Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 2, 2004

Wright County population continues to grow fast

By John Holler

It’s been almost two decades since the continued growth of Wright County began. Since then, many have assumed that, after such a sustained growth period, it will slow down at some point.

If the 2004 state population numbers supplied by the Minnesota State Demographic Center are any indication, not only isn’t the growth subsiding, it’s continuing at an increasing rate of speed. In between census years, the numbers generated by the state demographer, which uses building permits as the model for determining population increases, showed no signs that the lengthy growth trend has subsided.

“I don’t see that it’s going to slow down any time soon,” Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala said.”We’re constantly getting new plats coming in. We assessed 3,000 new homes last year and are expecting the same this year. The metro area is moving west in we’re right in the middle of that and it’s a trend that looks to continue.”

The demographer’s numbers, which become the official number for cities and townships receiving state funding, the county’s population crossed the 100,000 mark in 2003, rising from 98,410 in 2002 to 102,941 in 2003. The largest growth was noted in Otsego, which was estimated to have grown by 1,100 in 2003, and Monticello, which was believed to have grown by almost 1,000 people. (See attached list for local numbers).

In addition, the county provided its own numbers, trying to extrapolate the population out to the year 2020 and beyond. It is hoped that the numbers can serve as a guideline for the continued growth of the county and help it be spread out more evenly as cities, townships and the county attempt to work together to keep growth in check to some degree.

“What we’re hoping to do through cooperation is manage the growth,” Hiivala said. “At times, the cities and townships are at odds over growth issues. We don’t control planning for the cities and can’t tell them they’re not allowed to grow. We do have control over what goes in townships, which are viewed by the planning commission as rural areas of the county we are looking to preserve. It can lead to the explosive growth we’ve seen in areas like St. Michael-Albertville and Otsego in recent years.”

The numbers became official July 15 after cities and townships had a chance to dispute the numbers assigned to them. Franklin Township felt the demographer’s office undershot its population figures, but its challenge was denied and the numbers remained.

For those who have become a little overwhelmed by the number of new residents moving into the county each year, the wish of a leveling off of growth will likely go ungranted. As it stands, there is little reason to believe the growth will slow down, much less level off.

“It’s a simple matter of supply and demand,” Hiivala said. “The demand remains strong and we remain in the right location to be the supply.”

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