Thursday, April 8, 2004

The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday reported that Loudoun County, Va., was the fastest-growing county in the nation in the past three years — a distinction that tickled business boosters but pained county leaders pursuing slow-growth policies.

Loudoun County’s population grew by 30.7 percent, or 52,147 residents, from 169,599 in April 2000 to 221,746 in July 2003, according to statistics compiled by the Census Bureau.

“Ouch,” said Scott K. York, chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. “Being number one is nothing to brag about, unless you are thrilled to death about having to build 28 schools in the last eight years and 23 more schools over the course of the next six years.”

Loudoun County, located about 25 miles west of the District and home to Washington Dulles International Airport and America Online headquarters, was the second fastest-growing county for the past two years.

The rising population will add 4,000 students to the school system next year, said Mr. York, at-large independent. “It’s a very heavy burden on the taxpayers,” he said. “Growth does not pay for itself when you grow at this rate.”

However, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce saw the first-place finish as reason to celebrate.

“We are delighted that the county is growing at this rate,” said Alison M. Farr, the chamber’s director of membership. “It is a reflection of our strong business and economic growth. As the county grows, the county’s business community grows along with it.”

Clark Draper, the county’s demographer, said the Census Bureau’s estimates were a little higher than his. “But it’s not unexpected or surprising that we’re in the number one position, given that we’ve had another record year in terms of the number of building permits issued,” he said.

Loudoun was the only local county to make the Census Bureau’s list of the top 10 fastest-growing counties. Six other counties in Virginia and one in Maryland made the top 100 list.

Stafford County, Va., ranked 17th, growing by 20 percent, or 18,575 residents, from 92,446 in April 2000 to 111,021 last July. Spotsylvania County, Va., was 19th, growing by 19 percent, or 17,443 residents, from 90,395 to 107,838.

Prince William County, Va., ranked 42nd, with a population increase of 16 percent, or 44,511 residents, from 280,813 to 325,324. Suffolk County, Va., ranked 43rd, growing by 15 percent, or 9,838 residents, from 63,677 to 73,515.

Fluvanna County was 48th, with a population increase of 15 percent, or 3,031 persons, from 20,047 to 23,078.

Calvert County, Md., ranked 82nd, growing by 13 percent, or 9,547 residents, from 74,563 to 84,110. Culpeper County, Va., ranked 87th, growing by 12 percent, or 4,293 residents, from 34,262 to 38,555.

According to Census Bureau estimates, five of the nation’s 10 fastest-growing counties were in Georgia. Fifteen other counties in Georgia were named among the top 100 fastest-growing counties.

Los Angeles, with 9.9 million residents, continued to be the most populous county in the nation. It also gained the most residents, 352,000 in 39 months, though its rate of growth did not make the top 100, according to census data.

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