Archive for Thursday, June 29, 2006

Baldwin City’s ‘moderate’ growth pleases leaders

June 29, 2006

Baldwin City is growing, but it's a slow growth, according to the latest figures released by the census bureau.

Those figures show that between 2004 and 2005, Baldwin's population grew by 43 people -- from 3,703 to 3,746. The population in 2000 was 3,400. So, on average over the five-year period, Baldwin has grown 1.6 percent per year.

"I think an increase of 346 is moderate growth," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "It's 10 percent growth over the last six years, which is not the huge growth encountered by, say, Eudora, but it's steady growth."

While Baldwin has been at 1.6 percent, Tonganoxie grew by 5.9 percent, Eudora 3.5 percent and De Soto 2.1 percent. Dingman will take it slow and easy for Baldwin.

"A nice, steady, moderate growth is just fine by me," he said. "We can avoid the huge jumps like Eudora, De Soto and Tonganoxie, thanks very much. At 3,746, it seems like a good number."

Going back to 1990 shows even faster growth for those cities. In 1990, Baldwin was at 2,912, Eudora was at 3,006 and Tonganoxie at 2,347. By the year 2000, those had reversed. Tonganoxie had exploded to 4,916 -- more than doubling its population -- while Eudora had jumped to 4,307 and Baldwin was at 3,400.

As for where Baldwin's growth is occurring, that's readily visible north of U.S. Highway 56, but Dingman hopes that won't escalate as it has in Eudora.

"The three main developments -- FireTree, Signal Ridge and Heritage -- are continuing to fill in," he said. "We do have some of the separation from 'old and new' by U.S. 56, but it is not nearly as significant as the division of K-10 has in Eudora, as much of the growth there is occurring south of K-10.

"Hopefully, we will be able to take steps to reduce any separation that exits in Baldwin and maintain our sense of community on both sides of the highway," said Dingman.

Baldwin's growth could take a western direction as a result of the new freeway scheduled to replace the current U.S. Highway 59 during the next decade, but the city administrator doesn't think it will make that much of a difference.

"I think U.S. 59 improvements will encourage further growth just in the sense that it will make access to Lawrence easier, as well as connections to I-70 and I-35," he said.

Dingman does think the area will continue with fast-paced growth, but not particularly Baldwin and that's OK.

"I think the rapid development in our region will continue to happen in the Gardner/Edgerton area and in the Eudora/De Soto area," he said. "I am comfortable with the moderate growth we've had, as it does not present the challenges those other cities are facing in order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population.

"Developing at a moderate pace gives us some sense of control over what happens to us and allows us to more carefully consider how the development impacts the small-town atmosphere we are trying to protect," said Dingman.

In fact, building permit numbers to this point this year show a real slow down. So far, only 17 single-family permits have been issued.

"Assuming we'd double that for the year, 34 is still less than the 54 issued in 2005 and the 48 issued in 2004," he said. "So, the building is slowing down this year, which makes sense as most of the building is filling in subdivisions that are already open and thriving. If the next phase of FireTree gets moving, I would see that picking up. Just guessing, but that might not happen until next spring at the earliest."

Also, Baldwin is somewhat limited with its growth possibilities until there is more wastewater capacity.

"Residential growth will likely continue to happen to the north and west," said Dingman. "A lot of how fast that happens will depend on how soon the city can upgrade the sanitary sewer serving the north side of town. We should be able to outline that project yet this year. We should get the final report from the engineers any time, which will include estimated cost. The existing sanitary sewer can accommodate development in Signal Ridge, Parkside and all of FireTree Phase VI as it is proposed, but not much more than that."

There has been a long-standing effort to come up with a future plan and he's hoping that will be ready soon, too.

"On future growth, hopefully our comprehensive plan review process will shed some light on that subject this fall and into next spring," said Dingman. "I think this revised plan will be place to help us deal with any potential growth attributed directly to the improvement of U.S. 59."

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