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Florida has Nation's Fastest Growing County

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Florida has nation's fastest growing county

St. Johns in top 10

By KEN LEWIS, The Times-Union

The U.S. Census Bureau announced this morning what the Sunshine State has been saying all along: Florida is the place to be. And Flagler County, by percentage growth from 2003 to 2004, was the nation's fastest-growing county with St. Johns not far behind at No. 9.

Florida and Georgia rank 1 and 2 for having the most counties on the Census Bureau's list of the 100 fastest-growing. Florida has 14, including Union at 32nd and Clay at 49th. Georgia is tied with Texas with a dozen counties led by Newton in the No. 12 spot.

Over a longer span from 2000 to 2003, Georgia had half of the nation's top 10 fastest-growing counties: Chattahoochee, Forsyth, Henry, Newton and Paulding.

Northeast Florida officials expressed a mixture of optimism and concern about the census figures.

"The commission right now is at the edge of a chasm," St. Johns County Commissioner Ben Rich said. "We're going to be making some very difficult choices soon involving exactly what we want this county to evolve into."

FASTEST-GROWING COUNTIES NATIONWIDE

County & State Population 2004 Population 2003 Pct. Change

1. Flagler, Fla 69,005 62,696 10.1

2. Kendall, Ill 72,548 67,018 8.3

3. Loudoun, Va. 239,156 221,150 8.1

4. Hanson, S.D. 3,786 3,508 7.9

5. Lincoln, S.D. 31,437 29,247 7.5

6. Lampasas, Texas 20,718 19,306 7.3

7. Lyon, Nev. 43,230 40,309 7.2

8. Camden, N.C. 8,437 7,867 7.2

9. St. Johns, Fla. 152,473 142,949 6.7

10. Dallas, Iowa 49,591 46,519 6.6

49. Clay 164,394 156,995 4.7

In the Legislature, in county commission meetings, in the thoughts of planners, commuters, builders and environmentalists, growth and quality of life are huge issues.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jeb Bush recommended the state provide $9.5 billion during the next decade -- $1 billion in cash this year, followed in 2007 with a 10-year bond program -- to fund the transportation component of his growth-management proposal. A committee of the Florida Senate approved a bill this week that could allow counties to more easily raise taxes to pay for infrastructure.

County commissioners throughout the First Coast are raising impact fees on new construction to help fund the infrastructure needs. The people keep coming.

"It's an imposing challenge to make sure we maintain our quality of life while we are the ninth fastest-growing county," St. Johns County Commission Chairman Bruce Maguire said. "It's a challenge to make sure we have all the infrastructure in place to support this growth."

While St. Johns experienced 6.7 percent population increase, Flagler experienced a 10.1 percent increase. The growth delighted economic developers, despite some side effects.

"You can definitely tell when you're at the grocery store," said Nick Sacia, deputy director of Enterprise Flagler, an economic development agency in Flagler County. "Driving around town, there's more activity."

The agency works with the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce to attract new businesses and help the existing ones expand as the area expands. Cities such as Palm Coast are changing as they grow.

"It started out as a planned community basically targeted at retirees," Sacia said. "But as you grow to the population that we have, even the retirement sector needs different services, and that attracts people to serve those needs. It attracts a younger demographic."

The growth is increasing the size of the workforce, he said.

"It's taking us from being a small community to the next step of being a kind of urban center, so that we can attract more business and industry along with retail and commercial opportunities," Sacia said.

"It's no secret that we're growing," said Richard Morris, executive director of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. "I think it's a good place to live. Good quality of life. That's been a secret for a while, but the word's out now. They're coming."

Between 2000 and 2003, Flagler County was the seventh fastest- growing county in the nation, with St. Johns County as the 38th fastest. During that time, Flagler County grew from an estimated 49,832 to 62,206. St. Johns grew from 123,135 to 142,869.

The drastic increase in population between the neighboring counties highlights the importance of planning, cooperation and preparation, according to Barbara Spaulding, executive director of the St. Johns Vision. The Vision is an agency designed to foster cooperation between local leaders and businesses and craft plans for the future of the county and the area. The growth "underscores the need to work collectively," Spaulding said.

