Development in Clayton has gained back losses from the recession and added a few new building projects, according to an annual report from the town’s planning department. In nearly every category the department watches, 2015 exceeded or matched the year before, from zoning applications and building permits to nuisance complaints.
“A lot changed in community development and planning last year,” planning director David DeYoung told the Clayton Town Council during a recent meeting.
Through the lens of the planning department, Clayton is growing and changing rapidly. The town saw 140 zoning applications last year, 10 more than in 2014 and 50 more than 2011. It would be a steady five-year growth in development if not for a slight dip in 2013. That’s when developers dusted off recession-stalled projects and started again, DeYoung said.
“We attribute that decrease to the reabsorption of projects, residential projects that had stopped during the recession that developers were beginning to kick back in,” DeYoung said. “Developers were starting to fill in those lots, like Summerlyn and Chandlers Ridge, that had stopped earlier in time.”
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DeYoung estimates Clayton added around 500 new residents last year, bringing the town’s population to around 18,500. Developers are expecting even more peoples: Subdivisions and apartment complexes combined, Clayton approved more than 1,000 new dwellings last year. And by 2040, DeYoung estimates, Clayton will more than double to 38,000 residents.
Application fees more than doubled the budgeted amount in 2014, exceeding $50,000. Clayton isn’t likely to reach that level with two more months left in the fiscal year, but DeYoung said he expected fees to reach the expected $40,000 level. For the past five years, the zoning department has collected more in fees than expected.
“Planning fees have gone up consistently with increased applications,” DeYoung said.
Zoning-compliance permits rose from 700 to 900, suggesting various kinds of activity continue to rise.
Since 2014, code enforcement and nuisance calls to the planning department. Calls about eyesores, blights, overgrown yards and graffiti totaled more than 400 last year, but DeYoung noted that actual number of cases was a small fraction of that, about 30.
“We saw a 300-percent increase in requests for service, but it doesn’t translate into a heavy caseload,” DeYoung said. “I attribute that to the code-enforcement and nuisance-enforcement officers working with the public to correct violations without citing and fining them. We spend a lot of time trying to help the residents and business owners come into compliance without fining them.”
One notable zoning violation, DeYoung said, was a homeowner who built a dog pen over a riparian buffer, so that waste would drop into a creek below. Another was a fence made out of wooden pallets.
Elsewhere in the department, the report noted the large expansions of pharmaceutical companies Novo Nordisk and Grifols. Park additions included a $1.4 million grant to build a 1.2-mile walkway from the Clayton Community Center at Amelia Church Road to Lombard Street.
Downtown development also falls under the planning department, and 2015 was tumultuous. In the past 12 months, three people have held the position of downtown development coordinator, and that doesn’t include DeYoung, who pulled a stint as interim coordinator.
Also downtown, the town is building a parking lot between the Clayton Center and Horne Memorial United Methodist Church. DeYoung said that work has been delayed because of the Clayton Center’s ongoing window-replacement project, but he expects activity to pick up this month.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson