Canton will be opening its doors to new business when a long-awaited upgrade to its Champion Drive sewer line is completed next year.
The update, which town officials say has been on the list of top priorities for several years, will cost $1.2 million and should take a little more than a year to complete.
Town Manager Al Matthews said that the current system is already overtaxed, and that’s preventing potential new businesses to set up shop in the corridor that runs from Interstate 40 into downtown Canton along Champion Drive.
“The line is drastically undersized for the new growth and development along Champion Drive,” said Matthews. “It [the upgrade] is a fairly broad-reaching economic development tool as well as meeting those needs that are in existence now.”
According to Matthews, the current line is at such capacity right now that even existing businesses in the area are unable to expand and maintain sewer service.
Once the larger line is in place, however, it will serve the new livestock market and provide capacity for both business expansion and new businesses alike.
The crux of the problem, said Matthews, is an over-extension of the line’s original intent. For example, the portion that serves the multitude of businesses between Sagebrush Steakhouse and Arby’s was only originally intended to serve the steak restaurant. But when Canton saw explosive growth along the road, the sewer capacity didn’t expand along with it.
Now, with the birth of a new urgent care center on the road imminent, appropriate sewage capabilities are urgently needed.
As Matthews said, the concept has been bandied about for some time, with the idea being that larger, big-box stores may look to Canton – almost equidistant between Waynesville and Asheville – as the prime location to draw shoppers from the outskirts of both cities. The industrial park that is also tied onto the line is another prime candidate for expansion and additional business creation.
Now, said Matthews, the area will once again have the trifecta necessary for new building of any kind – open real estate, water services and sewer capabilities.
Funding will be coming from several different sources, including a $100,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation and a $600,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Center. Matthews said the county has agreed to pay a share of the costs, though to what extent is as yet unclear.
County Commissioner Kevin Ensley expressed support for the project, deeming it beneficial for the whole of the county in terms of economic growth and development.
“When a sewer line goes in, then business will follow,” said Ensley.
Work on the improvements is slated to begin within months, said Matthews, who hopes to have a permit for the construction in hand within 60 days.