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UrbanSoutherner

2004 Municipal Population Figures for SC

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There are a number of news stories this morning about the new municipal population figures released by the Census Bureau. I did a quick pull of the 15 SC municipalities with over 25,000 residents according to the 2004 counts. Here they are...

#1 - 116,331 Columbia

#2 - 104,883 Charleston

#3 - 84,271 North Charleston

#4 - 57,902 Rock Hill

#5 - 56,350 Mount Pleasant

#6 - 56,291 Greenville

#7 - 39,671 Sumter

#8 - 38,599 Spartanburg

#9 - 34,371 Hilton Head Island

#10 - 34,241 Summerville

#11 - 32,250 Goose Creek

#12 - 30,883 Florence

#13 - 27,299 Aiken

#14 - 25,715 Anderson

#15 - 25,410 Myrtle Beach

What struck me was the increasing dominance of the coastal municipalities and the declining size (relatively speaking) of the upstate municipalities. A few points:

- Charleston is now safely above the 100,000 mark with a decent lead over North Charleston still.

- Charleston is gaining on Columbia and could become #1 in the not so distant future unless Columbia starts annexing or redeveloping more to gain more residents.

- Three of the top five (Charleston, North Charleston, and Mount Pleasant) are now in the lowcountry--indeed in metro Charleston. Seven of the top fifteen (the above three along with Hilton Head Island, Summerville, Goose Creek, and Myrtle Beach) are now in the coastal areas.

- Greenville has been displaced from fourth place by the growth in both Rock Hill and Mount Pleasant and is now the 6th largest city in the state.

- Spartanburg (the consistent 4th largest city in the state for most of the twentieth century) is now the 8th largest and will almost certainly be passed by Hilton Head Island, Summerville, and Goose Creek displacing it from the top ten unless Spartanburg starts growing its munipical population somehow.

I continue to be struck at how much of metro Charleston is in some municipality while much of greater Columbia and greater Greenville-Spartanburg is unincorporated.

Any thoughts...

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You have a link that shows the full list? I'd love to see all of the SC cities.

It is pretty disgusting that so many suburbs are passing our long established urban cities, but I think that the cities are finally regaining some luster and becoming attractive living options again. And the number for my hometown of Aiken is higher than I expected :) Bring in on, Florence ;)

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You have a link that shows the full list?  I'd love to see all of the SC cities.

It is pretty disgusting that so many suburbs are passing our long established urban cities, but I think that the cities are finally regaining some luster and becoming attractive living options again.  And the number for my hometown of Aiken is higher than I expected :)  Bring in on, Florence ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Here is the link to pull up any state:

http://www.census.gov/popest/cities/SUB-EST2004-4.html

I agree on both points. The suburbs are as big as the central places. Also, Aiken has grown a lot. As I recall, it was a smaller place of around 7,000 back around 1950 before SRP came. It has almost quadrupled in size. Few SC cities have grown that much since the 1950 census (except for the suburbs and coastal towns).

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Thanks! I'm gonna be busy/distracted today now :) I was hoping N. Augusta was finally breaking 20k, but it looks like about 2 more years...

You're right about Aiken. Both it and N. Augusta were around the same level as Barnwell, Edgefield, Abbeville, etc, before SRS was constructed. The growth was phenomenal for about 30 years, but has been pretty much average since.

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There are a number of news stories this morning about the new municipal population figures released by the Census Bureau. I did a quick pull of the 15 SC municipalities with over 25,000 residents according to the 2004 counts. Here they are...

#1  - 116,331 Columbia

#2  - 104,883 Charleston

#3  -  84,271 North Charleston

#4  -  57,902 Rock Hill

#5  -  56,350 Mount Pleasant

#6  -  56,291 Greenville

#7  -  39,671 Sumter

#8  -  38,599 Spartanburg

#9  -  34,371 Hilton Head Island

#10 -  34,241 Summerville

#11 -  32,250 Goose Creek

#12 -  30,883 Florence

#13 -  27,299 Aiken

#14 -  25,715 Anderson

#15 -  25,410 Myrtle Beach

What struck me was the increasing dominance of the coastal municipalities and the declining size (relatively speaking) of the upstate municipalities. A few points:

- Charleston is now safely above the 100,000 mark with a decent lead over North Charleston still.

- Charleston is gaining on Columbia and could become #1 in the not so distant future unless Columbia starts annexing or redeveloping more to gain more residents.

