A couple weeks ago Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) saw some statistics that left her stunned.
“I looked at those numbers and I thought: ‘What’s happening here?’” she said.
What Hudgins was looking at were new statistics prepared by the county that reveal that the population of Hunter Mill District has exploded in the last two years. Between 2000 and 2002, Hunter Mill gained 14,537 people, an increase of 13.27 percent. That increase eclipsed all the other districts, most of which registered an increase in population of less than 5 percent. Some, like Lee, even lost people in the last couple of years. Overall, the population of Fairfax County grew 3.58 percent over that two-year period.
Much of that increase, she said, can be attributed to the fact that several housing projects, such as Stratford House in Reston have opened in the last couple of years, drawing new residents to the district. Many of those projects were approved by her predecessor, Bob Dix, she added.
According to Anne Cahill, the county’s demographer, Hunter Mill is at the forefront of a trend that could spread to other districts.
First, she said, the families in the districts get smaller as children move out, which accounts for slight population increases or decreases.
“After a while,” she added, “you start seeing the [housing] units turn over and then you start seeing growth in population.”
Hudgins has anecdotal evidence to support this theory.
“I’m seeing my kids’ peers moving back into Reston and I see the same think when I go back into Vienna,” she said. “I also think that we do have a very diverse community and some of those cultures have larger family sizes than our family sizes and so you do see some growth in that.”
Despite the population boom, Hunter Mill has managed to retain its charm thanks to its land use planning, said Hudgins.
“We have townhomes, we have multifamily homes and yet you can go out to the outer edges of Reston and you see larger homes with more yards and more green space,” she said.
ONE OF THOSE people who grew up in the district, left and came back is Doug Bushee, who was Hudgins’ challenger in last week’s election. Bushee grew up in Vienna, left to go to college, and then came back to Reston where he lives with his wife and child.
“I’ve got a lot of friends who leave right out of college. They went to the West coast, they went north but now as their parents are aging and as they are ready to settle down, they are drawn back to this community,” he said. As a result, “there are a lot more kids now,” he said.
Another former Hunter Mill resident who returned to the county is J. D. Anderson. Anderson was born in the District but moved to Vienna when he was five. After high school he went to the University of Illinois, became a teach and taught in Champaign for five years. He then moved back to Northern Virginia, where he has lived for the last 11 years, working first as a music teacher then as assistant principal at Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church. Today, Anderson, his wife and two children live in Herndon. Both his children attend elementary school at Dranesville Elementary.
“I had a great childhood growing up in Fairfax County,” he said when asked about his decision to move back. The schools and the possibility of living near his family, he said, were “a big pull.”
“The schools are so strong and, being a teacher, it was just the place to work,” he said.
Anderson said he and his wife recently contemplated moving out to Loudoun County, where a lot of young families are putting down roots, but “it didn’t feel right so we’re building a little addition to the house.”