"Statistics like that make us realize how quickly the freight train is coming our way," she said. "So the more we do to prepare, the better we'll be."

"What's happening in adjacent counties is going to affect us, so why not look at that as an opportunity rather than as a negative," Spaulding said.

About 60,000 new building permits are now issued in St. Johns County, Rich said. During his recent door-to-door election campaign, which hinged on a platform of controlling the county's growth, there were 67,000 homes in the county, he said.

Over the next 25 years for 10 St. Johns mega-communities from Rivertown to SilverLeaf to Nocatee, the county's looking at about 64,800 units.

Higher impact fees on new construction will help pay for some infrastructure, though it also created a frenzy of builders trying to squeeze in permits before the fee schedule change in May.

"It's our job as county commissioners to try to preserve the quality of life, while at the same time not create a tax burden on our citizens that begins to crush our existing residents and force them from their homes," Rich said. "It's a delicate balancing act."

Maguire was optimistic that the county and its employees can control growth. He said he is trying to create a plan that will make developers contribute more to the community. The increase in impact fees will help offset the cost of growth, he said.

"The reality is that the county is keeping a very tight grip on all of this," Maguire said.

The U.S. Census Bureau does population estimates each year, spokesman Stephen Buckner said. They sift through records of births, deaths, migration and more. In a few weeks, the bureau will release the estimates through 2030.

*** It looks like there is an error in the artical. It appears that Flagler is #2 in the nation. But that is still pretty darn cool!! ****

100 fastest growing counties

Population Estimates for the 100 Fastest Growing U.S. Counties with 10,000 or more Population in 2004:

