1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background

Located just 12 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina, the nation’s 17th largest city, the Town of Huntersville has experienced phenomenal growth over the past two decades. From a population of just 3,014 in 1990, to a 2010 Census population figure of 46,773 residents, the Town has seen an increase of 1,452% in just 20 years. According to 2010 Census totals, Huntersville is now the 19th largest municipality in North Carolina, following an 87% increase in population between 2000 and 2010 (see Figure I-1). Fortunately, most of this population growth occurred after the Town established a new vision for development, outlined in the Huntersville Community Plan adopted in 1995.

Figure I-1 - Huntersville Population Growth 1960-2010

Figure I-1 - Huntersville Population Growth 1960-2010

1995 Community Plan Details

In general, the 1995 Community Plan called for:

  • Allowing a mixture of land uses and residential building types following Traditional Town Design principles
  • Buildings in the commercial corridors to front public streets, accommodate pedestrians and have parking in the side and rear yards
  • Enhancement of Downtown Huntersville
  • Establishing a transportation network that promotes street connectivity, alternative designs for new thoroughfares and planning for future passenger rail to the area
  • Promote the preservation of rural areas

In 1996, the Huntersville Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances were modified to promote development as envisioned in the 1995 Huntersville Community Plan. Due to the foresight of community leaders at the time, Huntersville was able to proactively set the tone for the wave of development that has since occurred, rather than simply reacting to it.

1995 Community Plan Results

As a result, residents of Huntersville enjoy a high quality of life, as evidenced by the strong ratings given by citizens in a recent survey conducted in conjunction with preparation of the Plan. The Town has also been nationally recognized as one of the premier places to live in several recent publications, including a 2009 report by Forbes Magazine which identified Huntersville as the number two most popular destination to move in the U.S

Citizen Survey: 97% of the respondents rated Huntersville as a good to excellent place to live, and 93% rated Huntersville as a good to excellent place to raise children.

2003 Community Plan

In 2003, the Huntersville Community Plan was updated in response to increasing development pressures associated with the construction of up to two-and-a-half residential units per acre in the Rural zoning district and concern over impacts arising from this development, including mass site grading, clearing of vegetation, growing traffic congestion and degradation of the water quality of streams and lakes. The primary objective of the 2003 Community Plan was to address the rapid pace of residential development that occurred between 1996 and 2002 on the eastern and western edges of Huntersville; development which compromised the preservation of rural areas envisioned by the 1995 Community Plan. The 2003 Huntersville Community Plan update reinforced the need to preserve the existing low intensity development patterns within the eastern and western areas of Huntersville, with an emphasis on protecting specific types of valued open space (i.e. mature woodlands, scenic views, prime farmland, etc.).

The 2003 Community Plan also reiterated the 1995 Community Plan vision for a redeveloped downtown, an integrated multimodal transportation system and commercial development that emphasized architecture and de-emphasized parking.

The Huntersville Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Ordinance were subsequently amended to achieve the vision established in the 2003 Huntersville Community Plan update.

Update from 2003 Community Plan

It is now eight years since the last community plan update in 2003 and much has changed. Continued rapid population growth paired with strains on the Town’s transportation infrastructure have required policy changes to manage this growth. These changes have included steps to ensure the adequate provision of public facilities and road improvements through the adoption of “Traffic Impact Analysis” and “Adequate Public Facilities” ordinances.

Since 2008, the economy has experienced the greatest recession since the Great Depression in the 1920’s, with implications that will affect the development landscape well into the future. The projected change in the Town’s demographics (e.g. an increase in the 65 and older population), along with the impacts associated with completion of I-485 and the startup of commuter rail service will also result in profound land use and transportation changes as the Town seeks to balance growth with the desire to maintain a high quality of life.

Because communities tend to develop incrementally over time, often spanning decades, it is difficult to observe the cumulative impacts of this development. Therefore, periodic and comprehensive evaluation of a community’s growth pattern is imperative in order to ensure the city develops in a desirable fashion.

Early Planning Process of 2030 Huntersville Community Plan

For these, as well as many other reasons, 2010 was an appropriate time for Huntersville’s citizens and community leaders to once again comprehensively assess what direction the Town is heading in and what steps need to be taken to create a fresh vision for land use and development within the Town of Huntersville over the next 20 years. To that end, the Huntersville Town Board charged the Town Planning Board and Planning Staff to work with elected officials and the public to prepare a comprehensive update to the 2003 Huntersville Community Plan. Unlike the 2003 update, which consisted of minor adjustments to the 1995 Plan, the 2030 Huntersville Community Plan represents a comprehensive revision and addresses many issues not contemplated by previous plans.

