Friday, February 8, 2013

Bigger than the streetcar spat. No, really

Yes, the City Council's debate/argument/shouting match over whether to include money in the city budget to expand a starter streetcar route has gotten plenty of publicity. But the streetcar is really just one tool being proposed by Mayor Anthony Foxx and streetcar supporters as a way to spark development in some parts of the city that could use a boost.

A much bigger problem lies ahead, for the whole city.  I wrote about it yesterday, after hearing Foxx's state of the city speech Monday and while I was dipping in and out (via Twitter) of the City Council's discussions at their yearly retreat. Here's what I wrote: "Growth challenge dwarfs the streetcar spat."

My point, and it's one Foxx alluded to in his Monday speech, was this: The way Charlotte grew until now is not the way the city will grow in the future. Annexation has all but ended. So how can we keep the city's property tax base healthy without easy population and territory growth? Since 2003, large parts of the city have shown property value decreases.

And today I came across a scary statistic that I wish I'd had yesterday. It was deep in the agenda packet for next Monday's Transportation and Planning Committee meeting. (Am I a policy geek or what?) It said:

"Growth in the last decade due to annexations:
Charlotte grew in the last decade (2000-2010) by 190,596 people or 35.2%. Out of this 123,916 people or 22.9% were due to annexations since 2000."

In other words, 123,916 out of a total of 190,596 new Charlotte residents, or 65 percent, came through annexation. Annexation is effectively over (due to a new N.C. legislation - read my article for more information). So how does Charlotte grow for the next 10 years?

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