In 2017, Horry County Council commissioned the IMAGINE 2040 Steering Committee to look into the future to predict how much growth can be expected and what will be needed to provide for the anticipated population boom.

The 14-person committee provided a variety of expertise including real estate, economic development, environmental, agricultural professional and community volunteers.

After nearly two years of study and taking public input, IMAGINE 2040 predicted Horry County will see its population grow by an additional 230,000 residents within the next 19 years.

Conventional wisdom states growth like this never pays for itself, even when the property tax base increases substantially.

We have no farther to look than our own backyard to see what happens when growth outstrips the ability to pay for infrastructure.

But if you want a better picture of what hyper-growth, like that predicted by IMAGINE 2040 could mean to your pocketbook, examine what has happened to a community in central Florida called The Villages.

In 2019, according to the Orlando Sentinel, The Village was in the fastest growing metro area in the United States.

From July 2018 to June 2019 The Villages added 2,100 new homes and several hundred others were built outside of the retirement community.

The development designed for retirees saw its population increase by nearly 40 percent in less than 10 years and plans are on the board for thousands more homes.

“The Villages is a textbook example of the big Florida lie that growth is self-sustaining,” the Sentinel wrote. “And yet, elected officials continue to be dazzled by developer promises of growth delivering more jobs and more taxes.”

Growth in The Villages did create more jobs but many were low-paying service jobs that result in an affordable housing shortage.

The housing boom did indeed generate millions more in taxes for Sumter County where The Villages is located. It wasn’t enough.

Elected officials there were faced with a whopping 25.6 percent property tax increase to meet budget needs.

Likewise, Oceola County in Florida, facing a similar challenge, attempted to impose a one percent “transportation” tax but the idea was defeated.

Back closer to home, Horry County Council has floated the idea of adding a penny sales tax to help fund county government. To make the idea palateable, some of the sales tax money will be used to decrease the tax bill for property owners.

Fortunately, the proposal would have to pass a referendum to be enacted.

Instead of increasing taxes, county leaders should consider other ways to pay for growth. Increasing impact fees would be a good start.

The Sentinel article put it this way: “We’re not here to say cities and counties should stop growing. We are here to say that bureaucrats and elected officials need to have eyes wide open when developers pitch projects...”

This seems like sound advice to me.

Steve Robertson, former publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers, wrote this column. His opinion does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Waccamaw Publishers and its website MyHorryNews. com.

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Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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