’re hoping to see some more projects come forward over the next year,” she says, “including projects like the library.”
Kristen Smith, with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, says that she believes there will be a reenergized spirit to help those that are less fortunate.
“I think some people are renewing their focus on poverty,” she says, with the goal of finding “how we can come together and collaborate around that.”
Smith cites the UNC Global Research Institute, whose focus will be on “Feeding a Hungry World” for the 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 academic years.
Mayor Tom Stevens says the Town of Hillsborough will be focusing on ways to systematically build citizen engagement and leadership throughout the community. He adds that promoting tourism will be a key, along with managing growth.
“We’re going to have two new neighborhoods,” he says, “so we’re going to have a lot of new folks in town.”
Stevens adds that he believes Hillsborough can welcome new residents and hold on to its “small-town character.”
Riding the tourism wave, Laurie Paolicelli, with the Orange County Visitors’ Bureau, says that they are working to continue bringing in higher numbers of visitors to the area.
“We’re trying to work with our partners to figure out: Do we stay open a little later? Do we offer night lighting, more way-finding, more marketing of the area?” she says. “We have a lot of opportunity and a lot of smart leaders.”
Paiolicelli adds that it will be important to continue bringing in visitors to fill hotels that are targeting our community.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/common-themes-develop-among-2015-priorities
RALEIGH – Your local economy is already one of the best in the state, but President Barack Obama traveled to N.C. State University Wednesday afternoon to announce the future of American jobs.
“I’m pleased to announce America’s newest high-tech manufacturing hub, which is going to be focused on the next generation of power electronics, is going to be based right here in Raleigh, North Carolina,” President Obama said.
That announcement received a standing ovation in N.C. State’s J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center.
***Listen to President Obama’s Remarks at N.C. State***
The Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute is the second of its kind. The first was started more than a year ago in Youngstown, Ohio and focuses on developing 3D printing technology.
President Obama said Raleigh-Durham’s innovation institute will focus on energy efficiency through this partnership of universities and businesses.
“Bringing together leading companies, universities, and federal research all together under one roof,” President Obama said. “Folks at this hub are going to develop what are called wide band gap semiconductors.”
The President likely addressed many engineers as he pointed out that he was on the campus of a university with one of the largest undergraduate engineering programs in the country.
He said the wide band gap semiconductors will revolutionize energy conservation.
“They’re special because they lose up to 90 percent less power,” President Obama said. “They can operate at higher temperatures than normal semiconductors. So that means they can make everything from cell phones to industrial motors to electric cars smaller, faster, and cheaper. There are going to (still be) applications for the traditional semiconductors, but these can be focused on certain areas that will vastly improve energy efficiency (and) vastly improve the quality of our lives.”
President Obama said this is just the start of where he wants to see the United States go with these partnerships. A year ago in his State of the Union address, he told congress he wanted to see bills passed to allow for 15 institutes in the U.S. Now he says he wants congress to approve the funding for 45.
“Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate introduced bills that would get this going,” President Obama said. “That’s good. But they haven’t passed the bills yet. So, I want to encourage them to continue to pass the bills that would create 45 of these manufacturing hubs. In the meantime, I’m directing my administration to move forward where we can on our own.”
While the Triangle has the best unemployment rate in North Carolina, the state itself if still struggling. It currently ranks 35th in the U.S. at 7.4 percent as of November.
However, President Obama says this will institute will create job opportunities and provide a major boost to the state’s economy, and he says he hopes that it will spread nationwide.
“This can be a breakthrough year for America,” President Obama said. “The pieces are all there to start bringing back more of the jobs that we’ve lost over the past decade.”
And he says he’s seeing signs of other countries sending jobs back to American and that he doesn’t want to miss the opportunity.
“A lot of companies around the world are starting to talk about bringing jobs back to the United States, brining jobs back to places like North Carolina—partly because we’ve got cheap energy costs; we’ve got the best workers in the world; we’ve got the best university systems in the world; and we’ve got the largest market in the world,” President Obama said. “So, the pieces are there to restore some of the ground that the middle class has lost in recent decades.”
President Obama kept his focus on the economy, job creation, and the new innovation institute. He did not mention Democratic Senator Kay Hagan during his time at N.C. State. She’s running for re-election this year and has distanced herself from the President in recent months.
***Correction: President Obama mentioned Senator Hagan at the beginning of his speech by thanking her for the hard work she’s doing in Washington and that he was sorry she couldn’t make the trip.
She told the media that she felt it was important to stay in Washington while the Senate was in session. However, the Replublican party has criticized her for her support of President Obama, especially during the struggling times of Obamacare and its website troubles.
