By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read May 2020 — Developing a sense of community through a revamped downtown is the overall concept that Huntersville is working to materialize. Mayor of Huntersville John Aneralla shares the details of his three priority pillars: enact a 2040 Growth Plan, accelerate infrastructure development and bolster the town’s school capacity.
What are your primary goals for your recently inaugurated third term (November 2019) as mayor of Huntersville?
There are three main goals. First, establishing and enacting our 2040 Land Use Plan. It is a refresh of the guidelines relating to our town’s growth objectives and how to achieve them. Second, continue to invest in and accelerate infrastructure development. That includes greenways and sidewalks. Another example is our Town Hall, which was obsolete the day it was built 20 years ago and the town has outgrown it. One of the things we have been pushing for in the last few years is to develop Huntersville’s Downtown infrastructure and optimize the town’s Downtown assets. Third, we are severely lacking in school capacity. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system has no planned new school funding for North Mecklenburg. We need to figure out a way to stress our need for more schools sooner rather than later.
What are the short-term objectives for Huntersville?
The trick is to make sure we keep things as affordable as possible so people can actually live, work and play here. We are working on increasing the number of people who can work and live here, and the numbers are improving. Within the overall scheme of the town, the big focus from the governmental point of view is building out the infrastructure. Considering the rapid growth that we have witnessed over the last 25 years, the infrastructure component is lagging behind. Since 2015, we have been pulling out all the stops to accelerate growth projects, and even more so since 2019.
One area that we are most excited about is shedding the poor reputation of our Downtown. Part of this plan is to revamp Main Street. We are widening the road and getting rid of some old buildings and houses to start the improvement. Highway 115, our north/south route through the Downtown, is the only way people can get north and south. Building out our Main Street, which is east of the 115, will relieve a lot of the pressure on that one particular road. As a result of building out the infrastructure, developers are noticing that there are going to be multiple routes to get in and out. The town is investing between $18 million to $20 million, which is attracting much of the developer interest in our Downtown.
What are the main challenges inherent to the goals Huntersville has set for itself?
Our No. 1 job as a government is the safety of our people. We are facing difficulties in recruiting police and law enforcement. We are looking to be more creative. We’ve offered bonuses to our employees for referrals and we are examining changing the pay scale. We are undermanned as an entity of 65,000 people. Despite the shortfall, Huntersville consistently scores as one of the safest places in North Carolina. Our officers are doing a great job, albeit not with as many resources as we would like to bring in.
What are the town’s plans in terms of talent attraction?
That’s a question that’s on everyone’s mind. We have made a commendable effort to connect both the local business and education communities. We have the Merancas Campus of the Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) and UNC Charlotte is close by. We are also integrating our high schools in this effort. The ultimate goal is to connect high-school seniors with jobs, particularly relating to light manufacturing. Huntersville is home to top-tier, high-tech companies, such as a 3D printing of metals manufacturer. We want to bring the Career & Technical Education (CTE) teachers and kids to the businesses to give them hands-on experience and for the schools to integrate the skills inherent to such businesses into their curriculum. We are working closely with the Lake Norman Economic Development Chamber (EDC) on this initiative.
What is the 2020 outlook for Huntersville?
We have a diverse business community. Although some sectors will be hit more severely by COVID-19 than others, we have a fairly broad business base, including a 3D manufacturing company, a fruit-netting manufacturer, even a NASCAR team. Money will be slower to come by in the short term like everywhere else, but if one wants to be close to Charlotte, with a business-friendly community at less cost, Huntersville is the place to be.
We are also looking forward to providing a sense of community by offering a walkable, playable and livable Downtown. Finally, we are thinking ahead. Conservative projections estimate the town will grow to at least 85,000 people over the next 8-10 years, with all the inherent adjustments such a population surge implies.
To learn more, visit: https://www.huntersville.org/