Morrisville mayor focuses on slower growth in annual address

twanbaugh@newsobserver.comJuly 17, 2014 

— Mayor Mark Stohlman says Morrisville has likely hit a plateau in population growth, but the town is still playing catch-up when it comes to roads and schools.

“We’ve somewhat matured,” Stohlman said of the town, which has about 21,000 people. “We aren’t going to double in size any time soon.”

Stohlman delivered the State of Morrisville address Thursday morning at the town’s Chamber of Commerce office. He was joined by Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann, who stressed the importance of schools and teacher pay.

“It is embarrassing that North Carolina is 47th (in the country) for teachers’ salaries,” Hartmann said.

Schools have been an issue in Morrisville, mostly because it is one of only two Wake County towns without a public high school. A charter high school had hoped to open in 2015 in Morrisville, but an issue with paperwork has delayed plans.

More than half of Wake County’s budget – which exceeds $1 billion – will go to schools, Hartmann said. He wants to make sure the county is ready for an influx of students.

But Stohlman said he isn’t counting on major growth in Morrisville. The town expects to have about 28,700 residents in 2040, he said. It had about 8,000 people in 2000.

In the meantime, Stohlman said, Morrisville leaders are focusing on roads.

Many commuters travel through Morrisville on their way to work in Cary and Research Triangle Park, straining the town’s infrastructure.

Plans are underway for the N.C. 54 bypass, which will likely ease rush-hour traffic. Construction on the project, also known as the McCrimmon extension, is expected to start in 2016.

The town plans to add traffic signals and sidewalks on Morrisville Parkway.

It also plans to make improvements and widen the intersection of Morrisville-Carpenter Road and Davis Drive. A curb and sidewalk will be added as well.

On Thursday, Stohlman touted his town’s achievements. Movoto, a real-estate blog, ranked Morrisville fourth among North Carolina’s top cities. NerdWallet, another blog, ranked the town the eighth best place in North Carolina for homeownership.

“This is why businesses want to come here and people want to live here,” Hartmann said.

He said Wake County has gained 800,000 residents since 1960 and is now the 46th largest county in the United States.

The county has made gains as it recovers from the economic downturn, Hartmann said. Sales-tax receipts are up, unemployment is down, and revenue from property taxes is increasing.

“Growth is good,” Hartmann said. “Growth will fund itself to a point. But with high growth comes a lot of issues.”

Wanbaugh: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @TaylorWanbaugh

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