There has been a rush of development along the edges of Wake County in recent years as growth spreads from Raleigh into bedroom communities.
Except for Garner.
The town, which was home to 28,858 people as of June 30, 2017, has seen little of the population increases that the rest of the Triangle has seen, according to U.S. Census estimates released Thursday.
At a time when seven Triangle towns are among North Carolina's fastest-growing, Garner's population grew only 0.2 percent in the year ending June 30, 2017. Its 11.4 percent growth over the past seven years trails all the other municipalities.
Rolesville, by comparison, more than doubled in size during the same period and jumped 9.3 percent last year over 2016. It's the fastest-growing town in the state, seeing 101 percent growth in the past seven years. Fuquay-Varina increased 7.5 percent from the previous year and 53.3 percent since 2010.
What's the problem with Garner?
Nothing, said Garner Town Manager Rodney Dickerson.
"We don't see it as an issue that we're growing slower," Dickerson said in an interview. "It's more controlled and allows us to put in infrastructure and allow the budget to catch up with growth and services. Some people might think we're growing a little too fast. The growth is coming — it just hasn't hit the ground yet.
In recent months, the Town Council has approved an extensive addition of housing to Garner: 1,900 single-family homes, 175 townhouses, more than 1,300 multifamily units. Two age-restricted projects have been approved, and growth is beginning to cluster around a new high school.
Commercial development is picking up, he said, and was boosted by Baker Roofing announcing in March it would move its headquarters from Raleigh into an empty Kmart building on U.S. 401. All of which helps increase the town's tax base, so it can do even more to entice more people to the town.
"It may not look like it, but it's on the way," Dickerson said. "We don't want no growth, but we want some steady growth. That's not to say I wouldn't be happier if it was happening a little quicker."
Jacob Rogers, CEO of the Triangle Community Coalition, a balanced-grow advocacy group, agrees.
"Garner is about to be the hot spot," he said Wednesday, crediting the recently approved residential projects, schools improvements and the potential to make key public transit connections. "The town has made some very progressive approaches to get more economic activity."
Rogers said growth is important to keep towns functioning, a goal that is sometimes lost in the debate over growth.
"While it feels that we're growing out of control, in reality, we're growing very modestly," Rogers said. "If you want to compare to 2006, we're currently only at about 65 percent of where we were back in those days in terms of building permits."
Garner's population growth has been up and down over the decade. It reached a peak in 2013 and 2014, at just 3.7 percent.
Other findings in the latest census:
▪ These Triangle towns were among the fastest-growing in the state: Rolesville, Wendell, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Morrisville, Clayton and Apex.
▪ Raleigh, ranked 36th nationally, saw its population increase by 5,710 in 2016-17, for a growth rate of 1.2 percent. The city's population was 464,758 as of June 30, 2017. Charlotte, which gained 15,551 people, grew 1.8 percent for a total population of 859,035. It is ranked seventh nationally.
▪ Durham is growing at a faster rate than Raleigh, seeing a 1.8 percent population increase over 2016 and a 16.8 percent rate of growth over 2010, more even than Charlotte, which has had a 16.3 percent growth rate since 2010. Durham, with 267,743 people, ranked fourth in the state.
▪ There were 189 towns in the state that lost population; none were in the Triangle. In some communities, only a handful of people moved out. The cities that saw the greatest population loss were Goldsboro, with 225 fewer; Lumberton, with 172 fewer; Kinston, with 198 fewer; Rocky Mount, with 456 fewer; and Fayetteville, which lost 1,045 residents.
▪ Nationwide, eight of the 15 cities or towns with the largest population gains were in the West and the South.
▪ To look up recently released 2017 population estimates for North Carolina counties, cities and towns from the U.S. Census Bureau, go to: www.newsobserver.com/news/databases/article85498227.html.