Fact or Fiction
FACT OR FICTION, or maybe somewhere IN BETWEEN???
Ever read something on Facebook or heard a rumor from your neighbor and just wanted to know more? Or maybe you simply want an answer yourself but don’t know who to turn to for information?
We recognize that there are a lot of things residents are curious about, and these topics are not often outlined in great detail during the Town’s normal course of business. We get it, and we want to provide an avenue to address the curiosities, rumors and gossip that can spread throughout Town.
This FACT or FICTION platform isn’t intended to give you ALL of the information about a particular subject matter but is intended to be an informal way for the Town to give you a quick answer. If you are searching for greater detail than what is provided, or if you have something you want the Town to answer, feel free to share with us by emailing Logan Lover, Communications Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Every question or comment may not make it on this page, but we will be sure to get you an answer!
The proposed Town Center development is no longer moving forward!
In May 2019, the Town Council approved a rezoning of vacant Town Center parcels for the development of a major mixed-use development, including up to 829,600 square feet of commercial/retail/office space and 333 residential units. Since the rezoning approval, the developer has faced investor challenges that have prevented them from moving forward with the project as quickly as planned.
The Town agreed to support the project with a $3 million economic development loan to assist with site acquisition. This loan agreement required the developer to pay back the loan before June 30, 2020, with interest. At this time, the developer is not in a position to move forward on securing site acquisition, so the loan from the Town has not been made and will be reconsidered if the developer does move forward in the future. If the developer does not move forward, the Town will not have contributed any funding towards the project.
The Town Council voted in December 2019 to approve an extension on the rezoning of the property that would give the developer the opportunity to move forward with their plan if they were to secure the appropriate investors and development team. As a result of the rezoning, the property has generated a lot of interest from outside developers, and there are several opportunities for development being considered at this time by multiple sources, including the existing property owner.
As with any major project of this type, there are a lot of details and coordination that need to take place; with changes in scope, direction, and stakeholders along the way. The Town remains excited about the opportunity to bring high-impact, mixed-use development to Town Center and we are confident new development is on the horizon.
Harrisburg’s new YMCA is under construction in Harrisburg Park and will open this summer!
FICTION – The current construction going on at Harrisburg Park is for the Park’s renovation and expansion. The YMCA’s construction in Harrisburg Park is pending funding and park readiness, with an expected timeline of 24-36 months, once construction begins. For more information about the Harrisburg YMCA, visit https://cannonymca.org/about/follow-our-progress/834-improving-your-harrisburg-ymca.
Our taxes went up to pay for expenses associated with new development!
FICTION – The average home value of new development in Harrisburg over the last 10 years has been north of $300,000 per home. The Town averages spending about $925 per home for ALL services (public safety, parks, planning, public works, etc.). Using our tax rate, that equates to a tax value of around $260,000, meaning that any new home construction higher than $260,000 provides more revenue than the Town would expend to provide services to that home. New development has allowed the Town to increase services and quality of life features in our community without placing a financial burden on the existing taxpayers to do so.
The Town raised water/sewer rates because of all the new construction homes being built in Harrisburg!
FICTION – New development pays for 100% of the costs to extend and install water and sewer lines and meters to serve their new development.
New development even pays what is called a System Development Fee that pays for future capital expansion projects like the construction of a new water tank. Even further than that, new development helps to keep rates low because they are paying into the utility but are not in need of maintenance and repair that older infrastructure throughout the Town may need.
The Town allows too many grocery stores, auto parts stores and dentists!
FICTION (mostly) – The Town does not control what types of businesses locate in Harrisburg; we can only control WHERE they are located. Using our zoning classifications that determine what types of residential, commercial and industrial uses can take place, we assign these ‘uses’ to areas of Town that we feel are most appropriate. From there, the private market decides what type of business they want to bring to Town, and we trust that they do their due diligence to determine whether the Harrisburg market can support their business. It is ILLEGAL for us to approve or deny a business based on its type (provided that it is allowable in that particular zoning district).
The Town would love a sit-down restaurant or fine-dining establishment, and we are working hard to provide environments where those types of businesses can be successful (see Town Center and Farmington as future opportunities).
The Town of Harrisburg has a higher tax rate than Charlotte!
FACT (but not so fast!) – The Town’s tax rate is higher than the City of Charlotte, but there’s more information you should consider before drawing any conclusions. Here’s a little background to how this came about…
Mecklenburg County completed its tax revaluation process this year, and the results of that tax revaluation process increased property values exponentially throughout the County. With higher property values used on the tax assessment, Charlotte (and other Mecklenburg County municipalities) were able to lower their tax rates but collect the same (or in most cases more) revenue than they had the year before.
For example, in FY19, Charlotte city’s tax rate was $0.4887, versus Harrisburg’s at $0.355. In FY20, with the results of the tax revaluation, Charlotte lowered its tax rate to $0.3481, just under Harrisburg’s rate.
Cabarrus County will be conducting a tax revaluation for the upcoming budget year (FY21). We are expecting increased property values as a result of that tax revaluation, which will give the Town the opportunity to look at adjusting its tax rate.
