2009-07-16 / Front Page

County Growth Higher Than State's

Todd, Thompson and Bethel growing fastest

According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week, Fulton County's population has grown by 5 percent since July 2000, and the numbers make it very clear that the influx has largely been in Todd, Thompson and Bethel townships. All three townships grew more than the county's total percentage of increase.

By contrast, the state of Pennsylvania increased its population by only a little more than 1 percent over the same eight-year time period.

Todd was the leader in population growth, experiencing an 11 percent increase in population from July 1, 2000, through July 1, 2008. Todd was followed by Thompson with a 10 percent growth rate and Bethel with an 8 percent increase.

Belfast and Union townships, with increased populations of 7 and 6 percent, respectively, also increased their populations at a rate higher than the county rate.

With the exception of Todd, municipalities experiencing the greatest rate of growth are in the southern portion of Fulton County, impacting the Southern Fulton School District more than either of the other two county school districts. According to Mary K. Seville, director of Fulton County's planning office, statistics on the number of housing starts in the county are basically consistent with the census estimates. Seville's statistics show that from 2001-2008, there were 315 housing starts in the Southern Fulton School District as opposed to 206 in Central Fulton and 100 in Forbes Road. There were 621 total county housing starts for the seven-year period.

During that same time period, there were actually more housing starts in Bethel (89) than in any of the other county municipalities. Bethel was followed by Ayr (75), Licking Creek (68), Belfast (66), Todd (63) and Thompson (57). The fewest housing starts were in Wells with only 13.

Seville said, "I'm not surprised that the greatest growth rate is in the southern end of our county." She also speculated that some of Todd's growth over the past eight years could likely be attributed to housing developments on Brooklyn Drive near McConnellsburg and on Meadow Lane near Knobsville.

Only two municipalities lost population in the eight-year period and both of them are boroughs - the borough of Mc- Connellsburg, with a loss of 3 percent of its population, and Valley-Hi, with a loss of 5 percent (attributable to the decrease of only one person in the small community).

In Fulton County, classified as 100 percent rural by the Census Bureau, 93 percent of the population resides in townships rather than in the two boroughs.

Although the county has experienced growth in the past eight years, Seville said that housing starts were highest in the early years of the estimates. Seville said the most housing starts in the seven-year period were in 2005 with 103. The downturn in the economy is evidenced by the fact that housing starts have declined each year since then with only 89 in 2006, 53 in 2007 and 48 in 2008. Housing starts in 2008 were at only about one-half the level of 2001.

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