Chelsea continues to grow
By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer
CHELSEA – After seeing a dramatic upturn in residential building permits, Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven said he feels optimistic that Chelsea has “one of the best opportunities” in Shelby County to prosper after the down economy.
“I think the economy is beginning to stay positive to where people are gaining confidence,” Niven said during a Jan. 18 interview.
The comment came after Niven showed how Chelsea issued 170 building permits in 2012, which was more than double 2011’s 65 permits issued. While 2012 showed growth, the number of building permits is still far from 2005’s 650 permits issued.
“Economic development is a cycle,” Niven said. “All of those houses (built in the mid-2000s) caused us to get a Walmart, Walgreens, Tractor Supply and Publix. Now that we’ve got major (commercial) boxes, the houses have cranked back up.”
Of Chelsea’s 47 subdivisions, Chelsea Park had the most growth, followed distantly by Chesser Plantation and Polo Crossing.
The homes built were “pre-sold,” Niven said, and were not “spec homes,” which are built before a buyer purchases the home.
“We’re not only looking at an increased number of building permits, but also an increase in sales tax for materials purchased to build these homes,” Niven said. “We’re also getting more revenues through business licenses from contractors.”
According to Niven, Chelsea’s sales tax revenue has increased about 25 percent since 2008-2009.
“When you have these new houses, it means that people are going back to work,” Niven said. “We’re proud of Chelsea.”
As more residents joining the Chelsea community, however, the more the city continues to feel growing pains.
“We keep smart growth in mind with the planning commission and the council,” NIven said. “It’s an opportunity of growth. It allows us to do more as far as services are concerned.”
GROWTH OF SERVICES
The city has already donated $500,000 for a full-size gym at the new Forest Oaks Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in the fall.
The city will also donate $300,000 over the next three years to the Shelby County Board of Education for constructing Hornet Parkway, which will connect Shelby County 47 to the new elementary school.
The city also plans to enlarge and pave King’s Home Road to help with traffic flow at Chelsea Intermediate School, as well as to the new elementary school, Niven said.
In February, Niven said he and the City Council plan to approve the purchase of 323 acres behind Chelsea High School for recreational facilities, including baseball, softball, soccer and football fields. The site potentially would also have tennis courts and 200-plus acres of walking and bike trails. Niven said he has had encouragement from equestrian groups to include a horse area in the park.
A previously discussed community center may be constructed on the property or a different location, but Niven said he wants the center to be paired with an athletic facility.
Niven estimated 2013 would be a “construction year” to level and prepare the property, and 2014 would see construction.
The community center could feature full-sized basketball courts, arts and crafts space, an indoor walking track, meeting rooms and possibly a stage for community theater.
The city recently hired seven fulltime “dedicated” firefighters for Chelsea Fire and Rescue who are “responsible to the city of Chelsea,” Niven said. Additional firefighters work for the department, but are also employed by other neighboring fire departments.