Horry County plans for population boom, need for high-paying jobs in Imagine 2040

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CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County leaders are planning where homes should be developed and what infrastructure projects will be needed over the next two decades.

An estimated 275,000 more people are expected to move to the county by 2040. That’s according to planners who have spent almost two years studying several factors for the county’s next comprehensive plan called Imagine 2040.

The planners shared the Imagine 2040 plan to Horry County Council during a workshop Monday afternoon.

“By the time we got done, the population estimates had escalated up to 584,000,” said Leigh Kane, a community development planner for the county.

Council unanimously approved first reading for Imagine 2040 at the workshop. One main question Imagine 2040 is expected to help county leaders solve is where all those people will live.

That’s a challenge for planners, who say wetlands make up about 38% of Horry County.

“When I tell people that, they’re surprised because they just don’t see it,” Kane said. “They don’t see it from the roadways. They don’t necessarily see it from their subdivisions, but it is an environmental constraint.”

Horry County planning director David Schwerd says advanced geographic mapping will help the county figure out what can be built on a specific property.

“We’ve added flood data with flood imagery,” Schwerd said. “Every time a rezoning comes in, we strengthen the criteria to evaluate it.”

Imagine 2040 also highlights infrastructure needs to keep up with growth like increased public safety and new or improved roads. Council chair Johnny Gardner says that could help Horry County attract larger corporations and younger residents who aren’t retired.

Imagine 2040 says 37% of Horry County residents are at least 55 or older. Horry County wages lag behind Charleston and Richland counties, which don’t rely on lower-paying, tourism-based jobs like Horry.

An estimated 18.1% of Horry County residents live below the poverty level, according to Imagine 2040.

“(Charleston and Richland counties) are not that much bigger than us, but their incomes are bigger and that’s probably because they have these jobs that we’re trying to get here,” said Gardner. “A lot of that goes back to roads. You have better roads, you get better employers. You have better employers, you’ll have higher salaries.”

Imagine 2040 needs to pass two more times in county council. Second reading of the plan will be during the August 13 council meeting.

A public hearing will be held during the final reading, which is expected to happen at the September 3 council meeting.

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