The population of West Anne Arundel County rose dramatically over the last 10 years, paced by a more than 80 percent increase in people living in Odenton.
New census data showed a big jump in population throughout the entire county, with other communities including Crofton and Severn also showing big gains.
The county population rose from from 489,565 to 537,656 between 2000 and 2010, an increase of just under 10 percent.
Odenton alone was responsible for more than 17,000 new residents, as the town’s population grew from 20,534 to 37,132. Much of the gain came from the town's increases diversity, as the population of blacks, Asians and Hispanics more than tripled while the white population increased by 47 percent.
In Severn, the population grew from 35,076 to 44,231, a rise of 26 percent. Crofton's population rose 36 percent, from 20,091 to 27,348.
Leaders in the county said the population growth highlights the need for major transportation upgrades, especially since thousands of additional people are expected to move in as a result of expansion at Fort George G. Meade.
County Executive John R. Leopold said the growth proves that the county was right to raise impact fees on development.
"As expected, the lion's share of the growth has been in West County," Leopold said. "That underscores the importance of getting approval from the [county] council to support an increase in impact fees."
Business leaders in the Odenton area have pushed for the creation of a dedicated impact fee zone that would funnel money from development back into transportation upgrades nearby. Leopold told Odenton Patch on Tuesday that he would "not oppose" the creation of such a zone.
Members of the business community said they hope new census data would send a signal that Odenton has arrived as a potential destination for commercial development. Real estate developers and brokers involved in projects in the Odenton Town Center have consistently been frustrated in recent years by a wariness of retailers and restaurants to set-up shop.
"If there are more people living in an area, that's more customers," said Claire Louder, president and CEO of the West Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce. "We frequently have trouble showing that there's a need for services in this area, and these kinds of numbers help show them that this area is growing, substantial already and in need of services."
Louder said the census numbers also give weight to a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences that called on the federal government to pay more toward transportation upgrades related to the expansion of military bases, including Fort Meade.
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