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Some Utah Suburbs Show Strong Population Growth

Some Utah Suburbs Show Strong Population Growth


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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A farming community so small it didn't get its two traffic lights until the mid-1990s, Syracuse is now the state's fastest-growing city, according to U.S. Census estimates released late Wednesday.

From July 2001 to July 2002, the little city on the shore of Great Salt Lake 25 miles northwest of the state capital showed a 15.1 percent population increase. Its numerical growth, according to census figures, was 1,633 -- the state's fifth-largest.

Draper, at the southernmost end of the Salt Lake Valley, was the second-fastest growing city at 9.4 percent for the period and added the most population -- 2,510 -- of all cities larger than 10,000.

The estimates are the first city population figures released by the federal government since the 2000 census. The Census Bureau used administrative records such as birth and death rolls and tax returns to rank the 242 cities with populations of 100,000 or more.

The numbers are used by the federal government in formulas that determine the distribution of more than $185 billion in funding for programs like Medicaid and foster care. States also use the updated estimates for funding allocations.

The estimates show that once-small suburbs in Arizona, Nevada and California now lead the nation in growth, a trend that has been part of Utah's growth for some time, said demographer Neil Ashdown of the state budget office.

The key: room to build.

"Some of the more urban cores are nearing buildout, but in these other areas there is developable land, still," Ashdown said. If cities were to grow, they would have to either redevelop or build "infill" homes, which can be expensive.

In Utah, St. George added 2,412 residents; Riverton, 2,187; West Jordan, 1,772; Tooele, 1,237; and Lehi, 1,149. West Valley City, the state's second-largest, grew by 903.

Salt Lake City's population decreased by 243, or .1 percent. The reason the number is so small is due to immigration, mostly from Mexico, Ashdown said.

"Even though we're in a recession, we're still doing better than the whole country of Mexico," he said.

In Syracuse, planners are trying to stay ahead of the growth curve so the city won't lose its rural feel, said economic development director Cindy Gooch.

Last year, developers built 600 new homes. This year, Gooch expects 700 more. The city's estimated 2003 population is 14,200; buildout is around 37,000, she said, with most working residents commuting to Salt Lake City or Hill Air Force Base.

About 30 percent of Syracuse's land area is undeveloped. The city plans to annex open land owned by the Nature Conservancy and portions of Great Salt Lake's shoreline that the federal Bureau of Reclamation manages.

Gooch said Black Island Farms owner Charlie Black is working with the Nature Conservancy and Envision Utah to keep his land open. Black's farm produces vegetables and mixed salads in bags for his company Condie's Food.

The city has room to get bigger, but wants to keep its country feel. Leaders also want to see more middle-income housing built, with homes priced from $180,000 to mid-$200,000, Gooch said.

Draper, too, once was a farming community. But as farmlands and large estates are subdivided, the city is seeing an annual growth of 8 to 10 percent, said community development director Brian Berndt. Buildout will occur around 2022, he said.

Berndt estimated that 40 percent of Draper remains undeveloped. The city, he said, is trying to purchase as much land as possible to keep as open space.

The average home price in Draper is about $290,000, he said, with low-end prices starting at $230,000. Condominiums and townhomes start at $175,000. Berndt said the prices make Draper's median prices the highest in the state. Families average 3.4 people per household, compared with Salt Lake City's 2.8.

The census estimates show Orem losing the most population between 2000 and 2001: 1,047, or 1.2 percent.

City planner Bob Moore said Eagle Mountain and Spanish Fork have drawn new development. Even so, he said, the federal numbers appear off.

According to the census estimates, Orem's population as of July 2002 was 83,662. Moore said the city's current population is 87,899.

"The population hasn't declined, based on building permits," he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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