Siler City braces for growth spurt amid economic development announcements

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SILER CITY — New industries are making their way to Chatham County, and Siler City is gearing up for the inevitable growth that accompanies the arrival of new companies and their employees.

From VinFast in Moncure to Toyota’s new plant in neighboring Randolph County, it’s keeping Jack Meadows — Siler City’s director of planning and community development — and his staff on their toes as they work to prepare for a potential population boom.

“I think we have been thinking about and wanting to see growth, and we have seen growth in certain sectors,” Meadows said.

The evidence of growth is already apparent: the town recently approved a 214-unit single-family and townhome subdivision off of Harold Andrews Road, something Meadows said has not happened in the last 20 years.

And it won’t be the last, he says.

“That’s the beginning of something that’s coming because we’re continuing to talk to the same type of developers, wanting to do that type of development, a number of them,” Meadows said.

Town Manager Hank Raper said the town will likely see its own major economic development announcement through the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site (CAM site) in the near future. With it, the town needs to prepare for the inevitable increase of traffic and population.

“If you have something at the CAM site — that’s a large industrial park — you’re talking about a substantial number of jobs … you’re talking very large,” Raper said. “It would require rethinking the way we run and operate and provide services because we’d have a new population in town, expecting a different level of service — that takes on many facets.”

Siler City is unique for developers for numerous reasons, according to Raper.

He said at most municipalities, developers are landlocked — by other towns, bodies of water or other natural terrain — on where they can develop. But Siler City is different.

“Our city can essentially develop on all sides … we’re not butting up against any other town, so it creates a tremendous opportunity for us,” Raper said. “We literally could grow all the way around in a circle around the jurisdiction of our city. So it’s exciting — it means that there’s a very high upside and very high growth capability for Siler City.”

With the growth comes some challenges, according to Raper. As population increases, the town will have to expand its service capability to accommodate new residents and current residents.

“When you can grow on one side, you know where to put a fire or police station, but when you grow on all four sides, you don’t know where to go or where to put it,” Raper said. “So you have to play to some degree with the understanding that you may have to be flexible and nimble in the process.”

Another challenge the town will face is increased car traffic. Meadows said as a part of the planning process, his staff has worked to make sure developers undergo traffic impact studies, as well as look at existing infrastructure, to ensure those issues are mitigated.

“Major infrastructure was done years ago in preparation for some of these (developments),” Meadows said. “I truly believe that we’ve gotten some bones to have gotten this today.”

Both Raper and Meadows believe more single-family subdivisions, such as the recent approved 214-lot neighborhood, are coming to Siler City, and the town needs to start planning for the future to avoid as many growing pains as possible.

“I think we’d have to add quite a bit of staff and expand the scope of services that we’re providing, particularly in operations when it comes to police, fire and public works,” Raper said. “I think there’ll be increased demand from the citizens for service, so I think we’ll have to adapt as people move here, and we’re going to constantly have to ask them for input.”

The approval of the large subdivision indicates many things, according to Meadows, but he said it shows developers and investors are interested in what Siler City has to offer.

“It shows that there is a potential that people want to move and live here, which is the other part that is exciting to us,” Meadows said. “It means the community is drawing people in, they like our community and that’s a good thing.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com and on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.

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