Town officials estimate Lexington has grown 83 percent since 2000, making it the fourth-fastest growing municipality in the state with about 20,000 residents in the latest estimate from 2014, according to data from the U.S. Census. New businesses and families still are arriving at a record pace, and Mayor Steve MacDougall presented a plan of action for managing the growth during his 2016 State of the Town address Monday night.
“The town prides itself on being the place where citizens want to live, work, play and learn,” he said.
Since July of 2015, $70 million in new construction has been permitted. There are still five months left in the fiscal year, but the total is 35 percent higher than the construction value for the previous fiscal year.
Officials also are projecting to permit the building of 160 new homes, up from the previous year’s total of 112 homes.
The growth has created a demand on services and roads, and the town already has taken steps to alleviate congestion with installation of the new Adaptive Computerized Signalization System. Designed to “read” traffic flow and adjust signals accordingly, the system now is controlling its first group of intersections.
Traffic in the downtown corridor has experienced an 18 percent decrease in travel time since the first five signals went live Jan. 5. Randy Edwards, the town’s traffic engineer, said commutes have been shortened nearly one minute from Columbia Avenue through Lake Drive.
A total of 19 signals, Phase I of the project, will be controlled by the new system at the end of this year.
“We would be the first municipality in the state to implement this new technology at all traffic signal intersections in town,” MacDougall said. “This is just another way we are being proactive and preparing for the anticipated growth we project for the future.”
Following passage of a 2 percent hospitality tax in 2015, town officials are getting to work on additional traffic improvements continuing in the downtown corridor. The project includes switching Lake Drive and Church Street to one-way streets at Main Street and should be complete by year’s end.
“By pairing the Lake Drive and Church Street corridors, the capacity of this direction is doubled, (and) additional capacity allows significant increase in the amount of green signal time,” MacDougall said.
Town officials also are planning for future growth in the water and sewer department. Lexington recently decommissioned the Coventry Woods Wastewater Plant, the fourth satellite facility closed down in correlation with the regional plan to process and treat wastewater at the City of Cayce Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility.
“The closing of these smaller facilities … eliminates discharge to the Lower Saluda River and provides cleaner outflow by being treated at a state-of-the art regional processing facility,” MacDougall said.
Lexington is using less than one quarter of its total capacity at the City of Cayce Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, 3.1 million gallons a day of the allowable 12.5 million gallons.
Other capital improvement projects on the horizon include upgrades to pump stations and sewer lines and construction of a regional pump station.
New wayfaring signage throughout the town and beautification projects at Lexington’s entrances will welcome visitors and new residents.
“Our goal is to be aesthetically appealing and preserve our small town charm, while making enhancements that will continue to attract visitors and new economic development,” MacDougall said.
MacDougall thanked town staff and public safety officials for keeping residents safe during the October floods. Employees put in 1,500 hours in the immediate days during and after the historic rain event, and Lexington had no loss of life.
“Mother Nature dealt us a handful but with our outpouring of support from our community, we were able to provide for all the needs we had during this most difficult time,” MacDougall said.
Main Street’s revitalization, a project nicknamed Project Icehouse, continues to move forward as construction crews make progress on the amphitheater at the corner of Church and Main Streets. The venue is expected to open this summer with seating for 900.