Meet the Southern Town Putting the Brakes on Growth 

February 5, 2020
Stop on construction
By Thunderstock

Lake Wylie, S.C., had it all: good schools, low taxes, and a great location just outside of Charlotte. But when out-of-towners discovered the hidden gem, the town’s population exploded past its limits. Empty lots filled up with gas stations, car washes, and fast food chains. Formerly short commutes stretched into 90-minute treks. And so the local government put its foot down. The York County Council declared a 16-month moratorium on commercial and residential rezoning requests: no more new apartment complexes, subdivisions, or shopping districts. But the ban isn’t forever. It is just until Lake Wylie can catch its breath and strategize the best way to handle its expansion so it can plan for the structures it needs, such as doctor’s offices and restaurants. They did not plan for this kind of growth, but now they have to or they feel they'll lose themselves in uninhibited expansion. 

This lakefront suburb of Charlotte, N.C., is among the Sunbelt’s strongest magnets for young families.

Since 2000, Lake Wylie has tripled in population to 12,000 on the strength of its good schools, low taxes and proximity to Charlotte’s jobs in the financial and technology sectors. But those schools are filling up, the water system frequently fails under increased demand and 20-mile commutes are stretching to 90 minutes.

Now, the town that grew too fast wants to stop growth.

In December, the York County Council, which is led by Republicans, put a 16-month moratorium on commercial and residential rezoning requests and consideration of any new apartment complexes or subdivisions. It is the most comprehensive ban so far in a state where fast-growing cities are temporarily blocking everything from dollar stores to student housing, the Municipal Association of South Carolina said.

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