Like Many Northland Communities, Smithville's Population Is Booming | KCUR

Like Many Northland Communities, Smithville's Population Is Booming

Jul 31, 2015

Smithville Lake is a huge tourist attraction for the City of Smithville, but it's also one of the reasons people are deciding to move to the city.
Credit Maureen Didde--CC / flickr

 A tweet by the City of Smithville caught our eye the other day — according to the United States Census Bureau, their population is on the verge of hitting 10,000.  


Northland suburbs are growing in leaps and bounds — much faster than downtown Kansas City, or communities like Overland Park.  


Though small, 10,000 is an impressive number — it means the city's population has almost doubled since the year 2000.


Jack Hendrix, Community Development Director for the City of Smithville, attributes this rapid growth to the city's low crime, good schools and low cost of living.


"Out of the communities in the area, we are definitely the cheapest," says Hendrix.


He's not talking about home prices, per se, but about tax rates and utility costs. According to a 2013 study of the communities surrounding Kansas City, Smithville has the lowest cost of living for single families.


Hendrix also attributes Smithville's population boom to its low crime rates.

"We're not located on any interstate, so we don't have people stopping off the highway and doing crazy stuff," says Hendrix.

But perhaps the most attractive factor of living in Smithville is access to Smithville Lake, which attracts an estimated 1.5 million visitors a year. The lake is surrounded by recreated grassland and boasts easy access to marinas, beaches, golf courses, equestrian trails and hunting.


But, Smithville isn't a hub for employment or entertainment. Hendrix estimates that out of the nearly 10,000 residents, only about 1,700 work in Smithville. The rest commute to larger cities like Kansas City, St. Joseph, Missouri and Lawrence, Kansas.


Although Hendrix is excited by Smithville's rapid growth, he acknowledges that their story is not unique when compared to other communities in the Northland. 

Kearney, Missouri has almost identical rates of growth to Smithville, and their population is almost the same. David Pavlich, Kearney's community development director, says that doesn't necessarily mean the Northland is a booming metropolis — yet.

"Those (growth) numbers seem high, but the population number itself isn't high," says Pavlich.

Ten thousand people isn't a lot, but if current growth rates in the Northland continue, the quiet lifestyle that draws people northwards could definitely change.


This look at the Missouri River is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.