By Dr. John Crumpton
The Rant has asked me on several occasions in recent years to write a guest column on topics relevant to local government and Lee County. As the sitting county manager, I never thought it was appropriate to do so.
But with my retirement effective Feb. 28, I decided it would be okay to give a few personal and professional opinions for readers to think about when I am no longer the manager. I certainly will have different perspectives on many issues than readers. Some of my opinions may even shock a few. But my 25 years of experience in local government and seven as an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Government have exposed me to lots of issues that I’ve had to view from various political points of view. Over the next three months I will give you a look into how a local government manager thinks. The first topic will be growth.
No issue is more difficult to manage in local government than growth. I’ve managed in several hot spot areas such as Emerald Isle, Morrisville, Scotland County and Lee County. Each jurisdiction had their unique issues with growth (or lack of growth). No matter the town, city or county, there are always two camps – pro-growth and anti-growth. It’s always surprised me when people say “we aren’t ready for growth.” Why? Every board I worked for was pro-growth. Whether it was building homes, or expanding commercial and industrial areas, growth was always the focal point. Growing tax base and creating jobs was what most politicians ran on. So, when people say we aren’t ready, who are they talking about?
Locally, the city of Sanford and Lee County have been partners in an effort to grow since I started here 16 years ago. In 2013, both boards along with the town of Broadway, the Lee County Economic Development Corporation, and the Sanford Chamber of Commerce began in intensive review of how to attract growth. After working with a consultant for almost a year, the Sanford Lee County Partnership for Prosperity, later renamed the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, was created. All meetings of the working group were open to the public and local media wrote about the work. The goal of SAGA is to create economic growth which includes new jobs and investment in our community. The city, county and SAGA set the course that would lead to our current economic boom back in 2014.
Seeing that growth was coming, the various partners began updating our joint land use plan. Again, numerous public meetings were held seeking input on how we should grow into the future. The plan outlined the growth corridors for the city, where they would extend sewer and improve water services. All three boards adopted the plan in 2016. Due to the rapid growth in recent years, the plan now needs to be updated. Citizens will get another opportunity to take part in the growth plan.
The county has been preparing for growth by planning for future parks and recreation facilities and a new library. The county has also built reserves to address capital and opportunities that may come up in the future. Our capital improvement plan outlines our needs for the future. The county’s financial position has never been better. County staff has been watching and preparing for growth. So, when people say we aren’t ready, they can’t be talking about Lee County Government. Normally they are talking about two major issues – roads and schools.
The county is not responsible for roads under North Carolina law. That responsibility falls to the city of Sanford and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Both have done an excellent job expanding U.S. 1 and building the 421 Bypass. I know Tramway is a bottle neck on U.S. 1 and needs to be addressed. Outside of this area, future projects in the DOT transportation improvement plan will continue to address traffic issues in our community. We are in a lot better shape than a lot of surrounding communities.
So that leaves the county responsibility to build schools. This includes K-12 schools and Central Carolina Community College. We do not have an immediate need to build new schools for the K-12 system. Over six years ago a report given to the County Commissioners showed the seating capacity in total for all schools in Lee County Schools to be 10,400. At that time, the average daily membership was around 10,100. We were headed for needing a new school, and then an interesting thing happened – ADM began to drop. The ADM in September of 2022 was around 9,200 students. With three new charter schools, growth in two private schools and over 800 students now being home schooled, the need for a new school in Lee County is not imminent.
Depending on who is looking at the numbers, there are between 800 to 1,200 seats available in Lee County Schools. If growth in the public schools started, there would probably be a need to redistrict to take advantage of the current seating capacity. We can also add trailers to elementary and middle schools while we are getting ready for the construction of new schools.
That’s not to say there won’t be a need down the road. Due to the number of residential units approved for building by the city and county, planning has begun. Now that we know where the residential growth will occur in Lee County and Sanford, we can begin the acquisition of future school sites. Once the county and Board of Education own the sites it will reduce the time to build a new school by 12 months.
