Although the ACE Basin study area is primarily dependent on agriculture and silviculture as sources of income, diversification in the form of manufacturing and light industry has helped with economic growth and employment in urban areas. (See related section: Socioeconomic Assessment: Industry Characteristics.) Because of this economic growth, residential and urban land use in the study area increased by over 2,000 acres between 1989 and 1994.
Colleton County, in which the majority of the ACE Basin study area is located, is the fifth largest county in South Carolina (See South Carolina counties ). Of the six incorporated communities in the county, three (Edisto Beach, Walterboro, and Cottageville) lie within the study area (See Incorporated communities ). The unincorporated communities of Hendersonville, Jacksonboro, Green Pond, and Bennet's Point also lie within the study area portion of Colleton County.
Colleton County's 1990 population of 34,377 people is expected to grow to over 47,500 people by the year 2010 (Colleton County Land Use Planning Task Force, 1997). Although a relatively small amount of the county population lives within the incorporated communities (1990 population ), these communities are the centers of population growth in the county. In 1990, more than 54 percent (18,701) of the county's population lived in the Walterboro area (Census County Division). Hendersonville (5,595) and Cottageville (4,144) were the next most populous areas of the county in 1990. Rates of population growth in the ACE Basin are projected to be most rapid in Cottageville and Hendersonville with more modest rates of growth occurring in and around the towns of Edisto Beach (Green Pond County Census Division) and Walterboro. Walterboro will likely continue to be the center of greatest population in the ACE Basin for some time to come.
The city of Walterboro is Colleton County's largest incorporated municipality with a population of 5,492 in 1990. Established in 1784, Walterboro was the summer colony for rice planters and offered a haven from the malaria-causing mosquitoes of the coastal swamps and marshes. In 1817, Walterboro was designated as the county seat. It continued to grow in the 1800s with the railway connection to Charleston and Savannah. By 1905, a number of industries, including cotton mills, iron works, and oil companies, were located in Walterboro. During the Depression, Walterboro did not experience a major loss of population as occurred in other parts of Colleton County. It fared better because it had become a popular winter home for many Northerners, attracted many visitors, and was the county seat (Walterboro-Colleton Chamber of Commerce, not dated).
Today, the central business district of Walterboro has numerous retail trade businesses and support services, and the city has well-equipped police and fire departments. Walterboro has two National Register Historic Districts, the Walterboro District and the Hickory Valley District, which were designated in 1980. Walterboro also has four historic landmarks, the "Old" Jail, Colleton County Courthouse, "Little Library", and Old Walterboro High School/University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie, which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Land use patterns ) in the Walterboro area indicate that development has spread beyond the commercial downtown and adjacent residential areas to the outskirts of the city, along the major highways leading into town and up to the I-95 interchanges (Colleton County Land Use Planning Task Force 1997). Walterboro is currently the only area in the county with public water and sewer systems to accommodate additional growth. Recent growth trends indicate that the highest growth potential will occur in areas east of Walterboro along Highway 17A toward Cottageville and north of Walterboro along Highway 15, where land is available for development.
The large amount of developable land in the Cottageville area increases the likelihood of substantial population growth (See Cottageville Land Cover ). Currently, Cottageville has a small, centralized area of commercial and residential development, but growth is spreading along the highways leading from the town and along the banks of the Edisto River. In spite of the absence of public sewer and water systems, projections for population growth show an increase of about 98 percent from 1990 to the year 2010 (Colleton County Land Use Planning Task Force 1997). County planners are faced with the challenge of containing the dispersed development in the Cottageville area and providing the needed infrastructure of public water and sewer, while balancing market needs with traditional uses of farming, forestry, and environmental conservation.
Another urban center in the ACE Basin is the town of Edisto Beach on Edisto Island. The first Europeans landed on Edisto Beach in 1520. The Dawhoo Bridge, which connects Edisto Island to the mainland, was built in the 1920s. During the 1960s, a portion of Edisto Island underwent an urbanization boom and as a result, in 1970, Edisto Beach was incorporated as a town. (See related section: History.)
As of 1996, this residential beach resort community had a small population of 500 permanent residents. The population greatly increases during the resort season that extends from March to November. Approximately 9,000 people visit Edisto Beach on a daily basis during the peak season from Easter through Labor Day. With an excess of 1,800 homes, Edisto Beach is close to reaching its maximum capacity of homes (Linda Woods, Edisto Beach Administrator, pers. communication). Based on recent projected growth patterns, Edisto Beach could reach its build-out capacity by 2015 (Lowcountry Council of Governments 1996). The population of Edisto Beach has grown significantly over the period 1980 to1990, experiencing an annual average increase of nearly 5.9 percent (Perry et al. not dated). The permanent population of Edisto Beach is not expected to increase dramatically in the near future, unless housing units that are currently rented or used seasonally are converted into permanent or prim ary residences.
The only land approach to Edisto Beach is across Edisto Island. This area is still predominantly rural with agriculture contributing most to the economy. Development of land outside the town of Edisto Beach is limited by the capacity of the public sewer system and difficulty of access. The population of the Charleston County portion of Edisto Island (not including Edisto Beach) is expected to double by the year 2015.
In Colleton County, the unincorporated communities of Green Pond, Hendersonville, Jacksonboro, Ruffin, and Bennett's Point function as cultural, historic, social, or economic focal points for their immediate surrounding areas (See unincorporated communities ). These areas, which are predominantly rural with low-density residential development, will be limited in expansion by lack of public sewer and, in some areas, public water supply. Limited growth of small-scale businesses that serve local needs may occur but is not expected to extend in area beyond a half-mile radius of the communities' centers.
Because the urban areas of Colleton County are expected to significantly expand over the next decade, the Colleton County Land Use Planning Task Force is developing a land use plan. Potential goals of this plan are to improve the quality of development, minimize the loss of farm and forested lands, discourage urban sprawl, provide better affordable housing, safeguard wetlands, and protect historic and cultural resources. The proposed land use plan can be implemented through application of performance standards and land development regulations that must be met or exceeded before a use is changed or intensified, or a development is permitted. (See related section: Stewardship Development Practices.) The success of the plan depends on the willingness of residents to accept land use planning and development standards as a means of channeling growth in ways that not only enhance economic assets but also maintain the rural way of life.
E. Wenner, SCDNR Marine Resources Research Institute
Colleton County Land Use Planning Task Force. 1997. Draft Colleton County Land Use Plan. Walterboro, SC.
Lowcountry Council of Governments. 1996. Town of Edisto Beach Comprehensive Plan. Yemassee, SC.
Lowcountry Council of Government. 1997. City of Walterboro Comprehensive Plan. Yemassee, SC.
Perry, J.M., L.A. Woods, and J.W. Steagall. Not dated. A study of the economic impact of the ACE Basin Project on Colleton County, South Carolina. University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL.
Walterboro-Colleton Chamber of Commerce. Not dated. Demographics of Colleton County. Walterboro, SC.