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Community Profile

Location and Boundaries

The Town of Fairfax is located in the western foothills of the Green Mountains. It is the southernmost town in Franklin County sharing its southern border with the Town of Westford in Chittenden County. On the west, it is bordered by Georgia, on the north by Fairfield, and on the east by Fletcher and Cambridge, and is proximate to the towns of Milton, Underhill and St. Albans.

Fairfax is served by State Routes 104 and 104A, the major intermunicipal roadways linking Fairfax with St. Albans, Interstate 89 and communities to the east, and State Route 128 connecting to points south in Chittenden County. The Town of Fairfax currently covers a 41.7 square mile area equivalent to 26,688 acres. It is characterized by irregular terrain consisting of open farmland and wooded slopes with panoramic views of Mt. Mansfield and the Lamoille River.

The People

Population Trends

Fairfax's population has risen to historically high levels, due in large part to a period of sustained, accelerated growth which began in the 1970's, and which has continued to the present decade. As shown in Table 1, Fairfax has nearly doubled tripled its population between 1970 1960 and 1990 2000. Forecasts for future growth show Fairfax continuing at a an extremely fast rate, albeit slightly slower than that of the last twenty years. Existing population projections are significantly out of date, because they are based on 1990 census data. The 1990 data projected a significantly lower population growth (3,258) than the realized population in 2000 (3,765); a 15.6% shortfall. This fact presents a basic level of doubt regarding any subsequent projections, if they existed. The Town has outstripped the growth rate of the County as a whole, which also continues at an increasingly higher rate.

The Town's accessibility to Interstate 89, and to Chittenden County employment centers, has without a doubt contributed to the accelerated growth

Table 1. Population Trends and Projections, 1950 - 2010

 

 

 

Population

Projections

 

 

 

 

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

 

 

Fairfax

1,129

1,244

1,366

1,805

2,486

3,527

4,118

 

 

% Change

n/a

10.2%

9.8%

32.1%

37.7%

41.9%

9.4%

 

 

% of County Total

3.8%

4.2%

4.4%

5.2%

6.2%

7.8%

8.4%

 

 

Franklin County

29,894

29,473

31,281

34,788

39,980

45,417

49,040

 

 

% Change

n/a

-1.4%

6.1%

11.2%

14.9%

13.6%

9.4%

 

 

Source: U.S. Census Data, 1950-2000

that Fairfax has experienced. The vast majority of daily commuter trips leave Fairfax for Chittenden County destinations (see Transportation Chapter). Further, Fairfax offers the rare combination of country charm, accessibility, and quality services such as excellent schools all of which are powerful attractions for potential homebuyers.

The population of Fairfax as a percentage of the County population has continued to increase, from 3.8% in 1950 to 7.8% fifty years later. Without a change in the predominant growth trends of the past, Fairfax will continue to grow at a faster rate than the County. Such a rate of growth may be more than the residents of Fairfax desire. In any case, continued growth at projected

rates would likely exceed the ability of the town to provide adequate services needed to accommodate it. Policies and programs are needed which manage growth to rates that can be absorbed by the land, and may be adequately served by municipal facilities.

Fairfax's current growth management strategy includes an amendment to the Town's zoning bylaw which limits annual building permits issued to 25 per year. While this will effectively slow growth, its implications on funding for municipal services, housing affordability, and other factors must be considered.

Age Profile

Figure 2 (previous page) shows the population of Fairfax broken down by age bracket. These figures were derived from the 2000 U.S. Census, and as a result are now somewhat out of date. They are useful, however, in comparing the general age breakdown of the Town and County for similarities and differences, which may have importance in planning for the future.

The graphs in Figure 2 indicate a very similar stratification of ages in Fairfax and in Franklin County, although slight differences may be seen upon close examination. The population of Fairfax includes a smaller percentage of seniors (age 60 and over), and a slightly greater number of people aged 30 to 35 35 to 44 than Franklin County as a whole. In both instances, the majority of the population resides in the "working age" groups between 22 and 60, with the greatest number of residents in their thirties and forties. The population of Fairfax as a whole is nearly identical with that of Franklin County and markedly younger than that of Franklin County, and of the State.

The median age, in 2000, was 31.5 years in Fairfax, compared to 31.7 and 33 for the County and State, respectively.

Education

The people of Fairfax enjoy the benefits of an excellent school system. This is reflected, unsurprisingly, in the level of educational attainment of Fairfax residents. Table 3 illustrates this point by comparing education levels of Fairfax with those of the entire County. Fairfax shows higher attainment levels in nearly all four secondary and post-secondary educational categories shown.

Most striking is the percentage of residents with Bachelor's and Graduate degrees, which total over 25 23% of the twenty five years and over population.

Table 3: Education Attainment, 25 years and older

 

Fairfax

Franklin County

Franklin County

Average

 

Population 25 years and older

2,422 (100%)

32,658

2,512

 

 

% of total population

71%

71.9%

71.9%

 

 

Less than 9th grade

123 (5.1%)

2,420 (8.2%)

161 (8.4%)

 

 

9th to 12th grade, no diploma

217 (9.0%)

2,720 (9.2%)

181 (9.1%)

 

 

High School Diploma

811 (33.5%)

12,123 (41.1%)

932 (36.7%)

 

 

Some college, no degree

432 (17.8%)

4,929 (16.7%)

328 (16.3%)

 

 

Associate Degree

288 (11.9%)

2,404 (8.2%)

184 (5.3%)

 

 

Bachelor's Degree

406 (16.8%)

3,392 (11.5%)

261 (7.5%)

 

 

Graduate or Professional Degree

145 (6%)

1,497 (5.1%)

115 (3.3%)

 

Source: U.S. Census Data, 2000.

