Area heads toward 150,000 residents

Posted: December 5, 2012

The Winchester Star

Neighborhoods are sprouting across the county, such as Wakeland Manor-Macedonia Acres east of Stephens City. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
New townhouses under construction in the Fieldstone subdivision off Channing Drive near Greenwood Mill Elementary School in Frederick County will accommodate some of the region’s newcomers. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Frederick County’s population could nearly double by 2040.

The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service projects that the number of people living in the county will increase to 97,192 by 2020, to 119,419 by 2030 and to 145,938 by 2040.

The 2010 Census lists the county’s population a s 78,305.

The Weldon Cooper Center, under contract with the Virginia Employment Commission, projected growth for all counties in the state, along with cities with populations above 5,000.

In the study — completed last month — Clarke County’s population, 14,034 in the 2010 Census, is projected to rise to 15,025 by 2020, 15,871 by 2030 and 16,631 by 2040.

Winchester, with a 2010 population of 26,203, is projected to grow to 27,967 by 2020, 29,449 by 2030, and 30,781 by 2040.

County Planning Director Eric Lawrence said Monday that Frederick officials have worked to encourage growth in designated areas that have easy access to utilities and infrastructure and will continue to do that.

Patrick Barker, executive director of the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission, said the city and county have shown consistent growth.

But while this has economic benefits, leaders in the city, county and private sector must work to create employment opportunities to match the population increase, he said.

Winchester Planning Director Tim Youmans thinks the estimates for the city’s growth are too low, partly because they are “straight- line” projections that don’t take into account variables such as a locality’s policy changes.

He thinks Winchester’s population could exceed 28,000 before 2020 due to projects such as the proposed 132-unit Racey Meadows apartment complex off Cedar Creek Grade.

“We have plans already adopted and further strategic plans pending that fully anticipate that much growth, and we think the numbers are probably low compared to our future visions,” Youmans said.

Clarke isn’t projected to see a large population boom, but County Administrator David Ash thinks it could benefit once the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority opens a planned Metrorail station in Ashburn in Loudoun County, about 30 miles from Clarke County.

“Transportation issues could have a large impact on [population growth],” he said.

Phase 1 of the Metro extension to Tysons Corner and Reston is scheduled to be completed in 2013, according to the Transit Authority’s website.

Phase 2 will extend Metrorail from Reston and Herndon to Washington Dulles International Airport and into eastern Loudoun County. A construction start date has not been set for Phase 2.

Rebecca Tippett, lead researcher for the Weldon Cooper Center’s population study, said the project took about nine months to complete.

The results, she stressed, “are just projections, not prophecy.”

She said the projections are based on a statistical model using past demographic trends, so pinpointing the reasons for growth is difficult.

Population projections, Tippett said, can provide important information for elected officials and businesses, since they show the type of growth an area may experience in certain demographic categories — such as age, race and gender — and the services increasing segments of the population might require.

The rule of thumb for population projections is that a 12 percent margin of error occurs for every 10 years in a study, she said. But because the Weldon Cooper Center used analytic models with track records of good accuracy, this study’s margin of error is below that.

“We made minimal assumptions [for the study] and tried to base the projections on what has happened in the past,” Tippett said. “What you want to keep in mind with any of these numbers is our projections represent our clearest knowledge based on what we’ve seen in the past. There may be things on the ground that are currently being implemented to attract certain populations to a region.”

According to the study, Virginia is projected to add more than 800,000 new residents each decade, reaching a population of 10.5 million by 2040. Its 2010 Census population was 8,001,024.

The population projections and additional information are available online at www.coopercenter.org.

— Contact Matt Armstrong atmarmstrong@winchesterstar.com