WAXHAW – Town leaders have spent recent years discussing how to attract higher-quality retailers to Waxhaw, but the county’s top economic development official encouraged them to think more broadly about commercial and industrial growth.
Chris Plate, executive director with Monroe-Union County Economic Development, recently discussed with Waxhaw commissioners how office and industrial uses can provide more balance to the town’s tax base.
“Local economies thrive in the long-term due to balance,” Plate said.
While a textbook community’s tax base would have about 60 percent residential and 40 percent industrial or commercial, Waxhaw’s tax base is 93 percent residential and 7 percent commercial.
One saving grace is the value of the homes is higher than the average community. But over time, the demands of the community will require more services. Plate contends the best way to keep property taxes low is to stimulate industrial growth.
“Industrial zoning will generate about 65 percent more revenue per acre than residential,” he said.
Plate reasons that focusing more on commercial and industrial growth puts less of the burden on residents for greater tax revenue. Those uses also allow for more career opportunities, reduced commute times and predictable retail development.
Town leaders asked Plate why companies would choose not to locate in Waxhaw.
“I think primarily, there’s no place to go,” he said. “From a zoning standpoint, we need to find some pockets and get some of the boundaries out of the way, because clearly the road system is built for residential traffic.”
From a traffic standpoint, the county has missed out on companies specializing in logistics, but that weakness may erode over time with the arrival of the Monroe Expressway.
Another challenge specific to Waxhaw has been the lack of a day-time population. Most working residents drive into Charlotte in the morning and back to Waxhaw in the afternoon. Restaurants can’t survive on dinner crowds alone, Plate said.
Plate offered to work with Waxhaw leaders in identifying pockets of land that are conducive to commercial and industrial growth. He suggested creating a summit to work with landowners in the area for a strategy that works for them.
Plate can envision engineering and software development firms taking advantage of the creative nature and downtown area of Waxhaw. He mentioned the idea of highly specialized medical components being built here.
He also said industrial uses are too valuable to clump with other zoning designations. After all, you don’t want 53-foot trailers to pass consignment shops and daycares in the same industrial park, he said.
Over the years, Plate has advocated for Union County’s communities to invest in preparing sites for speculation buildings, which allow industrial companies to quickly move in and customize the space to fit their needs.
“We want to eliminate time,” Plate said. “Time is a big deal for a lot of folks.”