- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Northern Virginia has grown by nearly 14 percent in the last five years, continuing to outpace the rest of the state, according to annual population estimates.

Loudoun County is the fastest growing region, with 82,700 more residents since 2000, a 49 percent increase. Prince William County was close behind, with an increase of 74,500 residents over the same period. Fairfax County added 52,400 residents.

The estimates are produced by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Only six other states gained more residents than Virginia, and 60 percent of the state’s growth was in Northern Virginia, the center found.

“The trend since 2000 has been the same: The growth has been quite steady, and the major growth is in Northern Virginia,” said Qian Cai, the center’s director for demographics and work force.

The new estimates are no surprise to school and government officials wrestling with the region’s relentless growth.

In Loudoun County in the past 15 years, for example, the number of students has more than tripled, to about 47,000 this year, and the number of schools has doubled. Six more schools are scheduled to open for the 2007-08 school year.

Scott York, chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, said county leaders need to rethink whether they want to continue on the same path.

“What it means is that our roads are going to get further clogged,” he said. “We’ll continue building schools, and it will mean higher taxes. That’s why we need a change of attitude from board members and need to start doing more with smart-growth policies as opposed to no-developer-left-behind policies.”

The new estimates showed high rates of growth spreading beyond Loudoun and Prince William to Stafford and Spotsylvania counties, which each have grown by about 25,000 since 2000.

The state’s total population is estimated at 7.57 million as of July, an increase of nearly 500,000 since 2000. The rate of growth puts Virginia behind only California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina. Virginia remains the 12th largest in the country.

The center estimates the state’s growth since 2000 was roughly divided between natural increase (more births than deaths) and migration of residents from elsewhere.

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