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Opinion Letters Population growth figures disputed

I wish to respond to the letter from Victor Drummond published in the Dec. 23, 2010, issue of The Macon County News. Mr. Drummond calls into question the projected county population and housing figures mentioned by Larry Stenger in a previous letter published December 16, 2010. Rather than Mr. Stenger’s figures being wrong, I suggest it is Mr. Drummond’s figures that are wrong.

According to U.S. Census data, Macon County has been experiencing steady and rapid population and housing unit growth for the past 40 years. Population increased 27.8% from 1970 (15,788) to 1980 (20,178), 16.5% from 1980 to 1990 (23,499), and 26.9% from 1990 to 2000 (29,811). According to the preliminary data from the most recent census, as reported by the MCN on Sept. 23, 2010, the population in Macon County in 2010 was 36,667, a 23% growth rate since 2000.

Despite the rapid growth rates for the decades between 1970 and 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau has been erroneously underestimating the population growth rate for the last decade. According to its website, the population estimate for Macon County as of July 1, 2009 is 33,233. Extrapolating this to April 1, 2010 (the date of official census figures) gives a figure of 33,510, a ten-year growth rate of only 12.4% since 2000, and in stark contrast to the 23% growth rate based on recent actual census data.

If one uses a similar ten-year growth rate of 23% going forward, which is certainly feasible given the growth trends of the past 40 years, Macon County’s population will reach 45,100 in 2020 and 55,474 in 2030. This is clearly much more than the estimate of 39,131 that Mr. Drummond calculates for 2030.

The numbers of housing units have also been growing rapidly in Macon County. According to the U.S. Census, housing units increased 58.2% from 1970 (8,446) to 1980 (13,358), 28.6% from 1980 to 1990 (17,174), and 20.8% from 1990 to 2000 (20,746).

Yet again, despite these past growth rates, the U.S. Census Bureau currently estimates housing units for July 1, 2009 at 23,719, or 23,960 if extrapolated to April 1, 2010 — a ten-year growth rate of only 15.5%.

The data for housing units from the 2010 census have not been released. However, if one looks at past and current growth trends for population and housing, and past ratios of population to housing units in the range of 1.4 to 1.9, it is not inconceivable that an additional 10,000 to 15,000 housing units could be built in the next 20 years, as Mr. Stenger suggests.

Given these growth trends, I fully support the need for our planning board and its work, including the development of a sensible ordinance for building on steep slopes.

Dennis Desmond — Franklin, N.C.


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