New housing

Houses in construction sit at the Kennedy Farm development on Hillhurst Road May 31.

North County cities as a whole have slowed their growth according to the latest available U.S. Census estimates, though populations are still growing. Part of that slowdown in the former fast-growing city in Washington was expected as Ridgefield city officials say there has been a shift away from developing just more houses.

Census population estimates released late last month showed that North County growth has slowed about 35% from 2017 to 2018, compared with 2016 to 2017. This included about a 55% slowdown for Ridgefield, which for 2017 to 2018 grew by 409 residents, or about 5.1%.

That’s less than the roughly 13% growth the city experienced between 2016 and 2017, according to Census data. Ridgefield was no longer the fastest-growing city, as Spokane-area Airway Heights had a growth of about 12.7% and several other cities had larger population increases relative to their own sizes.

Though not the fastest statewide, Ridgefield was still the fastest among North County cities, sitting at a population of 8,357 according to Census data. Growth also slowed in Battle Ground and La Center, but grew slightly in Woodland and moreso in Yacolt.

The Census statistics aren’t anything particularly shocking to Ridgefield officials. City Manager Steve Stuart said there were often ebbs and flows in population changes, and the new data doesn’t change the city’s focus.

“We plan for the growth that we know is coming and we concentrate on quality,” Stuart said. He focused on growth outside of residential development, saying there was close to 2 million square feet of development he said would have “employment uses” currently in some phase of construction in the city, including more than 300,000 square feet of commercial retail.

“There’s been a conscious effort by our council to balance the equation,” Stuart said about development in the city. He pointed to a more sustainable revenue model for the city that was more dependent on ongoing employment as opposed to relying on one-time sales taxes on new residential construction.

Stuart gave a couple notable examples of that development, including the Rosauers grocery story that was about 50,000 square feet, about 100,000 square feet for the relocation of Keller Supply Company on the east side of town and expansion of United Natural Foods to the tune of another 100,000 square feet.

Stuart said that the new Census data was more of a “snapshot” of growth at a point in time, rather than something the city follows for trends — he mentioned the city has its own metrics for looking at growth. Regardless of an apparent slowdown, he said the trend for the city’s population was still up and residents aren’t likely to start believing growth is coming to and end based on the new data.

“I don’t think that a single snapshot would change people’s perception of the growth that they feel and see,” Stuart said. 

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