With a senior population already booming in Columbia County, more retirees could find themselves drawn to the area in the future.
The county's Development Services division will soon embark on a study to gauge the market for retirement communities and village-type developments in the county.
The county now has three such facilities -- Brandon Wilde, Washington Commons and Jensen's Wymberly.
"It's appropriate that we determine that there is a market for it," said county Commissioner Ron Thigpen, an advocate of the study. "At this point, a lot of the indicators would make you conclude that, but I think we need to get some definite data that supports that before we allocate any county resources."
According to data from the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, more than 7,000 people 65 or older lived in Columbia County. By 2009, that number had increased to an estimated 10,505.
Thigpen said he believes the county is ideally situated for a retirement community, noting its growing medical services, high quality of life and good climate.
He also said the concept could boost the county's sales tax revenues.
"It would again just be another contributor to the growth in our economy," Thigpen said.
Development Services Director Richard Harmon said he started checking into what the county and surrounding areas had to offer retirees more than a year ago.
As part of the study, the county's planning staff will compare retirement communities within and outside the county.
"We're thinking more in lines of retirement villages, where people have their own either attached or detached homes," he said.
If necessary, Harmon said, the county could adopt a zoning code specific to retirement for future developments.
Harmon noted a potential location for that type of project could be near University Health Care System's Evans campus on North Belair Road because of the availability of land and close proximity to a medical facility.
The study was recently incorporated into the county's multifamily housing report and could be finished by the spring of next year, Harmon said.
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