While its residential growth has yet to return to its pre-2008 recession levels, Westerville is still growing.

According to annual estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on May 25, Westerville's population increased for the sixth consecutive year, growing from 38,535 to 38,985 from 2015 to 2016.

City Manager David Collinsworth said in an email that while growth is positive, the city doesn't take the estimates too seriously.

"The recent numbers are estimates based off previous estimates," he said.

"As I recall, we saw a smaller number from the 2010 census than everyone expected based on the interim estimates provided to us throughout the 2000s," he said.

At this stage in Westerville's existence, Collinsworth said much of the focus is on business development and commercial properties rather than building new housing.

He said an increase in property values indicate that people still want to live in Westerville and the small amount of residential development taking place is targeting the right people.

"The overwhelming majority of residentially zoned property in the city either has been developed already or is under development now," Collinsworth said.

"Our future residential growth trajectory is quite small in relation to our current population ... because of a strategic decision made nearly 40 years ago to ensure that Westerville did not become merely a bedroom community, resulting in most of the remaining undeveloped 400 acres in the city being zoned for commercial use," he said.

According to the Census Bureau statistics, Westerville has grown by about 8 percent since the 2010 census, increasing by an estimated 2,865 residents from 36,120 to 38,985.

Other communities

The number of people living in Grandview Heights grew by the largest percentage among all Franklin County cities in the past year, according to census estimates. The suburb's population increased by about 5 percent and it is now home to 7,628 people.

The second- and third-fastest growing cities in Franklin County in 2016 were New Albany and Hilliard, which grew about 4.6 and 3.7 percent, respectively. Now, 10,199 people live in New Albany and 34,905 in Hilliard.

The village of Marble Cliff, which borders Grandview Heights, increased its population by 5.1 percent, to 671 people.

The population in every other Franklin County city, village and township grew in 2016, but increases were from less than 1 percent -- like Worthington -- to 1.3 percent, according to the data.

All of Franklin County grew by 1.1 percent, or 14,249 people, for a total of 1,264,518. Columbus grew by 1.2 percent, or 10,046 people, for a total of 860,090.

As of this year, Franklin County is now the most-populous county in Ohio, with 1.26 million residents, edging out the approximately 1.25 million Cuyahoga County residents sometime last year after that county lost 5,673 residents.

A recent report by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission estimates that the seven-county region of central Ohio is on pace to attract approximately 1 million more people between 2010 and 2050, for a total of 3 million residents by 2050.

Dispatch Assistant Metro Editor Doug Caruso and reporter Alissa Widman Neese contributed to this report.

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