300,000 -- Davis County soars past urban milestone

Jul 3 2010 - 10:41pm

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FARMINGTON -- Nearly three decades of steady growth have pushed Davis County's population to more than 300,000 residents, giving it the numbers it needs to change its status in the eyes of the federal government from a rural to urban county.

Since 1980 Davis County has more than doubled in population, with most of the new growth occurring over the last 10 years, Wasatch Front Regional Council planner Scott Festin said.

At a recent County Commission meeting it was announced Davis County had reached an estimated population of 307,656 for 2009. The population figure has been listed in the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Davis County, the smallest county in the state geographically with 304 square miles, has the third highest population among the state's 29 counties, trailing only Salt Lake County and Utah County respectively, according to WFRC planners.

"In 1980 Davis County was at a population of 148,000. They have doubled (since then). That is phenomenal growth," Festin said.

For the county to sustain a 3 to 4 percent average growth rate each year over a 30-year period, he said, amounts to what he would refer to as "crazy, fast" growth.

The fastest growing decade for Davis County was from 1999 to 2009, with 65,000 residents -- roughly equivalent to the population of Layton -- added to the population, Festin said.

Most of that growth has been in the north and west areas of the county, where there is vacant land to develop, he said.

At some point Davis County will reach build-out because there will be no raw land available to develop, Festin said.

But with two-thirds of the county's growth rate being credited to a high natural birth rate from families living there and their children growing up and wanting to live there, he said, he doesn't anticipate the growth in the county will slow anytime soon.

Davis County is projected to have a population of 390,000 by 2030 according to information released from the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, Festin said.

But Davis County's population, in addition to giving it bragging rights, may also drop some additional money into its pocket.

The 300,000-plus population figure has become an important number to the county in capturing federal grant money, County Planner Scott A. Hess said.

"We're beginning to work toward an entitlement status," Hess said, which translates into the county receiving more federal funds.

To be defined as an urban county, Davis County needs to have more than 200,000 residents, excluding the residents of Layton and Clearfield.

Those cities, independent of the county, have already obtained entitlement status and are receiving federal grant funds annually as a result, Hess said.

Layton receives federal funds based on having a population greater than 60,000, while Clearfield receives funds based on its low- to moderate-income demographics.

The two north Davis cities combine for just over one-third of the county's total population.

"We are actually working toward entitlement now," Hess said.

In addition to opening the door for more federal funding, Hess said, the county's growing population proves what planners have been saying for years, which is that the county is going to grow.

"Even in a slower economy, the county (population) gets bigger," he said.

Based on the number of residential building permits issued by cities, Hess said, the downturn in the economy has slowed growth from where it was in 2007.

But once the economy fully recovers, based on the land still available in Davis County, planners are confident the county's population will continue to grow.

"West Point and Syracuse have the land area to be some of the larger cities (in the county)," he said, while there is a significant amount of land still available in west and east Layton, west Kaysville and South Weber.

"South Weber is only at 50 percent build-out," Hess said. "We're going to continue to grow."

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