Fort Mill tower neighbors: Fix road

adouglas@heraldonline.comMarch 4, 2013 

— For the second time in five months, Eric Kinsinger pressed the York County Council Monday night to act on what he calls safety issues along Starlight Drive near the MorningStar tower in Fort Mill.

The tower, owned by MorningStar Ministries, had been planned as part of the Heritage USA theme park operated by televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

Kinsinger leads a group of neighbors who say they are frustrated by the road’s condition and MorningStar’s neglect of the tower. He said he has battled problems with the MorningStar property for about three years.

The roads that neighbors say have fallen into disrepair are private roads, owned by MorningStar Ministries.

County officials say their hands are tied in fixing the road’s potholes.

The county’s public works department gets “numerous calls a day” about potholes on Starlight Drive, said David Harmon, director of public works.

York County could take responsibility of the road if MorningStar agrees, he said, but the street would need to be improved first. That probably would be expensive, requiring re-surfacing after digging up parts of the asphalt to repair the road’s base.

Transfer of a private road to a government rarely happens, Harmon said.

If the county were to take over Starlight Drive in its current condition, County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said, everyone would want York County to do the same and fix all potholes on private roads.

Starlight Drive’s condition isn’t great, Blackwell told Kinsinger. “No doubt about it – certainly agree with you.”

MorningStar patched two large holes on Starlight Drive late last week after neighbors took their complaints public.

“We really are doing our best,” MorningStar spokeswoman Tracy Horton said. The organization wants to fix the road, she said, but repaving is expensive.

MorningStar cares about its neighbors, she said, and that’s why the ministry has allowed the general public to use the road.

Many local parents, such as Xavier Tufty, use the road to take their children to Fort Mill’s Sugar Creek Elementary School. Other public roads lead to the school, but neighbors say Starlight Drive and other Morningstar-owned streets are the most direct route.

Drivers often swerve to avoid potholes in the road, Tufty said. “I’m really kind of surprised I haven’t seen an accident up to this point.”

Tufty would like to see the county and MorningStar get creative to solve the problem. York County could pay to fix the road and have the ministry pay it back over time, he said.

That discussion, he said, is unlikely because of a lawsuit MorningStar filed against York County in January. The suit disputes the county’s claim that MorningStar defaulted on an agreement to renovate the tower.

MorningStar began renovating the 21-story tower in 2007 and in January 2008 signed a development agreement with York County.

The ministry says the county’s default notice has “caused significant financial harm,” making it almost impossible to renovate the unfinished tower.

The two parties tried mediation but could not come to terms. The county has not yet filed an answer to MorningStar’s suit.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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