April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2004

Geographic Area Population estimates Change, 2000 to 2004

July 1, 2004 April 1, 2000

estimates base Number Percent

Loudoun County, VA 239,156 169,599 69,557 41.0

Flagler County, FL 69,005 49,832 19,173 38.5

Douglas County, CO 237,963 175,766 62,197 35.4

Rockwall County, TX 58,260 43,083 15,177 35.2

Forsyth County, GA 131,865 98,407 33,458 34.0

Henry County, GA 159,506 119,404 40,102 33.6

Kendall County, IL 72,548 54,544 18,004 33.0

Newton County, GA 81,524 62,001 19,523 31.5

Lincoln County, SD 31,437 24,147 7,290 30.2

Paulding County, GA 105,936 81,647 24,289 29.7

Delaware County, OH 142,503 109,989 32,514 29.6

Scott County, MN 114,794 89,498 25,296 28.3

Collin County, TX 627,938 491,774 136,164 27.7

Osceola County, FL 219,544 172,493 47,051 27.3

Williamson County, TX 317,938 249,967 67,971 27.2

Hamilton County, IN 231,760 182,740 49,020 26.8

Spencer County, KY 14,822 11,766 3,056 26.0

Lyon County, NV 43,230 34,501 8,729 25.3

Fort Bend County, TX 442,620 354,452 88,168 24.9

Stafford County, VA 114,781 92,446 22,335 24.2

Union County, NC 153,652 123,772 29,880 24.1

Lake County, FL 260,788 210,527 50,261 23.9

St. Johns County, FL 152,473 123,135 29,338 23.8

Spotsylvania County, VA 111,850 90,395 21,455 23.7

Placer County, CA 307,004 248,399 58,605 23.6

Montgomery County, TX 362,382 293,768 68,614 23.4

Cherokee County, GA 174,680 141,903 32,777 23.1

Denton County, TX 530,597 432,976 97,621 22.5

Hays County, TX 119,359 97,589 21,770 22.3

Sherburne County, MN 78,762 64,415 14,347 22.3

Barrow County, GA 56,418 46,144 10,274 22.3

Will County, IL 613,849 502,266 111,583 22.2

Tooele County, UT 49,688 40,735 8,953 22.0

Matanuska-Susitna Borough, AK 72,278 59,322 12,956 21.8

DeSoto County, MS 130,587 107,199 23,388 21.8

Dallas County, IA 49,591 40,750 8,841 21.7

Washington County, UT 109,924 90,354 19,570 21.7

Currituck County, NC 22,067 18,190 3,877 21.3

Weld County, CO 219,257 180,834 38,423 21.2

Riverside County, CA 1,871,950 1,545,387 326,563 21.1

Rains County, TX 11,066 9,139 1,927 21.1

Pickens County, GA 27,771 22,983 4,788 20.8

Lee County, GA 29,913 24,757 5,156 20.8

Franklin County, WA 59,472 49,347 10,125 20.5

Suffolk city, VA 76,586 63,677 12,909 20.3

Canyon County, ID 158,038 131,441 26,597 20.2

Clark County, NV 1,650,671 1,375,738 274,933 20.0

Prince William County, VA 336,586 280,813 55,773 19.9

Kaufman County, TX 85,377 71,310 14,067 19.7

Warren County, OH 189,276 158,486 30,790 19.4

Walton County, FL 48,477 40,601 7,876 19.4

Pinal County, AZ 214,359 179,727 34,632 19.3

Wasatch County, UT 18,139 15,215 2,924 19.2

Dawson County, GA 19,064 15,999 3,065 19.2

Jackson County, GA 49,540 41,589 7,951 19.1

Gwinnett County, GA 700,794 588,448 112,346 19.1

Effingham County, GA 44,661 37,535 7,126 19.0

Wakulla County, FL 27,179 22,863 4,316 18.9

Bastrop County, TX 68,608 57,733 10,875 18.8

Wright County, MN 106,889 89,993 16,896 18.8

Hendricks County, IN 123,476 104,093 19,383 18.6

Walton County, GA 71,941 60,687 11,254 18.5

Christian County, MO 64,273 54,285 9,988 18.4

White County, GA 23,595 19,944 3,651 18.3

Pasco County, FL 407,799 344,768 63,031 18.3

Coweta County, GA 105,376 89,215 16,161 18.1

Collier County, FL 296,678 251,377 45,301 18.0

Burnet County, TX 40,286 34,147 6,139 18.0

Fluvanna County, VA 23,644 20,047 3,597 17.9

Boone County, KY 101,354 85,991 15,363 17.9

Berkeley County, WV 89,362 75,905 13,457 17.7

St. Croix County, WI 74,339 63,155 11,184 17.7

St. Lucie County, FL 226,816 192,695 34,121 17.7

Comal County, TX 91,806 78,021 13,785 17.7

Lincoln County, MO 45,816 38,944 6,872 17.6

Chisago County, MN 48,349 41,101 7,248 17.6

Bryan County, GA 27,535 23,417 4,118 17.6

Santa Rosa County, FL 138,276 117,743 20,533 17.4

Archuleta County, CO 11,615 9,898 1,717 17.3

Culpeper County, VA 40,192 34,262 5,930 17.3

Benton County, AR 179,756 153,406 26,350 17.2

Carver County, MN 82,122 70,205 11,917 17.0

Kane County, IL 472,482 404,119 68,363 16.9

Pike County, PA 54,117 46,302 7,815 16.9

Isanti County, MN 36,546 31,287 5,259 16.8

Fayette County, TN 33,624 28,796 4,828 16.8

Clay County, FL 164,394 140,814 23,580 16.7

Hoke County, NC 39,262 33,646 5,616 16.7

Lee County, FL 514,295 440,888 73,407 16.6

Lampasas County, TX 20,718 17,762 2,956 16.6

Deschutes County, OR 134,479 115,367 19,112 16.6

Carroll County, GA 101,577 87,268 14,309 16.4

Douglas County, GA 107,217 92,222 14,995 16.3

Johnston County, NC 141,640 121,900 19,740 16.2

Mohave County, AZ 179,981 155,032 24,949 16.1

Boone County, IL 48,490 41,786 6,704 16.0

Williamson County, TN 146,935 126,638 20,297 16.0

Nye County, NV 37,714 32,512 5,202 16.0

Calvert County, MD 86,474 74,563 11,911 16.0

Park County, CO 16,833 14,523 2,310 15.9

Note: The April 1, 2000 Population Estimates base reflects changes to the Census 2000 population from the Count Question Resolution program and geographic program revisions.

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According to an article in today's (Friday) T-U, of the fastest growing counties from 2003-2004,

Northeast Florida has TWO counties in the top 10, and THREE in the top 50.

Flager is 1.

St. Johns is 9.

Clay is 49.

