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BY JEFF BRANSCOME
Several Fredericksburg-area localities are among the fastest-growing in the state, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data.
Fredericksburg had the second-highest growth rate in Virginia from April 2010 until July 2011. Its population grew from 24,286 to 25,691, an increase of 1,405, or 5.8 percent--making it the sixth fastest-growing locality in the nation.
Fredericksburg was behind Manassas Park, which saw its population jump by 7.4 percent, from 14,273 to 15,332.
"I think it's a spillover of population growth in Northern Virginia," said Qian Cai of the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Stafford and King George counties had the next highest growth rates in the area, at 2.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of the other fastest-growing localities are in Northern Virginia.
Anita Churchill, president of the King George Chamber of Commerce, said she thinks the county is growing because of low taxes, the University of Mary Washington's new Dahlgren campus and government jobs at Dahlgren.
The proximity to Maryland and new businesses such as Walmart have helped, too, she said.
"These items really make it a viable community," she said. "I just see it as a growing community."
The population of the state as a whole increased 1.2 percent, from about 8 million to 8.1 million.
But more people haven't necessarily translated into more home buyers, said Melanie Thompson, owner of Century 21 Adventure in Spotsylvania County. Sales were flat in 2010 and 2011, she said.
"I think that also mirrored job growth and buyer confidence and all the other things that are going on," Thompson said.
Not surprisingly, rentals have stayed busy, she said. Her real-estate agency rents about 300 single-family homes.
"That never took a dive," she said. "We were putting tenants in them as fast as homeowners were listing them for rent."
Not nearly as many houses are being built now as during the peak. For example, Spotsylvania County had 1,441 building permits for single-family homes in 2005, but only 252 in 2011. Still, the county grew by 1.6 percent, or 1,930 people, from April 2010 until July 2011.
Thompson of Century 21 Adventure said she knows home sales will bounce back because the area is "so desirable for so many reasons."
"I think those census numbers just back it up," she said.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402