Although North Augusta has seen tremendous growth in Exit 5 in recent years, that growth has been more limited north of Murphy Village. Edgefield County, which borders North Augusta, still has a more rural character, but that may soon change.
Only about 20% of Edgefield County is zoned. Areas that have been zoned are clustered around the city population centers of Edgefield, Trenton and Johnston – but also along the entire southwestern half of the Aiken-Edgefield county line.
Much of this county line’s zoning is residential, but at Exit 5 along the Sweetwater Corridor, the primary zoning designation is commercial.
“It’s ready and ready to go,” said Will Williams, president and CEO of Western SC, formerly known as the Economic Development Partnership.
Sweetwater and its thoroughfares Murrah Road and Five Notch have experienced some “saturation” in recent years and people coming from the north on Edgefield Road will turn left towards Sweetwater a little more often in the future, Williams said. “It was said that in the future North Augusta would be the largest municipality in Edgefield County,” he added.
Edgefield County in the recent census actually lost about 1,300 residents between 2010 and 2020, a fact that Williams says has left some in his field scratching their heads.
The county has seen steady growth in housing numbers, issuing 217 permits in 2020 and 194 in 2021. In the first half of this year, the county issued 150 residential building permits.
Road traffic along Highway 25 has also increased. Data collected by the South Carolina Department of Transportation shows that average daily trips taken along the Interstate 25 corridor between the county line and Mount Zion Road have increased about 15% since 2011.
Williams said that further north, Bettis Academy Road is the “dividing line” for much of the ongoing development.
“Retail growth is coming, but it will be a bit slower than what we saw in Exit 5,” he added.
Business growth is likely to follow roofs, spending capacity and other activities. Currently, subdivisions in Edgefield County are either being cut, being put up, or, as in the case of Tavern Hill, ready for the owner.
The Tavern Hill neighborhood is just beyond Murphy Village in the unincorporated county of Edgefield.
Just before the Stevens Road exit to Tavern Hill is a sign saying ‘Cows and Calves for Sale’. Some of the houses in the area have long, unpaved driveways that wind through the trees presumably to a house, although it is not visible from the roadway.
Although there has been growth nearby, the county still has a more rural feel.
Tavern Hill is Stanley Martin’s second venture in Edgefield County, with the homebuilder also having worked with a local developer to build the Mount Vintage neighborhood a few miles north and off that same Sweetwater Road.
“We’re still diversifying, we’re still relatively new to the area,” said Stanley Martin’s Kiante Chapman, a marketing specialist in Stanley Martin’s Columbia office.
Chapman said the company hopes its offerings will “align with the needs there” and help meet a growing demand for housing that she noted is being driven by military families moving to the CSRA and Fort Gordon.
Stanley Martin sales manager Regina Wadsworth said it can be “difficult to find a rural community that still offers proximity to all the convenience stores, restaurants and schools.” Fox Creek High School is a few blocks away. The same goes for middle and elementary schools in Merriwether.
If retail growth follows rooftops, as Williams likes to say, then Tavern Hill currently provides 79 of those rooftops (and a capacity of 200 when fully developed) to house the people who will be the consumers of this future retail business.
For now, developers are advertising: properties for sale are zoned for business.