All of the localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s service area have experienced population growth over the last three years, with the city of Charlottesville having the biggest increase.
That’s according to data released last week by the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia.
Charlottesville experienced a 7.2 percent increase since the 2010 Census to an estimate of 46,623 residents on July 1, 2013. Of that number, 791 were births and 2,357 were new residents.
“Charlottesville did grow relatively quickly between 2010 and 2013, it was the 9th fastest growing locality in the state during the period,” said Hamilton Lombard with the Weldon Cooper Center.
“Since the start of the recession, urban areas with strong rental markets have seen an increase in population growth as fewer people have bought homes,” Lombard added. “Other college towns such as Harrisonburg or Fredericksburg have also experienced an increase in their growth rates since the start of the recession.”
Albemarle County’s population increased 3.8 percent during the same period to a total of 102,731. That translates to 1,137 births and 2,624 new residents.
“This data helps officials identify the effectiveness of land-use policies, recognize changing areas of need and understand what is occurring and what is likely to occur in the future,” said Will Cockrell, a planner with the TJPDC.
Cockrell said public officials can’t make decisions without accurate data.
The population of the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area has increased by 3.8 percent since the 2010 Census to a total of 226,909.
Other surrounding counties grew at a slower rate. Fluvanna’s population increased by 1.3 percent to 26,019. Buckingham County’s population increased 0.2 percent to 17,185. Nelson County only has 11 new residents, for a 0.1 percent increase to a population of 15,031.
The entire population for the state of Virginia increased to 8.26 million with 259,381 new people calling the commonwealth home.
Jack Marshall, former president of the group Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, said local increases will come at a price for existing residents.
“The data do not tell us about the impacts of 7,000 additional neighbors on taxes to build new classrooms, to add more police and more fire and rescue workers,” Marshall said.
Marshall’s group has asked Charlottesville and Albemarle to consider ways to limit the population. In 2010, the group released a study that claimed the two communities only had a biological capacity to sustain a population of 37,000 With the new estimates, the city and county populations are 149,354, or four times the limit recommended by ASAP.
“Our community should be examining not merely what kind of growth has occurred, but what kind of growth we want,” Marshall said.
“Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville are two of the smartest-growing communities in the state, and the added value of these new residents cannot be overestimated,” Williamson said.
“Any attempts to control who can and can’t come into our community are philosophically failed,” Williamson said.