Is the city of Seymour growing?
Officials from Crawford, Murphy & Tilly (CMT) certainly believe it is, as the consulting and engineering firm in charge of creating the city’s new comprehensive plan informed those present at a community meeting last Tuesday, May 17, that the city is project to gain 370 residents by 2040, which is less than 20 years away.
To meet the needs of those new residents, additional housing units will be needed, CMT’s studies showed.
The exact number is 146.
“This will occupy approximately 80.3 acres,” said a two-page informational sheet distributed at last week’s meeting, which was held at the historic Owen Theatre on the south side of the Seymour square.
About 25 people attended.
“This will bring a lot of new capital into Seymour’s economy,” explained Scott Hanson, a senior urban and regional planner based from CMT’s Springfield office.
“It’s a good problem to have. Many of the small cities we visit aren’t growing. In fact, the opposite is true for so many of them. But Seymour’s growth, all the way back into its formation in the 1880s, has been steady. However, it does appear that steady growth is accelerating.”
Earlier this spring, courtesy of a financial pledge made by the Webster County Commission, CMT began the process of creating a comprehensive plan for Seymour.
The first community meeting, which drew nearly 100 to the Owen, was held in April. Also formed this spring was a seven-member advisory committee that has held several meetings with CMT officials.
Last week’s meeting was the second public meeting, as CMT provided attendees with a two-page informational handout that described the key findings of its local survey efforts.
Infrastructure: Top concern
First discussed at the meeting was a question.
What most concerns city residents when looking at Seymour future?
Hanson said the leading concern of residents is a “deteriorating infrastructure,” which was listed as a concern of 63 percent of city residents surveyed.
Next in terms of local concerns was “the lack of job opportunities” at 61 percent, followed by the “upkeep of homes and commercial buildings” at 55 percent.
Holding down the fourth spot of concerns was “vacant or underutilized property” at 46 percent.
“In this regard, our community surveys match our conversations with the city’s elected officials and management,” Hanson explained. “When we’ve talked with the mayor, the aldermen and city staff, the No. 1 concern they have for the city’s future is its aging infrastructure.
“Residents also see the same thing. So, as we move forward, finding ways to address Seymour’s infrastructure will play a big role in the comprehensive plan.”
Immediately after discussion of the city’s concerns and likely future growth, economic development was the next topic, as Hanson shared that 25.8 percent of the city’s residents work in educational services, health care and social assistance.
Just over 17 percent work in manufacturing.
“What we found most interesting was where people in Seymour work,” Hanson said. “It’s almost the same number between Greene County and Webster County.”
Per the statistics shared last week, 34.8 percent of the city’s residents work in Greene County, while 33.7 percent work in Webster County.
“More than six in 10 people, 61 percent to be exact, are concerned about the lack of job opportunities,” Hanson told the crowd.
High home ownership
Hanson said Seymour, unlike most cities in Missouri and across the U.S., has a “very healthy” rate of home ownership at 69.3 percent.
“The renter-occupied rate is just 30.6 percent,” he said.
“It’s good that the (home) ownership rate is so high, but that also answers why home-rental opportunities are so limited in Seymour.”
Of the city’s homes, nearly 40 percent (39.8 percent) were built between 1980 and 2009.
Almost 20 percent of the homes — 18.6 percent, to be exact — were built before 1939.
“Through 2030, people who are between 65 and 84 years old will make up the fasting-growing demographic in the city of Seymour at 57 percent,” Hanson said.
However, he said that unlike most small towns, Seymour also has a fast-growing young population.
“The second- and third-fastest growing age cohorts are predicted to be people between the ages of 25 and 29 at 56 percent and between the ages of 10 and 14 at 53 percent,” Hanson noted.
Regarding those who own their homes, he concluded that 55 percent are concerned about future upkeep.
Conversation then came back to the infrastructure, as it was listed as a priority concern of residents and government officials.
“Oftentimes, people think of infrastructure as only water lines and sewer pipes, and those things are part of it,” Hanson said. “But another part in today’s world includes connecting to the Internet, and Internet connectivity is something many people in Seymour are concerned about.”
In fact, he said that number is above 70 percent.
“In our surveys, we learned 73 percent said Internet connectivity should be increased,” he said.
Households with “slow or no Internet” in Seymour were at 32.9 percent.
The county average with the same issues is 30.3 percent.
The statewide average is only 17.3 percent.
“A majority of the city’s residents also were concerned about effective stormwater management and flood control in new (housing) developments,” Hanson said.
The ‘small-town feel’
What Hanson described as “an interesting finding in our surveys and first public meeting” was the desire of a majority of Seymour’s residents to “retain our small-town feel.”
Hanson said the finding was unique.
“Seymour residents don’t want big-name businesses or chains coming here,” he said. “What they do want is more community events, ways to help fix and upkeep their homes and more incentives for the businesses that already are here and are locally owned.”
He said many expressed a desire to see the city develop an industrial park to attract new manufacturers.
Also shared were results of the businesses Seymour residents would like to see in the future.
“On top of that list was more restaurants at 89 percent,” Hanson concluded.
“Next was a new grocery store at 82 percent, followed by entertainment venues at 73 percent.”
The informational sheet is available to anyone who would like a copy at Seymour City Hall.