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One community in St. Mary’s is growing at a faster rate than any other town in the state.

Leonardtown saw Maryland’s largest population increase, by percent, for incorporated municipalities from July 2012 to July 2013, according to the Maryland Department of Planning.

With 333 new residents moving into town that year, there was a 10.5 percent population increase, according to a planning department report released last month and based on U.S. Census Bureau data. That brought the town’s population to 3,515.

Gaithersburg, in Montgomery County, saw the second-largest percent change in population growth at 4.4 percent, followed by Eagle Harbor, which sits on the Patuxent River in southern Prince George’s County, at 1.6 percent.

Leonardtown’s population boom was generated, largely, by the new housing development Leonard’s Grant, said Town Administrator Laschelle McKay. “It’s very walkable,” she said. “Lots of activity areas and open space.” The community will have a total of 320 new homes by the time it’s complete.

So far, 300 of those homes have been built, according to agent Terri Haffer. Last year, she said, the community sold 52 homes.

“We’re in the town of Leonardtown. There’s a pool. A beautiful new school is being built in front of the neighborhood,” Haffer said. “There are sidewalks, street lights, open green fields for kids to play in. A clubhouse, jogging trails. And, 30 different style homes to select from.” Homes start at $344,900 and sizes range from about 2,000 to 4,000 square feet.

“Leonardtown has become much of a destination,” McKay said. The town has been planning for growth during the past 10 years, she said, from looking at ways to provide water and sewer services to a growing number of residents, as well as completing beautification projects, including a park at the wharf, improving the Port of Leonardtown and downtown sidewalks.

The town doubled in size between 2000 and 2010, McKay said. “Prior to that, we hadn’t seen a lot of growth.” The hospital and community college also have experienced growth, McKay said, and people who work there often want to live in town. Government and contract employees are moving to Leonardtown for work at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, as well as Navy facilities in Dahlgren, Va., and Indian Head, she said. A second new housing community, Clark’s Rest, is expected to add about 335 homes, McKay said.

“Looking at different ways that we can accommodate and still keep our small-town character has been one of our main goals,” McKay said. “We hope we continue to see an upward climb.”

While Gaithersburg grew by just 4.4 percent, the city saw the largest growth in Maryland in terms of numbers with 2,747 residents moving there between 2012 and 2013, the eighth-largest increase nationwide for cities with populations of 50,000 or more, according to the Maryland Department of Planning. Gaithersburg’s population reached 65,690.

Baltimore, with 622,104 residents, is the state’s largest city. Frederick, with 66,893, has long been the state’s second-largest, according to the planning department report. But if similar growth in Gaithersburg continues, the city could assume the No. 2 spot next year.

nclark@somdnews.com