by Kevin Cooley

Mayor, Town of Lake Lure

Forever it seems, I’ve been an “observer and critic” (but certainly no expert) of community growth and development trends. Until retiring and moving here, I’d spent all of my adult life living in metropolitan suburbs and much of my time commuting in, out and around urban areas. I’d often declare that “growth is out of control” when I was stuck in rush hour traffic, waiting in line or simply “observing” that almost every square inch of vacant land was being and/or had been developed. The number of overhead cranes served as my informal metric for growth and development in urban downtowns. Now as the mayor of our small, seasonal-resort town, I’ve had to rethink how to measure and assess growth and development. I question what’s “healthy” (the right amount and type) and what’s “unhealthy” (too much, too little or the wrong type) for our town.

So here are a few of my thoughts on this:

  • Community “growth and development” shouldn’t just be about “more”. It should include improving, replacing and rejuvenating what’s existing.
  • Having no growth and development is detrimental (unhealthy) to a community because it doesn’t remain static. It ages, deteriorates, becomes obsolete and eventually “goes away” (becomes worthless) over time. Although some may disagree, I believe this applies to the population and culture of communities as well as the built environment.
  • For me, too much growth and development is when it outpaces a community’s ability to support it and/or when it adversely changes the community’s culture and quality of life.
  • So, the sweet spot in my opinion of healthy (and necessary) growth and development is when there’s healthy investment on-going to revitalize-renew-replace what’s existing and adding the right amount of “more” that the community can support while preserving and enhancing the community’s culture and quality of life. These are the key ingredients of “community sustainability”, something I’m committed and dedicated to achieving for the Town of Lake Lure.

So how do I assess the recent and current status of growth and development in Lake Lure? Being an engineer, I needed “data” to help me answer this question. So, I asked our Community Development Director, Brad Burton, to get me some data on recent building construction in the town. As usual, Brad responded by providing me with some excellent data extracted from the Rutherford County Building Department’s permit data base. It allowed me to compile a listing of every building project within the Town of Lake Lure for which a county building was issued in 2018. Here are some summary highlights of this data:

  • 62 commercial and residential County building permits were issued in 2018 for building construction projects in Lake Lure. The aggregate (builder-estimated) value (investment) of these projects is $7.44 million.
  • Only two of these projects are commercial projects and both of these are “remodeling” projects with a combined value of $90,440. There were no building permits issued in 2018 to expand or construct a new commercial building in Lake Lure.
  • 60 building permits were issued in 2018 for residential building projects in the Town of Lake Lure. The estimated aggregate value of these projects is $7.34 million.
  • Of the 60 Lake Lure residential building permits issued in 2018, 26 were for new single-family homes with an aggregated estimated value of $5.82 million.
  • 23 of the 2018 residential building permits were for “additions and remodels” with the estimated aggregate value of $699,200.
  • The remaining 21 residential building permits issued for Lake Lure properties I 2018 were for boat houses, docks and sea walls (“lake structures”) with the estimated aggregated value of $824,200.

So what does this data indicate? First, growth and development is definitely occurring in the Town of Lake Lure. It confirms my general observations while driving and boating around town. Investment in residential growth and development (building) appears to be “healthy”. Previously dormant residential developments like Sunset Ridge (previously “Lure Ridge”) have sprung to life. Sunset Ridge has 4-5 new homes under construction. There are and have been numerous residential building projects going on around the lake. Residential building is happening on “both sides” of the lake… on the east and south side near the beach and Town Center as well as on the west and north side in/around Rumbling Bald Resort.

Is this level of residential growth and development really “healthy”? I think so. It’s certainly much less then what was experienced during the “boom times” of the 2003-06 time frame when many residents considered growth and development to be “too much” (out-of-control), threatening to outpace the community’s ability to support it and changing the local culture and quality of life for the worse. The current level of residential development appears to be well within the community’s support capability and it’s helping to expand our tax and utility customer base which will favorably benefit existing town residents.

So, what about recent commercial growth and development? Unfortunately, the data indicates it’s virtually non-existent. Is this unhealthy? Possibly not, if it’s correcting previous “over development”. However, I don’t think this is the case. I do, therefore, consider this situation to be unhealthy and something we need to address (better) as a town and as a community. Toward this objective the Town has been working in partnership with the Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber. It’s probably more recognizable under the label “economic development”. I’ll write more about this topic in subsequent issues of this column. For now, I’ll just say “we’re working (hard) on it every day” and invite your comments and suggestions about what I’ve said here.

I hope you are having a good year so far and looking forward to some nicer (warmer) weather as spring approaches.

Best regards,

Kevin