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Morris: Cabarrus is 360 square miles of growth

Published Friday, May 29, 2015
by Steve Morris (Independent Tribune)

The total area of Cabarrus County is more than 360 square miles. Though growth sometimes seems most visible in the western side of Cabarrus, it’s happening everywhere. Progress comes in bits and pieces, and as a result, we’re sometimes selective to hear only what happens in someone else’s backyard. County staff and the board of commissioners regularly hear about progress that expands programming and infrastructure across the county, but I can’t recall seeing a list of recent county initiatives that served the various geographic regions of our county. To help us all better understand how the county is shaping up as a whole, here are a few of the projects happening in each area of the county.

Heading north, the county partnered with Kannapolis to open the area’s first joint EMS/fire station at Barr Road a few years ago. This has proven successful in its efficiency and effectiveness and we now work with other municipalities to replicate the model. More recently, the county committed to constructing a new middle school in Kannapolis and, through the November 2014 bond referendum, began the process of replacing Royal Oaks Elementary. There has been progress in working with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College on plans to expand their campuses. Those plans include a future $17 million advanced technology center, approved as part of the 2014 bond referendum, and funding for their new 120 West Avenue location in downtown Kannapolis that will open in June.

In Mt. Pleasant, we’re constructing a new middle school that the public endorsed through the November 2014 bond referendum. We’ve also provided funding for fire hydrants in the rural Northeast Fire District, which will provide additional water points to the rural fire departments and can potentially lower fire insurance rates for residents.

Heading south, Midland is on the cusp of two major projects that will fill service gaps and increase visitors to the area. Cabarrus County is in the process of moving forward with phase one of Wallace Park, which will reside on 190 wooded acres, just off Hwy 601. The area’s landscape lends itself for fishing, walking and enjoying the natural environment. Just down the road from the park is the soon-to-be Midland Town Hall — home of the future Midland Branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library. In addition to shelves stocked with thousands of titles, residents can expect special programming for all ages, including story time, craft nights, entertainment and skill-based workshops.

In the southwest area of the county, you can see steel beams and framing for what will soon be the newest joint EMS/fire station collaborative project in Harrisburg. We’re working with Harrisburg and North Carolina Department of Transportation on the extension of Raging Ridge Road, which will improve access to Hickory Ridge High and Middle and help ease congestion in Harrisburg. In April, the county approved an economic incentive package to help bring new industry to the gateway city.

Concord also invited the county to partner for a joint EMS/fire station, currently under construction, on Weddington Road. We’re working with the Cabarrus County Board of Education to construct a new elementary school in the Odell area. Just recently, the board approved an economic incentive that will bring a new $7 million spec building to Concord that can help expand current Cabarrus businesses and recruit new businesses to the area.

This is just the start. We’re working with our municipal and educational partners on land use planning, school facility planning and many other joint initiatives. We’re supporting our Economic Development Commission as they bring forward exciting new proposals that support and build on our existing industries. We’re planning for facilities that develop community, including new senior center locations and the next generation of park sites. 

There’s a lot of progress being made in our 360 miles and there’s a lot more to come. Keep an eye on our five-year plans to see what’s on the horizon. There’s something for everyone in every area, but it must come in its own time, as part of a comprehensive and responsible fiscal plan.

Steve Morris was elected to the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners in 2012 and became chair in 2014. He owns and operates The Gem Theatre in Kannapolis. Morris is a Cabarrus County native and currently resides in Concord.

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