South Carolina

Lexington is fastest-growing county in Midlands, census shows, growing pains and all

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In 1840, males outnumbered females 8.68 million to 8.38 million in the United States. By 1950, there were more females than males for the first time in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. See other statistics showing how America has
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In 1840, males outnumbered females 8.68 million to 8.38 million in the United States. By 1950, there were more females than males for the first time in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. See other statistics showing how America has

New census data shows Lexington County is the fastest growing county in the Midlands, and the sixth-fastest growing county in South Carolina.

Lexington County saw a 12.42% change in population from 2010 to 2018, and a 1.45% change from 2017 to 2018, according to the data. Horry County had the biggest jump in population, with an almost 28% change from 2010 to 2018, including almost 4% growth from 2017 to 2018 alone.

Two-thirds of counties in the Carolinas grew between 2017 and 2018, the census estimates show.

The top four South Carolina counties after Horry were:

Berkeley County, with a 23.99% change from 2010 to 2018, including a 3% change from 2017 to 2018.

Lancaster County, with a 24.43% change from 2010 to 2018, and a 2.98% change from 2017 to 2018.

York County, with a 21.27% change from 2010 to 2018, and 3% change from 2017 to 2018.

Spartanburg County, with a 10.40% change from 2010 to 2018, and 2.37% change from 2017 to 2018.

Lexington County’s estimated population has swelled by more than 30,000 people since 2010, when the last census was taken. While its population is smaller than Richland County’s, it has seen more rapid influx, which is reflected in a slew of new businesses and homes, plus creaking infrastructure and a need for schools.

In November 2018, two of the county’s school districts asked voters to OK money to build schools and improve existing ones. Lexington 1 school district got voters’ approval to take on a $365 million building plan to pay for renovations to schools district-wide, replacement buildings for Lexington and Pelion middle schools and construction of three elementary schools.

School district officials estimate more than 500 new students have enrolled every school year since the 1990s. In the 2017-2018 school year, the district grew by 616 students, the district estimated.

“That’s about a new elementary school per year,” said Jeff Salters, chief operations officer for the school district.

In Lexington District 3 in the Batesburg-Leesville area, voters in November said no to a plan to build a new high school.

Lexington-Richland 5, which serves students in the Chapin and Irmo areas, is also building an elementary school to accommodate growth. Earlier this year, the school district placed an enrollment freeze on two elementary schools that it said were overcrowded.

Recently, Lexington County Council began considering an ordinance that would curb development in the areas with the most growth. The proposal being pushed by council member Darrell Hudson aims to limit the number of homes that can be built per acre. Hudson, who has owned a car dealership in Lexington for more than 40 years, said the traffic brought in by new developments is out of hand — and it’s causing businesses to shut down.

He said his dealership, Hudson Brothers, has seen business go down by 17% in the past several years because of rush hour congestion on Sunset Boulevard.

“After 3 p.m., we might as well go home,” he said.

Hudson spent months researching Lexington County growth patterns and assembling information into what he’s calling Project T.I.R.E.D. — named for his priorities of turning lanes, infrastructure, roads, exits and DMV (move it out of Lexington). He made pins and uploaded a slideshow presentation onto USB drives, and has been distributing them to everyone he can, he said, including lawmakers.

Hudson said Lexington County roads are not prepared for the boom that’s happening and something must be done, but nobody wants to shell out the money to do so. Plus, angering major home developers by placing restrictions on them could backfire, some opponents of the ordinance say.

Salters said the proposed regulation on dense, large-scale home development in the area could help Lexington 1 in its scramble to catch up with population growth.

“Growth is a blessing but it can also be a challenge,” he said.

Here are estimated 2018 totals for three Midlands counties:

Lexington County: total population, 295,032, up 12.42% from 2010 and 1.45% from 2017

Richland County: total population, 414,576, up 7.84% from 2010 and .75% from 2017

Kershaw County: total population, 65,592, up 6.49% from 2010 and .77 percent from 2017

Isabella Cueto covers Lexington County, one of the fastest-growing areas of South Carolina. She is a bilingual multimedia journalist from Miami, Florida. She previously worked as a reporter for The Medill Justice Project and WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. She graduated from the University of Miami.


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