WASHINGTON – Calvert County’s population leaped by 44 percent in the 1990s, the biggest growth rate in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Calvert’s skyrocketing population helped the Southern Maryland region grow at three times the rate of the rest of Maryland, according to Census data released last week.
While Calvert was booming, Baltimore City continued to go bust. Census data showed that the city continued its decades-long slide, with a loss of more than 103,000 people between 1990 and 1999, or 14 percent of the city’s population.
Officials in both jurisdictions said the population swings have brought their share of problems.
“We’re in a transition from a rural farming community to a suburban bedroom community,” said Frank Jaklitsch, the director of Calvert County’s Planning and Zoning Office. “And for many people that’s not why they decided to stay in Calvert County.”
He said people are attracted to the county because of its rural character, which is in danger of being lost because of the influx of people.
The county’s biggest problem is keeping up with the skyrocketing school population and adapting rural roads to heavy traffic, Jaklitsch said. The county has also had to deal with environmental changes, such as more run-off into waterways and the bay, an increase in other forms of pollution and a decrease in forest and farmland.
Jaklitsch said the county has tried to tame growth by designating eight town centers, where residential development is allowed only in a one-mile radius of the center, saving valuable land outside of the center.
“We know we can’t prevent [the growth],” he said. “And what we’re trying to do is to allow enough additional growth but to not lose our rural character.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Baltimore City faces the challenge of retaining its residents.
“We have a shrinking population and a shrinking tax base, which has put the city in a serious path for deficit,” said First Deputy Mayor Michael Enright. “It puts a terrible burden on city services … because those that need the services the most have remained.”
Enright said if things do not change, the city will face a $150 million deficit in three years, making it even harder to deal with the city’s problems of drug addiction, crime and poor schooling. He said the strategy to retain residents, and increase the tax base, is to clean up the city and make it safer.
The city’s losses have dragged down the population growth rate of the Baltimore region as a whole, which grew by only 4.4 percent from 1990 to 1999, according to the Census data. But if the city is not counted, growth in the region — Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll, Harford and Baltimore counties — jumps to 12.8 percent over the decade.
The biggest population growth came in the Washington suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. While they grew at a rate of 11.7 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively, the actual number of new residents in those counties totaled 148,375 — more than one-third of the state’s total population increase for the decade.
The Census said Maryland’s population grew by 8.2 percent in the decade, rising by 390,881 people to 5.2 million.
Most other regions grew at about the same rate as the state as a whole: The Eastern Shore grew by 11.8 percent and the four counties of Western Maryland — Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett — grew by 11.9 percent.