- Three of the top five (Charleston, North Charleston, and Mount Pleasant) are now in the lowcountry--indeed in metro Charleston. Seven of the top fifteen (the above three along with Hilton Head Island, Summerville, Goose Creek, and Myrtle Beach) are now in the coastal areas.

- Greenville has been displaced from fourth place by the growth in both Rock Hill and Mount Pleasant and is now the 6th largest city in the state.

- Spartanburg (the consistent 4th largest city in the state for most of the twentieth century) is now the 8th largest and will almost certainly be passed by Hilton Head Island, Summerville, and Goose Creek displacing it from the top ten unless Spartanburg starts growing its munipical population somehow.

I continue to be struck at how much of metro Charleston is in some municipality while much of greater Columbia and greater Greenville-Spartanburg is unincorporated.

Any thoughts...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm from Spartanburg and find it puzzling that cities such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and Rock Hill, for example, can and do annex aggressively while others like Greenville and Spartanburg seem to feel constrained by SC's annexation laws. All I hear and read about from the leaders of Greenville and Spartanburg is that SC's outdated annexation laws prohibit them from growing the city boundaries.

I ran (and lost) for a city council seat in 2001 and campaigned almost exclusively on growing the city's boundaries. I believed then and still believe today that "downtown redevelopment" and "improving the quality of life" just by themselves will not grow the tax base enough to support the needs of city government.

I would love to hear from residents of Charleston, Rock Hill, Mount Pleasant, Greer, etc. and try to understand how these communities have navigated successfully through the annexation laws.

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I'm from Spartanburg and find it puzzling that cities such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and Rock Hill, for example, can and do annex aggressively while others like Greenville and Spartanburg seem to feel constrained by SC's annexation laws.  All I hear and read about from the leaders of Greenville and Spartanburg is that SC's outdated annexation laws prohibit them from growing the city boundaries. 

I ran (and lost) for a city council seat in 2001 and campaigned almost exclusively on growing the city's boundaries.  I believed then and still believe today that "downtown redevelopment" and "improving the quality of life" just by themselves will not grow the tax base enough to support the needs of city government.

I would love to hear from residents of Charleston, Rock Hill, Mount Pleasant, Greer, etc. and try to understand how these communities have navigated successfully through the annexation laws.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

What little I know...

Charleston has done some "ahead of the development" annexation like Daniel Island. I think a lot of Greer's annexation has been the same--annexing undeveloped land prior to development.

Columbia has the clauses in water contracts about annexing if the city boundary ever becomes contiguous, but I do not know how much they have really used that tool.

The local option sales tax was supposed to allow cities to offer services at a lower cost and make annexation more atractive, but I am not sure that has worked.

It seems cities either have to provide some vital service that the unincorporated areas need or annex before development.

I do not know the answer, but I know SC's munipical population figures are pathetic when compared to cities in NC that are really the same size in terms of the urbanized areas.

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What little I know...

Charleston has done some "ahead of the development" annexation like Daniel Island. I think a lot of Greer's annexation has been the same--annexing undeveloped land prior to development.

Columbia has the clauses in water contracts about annexing if the city boundary ever becomes contiguous, but I do not know how much they have really used that tool.

The local option sales tax was supposed to allow cities to offer services at a lower cost and make annexation more atractive, but I am not sure that has worked.

It seems cities either have to provide some vital service that the unincorporated areas need or annex before development.

I do not know the answer, but I know SC's munipical population figures are pathetic when compared to cities in NC that are really the same size in terms of the urbanized areas.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thank you. It seems that, with a few exceptions, North Carolina's cities have annexed aggressively. It is my understanding that NC's annexation laws are much less restrictive.

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Thank you.  It seems that, with a few exceptions, North Carolina's cities  have annexed aggressively.  It is my understanding that NC's annexation laws are much less restrictive.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

NC cities have most of their urbanized area in their boundaries. If you look at maps of Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, etc., you will see most of the development coming out of the core is in the city limits. Unfortunately, SC is unlikely to adopt NC-style annexation laws. The only hope I see may be city-county consolidation. That has helped in Georgia where Augusta (which had been reduced to a ridiculous 40,000 in the city limits) merged with Richmond County, Columbus merged with Muskogee County, and Athens merged with Clarke County. Savannah and Chatham County have not merged governments, but they have merged some governmental functions. But as you get more and larger incorporated suburbs around the main cities, I think consolidation becomes more unlikely since you have even more potential turf fighting. For example, would Mount Pleasant and North Charleston want to be part of a consolidated city-county deal? Now you have Taylors trying to incorporate between Greenville and Greer. I think most SC cities are basically "up the creek" so to speak in terms of significant growth through annexation. Their only choice realistically is to revive what they currently have and hope for the occasional minor annexations.

