Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

Census shows growth slowing

Douglas County ‘not doing as well as we ought to be’

March 20, 2008


Tami Zimmerman, Lawrence, plays with her son Madox, 1, at Holcom Park, Wednesday, March 19, 2008. Zimmerman and her son were enjoying the spring like weather with her husband Matt and their older son Peyton, 3. The Zimmerman's moved to Lawrence four years ago. The latest Census Bureau numbers for Douglas County show the community population is doing little more than keeping pace with the statewide average.

Tami Zimmerman, Lawrence, plays with her son Madox, 1, at Holcom Park, Wednesday, March 19, 2008. Zimmerman and her son were enjoying the spring like weather with her husband Matt and their older son Peyton, 3. The Zimmerman's moved to Lawrence four years ago. The latest Census Bureau numbers for Douglas County show the community population is doing little more than keeping pace with the statewide average.

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Kansas population totals ( .XLS )

About average.

After decades of being a leader in population growth in Kansas, the latest Census Bureau numbers for Douglas County show the community now is doing little more than keeping pace with the statewide average.

Douglas County had a growth rate of 0.8 percent from July 1, 2006, to July 1, 2007, according to the new Census Bureau report. The statewide average was 0.7 percent.

"I guess it is good that we're keeping up with the statewide average, but it is not good that we're not maintaining a 1.5- to 2-percent growth rate," said Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson. "That is much healthier for a community like Lawrence.

"My main thought is we're not doing as well as we ought to be doing."

The latest numbers are in stark contrast to the growth rates of the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1980s, Lawrence's population - which makes up the biggest chunk of the county's population total - grew by 2 percent per year. In the 1990s, the rate increased to 2.2 percent per year.

The slowdown in growth hasn't struck all area counties. Johnson County continued to chug along with a 1.9-percent growth rate, fourth best in the state. Leavenworth County also put up noteworthy numbers with a 1.4-percent growth rate. In fact, Leavenworth County added 1,012 residents during the time period. That's nearly 100 more than Douglas County did, despite Leavenworth County being about 40,000 people smaller than Douglas County.

"We feel like we've really started to reverse a downward trend," said Chris Dunn, Leavenworth County's planning and zoning director.

Dunn said the county had become a popular place for military retirees, who were looking for lower land and home prices. There's also a large number of government contractors doing work at Ft. Leavenworth related to the War on Terror.

He also said the county continued to be well situated for Kansas City commuters and employees of the growing Legends shopping center area in western Wyandotte County.

"If you have a job at the Legends, Basehor, Linwood, Tonganoxie are all good places to live," Dunn said.

A good location is long what Lawrence had as a selling point during the 1980s and 1990s. But now, Lawrence City Commissioner Mike Dever said the city's location may be hurting it.

"I think a lot of our steady growth was due to the opportunity to live in Lawrence and easily commute to Kansas City or Topeka," Dever said. "But with the cost of gas, the cost of commuting has really increased. That has to have an impact on the ability of people to call Lawrence home."

Both Dever and Johnson said that drives home the importance of bringing more jobs to Lawrence.

The latest numbers are similar to the numbers put up over the past few years. In the past, the city has challenged the Census Bureau and has had the estimates raised, although only slightly last year. Amy Miller, a planner for the city and county, said the planning department hadn't yet developed a population estimate for the entire county. But she said the 0.8-percent growth rate was similar to what the planning department had estimated for Lawrence.

The Census Bureau will release population estimates for individual cities this summer.

Tops in State

Douglas County had the 14th highest growth rate in the state at 0.8 percent. Here's a look at the counties at the top of the list.

1. Pottawatomie County: 2. 5 percent2. Miami County: 2.5 percent3. Wabaunsee County: 2.0 percent4. Johnson County: 1.9 percent5. Hamilton County: 1.5 percent

In terms of actual number of people added, Douglas County ranked fifth in the state, with 929 people. Here's a look at those that ranked ahead of Douglas County:

1. Johnson County: 9,826 people2. Sedgwick County: 6,705 people3. Shawnee County: 1,020 people4. Leavenworth County: 1,012 people

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


estespark 10 years, 2 months ago

And here I thought being the most "walkable" community in Kansas would spearhead growth well into the 21st century.

