Polk’s Hypergrowth Ranking Isn’t All Good News

The Lakeland-Winter Haven area’s population has increased more than just about everyplace else in the United States last year, The Ledger reports, citing census data.

Some perspective is probably called for.

The article cited no population figures, but the mathematical reality sides with smaller metropolitan areas in this kind of comparison. Adding 20,000 residents to a metro area with a population of a million will produce a higher growth rate than if it were added to a metro area with 3 million residents.

Nevertheless, significant population growth means that more people will be living and driving closer together. Get used to more traffic congestion in a county that admittedly has a large backlog on supposedly needed road improvement projects and no real plan to pay for them. Impact fees are only doing part of the job. This y ear the Legislature made it harder to guarantee there’s no free lunch when it comes to requiring new residents to pay for the costs of providing the services and infrastructure they demand by limiting impact fees.

Meanwhile, the recurring theme of developer requests recently has been to decrease single-family setbacks just short of duplex density.

That has a cascade effect on things like school capacity, a factor complicated by the fact that school officials are limited to how proactive they can be in buying land for expected needs for new schools. At the same time, they’re competing in the same increasingly overheated real estate market as developers. The school sales tax and impact fees help, but they’re not enough. School. Board members are willing to raise property taxes to pay for this, but legislators have prohibited them from doing something that fiscally responsible.

Well, at least new residents won’t have much of a yard to take care of, which is a good thing related to another growth-related stress point.

That involves something the article didn’t mention, which is the emerging stress on water supplies. Residential lawn irrigation generates a lot of the increased demand. Finding water to quench the demand of the growth machine is now the focus of multi-billion-dollar efforts involving deeper wells, desalination plants and a pipeline network.

Hold onto your wallet for that one.




Posted in Group Conservation Issues.