Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TOP STORY >>Growth in Cabot at 25,000 by 2010

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Cabot, already the largest town in Lonoke County, could have 25,000 residents by the regular 2010 census, according to Jonathan Lupton, a Metroplan urban planner.

“If I were a bettin’ man, based on Metroplan’s track record, they’ll hit it right on the head,” said Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams. “The housing slowdown is temporary. When interest rates slow down, the growth will continue. Forty percent of the base population lands here.”

Based upon regular census data, projections and the special November 2006 census, Cabot could have 25,290 residents by then. The town already has doubled in population since 1995, according to figures provided by Lupton.

The town has increased by an average of 1,003 people per year since 2000.

Meanwhile, Ward has applied to the Census Bureau for its own special census and is awaiting an official reply, according to Deborah Staley, Ward’s administrative assistant.

There are some indications that Ward now has nearly 4,450 residents, rather than the 2,580 found in the 2000 census. At about $60 a head in state turnback money, the difference in population could amount to about $112,000 a year, according to Mayor Art Brooke.

“Right now we have 2,580 people paying the way for about 4,000 or more,” the mayor said.

Using building permits and water customer records, the census bureau estimated in 2005 that Ward had 3,271 residents.
“We got a population estimate from Metroplan of about 3,489,” he said, “about a 35 percent growth rate.”

If his in-house estimate is correct, the population has pretty much doubled in seven years, the mayor said. Staley said the growth was attributable in part to the appeal of the Cabot School System. She said people liked having the big city amenities without the hassle of traffic and crime. She said much of new residents were young families. Brooke said development in the subdivisions continued unabated and that much of the appeal was the homes, which average only about $150,000.

Ward is a bedroom community from which people could easily commute to Conway, Cabot, Little Rock and Beebe.

If the special census verifies his estimates, Ward would surpass Lonoke to become the second largest town in Lonoke County.
Since the 2000 census, Cabot has grown an estimated 46 percent, Ward 35 percent, Austin 20 percent and the unincorporated communities 16 percent. Lonoke, the county seat, grew by just 3 percent and the county as a hole grew 22 percent from 52,828 to an estimated 64,470.

Carlisle grew by 1.5 percent, while England lost 9 percent of its population and the conglomeration of other small communities lost 3 percent.

Pulaski County grew 5 percent from 361,474 in 2000 to an estimated 378,491 in 2007, according to Metroplan analysis. Maumelle grew 48 percent, Wrightsville 18 percent and Sherwood 15 percent, while Jacksonville grew 5 percent from 29,916 in 2000 to an estimated 31,349 this year.

Migration to Lonoke County increased by 9,460 residents and grew by 38,938 in Pulaski County.

In the Central Arkansas area—now officially the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway Metropolitan area, the Median household income for 2005—the most recent available data—was $42,089, more than $4,000 a year less than the national average.

The median value of the owner occupied unit locally was $108,700, nearly $60,000 less than the median cost and value a home nationwide.

Perhaps because the houses cost less, sub-prime loans—high interest loans to marginal borrowers—in the Metropolitan area accounted for about 15 percent of mortgages, while nationally, sub-prime loans accounted for nearly one in five mortgages.
In area towns with populations greater than 5,000 in Lonoke, Pulaski, Saline and Faulkner counties, the number of single family housing permits issued in 2006 was 2,899, down from 3,412 in 2005. Single-family building permits in Cabot, which hit a high of 499 in 2004, declined to 387 in 2005 and rebounded to 416 for 2006. New starts in Jacksonville have increased every year since 1999, when there were 63 starts through 2005, when there were 186. In 2006, the number dropped to 126. Sherwood experienced a decline from 287 in 2004 to 259 in 2005 and 218 in 2006.

The multi-family housing permits in the metropolitan area, which are less consistent than single-family permits, saw only 969 units in 2006, down from 2,162 two years earlier. Of those 2006 permits, Cabot had 152, Jacksonville 34 and Sherwood four.