Palm Coast grew 10.3 percent between 2020 and 2022, to 98,411 people, according to the Census Bureau’s latest estimate, released today. The city is on pace to cross well past the 100,000 threshold this year, and based on the last two years’ trend, likely did so in February or March.
The city’s torrid growth pace makes it the 18th-fastest growing city in the nation in that span (out of 796 cities with populations of 50,000 or more), and the fifth-fastest growing in Florida, behind North Port (13.8 percent growth), Port St. Lucie (13.1), Cape Coral (11.9), and Fort Myers (11.1).
Palm Coast is now the 24th-largest city in Florida, surpassing Melbourne, Fort Myers and Sunrise in the last few years and making gains on Boca Raton. And Flagler County is the third-fastest growing county in the state.
“And it puts us squarely number one in our MSA,” Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin said. “Our metropolitan statistical area is extremely important. Because number one, they’ll have to rename the MSA, which never even included the words Palm Coast in the past. For site selectors and for Fortune 500 companies and for corporate America, we now are on their radar because of our ranking in the MSA.”
As the News-Journal first reported earlier this month, based on University of Florida estimates, Palm Coast was already the largest city in the Flagler-Volusia zone, exceeding the population of Deltona. In fact, it is now the largest city in Flagler, Volusia, St, Johns and Putnam counties. Today’s Census bureau figures specify that Deltona, while still growing, is at 97,265, up from 95,252 in 2021, just a 2 percent increase.
Bunnell, too, has grown almost as fast as Palm Coast, by 9 percent in two years, but from a smaller base, going from a population of 3,326 in 2020 to 3,631 in 2022. That growth is driven almost entirely by the Grand Reserve subdivision. The population of Flagler Beach, in comparison, has barely budged: from 5,162 to 5,279. that city has different challenges, not least of them its diminishing physical size as the ocean on one side and the Intracoastal on the other continue to grind at its shores.
“No doubt we are a destination, from where we are in proximity and access to major population centers, but still being far enough away that we’re not in the middle of all that,” said County Commissioner Andy Dance. “That’s the challenge for us in our position, is protecting health safety and welfare and the character of the community.”
The vast trove of numbers was part of today’s Vintage 2022 population estimates by the Census Bureau. The numbers also included the latest housing estimates for Flagler County, which also grew sharply–from 55,990 housing units in 2020 to 60,778 units in 2022, an increase of 8.6 percent, more than double the 3.6 percent increase in housing units statewide, but still not enough to address a housing shortage.
According to the Flagler County Association of Realtors’ latest tabulations, Flagler County had a supply of just 3 months’ worth of housing in March–an improvement over a year ago, when the supply was below a month’s worth, but still very low compared to historic standards. The low inventory pushes up prices, with the median home selling at $372,000, and rental prices rising apace.
The growth has innumerable implications for the local infrastructure, social and emergency services, schools and tax policy, with the demographic breakdown affecting those implications. For example, between 2010 and 2020, the population shifted substantially toward an older set, with those 65 and older going from around 25 percent of the population to over 30 percent, while the school-age set fell substantially. That’s in part why health care and assisted living facilities have sprouted, including AdventHealth Palm Coast’s new hospital on Palm Coast Parkway, while schools have not.
“We are we are poorly skewed in our current demographic,” Alfin said, aging as a community since the last census. “We as a community need to find a balance and need to bring a younger resident to the city of Palm Coast for several reasons. There’s a financial factor, there’s a service level factor, but all cities thrive when they are in balance. When cities are out of balance. We suffer consequences. So for example, our ad valorem tax is squarely on the backs of 90 percent-plus of our single family homeowners. That’s out of balance. Our demographic age is growing older, not younger. It’s a fact that younger residents spend more financially and are better for the local economy. Those that are strangled with fixed income or pensions perhaps are not able to spend at the same rate. They don’t have large families to support so they don’t spend in the local economy as well. So there are a lot of reasons why bringing a younger resident to the city will be helpful.”
