ANNAPOLIS – Southern Maryland’s population grew by 18.2 percent from 1990-97, the fastest growth rate in the state, according to new figures from the Census Bureau.
But for sheer numbers, Southern Maryland’s growth was dwarfed by the Washington suburbs. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties grew by a total of 112,000 people, more than a third of the entire state’s growth for the time period.
Baltimore’s close-in suburbs of Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties matched the Washington suburbs, growing by nearly 113,000 people, or 8.6 percent. But growth in the Baltimore region as a whole was held to 3.5 percent because the city lost almost 79,000 residents — more than the population of 10 counties in the state.
Eastern Shore counties grew by 9.8 percent, or 33,540 residents. Western Maryland counties, including Frederick, grew by 10.3 percent, or 38,485 residents.
The census figures, released Tuesday, showed the overall state population grew by 6.6 percent to 5.1 million people. That growth rate was slightly below the national increase of 7.6 percent since the start of the decade.
Among individual counties, Calvert’s 35 percent growth was tops.
“We’re in the next ring out (from the Washington suburbs),” Calvert County Administrator Richard Holler said. “A lot of people want a little bit more of a country atmosphere.”
Calvert County led a Southern Maryland boom that echoed in Charles County, which grew by 13.8 percent, and St. Mary’s County, which grew by 12.8 percent.
But if an exodus from Washington suburbs fueled Southern Maryland’s boom, as Holler suggested, Montgomery County experienced an influx that more than compensated. The county led the state with 64,559 new residents, an 8.5 percent increase.
“We really think the population growth is due to (foreign) immigration more than anything else,” said Sally Roman, a research coordinator in the Montgomery County Park & Planning Department.
Roman noted that a 1994 survey showed that 47 percent of the state’s foreign-born population lived in Montgomery County, which accounted for 16 percent of the state’s total population in the latest figures.
Roman also said that new construction was not keeping pace with Montgomery’s population growth. “It’s bigger households rather than more houses,” she said.
A cap on construction was credited with putting the brakes on the explosive growth that Howard County experienced in the 1970s and ’80s, although the county continues to be among the state’s fastest-growing.
Howard’s 22 percent increase since 1990 was almost lethargic compared to the 59 percent increase it posted in the 1980s and its 91 percent expansion in the 1970s.
Roselle George, chief researcher for Howard County’s planning and zoning department, credited a 1990 general plan with slowing the county’s growth. That plan, she said, restricted the number of building permits that could be issued annually, contingent on the availability of public facilities, such as schools.
Though recent growth was modest compared to previous decades, Howard County Executive Charles Ecker said he hoped the increase would bode well for the county when the state reapportions legislative districts after the year 2000 census.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get more delegates and senators that just serve Howard County,” he said.
Aside from Calvert and Howard, counties experiencing growth rates of more than 20 percent were Worcester, with 20.2 percent, and Frederick, at 22 percent.
Dorchester and Allegany experienced declines of 1.1 and 3.5 percent respectively, the only jurisdictions in the state to lose population besides Baltimore. But their losses — Allegany lost 2,657 residents and Dorchester lost 343– paled next to Baltimore’s 10.7 percent population drop, which reflected the loss of 78,758 residents.