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Horry County proposed district maps compact SC's fastest-growing county's most urban areas

Horry County Council and Horry County Schools district map

Horry County/Provided

CONWAY — Horry County's explosion of growth is no shock, but now county leaders are attempting to manage the unprecedented hike in population by shrinking urban areas and increasing rural areas in new council and school district district maps. 

Since 2010, Horry County's population grew by a state-high 30 percent becoming South Carolina's fourth-largest county. 

"We took into consideration not only the existing communities of interest but also the fact that new ones are developing," Horry County technology director Tim Oliver said during a redistricting committee meeting Nov. 17. 

Roughly 35,000 people live in each district, according to data provided by the county. 

Under the new maps, which could be implemented as soon as mid-February, residents' council and school board representatives could change depending on where the new lines are drawn. 

Two of the county's most populous areas — Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach — will now be represented by one representative instead of being split, like they are currently. 

In Carolina Forest, Vice Chairman Dennis DiSabato and newly elected HCS board member Tracy Winters will be the main representatives for a majority of the county's fastest growing area. 

"I think it's a good idea to have one consolidated voice for the Carolina Forest community," DiSabato said.

This will leave Myrtle Beach in the hands of councilman Bill Howard and school board member Sherrie Todd. 

The biggest difference between the two communities comes down to infrastructure, DiSabato said. With Carolina Forest being a newer community its residents have a larger need for better roads including the recent widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard.

Now, the county is working on improving Postal Way — a common shortcut for Carolina Forest residents — by creating new turn lanes and improved traffic lights. 

Additionally, the Forestbrook community, which is represented by councilman Johnny Vaught and school board member Melanie Wellons ,will also be more compacted as it currently spreads into Conway. 

On the other hand, rural areas were mostly left alone or even grew in size due to fewer residents living in the western portion of Horry County. This includes Councilman Danny Hardee and school board Vice Chair Neil James whose district starts at the top of the county and goes all the way down to the edge of Carolina Forest.

Along with the maps, the county released demographic information for each district which found that both Horry County's White and Black populations have decreased in the past 10 years, with the county's Asian and smaller minority populations increasing. 

The county did not release data regarding the Hispanic or Latino population. 

Councilman Orton Bellamy and school board member Janet Graham, who represent most of Conway and rural areas, including Bucksport, is the most diverse district with 29 percent of residents identifying as Black.

Bellamy and Graham are the council and the school board's only Black representatives. 

"It's important to note that this is just a draft redistricting map and we have a lot of public input to take still as well as feedback from the community. Councilman Tyler Servant, who chairs the redistricting committee, said. 

Residents can address county leaders regarding the updated maps at 4 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Horry County Government and Justice Center. 

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Reach Alex Brizee at 843-637-9881. Follow her on Twitter @alex_brizee. 

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