That’s one of the reasons Alfin has been focused on developing Palm Coast west of U.S. 1. “The expansion to the west affords us the opportunity to finally build housing that is affordable to a young career minded resident to provide jobs in the form of health care services, training careers, medical technology,” he said, also citing the broadband networking of the city to turn it into a gig city.
Meanwhile, local governments have to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to handle the growth, though the rapid growth seen today is filling subdivisions and houses and apartments planned and built a year, two years, three years ago or more. “You don’t want to be caught with inadequate infrastructure while there’s still people moving in. All the development programs look at capacity issues and all of those things have to be met prior to the development being approved,” he said, rephrasing language he uses on the commission when getting into the details of development proposals that routinely go before commissioners. “It’s a delicate balance. Growing too fast, we’ve seen it, is not healthy. It puts a strain on everything.”
Both Flagler County government and Palm Coast are just now embarking on re-writes of their comprehensive plans, the blueprints that map out the long-term vision of what the county and city should look like 10, 20, 30 years down the road. The processes are elaborate and invite public participation.
Rapid growth in Palm Coast has been evident from visible infill construction in every neighborhood and from the large development of new subdivisions from Town Center to west of U.S. 1 to Belle Terre Parkway–and in chagrined comments by existing residents bemoaning the growth in comment sections every time an article reports on a new development.
The growth has also been evident in the city’s pace of permitting but, surprisingly, not as much in the school district’s enrollment, which began this school year around the same 13,000 mark where it has been for a decade and a half. One reason for that is the continuing erosion of enrollment from public to private and home schools as the state has increased financial support for families choosing that route, and this year increased it massively–making $8,000 available for every student choosing to leave public school.
The fastest growing three cities in the country are Georgetown in Texas, a city almost the size of Palm Coast (29.1 percent), Leander, also in Texas (25.6), and Queen Creek, Arizona, a distant suburb of Phoenix. Six of the 15 fastest-growing cities were in Texas, three in Florida, two in Arizona, and only one in California.
The largest city in Florida is Jacksonville, growing to just under 1 million people, followed by Miami (449,514), Tampa (398,173) and Orlando (316,081).
For all its growth, Palm Coast remains a very long way from what ITT had planned when it was building it in the mid-1970s. At the time, when Flagler County’s entire population was 4,450, ITT was projecting that Palm Coast would be a city of 600,000 by the year 2000, according to a 1974 New York Times article. It may yet get there, but somewhere closer to the end of this century, assuming rising seas aren’t closer to I-95.
According to the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research , which provides the state’s most sought-after population estimates, current estimates have Flagler County’s entire population growing to 233,300 by 2050, going by the highest estimate; to 183,700, going by the medium estimate; and to 134,100, going by the low estimate.
The bureau’s high estimates have never panned out for Flagler, and its medium estimates have tended to be much exaggerated. The bureau itself cautioned against too much reliance on the estimates in a brief analyzing its many errors. For example, the bureau’s 2007 low estimate had Flagler County growing to 150,700 people by 2025, a grossly erroneous estimate. Its high estimate was 245,800. Still, to this day, chambers of commerce, county and city governments and law enforcement agencies rely on those estimates in planning budgets and buildings.
Dance grew up in Flagler County on large acreage his family bought when it moved down from Connecticut just over half a century ago. Dance did not romanticize the change he’s witnessed, seeing behind it the very reason that drew his family to Florida.
“We were no different, we moved from Connecticut 51 years ago to Flagler County, and it’s non-stop since then,” he said. “People are moving to Florida for a reason, and Florida will continue to grow. What I’ve seen personally is what pushes me now, the need to protect the character. Our challenge from the state level, not even here, is protecting drinking water, protecting natural resources, so that Florida will still have some of what we moved here for.”
