Harpersville looking to manage future growth

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2005

A crowd of more than 30 Harpersville residents crowded into town hall Monday night to work on a community policy and sketch plan that could lead to modification of the town’s zoning ordinances.

The meeting was also the second step in a process following the gathering and analysis of data to help manage the growth and development of the 60-year-old town.

Mayor Theoangleo Perkins noted that the community of Harpersville is older than Shelby County and that the town is celebrating its 60th birthday this year.

Led by Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham Senior Planner Joey Hester, citizens listed what they considered assets, liabilities and opportunities for the town.

Hester told the crowd that he grew up in small towns and that he has the best interest of Harpersville at heart. He said he was not someone coming from Birmingham to tell the people of Harpersville what to do.

Hester said there really had not been much planning in Harpersville in 20-plus years.

He pointed out that since 1960 the population of the town increased from 667 to 1,620 as of the 2000 census. He said the biggest boost in population came between 1990 and 2000 and that growth paralleled growth in the county.

He said the white population of the town in same that time grew from about 500 to 1,100 people while the black population grew from about 300 to 600 people.

He said females outnumber males in the town 837 to 783. And he said the largest population age groups are 18 percent in the 35-44-year-old age range and 16 percent in the 5-14-year-old age range.

Hester said those segments of the population are also on a par with Shelby County and the rest of the state.

He said the average family income in Harpersville as of the 2000 census is about $35,000 with a range from $15,000 to $75,000.

He said the largest population group is in the $35,000 to $50,000 family income range.

Also according to Hester, as of the 2000 census there were 685 total homes in the town. Of those he said 610 were occupied and 75 homes were vacant. And, he said, the lion’s share of homes were built between 1940 and 1980.

Among assets listed by citizens were the following:

U.S. Highway 280, concerned leadership, beautification committee, rich historic sites, railroad, agrarian culture/history, good fire and police protection and public works, new doctor, Highway 231 and 25, closeness to river and lakes, parks and recreation, &uot;crossroads to family fun,&uot; public golf course, Harpersville, Vincent and Westover have 25 percent of available land, good private school, historical society, tourist trade (Morgan Creek Winery and Baker Farm (pumpkin patch and Christmas trees), ecotourism, easy access to interstates, public schools in Vincent, direct route to Auburn, new library, community pride, low crime rate, private sewer system, bank (First United Security), half-way between Birmingham and Auburn, hunting preserve (Coosa Bend), natural landscape, historic homes (four predate Civil War), lumber/hardware, beautification committee, quality water and low rates, and prime farm land.

Liabilities listed by residents included:

No grocery store, no public school in Harpersville, lack of jobs, limited entertainment opportunities for the young, U.S. Highway 280 commute to Birmingham, lack of shopping center, lack of drug store, lack of motels and hotels, local roads need improvement, subdivision roads (future problem), neighborhood lighting/safety, lack of medical facility/hospital, residential/commercial friction, lack of high speed Internet connection, lack of a senior citizen center, assisted living, nursing home, lack of natural hazard shelters, no Chick-Fil-A, sinkholes and floodplain, bad perc of land for septic tanks, difficulty in working with county for public health matters and permits, no design standards, lack of pride in homeowner maintenance, litter, lack of missions, no recycling center, no community center, air pollution from the steam plant and the paper mill, lack of previous planning, and two of four historic homes endangered.

Hester pointed out that many liabilities could also be opportunities for the town in the future. However, opportunities listed by citizens included:

Sewer system, Highway 280 access management, controlled managed growth, maintain small town feel and quality of life, not sell self short, new jobs through new commercial development, new industrial park, new public schools and/or private schools, historic homes/sites, establishment of historic preservation, establishment of local historical society, expand park and recreation facilities (pool), planning for the future, consider expanding day care to accommodate new employment opportunities, commercial, industrial growth, new drinking water source, and keeping an open mind.

Hester said the next meeting would be in late March or early April. He said at that meeting citizens would be allowed to mark up their own future land use maps