The high quality school system in Fairfax is responsible for the extremely high percentage of high school graduates within the population. Since Fairfax has no post-secondary educational facilities, however, the prevalence of residents with college degrees is probably the result of outside forces.

The attractiveness of the Town for the reasons mentioned above has resulted in its partial transition into a "bedroom community", with a greater number of professionals working at home, or commuting to jobs outside the Town and County than in the past. This is evidenced both by commuter trends of the 2,769 persons employed, 1,873 commute (mostly to Chittenden Co.). and by the average household size in Fairfax, which has decreased from 3.2 to 2.9 persons per household from 1980 to 1990.

Income Data

Education is often the gateway to professional careers, and the monetary success they bring. From the assessment of educational attainment presented above, it logically follows that income levels in Fairfax are generally higher than for surrounding areas. Table 4 evidences this

fact. Data from the 2000 U.S. Census show 1999 median household income was nearly 24% higher in Fairfax than for Franklin County and 27% higher than for Vermont. Differences between median family incomes, similarly, were 18% greater than the county and only 13% higher than the state. Fairfax compares more closely with the State with regard to income levels, with slightly higher household and family income.

Consequently, the percentage of Fairfax residents living in poverty is markedly less than County and State wide figures. Of those residents whose income was below the poverty line in 1999, 35.8% were 18 years of age or younger. Of those children in poverty, 13.2% were under the age of 6. Children were more effected than seniors (64 and over), with 17.9% of residents with income below poverty line being 64 years and older (1990 U.S. Census).

Growth

Growth in a community is commonly difficult to slow or stop, even if residents desire to do so. To better understand growth, through Fairfax's history, Figure 5 on the next page, outlines building permit trends over the past 12 years. Figure 6 illustrates land uses as reported in the Fairfax Town Report.

 

 

 

Table 4. Income and Poverty Profile, 2000

 

 

 

Income

% Pop. Below Poverty Level

 

 

Per Capita

Median

 

 

Household

Family

 

 

Fairfax

$18,632

$51,769

$55,074

4.8%

 

 

Franklin County

$17,816

$41,659

$46,733

9%

 

 

Vermont

$20,625

$40,856

$48,625

9.4%

 

Source: U.S. Census Data, 2000.

Table 5. ZONING AND SUBDIVISION PERMITS, 1990-2002

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Building Cap in Effect?

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

Single Family Homes

46

27

22

31

34

37

39

28

43

45

18

28

37

Multi-Family/Duplex

N/A

N/A

N/A

1

1

1

1

1

7

8

8

13

7

Additions

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

0

12

12

23

Garage/Barns

17

12

14

13

15

2

14

14

24

17

14

26

20

Other (decks, sheds, pools)

44

47

30

32

34

31

18

38

19

40

35

44

21

Home Occupations

3

2

8

4

3

4

7

4

2

5

1

7

7

Commercial

4

2

2

2

2

6

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

4

Replacement Home

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

9

6

Total Zoning Permits

114

90

76

83

89

81

79

85

95

115

88

139

125

 

Table 6. NUMBER OF PARCELS BY LAND USE, 1990-2002

 

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

% Change

1992-2002

Residential 1

488

510

524

536

551

574

597

618

671

699

712

746

790

50.8%

Residential 2

216

230

237

251

255

261

269

279

295

311

331

343

358

51.1%

Mobile Home w/o land

16

14

15

16

16

16

16

16

32

31

30

30

28

86.7%

Mobile Home w/land

46

48

52

53

56

56

61

61

61

62

60

60

59

13.5%

Vacation

9

8

8

8

7

7

6

6

6

6

5

5

5

-37.5%

Commercial

26

26

26

26

29

29

27

30

34

38

39

36

39

50.0%

Industrial

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

2

2

2

1

0.0%

Utilities

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

8

8

6

6

6

-16.7%

Farm

34

32

32

32

32

33

33

32

30

29

30

30

29

-10.3%

Government

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.0%

Woodland

7

7

7

7

7

6

6

6

4

4

4

3

3

-57.1%

Miscellaneous

216

220

215

219

213

215

204

209

185

186

174

161

150

-30.2%

Total Parcels

1,066

1,103

1,124

1,156

1,174

1,205

1,227

1,265

1,330

1,376

1,393

1,424

1,468

30.6%

 

Community Vision

The people of Fairfax were asked, through a community survey in 1990 (and again in 1997), to quantify many of their values, visions, likes, and dislikes about their town. The results, although various, showed in many areas a solidarity of thought regarding the collective direction of the community as it heads into the twenty-first century.

The survey is an invaluable tool for measuring public opinion, and provides a foundation on which to build policies and programs that exercise such a "community vision".

An overwhelming majority of respondents in both 1990 and in 1997 indicated that the town should promote growth in predetermined growth areas. Similarly important, respondents to both surveys indicated a strong desire to protect groundwater resources, natural areas, historic sites, scenic vistas, and agricultural land from future development. With respect to current development patterns, responses were split between describing growth as "reasonable" or "too fast". Only a negligible number of respondents indicated that growth was "too slow" in both surveys. The survey respondents overwhelmingly consider scenic beauty / rural character as a most important community need, followed by open land/wildlife habitat preservation, agriculture, and schools. These citizen mandates are key directives in formulating a future, which retains the rural character and community identity that Fairfax residents currently enjoy. Tabulated results of the surveys are included in the Appendix of the Plan.



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