Richard Smith says
Yes Palm Coast population growing in 2 years 0ver 10 percent but we all get like canned sardines in Palm Coast Parkway as no other East West corridor has been built except miles away north Matanzas Parkway and miles south of us good old Rte 100. Very bad city and county planning. Old Kings Road never widened around and North of PC parkway to connect with Matanzas Parkway…but Cote Alfin asked the governor for 25 millions for expansion out west of Rte 1. Yes we have over 10 percent more population settling here just to seat in PC Parkway were for worst you have the city community development in his idiocy working 2 years to bring a Wawa fuel deport to replace professional offices across the Race Track gas station and half block from the Shell station in the center of the Parkway east. How moronic and bordering illegal is that without affected residents input? Meaning that in Palm Coast I can buy an existing professional lawyers practice office and then place there a fish market or fuel deport without city permit approval? C’mom city manager, I would be demanded an approval permit for that and probably declined. Who approved the change from professional offices to a Wawa fuel depot increasing traffic on the already clogged and crumbling Palm Coast Parkway east and overrun with over 8,000 vehicles a day Florida Park Drive? And without affected adjacent residents within 300 feet meeting, to be informed and oppose if so? Are Palmcoasters treated like chopped liver at city hall?
C. Pappas says
Spot on…in truly dad to see this and glad we got out of there before it hit this bad. Greed and clowns running the circus.
Miami North says
I must add, I am a much younger, established resident, and even I can agree the building is TOO MUCH!!
First US1 west, Town Center and now Old Kings!! Enough is enough!
4th generation Fl girl says
Thank you Mr. Dance “Our challenge from the state level, not even here, is protecting drinking water, protecting natural resources, so that Florida will still have some of what we moved here for.” Or , as a 4th generation Floridian, the same idea, protecting the natural beauty of this great state. When, people get greedy, and fail to plan for the common needs, infrastructure, schools, protecting our natural resources, we will end up with ugly urban sprawl, higher crime, and overcrowding. Please think carefully, Mayor, you will be historically responsible for creating a city we can be proud of, or failure to plan, creating over crowded roads, lack of resources, and lots of storage units to fill lots of junk.
And yet this city doesn’t have it’s own police department while much smaller cities like Bunnell and Flagler Beach does.
This needs to change.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Your absolutly right JM. But just think of the money, and our taxes( which go up every year) even though they build more & more homes We the people will pay drastically for our own police force.
And soon, the city will be undriveable due to crappy roads and sooooo much traffic.
Celia Pugliese says
Yea over 10 percent population and their vehicles growth added to the construction heavy loaded semis building all the thousands of new multi families and destroying faster our roads asphalt at a bigger and faster pace and now city demands we pay for with additional taxes and fees.
Dennis C Rathsam says
I hope all the new folks like traffic, and plenty of it, hope they like waiting to see a doctor, or a dentist too. This town is killing itself, the left hand, doesnt know what the right hand is doing. Disfunction at its best!
Joseph Barand says
Why does the City allow all the Metro Net employment of illegals along Old Kings, several problems in addition to violating De Santis’s latest law about employing illegals. How about the fact that cable is being installed to close the the 2 lane road which will sooner or later have to be 4 laned. The ruts and destruction of the swale aurea will need to be addressed caused by the heavy equipment. The city should have inspectors “shadowing” the work crews. This city is so fucked up, we should rescind the Charter because I can’t think much that they have done correctly for the last 20 years.
Celia Pugliese says
Joseph….First of all you mistaken as city has no jurisdiction over special temporary work visas granted by the Fed: https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states
Those as you incorrectly depicting as “illegals” are hard working foreigners hired to do that back breaking shovel and hoe digging work, that you, I or anyone will be willing to do, to lay the fiber optic cable without destroying most of the infrastructure located in the swales aka right of way. Backhoe could not be used for that for same obvious reasons to protect the existing pipes, cables or boxes under ground. Sure Metronet presented the scope of work to the city for approval and work and workers needed described on it. Please give it a brake to the illegals conspiracies. These same type of workers been hired in in FL to help after hurricanes clean ups and legally! https://www.npr.org/2022/10/11/1128184363/undocumented-immigrant-workers-are-helping-clean-up-florida-after-hurricane-ian. Lets give them a break as: America has a labor shortage. And immigrant workers, many of whom are in this country illegally, fill a critical role in the storm recovery. NPR’s John Burnett reports.
