LAKE WYLIE -- In Tuesday's Republican Primary, incumbent Tom Smith fell only 11 votes short of securing the York County Council District 2 seat for a second term and avoiding an election runoff vote now set for June 24. Smith also has received one more vote from third-place finisher Bill Stiles.
"Between the two, I think Tom is the better choice," Stiles told the Lake Wylie Pilot on Thursday of the race between Smith and David McCorkle. "I think his views are more in line with my views. I would encourage people who voted for me to vote for Tom."
Smith finished the contest with 532 votes against 359 votes for McCorkle and 193 votes for Stiles. Because Smith secured only 49 percent of the 1,084 total votes against 33 percent for McCorkle, a runoff is required. More than a 50 percent is needed to secure the win.
Stiles, who finished with 18 percent, was not surprised to hear there would be a runoff. He expected one, but hoped he would be one of the two remaining candidates.
"I was disappointed," he said. "I guess that goes without saying."
The main issues separating McCorkle and Smith, Stiles said, are McCorkle's stance against developers who work in York County serving on council and his opposition to the 1,400-acre planned development along Allison Creek and Crowders Creek that Smith helped craft with landowners.
"He's been confident and professional and really understanding of the surrounding neighborhoods to make that happen," Stiles said of Smith.
McCorkle, now knowing how many more votes he needs to unseat Smith, plans to use whatever means necessary to close the gap.
"The only way we'll be able to get our message out is Pete and Charlie," McCorkle said. "We'll be going door-to-door, making sure our message is heard. There's no quit in McCorkle."
McCorkle showed frustration with the turnout of only 1,084 voters. Attendance was low at two public forums hosted for the three candidates, which hurts anyone trying to unseat an incumbent with name recognition, McCorkle said.
"Every time I try and interview for the job or make the issues known, no one seems to care or no one shows up," he said.
McCorkle hopes residents will vote on the issues affecting York County's Lake Wylie and Clover areas.
"They voted on a popularity contest," he said. "Tom's had his name in the paper the last two years. People voted because their kids go to school with his kids, maybe their kids play ball on the same teams with his kids. People didn't vote on the issues. They voted on whose name was most familiar."
Smith and McCorkle differ on several issues, most noticeably whether planned developments should change zonings found in the county's 2025 land-use plan and whether developers who work in York County create a conflict of interest by serving on council.
"It's not a conflict when you lead by example," Smith said. "As a consultant, you can't say do as I preach because I'm doing it. As a developer you can."
Smith hopes to contact people he knows voted in Tuesday's election prior to the runoff vote, as well as reach out to people who did not vote. He also hopes Stiles' endorsement will add more votes to his column.
"They'll have to make up their own minds, but I'd certainly appreciate their support," Smith said.
Voter turnout countywide for Tuesday's decision totaled 11.12 percent. Turnout varied by precincts for electing the District 2 representative, ranging from more than 16 percent at Bethel No. 2 (River Hills area) to less than 5 percent at Bethel No. 1 and Clover No. 2.
Wanda Hemphill of Registration and Elections Office in York County said the primary election required a runoff because the decision did not result in one candidate winning the majority of votes.
"They would have to capture 50 percent plus one," she said. "Nobody captured 50 percent, so then it defaults to the top two vote getters."
Runoff vote turnout can vary from having fewer voters or more voters if the contest between Smith and McCorkle heats up, Hemphill said.
"It really just depends on how much excitement is generated in that particular race," she said.
Candidates would like to see more people come out and vote, though they are not optimistic for a large turnout. At two forums prior to the first election, only a handful of people showed up. McCorkle wonders if apathy is the reason or something else.
"I think a lot of people did not realize that at this primary they would elect their York County Council representative for this area," said Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce president Susan Bromfield, who organized both of the forums.
An event to meet the candidates May 31 drew only about 50 people, Bromfield said, and a forum sponsored by both the Lake Wylie and Clover chambers of commerce June 4 drew about 35 people.
"We have many business travelers and people who now work long days and have very busy lives, so it appears voting must not have been a priority for many," Bromfield said. "However you state it, turnout was low."