However, like when buying a car, you don’t just look at the car price, you look at all of the other add-on expenses associated with buying that car. In this case, a Charlotte resident has to pay other fees that Harrisburg residents do not!
For example, every motor vehicle in Charlotte is assessed a $30 annual fee. Residents are also charged a solid waste fee for trash and recycling collection of $92 annually. See the chart below to get a better understanding about how property taxes and fees compare across the region and you will see that Harrisburg residents get GREAT value!
Ad Valorem Tax Rate
Motor Vehicle Fee
Solid Waste Fee
Total Tax/Fees Paid:
*This chart is reflective of a property tax bill of a $250,000 home with two registered vehicles.
The Town rubber stamps the approval of every residential development!
FICTION – You’d be surprised how many development proposals get presented to the Town only to never make it to be heard during a formal meeting – and this is by design! The purpose of the Planning & Zoning Department is to use the Town’s HALUP (Harrisburg Area Land Use Plan) and UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) as tools to guide developers interested in building in Harrisburg. Dozens of developments annually are reviewed by our Planning staff, while only about 4-5 of them make it to the Town’s Planning Board and Town Council for consideration each year.
To keep our Town meetings from getting bogged down with development that doesn’t remotely match the type of development we would want to see, Town staff weeds these types of developments out to ensure that only the ones that are closely aligned with the HALUP and UDO are considered. With this method, Planning Board and Town Council members are more likely to be presented a project that would be approved, thus giving the impression that more often than not developments are rubber stamped.
The Town needs its own Police Department!
FACT and FICTION - There is a lot of conversation going on about whether or not Harrisburg needs its own Police Department, and as a result, Harrisburg has hired a third-party contractor to conduct a law enforcement feasibility study for the Town to determine the what’s, when’s and costs associated with establishing our own agency.
The Town currently has its own dedicated law enforcement division; it is just derived through a contract with the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Department. The Town pays the Sheriff’s Department additional funds annually for them to provide us with 13 officers that are dedicated to serving the Town. In addition to these officers, the Sheriff’s Department provides communications, vice, detective, record and evidence collection, K-9 and other specialty services to the Town within the contract.
The creation of our own Police Department would certainly come at a higher cost than the current contract arrangement with the Sheriff’s Department, but we look forward to the study findings so that we know exactly what that would entail. Either way, the feasibility study will allow us to better understand our public safety needs now and into the future.
The Parks and Recreation Bond was voted down, but you built the park anyway!
FACT (but let us clarify) – The $21 million Parks and Recreation Bond was not supported by the voters in 2017. However, the $21 million park bond represented a comprehensive project list and land acquisition for future park needs. The Town understood from the public feedback during the bond education process that the amount of money was just too much, and the lack of clarity on what the money would be spent on was just too uncertain for voters to be comfortable.
What was approved with the $10 million Harrisburg Park expansion and improvement project was a piece of the total $21 million bond project. Prior to the bond vote in 2017, the Town had conducted a Harrisburg Park Master Plan that identified all of the features the Town is moving forward with in the current project. The bond was an opportunity for the Town to secure lower cost financing for the Harrisburg Park project, but also funding for additional capital projects that had not yet been outlined in detail.
The quick reality is that the Town needed additional field space to accommodate its extremely popular youth athletics program (we don’t want to turn kids away from playing), we needed a new home for our Rockin’ the Burg concert series, and we needed to increase our leisure and active recreation opportunities for our residents. The Harrisburg Park expansion and improvement project was long in the works before the bond was presented to the voters and the Town could have done a better job of communicating that throughout the bond process.
A (blank) is being built on (blank) property?
HARD TO SAY – This is a question we hear a lot, and fortunately, or unfortunately, we are often not in a position to share information about what business is locating where unless we have direction from the business to do so. If you have an interest in learning about what may be going where, we suggest you using this mapping tool on the Town’s website to track all development around Town - https://www.harrisburgnc.org/434/Map-of-Current-Projects.
A Dollar General next to a neighborhood and a school on Pitts School Road!
Well, we can’t take credit for this one, because this development is in the City of Concord. Feel free to reach out to them if you have any questions: 704-920-5152.
The Town does not practice “smart growth” principles when approving new development!
FICTION – The Town’s current HALUP and UDO are developed with smart growth principles embedded into their makeup. We believe there is a common misunderstanding of true smart growth principles and how they are applied in our development practices. By definition, smart growth practices are based in the following principles:
- Mixed land uses
- Compact building design and the protection of open space
- Creating a range of housing options
- Creating walkable, connected neighborhoods
- Foster distinct, attractive, diverse communities with a strong sense of place
- Preserve open space
- Direct development towards existing communities
- Provide a variety of transportation choices
- Make development decisions that are fair and cost-effective
- Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development
The Town does practice smart growth principles; the principles just don’t always align with residents’ expectations who may be opposed to potential new development.
The schools are over capacity, but the Town keeps approving more homes!
FACT and FICTION – The schools that serve the Harrisburg community are all over 100% capacity. The new residential development that is approved will certainly add to those numbers.