1.2 Regional Context

The Town of Huntersville is located in Mecklenburg County, within the Charlotte metropolitan region, one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S According to 2010 Census figures, Mecklenburg County has the highest population of any county in NC, with 919,628 residents (a 32% increase since 2000). Huntersville is geographically positioned immediately north of Charlotte, the largest city in NC, with a 2010 population of 731,424. To the east, Huntersville is bordered by Cabarrus County, to the north, the Town of Cornelius, the Town of Davidson, and Iredell County and to the west Lincoln County - all rapidly growing suburban/rural areas (see Map I-1).

Map I-1

Map I-1

Centrally positioned in the NC Piedmont region, the Town is located along the eastern border of Lake Norman and the Catawba River - the location of one of two (2) primary intake points for the Charlotte region’s water supply. Duke Power’s McGuire Nuclear Facility is located within the Town’s extra-territorial jurisdiction and was built on the shore of Lake Norman. The lake was created by Duke in 1962 to provide a source of cooling water for the power plant. Since its creation, Lake Norman has been a strong draw for residential and commercial development, as well as recreational use, and serves as the namesake for the “Lake Norman Region.”

Regional Transportation

In terms of the regional transportation network, Interstate 77 bisects Huntersville and provides north-south access both to the region and points beyond. I-485, scheduled for completion in 2014, is located just south of Huntersville’s jurisdiction and will serve to further enhance the regional transportation network. Finally, NC 73 crosses the northern part of Huntersville and, in addition to NC 150 in Mooresville, provides for primary east-west movement between I-40 and I-85.

Besides Charlotte, the closest major cities to Huntersville are:

  • Atlanta, GA - 224 miles
  • Charleston, SC - 165 miles
  • Columbia, SC - 74 miles
  • Knoxville, TN - 185 miles
  • Raleigh, NC - 132 miles
  • Richmond, VA - 253 miles
  • Washington, DC - 336 miles
  • Winston-Salem, NC - 77 miles

1.3 Purpose of the Community Plan

While there is no State mandate requiring the preparation of a community (or comprehensive) plan for municipalities in North Carolina, the State’s zoning enabling statute establishes that “zoning regulations shall be made in accordance with a comprehensive plan.” The Huntersville Zoning Ordinance states: “The purposes of these regulations are to…encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the corporate area and extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction, in accordance with the Huntersville Community Plan (Strategic Update) and other adopted long-range plans for the Town of Huntersville.”

The 2030 Huntersville Community Plan is a policy document intended to guide the physical development of the Town that:

  1. Provides the opportunity for Huntersville to look comprehensively at the focus areas addressed in this plan and how they relate to each other.
  2. Establishes a guide for daily decisions facing government such as rezoning requests, development proposals, and infrastructure investments.
  3. Gives guidance to land owners and developers in making development and investment decisions.
  4. Provides an opportunity for citizens to give input on the future direction of the community.
  5. May be used by state and federal agencies in making various grant and investment funding decisions.
  6. Establishes short and long-term steps the Town needs to take to achieve long-range goals.

1.4 Relationship to Other Plans

As noted in Section 1.1 above, Huntersville has previously prepared long-range Community Plans for its entire zoning jurisdiction, most recently in 2003. Since the Huntersville 2030 Community Plan addresses such a large land area (now over 63 square miles) it is, by necessity, general in nature. In other words, the Community Plan does not make recommendations on land uses or development patterns for specific geographic locations, but rather is broad in nature and intended to provide overall guidance for land use and development throughout the Town.

It is within this context that the Town, since adoption of its present land development regulations in 1996, has undertaken the completion of a number of “Small Area Plans (SAPs)” to guide growth and development for particular geographic areas within Huntersville. Because SAPs encompass a more compact geographic area than the Community Plan, recommendations are more specific, such as calling for the connection or extension of certain streets, or encouraging certain land development activities.

Map I-2 illustrates the geographic boundaries of the ten area plans previously prepared by the Town. Appendix 2 lists each of these plans, along with a plan description, status and date of preparation.

