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The city of Charlottesville has experienced a ten percent increase in population since 2010 according to data released Tuesday by the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia.
The increase shows that a long-term trend of declining or stagnant city growth is over.
“Charlottesville’s population barely grew in the 1980s and actually declined in the 1990s after it stopped annexing its suburbs in the 1970s,” said Hamilton Lombard with the center’s Public Service Demographics Research Group. “However, Charlottesville’s population began growing again the 2000s, and its growth has accelerated since 2010.”
The center estimated Charlottesville had a population at 47,783 as of July 1, 2014, up from 43,475 in 2010.
Albemarle is estimated to have increased by 4.8 percent with a population of 103,707 as of July 1, 2014.
“Estimates are produced using demographic indicators, such as births, deaths, home construction or fiscally responsible school data, to estimate the current population,” Lombard said.
The president of a group that monitors population growth said continued increases will decrease the overall quality of life.
“The estimated 9.9 percent increase in the size of Charlottesville is striking,” said Tom Olivier, president of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population.
Both Albemarle and Charlottesville are growing at a much faster rate than three of the four other jurisdictions that make up the region’s metropolitan statistical area. The Charlottesville MSA is now estimated to have a total 229,304 residents. That’s also an increase of 4.8 percent.
Fluvanna County grew at a 1.1 percent rate to have an estimated population of 25,970.
Nelson County is estimated to have only added 54 residents in the time period for a total of 15,074.
Buckingham County only added 6 people since 2010, a zero percentage rate.
However, Greene County’s growth rate is faster than Albemarle with a 6.6 percent increase for a population of 19,618.
The population of Virginia as a whole has increased from 8 million in 2010 to an estimate of over 8.2 million.
Lombardo said the availability of more affordable rents in Charlottesville is possibly a reason why city population is increasing.
“With fewer people moving in to buy homes, many counties along the edges of metro areas, such as Nelson and Fluvanna, are growing much more slowly than during the last decade,” Lombard said.
Lombard also said many young families are staying in Charlottesville, reversing a trend of decreasing school populations.
“In Charlottesville’s case, the surge in housing developments that has continued since the early 2000s has also certainly helped boost its population,” Lombard said.
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission uses the information to anticipate regional growth patterns. Its executive director sees no surprises.
“Nationally, urban areas have been experiencing increased population that include larger cities and smaller cities like Charlottesville,” said Chip Boyles. “College towns especially have been in the forefront of these growth patterns.”
However, Olivier said this growth will come with economic costs.
“Much of the growth [last year] in Albemarle County’s budget was due to the costs of educating an increased number of students in the public school system and an increase number of police officers needed to deal with additional law enforcement demands of a larger population,” Olivier added.
Olivier said his organization wants both the city and the county to establish a “right size” for the area’s population and evaluate development proposals accordingly.
The city’s population estimate exceeds the Weldon Cooper Center’s most recent population projections, which are used for planning purposes. In November 2012, demographers projected a 2020 Charlottesville population of 45,636.
Albemarle’s projected 2020 population is 115,642.
Lombard said the projections are commissioned by the Virginia Employment Center and can sometimes be out of step with rapidly changing trends.
“Currently the Virginia Employment Commission does not have the resources to commission a new round of projections,” Lombard said.
Population projections are also used to determine future water needs. For example, in 2011, AECOM Technology Corporation projected for the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority that the city of Charlottesville would have 45,152 people in 2015 and 46,894 people in 2020.