Sunday’s APP article, “No Stopping Lakewood”. There are several references in there to Lakewood’s future population. Mayor Coles says that he thinks the projection of 220,000 by 2030 is overstated, but that it might happen. The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority predicts a much lower number, 133,730 by 2040. The county Department of Planning did a study of water availability a few years ago based on a population of 108,282 by 2035. I have always felt that the 220,000 number was too low, and I think these other numbers are totally ridiculous. Consider the following:
· We have been hearing for at least 7 or 8 years that 4,000 babies are born in Lakewood every year. If that is true, that by itself would increase the population by 4% a year, not counting the large numbers of new people moving in.
- Between the censuses for 2000 and 2010, the population increased by 53%, which is 4.8% per year.
- A 4.2% per year increase starting in 2010 would bring the population to 220,000 by 2030 (and to 332,000 by 2040). 4.8% would bring it to almost 250,000 by 2030.
- If there were 4,000 babies a year several years ago, surely there are more being born in 2017. We need to find out what this number is and how fast it is growing.
- 75 to 80% of Lakewood residents are under age 30, compared to 52% in the U.S. and 50% in New Jersey. According to the 2010 Census, the average age in Lakewood was 23, even after averaging in all the seniors. The average age in New Jersey was 41.
- Lakewood’s birth rate, according to a website called Town Charts, is 14.6%. The comparable number for the entire U.S. is 5.5%, and for New Jersey is 5%.
- When analyzed the Lakewood private school enrollments a few years ago, found that every class was larger than the one preceding it, by an average of about 12%. There were more Juniors than Seniors, more Sophomores than Juniors, more Kindergarteners than First Graders, etc. The kindergartens had about four times the number of students as the Seniors. ( didn’t have data for all the schools, but most of the big ones were in there). Some of this may have been due to attrition, but most of it was from new families moving in and babies born in Lakewood getting old enough for school.
- When birth rates are high, population growth doesn’t slow down, it speeds up, as every year a larger cohort graduates from high school and immediately starts producing new families. They will need places to live, schools for their children, and a steady income. They are poorly prepared for life in other locations, so they will want to stay in Lakewood.
It is vitally important that the planners be in the right ball park when forecasting future growth, not only for infrastructure but also for water availability, landfill capacity, and many other factors. We need to make sure that the city fathers can’t lowball the projections.