Oxford Twp., Leonard are up;
Oxford Village, Addison are down
March 30, 2011 - The 2010 U.S. Census numbers are in and two municipalities in the Leader's coverage area increased in population, while the other two shrank.
Oxford Township has 20,526 residents (including the village), which is up from the 16,007 counted during the 2000 Census.
"I was surprised it was (up) that much," said Oxford Township Clerk Curtis Wright. "I thought we might go up maybe 1,500 or 2,000 people."
At 28.2 percent, Oxford Township had the third highest population growth percentage in Oakland County behind Lyon Township's 31.6 percent and Oakland Township at 28.4 percent.
The Village of Leonard also experienced a population spike, going from 332 residents a decade ago to 403 residents today.
"It's a pretty impressive gain," said Leonard Village President Mike McDonald. "I was pleasantly surprised."
On the flip side, Oxford Village shrank from 3,540 residents in 2000 to 3,436 residents based on the 2010 Census.
"I think it's devastating across the state as well as in our own community," said Oxford Village President Teri Stiles, referring to the fact that Michigan was the only state to lose population in the 2010 Census. "I just think it's depressing."
"I expected it (to go down), but not quite that much," Stiles continued. "I walk around our community. I see people moving. I see houses that are all boarded-up to and lawns that aren't cut. It doesn't surprise me at all."
Addison Township also lost residents. It's current population is 6,351 (including Leonard) compared to the 6,457 counted 10 years ago.
"I thought we were going up," said Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson. "I would have bet that we were going to go up a few."
The reasons cited by officials as to why each municipality either increased or decreased in population varied.
Wright attributed Oxford Township's growth to the 1,400-acre Waterstone development, which added somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 new single family homes, condominiums and senior/retiree apartments.
"For the most part, Waterstone would be the bulk of your increased population," he said. "If you were to take a look at the development in Waterstone, what it was (in 2000) to what it is now, I'm sure you could see that was one of the big reasons for the increase in population."
Wright believes people have been lured here over the last decade by the addition of amenities such as the Polly Ann Trail and safety paths, programs offered by the school district and the opening of Meijer in 2001.
"You couldn't buy any clothing in Oxford until Meijer came in," he said. "People had to go to either Lapeer or Auburn Hills to shop."
The clerk also gave credit to the downtown area. He said the district's improved appearance and mix of businesses are attracting people to it.
"It appears that people like the character of Oxford," Wright said.
McDonald believes Leonard's growth was a combination of things, the chief one being the construction of 13 new homes as part of the Leonard Estates subdivision.
"That's a large development by our standards," McDonald said. "That represents the lion's share of the growth."
The other factor McDonald cited was his belief that more Leonard residents participated in last year's Census as opposed to the count 10 years ago.
"I expected (the population) to go up because of that development, but I think we got a bit of a bonus bump because we got a more accurate accounting this time than we did in 2000," he said. "I think we may have picked up some people that may not have responded in 2000."
McDonald believes there was a heightened awareness among residents during last year's count regarding how important the Census really is. It's been estimated that each person counted in the U.S. Census is equal to $1,000 per year in federal funding for local governments.
"I think people took the Census a little more seriously due in great part to the advertising and the understanding of how much the numbers mean to their local communities," he said. "I'll give the Census credit where credit's due. I think they did a pretty good job of trying to get the word out."
Pearson attributed Addison's population loss to the economy. People were forced to move to seek employment elsewhere or because their home went into foreclosure.
When Addison loses people, it loses entire families, not just an individual here and there, according to Pearson.
"We are a rural, large-lot, bedroom community and when people had to move because of the economy, we lost families," he said. "We have no apartments. We have no singles-type housing. And we have no senior housing. It's all families. When you lose a family, you don't lose one or two people, you lose five or six people."
Pearson also noted there was a big exodus from the township's only mobile home park, Hidden Lakes Estates on Rochester Rd.
"Our trailer park is 50 percent empty," the supervisor said. "Trailer parks were devastated by this recession."
Like Pearson, Stiles believes the population decrease in Oxford Village was driven by "the lack of employment."
"People are moving out of the state to get employment elsewhere," she said. "Our community depended so heavily on the auto industry that it was only a matter of time before we would lose people."
Stiles said there are also people leaving the village because they can no longer afford to keep their homes.
"Look at the amount of foreclosures we have," she said. "I think we're up to 34 just in the village alone."
Despite the bad news for the village, Stiles isn't ready to throw in the towel.
"We'll do what it takes to make it work in our community," she said. "As a council, we need to really crunch (budget) numbers and buckle down . . . I think we all need to do what we need to do to get by."
Stiles is hopeful the village's population will begin to trend upward again.
"I keep hearing that it's going to come back up soon," she said. "Hopefully, we won't lose any more people by the next Census."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.