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What little I know...

Charleston has done some "ahead of the development" annexation like Daniel Island. I think a lot of Greer's annexation has been the same--annexing undeveloped land prior to development.

Columbia has the clauses in water contracts about annexing if the city boundary ever becomes contiguous, but I do not know how much they have really used that tool.

The local option sales tax was supposed to allow cities to offer services at a lower cost and make annexation more atractive, but I am not sure that has worked.

It seems cities either have to provide some vital service that the unincorporated areas need or annex before development.

I do not know the answer, but I know SC's munipical population figures are pathetic when compared to cities in NC that are really the same size in terms of the urbanized areas.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Columbia rarely enforces that clause, and never on residential areas. The Local Option Sales Tax has been the key that has allowed all the Charleston County cities to expand their borders. The Charleston land area has expanded exponentially mainly through annexation of undeveloped areas, but the POPULATION increases have been largely through annexation of already developed areas in West Ashley, James Island and Johns Island that had previously been served by Public Service Districts (PSD). Because this revenue is distributed to cities and towns, but not PSDs, the taxes rates in the cities are more favorable.

BTW, the City of Charleston's internal numbers puts it's popluation at 110,000.

NC cities have most of their urbanized area in their boundaries. If you look at maps of Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, etc., you will see most of the development coming out of the core is in the city limits. Unfortunately, SC is unlikely to adopt NC-style annexation laws. The only hope I see may be city-county consolidation. That has helped in Georgia where Augusta (which had been reduced to a ridiculous 40,000 in the city limits) merged with Richmond County, Columbus merged with Muskogee County, and Athens merged with Clarke County. Savannah and Chatham County have not merged governments, but they have merged some governmental functions. But as you get more and larger incorporated suburbs around the main cities, I think consolidation becomes more unlikely since you have even more potential turf fighting. For example, would Mount Pleasant and North Charleston want to be part of a consolidated city-county deal? Now you have Taylors trying to incorporate between Greenville and Greer. I think most SC cities are basically "up the creek" so to speak in terms of significant growth through annexation. Their only choice realistically is to revive what they currently have and hope for the occasional minor annexations.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

^^ I agree completely. Especially the last two sentences. The best chance Greenville and Spartanburg have to change their fortunes is to implement the Local Option Sales Tax. That would give those cities a cost advantage compared to the PSDs that surround them. However, the L.O.S.T. has little support or understanding in the upstate.

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Just a few notes from me :)

Besides SC cities that are 'landlocked' - Spartanburg & Greenville, SC cities are doing very well capturing annexable property as well as growing. From memory, just 20 years ago the list was something like this:

Columbia city

Charleston city

North Charleston city

Greenville city

Spartanburg city

Rock Hill city

Sumter city

Florence city

Anderson city

Greenwood city

With Columbia topping at 100k, the following cities in the 75k range & Greenville being over 50k. After that, most cities were in the 30-40k range & Greenwood wasn't 25k. Now Greenwood has dropped to the 16th spot as there are 15 cities over 25k now & 6 over 50k.

Of course, in 1980, Rock Hill wasn't considered a suburb then making only North Charleston technically a suburb. Now, the list is made up of 4 suburbs - as Charleston has 4 suburbs over 25k.

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Prior to 1972, the order was

1) Columbia

2) Charleston

3) Greenville

4) Spartanburg

with Anderson and Florence coming next.

Now in the next census, Greenville will be no higher than 6th, Spartanburg will be out of the top ten, and Florence and Anderson will probably barely make the top 15. Quite a change.

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Prior to 1972, the order was

1) Columbia

2) Charleston

3) Greenville

4) Spartanburg

with Anderson and Florence coming next.

Now in the next census, Greenville will be no higher than 6th, Spartanburg will be out of the top ten, and Florence and Anderson will probably barely make the top 15.  Quite a change.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Good point. I do not see how Greenville can pass Rock Hill or Mount Pleasant again unless something big happens. Even if the city experiences some new growth inside its boundaries as it currently is doing, I doubt it would be enough to catch up with two of the state's faster growing municipalities. The good news is that the next threats to Greenville's rank will probably be Hilton Head Island or Summerville. And there is still a decent gap between them. So even if they are growing fast, it should take a while for them to threaten Greenville's rank. I do not see Sumter or Spartanburg threatening Greenville's rank given their likely growth potential. So, while Greenville has fallen from 3rd before North Charleston's rise to 6th now, at least it is not likely to drop further in the foreseeable future. I think with the inclusion of large undeveloped areas like Daniel Island in the Charleston city limits, that city is positioned to become the largest municipality in the state in the not so distant future (within a decade if Charleston and Columbia's growth rates stay more or less the same).

