Based on township estimates released earlier this month, it’s noted that the population increased to about 17,208 residents, based on construction permit activity. This is an increase of about 2,030 residents since the 2010 Census, or about 253 new residents each year.
Will it continue?
“The national economy will continue to expand and contract, which will impact the rate of the township’s growth,” Township Manager Bill Cargo said. “However, even during the depth of the so-called Great Recession, the township was still seeing growth in single-family homes, with the slowest year (2009) adding 10 new single-family homes.”
Cargo said he believes people will continue to be attracted to the region for myriad reasons.
“Lake Michigan, the City of Grand Haven downtown and waterfront, beaches and bayous, the proximity of the City of Grand Rapids, miles of pathway, and thousands of acres of parks will continue to entice people to this region,” he said. “This was true 25 years ago and remains true today. I cannot project whether the current rate of growth will continue beyond the next 12 months. But, regardless of the rate of growth, the township will accommodate the growth that is attracted to this region of West Michigan.”
The cost of a growing community
With more residents comes the need for more services, whether it be police and fire protection, infrastructure, or other amenities.
Cargo noted that the rate of increase for local services typically exceeds the actual population growth.
“For example, last year, the demand for fire/rescue services increased by about 6.2 percent,” he said. “But the actual population growth over the same period was about 3.2 percent.”
Furthermore, Cargo noted that the next wave of growth will likely involve senior living, nursing care and other health care-related facilities.
“These types of facilities will accelerate the rate of increase for public safety services,” he said. “If you reviewed stories from my very first year as the manager of Grand Haven Charter Township, you would see me quoted as saying, ‘Growth does not pay for itself.’”
According to Cargo, communities from all around note that with population growth comes increased calls for services that exceed expectations.
“A Christmas tree farm requires very little in terms of service from either the schools or the local government,” he explained. “But when a developer constructs a 200-lot subdivision on this land, the demand for service increases exponentially.”
This, according to Cargo, is the reason the township’s municipal tax rate has increased over the past two decades, from a total of 4.3 mills in 1994 to the current 4.7 mills.
“This 9 percent rate of growth in the township’s property tax rate is considered very low, especially considering our population has increased by about 77 percent over the same period,” he said.
Is the growth sustainable?
Fortunately, Cargo said, the rate of growth that is occurring is sustainable.
“The infrastructure has capacity to accommodate the current rate of growth, and there are hundreds of acres of vacant land that can be utilized,” he said. “Also, we can look to the simple truth in the economics of supply and demand.”
According to Cargo, the township does not subsidize growth, and developers are required to pay all direct costs associated with their developments, such as municipal water, sanitary sewer, stormwater management, roads and other related costs.
“We can be assured that developers will only invest in the township if they believe they will receive a return on their investment,” Cargo said. “The market will provide controls on the rate of growth.”