No worries, I'm moving back to Lawrence in 6 weeks.

zzgoeb 10 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, Lawrence is over-run with "immigrants" from JOCO already...the slowing is a good thing. The sprawl of crackerbox apartments has hurt the city's beauty and appeal. Livability and greenspace are as important as blue collar jobs anytime. But take heart, I'm moving there in a couple of months and bringing my family too!!!

average 10 years, 2 months ago

You are aware that the US Census Bureau is predicting that world population will peak by 2070, US population will peak by 2040, and Kansas population growth will be zero before that?

A good thing, that. Because at 2% annual growth, human bodies would comprise every gram of the earth's mass in under 1600 years, and every gram of the observable universe in under 5000.

toefungus 10 years, 2 months ago

Growth in Kansas has been a topic of discussion forever. Why? Because Kansas has always been a state that taxes heavily and relys heavily on government jobs. A broken policy. When I was a kid, Wichita and Oklahoma City were about the same size. Oklahoma City is now much bigger and much more prosperous. Lawrence is not to blame entirely. Kansas has some real thinking to do. I have already made up my mind not to retire here. The taxes are just too high for fixed income folks. With no industry, the tax burden will continue to fall on families.

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 2 months ago

The city wants to annex 157 acres at K-10 & I-70, and it's up for planning commission review on March 26. The closest utilities are 2 miles away, and no estimates have been done to quantify/qualify the cost of extending infrastructure. If it costs $8M to upgrade the infrastructure to the airport (where water and sewer already exist), how much to extend water and sewer out two miles past the end of the existing lines?

How much will it cost the city to buy out RWD #6 for it's line that crosses the property?

Is the NW quadrant of the city still under a sewer crisis?

Can we annex property any further away from the yet to be built sewer plant?

boxturtle 10 years, 2 months ago

Yay, this is the best news I've heard in awhile. Growth inevitably leads to death, thems the rules of life, let's slow it down a bit.

zzgoeb 10 years, 2 months ago

northtown tells us Lawrence has not grown...looked at the images on this site from the 70's? Yeah, hippies and weirdos have really "crippled" the city...wake up and realize things have changed...and not for the better, unless you own Walmart stock!!!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

"plumberscrack (Anonymous) says:

Census shows growth slowing Douglas County 'not doing as well as we ought to be' +++++++++++++++++++++++

What? I thought a new pro development city commission combined with the pro development county commission was supposed to transform Lawrence into the promise land? roflmao:.."

They did not do it their first 20 years so why did voters bring back the "anti economic growth team". They make it hard to catch up. All this group doing now is what they did their first 20 years ..... continue to over build retail and residential which does this:

The city's current budget. crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by single-family housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

Placemakers advised the community Lawrence was over built. The Chamber,real estate executives,developers,commissioners all laughed and said no way. Our two newest commissioners did not believe them. Each time city officials are advised that there are lower population numbers..... oh no that cannot be true.

At least 10 years ago the city commissions were being advised that residential does not pay for itself...they laughed.

Why don't commissioners listen?

Many were saying let developers do what they want it's their property. Laissez faire government screws the community.

This element has a tendency to over build because they still make money as bedroom communities go in the hole and taxpayers are forced to make up the difference.

Overbuilding retail essentially creates the same taxpayer dependent community as the real estate executives continue to make money. The city loses money on every residential constructed.

Just because speculators purchase property does not guarantee that construction will be allowed for it is NOT the duty of the taxpayer or local government to maximize profits for speculators.

New retail is suppose to create NEW ADDITIONAL revenue and NEW ADDITIONAL employment for a community NOT merely spread current retail dollars to the point where nothing NEW or ADDITIONAL is realized.

Certainly it is not simply to remove existing retail for nothing is gained. Otherwise taxpayers realize TAX INCREASES to cover the cost of additional demand on community services because too much retail begins not pay its' way.

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