Population growing most in central Md. Census reports 13.4% rise


The population of central Maryland is likely to keep booming through the 1990s, if the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau is any indication.

Maryland's population grew to nearly 4.8 million in 1990, up by nearly 565,000 or 13.4 percent from a decade before, according to "final" revised figures issued yesterday.

The lion's share of Maryland's growth in the last 10 years took place in the central part of the state, said Michel A. Lettre, assistant director of the Maryland Office of Planning.

"If we don't manage that growth a little bit better, we're going to continue to get this spillover effect" into the Eastern Shore and other areas, he said.

The census numbers issued yesterday reflect changes made at the behest of local officials nationwide who reviewed preliminary data issued last August and September and appealed the figures.

The latest figures, which did not contain the detailed breakdown required for political redistricting, still could be adjusted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, however.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that he was "reasonably pleased" with the estimate of 736,014 residents in Baltimore, even though it shows that the city lost nearly 51,000 residents during the 1980s.

The city had appealed the preliminary estimate of 720,000 residents, saying census-takers had missed homes in more than 1,100 blocks. A spokesman for the mayor said the city won't challenge the revised numbers.

According to the new data, Baltimore City was one of three jurisdictions in the state to lose population in the 1980s, along with Allegany and Dorchester counties.

Excluding the city itself, the five metropolitan counties in the Baltimore metropolitan region posted growth of about 225,000 people or 16.2 percent, Lettre said. He noted that the city's population drop depressed the overall growth of the region.

"It's a pattern that we see across the country," said Lettre. "Central cities are continuing to lose population to outlying suburban jurisdictions."

Growth was highest in the area bounded by Frederick County in the west, Chesapeake Bay in the east, and Harford and St.

Mary's counties to the north and south.

Howard County was the fastest-growing jurisdiction in the state, growing by 58 percent to 187,328 residents. Lettre cited the county's proximity to Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington, D.C., as prime reasons for that growth.

Montgomery County also posted a steep increase, growing by 30.7 percent and surpassing Baltimore for the first time as the state's largest jurisdiction. That growth is due mainly to its proximity to the nation's capital, said Lettre.

In general, the fastest growth is taking place in the "newer suburban counties," including Howard, Harford, Carroll, Frederick, Charles, Calvert and Queen Anne's.

The Eastern Shore also outpaced the state's growth average, boosting its population by 15.9 percent. Lettre attributed that growth to commuters and retirees.

The census numbers drew little reaction from planning officials throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. Some had not yet seen the numbers, while others said the figures are close to what had been projected.

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