Hillsborough seeks to control new growth

As its population continues to grow, the town of Hillsborough might not be able to meet demands for water, traffic and affordable housing, town officials said.

In 2008, the town had a population of 5,653 residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a growth of more than 30 percent in the last 20 years.

With plans for a new Amtrak station, a new Emergency Medical Services hub, a renovated courthouse and a branch of UNC Hospitals, Hillsborough will no doubt attract more residents, but that worries the mayor.

The town has made detailed estimates based on current water consumption for future developments, Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said.

“We took a look at what we would have left, and our water capacity going forward is quite limited,” Stevens said. “You can only build on what you have water for.”

Traffic to and from north and south Hillsborough is also one of Stevens’ biggest worries.

“Any time you have to build through two interstates, a river, a U.S. highway and historic properties, there are lots of consternations,” Stevens said.

A project to build a bypass to alleviate traffic congestion at Churton Street intersections in downtown Hillsborough is one of several projects cancelled due to planning complications, Stevens said.

It was cancelled because the town was concerned with building on more than 250 acres of green space, he said.

Planning for growth

It also might be hard to keep Hillsborough affordable as it becomes more attractive. Stevens said he wanted a diversity of residents in town.

The planning department looks forward to controlled and careful growth, said town planning director Margaret Hauth.

The department is taking into account the added value for their citizens with each construction, she said.

“The town board is not afraid to turn things down if it’s not right for Hillsborough,” Hauth said.

Elizabeth Read, the executive director of the Alliance for Historical Hillsborough, said the town’s forward vision has attracted new residents and visitors into town.

The county’s decision to move government offices from the downtown storefront has freed up valuable retail space for new businesses, Read said.

Sarah Sessoms, a freshman from Hillsborough, said this used to be a common problem.

“My mom was a business owner 10 years ago, and she had to close it because downtown didn’t have the traffic it has now,” Sessoms said.

Even though Sessoms said she is worried new buildings will contrast with the historical architecture of Hillsborough, she has welcomed new changes.

“I have neighbors for the first time in my life, it’s unheard of.”

Contact the City Editor at citydesk@unc.edu.

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