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^Imo, this is a bad thing.  It just proof that we have a serious sprawl problem in need of instant attention.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You're right it does show signs of a serious sprawl problem. The problem is where are you going to stuff all of these people if they don't sprawl out into Clay, St. Johns and Flagler?

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You're right it does show signs of a serious sprawl problem. The problem is where are you going to stuff all of these people if they don't sprawl out into Clay, St. Johns and Flagler?

That's not the problem, there's plenty of land for growth. For example, Duval is no where close to being built out. The inner city of Jax, for example, has room for another 100,000 residents or so. The Northside and Westside both have lots of land available, as well. Growth in Clay, Flagler, and St. Johns isn't bad thing either.

The problem is our current zoning structure, road layout and the way most of these developments are being built. Most don't have several access points to diffuse traffic congestion, plus they're being placed on roads that can't handle the extra load in their current state. The fact that there's not enough funding in place to expand them is another problem that can't continue being ignored. Something has to be done...and its got to be more than just paving new roads.

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That's not the problem, there's plenty of land for growth.  For example, Duval is no where close to being built out.  The inner city of Jax, for example, has room for another 100,000 residents or so.  The Northside and Westside both have lots of land available, as well.  Growth in Clay, Flagler, and St. Johns isn't bad thing either.

The problem is our current zoning structure, road layout and the way most of these developments are being built.  Most don't have several access points to diffuse traffic congestion, plus they're being placed on roads that can't handle the extra load in their current state.  The fact that there's not enough funding in place to expand them is another problem that can't continue being ignored.  Something has to be done...and its got to be more than just paving new roads.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Ok, I see where you're coming from.

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i think it is a good thing. the bad thing would be if there was no growth or negative growth. i am much happier with this headline than if it had been "NOT A SINGLE NE FLORIDA COUNTY IN TOP 100 FASTEST GROWING COUNTIES"

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^Why? This growth list is by percentage only. Most of these counties have less than 200,000 residents. In reality, Flagler has only added a little under 20k residents, since the 2000 Census. Lee County, in SW Florida added 73k in the same time period. Polk County, which isn't even on the list, added over 13k in the past year. Metro Miami doesn't have any counties on this list, but I can assure you the urban growth that area is seeing is something NE Florida can only dream of.

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^Why?  This growth list is by percentage only.  Most of these counties have less than 200,000 residents.  In reality, Flagler has only added a little under 20k residents, since the 2000 Census.  Lee County, in SW Florida added 73k in the same time period.  Polk County, which isn't even on the list, added over 13k in the past year.  Metro Miami doesn't have any counties on this list, but I can assure you the urban growth that area is seeing is something NE Florida can only dream of.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

percentage-wise is the only fair way to measure the growth. yes, flagler county has added only 20,000 residents, but no other county has come close percentage wise in matching them. the data simply measures rate of growth and i think it is a positive that florida counties are GROWING at a relatively faster rate than counties in most other states.

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^Why?  This growth list is by percentage only.  Most of these counties have less than 200,000 residents.  In reality, Flagler has only added a little under 20k residents, since the 2000 Census.  Lee County, in SW Florida added 73k in the same time period.  Polk County, which isn't even on the list, added over 13k in the past year.  Metro Miami doesn't have any counties on this list, but I can assure you the urban growth that area is seeing is something NE Florida can only dream of.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Growth begets growth. I can remember when Clay County had a little over 30,000 residents. Now they've nearly added that many in four years.

In suburban Atlanta, Cobb County thirty five years ago was roughly where Clay County is now. Now it's nearly at 700,000 residents. To the east, Gwinnett, with roughly the same number of residents, is projected to hit the one million mark before Fulton County (pop. 830,000) does. When I moved to Atlanta in 1990, Gwinett had about 350,000 residents.

I suppose Clay and St. John could experience a similiar growth pattern over the next thirty years. I'd put my money on St. Johns then Clay, since the former is an ocean county.

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I'd hope both Clay and St. Johns Counties both establish better growth management laws in the future to avoid what suburban Atlanta is today.

Growth isn't a bad thing. Its just how you growth. Continuing to develop miles and miles of gated and low density communities on underfunded and congested two lane roads spells big trouble in the future.

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