New home construction in and around Grovetown is booming.
After a slump following the economic downturn, builders are bustling again.
“There’s something here that really attracts people,” Grovetown Mayor George James said. “It’s kind of a natural migration toward this area.”
The city of Grovetown issued 336 building permits for homes in 2005 and 235 in 2006, the height of the city’s population influx. That number dropped as low as 100 in 2009, but was back to 269 in 2011 and 209 through August of this year.
The 2000 census found their were about 6,000 residents in Grovetown. Now, James estimates the city is home to more than 12,000 people.
Melissa Blizzard’s family chose to relocate to the Grovetown area in 2009.
“Housing is so much cheaper out here than in Evans,” said Blizzard, who moved back to the county where she grew up. She and her husband, a military contractor, have three children. “We get so much more for our money.”
Blizzard also is the marketing chairwoman for the MOMs Club of Evans and the newly formed Grovetown chapter. The Evans chapter recently split to form the Grovetown chapter, which already has more than 50 members.
“Grovetown is the new Evans,” Blizzard said.
The area surrounding the city is one of the largest pockets of growth in Columbia County, county Development Services Division Director Richard Harmon said.
Residential development migrated north and west from the Martinez area in an arc that extends from the Riverwood area along William Few Parkway to Grovetown, Harmon said.
County-issued building permits followed a similar trend in Grovetown, with permits dropping from more than 1,000 in 2003-2005 to a low of 619 in 2008. The resurgence showed with 1,012 permits issued in 2010 and 1,086 in 2011 and 829 by the end of August.
Harmon said the Martinez area leaves little room for new development and the Grovetown area offers lots of amenities.
“You’re seeing Grovetown grow and do things,” Harmon said. “I think you’re going to start seeing Grovetown look like a city.”
James said the city is attracting more businesses, including a Barney’s Pharmacy and O’Reilley Auto Parts. The IGA grocery store is building a new, larger location near Barney’s and a WifeSaver and Anytime Fitness are on the way, James said.
Grovetown’s first surge of new residents in the mid-2000s caught city leaders by surprise.
“In the past, we just welcomed the growth,” city Planning and Zoning Director Connie Smith. “But now we have to manage the growth because it has a huge impact on our infrastructure.”
The growth has a significant effect on the city’s roadways. The Georgia Department of Transportation estimates that about 12,600 motorists travel Robinson Avenue near Fort Gordon every day and 11,390 travel the same road near Katherine Street. Department of Transportation traffic counters also recorded more than 14,000 vehicles travelling Wrightsboro Road near Whiskey Road each day.
Two large road-improvement projects, approved in the recent Transportation Investment Act referendum, are expected to alleviate traffic snarls along the city’s two major thoroughfares.
The city’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals became involved in planning for the city in September. Previously, it ruled on plats, rezoning requests and other issues brought before it by residents or city officials. Smith said it will meet regularly to talk about planning future growth, including the city’s Urban Redevelopment Plan.
Grovetown’s proximity to Fort Gordon, Interstate 20 and Augusta make it attractive to new residents, James said.
“We have a lot of military families,” Smith said. “They may only be here for a year, but they are here. They are buying homes.”
Harmon said folks associated with Fort Gordon aren’t the only ones flocking to the area. Most new residents to Grovetown and the surrounding areas are military personnel and young professionals, but about 25 percent of new home buyers in the area are retirees, Harmon said.
“It’s another growing market,” Harmon said.
James said the “driving force” of growth is the school system and the overall quality of life.
Columbia County school officials said most of this year’s record-setting increase in student population centered around Grovetown High and nearby campuses.
James expects that growth to continue.
“We have almost 500 acres still existing in the city that has not really been developed yet,” James said, adding that owners of another 150 acres near the city limits are anticipating annexation.
“We try to offer a diverse type of living.”