Frederick County's population has grown 20 percent in the past decade, making it the state's third-fastest growing county behind Charles and St. Mary's. More than 233,000 people live in the county.

The biggest drivers of Frederick's growth: Hispanics and Asians.

The number of Hispanics quadrupled from 2000 to last year. The number of Asians more than doubled. The result: In 2000, the county's population was 88 percent white. By last year, that number had fallen to 78 percent white - still far less diverse than that of neighboring Montgomery County.

The huge increases in minorities stunned county Commissioner Blaine R. Young (R), a lifelong Frederick resident.

"The numbers really are surprising, especially with the Hispanic and Asian growth," Young said.

He said the county has taken a hard line on illegal immigration. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins participates in a controversial federal program that deputizes local officers to enforce immigration laws.

"I don't know how many of these new residents are illegal or citizens," Young said.

The multiracial population has spiked more than 124 percent in the past 10 years. The black population increased 60 percent. Whites increased by about 6 percent.

The growth in Urbana, just north of Montgomery, was off the charts. In 2000: 535 people. Last year: 9,175.

Young said he thinks that many new residents have been attracted to his county because it offers more open space, a slower pace of life and a cheaper cost of living than other areas do. The median price of a home in Frederick last year was 221,850, well below Montgomery's median price of $365,000.

"We are seeing people from all over come here if they are disenchanted with their quality of life," he said.