BURGAW -- More people, more homes, and more traffic that's what Burgaw town leaders are planning for. The growing Pender County town is showing few signs of slowing down. Town officials are trying to be proactive about handling the growth so it doesn't end up overwhelming them down the road. A recently approved growth plan aims to help. Many people who live and work in Burgaw say their town's quaint atmosphere is its most defining characteristic. Burgaw resident Melinda Knoerzer said, "It catches people's eye. When I hear people come here from out of town for the first time they always say, wow, I never thought a place like this existed." But steady growth is a challenge facing the town. Burgaw resident Lantz Lanier said, "The growth is frightening some people about the development around the area, property tax and stuff like that going up." Planning administrator Chad McEwen is especially feeling the pressure. He said, "It's exciting. Sometimes it's overwhelming with the amount of growth expected in the town considering the size of the town." An estimated 4,000 people live in Burgaw right now. By the year 2020 that's expected to swell to 7,000. "We are always, unfortunately, a little bit behind the eight ball. So when growth comes, although we know it's coming, we don't ever know what form it's coming in," Lanier said. That's what town officials hope to change by planning for the future. A Highway 53 corridor study approved by Burgaw would help ease congestion. What's needed now is DOT funding, which is very uncertain. The estimated $5 million project would include adding traffic circles to problem intersections, and improving sidewalks and crosswalks. McEwen said, "There's negatives and positives with everything, pros and cons, but I think it's changing for the better." He says planners must be careful about what they approve. "We have not approved a project that we cannot provide water and sewer service for now." Even in a down economy, Burgaw continues to face growth challenges. One Burgaw realtor said the Pender County housing market hasn't been hit quite as badly as other areas. But 2006 was more successful than 2007. She said this year is looking promising so far.
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