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Apex, Holly Springs Among Top Great American Towns

Apex, Holly Springs in Money's List of 'Best Places to Live'

Everywhere you look in downtown Apex, you find the slogan, "the peak of good living."

There are things to do -- places to go and shop -- and the town's facilities are fairly new.

Home to about 33,000 people, the town, however, is not so small. People who live there say it is the best of both worlds -- a small-town life with some big-town amenities.

The town recently came in at No. 14 on Money Magazine's recent ranking of the 100 best places to live in the United States, making it the highest-ranking town in North Carolina. Behind it is Holly Springs at No. 22 and Mooresville in Iredell County at No. 65.

Town leaders say affordable housing -- the median home price is just under $250,000 (compared to other towns on the list in which the median price is around $1 million) -- and a low crime rate contribute to the town's allure.

"I think that if you can have one of the lowest incidents of crime in the country that people take great comfort in that," Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford said, adding the rate of crime is two incidents per 1,000 residents. The average in the study was 13 per 1,000 residents.

"It's kind of like Mayberry," Apex resident Erin Donovan said. "You walk downtown, you see people. You talk to people."

So much so that Kim Wall and her family moved to Apex to start an ice cream business.

"We just really liked it," Wall said. "It felt like home."

The magazine also points out that Apex is full of scenery and mentioned that its most striking area is the Downtown Historic District. It also pointed out the town's rapid growth was a serious issue.

The appeal of both Apex and Holly Springs is no secret if you look at the growth of both towns. Since 1990, the number of people living in Apex has increased by more than 28,000, town leaders say. Holly Springs has grown from 900 residents in 1990 to nearly 20,000 today.

"Today, we're at 20,000 and moving in three families every day," Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears said. "It's just been incredible."

New business and new home construction are its hallmarks, according to the Money Magazine report.

Sears cites drug company Novartis's decision last year to build a new influenza vaccine plant that is expected to bring 350 new jobs and invest at least $267.5 million over the next five years.

And, for example, crews are also building 1,300 new homes in the Twelve Oaks Subdivision on New Hill Road, which includes a golf course and two community pools. Construction is expected to be complete by the fall.

Sears said the key to smart growth is understanding resources.

"Water -- we're good. We get our water from Cape Fear. Sewer -- we're good," Sears said. "Roads -- constant challenge -- but we're working on it every day."

For this year's list, Money Magazine focused on smaller municipalities, offering what it considers the best combination of economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do and a real sense of community.

The magazine named Middleton, Wisc. at the top place to live, followed by Hanover, N.H. and Louisville, Colo. Lake Mary, Fla. and Claremont, Calif. rounded out the top five.

Back in North Carolina, No. 65 Mooresville, because it is the headquarters for more than 60 professional auto-racing teams. Tourism has also become a major draw, with Lake Norman being one of the region's most popular destinations.

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