LAFAYETTE TWP. — Nearly 90 Medina County community and business leaders attended a forum Thursday to hear the latest on population growth, land preservation and economic trends.
Tom Bier, an urban affairs specialist with Cleveland State University, said the county’s population has grown by approximately 40,000 people since 1996. There are about 172,000 residents, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
“What we’ve seen is a natural expansion of the region over the last 15 years,” Bier said.
He said if the “natural homebuilding” trends continue as forecasted, the county should expect about 80,000 more residents by 2045.
Commissioner Steve Hambley, who moderated Thursday’s forum, said quality of life and education are factors that grow the county’s population.
“It’s a lifestyle choice for people, and we have some bigger homes and lots here,” he said.
Bier said Medina and Lorain counties are seeing more population growth in Northeast Ohio because a crowded Cuyahoga County can no longer handle such increases.
Cuyahoga is the largest populated county in Ohio with about 1.3 million residents, according to the U.S. Census.
On the local housing market, Bier reported there were nearly 19,000 permits filed in the county from 1996 to 2010. At least 14,000 houses were built during that time, he said.
“In spite of a recession, home building in Medina County has been a little more active than projected,” Bier said.
Jeff Holland, of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, noted Medina County farmland is zoned agricultural for possible residential development, and stressed the importance of conservation.
He said approximately 10,000 acres of land, or 3.7 percent, are permanently preserved, which can protect ground water and farmland for future generations.
“I agree with a farm owners’ right to sell land … but get out of the ‘cookie-cutter’ mentality,” he said.
Ned Hill, an economist at CSU, said natural gas and oil shale development looks to be a big part of the local economy for the next four to six years. He said oil companies are buying property in the area, but new jobs appear to be a year or so out.
Thursday’s forum was sponsored by Leadership Medina County and held at the Medina County University Center. Other speakers included Dale Fortner, superintendent of Wadsworth Schools, and Hunter Morrison, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium.
The gathering was a good starting point for growth planning and management in Medina County, Hambley added.
Contact Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.