Nor­wich could be among state’s top 10 towns for pop­u­la­tion growth

In­creases also pro­jected in New Lon­don, Lyme

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By ERICA MOSER Day Staff Writer

From 2015 to 2040, Nor­wich is pro­jected to see the state's sev­enth-high­est per­cent in­crease in pop­u­la­tion, and New Lon­don and Lyme also are look­ing at pop­u­la­tion growth, ac­cord­ing to new pro­jec­tions from the Con­necti­cut State Data Cen­ter.

But the out­look isn't as rosy for other south­east­ern Con­necti­cut towns. The Data Cen­ter pre­dicts de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion in most of the area's towns, with only the 65-plus de­mo­graphic grow­ing.

“The new pro­jec­tions show that mul­ti­ple towns are ap­proach­ing a de­mo­graphic shift due to an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, a near net zero over­all mi­gra­tion rate, and a rel­a­tively low, but sta­ble birth rate,” stated a news re­lease from the Data Cen­ter.

The pro­jec­tions in­clude the es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion in 2015, 2020, 2025, 2030, 2035 and 2040 for ev­ery city and town in the state. For each town, pro­jec­tions for each year are bro­ken into 18 age groups, and each age group is di­vided into male and fe­male.

The 2015 num­bers are pro­jec­tions be­cause the cen­sus only takes place in years that are mul­ti­ples of 10. The main in­puts the Data Cen­ter used, Director Michael Howser said, are birth and mor­tal­ity data from the Con­necti­cut Depart­ment of Public Health and mi­gra­tion data from the U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau.

Howser said the Data Cen­ter has spent about two and a half years putting to­gether the pro­jec­tions, with two to four peo­ple work­ing on the project at a given time. The Data Cen­ter has been putting to­gether pro­jec­tions since the 1990s, and the last set came out in 2012.

In the past five years, growth in Con­necti­cut has been slower than the Data Cen­ter pro­jected in 2012, Howser said.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, Con­necti­cut has one of the low­est birth rates in the coun­try, and our sur­round­ing states have some of the low­est birth rates, as well,” he said.

But for Nor­wich, the Data Cen­ter pro­jected pop­u­la­tion growth from 2015 to 2040 across all age groups, for to­tal growth of 28 per­cent. Only six mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have higher fig­ures: Wind­ham, East Wind­sor, Avon, West Haven, Elling­ton and Ox­ford.

Asked about pos­si­ble rea­sons for the pos­i­tive out­look, Nor­wich Mayor De­berey Hinchey cited a “fair amount of af­ford­able hous­ing stock,” ac­cess to routes 395 and 2, and two new brew­eries down­town, which she noted can at­tract younger peo­ple.

“I think it’s a com­bi­na­tion of eco­nomic and sort of city­wide devel­op­ment that we’ve been work­ing on for a num­ber of years,” she said.

In New Lon­don, Mayor Michael Passero pointed to new devel­op­ment agree­ments for hous­ing projects, such as Ship­way 221 and Par­cel J, as a fac­tor of the city’s ap­peal. He as­serted that New Lon­don can ap­peal to mil­len­ni­als who “want to live, work and play in the same place,” but also to se­nior ci­ti­zens.

“A lot of the so-called empty nesters are tired of liv­ing out in the ’burbs, and tired of the man­i­cured lawn and all that crap,” he said. “They just want to re­tire to an apart­ment or a condo in a walk­a­ble city, so we’re hop­ing to re­ally cap­i­tal­ize on both age groups, at ei­ther end of the spec­trum.”

On the younger end, he noted that Elec­tric Boat is cre­at­ing engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion jobs that will draw in young tal­ent.

Sam Alexan­der, a plan­ner for the South­east­ern Con­necti­cut Council of Gov­ern­ments, also pointed to this as a rea­son why Gro­ton might see growth de­spite pro­jec­tions of a 3.2 per­cent de­crease in pop­u­la­tion from 2015 to 2040.

SECCOG is us­ing the pop­u­la­tion pro­jec­tions for a study on hous­ing needs in the re­gion through 2030, which it is com­plet­ing for the South­east­ern Con­necti­cut Hous­ing Al­liance.

Alexan­der pointed out that even if towns are los­ing pop­u­la­tion and the av­er­age age is get­ting higher, “they might not nec­es­sar­ily be los­ing house­holds, be­cause those older peo­ple are more likely to live alone or live in a two-per­son house­hold than a younger per­son would.”

In East Lyme, Led­yard, Montville, North Ston­ing­ton, Pre­ston, Salem, Ston­ing­ton and Water­ford, the only age group ex­pected to grow is 65 and older.

The pro­jected 16.8 per­cent de­crease in Ston­ing­ton’s pop­u­la­tion from 2015 to 2040 is es­pe­cially strik­ing, con­sid­er­ing pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates the U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau re­leased in May in­di­cated that Ston­ing­ton saw the largest pop­u­la­tion in­crease in the state be­tween 2015 and 2016.

In East Lyme, North Ston­ing­ton, Pre­ston, Ston­ing­ton and Water­ford, the largest age group now is 35-54, but 65+ is pro­jected to over­take it by 2040. In Led­yard, Montville and Salem, 35-54 is ex­pected to re­main the largest age group, de­spite a pro­jected de­cline in num­bers.

The fore­cast looks bet­ter for Lyme, with the pop­u­la­tion ris­ing from 2,499 in 2015 to 2,742 in 2040. Us­ing both past U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau fig­ures and fu­ture anal­y­sis, the Data Cen­ter lays out line graphs for each town from 1970 to 2040, and at no point on Lyme’s chart does the pop­u­la­tion de­crease.

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