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Just a few notes from me :)

Besides SC cities that are 'landlocked' - Spartanburg & Greenville, SC cities are doing very well capturing annexable property as well as growing.  From memory, just 20 years ago the list was something like this:

Columbia city

Charleston city

North Charleston city

Greenville city

Spartanburg city

Rock Hill city

Sumter city

Florence city

Anderson city

Greenwood city

With Columbia topping at 100k, the following cities in the 75k range & Greenville being over 50k.  After that, most cities were in the 30-40k range & Greenwood wasn't 25k.  Now Greenwood has dropped to the 16th spot as there are 15 cities over 25k now & 6 over 50k.

Of course, in 1980, Rock Hill wasn't considered a suburb then making only North Charleston technically a suburb.  Now, the list is made up of 4 suburbs - as Charleston has 4 suburbs over 25k.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree with your point about the suburbs. The cities by and large have not grown a lot since the 1950/1960 censuses (with Charleston and Sumter as the two exceptions to some degree). The other point I would add is the rise of coastal resort communities like Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach that were virtually nothing fifty years ago. Suburbs and beach resorts have provided the new municipal growth in the state. This is not the case in NC where the old central cities have in many cases grown like kudzu and still dominate the state's municipal rankings. The only surburb or resort municipality in NC to reach into the top ten is Cary, a Raleigh suburb. All the others are the old main cities in the state.

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BTW, the City of Charleston's internal numbers puts it's popluation at 110,000.

I checked with a friend of mine who works for the city and she said the lastest count is close to 114,000.

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I would love to hear from residents of Charleston, Rock Hill, Mount Pleasant, Greer, etc. and try to understand how these communities have navigated successfully through the annexation laws.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm not exactly sure what Rock Hill's strategy is, but I hope they keep it up. At the rate the city is going, it will again pass Concord NC and will reclaim its place as the 3rd largest municipality in the Charlotte MSA and will be named in the MSA designation once again.

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Rock Hill, most of the Charleston suburbs including Charleston all simply annex rural / undeveloped land. They can do this because they have had aggressive annexation policies for a long time, particularly Rock Hill since the 1970's - after it annexed the town of Ebenezer.

The key is to not to be surrounded by developed areas, and to have the resources to afford to expand infrastructure.

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I'm from Spartanburg and find it puzzling that cities such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and Rock Hill, for example, can and do annex aggressively while others like Greenville and Spartanburg seem to feel constrained by SC's annexation laws.  All I hear and read about from the leaders of Greenville and Spartanburg is that SC's outdated annexation laws prohibit them from growing the city boundaries. 

I ran (and lost) for a city council seat in 2001 and campaigned almost exclusively on growing the city's boundaries.  I believed then and still believe today that "downtown redevelopment" and "improving the quality of life" just by themselves will not grow the tax base enough to support the needs of city government.

I would love to hear from residents of Charleston, Rock Hill, Mount Pleasant, Greer, etc. and try to understand how these communities have navigated successfully through the annexation laws.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Spartanburg does do quite a few annexations, but they are all a few parcels at a time at best.

Part of the problem I see for Spartanburg is that there is a demand to live in the city, but nowhere people want to live.

Most of the old 1.5 mile radius that originated Spartanburg's city limits is blighted, and this is where the population loss is occuring. On top of that, many of the areas that surround the city limits are just an extension of that blight: Una, Arcadia, Hilltop, Arkwright, Southern Shops, Whiney, etc. Una is so bad that many people don't drive through it at all. The only reason I ever go thorugh there is if I have to go to Tech for some reason, which is a rare thing. If I am near Regional I will take the Pearl/Arch/Vanderbilt route to the Westside. This is all relative though. Some areas are better than others.

But take places that aren't blighted, like Downtown, Converse Heights, Hampton Heights, Fairview Heights, Duncan Park, Roebuck, Cedar Springs, the Eastside and Westside in general, and these places appear to be in fairly high demand. Thats why I believe you only see annexations on the east and west ends of the city.