However, Sen. Hagan has tried to show that she wants to keep the president honest when she asked the Obama Administration for a full investigation of HealthCare.gov. She also asked the administration to extend the filing period for Americans since there were many problems.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/president-obama-introduces-innovation-institute-n-c-state
CHAPEL HILL- When the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board met together for the first time last night to discuss shared concerns, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt called for the school board to take a more active role in how the town plans for growth.
“We really need your feedback… to be more engaged in commenting on the impact of growth in our community on how well you’re able to provide your services to it,” said Kleinschmidt.
But long-time school board member Mike Kelley countered that growth is not what the district really needs.
“The best situation for the schools is stability, not to have to build new schools, not to have to redistrict, to move kids from one school from another and change those communities,” said Kelley.
Nonetheless, both council and school board members recognized that the district’s high-performing schools are a significant draw for Chapel Hill, and that school enrollment numbers are likely to continue to grow.
School board member Mia Burroughs has represented the district in the Central West planning process. She told the council the specifics of development aren’t as important to school administrators as the bottom line.
“Within our district, we’re not super-concerned about where the kids are,” said Burroughs. “What we are concerned about is how to do we pay for the schools and the operating costs, and that’s what we want you to be cognizant of, that when there are more kids, there’s a cost.”
Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese told the council the district is already struggling to maintain aging facilities and that the cost of operating new schools continues to rise.
In light of that, Burroughs and others asked the council to examine the economic impact of residential development and consider what can be done to increase the commercial tax base.
At the same time, some are already looking ahead to where the next school will go. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison suggested land-banking potential school sites across the district.
“With the astounding price of land in this district, we really have to pin down that land right now, so that in five or ten years it isn’t simply out of reach,” said Harrison.
This was the first time the two groups have come together to discuss joint planning efforts. The school board and council pledged to continue the collaboration through a series of future meetings and raised the possibility of forming a committee to facilitate communication.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chccs-asks-town-council-to-consider-cost-of-growth
CHAPEL HILL-Sustainability and citizen engagement were the key themes raised by candidates for the Chapel Hill Town Council at Thursday’s forum hosted by the Orange County Democratic Women.
Cuts to state and federal funding, as well as the persistent drain of retail dollars to surrounding counties have many in Chapel Hill looking for ways to grow the local economy.
Maria Palmer, who served on the Transportation Committee during the Chapel Hill 2020 process, said implementing the vision laid out in the new comprehensive plan will be the key to drawing new commercial development to the area.
“I don’t think any of us realize that the level of services we receive in Chapel Hill is unsustainable,” said Palmer. “We either pay a whole lot more in taxes or we cut services or we create new income, and that is one thing I really want to do.”
And 2020 co-chair George Cianciolo agreed. He said the town needs to focus on streamlining the development process and revising the town’s land use ordinances to provide guidance to developers to attract new business.
“There should be no reason that any applicant should have to wait more than a year to either get an up or down vote on their application,” said Cianciolo. “If we do those [revisions], I think we can get new growth, we can get thoughtful new growth, we can get well-designed new growth that will not only increase our tax base, it will bring in increased revenue from sales tax.”
D.C Swinton said he’d like to see new growth focused on job creation to help the approximately one out four Chapel Hill residents who live in poverty.
“There are a lot of people who are still in need of full-time jobs and I’d like to bring jobs through sustainable practices to Chapel Hill,” said Swinton.
Candidates also discussed ways to get the public engaged in town affairs. Loren Hintz said he wants to foster a proactive approach among town officials.
“So much of what local government does is complaint-driven,” said Hintz. “I want to create a new attitude where employees are going around town, council members are going around town noticing what the problems are and then pointing those out so they can be addressed rather than waiting for someone to complain.”
Current Council Member Ed Harrison said educating residents about the role of local government is one of the best ways to get the public involved.
“The more the town publicizes what the town actually does on a day-to-day basis, and what solutions the town can offer to people, the more people will understand that the policies of the town should matter to them,” said Harrison.
Only Democratic candidates were invited to Thursday’s forum. Cianciolo, who had previously been unaffiliated, recently registered as a Democrat, allowing him to participate.
Five of the nine candidates for town council were in attendance. Incumbent Sally Greene was out of town on a family matter, Planning Board member Amy Ryan was across town at the Central West meeting, and challenger Paul Neebe was absent. Gary Kahn, the ninth council candidate, was not included, as he is a registered Republican.
Election campaigning is well underway, with a slew of forums scheduled in the next six weeks. The local chapter of the League of Women Voters will host a forum for the Carrboro municipal candidates this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Carrboro Town Hall.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/chtc-candidates-talk-growth-engagement-and-sustainability