The Lowcountry has four of South Carolina's five fastest-growing
municipalities, but some rural towns and wealthier beach communities haven't
seen much population growth at all, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's
The South Carolina cities that have added the most people include Mount
Pleasant, Summerville, Rock Hill, and Charleston, all of which added more
than 9,000 new residents. North Charleston added more than 5,000 new
residents and was the fifth fastest growing.
The South Carolina cities that rounded out the Top 10 fastest growing
were Greer, Mauldin, Myrtle Beach, Lexington and North Myrtle Beach. Goose
Creek ranked 11th.
Among the nation's 254 largest cities, those with more than 100,000
residents, only 57 grew at a faster rate than Charleston between 2000 and
2005, the figures show.
Mount Pleasant has surpassed Greenville as the state's fourth-largest
city, and Summerville is poised to surpass Spartanburg and Sumter by the
2010 Census to become sixth largest. Charleston is growing so much faster
than Columbia that it seems likely to regain its position as South
Carolina's largest city within the next decade.
The census estimates also point to other changes taking place in the
While many Lowcountry cities are booming, several beach areas, including
Kiawah, Seabrook and Sullivan's islands, are losing full-time residents.
Also, some of the distant rural communities such as Awendaw, Bonneau,
Jamestown and St. Stephen are seeing little or no population growth.
Managing it all
Charleston has added so many new residents largely because the city had
annexed large undeveloped areas that are being built out today, such as
Daniel Island, Mayor Joe Riley said.
Stephen Jones, who lives on Daniel Island Drive, never expected things to
change as fast as they have.
'We moved to Charleston in 1998 and since that time it has just gone
nuts, but Daniel Island in particular has really seen a boom,' he said.
'You've got more convenience, but obviously with convenience, there's more
Dump trucks and other construction traffic passed his house in
ever-growing numbers, and he urged the city to install speed humps or a stop
sign at a nearby intersection. He was told no, but a year later, a stop sign
The changing traffic in front of Jones' house is symptomatic of the
growth drawbacks other communities are seeing. In 2000, Mount Pleasant began
limiting the number of residential building permits it would issue each year
so that growth would slow until new infrastructure, including road
improvements, caught up.
Even though the town grew by 4 percent a year, it added more new
residents between 2000 and 2005 than any other South Carolina city, and
traffic remains a hot issue.
Jim McGraw has lived in Summerville for 13 years and said he isn't
surprised at the town's soaring estimated population.
McGraw said the growth underscores the importance of making important
decisions on road projects. He has questioned plans to extend the Berlin G.
Myers Parkway because he said it could claim much of Dorchester County's
road-building budget and not make enough of a difference in traffic flow.
'It's just a waste of taxpayers' money,' he said.
Riley said Charleston's growth wasn't sharp enough to consider building
permit caps or other limits but that it underscores the importance of
special committees to look at growth in West Ashley and Johns Island.
'The traffic is of concern to us and to our citizens, and that's why the
half-cent sales tax is so important,' he said. 'That's why good land-use
planning is so important.'
Slower growing towns
Isle of Palms Mayor Mike Sottile said he doesn't disagree with estimates
showing his city lost a few residents since the 2000 Census.
'The voter registration has declined. That caught my eye last year, when
we had an election,' he said. 'Between insurance and taxes, the value of
property is so high that what's happened is people who have been living on
fixed incomes, they're cashing out. Unfortunately, that's happening.'
Sottile estimated that of all the homes, condos and town homes on the
Isle of Palms, 60 percent are rentals, while 40 percent are year-round
homes. As the number of rentals rises, that can increase tension with the
remaining residents, who may experience more noise and parking problems
during the peak rental months.
'It's affecting the quality of life,' Sottile said. 'It's something that
we as a city are going to have deal with some point in time.'
The Isle of Palms is not alone. While Folly Beach and Edisto Island have
grown in the past five years, the estimates show that Sullivan's, Kiawah and
Seabrook islands had fewer residents in 2005 than five years earlier.
Dan Hatley, a planner with the Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester
Council of Governments, said this population plateau likely reflects a lack
of raw land for new homes. 'Some of them are building out. There is just not
much space left on Sullivan's,' he said.
Beach communities aren't alone. Census estimates show flat or negative
population change in several rural communities outside Berkeley, Charleston
and Dorchester counties' metropolitan coref.
Estimates for the towns of Awendaw, Bonneau, Cottageville, Harleyville,
Jamestown and St. Stephen showed virtually no population change, although
the figures only reflect what's going on in the towns' limits, not in the
unincorporated areas around them.
'They seem to be just far enough from the urban area,' Hatley said.
'They're not being targeted yet for commuter traffic.'
The national picture
While the Lowcountry is growing quickly, its pace isn't among the top in
the nation. Elk Grove, Calif., had the fastest growth rate among cities with
at least 100,000 residents. The town near Sacramento was incorporated less
than six years ago but has seen its population rise by 12 percent, to
Three other California cities made the list of the 10 fastest-growing
large cities. Florida also had three cities on that list, including Port St.
Lucie (third), Cape Coral (fifth) and Miramar (eighth). The list was rounded
out by two cities in Arizona and another one not far from that state: North
Las Vegas, Nev., which ranked second.
In terms of sheer numbers, Phoenix added the most people in the past
year, while San Antonio; Fort Worth, Texas; North Las Vegas, and Gilbert,
Ariz., rounded out the top five. New York City is secure in its position as
the nation's largest city, with 8.1 million people ? more than twice the
population of Los Angeles, which was second.
Among the 10 largest cities, San Antonio has replaced San Diego as the
seventh most populous city.
The new estimates are based on Census 2000 population counts that were
adjusted using information on building permits and other estimates as of
July 1, 2005. The figures don't account for the impact of Hurricane Katrina,
which struck two months later.
On the Web
To see the summary of census estimates for S.C. municipalities, go to