May 27, 2008

York County Council chair faces rare competition in GOP primary

Rock Hill developer seeks District 6 seat

Buddy Motz has competition for the first time since winning the York County Council District 6 seat a decade ago.

Fellow Republican Alex Haefele wants to unseat Motz, saying he will deal with solid waste and will put a stop to the local airport expansion.

Whether Motz, the council chairman, retains the seat that represents northwestern Rock Hill will be decided in the June 10 primary. No Democrats have filed to run for the seat.

Motz, the council chairman since January 2007, said he is running on his record and experience.

"I think 10 years of experience on council and being chairman is helpful," said Motz, 61. "Also working with others -- cities, schools, a regional committee group -- is all beneficial to help plan for our future growth."

Haefele, 55, said he's running because the York County Council needs new blood, ideas and more leadership. Haefele said he doesn't plan to attack Motz or criticize what he's done.

"There's clearly things I would do differently, but I wasn't on council," Haefele said.

District 6 includes the Rock Hill/York County Airport, a point of controversy as homeowners fight a proposed zoning district around the airport that would have required disclosure forms when homes in the district are sold. The district was proposed as officials pushed for federal funding to extend the runway.

The city and county recently dropped the disclosure form proposal and announced that existing homes would be exempt from some other requirements in the district. Officials also have delayed action on the proposed district for at least three months.

"My role has been to slow the process down," Motz said. "I asked staff to set up meetings. I asked them to review the disclosure statement and work with them to kill code requirements for existing houses."

Haefele is opposed to the airport district and to extending the runway, which could double the airport's activity over the next decade.

"I'm pro-economic development," he said. "But it's unfair for the people inside the AOD (airport overlay district) to bear the costs of the airport and runway lengthening."

Haefele: Tired of complaining

Haefele, the founder and CEO of the Benson Morgan Co., said he wants the county to communicate better with other leaders and the community. He said the public should be able to express concerns about new ordinances and other county issues earlier in the process.

"I'm running to support my neighbors' views. That's important to me," Haefele said. "I spent a lot of time over the last several years pretty frustrated with what I've seen in the community. I'm tired of complaining. I'm pursuing the opportunity to try to work on solutions to the problems I have been fussing about."

Haefele said he has issues with the county's solid waste management and has spoken against a proposed landfill on Vernsdale Road in Rock Hill. He said the county should look toward expanding existing facilities instead of building more landfills.

"I'm a proponent of good planning and good growth," he said. "We need to find a way to deal with C&D (construction and demolition) waste, but I'm not sure digging holes around the county is the way to go."

Haefele said he wants some sort of economic development on the agenda at every County Council meeting, with hopes of getting the council more involved with recruitment.

He said he'd like to push for more commercial development to balance out the county's residential growth.

"We need to ensure the quality of life we enjoy isn't compromised," Haefele said.

Part of that quality of life includes improving transportation and the county's roads. Haefele supports "Pennies for Progress," the county's 1-cent sales tax program to improve roads, and said he wants more of the projects completed.

Motz agrees, saying continuing the Pennies programs is one of his key goals if re-elected.

To date, only seven of the nearly 40 total projects approved by voters in 1997 and 2003 have been completed.

Haefele says he wants to help get the program moving, with accountability and more tracking of projects' progress.

Motz: Planning is the key

Motz said he wants to maintain the county's quality of life as it grows. The Catawba Regional Council of Governments projects the county's population will double to 400,000 by 2035.

Motz wants to continue good land planning and infrastructure planning. He wants to continue recruiting businesses to ensure residential growth is balanced by business growth.

"It's not so hard to manage 10,000 new residents a year when staff works with the schools, cities and regionally," Motz said. "It's planning that will make us better or not as good as what we could be."

He said he wants to continue to work with surrounding counties to manage resources, including the Catawba River.

Motz said hiring County Manager Jim Baker was one of the good things the council did during the current term. The beginning of Motz's term as chairman got off to a bumpy start with heated arguments surrounding the county's solid waste plan, Motz said. But he says council members now have a good working relationship with each other and the county staff.

Motz said he's satisfied with what he has helped accomplish as a council member, including making Martin Luther King Day a county holiday, building a new animal control building, starting construction on a new prison and working to protect the river.

"I've tried to work with others," Motz said. "I haven't tried to see myself as someone who stood up and said do this or do that, but work together on common issues... There's always things I wish I could have done better. Nothing I wish to do over again."

County Council members serve two-year terms and receive $15,500 a year.

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