I think if the city would take steps to make these blighted areas safer and more appealing to move into that Spartanburg would at least stop losing people. You know, there was a point in Spartanburg's recent history where the goal was to reach 50,000, and we weren't that far from it.

Some good news for Spartanburg is that the new Easton mixed use development is suppsed to have something like 250 residential units, so if you average a 2 person per residency occupancy rate you have 500 new citizens for the City. And I think that if someone will do some apartments and non-"luxury" condos, that they will sell quickly. They also need to start form the center and work out from there.

The other problem I see for the City (and SC cities in general) is that there is not a strong incentive for people to request annexation, other than the threat of being annexed by a place you aren't interested in. Its generally more expensive to live there. Nobody wants to spend more money on property taxes if they don't have to.

And like teshadoh said, it helps to be surrounded by some rural areas to get ahead of development. Spartanburg and Greenville are both surrounded by developed areas.

  However, the L.O.S.T. has little support or understanding in the upstate.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

True. Spartanburg County voted it down last November. I voted for it though ;)

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I know this has been said already, but I it is annoying that SUMTER and two of Charleston's suburbs are larger than Spartanburg.

IMO, the old rankings:

Columbia

Charleston

Greenville

Spartanburg

...still hold true. Urban Area is still the only way to measure this in our state.

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I know this has been said already, but I it is annoying that SUMTER and two of Charleston's suburbs are larger than Spartanburg.

IMO, the old rankings:

Columbia

Charleston

Greenville

Spartanburg

...still hold true. Urban Area is still the only way to measure this in our state.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Then if we are going by urban area then:

Charleston

Columbia

Greenville

Spartanburg

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^That's true randy1. North Charleston is considered to be part of Charleston's UA. In 2000, Charleston's UA was around 423,000 and Columbia's was around 420,000. Still about the same though.

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Then if we are going by urban area then:

Charleston

Columbia

Greenville

Spartanburg

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm a cheating homer, but I just can't let this rest without fixing this list :whistling:

UA's that include portions in SC

1. Charleston

2. Columbia

3. Aiken/N. Augusta (Augusta)

4. Greenville

5. Spartanburg

Sorry, I tried to just let it rest, but I couldn't not point it out ^_^

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What is the Aiken/N. Augusta UA population excluding Augusta?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The part of the Augusta UA that is in SC (including North Augusta and Aiken) has 85,581 according to the 2000 census, which would make it the sixth largest UA in the state (counting only what is actually in the state) after Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, and Myrtle Beach.

I tend to think that in order to be called a "city" in any meaningful way, an area really needs to be an UA of at least 100,000. So in my mind, the five real cities in SC are Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, and Myrtle Beach. The other UAs like Florence and Sumter are big towns, but not cities in my mind.

I should also say that if you look at the map of the Augusta UA in SC, there is a blob around North Augusta across the Savannah River from Augusta and a blob around Aiken. The two main blobs are connected by a string of the old little mill towns in between. So, it is really a stringing together of towns rather than a single blob so to speak. Either main part (North Augusta or Aiken) would likely not be large enough to be a UA alone.

I also will agree that municipal populations are not as important as UA figures in judging the size of a place. I think city populations matter in terms of having healthy cities and less balkanized jurisdictions. But to judge the size of a place, I think UAs are the best measure. MSAs are good for judging the size of economic regions. That is why Charlotte's rise in municipal population rankings into the top tier of US cities, for example, is impressive in a way, but still says infinitely more about its ability to annex massive amounts of surrounding land than its real size or growth for that matter. St. Louis, Washington, Detroit, Atlanta, and other cities are for a variety of reasons totally unable to annex anything. Charlotte, Phoenix, Austin, Raleigh, etc. are able to annex huge areas. That is the major point that the municipal population figures really tell us in my opinion. When you try to get much more out of them, you are really reaching. The reality is that Charlotte may have a city population five times as large as Columbia and bigger than many other central municipalities of major metro areas, but its UA population is not even twice the size of Columbia.

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^ Yeah, I agree with you. That's why I said I was cheating. I just think it's surprising that Augusta's UA is bigger than Greenville, even though its arguably more spread out. There's just barely enough development in between to justify it continuing to Aiken. But, even so, it is one connected UA.

I'd be willing to bet that G-ville's UA stat will see a large jump sooner or later when enough development happens in the right spots to connect it to other dense pockets, similar to the Aiken pocket in Augusta's UA.

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