Map I-2 - Small Area Plan Boundaries

HCP Map I-2 Small Area Plan Boundaries

All together, these SAPs cover a land mass of approximately 30 square miles, or just under 50% of the total 63 square miles in Huntersville’s zoning jurisdiction. Map I-3 is an example from the East Huntersville Area Development Plan which illustrates specific land use recommendations for a vacant tract of land in downtown Huntersville, along with strategic road improvements necessary to accommodate this development.

Map I-3 - East Huntersville Area Development Plan

HCP Map I-3 East Huntersville Area Development Plan

It is important to note that for future SAPs, there needs to be careful coordination between these plans and the Huntersville 2030 Community Plan, in order to ensure consistency between the various policies and recommendations for each plan.

In addition to SAPs, there are numerous other plans that have an effect on land use and development in Huntersville. They include, but are not limited to:

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Facilities Plan, Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP), Huntersville Recreation Mater Plan, Huntersville Greenway and Bikeway Master Plan and the Charlotte Area Transit 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan. As new plans are prepared (or as older plans are updated) which affect the Town, it is essential that Huntersville be an active participant in the planning process. Additional information on SAPs and the SAP planning process can be found in Section 5.2 of this chapter.

1.5 Comprehensive Plan Updates & Amendments

The Huntersville 2030 Community Plan is intended to guide growth and development within the Town of Huntersville and its planning jurisdiction through 2030. Periodic review of the Plan, including policies and action items, will be necessary to ensure its continued relevance. Such review should occur by staff, the Town Board and Planning Board on a regular basis (i.e. no later than within seven years of the plan’s adoption). Amendments to the plan should be adopted as deemed appropriate by the Town Board.

1.6 Organization of the Plan

The Plan itself reflects a trend among recent long-range plans to be more “policy” and “action” oriented rather than a compilation of static information which can quickly become dated and limited in usefulness.

While the various focus areas comprising the Plan can be viewed as separate “stand-alone” chapters, they are intended to be read in the context of and in relationship to the other focus areas.

The Huntersville 2030 Community Plan is based upon the Town of Huntersville Vision Statement found on Page ii of the Plan. This Vision Statement serves as the foundation of the entire Plan.

Focus Areas

The Plan is organized into the following six focus areas:

  1. Downtown
  2. Economic and Commercial Development
  3. Environment
  4. Housing
  5. Public Facilities
  6. Transportation

While each Focus Area is unique, featuring different content and organization, they all generally contain the following: a vision statement, providing general direction for each particular focus area; introduction, historical background, review of previous planning efforts and the identification and analysis of key issues.

Each Focus Area concludes with “Policies and Action Items.” The Policies offer general guidance in a number of areas related to the individual Focus Areas and are followed by Action items to implement these policies. Together the Plan Policies and Action items serve as the Implementation framework for the Plan.

1.7 Public Involvement Process

The planning process for the Huntersville 2030 Community Plan began in March 2010, with a series of joint meetings between the Town Board and Planning Board. The purpose of these meetings was to establish a framework for development of the Plan and to refine the elements of the Plan as they were prepared.

Subsequent joint meetings of the Town Board and Planning Board continued throughout the community plan process. The first step in the planning process was a “visioning” exercise where board members were asked to respond to the question: “It is 2030 and Huntersville is a success. What made it successful?” The responses to this question were tallied and voted on, with the top responses serving as the basis for the development of specific visions for each of the Focus Areas contained in this Plan, as well as for related policies and action Items. A similar process was conducted with the public in April of 2010.

Input received from the Town Board, Planning Board and members of the public was then used to create a “Resident Survey,” containing questions that pertained to each of the Focus Areas. The purpose of the Survey was to gain a broader level of public input to assist in preparation of the Plan. The Resident Survey, consisting of 46 questions, was randomly mailed to over 1,500 households to ensure a statistically accurate response. A total of 453 responses were received, or approximately 30% of the total mailed surveys, providing a 95% level of confidence in the results. The survey was also posted on the Town’s website, which received 366 responses. The results of the random and online surveys can be found in Appendix 1. The information gained from these surveys was invaluable in guiding preparation of the Community Plan. Various drafts of the Plan were posted on the Town’s website throughout the planning process and also presented in several public forums. Feedback from these sessions was used in preparing the final Plan document.