Niven directs Chelsea growth

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven Sr. walked behind a small wooden desk cluttered with the fragments of an office on the move. Muddy footprints led the way from the newly built Chelsea City Hall on County Road 47 to his old office.

For the past seven years, the second floor of a Chelsea bank on U.S. Highway 280 served as city headquarters, and it’s from that post that Niven has forged Chelsea’s path into the future.

In 1995, the name Chelsea only symbolized the rural area straddling Highway 280 in Shelby County. A year later, the city officially incorporated with 906 residents and Niven became mayor, embarking on a seven-year leadership role marked by rapid growth.

As a testament to that growth, Chelsea city officials have issued 238 building permits so far in 2004. Niven expects the city to issue a total of 400 by the end of the year, and closer to 500 in 2005.

Niven still does not believe the city’s growth has peaked. With a population of about 5,000 people, he expects the number to be between 10,000 and 12,000 within the next five years.

&uot;I think the growth years are just beginning for the city,&uot; said Niven, who was recently re-elected to another term as Chelsea’s mayor.

Niven envisions Highway 39 as the busiest commercial intersection in Chelsea in the next couple of years. The city is currently installing sewage and gas lines along the highway, laying the foundation for new businesses.

On a recent drive along Highway 280, Niven steered his pickup truck while giant construction claws moved mounds of earth in both directions. Construction has become apart of the Chelsea landscape, and Niven encourages that.

With a city budget dependent upon sales tax, Niven said the city collected 30 percent more this year than at the same time last year.

Entering the new mixed-develOpment project called Chelsea Park, Niven drove past a row of dump trucks. Orange clay construction paths and thru-roads traced the development. Endless views of green forest and rumpled hills formed a border around the massive development.

Niven pointed to a swath of young pine trees, indicating where the new subdivision will go.

Before serving as mayor, Niven worked as a high school math teacher at Chelsea High School. He is proud of the education pedigree of which he and his wife are a part, and he said his support of education runs deep.

&uot;We support Chelsea education because we have been there in the classroom, and we know the needs in our classrooms,&uot; he said.

Niven and his wife June share a home on 29 acres joining the back side of Chesser Plantation. His hobbies include travel and photography. The walls of his home are decorated with pictures he took during his visits to all 50 states, including Alaska.

An avid musician, Niven has played the piano and organ since 1960