Polk growth hot, cold through decade

Published 3:30 pm Thursday, December 24, 2009

For the better part of the past ten years, Polk County has worried about growth.
The county started the new millenium with 18,324 souls, 3,908 more than had lived here a decade earlier.
In the 1990s, just south of the border, the Landrum census district grew 9.6 percent to more than 7,000 and Boiling Springs population had jumped a whopping 40 percent, to more than 16,000.
More people were clearly coming this way, or so it seemed. By the middle of the decade, the census bureau was estimating Polk Countys population would top 20,000 before 2010.
In 2005, the census reported Polks economy to be growing as well. About 1,000 youngsters, 45-54, were among the countys 2000 census new arrivals and the countys historic retirement life was supplemented by these working stiffs.
Despite losses in manufacturing, the census reported the number of employees in the county was up by 231. Total payroll had increased by $14.2 million from 1998 to 2003, with most of the jobs coming in health care and construction.
Pavillon and Tryon Estates had opened in the 1990s, Laurel Woods in June, 2002, and Cooper-Riis healing farm in April, 2004.
Construction was certainly booming, as more and bigger houses were springing up at Lake Adger and other new subdivisions arriving daily.
The average value of the new houses being built rose throughout the 2000s, going from $94,942 in 1999 to $227,004 in 2008. Total single family construction value peaked in 2006 at $37.8 million, nearly five times what it was a decade earlier.
By 2005, the number of new subdivision lots platted had tripled from two years earlier. That year, 2003, saw Brights Creek purchase the 4,235-acre Deep Gap Farm property, and White Oak Plantation begin to develop the 1,000-acre tract in Sandy Plains. Other, smaller subdivi
It looked like development would keep going forever. A
The developers exuberance looked to be justified. Real estate values were rising. Lots at Lake Adger which had originally sold in the 90s for $35,000 were bringing $100,000 in 2000 and would double again.
By 2007, annual real estate sales in Polk County had risen to $91 million.
As it turns out, that would be the high water mark for the decade.
In 2008, real estate sales fell by more than half to $40 million, and would fall another 30 percent in 2009. New subdivision lots put on the county books dropped from 362 in 2005 to 115 in 2008 and just 19 in 2009.
The number of new single family home construction permits, which peaked at 218 in 2003 was down to 88 by 2008.
Even with all those new houses that were built, the census bureaus prediction that Polk would reach 20,000 population by 2010 had by 2008 come untrue.
The census estimated Polks population at 19,036 in 2008, and a year later said the county was on pace to add fewer than 1,000 people for the decade.
Polk Countys demographics 23 percent of residents are over 65, double the state average make growth in real numbers difficult. Even with all those new youngsters in town, the census estimated in 2008 that Polk County was still seeing about 111 more deaths each year than births.
Of course, to recognize the slow down
In the most heated days of the housing boom, though, county people were adamantly pressing government officials at all levels to “do something” to protect the areas beauty and rural lifestyle. “Something” might have been done, too, except no one could agree on what it was.
The pressure was nonetheless felt by all. It was perhaps most visceral to those who found themselves waiting in lines of traffic trying to cross I-26 on Hwy. 108. In 2001, tie-ups stretched from the interchange stoplights all the way back to Columbus First Baptist east and St. Lukes Hospital west.
Businesses near the interchange were losing customers. A wider bridge was not even on the states eight-year transportation construction plan.
The N.C. Department of Transportation in March, 2003, however, did step up to the problem. It announced “round-abouts” would be built to keep traffic moving. One opened on the Tryon side of the bridge in December 2004 and a second on the Columbus side in May, 2007.
Traffic tie-ups vanished, thank you very much.
If only the countys land use planning had been so easy.
sions seemed to be popping up everywhere.Philadelphia firm paid $5.7 million for 967 acres off Houston Road in March, 2006 and a Florida company paid $10.2 million for 1,100 acres on the west side of Miller Mountain and Tryon Peak in February, 2007.now is 20-20 hindsight, and perhaps temporary. There are, after all, still a few thousand platted subdivision lots in Polk just waiting for houses.
Editors note:The Top Five Stories of the Decade series will continue next week.


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