Speaking for Lee County Government, I can say we are ready for the growth. Plans are in place and I am confident the county can adapt and grow to meet the needs of the citizens.
So that leaves who isn’t ready? To be honest, it’s usually the people saying we’re not ready. When a citizen steps up to the podium and says we aren’t ready for all these new developments, I believe they’re really saying they aren’t ready for those developments to land in their backyard. People are continually asking for change, but often have a problem adapting to it.
I hear a lot of people say they would like a Target in our community. Target, like most major commercial companies, looks at population and household income as the top two matrices (along with many others) as indicators of where to locate a new store. As our community grows in population and continues to add jobs that pay really well, we will become more attractive to companies like Target. We are getting very close to their numbers. Are you ready for a Target to come to Sanford? The answer is probably yes. Are you still ready if it lands in your backyard or causes more traffic as you leave your home?
I am not in favor of a Target coming here because of their bathroom policy allowing men in the ladies bathrooms.
Secondly, there is no safe way for pedestrians to cross Horner Blvd. You see people all the time dashing across the street trying cross 4 lanes of traffic with no crosswalk signs. Someone could get killed especially by main and Horner. I see it by Walmart also. I’m 72 years old and commute by bicycle to work part-time at AutoZone. Please address this issue. Ee could used more bike lanes also.
Thank you, Dave Skiff
Horner is what has been termed a “stroad” — combining the worst aspects of a street and a road. Look at the YouTube channel JustBikes for good videos on why stroads are, like you point out, terribly dangerous and inefficient. Crosswalks with lights protecting people and bicyclists using the crosswalks would be a big improvement.
bicyclist seem to believe they OWN the fucking road lately. Maybe not you Dave, but when I commute in the early mornings to Cary, there are several bicyclist in the MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING ROAD without any lights or reflectors on and they get pissed off when you honk at them so you can pass. I’m not exaggerating either. Literally riding in the middle of the road I see every morning. I understand that we “must share the road” with these people, but enough is enough. They need to understand that a vehicle cannot stop in time if WE DON”T SEE THEM! I would support more bike lanes but only if that is the only place someone on a bike can be.
Cyclists *do* own the road – at least the part they’re driving, just like you or me when we have legal right of way. Bicycles are classified as vehicles under NC law. Now, they are required to ride as close as possible to the right-hand edge of the highway. At the same time, motorists have a responsibility to avoid an accident.
The idea of more bike lanes is a good one, but there is no legal requirement for a cyclist to use one; he or she has a legal right to travel the roads of North Carolina.
It would be nice to set aside some bits of land — especially wetlands, streams and ponds — as park land. Yes we need development, but not all land is suitable for development. There is very wet land in my neighborhood that a very irresponsible developer seems to be looking to build houses on, and those houses are going to have decades of water issues, from rot and mold to cracking foundations, because some land just should never have houses on it. And the builder will get away with it, just like he has gotten away with all the shoddy construction he has saddled buyers with in the rest of the neighborhood.
This man is the most crooked and I so wish all the truth behind the county’s undertaking ts was truly public. He screwed lee county citizens for all these years. Shady handshake deals that benefit friends and not the community, protecting shady peers and letting them “retire” and hide their wrong doings, shielding corrupt leaders and looking out for self and not community! Bye Felicia!
Sad how many drink the koolaid ket these crooked leaders work against us all for self gain in the shadows. So thankful Karma works everything out eventually … I pray!
It would be nice if a) administrators would delete posts with profanity, and 2) people would sign their posts.
Couldn’t care less about profanity, but yeah, anonymous posts are almost never worth a read or a response.
Thank you for the thoughtful and informed post John.
As you mention, “growth” is a complex consideration, and one must break down the components to understand and approach it effectively.
And thank you again for your 16 years with Lee County. I’ll miss seeing you in the neighborhood and leading Lee County, but good luck and enjoy your well-deserved retirement!
For those of you that have something to say about profanity… A person on a bicycle that thinks they rule the road can make a preacher cuss.