March 23, 2011 at 10:07 am

Livingston County: Population rise is second fastest in state

Central location, rural lifestyle, freeway access are lures

Bartender Tracy Plante works at BoomTown Kitchen + Tap in Brighton. One of the reasons people move to Livingston County is because of its central location, a Realtor says. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

Marion Township— Livingston County has seen the fastest population increase — 15.3 percent — among Metro Detroit counties in the past decade, according to census data released Tuesday. By percentage, it's the second-fastest growing county in the state, following Clinton County, north of Lansing.

Livingston County grew from 156,951 to 180,967 residents from 2000-10, with most of its communities' populations increasing.

The county has drawn people from Oakland and Wayne counties with the promise of quiet, rural living and access to freeways, officials say.

"Livingston County over the years has been kind of like a residential oasis," said Fred Dillingham, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Livingston County.

People move to the county because of its central location near Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint and Lansing, said Carl Vagnetti, a Realtor with RE/MAX Platinum in Brighton.

"You'd have a husband that works in Ann Arbor, a wife that works in Lansing," he said. "They'd say, 'Let's look at a map,' and the dart lands on Livingston County."

Marion Township saw the largest growth rate in the county at 47.9 percent.

"We were really booming in the beginning of the 2000s," said Marion Township Clerk Tammy Beal. "People were coming from everywhere. Kids would grow up, graduate, and they would settle here."

Other growth areas were Oceola Township at 42.7 percent, Hartland Township at 33.3 percent and Conway Township at 29.8 percent.

Communities coped with the growth by installing sewer systems, shopping developments and road projects. One development was the $100 million Green Oak Village Place, built in 2006 in Green Oak Township, which experienced an 11.9 percent rise in population.

Melissa Comb, 28, and her husband, Mike, 31, moved to Green Oak Township from Farmington two years ago. The Combs bought a foreclosed home near a golf course and found the property taxes lower than on the small condo they previously owned in Farmington.

"It's just a great area, really nice people," she said. "We hover right on the line of Livingston and Oakland. You get the best of both worlds."

Only two communities in Livingston County, Fowlerville and Cohoctah Township, lost population, falling 2.9 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

Fowlerville Community Schools has seen a drop in enrollment among residents as families move out of town, but has attracted schools of choice students.

"A lot of (families) are moving out of the area or moving in with family in other parts of the state," said Superintendent Richard Heinrich.

While the building industry steadily grew in Livingston County to accommodate growth, the recession halted projects in the latter part of the decade.

For example, Marion Township expanded its sewer system before developers stopped building homes in planned subdivisions.

"We were worried it wasn't going to be enough," Beal said. "Now we have all the infrastructure and no users. That's a burden on the township."

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