Q&A District 2 York County Council seatQ: As the community grows and needs change, what is your plan to represent the local community and get input from the key leaders? Or, what is process for key leaders to give input on issues as needs arise?
McCorkle: "The main thing is the advisory council. I want to form a group and involve business leaders, neighborhood leaders, somebody on the school board, probably somebody from both chambers of commerce and a city council member from Clover, if not the mayor. We need to get our plans straight on what we want to accomplish."
Smith: "My door's always been open. My number's always been accessible. I don't know what else I can do. If people want to talk to me, just give me a call."
Q: In unincorporated Lake Wylie, we have one representative on county council. What is your plan to address the rapid growth and deal with S.C. 49 sprawl and take over by large developers on the commercial strip?
McCorkle: "Our problem here is the Interim Development Ordinance. It did not include architectural standards and design standards for buildings under 50,000 square feet. There are a lot of buildings on (S.C.) 49 that are smaller than that. I've had complaints. Those were not included under those architectural standards. We can grab a hold of some architectural controls and that will allow us to have better looking buildings."
Smith: "Again, I don't know what else I can do. I've served on the Land Use Planning Committee, we're working on overlays and rezoning. You have planned developments like the one at Allison Creek where you can take densities and put them where you want them. It's not just (S.C.) 49. It's on (S.C.) 274. It's so it doesn't head down (S.C.) 557 toward Clover. That's what that plan's all about."
Q: For McCorkle, would you work for getting an overlay district with more stringent requirements?
McCorkle: "That overlay district would five us the right to set new architectural guidelines in Lake Wylie and Clover. It would also protect the watersheds at Crowders Creek and Allison Creek with buffers that would add to the health of our water supply."
Q: For Smith, after more than a year in office, why isn't there any overlay ordinance that would allow for local input on issues like the Mill Creek Commons development?
Smith: "The problem is people don't start (expressing concern) until it's something close to them. We've been working on the Lake Wylie Overlay, the Interim Development Ordinance, the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. It's not like the county's sitting on its hands. People can get involved, they just have to pick up the phone and call."
Q: Lake Wylie is in a delicate environmental location along water and creeks. What is your plan to address the environmental and development policies that will determine the future development and growth in the area?
McCorkle: "The parking lots and rooftops in our area create a lot of pollution. We don't have protective watershed ordinances that protect how much area we have as open space. You look around and all you see is rooftops and asphalt."
Smith: "Erosion control measures with the state the last couple of years have certainly gotten tougher and tougher. They need to be fair, they need to be understandable and practical, but they certainly haven't become any easier."
Q: What is your position on the county's possible purchase of Carolina Water Service? If purchased, how would the issue of improving the original aging infrastructure be handled?
McCorkle: "This is right down my ally. When I began my career in the 70s in Mecklenburg County, we were looking at purchasing infrastructure back then from Carolina Water. I'm afraid that what York County did in the past was to make a deal with the devil. They're going to probably want a whole lot more money for their infrastructure than we're going to be willing to pay. The question is, if you purchase the infrastructure, are you going to be able to provide a lower cost service than you have now, and are taxpayers going to have to subsidize the cost? It's not going to be an overnight issue."
Smith: "It was one of the things I wanted to do when I came on council. We're looking at it. We're assessing it. It's whether we can buy it and make it productive in terms of offering people better rates. If we can't do that, it doesn't make sense. If we do that, then that's what we're going to do. I think we're close."
Q; Another bank robbery occurred last week in Lake Wylie. How would you support proactive law enforcement in the unincorporated area bordering Charlotte?
McCorkle: "I know that with this new Wal-Mart and with this new Lowe's, it's going to be a breeding ground for crime. There's going to be theft. That's going to be an issue. We've got to find a way for the sheriff to get his people in the area where the crime is faster. Where there's no enforcement, there's going to be crime. We need visibility in the community."
Smith: "As a council, we've been very supportive of (Sheriff Bruce Bryant) and the Sheriff's Department. Of course we're so close to Charlotte, and you're going to have people who come down and try for a hit and run. It's tough, but if you look at the way we've voted, we've been very supportive. I don't know of any council that hasn't supported the sheriff's needs. All we can do is continue to try."