Butler County population continues steady growth

| Saturday, May 24, 2014, 11:41 p.m.

Cranberry and Adams continue their population boom, according to the latest U.S. Census figures, but developers see Jackson and Lancaster as being ripe for growth, particularly along Interstate 79.

“It's the next growth corridor,” said Don Rodgers, owner of Creative Real Estate Development, citing his plans to build housing, office and retail developments there.

“There's probably not a whole lot of growth there yet in Jackson and Lancaster townships.”

Census figures released Thursday show the county's population growing, mainly thanks to several communities in the southern tier along the border with Allegheny County. Butler County's population is estimated at 185,476 for 2013, which is up 0.2 percent from the previous year's estimate of 185,084.

The city of Butler continued a downward slide, losing 195 residents from 2010 through 2013, to 13,562. Butler Township lost 136 residents in four years, dropping to 17,112.

Cranberry, the most populated municipality in the county, grew nearly 5 percent since 2010, up to 29,490 residents in 2013.

Projections show Cranberry's population reaching just over 50,000 by 2030, according to Community Development Director Ron Henshaw.

The township's growth is being guided by zoning and its comprehensive plan, a blueprint of how the township wants to grow in the future.

“It's all working fine,” Henshaw said.

Although single-family homes were more popular nearly 10 years ago, Henshaw said, the township has seen a surge in multi-family units, including apartments and condos.

Adjacent Adams rose nearly 8.7 percent in population since 2010, up to 12,664 residents in 2013.

Zoning has helped keep the expansion under control, Adams Code Enforcement Officer Gary Peaco said.

“Our zoning is fairly restrictive,” Peaco said. “We don't allow the higher density. The plan we have in place, it looks pretty good as it is now.”

He said the township needs to concentrate on commercial growth and redevelopment along Route 228, which PennDOT has targeted for a major expansion within the next 10 years thanks to funding available through last year's state transportation funding package.

The growth could level off some, Peaco said. Although the township averaged about 200 new homes each year prior to the 2008 recession, it's now at about 160 homes annually. Some of the more recent housing plans have been built on farmland, Peaco said.

But some land that may have been sold for housing developments could instead be used for natural gas drilling, Peaco said.

“It wouldn't surprise me if we slow down a little bit,” Peaco said. “If there are wells going up, some (housing) opportunities might go away.”

Middlesex has seen more growth in home building in the last two to three years than it did during the previous decade, said township Manager Scott Fodi.

Two subdivisions are under way, the first since the early 1990s.

That township's population rose from 5,390 in 2010 to 5,475 in 2013.

One enticement for the southern end of Butler County has been the “ability to get from Route 228 to any part of Pittsburgh in about 30 minutes,” Rodgers said.

I-79 ramps by the Seneca Valley School District in Jackson are spurring interest in land development.

“It's gonna boom up there,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers is developing 400 housing units off Little Creek Road in Jackson, about a quarter-mile from the ramps, he said, along with a 70,000-square-foot retail project and a 100,000-square-foot office building. Other projects include another 580 housing units, including apartments, in Lancaster.

“It's coming together. They are nice people to work with. It's such a nice area out there,” Rodgers said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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