The Sour Kraut says
Way too fast…
That is nothing to be proud of. It causes more traffic, congestion on all levels, and crime. Good job Palm Coast and Flagler County. Morons.
Jay Tomm says
Public discussion!!!! Says it right there.. GET OUT to these public hearings & meetings. This will not stop unless they hear from people.
Not sure why we grew so much. There’s not anything to really do in PC or Flagler expect nature stuff.
I suspect many wanted the RURAL aspects of PC/Flagler & that is being erased away.
If the economy & housing do bust, PC/Flagler will be the next Detroit.
Land of no turn signals says says
And that’s a good thing?
The reason we moved from south Florida to here was to get away from the congestion, the traffic, crowds, enjoy the wildlife and the space and the oaks. A slower pace of life. Since that is rapidly changing, who knows, maybe we’ll end up going back. If a person is to live in a congested, over built area, it might as well be a good one.
Quite frankly, this area of Florida’s beaches cannot compare to the south, not even close. Here, on a really good day, you can see some portion of your feet in the ocean. In south Florida, you can see the bottom of the ocean at 50′. You can snorkel in crystal clear water, over reefs. The fishing is a whole lot better. The restaurants are better. You live near an international airport, you live near train service and there is so much more to do there. Here, everyone jumps in their boat, or jetski, and races to the inlet. Four hours later, they race back. The only place to go.
When the green space is gone, the wildlife is gone, the oaks are gone, the fish are gone (already we’ve seen a very big drop in trout in the river, just in the last couple years), the roads are frustratingly crowed, what do you have left? The weather will get hotter with the blacktops and buildings, not to mention climate change. Maybe you can crowd thousands of boats in the ICW. Maybe you can fit thousands of people in the inlet, and thousands of people in Flagler Beach, and then what?
I mean, there is good reason south Florida grew before here. Yet, developers are here because it’s the last place to go and some are happy about that.
My Family had been in FPC 20 + Years. I left moved back and don’t regret it for a second
jeffery seib says
I am not surprised but still very disappointed by this news of the massive increase in the size of Palm Coast. This is not the Palm Coast that both my parents and I retired to. What is the city’s response in the form of the mayor’s statement? He’s ready to approve more and more apartments and other ‘affordable’ housing elements. These housing arrangements may, or may not, be fine in other locations but all that will happen here is more and more big city crowding. The city staff and government is responsible for this as is the city council. More and more revenue comes in that’s true. But the reality is that more and more services are needed by the new folks and all of us and are more expensive than what the new folks pay in, so we all know where our taxes and fees are headed. Just look at our roads, look at our life saving stormwater system, look at the traffic and our less than adequate parks and natural areas. Nothing has kept up with the current growth, so why think that somehow adding thousands more residents will do anything but ruin this place. Right now, the city spends about half of every dollar of revenue that comes in on making it easier and cheaper for new developments, like massive apartment complexes and strip style commercial facilities. Maybe they should slim that down to one-quarter and spend the rest on the amenities we absolutely require to be a big city.
Glad i moved last year. That place will look like Orlando in 2 years. Wait till all the low lifes move in with the drugs and murders crime.
Ray W. says
In my youth, the News-Journal published an article about the Flagler County commission voting to turn down Disney World before Disney settled on the Green Swamp area southwest of Orlando. Apparently, close access to I-95, cheap land, including vast stretches of wetlands just waiting to be drained and managed, and proximity to Daytona Beach and Jacksonville made Flagler County an attractive location for a theme park.
Development paradise, build 24-7 with no restrictions. Probably one of last cities left in Florida to ruin.