Outside of the fact that the Town has ZERO control over school construction, the County does not proactively build schools. They use growth and market projections to determine when and if a school is needed in a community, but they don’t build the school until the others are well beyond their capacity. This makes sense from the County perspective, as they do not want to waste millions of dollars for a school to be under-filled or unnecessary due to bad market or population estimates. It is up to the decision makers at the County level to ensure we have adequate classroom space, but the Town works closely with the County to ensure County leaders are aware of our projected growth so that they can prepare appropriately.
Should the Town of Harrisburg stop its growth and development opportunities for the sake of another government entity? Do we believe Concord and Kannapolis would stop their growth opportunities for the same reason? Each resident may answer those questions differently, but the reality is the Town should not hinder its own development for something it cannot control, and County leaders have proven to respond to our school needs over the years to provide a high-quality education experience for our students.
The Town builds sidewalks to nowhere!
FACT (but we have our reasons!) – Yes, the Town requires all new development to construct sidewalks within their development, as well as on the connector streets they outlet to. This can lead to sidewalks being constructed that lead to nowhere.
The objective is to relieve the cost of the Town to construct these sidewalks, so as properties develop, these sidewalks are constructed a section at a time. Over time, as properties continue to develop, these sidewalks will eventually connect.
However, to connect some of the more desired gaps in our sidewalk infrastructure, we will be using portions of our 2017 Transportation Bonds in the upcoming Spring 2020 season to install several hundred feet of new sidewalk throughout Town.
New development equals more traffic congestion!
FICTION – Prior to 2010, this notion was probably pretty accurate, but all new development today (commercial and residential) is responsible for making traffic improvements if their expected peak hour traffic negatively impacts a certain intersection or roadway.
Now, the Town would not argue that new development adds more cars to the roadway, but each development is required to conduct a Traffic Impact Analysis study, which determines traffic improvement measures. For instance, added turn lanes, installation of traffic signals or round-a-bouts or added lanes are all potential outcomes that the developer is responsible for.
These traffic improvements are required to ensure the impact of the new development does not negatively affect current traffic congestion. In most cases, the traffic improvement requirements will actually IMPROVE the traffic congestion of a particular area, even with the added traffic generated by the new development.
So, while new development may add more cars to the road, it does not actually add to traffic congestion, due to the traffic improvements required of the developer.
The Town of Harrisburg has too much traffic!
FACT and FICTION – Based on traffic count data collected by NCDOT and the Town, the Town has a road network system that adequately addresses the traffic needs of the Town 21 out of 24 hours of the day. The traffic congestion issues that affect the Town the most are during AM and PM peak hours (when people are going to work and coming home from work).
Have you ever sat in traffic on Hwy 49, or on Rocky River Road or Stallings Road and gotten upset that you had to wait through several cycles of the traffic light before you got through? Well, we know those are problem areas, but to solve these issues, we have to look beyond the borders of Harrisburg to determine the root of the problem.
Has the Town added new homes in the last few years and bring additional cars to the road? Sure! But did you know that a majority of traffic during peak hours comes from outside of Harrisburg? The major traffic congestion issues are created by the commuters passing through Harrisburg to Charlotte or Concord depending on the AM/PM commute.
Sit at the intersection of Hwy 49 and Roberta Road and watch the cars travel west to Charlotte during the AM peak hour. Or watch the line of cars travel east and north towards Concord during the PM peak hour.
Due to Harrisburg’s geographical location between Charlotte and Concord, and the limited number of roadways between the two, we are exposed to an exponentially large amount of traffic that is not generated from within our community. Our roadway network is perfectly capable of operating efficiently for our 17,000 residents, but unfortunately the pressure of our outside neighbors leads to a large portion of our traffic congestion issues.
Want Harrisburg to stop growing to relieve traffic? Well, that is an option, but guess what? The City of Concord and City of Charlotte are not slowing down! The City of Concord has more than 1,900 new homes planned along the Rocky River Road corridor, and the City of Charlotte’s University City area is one of the fastest growing markets in the City.
Harrisburg can do its best to plan and prepare for growth, and we have just recently kicked off a community Transportation Plan that will better outline our future needs. We can continue to use our development ordinances to ensure new developments meet our high traffic improvement standards (that are allowed by law), while continuing to work with NCDOT to ensure our State-maintained highways are kept in good order and expanded when necessary.
The Town does not take care of major roadways throughout Town!
FACT – The major thoroughfares across Town are owned and maintained by the NCDOT, and the Town of Harrisburg has no jurisdiction over their maintenance or expansion. Examples of roadways managed by the NCDOT in the Town include Hwy 49, Roberta Road, Morehead Road, Stallings Road, Rocky River Road, Robinson Church Road, Tom Query Road, Pharr Mill Road and Hickory Ridge Road.
Despite the Town not having ownership over these roads, we recognize that they are important corridors in our community and that the intersections of these major crossroads are important congestion points throughout Town. As a result, the Town is actively investing 2017 Transportation Bonds to improve these intersections by installing signalized intersections, adding turn lanes or converting the intersections to round-a-bouts.