Fearing the boom

But population growth topped a list of concerns raised by valley residents in the poll: 18 percent cited the rising population as the most serious problem facing the valley.

With 42 new residents arriving daily, experts noted that the valley’s current permanent-resident population of 367,000 is expected to swell to 550,000 by 2020. Indio alone is expected to have 100,000 people by 2012.

Bob Marra, publisher of Wheeler’s Desert Letter, which tracks building and growth trends, said the valley during peak seasons handles not only the 367,000 permanent residents, but also 127,000 seasonal residents, plus about 30,000 staying in local hotels.

Experts said peak volumes will continue to stretch road capacities, utilities and water supplies. They said affordable housing will also remain scarce amid tight supplies.

“Where will our work force live?” said Marra.

Also among top problems cited by residents in the Rose survey were water supply issues (15 percent), crime (14 percent) and traffic (10 percent).

Keynote speaker Richard Oli-phant, a longtime valley developer, said while problems exist, the emergence of a year-round economy is already helping the valley attract a larger corporate tax base to fund improvements. It will also help the valley compete well with communities such as the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for tourist dollars.

The valley has more room to grow, he said, and can still do so comfortably without the more severe results seen in larger communities.

“The growth we’re experiencing here is not a bubble,” Oliphant said.